Ace Gordon: “We are here to win. Sometimes I think we forget that”

Ace Gordon may already be the most-recognizable Survivor Gabon cast member, thanks to the airtime the bald, English-accented 27-year-old photographer is getting in promos for the new season. In those, he talks about his arrogance, and seems like a cocky ass.

The other members of the media who talked to him found him to be arrogant, too, but I liked him a lot, finding him to be thoughtful, intelligent, and engaging, although he’s also clearly aware that he’s charming. Perhaps that’s because, of the six media crews, just two of us were not videotaping our interviews, and to the other members of the press, he was already performing for the cameras, which itself would be troubling.

Those contradictions worry me, and I’m not sure which version Ace we’ll get on TV; while I hope it’s the one I talked to, the promos suggest otherwise. He also said, “Mark Burnett called me Dr. Evil”–not exactly a title one would give to someone who seems committed to spiritual growth and, among other things, wants to help artists “[get] their art exhibited so therefore they can dedicate more time to it.”

He lives in Naples, Fla., the conservative, Southwest Florida collection of strip malls and cookie-cutter subdivisions where I grew up, although we went to different high schools a few years apart. Ace, however, has lived everywhere from Hawaii to India, and has studied Eastern medicine and other practices. He watches Survivor with his family, and applied for the show once before leaving the country, and then again for this season.

Ace has a very interesting but hard to encapsulate philosophy, some of which he describes in the audio clip below, he’s clearly committed to growth that comes from varied experiences. “There’s more than just materialism,” he said. “I’ve given up monetary compensations in my life to do things that I thought would make me grow as a person.”

He also said, “I really believe in that idea that each person has something to give you. There would be no reason we wouldn’t meet them if they didn’t have something to learn from. So I think there’s 17 other people that must be amazing, because we beat all these other people out. … These people must be unique; I’m excited about meeting them.”

Like others, he cites “the challenge” as the reason for his participation. “I like things that are different.” However, he’s clearly ready to play. “We are here to win. Sometimes I think we forget that,” he said, almost sounding irritated by those who aren’t there to play. Talking about his previous work as a Cartier salesperson and the skills that involves, he said, “Sales are a manipulation. … You’re not hurting them, you’re just directing them. You’re re-orienting their brain in relation to what they thought they wanted. You give them options.”

As you can hear below, he said “I don’t consider it lying; I consider it manipulating.” That game player in him could be formidable, especially when hidden behind his genuine exterior, and he said repeatedly that “it’s nothing personal–as the Godfather said, it’s business, it’s nothing personal. Bang!”

Here, he talks about game play and his philosophy:

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.