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Ethan Zohn is a survivor in added means than one.
The Lexington built-in and accepted New Hampshire citizen became a domiciliary name aback he won the third division of the CBS absoluteness appearance “Survivor” in 2002 afore abiding to the appearance afresh in 2008 for “Survivor: All Stars.” In 2009, Zohn was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a attenuate anatomy of claret cancer, and underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and stem-cell transplants — alone for the blight to acknowledgment in 2011.
After addition annular of treatment, Zohn is now in remission, and he’ll accomplish his absoluteness TV acknowledgment Wednesday for “Survivor: Winners at War,” an all-star activity featuring 20 antecedent winners aggressive for a $2 amateur award-winning as allotment of the show’s 40th season.
Zohn, who is hosting a watch affair for the division premiere from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday at Kings Bowling in Burlington, chatted with Boston.com about the concrete assessment of aggressive on “Survivor” at 45, how he backward absolute through his action with cancer, and his beef with adolescent adversary “Boston Rob” Mariano.
How did you aboriginal end up on “Survivor” aback in 2001?
EZ: I was arena soccer in Zimbabwe, but my career was on a bottomward slope. So I confused to New York City, breadth I got a job at an announcement and branding company. Unfortunately there was a hiring benumb the anniversary I was declared to appear in, so my acquaintance and I absitively to accomplish a video for “Survivor.” I was declared to accomplish a band for my associate and afresh he would accomplish one for me, but we ran out of time for him. We alone beatific in my tape, the day afore it was due. And the blow is history.
You were 27 aback you competed on “Survivor: Africa.” Now you’re 45, and it’s been about 16 years aback you competed on “Survivor: All Stars.” How did you adapt both physically for the rigors of the show?
EZ: Because of what I’ve been through health-wise, my concrete fettle wasn’t absolutely breadth I capital it. I was alive in New Hampshire aback I got the call, and you can’t absolutely alternation on a arctic basin in the snow. My wife had a assignment befalling in Atlanta, and I tagged forth with her. I got to be outside, and did lots of swimming, running, and weight training, additional added “Survivor”-specific actuality like lighting fires, attached knots, and balancing. I was advancing from the couch to arena this game, so I had to get absolutely fit, fast.
As you aloof alluded to, in 2009 you were diagnosed with CD20-Positive Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a attenuate anatomy of claret cancer. After activity through chemo, radiation, and a stem-cell transplant, the blight came aback 20 months after in 2011, at which point you went through the aforementioned action again. What array of strategies did you use to break absolute and persevere during these basic battles?
EZ: I absolutely approached my time activity through blight like an able-bodied challenge. Even in my affliction of moments, I spent time actuality physically active, bistro well, meditating, and accomplishing eyes boards.
When I was in the hospital, I was additionally watching “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains.” I was watching it and saying, “One, I appetite to survive this thing, and two, if I do, my ambition is to get advantageous abundant — mentally, physically, and spiritually — to go comedy ‘Survivor’ again.” Watching “Survivor” in the hospital reminded me of a time aback I wasn’t sick, aback I had no abstraction that I would get cancer. It let me tap into actuality that 27-year-old kid again. I visualized it, set my goals on accepting aback to that point, and it happened.
You mentioned your concrete preparation, but on the cast side, how did you adapt mentally for the show? There accept been 31 seasons of “Survivor” aback you aftermost competed, and Jeff Probst and CBS accept fabricated all sorts of changes to the antagonism over the years. Did you access this division abnormally than you did “Africa” and “All-Stars”?
EZ: The account I had activity into this division was that it had been so continued aback I’d competed. Half the competitors apparently anticipation I was dead. No one knows how I played, and no one knows how I would comedy with all the twists they’ve added — idols, hidden immunities, means to get aback in the game, any of that.
On the accomplished two occasions, I had every ambition of activity in there and accomplishing whatever it takes to get ahead. Lie, cheat, steal, be nice, charm, do anything. But accepting out there in the competition, things change a bit. Unless you’re the best amateur in the world, it’s adamantine to adumbrate from the cameras. Your absolute cocky comes into focus aback you’re starving, thirsty, and there’s $1 amateur or $2 amateur actuality dangled in advanced of you. Aback abutting this season, I ample it would be a lot added difficult to change who I am as a being to win this game. I came into this division with a beginning angle on life, a beginning angle on how I chronicle to added people. Because “Survivor” is a bold of relationships. It’s how you collaborate with added bodies that determines how far you get in the game. At the core, no one wants to vote for a being at the end who they don’t like.
You competed on “All Stars” with “Boston Rob” [Mariano] and his now-wife Amber. Had you backward in acquaintance with them or with anyone abroad who concluded up on the island with you this division above-mentioned to filming?
EZ: Aboriginal off, what’s with him accepting to be “Boston Rob”? I was the aboriginal champ from the Boston area. I don’t apperceive how the heck this guy got that nickname. It took him four times to win the game. It alone took me one. Aloof putting that out there.
I didn’t accumulate in blow with Rob and Amber at all. Aboriginal time I talked to Rob was the aboriginal day on the island.
We accept three Boston bodies this season. Jeremy [Collins], who lives in Foxborough. Myself, who grew up in Lexington, Rob, who grew up in Boston. Actually, Michele [Fitzgerald] acclimated to alive in the Boston area, so four. You accept a appropriate aggregation of bodies from this area, but there were no pre-game bounded alliances for me.
You’ll be aback in boondocks to host your official “Survivor” premiere watch affair at Kings in Burlington, a boondocks over from Lexington. How air-conditioned is it to be aback on your old stomping grounds?
EZ: Aback I won, the highlight of my activity was active bottomward Mass. Ave. in Lexington Center and seeing that the cine amphitheater had “Congratulations Ethan!” on the marquee. My ancestors still lives in the area, and whenever I’m back, I consistently booty the continued way home and drive accomplished my adolescence house.
Actually, the acumen I chose a bowling alleyway in Burlington was because the old bowling alleyway I acclimated to go to was gone. Aback I was a inferior and chief at LHS, we would skip academy on Tuesday and go to Papa Gino’s for the all-you-can-eat pizza barbecue and go to Wal-Lex and go bowling. I’m agreeable all my LHS accompany on Wednesday, so it’s gonna be absolutely fun to accomplish this premiere affair a little added local.
“Survivor: Winners at War” premieres Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. on CBS.
This account has been agilely edited and abridged for breadth and clarity.
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