Joe Anglim is making his third attempt to outwit, outplay and outlast on “Survivor,” but there’s something different about him this time.
Oh, he’s still hunky. He still has a man bun. He’ll still be viewed as a threat by other players — that’s what got him voted out in Seasons 30 and 31.
But for Season 38, the Arizona native traveled to Fiji from his home in Utah. And the reason he now lives in the Roy area has everything to do with “Survivor” — he moved there to be with his girlfriend, Sierra Dawn-Thomas, after they met when they both competed on Season 30.
Yes, they met on “Survivor.” But, no, they didn’t fall in love during the filming of the “Worlds Apart” season in 2014. Anglim admits he tried to cozy up to Dawn-Thomas to further his game — to use her as an ally to help him win the million-dollar prize — “but she was not having any of that. We really didn’t even have that great of a relationship, even within the game.
“She voted me out, which she reminds me of every chance she gets.”
It wasn’t until after the season ended that they got to know each other and their “friendship developed” as they attended “Survivor”-related gatherings and traveled to meet each other’s family.
(He grew up outside Scottsdale, Ariz.; Thomas, a barrel racer on the rodeo circuit, grew up in Roy.)
“Neither of us was looking to have a relationship or or find love on an island,” Anglim said. “You always say, ‘Oh, what if?’ But in reality, you know that’s not going to happen. And you shouldn’t couple up because it’s bad for your games.”
(When a pair of “Survivor” contestants get too chummy/romantic, their competitors target them for elimination because they’re seen as a team — and teams aren’t good in a single-competition game.)
“But, again, all this happened after the fact,” Anglim said. “We realized we had way more in common than we’d really gotten to know out there on the show.”
Anglim was just 10 when “Survivor” premiered in 2000, and he grew up watching — obsessed with — the show.
“I always knew that I was meant to play ‘Survivor’ in my heart. I visualized it. I dreamt about it. I had vivid dreams of getting my dad out onto the season,” he said. “But that wasn’t the reason that I was meant to play. The reason I was meant to go on this journey was to find her.”
Dawn-Thomas encouraged him to take another shot at “Survivor.” He’s one of four returning players who join 14 newbies as the 38th season — subtitled “Edge of Extinction” — premieres on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on CBS/Channel 2.
He went for a third time despite the hardships and depravations contestants suffer. No, they’re not being secretly fed and sheltered when cameras aren’t rolling — I’ve talked to dozens of “Survivor” vets over the years and every single one has told me it’s more grueling than it appears on TV. And it appears pretty darn grueling on TV.
When producers contacted him to gauge his interest in coming back for previous seasons, Anglim told them he wasn’t ready yet “physically and probably mentally. I just need some time off because it was a lot.”
After Dawn-Thomas competed for the second time in Season 34, “she was in the hospital for, like, a week almost with liver failure and kidney failure. I mean, it’s no joke. This game really pushes you to your breaking point — past that point.”
The new season is a whole new game in a new location for him. Anglim previously competed in Nicaragua and Cambodia; this season was shot in Fiji last year, the seventh time the show has gone to those islands.
He’s used to being thrown into new situations, however. And not just on “Survivor” — he was “thrown into a whole new world” when he moved to Utah about a year ago.
“I’ve just been learning a lot about horses and doing a lot of equine massage and training,” he said with a laugh. “I knew nothing about horses coming up here. So Sierra had to be patient with me. She had to teach me. She’s still teaching me.
“Man, I didn’t realize how much work horses were. Especially these ones. They’re like Ferraris. They’re fast, they have bad attitudes and you have to be very mindful of them all the time.”
He couldn’t specify, but Anglim did say he was going to “change things up” a bit in Season 38 after his nice guy-who’s-great-at-challenges strategy failed him twice. One of the changes: a rather impressive mustache.
“Sierra is so funny,” he said. “I grew it out for a while, and she just fell in love with it. And she said, ‘I want you to keep the Doc Holliday look.’ I’m not allowed to cut it off. She loves the man bun and the little mustache-goatee thing.”
There’s always a point midway through a season of “Survivor” when the remaining contestants are visited by one of their loved ones. Could this be the first time that one of those loved ones is also a former “Survivor” contestant?
I didn’t ask — Anglim couldn’t give away information like that — but I did mention that I would be thoroughly charmed if that happens.
“Mmmmm,” Anglim said, non-commitally. “Mmmmm.”
The fact that he and Dawn-Thomas now have five “Survivor” seasons between them is “so surreal” to Anglim. “I literally just told her, ‘I can’t believe that we played “Survivor” together, honey. I still can’t get over the fact that we both have played twice, and now I’m going to play again. It’s crazy. This is nuts.”