Quick Note: I had a chance to sit down with all twenty of the “Blood vs. Water” competitors before the game began. I’ll be posting exclusive interviews with each pairing in the days leading up to the September 18th season premiere. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for those interviews, behind-the-scenes exclusives, and more…
Name: Aras Baskauskas
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Vytas’ Brother
Previous Season: The winner of “Survivor: Panama – Exile Island.”
Current Residence: Santa Monica, California
Name: Vytas Baskauskas
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Aras’ Brother
Current Residence: Santa Monica, California
Occupation: Yoga Instructor/Math Professor
Personal Claim to Fame: Beating heroin addiction, yoga discipline, and receiving a graduate degree in math.
Pet Peeves: Stupidity and show-offs.
Three Words to Describe You: Smart, strong-willed, and unique.
Gordon Holmes: Aras, I know all about you and your winning ways. Tell me about this guy.
Aras Baskauskas: My brother Vytas is a very smart, very driven guy. He’s very motivated by winning. He’s very competitive and very athletic.
Vytas Baskauskas: I think Aras’s assessment is very spot on. I’m driven by winning and most of that drive comes from our relationship. It’s interesting that there’s a big million-dollar prize and I’m with my brother who I always want to win against. And in this case we’re a team. It’s going to be really cool to work together with the source of my competition, but in the end there’s only one winner.
Gordon: What was it like watching your kid brother win a million bucks on national TV?
Vytas: It was an amazing experience. Being as competitive as I am and seeing that he won…there’s no better that I can do, it’s a little bit discouraging. You can’t top first place.
Gordon: Piece of cake. Just get to the end, get all the jury votes, and win Fan Favorite.
Aras: Win first place, then go on an all-winners season with me, then there’s the rubber match. Set us up on different tribes and see what happens.
Gordon: I literally just rewatched “Survivor: Panama.”
Aras: What’d you think?
Gordon: It gets a bad rap for some reason. I liked it. The end was a little anti-climactic once Terry Dietz went home.
Aras: I get a bad rap for being a non-memorable winner, too.
Gordon: Yeah, and Terry is remembered as this great hero, but it seemed like he was kind of a pain in the rear out there.
Aras: (Laughs) Terry’s actually a great dude.
Gordon: I’m sure he is, but my big takeaway was, these people need to vote for later. Be nicer.
Gordon: Quite a bit of time has passed since that season.
Aras: It was seven years ago. On May 14, 2006 I was awarded the million-dollar prize. Seven years is a lifetime. I’ve changed and I’ve grown. Hopefully I’ve gotten more subtle. I’m excited to play. I can’t wait to play again. I’ve become a fan of the show since winning. Vytas and I watch the show religiously every Wednesday.
Vytas: I was actually a fan of the show before Aras went on. I watched the first couple of seasons when it was huge. Then Aras got on the show and it reignited my love for it. So, I’m a huge fan. Even meeting Jeff the other day was so exciting.
Gordon: He is a charmer.
Aras: (Laughs) He is, he’s never off.
Gordon: Vytas, you overcame an addiction to heroin, which is awesome. Your body is going to be desperate for things out there; food, sleep, and whatnot. Is this an advantage for you seeing as you’ve been through withdrawal before?
Vytas: Overcoming addiction is probably my great victory in life up to this point. It’s since I’ve overcome addiction that I’ve had the most amazing life. When I was nineteen I went to jail for a year. Because I was addicted to heroin I was robbing people on the street. After getting out of jail, going through treatment, getting clean. The last thirteen, almost fourteen years have afforded me the most amazing life. I’ve had to develop new life skills because I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs. I’m comfortable in my skin now and I’m comfortable not having luxuries that everyone else does. So for me, being clean and my recovery is really going to help me.
Gordon: Something I’ve been thinking about with the game recently is; what’s it like to be paranoid for 39 days? I feel like that’s something that’s overlooked.
Vytas: I think it’s difficult not to get paranoid even in pre-game. Watching people’s energy with everyone else. Coming from the underbelly of addiction, I’m pretty good at reading people and fitting into different situations. I think paranoia is letting your mind get away from itself. And using my yoga practice and my meditation practice will really let me reign my mind back in.
Aras: What I found to be the most successful way of dealing with paranoia is making mutually beneficial alliances. If I’m in an alliance with you and I’m your best bet, I don’t have to worry when you go off into the woods.
Gordon: That works if you’re aligned with a smart person. A person who isn’t letting the effects of hunger and the lack of sleep get to them.
Vytas: That’s the problem. Doing all of the analysis about the numbers and the people out here…you want to assume that people are going to make the best moves for themselves, but that doesn’t always happen. People make idiotic moves.
Aras: Like Tyson when he voted himself off.
Gordon: Oh c’mon. Vote yourself off once and you’re branded for life.
Aras: I actually think Tyson’s a very smart guy.
Aras: But, I think you’re right. That’s why you want to align with people who are smart enough to make the best moves for themselves. Everyone else you have to think, what lens are they seeing this game through? And can I present to them the appropriate image?
Vytas: Like Laura got shafted by John (Fincher) the rocket scientist. So, she might be wary of young, smart guys. You have to understand what their trauma is from their season and play to that trauma. Let her know that we’re different.
Gordon: Who here do you guys want to work with?
Aras: I’ve known Gervase for a long time, and I don’t know if anybody knows that. I’ve spent evenings at his house. We watched World Series games together. That’s a no-brainer. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep that friendship under wraps. Tina, as the other winner, is an obvious alliance-mate.
Gordon: Who are you guys wary of?
Aras: I’m immediately wary of Tyson, just because he’s smart and he has shown himself to be duplicitous. That being said, he was so duplicitous last time he might take a more subdued approach this time. He’s also very athletic. I also think Hayden. He won “Big Brother,” he’s very likable, he’s athletic, he’s quiet. He’s not someone you want to hang around in the game. But, there’s nobody that I personally want out. One of the keys to our strategy is to never identify someone unless they’re an immediate threat. Let other people determine who needs to go out first.
Gordon: Any guesses for potential twists?
Aras: I think we’re going to be starting together. And then after one or two Tribals they’re going to split us. I think we’re together because they need to have a narrative about our relationship.
Vytas: Without us together, there’s not enough time in an episode to tell the story of our relationship. And since there are 20 people, we think the first couple of Tribals will eliminate a whole team. Then they’ll split us.
Gordon: I was going to ask why you think you’re back, but I know why you’re back because returning champions are awesome.
Aras: (Laughs) That’s a great answer.
Gordon: Thank you. But, that puts a target on your back. How do you deal with it?
Aras: People play within the rules of the dominant narrative.
Gordon: Like in “All-Stars” they all wanted the winners gone. In “Heroes vs. Villains” that wasn’t an issue.
Aras: Exactly, it behooves me, Tina, even Rupert, Hayden to have the conversation about getting rid of people who aren’t assets to the tribe. Let’s get to the merge with numbers. Because half of us are returnees, I think everyone is going to be thinking about numbers. People want to be safe and if we can provide that feeling of safety, we’re going to be fine.
Gordon: What’s it like when you guys fight?
Vytas: When we fight, it is knives out.
Aras: It’s ugly.
Vytas: Here’s an example; Aras and his girlfriend were staying with me when they were in between places. We had a pact; 60 days, let’s not get into one fight. Day 60, very last night we got into an awful…didn’t talk for weeks afterward. When we fight, it’s not just what we’re fighting about, it’s past scars.
Aras: Gordon, if you and I were to get into a fight I’d be very logical and present my case. When Vytas and I fight it’s largely our past coming up. That being said, it’s 39 days. There’s a start and an end. That’s easy for me to wrap my head around. But us fighting would be a bad situation.
Gordon: Alright, Vytas. It’s day 39; you, Aras, and I don’t know…Tina find a big basket of food. There’s a big glass carafe of orange juice and other glass items. I need you to keep an eye on your brother.
Gordon: Don’t let him hurt himself. Make sure he gets to that final Tribal.
Aras: I still have a gnarly scar on my back.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes
Don’t miss the special 90-minute premiere of “Survivor: Blood vs. Water” on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET.