On last week's episode of CBS' Survivor: PanamaExile Island (Thursdays at 8 pm/ET), Bruce Kanegai had to be taken off the island for emergency care. Though he survived a machete wound to the face earlier in the season, he was done in by severe constipation that was nearly life-threatening. The jury is still out on whether he'll return to Survivor's jury the self-dubbed "Mr. Miyagi" is keeping mum, though we may find out on tonight's episode but the sweet 58-year-old was happy to discuss just about everything else that happened during his stay.
TVGuide.com: I'm glad to hear that you are now OK.
Bruce Kanegai: When I saw [last week's episode], I relived that whole thing again. It actually all started about 12 days before, and a lot of people didn't realize I was hurting. I played hard in all the reward challenges. I won all of them! When I knew I was sick, I didn't let anybody know I was really hurting.
TVGuide.com: Until that final day, you hadn't really let on about the severity of the situation.
Bruce: It was a buildup. What happened about 30 hours earlier was that my urinary bladder and tract was blocked. They kept telling me to drink more water, and it was like a water balloon getting bigger and bigger. That was a big problem. Then I thought I was having appendicitis, or my abdominal artery was going to explode. My dad passed away from that.
TVGuide.com: Wow. You must have been really scared!
Bruce: I knew it was really serious. When I came back from the reward challenge, I was stuck with Shane and Courtney, and they were just flipping out [about the challenge], so the camera crews went with them. By the time the camera crews had come back with the producers and medics, it had been three hours and it was pitch-dark. They thought it was appendicitis, too, but it was too late for them to bring a helicopter, so they loaded me into the speedboat. I was carried off by a naked man [Shane], and the worst thing was that I was getting slammed by all the waves. [The trip to proper medical care] took five hours. It was worse than a rattlesnake bite.
TVGuide.com: You also got hit with a machete....
Bruce: In the mouth, yeah. When we got there, they stuck a catheter in me and over a quart and a half of urine exploded out. They were shocked and said I could have been dead. The first words out of my mouth were, "If that was Johnny Walker blue label, I'd be a rich man!"
TVGuide.com: You have a good sense of humor, even in pain!
Bruce: I became really depressed after that night, but I prayed, and if that was the direction God wanted me to go in, I accepted it. I prayed for all of the Survivors to stay healthy and not get hurt. I really felt I could win this, I really did.
TVGuide.com: You flew under the radar for quite a while.
Bruce: When the others came back from the reward and Terry came back [from Exile Island], I was going to say, "Terry, I'm with you, and I'll bring Danielle and probably Cirie." Danielle and I were getting very close. Courtney would want to go with them, and that means Aras was first to go, and Shane.
TVGuide.com: Your health is most important, but is there part of you that's sad you didn't get to play to the end?
Bruce: Oh, yeah. I felt like I got [cheated]. I trained so hard for six months before I even applied I was running 2 miles barefoot in the street, doing 100 two-knuckle push-ups, 300 sit-ups... and that was before my warm-ups. I was training in karate, teaching three classes a week, and I'd work out at the gym very hard. I'm 58 years old, so I had to develop myself mentally and physically for this.
TVGuide.com: When did you find out that you weren't allowed to go back to the island?
Bruce: I knew that if you leave and you have any kind of help, you're disqualified. When I got hit in the mouth and broke my tooth, they said, "We'll take you to the dentist and see if you want stitches." There was no way I'd be disqualified over this little cut in the face. I told Nick that I had white belts that hit me harder than that! I didn't want to go [when I did], but at that point, I knew it was, like, life or death.
TVGuide.com: I didn't realize your father had a similar problem.
Bruce: That flashed through my mind big time.
TVGuide.com: Especially out there with Courtney singing!
Bruce: [Laughs] I don't know what was worse! I don't know if it was some Indian chant or what. No, she has a big heart. Honestly, I was just going into some karate meditation to focus and block out the pain. When she'd interrupt, I'd feel the pain more because she interrupted my concentration.
TVGuide.com: When you saw the episode, did you see what they did to your rock garden?
Bruce: That was so wonderful, it brought me to tears. A lot of times on Survivor, you don't know what people are saying. A lot of people you think are friends stab you in the back and walk away.
TVGuide.com: It did seem like you were the "teacher" on the show, and they learned a lot from you.
Bruce: Danielle really stated that. We stay in touch and I really try to watch over her. I just hate rudeness. Shane was rude.
TVGuide.com: I was hoping you were going to tell me it was just an act.
Bruce: You know what? He's an actor and I can see through him. He's really a great guy.
TVGuide.com: Did you learn anything from your teammates?
Bruce: Oh, absolutely. Believe it or not, I wanted Aras to be the leader. When they said, "Let's pretend Bruce is the leader," I knew that was all BS. I would just smile and nod with everybody and think the opposite. Just watching Aras and how he runs and manipulates... he kept the group together. I learned from each person and their own individual personality. Sometimes I didn't agree with it, but there's some reason the 16 of us were selected out of tens of thousands of people, so I respected them for that.
TVGuide.com: Did you know Terry had the immunity idol?
Bruce: Oh, yeah! Uh-huh. It's only good before the final four, but I thought it would be Danielle, Cirie, Terry and me in the final four.
TVGuide.com: I loved the flag that you did for Gitanos.
Bruce: I painted a lot of that flag with broken pieces of bamboo and a real crummy brush. I'm glad they let me do it, because I just wanted to get the whole feeling of being on Exile Island, the feeling of Survivor, [on there].
TVGuide.com: Would you ever do anything like this again?
Bruce: Absolutely. I want to do The Amazing Race so bad! So bad!
TVGuide.com: Who would you take with you?
Bruce: I have this incredible human being named Tom Mozilla, who was a green beret and is a master in karate. The guy is one of the deadliest guys I've ever met. He and I have been training together for over 35 years. We'd be so dynamic so totally amazing and deadly. I would love to do that!
TVGuide.com: Lastly, are you 100 percent better now?
Bruce: Yes, I am, but I'm sad about my school district. I've been Teacher of the Year six times, teaching for 34 years, and have taught so many wonderful students who have gone on to be professionals. I've dedicated my life to teaching. The day before I was leaving, I get an e-mail from the assistant principal saying that if I don't show up for school the next day, he was going to ask the school board to terminate me permanently. I asked for a leave of absence with no pay. During the whole time [on Survivor], in the back of my mind I did not know if I had a job or not. It ended up that when I got back, I was suspended for five more days, so I lost two months of pay. I still am baffled by one man's decision. I love teaching, though, so it didn't make me bitter. I'm back and having the best time with my kids.
TVGuide.com: I bet they think you're all cool now that you've done the show.
Bruce: They call me the "marker man," because I used to draw fast with a marker. They used to call me "Mr. Miyagi." Oh, I've got to tell you something real quick: When I got to the hospital [in late November], some of the nurses said I looked like Mr. Miyagi Pat Morita and somebody goes, "He just died today."
TVGuide.com: What a weird coincidence. Maybe you could get an acting career out of this.
Bruce: You never know! Or I could represent Casa de Charmin, or Metamucil or something. I had a great time. I wanted to make sure the whole way that I went out with respect and honor. That's the only thing that mattered to me.
TVGuide.com: And you certainly did.
Bruce: Oh, I hope so. Write that down!
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