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Gordon Holmes: Oh Ben, you get to learn “Survivor’s” dirty secret. Very early on the morning after one of the biggest nights of your life, you have to wake up and talk to me.
Ben Driebergen: (Laughs) I know! That is a dirty little secret.
Holmes: Hopefully the million dollars makes up for it.
Driebergen: Oh, absolutely. We’re all in good spirits here.
Holmes: I think you’re a lucky man, because they won’t let me play “Survivor.” If I was on a tribe with you, I’d be on you like white on rice. How on Earth did they let you sneak out?
Driebergen: They honestly tried, but I was constantly getting water and firewood. And in the morning I would wake up while they were sleeping and go look for idols. They tried, but they were really lackadaisical about it.
Holmes: I would get some twine and tie our hands together.
Driebergen: (Laughs) I don’t know if that would’ve worked, you have to have me on board for that to happen.
Holmes: My mother is obsessed with the bandage over your tattoo. What’s under there?
Driebergen: It’s a John Deere logo.
Holmes: You survived four Tribals where the majority of the votes were going to go to you. That’s amazing. Everyone was dealt the same hand, you just played it better. However, it’s a very non-traditional route. Has there been any backlash about how you made it happen?
Driebergen: You know, obviously I wish I would have won immunity challenges. But, as far as trying to justify how I got there, all of those idols were placed in public spots. Everybody had a fair shot at finding every one of those idols. And Doctor Mike was behind me, maybe 15 minutes on most of those idols. Everybody had a fair shot. As far as the final twist, it makes sense to create more action and drama at the final four. It’ll change up how people play now that they know it’s in effect. We didn’t know. Devon and I had a 50/50 shot, but he knew about it, so I’d say he had an advantage.
Holmes: Have you reminded him of that since then?
Driebergen: (Laughs) Devon, I love Devon. We are buddies. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. That was the only way that would have looked good in the jury’s eyes. And if Devon had won, that would’ve looked really good for him. Going head-to-head was how it had to be.
Holmes: Speaking of Devon, did you tip him off at final five that you were voting for him, or did he just read your face?
Driebergen: He debated on that, about whether to vote for Mike. And it took him quite a while. I think he just played smartly. I think the Lauren vote taught him. He played it smartly.
Holmes: Devon played a very solid, low-key game. I think it was Lauren who didn’t appreciate how well he was doing until she had worked with him for a while.
Driebergen: At Ponderosa, you look at Devon and he looks like a good guy. He’ll look you in the eyes and give you a head nod. So, I wanted to work with Devon. At the merge, that talk at the rock was me feeling Devon out, just seeing where he’s at. And Devon is awesome. He looks you in the eye and he’ll tell you straight to the face. We’ll get into it at Tribal, then back at camp we’ll eat rice and he’ll tell me about surfing and I’ll tell him about the mountains. It was awesome playing with Devon.
Holmes: How confident were you going into that final Tribal that you’d take home a win?
Driebergen: Not at all. With Chrissy winning four immunities, she tied a record there. She has a story too. She’s a mom, she’s an amazing motivated, driven woman. I was not confident at all. When the votes went one-one-one and she got another vote, I thought I had lost.
Holmes: She had a great resume. Making moves, winning immunities. You did too. You ran the first half of the post-merge, you found idols. Do you think this represents a change in what jury’s will appreciate?
Driebergen: No, I think it’s who wins the immunity, if that makes sense. And what the challenges are that are being won. They make it an equal affair, but the way they’re won says a lot. And the game is played 24/7. Your actions and reactions are always under the spotlight.
Holmes: Alright, word association time. Let’s start with Katrina.
Driebergen: Right near the beach.
Driebergen: Second love of my life.
Driebergen: Mikey! Determined.
Driebergen: I love Cole. He’s learning, but he’s a good guy.
Holmes: Let’s finish with Chrissy.
Driebergen: A strong mom.
Holmes: Probst finally revealed that a tie at final Tribal would be broken by the finalist who wasn’t part of the tie casting the final vote. If Ryan and Chrissy had tied, which way would you have voted?
Driebergen: Honestly, I would have voted for Ryan. The way he handled being blindsided, compared to how Chrissy handled it…Ryan was always cordial. He’d say, “Good move.” He’d shake my hand. And if I didn’t want to tell him something, he’d say, “Oh, I understand.” And he’d still talk to me. With Chrissy, I don’t think she could separate. And I love Chrissy, I’m not saying anything bad about her. But the rush of Tribal would get to her.
Holmes: Your win has helped bring PTSD to light. What’s been the response from the military community?
Driebergen: Just a lot of support, a lot of encouragement. It’s actually really crazy how this has all worked out. It’s been amazing. People have reached out and said, “Thank you for your bravery.” “Thank you for bringing this to light.” It’s been really neat to help people. I never thought that coming into “Survivor” that I’d have a platform to help vets. And if we can address this and help vets figure this out and lower the suicide rate, that’s what we should do.