Sunday, November 27, 2016

Whatever Happened To: The Contestants of Survivor Borneo

The subject of reality TV came up among friends some time ago, including shows we had seen and those we wouldn't mind being a contestants on. One friend said he considered The Amazing Race the only worthwhile show, since you got the advantage of traveling the world and the winners were determined more by intelligence, strength, grit, and so on.

Survivor, he said, was much less rewarding. "To win, you have to be the second biggest asshole," he suggested.

This seems to be true on the occasional times I've seen the show since the first season. There's plenty of backstabbing, underhanded tactics, and dirty tricks. Contestants are often more likely to despise each other than be friends by the end of the game.

While this strategy essentially developed during the original run of episodes of Survivor: Borneo, it was still enjoyable enough that I found myself getting sucked in. Sixteen people, from various different parts of  the United States and a range of ages and professions, played the part of willing castaways on the island of Pulau Tiga, near Borneo in Malaysia. After 39 days on the island and several elimination rounds, one person emerged as the winner of a $1 million prize.

So what happened to the people who kicked off the Survivor series back in 2000?

Sonja Christopher

At 63 years old, Sonja was one of the older contestants. She was part of the Tagi tribe, hailing from Walnut Creek, California. Although Sonja was kind and well-liked by her fellow castaways, she was also seen as more of a liability in the immunity challenges due to her age. After Tagi lost the first challenge, in part because of Sonja stumbling during the race, she became the first person voted off the island.

Now 79, Sonja had retired from her job as an elementary school teacher by the time she was selected for the first season's cast. According to her IMDB page, she is spending her retirement by acting in a local community theater and working part-time as a music therapist for Alzheimer's patients. She had a bit part on an episode of Diagnosis: Murder later on in 2000. Sonja used her $2,500 consolation prize from the show to help finance the expansion of her Unitarian church, an act which helped kick off fundraising efforts that resulted in $1 million in pledges.

B.B. Andersen

B.B. was another older contestant, 64 at the time of the filming. He was a particularly hardworking member of the Pagong tribe, and also proved useful when his fellow castaways found they could use his glasses to start a fire. He wound up clashing with other tribe members due to his belief that some of them were lazy,  and further annoyed them when he washed one of his T-shirts with clean drinking water. He eventually grew tired enough with the competition that he said he wouldn't mind if the tribe threw the second immunity challenge to get him off the island. Although they didn't try this tactic, they still lost and B.B. was the first Pagong member to be booted.

The chance to be marooned on an island naturally proved attractive to B.B., who enjoyed adventurous activities such as boating, scuba diving, and flying. A real estate developer from Mission Hills, Kansas, he also spent several years on the advisory board to the Defense Intelligence Agency after being appointed there by Ronald Reagan. He made a couple of appearances in commercials for Home Depot and Reebok after his appearance on Survivor, but soon returned to his regular life in Kansas. He died of brain cancer in 2013, at the age of 77.

Stacey Stillman

A lawyer from San Francisco, Stacey helped Tagi to their first win by triumphing in an "eat this gross thing" challenge. She was the first to propose forming an alliance, inviting the other women in the tribe to band together, but this scheme never came to fruition. Stacey never got along with Rudy and twice voted to kick him off, only to become the second Tagi member to be eliminated. She was visibly annoyed at the result, telling at least one person, "All switched your vote."

Stacey caused a stir after the show aired by filing a $5 million lawsuit against CBS in 2001, alleging that producer Mark Burnett had coerced fellow contestants Dirk and Sean to switch their votes from Rudy to her. These contestants were split on their reaction. Dirk said he did not consider that Burnett had manipulated or coerced the contestants, but believed that he had unfairly influenced the result. Sean said Burnett's advice to "vote your conscience" was not meant to persuade him one way or the other. CBS vehemently denied Stacey's claims, and even countersued her for defamation and extortion. The matter was eventually settled out of court.

Now 44, Stacey is currently a senior associate with the Silicon Valley law firm Orrick. She focuses on litigation related to technology and Internet companies, including patents and copyright law.

Ramona Gray

Ramona was a friendly, easygoing member of the Pagong tribe. Although she had a black belt in karate and was physically fit, she came down with an illness and was not able to help out around camp or perform as well in immunity challenges. Although she started to recover soon after, the tribe was worried enough about her physical condition that they voted her out.

Gray made a few more televised appearances after her time on Survivor. She served as a "challenge mayor" in the Real World/Road Rules Extreme Challenge reality show, and won $32,000 for charity by defeating five other castaways in a Survivor-themed episode of The Weakest Link. She used her $8,500 in prize money to travel, and raked in another $10,000 by auctioning off her Tribal Council torch. Ramona remained close with fellow tribe member Gervase, who attended her wedding when she got married in 2009; she gave birth to a daughter two years later. Now 45, Ramona continues to work as a chemist in New Jersey.

Dirk Been

Dirk was helping run his parents' dairy farm in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and working as a substitute teacher when he was selected as one of the show's 16 castaways. Although a pleasant person, his devout Christian faith sometimes put him at odds with his fellow Tagi tribe members. He was uncomfortable with Richard's homosexuality, and some castaways were annoyed that he seemed to waste his time reading his Bible or fruitlessly trying to catch fish. Due to his perceived lack of work ethic and the tribe's concern about his weight loss, Dirk was the third member of Tagi voted out; he was also the first person targeted by the alliance formed between Richard, Kelly, Rudy, and Sue.

Following his appearance on the show, Dirk was frequently booked as a speaker at Christian events and encouraged people to pursue education, serve as mentors, and stay away from drugs and alcohol. He also had a brief film career, landing lead roles in the 2002 Rapture-themed Christian movie Gone (along with fellow castaway Joel), the 2003 film Synthetic Truth, and the 2009 film A Rabbit's Trails. According to his LinkedIn profile, he now works as an admissions representative at the Modern Technology School in Orange County, California, and volunteers at the Boys & Girls Club. He was married in 2004 and now has two children.

Joel Klug

Joel was in a good position to be a valuable member of the Pagong tribe. He was particularly strong (working as a health club consultant at the time he joined the show) and this quality made it seem like he could last for quite awhile in the game. He also advocated for an alliance of Pagong members, correctly intuiting that Tagi would have one of their own going into the tribal merger. However, he irked the tribe's women when he laughed at a sexist joke told by Gervase (and defended him for it); they also worried that he would be more of a threat after the tribes merged. As such, Joel became the last person to be voted off before the remaining members of Tagi and Pagong became a single tribe.

Like many of the people in the first season of Survivor, Joel dabbled in acting for awhile. He appeared in an episode of Baywatch, joined fellow castaway Dirk in the film Gone, and returned after several years' absence to play bit roles in the films Zombie Wars and Consciousness. Although Klug's IMDB profile suggests that he wanted to follow a career in the pharmaceutical industry, his Facebook page says he's been working at Nielsen since 2014. He is now 44 years old.

Gretchen Cordy

Although Gretchen was working as a preschool teacher in Clarksville, Tennessee, when she was accepted for the show, she had a strong background in survival tactics. She had spent six years teaching these skills for the Air Force before getting married and having two children. On the show, she was well-liked on the Pagong tribe for her expertise and leadership. The Tagi alliance quickly deemed her a threat, however; in a blindsiding vote, she became the first person in the newly formed Rattana tribe to be ousted, as the Pagong tribe's failure to unify scattered their votes.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Gretchen quickly landed a job as a radio broadcaster after her time on Survivor. Now 54, she works as a morning host on Q108 in Clarksville.

Greg Buis

One of the most memorable contestants on Survivor: Borneo, Greg was a strange but likable fellow. Among other things, he would occasionally burst into song and puzzled his fellow Pagong castaways by "communicating" with the outside world on a coconut telephone. He was clearly having a great time and didn't take the competition too seriously, although he was a hard worker and often seemed to be trying to lighten the mood in the camp. Greg also became quite close with Colleen, with the other tribe members suspecting that there was romance between them. He was the second person voted off after the tribes were merged and the first to stick around on the jury that would decide the final winner. Greg was also notable for poking fun at the solemnity of the Tribal Council proceedings, pretending to sob inconsolably after getting voted off. During the jury proceedings, he simply asked the final two contestants to guess which number he was thinking of in order to win his vote.

Greg, now 40, seemingly had little interest in trying to capitalize on his time in the limelight, although he did sign a modeling contract soon after the show concluded. He continued his education, getting a master's degree in ecology from Colorado State University, and his LinkedIn profile charts a career in environmental protection. His past jobs have included forestry management, working with the National Science Foundation in South Africa, and serving as director of E.ON Climate and Renewables. Greg was one of the founders of the renewable development company Pioneer Green Energy in 2010 and is currently the company's president. Busy with this work, he's turned down subsequent offers to be a return player on Survivor.

Jenna Lewis

A student who grew up in Franklin, New Hampshire, Jenna earned a smattering of votes in the early Tribal Councils since the other castaways occasionally found her chatty and bubbly personality to be annoying. Originally a member of the Pagong tribe, she was chosen to attend a meeting with a Tagi member (Sean) and decide on a new tribe name. She had twin daughters at the time of the filming, and was disappointed at one reward challenge to find that her family had neglected to send in a tape for a prize. Jenna was the third victim of the Tagi alliance after the tribal merger.

Now 39, Jenna returned to join the cast of Survivor: All-Stars in 2004 and fared much better. In this competition, she made it to the final three before being voted out by lovebirds Amber Brkich and Rob Mariano. She had done some TV and movie work, appearing in productions such as Scorned; she also had a role in the 2012 made-for-TV movie The Mel & Wendi House. Around the time of her appearance on All-Stars, a sex tape featuring Jenna and ex-husband Travis Wolfe leaked to the Internet; she claimed to be horrified by the breach of privacy, but it was later revealed that she and Wolfe were benefiting from sales of copies of the tape. Jenna has since been remarried, had two more children, and goes by the name Jenna Lewis Dougherty. According to her Facebook page, she now works as a real estate agent in California.

Gervase Peterson

Gervase managed to stay in the game for quite awhile despite multiple missteps. He lost Pagong their first immunity challenge when Stacey beat him out in a grub-eating tiebreaker round, made the sexist remark about women being "the stupidest things on the planet next to cows," and didn't contribute much to camp work in an effort to preserve his strength for the challenges. While still on the island, he received word that his girlfriend had given birth to his fourth child. Gervase was the penultimate member of the Pagong tribe to be eliminated.

Gervase, now 47, has periodically shown up in TV shows and movies since his appearance on Survivor, including The HughleysAs the World Turns, and The Underground Kings. He's been a bit more active in these areas recently, and will appear in the upcoming projects The EvangelistRock Paper Scissors, and American Zealot. He also returned to Survivor for their Blood vs. Water competition, competing against his niece, and finished as second runner-up. A former YMCA basketball coach, Gervase now lives in Philadelphia and wears several hats. He's an owner of the Burnz Cigar Vault and Lounge in Lawnside, New Jersey; a custom clothier at the tailor Morroni Custom Clothing; vice president of a company called MFM N G Productions; and writes a column for JerseyMan Magazine.

Colleen Haskell

A cute brunette who was a total sweetheart and had a great sense of humor? Why yes, I did have a crush on Colleen; didn't you? She and Greg grew particularly close, even snuggling up together away from the other tribe members at night, although she insisted that nothing happened between the two of them. Colleen later exhibited some strategic maneuvering, spearheading an unsuccessful effort to unite the remaining Pagong members and recruit Sean to counter the Tagi alliance. She was the last surviving member of Pagong. Richard suggested that she would be spared for at least a little while, since the alliance was prepared to oust Kelly for voting independently at the previous Tribal Council. But after Kelly managed to win immunity, the alliance teamed up to vote Colleen out instead.

At the time of her appearance on the show, Colleen was attending college in Miami and hoping to pursue a career in creative advertising. Her popularity on Survivor led her to briefly dabble in film and TV roles, appearing on episodes of That '70s Show and Maybe It's Me and as Rob Schneider's love interest in the 2001 film The Animal before working as a production assistant on The Michael Essany Show. Now 39, Colleen has generally stayed out of the spotlight. She turned down a $100,000 offer to pose nude in Playboy, and also said she wasn't interested in being marooned again for All-Stars or Heroes vs. Villains. She has since gotten married, had a daughter, and seems to be living in New York working as a freelance interactive producer.

Sean Kenniff

A neurologist from Brooklyn, Sean was fairly vulnerable at the start of the game. His unsuccessful attempts at fishing didn't endear him to the other members of the Tagi tribe, and he was the one person left out after the formation of the Tagi alliance and the elimination of Dirk. However, he survived for much longer since the alliance began systematically offing Pagong members after the tribe merged. Sean, wishing to stay neutral, adopted a strategy of casting his votes in alphabetical order based on a tribe member's first name. After he confessed this strategy to the other tribe members, the Tagi alliance (whose names all fell near the end of the alphabet) used it to their advantage. Although the alliance considered ousting Kelly and replacing her with Sean, Kelly's continuing streak of immunity wins ensured that he was the first person voted off after all of the former Pagong members were eliminated.

Sean (now 46 and married with a few kids) had taken a break from the medical field at the time he appeared on Survivor, giving some consideration to being a writer. He realized this ambition in 2010, publishing both a novel entitled Etre the Cow and a non-fiction book, Stop Effing Yourself: A Survivor's Guide to Life's Biggest Screw-ups. In addition to an appearance on Guiding Light, Sean showed up several times as a medical correspondent for CBS and was part of the news staff at the station's affiliate in Miami. He also started a medical call-in program, The Dr. Sean Show, on an AM radio station in Florida in 2009.

Susan Hawk

A tough, hard-edged contestant, Susan quickly proved to be a strategic player. She became a member of the Tagi alliance, ensuring that she would last into the later stages of the game. Susan sometimes clashed with other women in the game, spurning offers by Stacey and later Jenna to join together to create a bloc of female votes at the Tribal Council. She was especially incensed by Kelly's decision to defect from the alliance, considering her to be manipulative and a liar, and became the first member of the alliance to be voted out.

In one of the show's more memorable moments, Susan gave an embittered speech at the final Tribal Council vote in which she criticized both Richard and Kelly. She reserved most of her ire for Kelly, comparing Richard to a snake and Kelly to a rat before urging the jury to let nature take its course and let the snake eat the rat. She carried on the invective to say that she would not stop to help Kelly if she was dying of thirst, and would instead leave her to the vultures. The remarks particularly rankled Gervase; while casting his vote for Kelly, he described Susan as a hypocrite and a sore loser.

Susan was a truck driver from Waukesha, Wisconsin, at the time the show aired. Following her appearance on Survivor, she appeared on a number of game shows including Hollywood SquaresThe Weakest Link, and Dog Eat Dog, on which she won the $25,000 top prize. Susan returned for Survivor: All-Stars, but became quite upset when her former Tagi ally Richard rubbed against her while competing nude in an immunity challenge. When it seemed like host Jeff Probst was trying to dismiss the incident as a joke, an angry Susan declared that she had been "sexually violated, humiliated, [and] dehumanized," then made the decision to drop out of the competition. She later appeared with Richard on The Early Show, and the tone of the interview suggested that they had gotten past the incident but not exactly reconciled. Susan has stayed out of the public eye since then; now 55, she was last reported to be living with her husband on a ranch near Clever, Missouri.

Rudy Boesch


Rudy was the oldest contestant on Survivor: Borneo, but he had the expertise to make him competitive. He was a career military man, joining the Navy in 1945, becoming a SEAL, earning a Bronze Star in Vietnam, and retiring in 1990 after 45 years of service. He was especially dedicated to physical fitness and performed well in the challenges, including one where he had to sprint across the beach while carrying a wooden chest. Rudy's gruff, curmudgeonly attitude rubbed some of his fellow Tagi members the wrong way, and he wasn't shy of expressing criticisms for other players (among other statements, he suggested that Dirk's luxury item of a Bible was only good for toilet paper, was critical of Gervase having children out of wedlock, and didn't much care for the video sent by Greg's sister that jokingly suggested the two were having an incestual relationship).

However, he was also impressed by Richard's leadership and later joined the Tagi alliance. This proved to be a wise move, since two efforts to vote him off early on had nearly succeeded. Although some members of Tagi clearly would have liked to see him go early on, he grew much friendlier with the remaining tribe members as the game proceeded and was popular among fans as well. His increasing likability ultimately became a liability, however. While he made it to the final three, he lost an immunity challenge to Kelly and she decided to vote him off after determining that she had a better chance of winning against Richard.

Third place still gets you some substantial prize money in Survivor, and Rudy shared his $85,000 consolation prize with his daughters. He earned a fair amount of publicity for his appearance, getting a guest spot on JAG and a hosting role on the show Combat Missions. He also wrote a book entitled The Book of Rudy: The Wit and Wisdom of Rudy Boesch. Rudy became the oldest person ever to compete on the show when he returned for Survivor: All-Stars, but was voted out after only six days due to an ankle injury and concerns that he was compromising the tribe's performance in the immunity challenges. Originally from Rochester, New York, Rudy is now 88 years old and lives in Virginia Beach.

Kelly Wiglesworth

Kelly was something of an under-the-radar player at first. A whitewater rafting guide from Nevada, she was dealt a blow when the Tagi tribe lost an immunity challenge where she was a designated rower. However, she managed to make it through the entire game without anyone voting to kick her off the island. Kelly was a member of the Tagi alliance, but ultimately broke away from this group on the belief that it wasn't a fair way of determining a winner. The remaining alliance members (especially Sue) targeted Kelly for elimination after learning that she had not joined their vote against Jenna, but she won four immunity challenges in a row to secure her place in the final vote. She made the case that she had played the game fairly and respectfully, noting how she won one challenge involving trivia on other tribe members because she had taken the time to get to know people. Kelly won the support of most of the former Pagong members, but lost the grand prize to Richard.

Second place wasn't too shabby for Kelly, as she won $100,000 for finishing as runner-up. A small portion of this prize went toward resolving an outstanding criminal case from 1995 in which she and a friend racked up charges on a stolen credit card; she was ultimately sentenced to pay $455 in restitution and do 75 hours of community service. Unlike many of the Survivor: Borneo castaways, Kelly made no TV appearances aside from some talk show visits. However, she did return for the show's "Second Chance" competition in Cambodia, and was the ninth person to be eliminated. Now 39, Kelly lived in Mexico for a time and worked as a yoga teacher. She now travels the world as part of a travel show called Mana with fellow castaway Joe Anglim.

Richard Hatch

Richard had a varied career going into the show, having worked as a bartender, car salesman, and real estate agent and later studying marine biology. At the time he joined the cast of Survivor: Borneo, he was a corporate trainer living in Newport, Rhode Island. While he was one of the more openly devious people in the game, Richard still managed to gain the trust and respect of several castaways. Early in the game, he let his fellow Tagi tribe members know that he was gay and was relieved to find that it didn't bother most of them. He came up with the idea of forming an alliance, recruiting Sue and Kelly and later bringing Rudy into the mix. Richard further solidified his role in the Tagi tribe when he proved an adept fisherman, using the equipment won in a challenge to bring plenty of food to the camp. He also became known for his comfort with being naked and strutting around camp in his birthday suit.

Richard occasionally found himself in a more vulnerable spot, such as when the Rattana women were able to catch a fish on their own and when the remaining ex-Pagong members made a last-ditch effort to knock him off. However, Richard's strategies were successful in bringing him to the final Tribal Council. In one particularly risky move, he gave up on the penultimate immunity challenge on the belief that whoever won would want to face off against him in the final vote. In the end, he squeaked out a victory as the jurors voted 4-3 to award him the $1 million prize.

After his win, Richard appeared on a number of game shows as well as an episode of Becker. His win was soon overshadowed by troubles off-screen. He was accused of abusing his adopted son during an exercise regimen he had set up, but the charges were later dropped. Not long after, he was sentenced to a year of probation after assaulting his son's caretaker, but the charges were later vacated. Richard returned for Survivor: All-Stars and was eliminated after his tribe lost the immunity challenge where he traumatized Susan. In 2005, he was then charged with evading taxes on his Survivor winnings. Following a trial in 2006, he was found guilty and sentenced to 51 months in prison. Richard's attempts to appeal included allegations that he caught other Survivor contestants cheating and that Mark Burnett agreed to pay the taxes on his winnings to keep him quiet. Richard was released from prison in 2009, but sentenced to another nine months in 2011 for violating his probation by failing to amend his tax returns or pay back taxes.

Between these prison stints, Richard became part of Celebrity Apprentice but was soon eliminated from the show. At the time, his legal troubles earned the sympathies of the show's host, one Donald Trump. But during the the former reality host's bombastic presidential campaign, Richard was critical of Trump on his Twitter account and Facebook page. Earlier this year, he joined the cast of The Biggest Loser, shedding 34 pounds before becoming the fourth contestant eliminated. Richard (now 55) has founded a production company called Moonstone and continues to make public appearances.