When he won Survivor: Gabon in December 2008, 57 year old Physics Teacher Bob Crowley was suddenly able to take “early” retirement.
He had always planned on retiring at 58 but that was looking increasingly unlikely, and he was facing a few more years of work before enjoying his senior years. An application to Survivor changed all that.
But as he tells TV Tonight it hasn’t completely remade his life.
“When I’m in airport people come up and say ‘Hug my wife I want to take your picture,'” he says.
“But we still live in the same house. I still drive the same pick-up truck. Friends of mine are upset that I haven’t gotten the dent in the front right fender fixed.
“The biggest change has been our ability to come to Australia. We’re finally going on the honeymoon that we didn’t go on thirty years ago.”
Crowley came to Australia after a relative of wife Gwen told him Survivor: Gabon was airing here. His interest in the country was piqued through his friendship with the production crew who worked on the series.
“The Australian cameramen and sound men, the grips… I could trust them. I got very close to a lot of Australians,” he says.
Survivor regularly uses Australians amongst its medical and production teams for their challenges.
“There are a lot of Australians, South Africans, and a few New Zealanders. Your Australian accent was heard very often around the challenges and camp.
“There is a drop dead gorgeous 35yo Australian doctor. They would check us out before and after every challenge, to make sure we’re alright. This doctor would come in and say ‘Bob, how are you doing?’ and I’d say ‘I was doing alright til’ you got here and now my heart’s going pitter patter.
“One of the Australian cameramen named Peter that I got close to, primarily because he was my age, is a wonderful guy.”
Crowley speaks highly of his experience on the long-running reality show. He says the depiction on screen was a more than fair visual record of what the contestants experienced.
“Having spent 39 days with them in Africa and seeing it on TV, I was surprised there was virtually nothing I didn’t see in Africa. The people on my show were like they are (depicted). I’d like to think I’m a man of integrity and I think they showed that on the show, except for that (fake) little idol that I gave Randy,” he says.
Crowley says there is no assistance given to contestants from the camera crews, except a watchful eye over their welfare.
“They don’t feed us behind the scenes. There’s no toilet paper. What you saw on the show is what I saw in Africa.
“I saw one person eating a sandwich and I was told he got into real trouble. They’re not allowed to talk to us about food, and I have no awareness of anybody slipping anybody some food.
“What you didn’t see was that I was stealing a lot of food when I had the chance when we went to a Reward challenge. If they caught us taking any home they would come back to the Tribe and take it away from us. So I got really good at sliding it in my clothes so I would have a little extra to share with the Tribe when I got back.”
As for Jeff Probst, Crowley says he kept his distance, preferring not to let it influence his role in the show as a host and the eyes of the audience.
“In our season we saw him basically when you saw him with us,” he says. “We only saw him at challenges. But he liked me –I’m not exactly sure why.
“He told us that he used to go on Rewards but said it interfered with the show. He’s just a delightful fellow. I really enjoyed talking with him.”
Survivor: Tocantins airs Tuesdays and Fridays on GO! Survivor: Samoa will air on Nine in December.