XfinityTV.com sent me deep into the wilderness on a mission to bring you all kinds of “Survivor” stuff including behind-the-scenes tidbits, pre-game interviews with the cast, insights from “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer, a look at the first Tribal Council, and much more. I’ll be cranking out this goodness daily, so be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates on all of this season’s “Survivor” fun.
Name: Michael Skupin
Home: White Lake, MI
Occupation: Professional Speaker, Author, and Coach
Previous Season: “Survivor: The Australian Outback”
Reason for Evacuation: Michael inhaled too much smoke while trying to keep the Kucha tribe’s fire going and passed out face first into the coals.
Gordon Holmes: I met Jeff Probst for the first time in Gabon a few years ago, and the very first thing I said to him was, “When are you bringing back Michael Skupin?” What took you guys so long?
Michael Skupin: I’m not really sure. There was a series of times when I was supposed to be back and for one reason or another they decided to go in another direction. But, here I am.
Holmes: You’re best known for the accident where you passed out into the fire. What affect did that injury have on you?
Skupin: It was a pretty dramatic part of my adventure, and I think the world saw it as my biggest failure. I never saw it that way. I saw it as going out in a blaze…
Skupin: (Laughs) Yes…a blaze of intensity. The whole experience was so amazing. All eighteen days I was out there was amazing. Now, I’m not necessarily out here to avenge that or to prove anything to anybody. I’m out here for the love of the game.
Holmes: Before you were evacuated, you had a reputation for being a provider, a leader. You killed the pig and fed it to the Kucha tribe. Coming into this new game, do you think your reputation will help you or hurt you?
Skupin: The game’s evolved tremendously. I have the instinct to feed and to lead, but I have to be sure I keep that in check. I have to be constantly aware of how people are perceiving that.
Holmes: The game has evolved quite a bit since Australia. How are you going to deal with immunities idols, Exile Islands, Redemption Islands, or whatever else they throw your way?
Skupin: I think the core of “Survivor” is still the same. The basics will always be the same. I think I’m more aware today. I went 100mph last time without noticing what was going on on the sidelines. I think now I’ll be ultra aware of how everything I do affects everyone on the tribe. I’m a lot smarter than I was last time. But if I see something I can kill for food, I’m all over it.
Holmes: What do you think your first day will be like?
Skupin: Back in our day, it was disingenuous to start an alliance on the first day because you didn’t know that person. Today, alliances will form right away. You have to make sure you align with the right people. You have to make quick decisions. There’s no take a day to build a shelter, than figure things out.
Holmes: You haven’t seen a single other player since you’ve been out here. Care guess what’s going on?
Skupin: I think we’ll see more twists and bigger challenges. I think this is going to be one of the best games ever. I think there’s going to be a lot of warriors. They didn’t bring me out on a season that was just going to be an ordinary season…in my mind.
Holmes: You played a very straightforward game in Australia. It didn’t seem like there was a lot of (expletive deleted) in you. Do you think you’ll be able to continue to play a clean game this time around or are you going to have to lie some?
Skupin: I’m a straightforward kind of guy. And, I’ve often wondered if you can go all the way through this game to the victory stand without ever telling a single lie. I’m challenged to do that, but I’m here to win. So, I’m going to take each day as it comes. I think people can see through fake every time.
Holmes: Any early blueprints on how you’re going to play?
Skupin: I am genuinely a big huge fan of this game. And I really want to play it. I think that will be evident to everyone out there. I want to align with people who want to play this game, but that’s dangerous because those tend to be the smartest people.
Holmes: You had the most memorable moment of the highest rated season in “Survivor” history. Everybody knows who you are, but nobody knows how you’ll play. Is that an advantage?
Skupin: (Laughs) Are you talking about killing the pig or falling in the fire?
Holmes: (Laughs) Both, actually. The blood under the eyes, all of it.
Skupin: I think I can work it to my advantage because I didn’t get far enough into the game. My tribe was winning. We didn’t have to play a strategic game. So, the strategic part of my game is still a mystery. Everybody knows I can kill an animal or perform in challenges. They don’t know about my strategy.
Holmes: When you rise from the ashes, phoenix-style and return home with the million-dollar check, what are your plans?
Skupin: (Laughs) I’ve got seven kids. I’ve got two in college, cars when they turn sixteen, weddings… It’s not hard to spend a million dollars when you’ve got seven kids.
Don’t miss the premiere of “Survivor: Philippines” – Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.