Survivor 44 Boot Explains His Many Idol Lies: 'I Was Trying to Cause Chaos'

Survivor 44 Boot Explains His Many Idol Lies: 'I Was Trying to Cause Chaos'

April 8, 2023

The following contains spoilers from Wednesday’s episode of Survivor.

In a game as savage as Survivor, not everyone can “earn the merge.”

In Wednesday’s merge(-ish) episode, the tribes united on one beach, as tension among the Tika tribe hit an all-time high. Losing the immunity challenge left only Kane, Danny, Josh, Yam Yam, Lauren and Heidi vulnerable to the vote. After hoping he could rely on his former Soka tribe and failing to mend his relationship with Yam Yam (plus, spinning a web of lies surrounding his fake idol), Josh was left on an island of his own and promptly sent to Ponderosa. (Read a full recap here.)

So what does he have to say about his many idol bluffs and what was his biggest mistake out there? TVLine spoke with Josh about all this and more.

TVLINE | Let’s start with your time on Tika. You three were a motley crew over there. You called Carolyn and Yam Yam “ridiculous and chaotic,” but how else would you describe your time living with those two?
JOSH WILDER | Oh my gosh. It was a crazy ride watching it. It’s hilarious, right? Being out there not knowing what’s going to happen with only three people was very, very crazy, very chaotic. Everything was up in the air all the time. It was wild.

TVLINE | We saw you selling different stories to different people when the tribes first united. How much did that play a part in your vote-out?
A lot. I was trying to use it to my advantage to cause chaos and confusion so that people would say, “It’s fine. Let’s just move on to somebody else,” or I would bring out those who do have idols to work with me. So I was trying to use it the best way I could because I knew Carolyn was on the other side and she was telling them that it was fake. So I’m like, “Well, if she tells them that, I’ve got to keep playing up on that and just tell certain people certain things.” I wanted to work with Brandon, but I figured he would tell me more information if I told him I had an idol and of course, that didn’t happen. But I was trying to use it to my advantage.

TVLINE | You seemed excited to be reunited with your former Soka members, but they had been trying to get rid of you all along. What was your reaction when you finally learned that?
I thought I was closer to Matt than I was. For Frannie, I knew she was strategic and I didn’t know if she was gunning for me, but I didn’t know if we could work together in the future. But my whole thing was keep your friends close and your enemies closer. I felt like I was more aligned with them than I was. I was trying to stay Soka strong and then slowly get out Ratu and bring Tika on board, but it wasn’t jamming like that.

TVLINE | Who did you trust the most, and did you feel like anyone was in your corner?
No, I didn’t feel like anyone was in my corner. Looking back at it, Lauren and I, when I got to that “merge-atory” beach, we had really good conversations and she was the one that came to me and said, “I think they’re coming for you,” but I couldn’t trust her at that point because I’m like, “I just met you. You could be saying anything right now,” so I immediately discounted it. But she was the only one who really told me the truth and said that to me. I wanted to trust and work with Carolyn. I really wanted to work with Yam, but it just didn’t pan out that way. In the beginning, Claire and I were actually really close, but when it came down to it, it didn’t make sense to keep her at that time, but we talked a lot.

TVLINE | If you could point to your biggest mistake out there, what would it be?
I would try to be more authentic because of course, lying and being wishy-washy, it’s a lot of red flags in people’s ears. But I was trying to stay as small as possible because I knew I was going to be a threat coming in. Being a Black gay man, you’re always looked at as either a threat or being cagey. Being a surgeon, I’m used to being in control and being a leader. So I was trying not to be that because I think that would be taken as being aggressive. Maybe my personality doesn’t mesh so well with people. I tried to make myself look as small as possible and just win challenges so that my tribe could see me as an asset and not think I’m a threat, but even then, it didn’t matter. I was always looked at as cagey, a threat, a liar. So [if I play again], I’ll try to be more authentic, I think.

TVLINE | That immunity challenge looked brutal. Just how heavy was that boulder and what was the hardest part of that challenge?
That boulder was so heavy being out there for 13 days, not eating, not sleeping, always thinking game. It’s draining. Especially with the condition I have. I had a kidney transplant. I don’t have a stomach. It was a struggle. I was passing out like I was taking my medication, but it was really hard and I was so weak. So watching it, I remember how I felt. My stomach was hurting most of the time and that’s what my grimace was all about. I was just always struggling. That challenge was hard. My gosh, it was hard.

TVLINE | Once again, we saw a repeated puzzle that we’ve seen tons of times before, one that Carson practiced a bunch times and flew through. What’s your opinion on the show’s repetition and the fact that people like Carson and Matthew are coming in that prepared?
To be honest, I think they need to redo some puzzles. I mean, it’s been 22 years, you got to do something different, change it up, because if you have people out here studying this, making 3D printings… of course, they’re going to do it. Of course, they’re going to have an advantage going in. I love it but I don’t, so I’m 50-50. Like, “OK, that’s cool that you have that advantage and you did it. Good for you. That’s awesome.” But in the other sense, like, OK, switch it up. It’s kind of an unfair advantage. But I get it. It’s a game.

TVLINE | Was there anything dramatic or strategic that didn’t make the show that you wish did?
I just wish they would’ve talked more about my condition. I wanted to talk more about my chronic illness and advocate for those who have prune belly syndrome, had a kidney transplant, who had stomach cancer and just let them realize that you can do this too and even better than everybody else because it makes you someone who can persevere through all of this. I wish that was highlighted a bit more. I didn’t want to tell my tribe about all that because I was trying to take it with me to the end for final Tribal Counsel so I can bring it out and say, “Look, I did all this with this and it was a struggle.”

TVLINE | Can you tell me a little bit more about your condition?
Prune belly syndrome is basically when your urinary tract system isn’t developed. So [doctors] knew I was going to need a kidney transplant or I wasn’t going to make it. I had the transplant in ’97, then because of being on immunosuppressant medications for so long, I developed stomach cancer, which I got removed my first year of medical school.

Yeah. It’s a lot, but I’m here and this has been a dream come true. I never thought I could ever do this in my lifetime. I’m proud of myself and I’m so glad that I’m giving others with my condition who look like me, who sound like me and who have the same condition hope… and being an advocate for them and showing them that you can do this too. Don’t let your condition or your illness stop you.

TVLINE | Do you have any regrets from your time on the island?
Gosh, no. No regrets. It was an amazing experience. I miss the sunsets, the sunrises, the air, not having a phone and being disconnected and being able to talk to people. But, no regrets just… doing more for my social game, maybe talking more to people. But other than that, no.

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