‘Survivor: Second Chance’ Stephen: ‘I’ve Publicly Said Bad Things About a Lot of This Cast’


"Survivor: Second Chance" (CBS)

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Name: Stephen Fishbach
Season: “Survivor: Tocantins”
Finish: Finalist
Why You Should Remember Him: “The Wizard” orchestrated the show’s first-ever cross-tribe alliance but received no votes at the final Tribal Council.


Gordon Holmes: You do a weekly podcast with Rob Cesternino entitled, “The ‘Survivor’ Know-It-Alls.” How much are you regretting that “Know-It-All” nickname today?
Stephen Fishbach: (Laughs) So much. I think it’s only bad. It doesn’t give me any actual “Survivor” superpowers. Strategy is still the same for everyone. You get a majority in the numbers, then you vote somebody out. But, I think people have this idea because I’m a know-it-all and because I write for “People” that I’ve got some strategy superpowers and I’m going to work my voodoo.  There’s also this belief that I know a lot of people.
Holmes: Knowing it all would include knowing a lot of people.
Fishbach: But I don’t. I’ve heard a lot of people in their campaign interviews say that through the podcast I know everybody. I don’t know everybody. Maybe Rob does. He’s the one interviewing everyone.
Holmes: This is all Cesternino’s fault.
Fishbach: It really is! I think I’m coming in with a target because of all that stuff. And I’ve talked (expletive deleted) about half of them. I’ve said mean things about them.
Holmes: And the Wine & Cheese thing in New York? I assume that if someone on the East Coast has played “Survivor” that you’ve been in a group shot with them in Eliza Orlins’s living room.
Fishbach: Yes, from maybe like four years ago. If this was season 26, like Caramoan, I would probably know everybody on the season and be friendly with them. But I kind of stopped doing that because it’s exhausting. It was exciting to meet everyone out of gate, but then I was like, “Ugh…whatever…you’re all the same.” Now I don’t as much. I do the podcast, I do my blog, but other than that, I don’t do much with the “Survivor” community.

Holmes: I don’t feel like anyone else has this second story the way they do. Like with Kimmi, I remember what I remember from “The Australian Outback,” but I have no knowledge of her life since then. How are you going to combat that?
Fishbach: It’s almost like the opposite. I was the runner up to JT (Thomas), but nobody cares. The reason I’m here is because of the blogging and the podcasting stuff. Those are the fans that got me on and that’s why the producers still care about me. Random…runner up…gamebot from sixteen seasons ago or whatever.
Holmes: I love having the runner-ups on. I want people who’ve never had their torch snuffed. Risking that perfect record.
Fishbach: It is a big risk. If I fall on my face, how will I ever say I’m a know-it-all again.
Holmes: I don’t know, somebody else who’s a know-it-all…
Fishbach: (Laughs)
Holmes: He didn’t set the world on fire in his second go-round.
Fishbach: That’s true. I do have that.
Holmes: Head to head, you were a finalist, Rob was third place. Then Rob was out fourth. By my math, as long as you’re not third out, you’ve still got him beat.
Fishbach: Exactly. Although, he would have won in the finals.
Holmes: Definitely. I give him credit for getting me back into “Survivor.”
Fishbach: From that season?
Holmes: Absolutely. I was bored with it until he shook the game up. The way he was bouncing back and forth.
Fishbach: He really did change the game.
Holmes: Agreed. Probst and I did a thing a few years ago, a Mount Rushmore of “Survivor.” It’s actually where the idea for the “Survivor” Hall of Fame came from. I went with Richard Hatch because he invented alliances, Jonny Fairplay because he made it so the game begins before the filming starts, and Cesternino because he was the first person who wasn’t content with final four.
Fishbach: I never liked Fairplay’s game that much. When I watched Pearl Islands I was like, “What? Who cares?” It just didn’t seem that great. It was just because of that one lie?
Holmes: It was the fore thought to say to your buddy, “If I get to the family visit, we’re going to do this thing that could earn me sympathy.” It added a tool to his toolbox.
Fishbach: That’s interesting. Because his game was a fine game, but it wasn’t like he was some devious mastermind. That’s a great call.
Holmes: Well, I’m no know-it-all…
Fishbach: (Laughs)

Holmes: Let’s say we arrive on the beach on day one. I was voted out seventh on Marquesas but people remember me because I had great one-liners. How do you keep me from being scared to death of you?
Fishbach: I don’t know, man. I’m worried about it. Do I just act self-conscious about it? Do I hope there’s some cache to it? I think my best move is to go to some of these floaters, these women, there are a lot of huge dudes and a lot of small women. And the looks I’m getting from some of these women…it seems like…they’re a little scared of their future too. If I can pick them up and be like, “Hey, I’m Stephen Fishbach.”
Holmes: That does have some cache.  It would work on me.

Holmes: Worst case scenario, day one…your pants rip?
Fishbach: (Laughs) It’s happened before.
Holmes: I might’ve checked out some Tocantins on the flight over.
Fishbach: That was such a nightmare. I literally, when I was testing my pants, I was squatting to test crotch tensile strength.
Holmes: (Laughs) I was hoping at some point to get you to say “Crotch tensile strength.”
Fishbach: I’m happy you did.

Fishbach: What do you think I should do to play off the know-it-all thing?
Holmes: I don’t know if you can. If you say, “I don’t know people, Rob knows people.” It feels like the same thing I’d tell Coach (Wade) where if you deny a lie, even if you’re telling the truth, they’ll still think it’s a lie.
Fishbach: Totally.
Holmes: I think you’ve got to own it.
Fishbach: Yeah, you’ve got to own it.
Holmes: I think in South Pacific if Coach had owned up to his lies, even if he hadn’t actually lied, he’d have been much better off.
Fishbach: So, should I let them think I know people?
Holmes: Unless they think you’re the center of some big alliance. Everybody here knows somebody. The Cagayaners are rolling four deep.
Fishbach: That is the fear, that they think I have an alliance. And the twenty people on this beach, do I know them? Not really. Hopefully there’s something to that. It scares me. The theoretical argument in my head is; I think about strategy. I write about strategy. But to me, good strategy is strong alliances. Hopefully I can make that case.

Holmes: With the possible exception of voting out Taj (Johnson-George) I don’t remember a lot of chicanery from you and JT.
Fishbach: We came off pretty great…well until the end. We betrayed people.
Holmes: You were down in the numbers, you have to do whatever you can.
Fishbach: Yeah, we were down six to three.
Holmes: So, even though you’re viewed as super-smart, it’s not like you’re a crazy backstabber.
Fishbach: I’ve publicly said bad things about a lot of this cast, but I’m hoping once they meet me, they’ll think that’s just me talking about the game and I’m really a good guy. I am worried that I might’ve said something bad about Val (Collins) because of her two idol nonsense. It’s easy to forgive something someone says about you, but impossible to forgive something someone said about your wife. But…he couldn’t have thought the two idols was a good play. (Laughs)
Holmes: How could you have thought my wife pretending to have forty idols was a bad move?
Fishbach: Exactly. (Laughs)

Holmes: Did anyone approach you for a pre-game alliance?
Fishbach: Shane approached me. And he was approached by some folks here. But, I don’t want to say who.
Holmes: Why not? Nobody’s going to see this until August at the earliest.
Fishbach: Good point, I think Kass approached him. It’s scary when people are approaching each other and not me. And Culpepper approached me. Shane I would have considered, but Culpepper is a lunatic. He’s a crazy man. The funny thing is; he was so energetic and so gung-ho about our secret alliance. I was like, “Are you doing this with everyone?”
Holmes: It’ll be the Fishpepper alliance! C’mon!
Fishbach: (Laughs)
Holmes: I remember our pre-game interview during “Blood vs. Water” he had a lot of really crazy ideas. And I was like, “That’s interesting, but how about this instead?” And when it was over he credited me with getting him as far as he got. So, my advice can propel someone all the way to fifteenth place.
Fishbach: He can’t contain himself.

Fishbach: What do you think; is this the best cast, pound-for-pound in “Survivor” history?
Holmes: In what sense?
Fishbach: A normal cast, five people maybe tops are potential winners. “Heroes vs. Villains,” maybe nine people could win the game. Here seventeen of us are potential winners.
Holmes: It feels very low on the fodder side.
Fishbach: Exactly! I don’t know if there’s a Parvati (Shallow) here or a Tony (Vlachos,) someone who’s truly one of the great players. But, maybe this is their chance to shine. It feels like there are a lot of good, solid players.
Holmes: What could make it great is; on a regular all-star season your “Boston” Robs and your Russell Hantzs assume they belong here. Everyone here had to get in by a fan vote. To me, I’m thinking I almost didn’t make it, so I’m going to exhaust every possible avenue to prove I belong.
Fishbach: Totally, people are going to play hard. People like Spencer, Kass, Joe, Shirin…they were coming back no matter what. But me, Monica, Peih-Gee, Varner? We weren’t coming back. And that was proven by the fact that we haven’t been back.

Holmes: Who’s making eye-contact over at the contestant porch?
Fishbach: You know, you see it. I don’t know how much I’m supposed to do it. I want to smile, but I don’t want to be high-fiving. It almost seems less with smiles and how people gravitate toward each other. I see Jeremy and Savage stick together a lot. That to me is scary. They’ve got some bro thing, they’re both manly men. I don’t think they’ve spoken about it, but they’re muttering to each other all the time. That’s the kind of thing that alliances are made from.
Holmes: That happens every season.
Fishbach: Oh yeah, apparently the whole Carolyn (Rivera), Rodney (Lavoie Jr.), and Will (Sims II) alliance was made at Ponderosa. Rodney was making crazy eye contact. And, Coach fell in love with JT at Ponderosa.
Holmes: How could you not?
Fishbach: Yeah, with those pretty eyes? (Laughs)
Holmes: He’s only human.

Holmes: Does it concern you that you’re the only Tocantinian around so many Cagayers and San Juan del Surians?
Fishbach: It doesn’t concern me. They’re probably happy to have each other. Even Spencer and Kass, they lived together for over a month. That whole will-they-or-won’t-they thing.
Holmes: It’s like Monica and Ross.
Fishbach: Ummm…
Holmes: Rachel and Ross! Monica and Ross were brother and sister. That’s way different.
Fishbach: Hopefully not. I hope it gives them a target.

Holmes: You are secretly in shape.
Fishbach: Yeah, I’ve had a stomach bug, but we’ll see. I’m in shape, but I’m still the smallest guy here, basically. I’m 6’2”, 185 lbs. There are some giant dudes. My hope is to be better than the girls, well not Kelly Wiglesworth…or Wentworth. I’m not better than them.
Holmes: My favorite Stephen moment was the challenge where you figured out the memory puzzle.
Fishbach: Probst said something about using past challenges. I’m hoping it’s that one for me.

Holmes: If there’s a twist this season, what do you think it is?
Fishbach: The word twist is so weird. Was the extra vote a twist?
Holmes: I feel like anything over, win an immunity challenge or go to Tribal to vote someone out is a twist.
Fishbach: I could see Probst wanting Redemption Island. It’s a second chance for second chancers. I’d be so upset if there was a Redemption Island. I’m imagining the conversation in my head if there’s an early vote out like “Blood vs. Water.” If that’s my fate, I’m swimming home.
Holmes: That’s the fear?
Fishbach: That is my number-one fear. I’m dreading a pick ’em. I think that’s possible because of the way our wardrobes worked out. There are no color combinations. There’s gotta be something. Probst said they’re giving us a lot of room to play. I don’t know what that means. It feels like foreshadowing. One tribe? That would be ridiculous.
Holmes: Twists!
Fishbach: Do you know what it is?
Holmes: I know some things.
Fishbach: That’s exciting.
Holmes: Who’s the know-it-all now?
Fishbach: (Laughs)

Holmes: Alright, we’re going to play “Align or Malign.” In my hand I have nineteen cards featuring your competitors. You’ll go through them and tell me who you’ll align with and who you’ll malign. Trick is, you only get eight aligns.

 Fishbach: Vytas is the hardest one. He’s super strategic. He’s got great emotional intelligence. He would be a great partner in crime. He’d also be a terrifying adversary. I’m going to say align.

Fishbach: Monica…she’s like me. She’s from a random mid-season. She doesn’t have a lot of connections here. I think she’s the kind of person I’d want to align with because she isn’t going to be hooked in with one of the big guys. She’s going to be looking for someone to work with.

Fishbach: Peih-Gee…I’m going to say she’s boisterous. Watching her at Ponderosa I think she’s going to get annoying. I think a lot of other people want to align with her. So, I don’t want her. I’m saying malign.

Fishbach: Spencer…no brainer. He’s one of us. Got to align with Spencer.


Fishbach: Kelley Wentworth…same thing. The problem is she’s part of the San Juan del Sur shenanigans. But, I still say align. Send her through!

Fishbach: Jeremy…I think he’s a smart guy. He got burned. He also gravitates toward the women. He’s going to come out swinging. I say malign.

Fishbach: Woo…I don’t know if Woo and I are natural partners. I’m excited to be infected by his great karate energy. But, I don’t think he’s one of my core eight. Malign!

Fishbach: Savage scares me. He’s such a bro. He’s a natural leader, he’s physical. He can connect with guys’ guy. I don’t know if I’m going to connect with him. I think maybe he’ll pick up some of the women that I’d love to be with. I have to say malign.

Fishbach: Abi-Maria…another mid-season girl without a lot of connections. I say align. Abi has a lot of trouble speaking English, maybe a good person to have with you at the jury. Of course, that didn’t work out well for me last time with a guy who had trouble speaking English.

Fishbach: I actaully know Terry from just being a Survivor. I love him, I think he’s a solid guy. Straight shooter. I don’t think he has a lot of zig or zag in him. But I’d love to fist bump him after he destroys some challenge. So, I’ll say align.

Fishbach: Shirin…random, crazy girl. I love her. Strategic? Maybe. Definitely going to get under people’s skin. I think that could be a good goat quality. The only concern with Shirin is do I get Dawson’d? Will we be lumped in, “Oh, look at the two of them together.” That’s a fear for me, but align.
Holmes: Dawson’d?
Fishbach: (Laughs) Yeah.
Holmes: I’ll cosign that one.

Fishbach: Joe is a beautiful person, he radiates light. He’s also a (expletive deleted) giant. I didn’t know watching last season that he was so big. He’s 6’7” and made of steel.
Holmes: (Laughs) That may not be completely accurate.
Fishbach: Beautiful steel. I’m getting good eye contact vibes from Joe. I’d love to align with him. He’s a fine competitor and going to be such a huge target. Align!

Fishbach: Kass…I think we all know why we’re maligning Kass. She’s a flipper and I don’t think her flips are as strategic as she thinks they are. They’re a little erratic. So malign.

Fishbach: I love Tasha, she’s just not in the top eight. She’s a smart, strategic, physically sound competitor, which is a great reason to malign her. I don’t want her at the end with me.

Fishbach: Varner…I thought he’d be an align, but there’s something about him. I think he’s going to be as scheme’y as hell. I think he has a lot to prove. He scares me. Malign!

Fishbach: Ciera…similar deal. She’s unreliable. She voted out her mom. Malign.

Fishbach: Keith…I love a country boy, as you know. But, is Keith going to be trying to play a strategic game? If he is, then how the (expletive deleted) do you read Keith? Malign.

Fishbach: Kimmi…you know. I love her, I don’t know how much game she’s got. Malign.

Fishbach: Kelly Wiglesworth, the original runner-up. I feel such a kinship with her. But, she’s such a bad-ass, I don’t think she’d love a nerd like me. So, I’ll have to malign her.
Holmes: It’s interesting that you’re maligning these people you don’t think you’ll click with, when nobody would have ever anticipating you and JT getting along so well. Years later you’re officiating his wedding. That’s one of the great things about “Survivor,” two people from different walks of life, like Richard Hatch and Rudy Boesch who become best friends.
Fishbach: Absolutely.
Holmes: You and Keith could be that new combo.
Fishbach: It’s true, but you can’t plan on it.
Holmes: You could officiate Keith’s wedding.
Fishbach: I’d love to!
Holmes: Did you do JT and Tyson’s wedding?
Fishbach: Yeah.
Holmes: Is this a Tocantins thing? You’re just going to go down the line?
Fishbach: Erinn (Lobdell) got married and I wasn’t invited. Joe (Dowdle) got married. These jerks.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

Survivor: Second Chance” will kick off with a special 90-minute premiere on Wednesday, September 23rd at 8 p.m. ET.

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