Exclusive: 'Survivor: Kaoh Rong' Brains castaway Joseph "Joe" Del Campo talks (Part 1)
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/12/2016
Survivor: Kaoh Rong -- Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty's merged Dara tribe lost Joseph "Joe" Del Campo and determined the Final 4 castaways during Wednesday night's broadcast on CBS.
Joe, a 72-year-old former FBI agent from Vero Beach, FL, was medically evacuated from the game on Day 34 due to an enlarged prostate and severe stomach issues following a Reward Challenge victory in which he gorged himself with red meat.
This marks the third medical evacuation of Season 32, which has boasted the show's harshest conditions yet. Because of Joe's early and unexpected departure, the episode did not feature a Tribal Council.
During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Thursday, Joe talked about his Survivor experience. Below is the first half. Check back with us soon for the concluding portion.
Reality TV World: What happened once you left the island? What turned out to be the actual diagnosis and what was the recovery time like?
Joe Del Campo: Well, I was transported back to base and had to go into the dispensary there and pretty much was given a couple of hours for something that happened or else I was going to have to be catheterized, which they wouldn't do there, so that meant I would be sent back to mainland Cambodia.
So, yeah, they gave me some pain medication and something to help me move stuff along, and fortunately, within that two-hour envelope, I was able to comply. And then I was transported to Ponderosa. There, I was greeted by my former castaways, and it was a nice greeting.
I really enjoyed seeing them again and the comradery that was expressed -- of course during the game, you have your foes and friends, and once you're out of the game, it was just a game. And so, there you are as regular people just dealing with each other as you would in real life.
Reality TV World: As seen with medical evacuations in the past, sometimes the castaways cry and are so distraught about having to leave, but you seemed okay with it even though you were so close to making the Final 3. Was there a part of you that was relieved to go? I know you said it was disappointing, but you even said at the Reward Challenge you were running out of fuel.
Joe Del Campo: Well, no. There were only five days to go, so after having spent 34 days there, five days was nothing. The problem would've been three days after I got to Ponderosa, I was in pretty bad shape because of, you know -- not to get into the graphic details or anything like that -- but what it took for me to clear my intestines out and stuff.
So, it would've been very difficult had that even happened on the beach, if the medication would've worked and helped me along. But the pain for the next three days down south was pretty intense, so it would've been rough. And it would've really affected me in the challenges.
As you know, (laughs) I was usually last to reach anything at all, but that was okay. I'm competing with legs that are 20 and 30, and I was 71 at the time. These old legs didn't move quite that quick, but I was good with it.
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Reality TV World: How much pressure did you feel to stick it out through all of that pain considering Aubry Bracco and Tai Trang were relying so heavily on you to get to the Final 3? Aubry said at the episode her game was ruined because she needed you that badly.
Joe Del Campo: Well, I had expressed in one of the hidden interviews or deleted scenes that it wasn't about the game then; It was about the pain I was in and just the intensity of it. I'm not a quitter.
That's why I wanted to get on and was on Survivor for 34 days. But I knew that when -- and again, I had seen Dr. Joe earlier in the day, he explained to me, he said, "If you let this go and you're not able to do certain things, you're really jeopardizing your well-being and your kidneys."
And I was in a foreign country. The last thing I wanted to be was catheterized and being sent over to the mainland of Cambodia in some foreign hospital. I didn't want that, so rather than let it get that far, where I might've had to really been evacuated that much quicker and not stop at main camp -- the base camp.
Doctor Joe said it right to [Jeff Probst], "If we let it go, it could get very bad in the kidneys." [Jeff replied], "Do you want to pull him?" And [the doctor] said, "Yes." So, I went along with the doctor's decision. Did I want to go? Absolutely not. But I couldn't -- the pain was just intense.
I'm recovering from shoulder surgery, not related to the game. It's been four months, and let me tell you, the first couple of weeks were horrible, but that's how bad the pain was in my belly at that time. Just imagine you're bloated and nothing is happening (laughs) and it was bad! There was no way I could deal with it.
Reality TV World: Viewers really didn't see you strategizing much out there or calling the shots. Did you intentionally play an under-the-radar game or do you feel you haven't received much credit for what you did out there because it didn't make the editing?
Joe Del Campo: No, I played an under-the-radar game because from Day 1 or 2, Aubry and I said, "Okay, we're going to hook up." She was very good at the field work and interacting with everybody. We didn't want the target to be drawn on our backs as "the couple to beat" and everything like that.
So we tried to play it loosely, and pretty much, in the moments when we discussed what strategy we were going to do, I'd say, "Okay, that sounds good to me." She did the field work and I was kind of like the older statesman in the background, and I got to give her credit -- she did a great job.
Reality TV World: Did you really think you could win the game then, or did you figure it would be tough to beat Aubry? Because obviously your plan was to go to the end with her no matter what as long as that was possible.
Joe Del Campo: Well, it's going to be the jury looking at you and saying, "Okay, did he play the game or did she play the game the way we think the game should be played? Did they cement alliances? Did they bob and weave and do things that promoted their game?"
Well, certainly with me, you didn't see anything on-camera, and there were some scenes that did not make it on-camera, which I think would've shown divisibility. It didn't happen. It's just the way it was, and so, I accept that. No problem.
Reality TV World: Did you have any idea while you were out there though that your fellow castaways viewed you as a goat to take to the end? Eliminated castaways I've talked to said you'd be perfect to take to the Final 3 because you'd be easy to beat. Were you aware that was the perception?
Joe Del Campo: Well, I reviewed a lot of hours -- like 200 hours -- before I got picked and was on the island there of all past seasons, and the term "goat" I always kind of smiled at.
I wanted to play an under-the-radar game. I'm an old guy, and I'm sure you have the experience of seeing all those older shows, when an older person tries to make plays, they usually get targeted right away -- a target on the back, like, "We're not going to listen to that guy." Boom!
So, I'm 71, and all of the [shows] I've seen in the past, pretty much, once they'd say, "Do this," or, "Do that," they were gone. I didn't want to be gone! I wanted to play with a strong player. Aubry was a strong player. [Debbie Wanner] was for a while until she got booted.
So, I was with a winning team, I thought. I looked at is as a team and not "a goat." So when you play a team effort, in the end, only one person can win. And probably, if it had been just her or I, or her and I and Tai, or [Michele Fitzgerald] and [Cydney Gillon], I probably would've gotten the least amount of votes just because I wasn't making the big plays.
Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion of Joe's exclusive Survivor interview.