Exclusive: Ben Driebergen talks 'Survivor' -- I figured I'd lost to Chrissy Hofbeck after watching the finale!
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/21/2017
Ben Driebergen was crowned the $1 million winner of Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers during the live portion of Wednesday night's finale broadcast on CBS.
Ben, a 34-year-old former U.S. Marine from Boise, ID, was shown winning Season 35 of Survivor with four jury votes, (probably with five because one vote was not unveiled by Survivor host Jeff Probst during the live reunion show).
Ben, dubbed "Public Enemy No. 1" towards the end of the game, defeated the runner-upChrissy Hofbeck, a 46-year-old actuary from Bernardsville, NJ who currently resides in Lebanon Township, NJ, and the third-place finisher Ryan Ulrich, a 23-year-old bellhop from North Arlington, NJ, in the season's final jury voting results.
Devon Pinto, a 24-year-old surf instructor from Carlsbad, CA who currently resides in Solana Beach, CA, finished in fourth place, while Mike "Dr. Mike" Zahalsky, a 43-year-old urologist from Parkland, FL, claimed fifth.
During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Thursday, Ben talked about his Survivor experience and victory. Below is the first half of what he had to say.
Reality TV World: Why do you ultimately believe you won the game? Do you feel you played a better game than Chrissy or that she was equally deserving of the "Sole Survivor" title?
Ben Driebergen: Chrissy was absolutely deserving. Her game, she tied the record for most female Individual Immunity wins! And I didn't even win one. (Laughs) So that says a lot about her drive and her determination. So yeah, I think any three of us up there were deserving to win.
Reality TV World: Did you expect, however, it was going to be a landslide vote in your favor? What were you anticipating was going to happen before Jeff began reading the votes at the live reunion show, and did you feel the same way right after the jury had voted in Fiji?
Ben Driebergen: No. I was never comfortable -- never, ever comfortable. In fact, the last show, the edit that Chrissy got, going into the votes, I was like, "Oof, that is not looking good for me." And then it was 1-1-1 for each of us, and I think Chrissy got two votes. So I figured I had lost and I thought Chrissy was going to run the table.
Reality TV World: Could you confirm which jury members voted for you to win?
Ben Driebergen: I don't know for sure, I'd have to go back and watch the show and see who voted. But obviously I know [Lauren Rimmer] did, and the thing is, she told me that after. I don't know, our jury was pretty tight, at least with me. But yeah, I know Lauren and [Joe Mena] did too, for sure.
Reality TV World: On the topic of Joe, he accused you during the jury questioning of giving up and not fighting as hard as he had expected you to. So did you give up or were you just exhausted? And do you thank Joe and give him credit for lighting a fire under you when it meant the most?
Ben Driebergen: At the final jury, I really wanted to be humble, because I had made a spectacle for the three Tribals before. And so, I really wanted to, you know, show a calmer side of me. And then, Chrissy and Ryan -- I don't know exactly if they showed it fully on the show -- but they were going at it!
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They were really going at it, and I saw the jury wasn't -- it wasn't doing anything for the jury. And so, I was trying to take a less aggressive way with them, and Joe was just not having it.
And I thank Joe for lighting that fire, because I wasn't giving up but I didn't know how to articulate [my thoughts], especially sitting next to Chrissy and Ryan, who were using all these big words and stuff. I was like, "I don't know what the hell I'm doing up here!" So, yes, I definitely credit him for lighting that fire under my ass.
Reality TV World: You were also accused of playing a "horrible" social game, but do you really think that was true? You did bob and weave through alliances and even played secret agent there for a while, so do you feel you didn't get enough credit for the social game you did play?
Ben Driebergen: I mean, obviously some of my social game needed work, but those people wouldn't have told me their secrets if they didn't feel comfortable with me. Going into the Heroes tribe, it was easy to talk to people and make group decisions because nobody wanted to be a leader on the Heroes tribe.
It was so funny because we all just kind of talked to each other, like, "Is this going to work?" And then same thing at Yawa. Me and Lauren got to Yawa with the three Healers, and if we didn't keep them comfortable and motivated to win -- like, all they needed to do was throw a challenge, and me and Lauren would've been gone.
Right? The Healers could have had the numbers going into the merge and then who knows what could happen from there, right? So being able to motivate three Healers to win and not lose challenges, I think my social game was pretty strong.
Reality TV World: When you found the last idol of the game, did you ever consider bragging to your tribe that you had it? You kept it a secret until it became time to hand it to Jeff. So why did you wait and pretend like you were finished in the game? Was strategy involved or were you just going for the shock factor -- a "Ben Bomb" type of entertainment at Tribal?
Ben Driebergen: No, 100 percent strategy. I wanted to pull Lauren's vote again. I wanted Devon out. And in hindsight, I'm glad "Dr. Mike" went out with half of the Healers sitting over there [on the jury]. He would've been my next target, really, after what was left.
But I never did anything for TV, like, I went on to playSurvivor to win a million dollars and play Survivor. I never thought about the ramifications of being on Survivor, like, interviews and stuff like that. And so I never had, "I'll do this for good TV," ever.
Reality TV World: When you voted for Devon at the Tribal Council when Mike went home, were you surprised Chrissy and Ryan voted off Mike instead?
Ben Driebergen: No, no. Because with [Ashley Nolan] at six, when I played my second idol, I pleaded my case for Mike. And Mike had a huge target on my back too. He, from Day 1, he said I was the biggest threat in the game, and he had a bunch of Healers over there.
If Mike got to the end, it would've been like, "How did this guy do it?" I think he could have an argument for it. But yeah, at six, I pleaded my case for Mike, and that's pretty much I think what swayed Ryan and Chrissy to vote Mike out after playing my idol earlier and throwing my game out there.
Reality TV World: When Chrissy received that final secret advantage for winning the last Individual Immunity Challenge, did you approach her and ask what it was all about?
Ben Driebergen: Oh, I asked her! I asked her, and she was like, "You know I'm not going to tell you." (Laughs) Why would she? And you saw it, like after the Lauren vote, or I guess after the Joe vote, I knew I was by myself. There was no one -- they made it abundantly clear that I was their target.
Reality TV World: When you learned you'd be competing in a fire-making challenge, you said you were excited but your leg was bouncing like you were really nervous. How prepared did you feel to make fire? Did you do it often at camp beforehand?
Ben Driebergen: Yeah. The thing about that is, I was obviously really nervous but also really excited because I had another fighting chance in the game. I mean, I didn't win any Immunity Challenges, unless you bring the fire-making challenge into it. I feel like that's the biggest challenge to try to win.
Reality TV World: Yeah, we'll count that! (Laughs)
Ben Driebergen: Thank you! Thank you. (Laughs) But I hated making fire. Lauren and I would stay up at night and tend the fire and take turns, and after she left, I did that by myself. No one helped.
And that one morning when you saw Devon making fire, it was because I was acting like I was going home. So I was like, "Well, you guys are going to have to tend to the fire because I'm going out." I hated making fire though. I hated it.