Colby Donaldson: “I’m just in a really good place now. I can control how much fun I have.”

This is the 19th in a series of interviews with Survivor Heroes vs. Villains cast members.

Colby Donaldson Of the Survivor alumni, Colby has the most time between his first appearance on the show and now (besides his Survivor Australia co-star Jerri Manthey). That’s really evident in his attitude toward the game and its impact on his life, which is significantly different than, say, Sugar’s.

“I now appreciate the game for what it is. It’s not a means for me; it’s not about publicity or advancing a career,” Colby said. “And yeah,the money would be fantastic … but that’s not even half of it for me. For me, it’s the realization that I may not ever get this opportunity again.” Although they might deserve it, he wouldn’t even criticize those who are here for publicity: “That’s not to say those that love the camera are wrong; it’s just not me.”

Clearly, his experience playing the game twice before, with nine years between the first and third times, had an impact. “I think that’s the one thing that’s absent this time is any sort of desperation,” Colby said. He appreciates the opportunity–he’s “humbled and honored” to be back because “so many people who send in applications that would hope and want and pray to play just once, and here I have the chance to go back for the triple”–and said, “I’m just in a really good place now. I can control how much fun I have. … I’m just tremendously looking forward to going over there and giving it hell.”

And that’s basically how he intends to play. “My strategy is simple: I’m going to go over there and have fun and stay positive,” Colby said. “I’ve been down this road, and it’s so hard to maintain a positive outlook and prevent any sort of negativity from coming inside you, which then is palpable to your tribemates and ultimately can get you kicked out. No one wants to be around someone who’s negative all the time; I certainly don’t.”

Colby expects that many of his fellow competitors won’t consider him a threat, so he’ll use that to his advantage. “Half these players don’t even know who I am, so I’m certainly not the biggest, strongest, fastest, or smartest player here, so I’m not longer the threat I once was,” he said. “Maybe I can cruise under the radar a little bit.”

Colby doesn’t have pre-season alliances, because he isn’t close to anyone on season 20. “That may be a real disadvantage, because you’ve got a lot of friendships forged outside of the game. … I wish I’d had the opportunity, because I know they’re out there–that’s just part of the game now. You’ve got a bunch of savvy player who know how to succeed at this game.”

While Jerri thinks Colby doesn’t like her and is “concerned” that he’s playing, Colby said, “Jerri doesn’t bother me,” adding that “hopefully we’re even now” that she helped get him voted off during all-stars. “One would hope we can go into this and just be friends and have fun,” he said, but added that “at least it’s someone I know and hopefully I can predict how she’ll play.”

Colby’s preparation was similar to Australia: “physically, I do start cross-training and start taxing myself in ways that I haven’t, just to get the body used to pain, and just recovery and soreness. One of the keys in this game is to not become distracted,” he said, saying that being sore after challenges–and you do get very, very sore–makes it easy to get distracted. Colby also reduced the number of calories he’s consuming so he’s used to that, rather than over-eating to have fat to burn off. “I’m confident I’m going to go in stronger than two-thirds of the people,” he said, but added that his age made it necessary to work at it. “I’ve trained harder in the last two months than I have my whole life.”

Even since all-stars–which Colby says “was a nightmare; it was the worst experience of my life, whereas Australia was the most positive adventure I’ve ever had” (more on that in the audio clip below)–Colby says “the game has changed a lot,” and he cited Exile Island and hidden immunity idols as twists he’s unfamiliar with. He also said, “It’s a lot more aggressive than it used to be.”

Colby now splits his time between his Texas ranch and his L.A. hot rod shop, and said that his entertainment industry work “pays the bills.” I mentioned his amazing and hysterical appearance on Curb Your Enthusiasm, during which he mocked himself, and he said “To this day, of all the guest stars I’ve done on television, people comment on that the most,” and called it a “privilege” and said he was “so intimidated” but “it was a riot.” Lately, though, Colby has taken a “step back from acting to really sink my teeth into hosting,” and said, “I like being involved in different things.”

Hear Colby discuss why all-stars was a bad idea for him, explain why he won’t be in the final two with Jerri, and what it’s like to witness the production from the inside:

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.