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By Sara Shereen Bakhshian
CBS is commemorating 10 years of the hit reality franchise “Survivor” by bringing back some of the most notable contestants in “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains.” The series’ 20th installment premieres tonight Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. During the “‘Survivor’ 10 Year Anniversary” party in Los Angeles last month, cast members Colby Donaldson, Jessica “Sugar” Kiper, James “JT” Thomas Jr., Sandra Diaz-Twine and Rupert Boneham spoke about their favorite moments, worst experiences and why they wanted to come back for another season.
Some answers have been condensed for spatial reasons.
What was your best moment on the series?
Colby Donaldson: For me it was getting to play with Tom Westman [in the new season]. He’s the guy that I admired, truly enjoyed watching his season [Palau], and getting to play with him was super cool. That was my highlight.
Jessica “Sugar” Kiper: The best moment I enjoyed in Gabon, which was my season before this one, was when we were dancing with the natives. Part of a religious ceremony, they go all night, they dance, sing and praise God. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
James “JT” Thomas Jr.: My best “Survivor” moment was definitely in [Tocantins] Brazil, when we enjoyed the breakfast. That was a goal we set on Day 2, and we made it. That definitely was a great experience.
Sandra Diaz-Twine: …Dumping Rupert’s fish [in Pearl Islands], only because I felt that I was going home next. I didn’t want them eating Rupert’s fish. Especially since they were coming back off the boat, after they voted him off, talking about, “I’m gonna get the big fish.” Because they were mad that Rupert would get the big fish. I told them, “If you don’t like it, you go in the ocean and get fish.”
Rupert Boneham: I have a few. But my favorite was my daughter’s fifth birthday in 2004 when Jeff Probst was writing a check for a $1 million on my back. I got that in my hand, turned around and handed that to my wife and said, I can’t believe I won the game [as a fan favorite] by loosing twice [In Pearl Islands and All-Stars]. Now, one of my strongest that everybody remembers was the first day when I hit the beach on Pearl Islands. In a pirate’s adventure, I kinda looted all the other contestants shoes, and traded them for food, fishing supplies, lighters and all the stuff I could get in the fishing village.


What was your worst moment?
Donaldson: Just dealing with the weather, the elements [in Heroes vs. Villains]. This season was brutal. It absolutely beat us down. So it is hard to stay positive in an environment like that, when all the conditions were so bad.
Kiper: God, my worst “Survivor” moment? I had a lot of them [laughing]. I don’t know maybe [in Gabon] when I realized maybe Ace wasn’t so out to get me, and I “killed” him for no reason possibly. Maybe when I lost it a little bit and laughed too hard at Randy’s demise.
Thomas: Was probably having to vote Taj out [in Tocantins]. She was such a good friend, but I had to do it. I love her to death; that was the hardest decision I had to make.
Diaz-Twine: [In Pearl Islands] when Rupert got voted off. Because it just set everything in a spiral. It was just a big mess. But we overcame.
Boneham: Now on “Survivor” playing the game: the rains. I made a shelter in the sand, and it flooded. I have a few bad moments. I have to say, the hardest thing I ever did was leaving my family the second time [for All-Stars]. Peeling my daughter and my wife off of me at the airport with cameras going off because I was already known as “Survivor Guy.” After I got over that everything else was easy.
Why did you want to come back for “Heroes vs. Villains”?
Donaldson: It was ability meets opportunity. I truly felt like I had the ability to still be competitive in the game, and CBS gave me the opportunity. So, I took advantage.
Kiper: Well, it’s such an honor to be asked the first time. So many people want to go really bad and don’t get a chance to go the first time. How are you going to say no? I had a great experience, learned a lot and grew a lot the first time. I figured only good things could come of it.
Thomas: I love it. I love this show and this opportunity to play.
Diaz-Twine: The money. I loved getting the $1 million the first time [in Pearl Islands]. And said: “Screw it, I’m gonna go get another mil.”
Boneham: Oh my gosh, I have always said there are very few tests for your body, mind and soul. And that darn game will test you to your core. I would play every “Survivor” if they would let me. When they finally called me to do it again, all I said was, “When are we leaving?” There was no question, if I would do it or not. It was when I’d get to do it.
Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains

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