'Survivor' Fan-Favorite Joe Anglim Forecasts 'Edge of Extinction'

One of the most popular players of modern 'Survivor,' Joe speaks with The Hollywood Reporter about what it will take to make the third time the charm.
Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment

For Survivor viewers, Joe Anglim requires little in the way of introduction, and even less in the way of names and titles. The "Dirty 30" cast of Survivor: Worlds Apart took care of the branding during their season: "Joey Amazing," a hard-earned nickname, thanks to the challenge proficiency he first displayed in his very first immunity challenge, all the way through his final challenge loss in Survivor: Cambodia, in which he pushed his body all the way to the edge.

Given that reputation, it's no surprise to see Joe as one of the four returning players on Survivor: Edge of Extinction, premiering February 20 on CBS. According to executive producer and host Jeff Probst, one of the production team's goals this season was to find four veterans who embody the extreme measures required to succeed on Survivor. As one of the most popular players in the modern Survivor era, not to mention one of the most dominant challenge competitors of any Survivor era, Joe more than fits that criteria. 

Now on his third time out, Joe's return to the beach was only a matter of when, not if. In fact, as he freely admits, Joe's third time out is only happening now because he opted not to return sooner.

"I did decline in the past," he admits, speaking with The Hollywood Reporter on location in Fiji, days before filming on season 38. "It's so hard. It really took a lot out of my sails. It's hard to explain, especially because I had so little time in between my first and second season."

Indeed, Joe had no time at all between his two runs at Survivor, as he shipped out for round two in the final moments of his first season's finale. Now, three years after he lost in a head-to-head battle against fellow challenge beast Keith Nale, Joe returns to Survivor boasting some new secret weapons up his sleeve, and one right on his face.

Yes, obviously, we're talking about the mustache.

"You can thank Sierra Dawn Thomas," says Joe, gesturing at his curling facial hair. "I call it the Salvador Dali, but she calls it the Doc Holliday."

Sierra Dawn Thomas, for those who need a refresher, is yet another Survivor alum, first appearing opposite Joe in season 30. Initially meeting on opposite sides of the Worlds Apart battlefield, Joe and Sierra left the game as friends. Eventually, their relationship, much like the game of Survivor itself, evolved.

"Obviously, she voted me out, which was kind of fun. She reminds me every day," he says with a laugh. "I always knew Survivor was going to be a part of my life. I knew I was on a path, but I didn't know I was on a path to find her."

Hear more from Joe in The Hollywood Reporter's preseason Survivor podcast, First One Out:

Before their relationship, Sierra returned to Survivor for a second shot of her own, appearing along with 19 other returning players in Survivor: Game Changers — a season Joe declined to play, for what it's worth. Given their current relationship status, it's no surprise that Sierra was incentivized to give Joe some background on what to expect from Fiji as a Survivor battleground. 

"I picked her brain over the last couple weeks," he says. "She said it's hard [out here]. It's cold and rainy, but it's not as bad as Cambodia. There's only so much you can prepare for in the game."

"But as far as having someone who fully understands what the other one has gone through and will go through," he continues, "neither of us were in a relationship when we both played in the past. Now, we're sitting on the other side of where everyone else is at: the loved one who's going away to play Survivor. It's much more emotional, much more real, and now I have a lot more to play for."

With something worth playing for firmly in mind, and with enough time since his last time out, Joe says his plan of attack for round three will differ from his first two stints — somewhat, at least. 

"I think people can expect me to play hard," he says. "They know I love the game, I love the survival aspect of providing, getting fish, taking care of camp, building things. I know there's going to be a level of expectation from me to do those things, so I have to give them that. But I also don't have to be 'Joey Amazing.' I don't want to shine brighter than everyone else, because that's how you get voted out. For me, it's a matter of stepping back, chilling out a little more, enjoying Fiji, enjoying getting to know these other people. I need to play smarter, not harder, as my boy Rodney would say. That's where I'm at: don't give it 100%. Just give 80."

Easier said than done, of course. Joe's reputation is what it is, certainly when it comes to the challenges; the toothpaste is out of the tube in that regard. But even if Joe can't change everything about the way he's perceived, the game itself has changed since he last played, most prominently in the form of the final four fire-making challenge.

"For some reason, I feel like I'm going to be in that fire-making challenge," he says. "I'm confident if I'm placed in that situation, I can perform and win. It's a variable now that affects everyone. The people who are placed in that situation have a huge opportunity to make it or break it. I think it helps me in particular, because even if I might not win that last immunity, I'd still have a chance to earn my spot."

Of course, at the outset of the season, Joe doesn't realize there's yet another opportunity to earn his spot at the end: the titular Edge of Extinction twist, as players this season will face a chance to return after their initial eliminations. At this early point, in this pre-game conversation with THR, Joe is focused on avoiding elimination altogether, and reaching a few milestones on the way toward the million dollar prize — including the anticipated family visit, which could lead to fan-favorite Game Changer Sierra Dawn Thomas gracing television screens once more.

"We're just going to have to see," Joe says with a big smile when asked if Sierra is on standby as his loved one this season. "You never really know who you're going to see. I would like to see her. I'd hope maybe she's on the list. But she might be too busy! And she might be like, 'Nope, I don't want to go back to Fiji.' So, we'll see. But I'm planning on getting to the family visit, absolutely. It's just part of that next step to get to the end."

Follow THR.com/Survivor for more coverage before Edge of Extinction premieres February 20 on CBS.