Joe Don Morton, the first captain of CBS' Pirate Master, discovered the pros and cons of buccaneer life as he swiftly went from alpha dog to underdog. The 36-year-old Alaskan was a strong leader with an eye for the gold, but his controversial move to keep the lion's share of a team-won prize inspired talk of mutiny. When his reign ended, successive captains targeted him as a brigand to be cut adrift, but with his deep pockets, Joe Don wasn't easy to send overboard. TVGuide.com spoke with Joe Don about his time aboard the Picton Castle, his on-screen flirtation with fellow pirate Nessa and his pending return as a "ghost" who — you guessed it — is out to possess the remaining treasure.
TVGuide.com: How did you feel about getting cut adrift?
Joe Don Norton: It was bittersweet. I was totally stoked with how I played the game and how I left the game. I think going honorably is the best way, and I feel that's what I did.
TVGuide.com: You gave a compelling speech at your final Pirates' Court that, at least, swayed Kendra.
Joe Don: I did, and that was an easy one for me. I saved her [on a challenge where she struggled with swimming] and I felt like it was time for her to extend her hand and save me. Unfortunately the other three women didn't buy into it.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think they chose Louie over you?
Joe Don: I think Christa and Jupiter were bought off. Jay was controlling the field with those two girls.
TVGuide.com: Sounds like there was more piracy happening behind the scenes than what we saw on the show.
Joe Don: Absolutely. Jay pretty much manipulated the whole thing to get the women to vote as he wanted and eliminate the stronger players, which from his perspective was a good idea.
TVGuide.com: What about Ben, who was an officer under you but is now strongly allied with Azmyth, the current captain?
Joe Don: Ben and I never made an agreement with one another. We got along. We were kind of like brothers, but in my gut I knew that he could be for me or he could be against me.
TVGuide.com: Who did you most feel comfortable with on the ship?
Joe Don: Cheryl. She was my horse and she was an awesome horse. I just felt like I could totally trust her. There was never an official pact [between us], but it was understood just through pure body energy.
TVGuide.com: You also made quite a connection with Nessa. Are you two still in touch?
Joe Don: Yes, Nessa and I had a very fun and interesting connection. [Chuckles] I have been in touch with Nessa after the show, but I'm not going to give you any more details on that. It's a closely guarded secret — it's going to cost you gold coins!
TVGuide.com: Did you have a strategy going into the show?
Joe Don: I did, and it was to fly under the radar for as long as I possibly could and see how far I could get, but that got blown out of the water once I was elected captain. I had to become the outspoken, forward-moving force to be reckoned with.
TVGuide.com: As the first captain, you had to feel your way through the game. If you had more time to figure things out, would you have split the prize money evenly after that first challenge, rather than keeping 50 percent as you did?
Joe Don: When I was elected captain, it was told to me that the only way I could be ousted was through mutiny. [The producers] didn't make it apparent that whoever wins the challenges gets to elect a new captain. I had a strong connection with my officer Cheryl, and I knew a mutiny would never get past her, so I was setting up to be captain for the rest of the show. If I had known the rules a little bit better, I probably would have played the game differently.
TVGuide.com: You appeared to relish your captaincy. What about life as a crew member?
Joe Don: I liked certain aspects of being a captain and I liked being a crew member, too. The crew wasn't too happy when I was in charge because they weren't getting a lot of the money, but I'm naturally a pretty sociable, funny guy. Once I got back down there and started interacting with people, I actually had more fun being a crew member than being a captain.
TVGuide.com: This week's previews hint at a return engagement for you.
Joe Don: All the cast members who got cut adrift come back as "ghosts" and they [attempt to come after the treasure that's already been found].
TVGuide.com: How did you end up on Pirate Master?
Joe Don: I was featured in Outside magazine in December 2004 for being a smoke jumper, and Hollywood got whiff of that and contacted me. I decided to try out for Survivor and I was selected for Survivor: Guatemala, but I broke my ankle two weeks before I was supposed to get on a plane to go film the show. When I got healthy I gave them a call and Pirate Master was happening at the time. They thought I'd be a perfect candidate.
TVGuide.com: Is there a chance we might see you on another reality show?
Joe Don: If the TV viewers wanted to see more Joe Don, I'd give 'em more Joe Don.
TVGuide.com: How much has being on the show changed your life?
Joe Don: It's been such an incredible experience. I've spent so much time alone in a cabin in the woods that to be thrown into Hollywood was a whole 180. I've been able to see both ends of the spectrum and I appreciate both aspects, but I tell you that living in a cabin alone is a hell of a lot more peaceful.
TVGuide.com: Are you looking forward to going back to your quiet lifestyle?
Joe Don: I'm always going to have that, but I think I want to keep one foot in the machine. I don't want to become a hermit and be a guy who just lives in a cabin by himself for the rest of his life.
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