Alum places 2nd on ‘Survivor’

By Cathi Choi

While on “Survivor,” valedictorian and Yale graduate Stephen Fishbach ’97 went entire days eating only a spoonful of rice, battling against the elements. Exiled from the rest of the group, Fishbach desperately tried to build a fire for the first time as a storm approached.

When Fishbach returned from Brazil last December, he had won second place, but he also had a new best friend.

Fishbach formed an immediate alliance with “Survivor” winner JT Thomas, a cattle rancher from Alabama. This alliance lasted throughout the season, ultimately leading Thomas to pick Fishbach to move on with him to the last episode.

Thomas had the choice between Fishbach and another cast member, Erinn Lobdell, with whom Fishbach said Thomas could have had “an easy shot at $1 million,” but Thomas chose Fishbach instead.

When Thomas chose him, Fishbach said he felt “completely shocked and humbled.”

Fishbach now keeps in regular contact with Thomas, and has gone to visit him and his family in Alabama. Going into “Survivor,” Fishbach said he hoped to meet a cross-section of America he would have otherwise never been exposed to. There was no other way Fishbach would have met Thomas, Fishbach said, unless it had been for “Survivor.”

“He’s my best friend,” Fishbach said. “I spent a lot of time with his world, which I didn’t know anything about. I got to spend time with him and his family, and I’m just so grateful for that experience.”

Fishbach now works as speechwriter and a creative consultant in New York. Future plans? “Keep on working!” Fishbach said.