Out of all the things that haven’t made it on the air during a season of Survivor, someone catching on fire is probably the most shocking. But that’s exactly what happened to Billy Garcia during the first immunity challenge on “Cook Islands,” the 13th season of the show that aired in the fall of 2006. Read on to find out what happened and also what Garcia thinks about the way he was portrayed on the show.
Garcia Legitimately Went Up in Flames
The first challenge that season involved assembling a puzzle boat, then paddling it out to retrieve fire from a floating raft in the ocean. They then had to paddle back to shore and carry the boat and fire with them, put together another puzzle, assemble a ladder, climb to the top of a tower and light their bale on fire. But Garcia got doused in kerosene and went up in flames at the end.
“I guess the biggest thing not shown that involved me directly was getting set on fire during the first challenge,” Garcia told Entertainment Weekly in a recent interview, adding, “During the first immunity challenge, Cristina [Coria] went to step on a platform in the water that had a barrel of kerosene on it to light a torch for later in the challenge. The platform dipped and some of the kerosene spilled on my backside. Later in the challenge after the torch was lit, we had to assemble a ladder and climb up it to light a cauldron signifying we won.
“Well, a part of the ladder disassembled and that halted my assent. Cristina didn’t notice and kept climbing. She ended up lighting my kerosene-drenched shorts on fire. I remember Jeff Probst yelling ‘Billy’s on fire! He’s engulfed in flames!'”
Luckily, they were able to put Garcia out and he continued in the game — and honestly, it’s kind of astounding they didn’t keep that in the edit.
“I could have quit and everyone would have understood. I’m proud I played on and made no excuses. Cristina has apologized profusely since then. She’s such a good person, I feel more for her than I do for myself,” said Garcia.
He Hated His Edit on the Show When He First Watched
When Garcia watched his season for the first time, he was very unhappy about the edit he got — but he learned to accept it.
“When I first saw it, I felt I got the cruelest, harshest edit ever. Now I look back and understand that it was maybe one of the most memorable edits ever. You have to have very thick skin to get that edit and still show your face at Survivor events. I think most people could not have handled it the way I have.”
What he is referring to is the fact that Ozzy Lusth famously had their tribe, Aitutaki, throw the immunity challenge because he thought Garcia was not pulling his weight around camp. Then at the Tribal Council, Garcia began talking about finding love with Candice Woodcock on the Rarotonga tribe, which was really Garcia taking her comments to him wildly out of context. It was… well, “awkward” is describing it kindly.
“My elimination took on a life of its own. Instead of caving under the weight of it, I’ve turned it into a vehicle for some amazing things, with charity work being at the top of the list. Some past players have found their harsh edits to be more than they can handle. I’ve shined my brightest since the edit I got aired. I’ve earned a lot of street cred with other Survivor players because of how I’ve handled it,” said Garcia.
Survivor hopes to film season 41 in the spring of 2021 for a fall 2021 premiere.