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The sanctity of our Wednesday nights has finally been restored with the season premiere of CBS’s ‘Survivor.’ Now in its 44th season, the reality television juggernaut is back with an “electric” season, in the words of host Jeff Probst, that is already proving to be one of the franchise’s most unforgiving entries yet. With new twists, including a caged idol placed dead-center of each tribe’s camp, powerful advantages, and 18 vibrant castaways, fans old and new will certainly be kept on their toes all season long.

Among the series’ firsts, was a record four medical calls for castaways Bruce, Brandon, and Matthew, all of which occurred less than 48 hours into the game. If Probst’s infamous analogy about the “new era” of ‘Survivor’ being “The Monster,” this episode was most definitely proof of it. Of the medical calls, two were made for 46-year-old insurance agent Bruce Perreault, who succumbed to an injury at the first reward challenge and was unfortunately removed from the game shortly after. But lucky for him, Probst revealed on the inaugural episode of his official ‘Survivor’ podcast, ‘On Fire with Jeff Probst,’ that Bruce has an “open invitation” to compete on a future season, making him the first “new era” player to be invited back to compete for the $1,000,000 grand prize.

Pop Crave spoke with Bruce about the injury that had him removed from the game, his relationship with the Tika tribe, how he found out about his invitation to return for a future season, and more. Keep reading for the full exit interview!

Hey Bruce! First off, I am obviously so glad to see that you are okay now. Watching that episode back must have been incredibly tough. How are you doing?

It was incredibly tough. There were multiple reasons why. One, is, my kids were watching and they had no clue as to what happened. I was very tight lipped in that, so watching their reactions. But then also in knowing what was going to happen, and having the massive amount of people that I had around me and seeing their reactions, that was all emotional in itself as well.

At that first reward challenge, we saw the moment where you hit your head. You sorta just stopped moving, then eventually continued on with the challenge. What was going through your head in that moment?

I realized that I hit my head at the beginning. Right at the beginning, bang. I didn’t have any sensory and had no idea what was going on, and then kind of came back a little bit when Sarah was in front of me. My head was pounding, it definitely hurt. So I get my block out of the thing and you see me wipe my head like this because there’s blood dripping on top of the block. And in my mind, I’m like, “What the hell?” That’s all I’m really thinking. So just finish this thing off. Like, I want to finish it out. Adrenaline is at 110%. All the cylinders are firing. But as far as any other thoughts in it, there was nothing. It was just “Let’s get this thing done,” and then kind of go from there. And also not realizing the severity of what I just went through.

Was there any fright of like, “Oh no. It’s day one, this can’t be happening to me. I need to push through this.”

The only way that I know how to manage it is just to kind of power through. My head hurt, there’s no getting around it. I was at a seven out of 10 on the pain scale. It was just everything. Every step I took, every loud noise, you know, any quick movement, right or left… Everything hurt. But playing this game, you want to minimize that because you don’t want everyone to know that you’re in that much pain. “Bruce, how you doing?” “I’m doing alright!” “You okay?” “Yeah, I’ll be fine.” You know, when you know that you’re not. 

Courtesy of CBS

I have to say, the Tika tribe definitely has the most wide-ranging group of personalities on Season 44, in my opinion. Was there anyone you particularly bonded with or were immediately threatened by strategically during your short time on the tribe?

As far as being threatened by anyone strategically, everyone is always a threat. Always. And everybody has their own way of thinking. You can be the smartest person in the world, and that can be in the sense of street smarts, or you can have someone that’s analytically smart and someone that’s booksmart. There’s so many different ways that everybody’s a strategic threat at any given time. As far as bonding with people, I bonded with everyone. And in a limited capacity of being myself, it was easy for me to be able to talk to everyone on some level, and get an understanding of who they are for that short period of time. And, you know, it’s a testament to the game because people that are playing it, they’re giving you who they are. They’re not going out there and pretending. They’re not trying to be something that they’re not. Everyone was genuine.

This season we’ve already seen the caged idol and two new advantages: Bank Your Vote and the Inheritance advantage. Does seeing new additions like this excite you as a player and viewer?

Yes, very much so. ‘Survivor’ is an evolving game. It’s not something that is concrete, not in stone. And if it is in stone, you know what? We’re gonna carve out some new stuff and we’re gonna make something completely different, so it’s gonna look like one thing one day and look like another thing another day. I love the idea that they keep doing these things to keep making it more interesting because obviously you want viewership, but you also want to challenge the players. Think about something… Think about if ‘Survivor’ stayed the way that it was, beautiful in season one, or how it was in season 15, or how it was in season 28. You’re looking at all these different changes in the evolution of the game. With them having these new advantages? Oh, you better know how to play them, because if you don’t play them right, you’re out. I don’t know. It’s just a beautiful thing that they keep doing what they’re doing. 

Jeff revealed on the first episode of the official ‘Survivor’ podcast, ‘On Fire with Jeff Probst,’ that you have an “open invitation” to return for a future season. What was your reaction to finding out this news?

Alright, so I was at my event last night and my phone was in my pocket. I can’t see… I take my glasses off, you’re not even there. You’re blurry [laughs]. So I had my phone in my pocket, but everything goes through my wristwatch. So bzz bzz bzz bzz this thing keeps going off. And then during the episode, it slowed down. And then at the end of the episode, about 15 minutes afterwards, 20 minutes after, bzz bzz bzz bzz bzz bzz. I didn’t think anything of it. So I get home and it’s like a quarter to one in the morning. My wife’s in bed, she’s reading through, you know, all the well wishes in regards to me getting hurt. And then I’m like, “Let me go on my phone.” So I went on my phone, and I looked and I see messages. “Oh my God, Bruce, Bruce, Bruce.” And I’m thinking like, “Oh?” So, I clicked on one of the links that a friend of mine sent, and it was Jeff’s podcast. So I’m listening, and Jeff cues up and says, you know, “Cue the music!” Then he says that there was an open invitation for me to come back and play the game, and I started crying. I started crying at one o’clock in the morning. I’m sitting there with my wife, crying, and I’m ecstatic. I’m the happiest, and it’s just a flood of emotions because I know that I didn’t get a chance to play this game. And now I’m going to have the ability to play this game again, whenever we make this happen [laughs].

With that being said, Jeff never clarified whether you would come back for a returnee season or not. Are there any players from past seasons you’d like to see on a future season with you?

Oh, man. That’s a great question. And in the back of my mind just now, I’m thinking, “Okay, so who would I play with that I could beat?” [laughs]. Everybody has their own skill set that they bring to the table. People would think Boston Rob.. not Boston Rob. I would love to play with Boston Rob, but it’s like, his game is a little on the intimidating side, and my job is to like, take that intimidation and use it against him. That’s just me. But as far as narrowing it down, I’m a part of the ‘Survivor’ family, so they’re all family members of mine. The way that I look at it is, I’ll play with anyone, and I just want to have a damn good time doing it.

New episodes of Survivor air Wednesday nights at 8/7c on CBS.