The season premiere of “Survivor 42” last night saw two eliminations: first, Jackson Fox, who was forcibly ejected from the game after failing to disclose his medical history in a timely manner; then, 21-year-old superfan Zach Wurtenberger, who simply came down on the wrong side of the numbers in a small tribe of 6 after failing to perform well in the immunity challenge.
Zach was representative of a number of viewers on the couch at home: superfans who have seen “Survivor” at every angle on screen, but relish the idea of actually being there for real. As a result, his elimination – the first one voted out – must have been a real blow both to him and viewers rooting for him, at least at first.
Luckily, Zach already prepared for such an outcome, arguably the worst possible one, by writing a letter to his future-self after he was accepted but before he went on the show. Read on to find out what he wrote to himself:
Zach is Still Super Grateful to Have Been on ‘Survivor’
Shortly after the airing of the “Survivor 42” premiere, Zach tweeted out a picture of a letter he wrote to his future-self before he went on the show. It’s actually a collection of letters – one for each different placement he could have gotten. The first two are “First Boot,” and “Pre-Swap;” the others likely include something along the lines of “Merge/Jury,” “Final 4,” “Zero-Vote Finalist,” “Runner-Up,” and “Winner.” He prefaced the letter by writing in the tweet: “I couldn’t be prouder of my Survivor experience 💙”
The letter to himself in case he were the first boot humorously began with a reprimand: “What the hell, Zach?! How did that happen? If you’re the first boot, that means you REALLY screwed something up.” However, he went on to reassure himself that such a placement was okay, in part because he got to go through an incredible experience which 99% of other superfans don’t:
Look at the positives: one, you still managed to get cast … You got marooned, you competed in a challenge, you went to Tribal. You got to experience Survivor. And you still have so much to look forward to, from the cast reveal to watching yourself look silly on national TV.
Zach Thinks This Will Become ‘A Really Funny Story’ One Day
It is clear both through Zach’s letter and his final words that, as a superfan, he is truly grateful to have played the game at all, and would prefer the worst placement possible than to not have had the opportunity to play at all. “At the end of the day,” he wrote in the letter, “you’re still on a small part of your favorite show … And remember this: you would rather be the most humiliating first vote of all time than to never try at all. This was all still incredible.”
Zach reiterated this sentiment in his final words last night, saying:
‘Survivor’ still is my favorite show. So would I rather be the first one voted out or just never play at all? Vote me out first a million times. The opportunity itself means more than anything.
Zach even sees a bright side in being the first boot, describing it in his letter as “funny,” and “something uniquely special.” “And besides,” he wrote, “there’s something uniquely special about being the FIRST one out. I mean, how many people can say that? Once the wound heals, this becomes a really funny story.
Indeed, Zach went out with his head held high, and with a distinction he didn’t see coming before going on the show – one which he highlighted in his final words: he was the first person actually voted out unanimously, given that he wasn’t able to cast a vote once his Shot in the Dark advantage was played. (Note: Jeff Varner was also technically voted out unanimously in season 34, “Game Changers,” though that was an informal voice vote, and Varner was not asked by host Jeff Probst who he would vote for).
“Survivor 42” was shot in May-June 2021, meaning that Zach has had about 10 months to recover from his premature elimination. And although he didn’t make it to the end, judging by his active presence online, he seems to be as fully invested in “Survivor” as ever. There’s also always a chance that he may one day return. Though he didn’t make it far, he certainly fits the mold of a fan-favorite returnee.
“Survivor” airs Wednesdays 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS.