Exclusive: Chet Welch dishes on 'Survivor: Micronesia' injury, ouster
By Christopher Rocchio, 03/14/2008
After he suffered an infection in his heel, Chet Welch had the option of being medically evacuated or booted via Tribal Council.
He chose the latter, and the 49 year-old pageant coach from Ford City, PA became the seventh castaway eliminated from Survivor: Micronesia -- Fans vs. Favorites during last night's broadcast of the long-running CBS reality show's sixteenth season.
On Friday, Chet talked to Reality TV World about his injury, how much medical attention he received for it and why it was never made known to viewers until last night. In addition, he also discussed why he considers the Fans tribe one of the "most stupidest" ever assembled; how he was on the chopping block immediately after the game started; and his message for viewers who don't think he was Fan-worthy.
Reality TV World: Were you injured during the third episode's football-themed Reward Challenge where you were competing on the coral rocks and if so, how did it happen?
Chet: Yeah. At that time I got a piece of coral in my shoe and it pretty much kept hammering into my foot as the challenge went on. Later on I kind of thought it was just a stone bruise, but it just progressed from there and never really went away like I was hoping it would.
Reality TV World: So it started to become more painful and you realized it was a problem?
Chet: The swelling and the infection you could see was kind of going up into my ankle. The archway of my foot was pretty much gone... In the game of Survivor you need your feet, you need your legs. You can't get by without them.
Reality TV World: Had you been receiving any medical attention for the injury before leaving the game? Was it known by the Survivormedics?
Chet: Oh yeah. For probably about a good week I was taking oral antibiotics, which did nothing for it. Obviously they won't give you anything for pain because that could help you in the game. But I was seeing the doctors probably for about a good week.
Reality TV World: Do you know why they didn't show any of that to [Survivor's home] viewers?
Chet: No, not necessarily. I mean obviously it wasn't anything life-threatening at that point. It was just something where you could not compete in a game like that with the infection and constantly getting in and out of the water and whatever.
Reality TV World: Did the medics suggest you remove yourself from the game or was that a decision you made on your own?
Chet: When I came back from Exile Island, the doctors checked me before I went into [the Immunity Challenge]. They actually wanted to take me out when they saw my foot.
I asked if I could just go ahead and compete in the challenge and we would probably lose the challenge and I would ask to be voted off that night. That's pretty much how it went.
Chet: I didn't have a choice. If I would have not been voted out, they would have pulled me right from Tribal Council.
Reality TV World: So the medics let you participate in that Triba Councill with the understanding you were leaving?
Chet: I just didn't want to disappear from the game. I wanted to -- at that point -- stay in and go through the whole rite-of-passage of being voted out.
Reality TV World: So if Ozzy was voted out as a result of that Tribal Council and you were also removed from the game by the medics immediately after [the Tribal Council session] was over, do you know if Ozzy still would have been eliminated?
Chet: Possibly. But again, the game has twists and turns. You never know. I mean, did I actually even trust wholeheartedly what was going on [with the plan to eliminate Ozzy]? I trusted Tracy -- I would have trusted Tracy with my life. Erik, Ami or Cirie... I don't know?
Reality TV World: Based on what we just talked about, I'm assuming the whole Malakal tribe knew the situation you were in, right?
Chet: That is correct, yes.
Reality TV World: What was their reaction to it?
Chet: Basically after we lost the Reward Challenge I just told them, 'I need to go.' And they obliged and I went.
Reality TV World: After you were eliminated you said eliminating Ozzy was something Tracy and Erik "can take care of after I'm gone." Are you confident that's something they'll be able to do since they're basically sitting ducks now?
Chet: Things change. People have gone into Tribal Council with a decision on what they were going to do and who they're going to vote off and it's changed during Tribal Council. So a lot can change in that period of time. Am I sure or guaranteed? Absolutely not. Do I think they can? Sure I think they can, but you just don't know. Everything falls into factor. It's like a game of luck, so what's going to happen?
Reality TV World: While you were on Exile Island with Jason Siska, you told him you thought Ozzy already had found the Hidden Immunity Idol. What made you think that?
Chet: I'm a very nosy person. I dig around and I search.
Reality TV World: Interesting. Did you share that information with anybody?
Chet: I did not share it with anybody in my tribe. I did share it with Jason. I told him because basically I was not going to waste my time looking for it because I knew it had already been found. Jason was probably not my closest friend in the group. I knew Jason would not believe me when I was telling him, so he can just take his sorry ass all over those islands and look all he wanted. I knew he wasn't going to find it.
Reality TV World: So he didn't believe you when you told him Ozzy had the idol?
Chet: Absolutely not, no.
Reality TV World: Did Jason ever tell you he thought he might have found what he thought was the idol?
Chet: No he didn't.
Reality TV World: After your elimination, you commented you lasted "a lot longer than some people thought" you would. I'm assuming that means you were you aware that you were considered one of the weaker castaways?
Reality TV World: What do you think gave the rest of the castaways that impression? Do you think you were really as lazy around camp and unhelpful in challenges as they all made it sound?
Chet: Basically within the first hour of the game, Tracy and I were approached and we were told that we're the oldest two in the tribe. "One of you two is going to go out the first Tribal that we're in. decide which one it's going to be."
I sort of hate to say this (laughing), but I feel sometimes I was put on one of the most stupidest tribes ever on Survivor. They never got to know us -- our weaknesses, our strengths, what we could do working together -- before they started making decisions on who they were going to vote off.
Reality TV World: So based on that, were you forced into your alliance with Tracy and Kathleen Sleckman?
Chet: I mean Tracy and I sort of bonded immediately from the moment we set eyes on each other. We decided then when we were a target that we needed to get some numbers in there. We decided to take on Kathy, which I'm very thankful for many reasons we did.
We worked together as a threesome. We were three votes going one way all the time. People wanted to keep us because they knew that they could persuade us to vote for whoever we felt was the better candidate to go.
Reality TV World: That leads well into my next question. You were targeted for elimination twice in a row, but both times you were spared and instead Mikey Bortone and Joel Anderson were given the boot. Do you think it was because you, Tracy and Kathy were voting as a threesome?
Chet: We were... Again, we agreed always to vote the same way. We were three votes going one way all the time. So we were a good group to keep around.
Reality TV World: So that was something Joel recognized at first when you helped him eliminate Mikey B., but not so much when Joel himself was eliminated with the help of your threesome?
Chet: No he didn't. I don't believe Joel ever thought that he would be taken out.
Reality TV World: When we talked to Joel last week, he said there was communication during the Reward Challenge where he was accused of dragging you around the course. I just want to get your side of the story. Was there communication between the two of you?
Chet: First off, it was a decision among us who was going to be paired up with each other. Joel jumped right in and said, "I'm taking Chet," which right away the red flags went up in the air. The man wanted nothing to do with me up until that moment.
All that I asked of him was to please, "Over, under, through" and I could follow him. The first time through the game, Joel yelled, "Over, under, through" and we did well. The second time was actually a tiebreaker. It was Joel and I again, and I asked him the same request. But knowing Joel, he is SO obsessed with winning that he heard nothing and he just took off like a bat out of hell and just dragged me through the whole thing.
So the communication was not there. I want to make that perfectly clear. This is Chet from Survivor: Micronesia -- Fans vs. Favorites. The communication was not there.
Reality TV World: Okay, loud and clear. I think we might have touched upon this a little bit, but what prompted you, Tracy and Kathy to build your own shelter?
Chet: Once again, I was put on one of the most stupidest tribes ever on Survivor! We were there for four days, and all that they had was a fricking' floor built! I was getting wet, they were all running into these little caves because it doesn't rain in caves. They couldn't figure out that along a beach, where [a cave] is dug into the hillside, that usually tells you that the water runs in there!
They were all going to go in there and the three of us said, "You know what? We're going to build our own shelter," which we did. They were actually very jealous of us -- it was a nice little shelter. So basically we were the ones that had the intelligence to try and stay dry.
Reality TV World: How were you cast for Survivor: Micronesia? Had you previously applied to the show before?
Chet: Actually it was like a three-year process -- through the videos, the tapes, the applications, phone interviews, coming to Los Angeles for personal interviews. You would hear something and then you would get all excited and then you wouldn't hear things for months to come. So you kind of chalk it off like it's not going to happen. Then all of a sudden, here we go!
Reality TV World: Given you were on the Fans tribe, how much Survivorhad you watched before the show? Had you seen every season?
Chet: I've watched every season.
Reality TV World: Some viewers have voiced frustration and resentment that the show essentially ended up wasting a valuable "uber-fan" slot on a guy that really didn't seem very committed to playing the game. How do you respond to that criticism?
Chet: Bring their ass to Micronesia and let's see what they can do.
Reality TV World: Okay, fair enough. You also seemed unable to cope with the show's conditions from pretty much the moment the game began, but as a Survivorfan, the conditions certainly shouldn't have been a surprise to you. Were you surprised or did you expect it?
Chet: It was rough with everything collectively taken. The weather wasn't really -- truthfully -- that much of an issue for me. I was tired of being wet but just went along with it. Probably the lack of food was the hardest thing on all of us -- in my case especially.
Reality TV World: Did you do anything physically or mentally to prepare yourself before leaving for the competition? What was your strategy heading into the game and do you think it worked?
Chet: I've coached Miss America contestants for 23 years, so I had the mental strategy ready to go. I got my body as tight as I could. I actually put a few pounds on -- people thought I was thin, but it was actually the heaviest I've ever been going onto the show.
But truthfully I will say the person I went there as -- the person I went to play the game -- lasted probably an hour. Within the first hour of the game, I had to do a complete turnaround and change my strategy.
Reality TV World: Do you think you were able to successfully change your strategy?
Chet: I think it worked. I just wasn't ready for such immediate negativity before they knew anything about anybody.
Reality TV World: At this point, would you say a Fan or a Favorite has a better shot at winning the competition and why?
Reality TV World: I think I know the reason why.
Chet: Once again (laughing), I was put on the most stupidest tribe ever on Survivor. So I say the Favorites.
Reality TV World: Personally, which castaway would you like to see win? I'm assuming it's Tracy.
Chet: I'd love to see Tracy or Kathy win. That would be just incredible. I hope they can do that. I really don't know who else beyond them. The twists and turns, you don't know who's going to be left.
Reality TV World: Anybody you don't want to see win?
Reality TV World: Why?
Chet: He's just an immature know-it-all.
Reality TV World: So what's next for you?
Chet: I'm going to continue with my job. I've had the same pharmacy job for 23 years now. I still coach Miss America pageant contestants.
I've been a very huge advocate for the adoption of animals through a shelter versus from purchasing from a breeder. I'm starting something which is basically just encouraging people to do so. Forget the breeders and go for the dogs who are much more appreciative -- or any animal you want.
Check back with Reality TV World on Monday for our interview with Jonathan Penner, including how severe his knee injury was and how far he thinks he could have made it in the game if he was never hurt.