The day after he was shown getting voted off “Survivor: Philippines,” Carter Williams sounded bummed.
“The wave came to an end,” says Williams, who may look and talk like a California surfer dude but actually grew up and lives in Shawnee. “You’d be surprised how much pressure I felt.”
The 24-year-old fitness trainer tells of being recognized around Kansas City, asked for autographs and pictures. “You’re a hero to my kid,” someone would tell him. “We want you to win so bad.”
Williams, of course, knew exactly what the outcome of his “crazy experience in HD” would be. The show was filmed last spring.
But he did outwit/outlast/outplay 12 rivals. After Wednesday night’s broadcast, just five are left. The finale and reunion show will air Dec. 16 on CBS, and Williams will be there, part of the jury of seven or eight players who’ll pick the million-dollar winner.
In a phone interview this week, Williams said he’d thought he had a shot at the million. On what he calls old-school “Survivor” — back at the beginning of the show’s run — “they wanted to keep people around when they liked them.”
One “Survivor” moment had competitor (and “Facts of Life” star) Lisa Whelchel ruminating that if Jesus played the game, he’d play like Carter.
“That was a great quote,” says Williams, who attended Maranatha Christian Academy in Shawnee and a Christian college in Los Angeles. But “first of all, Jesus wouldn’t play ‘Survivor,’ and second of all, he wouldn’t play like me. But basically she was saying I’ve been nice, I haven’t lied, I gave up my food for everyone, I worked hard. That’s how I wanted to play the game, and it’s how a lot of ‘Survivor’ people would probably tell you not to play the game.”
Over his 33 days of competition, he flew under the radar much of the time. He’s laid-back anyway, so when “drama came up I wasn’t throwing two fists in the air.” Instead he’d walk away and come back later to talk things out quietly — and “a lot of the time that’s not what gets shown.”
As for why he was booted when he was, “maybe they were over-scared of me,” Williams says. “Maybe they thought a little too highly of my game.”
Although he became friends with Jeff Kent, Williams didn’t learn until after he left the game that Kent is a former Los Angeles Dodgers baseball great. “He was probably my main ally until he went home,” Williams says. “That was a big bummer.”
His best bud on the show, however, was Jonathan Penner, a “Survivor” alum who returned to the show for a third time and was ousted last week.
Of three returnees, only Michael Skupin remains.
The 6-foot-2 Williams started off lean on the show (just 5 percent body fat) and got leaner, dropping from 165 pounds to 147. “I didn’t really have 18 pounds to lose,” he says. A CBS online video shows him scarfing down a big meal upon his arrival at the resort where he and other castoffs stayed.
At “Ponderosa,” as the resort is known, “you kinda get to have a pity party with everyone,” Williams says. “It’s full of sad people who wished they hadn’t gotten voted off.”
But he’s been back in town now for months — besides teaching CrossFit classes, he works at his dad’s company, Harvest Graphics — and the reaction has been “amazing.”
“It’s not gonna be around forever,” he says of his TV fame. “It’s been pretty fun. I feel like a lot of Kansas City has rallied around me and rode this wave with me. … It was a sweet ride. I enjoyed it.”