Driven to Survive: Trucker takes on TV’s “Survivor”
December 11, 2018
When the CBS reality show “Survivor” began in 2000, it quickly became notorious in part because of a truck driver. That first season was the year contestant and trucker Susan Hawk gave her now-infamous “Snakes and Rats” speech on the show’s final Tribal Council. She would ultimately lose to Richard Hatch, but the speech would be remembered by fans for years to come.
Now, 18 years later the show is just wrapping up its 37th season. And for those of you saying the math doesn’t add up – they do two seasons each year: one in the spring and one in the fall, each with a new cast. This year’s cast also happens to include a truck driver by the name of Carl Boudreaux, an owner-operator who is leased to Anahuac Transport in Houston, Texas.
Carl said he was a longtime fan of the show who had thought about trying out many times but never did it. His social media presence, however, caught the eye of a producer who reached out to him and asked if he would be interested. He was surprised, to say the least.
“At first I thought it was a joke,” he said. “I looked at my wife and said here’s somebody trying to play a scam or something. But I started talking back with the lady and one thing led to the next and there you have it, I end up on Survivor.”
Being on the show takes a lot of your time. Though each season is only 14 episodes long, the game itself takes 39 days to shoot. And that’s not counting the travel to and from the shooting location, prep time ahead of the show, the reunion episode that airs after each season finale and various media interviews and promotions. That’s a long time to be away from work, but for an independent owner-operator like Carl it was not as difficult as you’d think. It didn’t hurt that the folks at Anahuac Transport backed him the whole way.
“I’ve been leased on with the same company for the last 13 years, so I’ve shown my loyalty to this company and they’ve always looked at me as part of the family,” he said. “So when the opportunity came they were pretty much ecstatic for me. The owner told me, man, we’re behind you 100 percent so if you need to take that leave, you take that leave and when you come back you’ll be right in the same spot as when you left.”
And even though it is a game, Carl said it’s not one to take lightly. On his season, there were massive rainstorms right off the bat and the contestants even had to be evacuated at one point because Tropical Cyclone Keni hit Fiji, where the season was being filmed. Carl said that is definitely one thing he wasn’t prepared for.
“It’s one thing to be at home and it’s raining you can just go in your house or get in your vehicle or what have you,” he said. “But being out there in the rain and having nowhere to go, that was probably one of the toughest things.”
Between the rain, the heat, the bugs and other obstacles, Carl said life on the island was no relaxing retreat. And he has a response for those who say the show isn’t as real as it claims to be.
“For those that think that it’s staged and all of that, that’s so not true,” he said. “The cameras never turn off. You’re being filmed 24 hours a day for however long you’re there. For me it was a total of 30 days, 31 days, so a month for me of being outdoors and not having anything with cameras in your face and all that. It’s definitely something different. It has to have been the best experience of my life.”
Being a truck driver, Carl said, actually helped his game. On the job, meeting a lot of different people on a daily basis means you have to learn how to deal with a lot of different personality types. And that, in turn, helped him to deal with the different personalities he met during the game.
“You know if I worked in an office then I’m seeing the same people every day so I know what their personalities are like” he said. “Versus driving a truck you’re going to different facilities and you’re running up against different people and some of those different personalities and so you have to know how to deal with them. I was able to apply that when I was on the island and it worked to my favor for 30 days. I wasn’t able to continue and win, but I think my strategy as far as being a truck driver and meeting different people on a daily basis really helped me out.”
Carl was voted out late in the season when a couple of members of his alliance turned against him, but his time on the show wasn’t done yet. He survived long enough to be on the jury – the group of players voted out of the game who get to have the final say on which of the remaining contestants gets the million dollar prize. He says he has no hard feelings for those who voted him out because it’s all part of the game. But being away from home, his family and friends for so long taught him some valuable lessons.
“I totally cherish everything that I have in life now, you know,” he said. “I don’t take anything for granted. I don’t take my wife for granted. I don’t take things I’ve accomplished for granted, because when you’re out there and you have nothing it opens your eyes to that.”
Dealing with post-show fame has also been a new experience for Carl. His in-game maneuvers earned him the nickname “The Godfather” from his tribe mates and it naturally followed him home.
“Since that happened, yeah, when I go out people who do notice me they’ll joke and call me the Godfather,” he said. “A bunch of my friends are now calling me the Godfather. My wife jokes with me all the time. I can be sitting on the couch watching TV and she’ll come in and be like “Godfather, what do you want for dinner tonight” or something of that nature. It’s been pretty cool and funny. I’ve accepted the title.”
He’s even getting recognized on the job. When I spoke with him, he was in his truck having just come from picking up a load and was spotted by a woman who was working there.
“I had been coming to this facility for a long time,” he said. “But I hadn’t been in a while and when I walked in she just noticed me and she goes ‘You’re Carl! I told my husband I knew this guy, he’s a truck driver who came to my office before and I know him!’”
Carl doesn’t seem to mind the fame too much. Asked if he would go back if the producers wanted him to play again, he didn’t hesitate.
“In a heartbeat,” he said. “In a heartbeat, yes I would.”
The Survivor finale airs Wednesday, Dec 19Th on CBS.