In every season of Survivor, someone has to be the first to go. Sometimes it’s because they’re weak; other times because they’re abrasive. David Samson, the 45-year-old president of the Miami Marlins, was chosen as the leader of his tribe, and unceremoniously booted from Survivor: Cagayan after three days.
Samson talks to PEOPLE about leadership, hunger and the contestant he calls “disgraceful.”
David, what happened?
We had six brainiac leaders and no followers. We got nothing accomplished. So when they had to vote someone off, they chose the person they had selected as the leader. It was disappointing.
Were you a fan of the show before going out there?
I’ve been watching for 13 years. It was never the right time to try out, and I finally had an epiphany that I needed to make it the right time. So I started the process.
Did any of it have to do with your profession? Maybe they thought you had money.
I didn’t tell them what I do for a living. Instead, I said I worked in the front office of the Marlins. I don’t think any of them recognized me, so my career wasn’t really an issue.
But somehow the tribe must have sensed that you were a leader.
I was wearing a blazer, which made me look like an executive. So everyone just decided to make me the leader. I was not happy about that at all. When you’re the leader, you’re a target. You saw how Garrett was gunning for me after I chose him as the weakest.
Why did you choose him? He was the most buff person on the tribe.
I just had to make a decision, and I chose someone who is clearly not the weakest. No matter who I chose, they were going to be mad at me. It was a no-win situation.
But that’s not what went wrong. You guys just couldn’t win any challenges. Why?
The real problem was lack of chemistry. We weren’t a team. Chemistry is everything. It can result in winning games. We didn’t come together as a team, and it cost us.
Was that the hardest part of it? The social aspect?
It’s impossible for a couch contestant to realize how difficult Survivor is. We were sleeping on uneven bamboo with palm fronds. The shelter was so small that even someone my size – I’m five-foot-five, 130 pounds soaking wet – and I was scrunched in a position where I couldn’t. Combine that with no food and water, and we were hurting out there.
But everyone knows that Survivor is tough.
Survivor is as real as it gets. They don’t give you food when no one is looking. No one sneaks you Twinkies off-camera. I was eating my fingernails out there, and 10 fingernails don’t make a good meal.
So they chose you as the first to go, even though another contestant, J’Tia, was bossy and not good in challenges.
They viewed me as a threat. They figured that J’Tia would implode and then she could go at any time. And she did implode, throwing out the tribe’s rice. I thought that was just disgraceful. She should have gone first.
So you were the first to go. How embarrassing is that?
You know, only 27 people in the world can say they were the first person to be booted from Survivor. There have only been about 420 contestants, so I’m very happy to be a part of it.
So no regrets?
My only regret is that I didn’t win. You have a 17 out of 18 chance that you’re going to lose. Frankly, coming in second place would have been just as bad.