For years, the undisputed titleholder when it came to Dumbest Survivor Move Ever was none other than Erik Reichenbach. It was a well-earned (dis)honor bestowed upon the ice cream scooper from Hell (Michigan) after he gave away his immunity necklace on Survivor: Micronesia…only to be voted out moments later. But Erik was a trendsetter as well! Since then, JT gave his hidden immunity idol to Russell in Heroes vs. Villains, and Brandon Hantz handed his immunity over to Albert in Survivor: South Pacific. In both instances it was not better to give than to receive, as those two were voted out as well. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the best trend Erik was setting, but it was a trend nonetheless.
Erik is one of the more intriguing returning players to come back for Survivor: Caramoan (premiering Feb. 13 on CBS). He was a Fan in the original Fans vs. Favorites, and is now making the jump to the Favorites tribe. Although it is easy to discount Erik’s chances due to his previous naïveté, the guy is physical enough to do well in challenges, and likable enough to want to keep around. The question then becomes: Has he learned enough of the strategic game to make it all the way to the end? I spoke with Erik just days before filming began on his latest adventure. But first, I had to convince him to talk to me.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, Erik, tell me why you’re going to win this time?
ERIK REICHENBACH: First off, I want to say that I didn’t want to talk to you again because last time you made fun of me, but they’re making me.
EW: I might make fun of you today too. I haven’t decided.
ERIK: Oh, I’m prepared.
EW: It’s all out of love, Erik.
ERIK: I know, I know. But anyway, I’m going into this one more relaxed than before. Before I was so paranoid that it kind of ruined me, like I was overthinking everything. This one I have a good feeling about, but we’ll see how it goes.
EW: So how many immunities do you plan to give up this season?
ERIK: Ummmm, probably about two. But then I’ll have a hidden idol, so I’ll be okay.
EW: So you have a backup plan this time! That sounds good. I think asking you your biggest regret last time you played is kind of a loaded question since the answer is pretty clear, so let me ask you this: What did you learn in general from last time that will help you the second time around?
ERIK: What I learned is that it’s a very social game as opposed to a physical game, which is what I was prepared for. I was more prepared for a physical game. I learned a lot obviously, because it was my first time even out of the country. It was a life-changing thing for me, I was still really young. I’ve grown a lot since then. I’ve been traveling a lot. I feel like I’m just more worldly now, which will help me out.
EW: What sort of preconceptions do you think people will have about you?
ERIK: The preconceived thing is probably that I’m just happy-go-lucky and kind of stupid — just kind of a fun, stupid guy. Like a goofball, really. And that can work to your advantage sometimes, so I’m not too concerned about that. And I kind of am that anyway.
EW: You see the other returning players here with you and there is nobody else from your season. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
ERIK: I think it’s a good thing, ultimately. I was concerned about Natalie coming back for two reasons. She could have helped me, because we are friends in real life outside of the game, despite what the hell happened. But at the same time, she’s really crafty, so I was actually really glad that nobody from the black widow group was back. That being said, I’m not too sure the people here aren’t black widows either. Like I could see Corinne or someone else doing something like that. But you never know until you get to talk to them and see how they’ve been edited after it’s all said and done.
EW: That’s true, but what are your first impressions of the other players?
ERIK: I haven’t seen anybody where I’m like, “I want to get rid of this person.” Pretty much everybody they’ve chosen is a really cool person that I’d like to meet and talk with. I’m not too concerned with them in terms of that type of thing. I’m more interested in seeing how all of them are going to interact, because I feel like a lot of the people here, that we’re on, like, Misfit Island or something. A lot of these people I’m like, “Oh no, these are people who messed up or had some kind of problem. It’s like the Island of Misfit Toys.”
EW: Speaking of which, you see Brandon there and you two obviously share something in common. Is there some sort of Immunity Give-Awayers alliance to be had?
ERIK: We could probably do it at the same time and give immunity to each other and it would work out. We’d both be safe but we’d both get what we want, which is being an idiot.
EW: Did you have any hesitation about coming back to play and putting yourself through this again or was it just a big yes?
ERIK: Big yes. I was bummed out when I didn’t get on Heroes vs. Villains but seeing how that season went, I don’t think I’d want to be on the Heroes tribe. But I’ll say yes to anything. I may be signing up for more disaster. I may be signing up for more ridicule. but I’m willing to do it. It’s fun, it’s awesome, and I do love Survivor.
EW: When your name comes up, the first thing people usually think about is giving away that immunity, but you did make it pretty far in the game, which a lot of people tend to forget. So what are you most proud of about the last time you played? What’s something that you did well that you want to build on this time out?
ERIK: I’m excited about my history on the show and continuing the story of learning from my past mistakes, like what is Erik going to do this time now? We know last time he was like a little kid and made some mistakes, and he had a lot of fun. And this time what is going to happen now. What is the next step?
EW: What have you been up to outside of the game since last time?
ERIK: Well, I’m no longer an ice cream scooper.
ERIK: I know. But I can still wield a pretty mean scoop. I can sling some ice cream. I worked at Trader Joe’s for a while as one of their sign artists, which was a really cool job. And then from there I’ve been doing freelance art stuff. I think you made fun of me last time saying I wasn’t an artist.
EW: I don’t know what you’re talking about. You must have me confused with someone else.
ERIK: Everything you say that I pick up on the internet I always tag it and am like, well, another red check for Dalton.
EW: Well, I will say this — I always thought you were a great guy and a lot of fun to watch on the show.
ERIK: Yeah, that’s the goal. Be the fun guy on the show.
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