Gary 'Papa Smurf' Stritesky left 'Survivor: Fiji' due to allergic reaction
By Christopher Rocchio, 03/07/2007
Gary "Papa Smurf" Stritesky survived both a tour of Vietnam and work as a taxi cab driver -- but the 55-year-old couldn't make it as a castaway on CBS' Survivor: Fiji -- as the Ramsey, MN school bus driver was evacuated from his plush Moto camp during last Thursday night's broadcast due to medical reasons.
"At first they thought it was a heat rash, but I knew it wasn't. You noticed all the bug bites I had? It was an allergic reaction to the bites. That's why I had the loss of breath and the nausea," Stritesky told his howntown The Pioneer Press newspaper. "Oh, man, I'd never had anything like that happen to me. I couldn't focus. I couldn't stand up straight. But once they got the anti-toxins in me, I was in pretty good shape."
Prior to the bug bite diagnosis, it had been assumed that Stritesky's illness had been caused by some nasty spills he took during the third episode's Reward Challenge. Within his first few steps on the slippery course, Stritesky fell to the ground twice. However he still contributed to his team winning the challenge. Despite already feeling light-headed and constantly out of breath -- apparently due to the bug bites and not his falls -- Stritesky again played a pivotal role in that episode's Immunity Challenge when he scarfed two hairy pig snouts to claim victory for Moto.
"We had [pig snouts] when we were kids. You'd take the head and tail and ears, chop it all up, put it in a gel, chill it and put vinegar on it. So that was a cakewalk for me," he told ThePress.
While his appearance on Fiji was presumably shorter than he would have liked, Stritesky still had the opportunity to enjoy a Survivor first: living in a luxurious shelter complete with amenities that made it feel just like home.
"We were definitely the 'haves.' I couldn't complain at all. I anticipated it was going to be a lot tougher out there," Stritesky told ThePress. "It was still hot, and you don't always know what's going on. And it's not like you're eating at Perkins everyday. But you were eating with silverware, and I didn't expect that on Survivor."
Despite being forced to leave the reality competition series' fourteenth installment earlier than expected, Stritesky still said his Survivor experience was a good one.
"The people at CBS were fantastic. Everyone along the way was really good," he told ThePress. "It's a page in my life that will never be forgotten, no matter what. It was an absolute thrill."
Survivor: Fiji continues this Thursday at 8PM ET/PT on CBS.