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05/04/17 04:41 PM
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER INTERVIEW -
How are you feeling, Zeke?
I'm feeling great. It's a little
insane that the ride is over. Well, it's almost over. There's still the
finale. But I've been doing Survivor non-stop since Halloween of 2015.
Every day, Survivor has presented me with a new challenge. It's a little
nutty that this ride has come to a close.
Let's start there, with the ending.
What's your best explanation for how you were voted out of Survivor this
After what had happened with Varner,
my life in the game was pretty short. It became abundantly clear on the first
day of the merge. My name started getting tossed around, and the reason why is
that nobody wanted to sit next to me in the end, because I had a very
compelling story. The biggest sign was that I had a lot of great relationships
with a lot of people, and all of the sudden, nobody was coming to me to talk to
me, about anything. The events of what transpired at that Tribal Council were
really never spoken of again, after I had the fireside chat with everyone after
the merge feast. I would chase people down and we would have conversations, but
they were very surface level. Even with people I was tight with, like Andrea
and Cirie. We went from a ride-or-die final three deal to saying, "Let's
lock in a really great final seven." I knew it was over.
What happened at that Tribal is
probably the meanest thing that's ever happened to me, and there was no calling
my best friend or hugging my dad or even having a night alone to process. I
made the decision on the way back to camp that you're either going to quit or
you're going to play, and if you play, there's no crying, no woe is me, no
sitting around moping. You suck it up and you play the bold and reckless way
you play. When I saw that I didn't have a shot to win, that my time would be so
immediately cut short — I knew it could come any day — I just said,
"You gotta go out swinging, man. You have to swing your sword while you
have a shot." Maybe if I wasn't on the tail end of a second season, and
really running out of mental gas, maybe I would have had more patience. But
where I was emotionally... I had been in Fiji for a long time. I agreed to do a
second season within 48 hours of being voted out the first time. My life back
home was already a question mark, and when [the outing] happened, I knew it was
going to turn my life completely upside down. And my game life was in
total chaos. So, dear god! What do you do?
Well, I couldn't stop playing. Trans
people report violence and hate crimes on a daily basis. Ninety percent of
trans people report being harassed or discriminated against in the workplace,
and often the result is depression or self-harm or suicide. I felt I was in a
position where it was very important to model resilience. No matter when I
went, I needed to go out swinging. Sure, I did not play well in the merge. I
did not make great decisions. I'll give you that. My options were limited. I
wouldn't do anything differently. I was proud that when I was backed into the
corner and the cause was lost, I never stopped swinging my sword.
Were you feeling burned out from
playing two times back-to-back, even before the incident with Varner?
I think I was. There was a secret
scene where I talked about losing a love for the blindside. I love Survivor.
The first time you play, you don't know what it's like to get voted out or
harbor regrets. I was having a pretty profound life experience in Fiji. I
expected to get voted out third last season, and here I was now facing my
second merge, finding new depths of myself. I was coming alive again out there.
I saw that in my compatriots in 34. They weren't just pawns to be shot down;
they were people for whom Survivor meant as much to them as it did to
me. I was losing a bit of that edge. I don't think it negated that I wanted to
win or play hard. I think I got a little less joy out of seeing people's
Let's take it back to the start of
the season. You're a Survivor super-fan playing on an all-star season.
You're one of very few people to compete on back-to-back seasons, sight unseen.
Coming into Game Changers, and seeing that you're up against some titans
of Survivor lore, how do you reconcile your place on the season?
I remember being in the airport and
seeing [former winners] Tony Vlachos and Sandra Diaz-Twine. I'm getting
goosebumps now remembering it. You have to believe you belong there. Whether or
not you're as good as they are, you have to believe you are, that you have a
shot. For me, I knew I was going to enter this game with a hurtle. They were
going to think I was [notorious Survivor villain] Russell Hantz, [the
first player to compete on back-to-back seasons, sight unseen]. So what's the
thing I can best do to counter this, to explain why I'm here? There wasn't
really a super fan here. I could fill that archetype. I was going to go with
being the gay guy, but there were two other gay guys, and I think that added
some suspicion: "Hm, there's a third gay guy..." So I thought the
best thing I could do to neutralize whatever threat level existed was to be
super friendly and super excited. To a person, I could cite something they did
in their previous game or a reason they were a Game Changer. I was just excited
to see everyone and act as non-threatening as possible. I could have been an
early target, but I never really was past those initial hours. I neutralized
that threat pretty quickly.
You were part of the original Nuku,
a tribe so strong that they are only now starting to vote each other out. What
were those early days like?
It was very much boys versus girls.
The boys immediately bro'd down and started fishing and building shelter, while
the women were waiting on the outskirts. Everything was friendly. The camp was
amazing. We had so much food from the marooning. The beach was beautiful. We
had so much firewood. There were all these cool goats running around. Those
were some of the most miraculous days on Survivor. Cirie and Andrea were
quickly on the outs, but they were the two I was tightest with. Sierra Dawn
Thomas and I found each other in the middle and the question was, "Do we
go with the boys or the girls?" I think we would have gone with the boys
and voted out Cirie, and Andrea if we had to subsequently, but we never had to
test those relationships. The most meaningful connection I formed was with
Sarah Lacina at Nuku. We immediately connected. We both liked to roll our eyes
at Brad Culpepper's stories. I was glad I got to play the entire game with her.
You reach night six. The tribes are
getting reshuffled the next day. Did you know a swap was on the horizon, and if
so, what were the conversations at camp like?
Mana lost two challenges. We had ten
people. We knew we were swapping and we felt good that we would have the
majority in a couple of tribes. We were "Nuku Strong," and we stayed
that way through the entire pre-merge. The original Nuku never turned on each
other, until Ozzy, who was the first to be done dirty by a fellow Nuku. I think
that Brad, Sierra, JT and Debbie all felt solid together, but I felt that I
knew where I stood with the Culpepper alliance. I knew they were wary of me. I
had stronger relationships with Sarah, Andrea and Cirie, who were on the bottom
of the tribe. I didn't feel "Nuku Strong," but the way the swap
worked out, it made sense to stay that way.
The swap occurs, and Mana and Nuku
are split into three new tribes. You wind up at Tavua with Cirie, Andrea,
Sarah, Ozzy and Troyzan. Was this the best case scenario for you?
I was with everyone I wanted, plus
Troyzan, which was fine. No particular thoughts about him at that time. But we
had to rebuild our camp. We never actually built a new shelter. We were in Fiji
in the winter and it was very cold, and you have to sleep by the fire. Ozzy was
the one who had to control it. He was very dictatorial about how to control it.
We had to have all these holes that were eighteen inches by nine inches, and we
had to find just the right pole in just the right way. It took forever. You
couldn't build anything without him and he goes fishing for whole hours a day.
One time, we had a mutiny. The best way to build the roof is to lay a bunch of
palm fronds on top of each other. No one knows how to weave them. But that's
what he wanted us to do. We were sick of it, so one time when he walked off, we
filled in the roof. The one time we did sit under the roof when it rained for
thirty-minutes, it worked!
Just to explore Ozzy further for a
moment, one of the catalysts of Varner's explosion at Tribal Council was his
belief that you and Ozzy were a tight pair. Was there truth to that?
Ozzy and I did have a strong
relationship, and I did not want him to go home. I wanted him to stick around
for a while. But it was hard for me to know exactly where my trust was with
Ozzy. The quintessential Survivor skill is the ability to make others
feel comfortable, and he doesn't have that ability. I felt like Ozzy should
trust me. I have an unknown strategic threat aura about me, and Ozzy is Ozzy,
so we should stick together. But I still didn't know if he trusted me. That's
why he was eventually voted out. No one knew where Ozzy stood. That's
important. It's important to have options, but people need to have a sense of
where you stand. I think Ozzy would play for a fifth time, and that would be
the one piece of advice I would give to him. Let people know where you stand,
Tavua never needed to attend Tribal
Council, but what would have happened in that case?
Cirie would have gone home. She was
the first person I bonded with in the game. We were cuddle buddies, every night
we were on a tribe together — except when Ozzy went home, and Andrea and Cirie
yelled at me, and I was a man without a country and I just slept alone on a
sliver of a tarp. Oh, those eleven days. (Laughs.) Two or three days
into Tavua, I hear from Sarah and Andrea that Cirie no longer trusts me. I
don't know what changed or why she no longer trusted me, still. Sarah never
felt a strong connection with Cirie, and Sarah was my ride-or-die to the end. I
was developing a good relationship with Troyzan, and so was Sarah...
Any suspicion that Troyzan and found
an immunity idol?
No suspicion. He could have hidden a
lot of things in that pouch of his, and no one would have any suspicion. It's
very impressive. Hard to look away from. (Laughs) But Ozzy, Cirie and
Andrea were treating him like he was on the outs. I never let the low fish
dangle. Sarah and I saw the game similarly in that way: you have to have
relationships with everyone and make everyone feel comfortable. I don't think
there's any question that Cirie would have gone home.
You swap yet again, and you return
to Nuku beach, with four original Nuku and two original Mana. At that point,
only one original Nuku member had been voted out of the game. What was your
view of the pace of the season at this point?
It was hard to know because I hadn't
been to Tribal Council yet, so I felt the game was very slow and boring.
Really, until you go to Tribal, you don't know where the lines are. You're not
really playing. You're making sure you're good with everyone and that you know
where the vote is in case you have to go to Tribal. The pace was super slow for
me. I wanted to get it amped up, because I like to play. Survivor is
very boring when you're out there and not going to Tribal. But with the swap,
we were in a position where we had four original Nuku and two original Mana.
When you're that close to the merge, that's when people start reigning it in.
There's no reason to do something stupid and not make the merge. You can look
at Survivor as a game played in quarters, even though this one doesn't
fit the model, because we had two swaps. But I see it as pre-swap, post-swap,
post-merge, and post loved ones visit, which is something people leverage in
the game: "No need for a Final 3 deal; I just want to make it to the loved
ones visit." That's what marks the fourth quarter. Of course, I have never
made it to the fourth quarter! But when those milestones start approaching,
people pump the brakes a little bit.
How are we supposed to forgive you
for voting out Sandra, the only two-time winner in Survivor history?
I paid for it, didn't I? If anyone
did penance, it was me! (Laughs) Here's what I would say about Sandra.
We met her, and she was the coolest. As a haughty fan, I was one of those
people who felt Parvati should have won against Sandra in Heroes vs Villains.
That changed immediately when I met Sandra. She knows exactly what she's doing.
She's pretty incredible. We saw that, and that just underscored why she needed
to go. If you release Sandra into the merge, I think there's a 75% chance she
becomes a three-time winner. Even if she doesn't win, but she makes it to six
or four or five? If you let her get past you, you're going to kick yourself
that you didn't take the shot when you had the chance. You did feel like you
were part of Survivor history, but it was out of respect.
You wrote extensively for THR about what happened next:
Varner outing you at Tribal Council. What has life been like for you in the
three weeks since "The Episode" aired?
I'm still making sense of everything
that happened. The way I approached it was, I have nine months to prepare for
this thing, to bolt the furniture to the ceiling, because my life is going to
be turned upside down, and I didn't know what was going to happen past April 12
at 8:48 PM on the east coast. I just knew I would control everything I could
control. I wanted my version of events out there in a couple of different
forms, and we'll just see. There was no way to plan for what happened
I was surprised at how
overwhelmingly positive the reaction was. How well reported it was by the
media. Everything reported it well. I was prepared for salacious headlines and
dredged up photos from my past. I was prepared to be re-victimized. That the
outrage was all toward the wrongdoer and the sympathy was towards me, and that
people went out of their way to not even call me the trans Survivor player,
but Zeke the Survivor player who is transgender — using the long
way of writing about it — I was really overwhelmed. It was a unique moment in
the way trans people are handled in the public eye. I'm very humbled and still
awestruck at what happened.
I also can't believe how wide it
went! I was in a gas station in Los Angeles, and TMZ came on, and I heard the
words "Tribal Council," and somehow, it was great. Holy smokes,
there's even a Breitbart article that was well-reported and quoted GLAAD in a
non-ironic way. I didn't anticipate how much love I received. I would say there
was maybe a slim one percent of negativity that was almost not even noteworthy,
because there was this outpouring of love, and people wanted to share their
stories and tell me about conversations they were having with their kids or
their parents or LGBT people who reached out. I don't know. I'm a goofy guy who
wears dumb shirts and has a ridiculous mustache and doesn't get haircuts often
enough, you know? I went to go run around in my underwear on a reality show.
That all of this happened? I still don't know [how to process it].
Some people openly wondered whether CBS should have aired this moment.
What are your thoughts on this, as the person at the heart of the matter?
I spoke about this on The Talk
the day after the episode aired. I very much wanted it to air. First, I didn't
go on national television unprepared for the world to know that I'm trans. I
was ready, should that part of my life become part of my Survivor story.
But I wasn't crazy about the way it happened. It never crossed my mind that it
shouldn't air. Ever since it happened, I felt it was important for the world to
see. The way my tribe mates reacted, and the way Jeff Probst reacted, is a case
study in how you should respond to injustice. It also marks a moment in the way
trans people are accepted in this country, that everyone knew what he did was
wrong, immediately. Even people who aren't well-versed in trans issues, like
Sarah Lacina, knew what he did was wrong. They overwhelmingly rebuffed his
actions. That was important for the world to see.
You're being a negative nancy if you
think it's a dark moment or a mar on Survivor history. It certainly
started in a dark place, but the conduct of my tribe mates and the masterful
conducting of Jeff Probst definitely made it into something great. We have to
tie this conversation with how trans people are represented in media. There's
no greater example than how I was treated by Survivor and CBS. From the
minute I approached them [to play], they told me that they wouldn't
sensationalize or exploit anything. When it did happen, they always said
that I was going to lead them. I had no say in the editing or how the episode
went down, but they told me I was going to lead them in how I wanted to handle
the reaction. All the way back in Fiji, Jeff Probst and I had conversations
about how those nine months were going to go down...
And when did these conversations
start? After you were out of the game?
Yeah, about two days after I was
voted out. One of the things he made clear is they were not going to tease it
or promote it. They weren't going to treat me with kid gloves. They weren't
going to lionize me. He said, "There are people who are going to want to
exploit you, and I am going to fight them. That's what I promise you. And I
also promise that if you want to hide in a hole, or if you want to lean into it
and use this to help others, then I will be with you every step of the way
fighting with you." Jeff Probst has kept every single one of his promises.
I have usually found it true that you should not meet your heroes. Jeff Probst
is a bright, shining exception to that. He promised me: "I am never going
to leave you hanging." And he has never let me hanging. The
commitment he has led with was modeled by CBS and the Survivor crew. Joe
Lia, a fantastic filmmaker and storyteller who was the supervising producer of
the episode, has been a friend. He's always been a phone call away. I've called
him in moments of crisis. He has always wanted to listen, to understand the
significance of what went down, the history of words like deception. He wanted
to do this right. Everyone did. That's something trans people have long
desired: to be listened to and to have their stories told. This is how you do
After this incident, you reach the
merge. The first vote is fairly straightforward, and then the next vote is
where you part ways with Andrea and Cirie, two of your closest allies from the
start of the game. Why was this the right time to make that move?
Aside from Sarah and Debbie, no one
really wanted to be seen with me [following the Varner Tribal Council]. I had a
tight relationship with Andrea, and I kept seeing Andrea and Cirie walk off and
have conversations, and I was not included. Eventually, I would see Aubry
involved in those conversations. She was supposed to be part of the Mana tribe
not being spoken to at the time. I saw that threesome connecting, and nobody
was coming to me with information. With the Ozzy vote, even without me, even
without Debbie's extra vote advantage, they still had the numbers to get out
Ozzy. What I was doing was going to Sarah and Debbie and saying I want to vote
with the Brad and Sierras of the world, because Andrea and Cirie are infinitely
more dangerous strategically. What I was pitching was Andrea should go, as
she's the most dominant challenge threat for individual immunity. And they
didn't know this, but I had been blindsided by Andrea before, and you never
forget the people who blindside you.
Can you elaborate?
Andrea and I knew each other before
we played Survivor together. Well, I guess we met playing Survivor
together — Survivor: Brooklyn, a daylong game of Survivor that's
played in a park. It's where I met Andrea, about three years before we would
show up on an island together. I became friends with her and a handful of other
people. There were two guys, Mikey and Alex, who were huge Survivor fans
and friends of mine, that Andrea and I shared as friends. We ran in similar
circles. I hosted a game of Big Brother: Brooklyn in my apartment, which
Andrea played. She did pretty well! We were at a Big Brother viewing
party in the summer of 2015 when Andrea said, "You know, if you applied
for Survivor, you would probably get on." I never really considered
it, but that was the impetus.
A couple months later, I made a
video, and the rest is history. I met with Andrea before casting to talk about
casting strategies. We talked right before I went out to Season 33. We worked
out together a handful of times. I knew that she was in casting for Season 34
before I went out for Season 33. During 33, I would joke with the producers
that they were going to ask me back for 34. So when they did, and when I got
home from Fiji for the first time, the third person I texted when I had my
phone back was Andrea. I said, "What's your pre-game situation look
like?" She said, "Not good." I said, "It's about to look a
little bit better." But I don't think Andrea and I had long term plans for
each other in this game. I think we both knew it would go until the final six
or seven. I don't think we intended to enter this game playing together; we
were hoping to find each other at a swap or the merge. But when we both ended
up on Nuku and felt we were in bad positions, that bond mattered.
The complicated thing with Andrea,
the reason she's so upset at me, is because we were friends. In my defense, I
went through something pretty traumatic, and Andrea is someone who I had known
for three years, who had been to my apartment, who I had shared friends with
... and that she didn't pull me aside and say, "F--k the game. How are you
doing? Are you okay?" That that wasn't something that was happening made
me feel particularly anxious about Andrea, that she must really have written me
off. Maybe I read that right, and maybe I didn't. But like I said before, a
quintessential Survivor skill is the ability to make people comfortable.
No one was willing to make me comfortable, except Sarah and Debbie.
Andrea didn't even get votes that
night. I got votes that night. And I was completely left out of that vote. I
was trying to put on the best brave face that I could, but you know, maybe I
wasn't the happiest camper at that time. I was struggling. That Andrea tore
into me, when I was left out of the vote and she voted for me... doesn't
that even the score? She and Cirie really tore into me. Cirie is the
only person who has ever wagged a finger in my face! (Laughs) It was
really hard. But we're fine now. She came to my Christmas party. We're buds.
After the game was over, we kissed and we made up. But America got to see a
little bit of a personal feud playing out on national television!
One of the main critiques of your
move here is the optics — that since you were with Andrea and Cirie for so
long, why would you think Sierra is going to trust you to turn against them?
What's your response to that?
I didn't go to Sierra Dawn Thomas
out of the blue. I was tight with Sarah and Debbie. They both had tight
connections with Sierra and Brad. Andrea was selected democratically; it wasn't
just that I was going to go after her. I had a long talk with Debbie and asked
if she had laid the groundwork for me to go and talk to Sierra and Brad, and
she said that she had. Debbie certainly has her outbursts and kooky moments,
but there are also moments where she has a super strong social game. Like I
said, only two people made me feel comfortable [in the merge], and Debbie was
one of them. I went to Sierra expecting that someone laid the groundwork for
Turns out, not so much.
Which was immediately clear during
the conversation. And I was just like, "Well, f--k." I had a
perception problem. There was a perception that I was going to beat everybody,
because I had this compelling story. I felt if I had any chance in going
anywhere, maybe it would be by squandering all this good will by pissing
everybody off. If everyone was mad at me — if it's "eff you, Zeke Smith"
instead of "eff you, Brad Culpepper" — then it could help. I was just
throwing stuff at the wall to see what would stick at this point. I think it
was a bright move from Debbie to let me hang myself there. I wasn't making
great decisions. For me, personally, it felt better to go out and play, than
sit around camp and do nothing.
You, Andrea and the others came
back together the very next round to vote out Debbie. How were you able to put
your differences aside for this vote?
Because Debbie pooped on the bamboo
in the middle of camp.
There was a pile of bamboo in the
middle of camp, and one night, Debbie woke up and pooped on it. She blamed a
cameraman, but we all knew Debbie pooped on the bamboo.
How are you so certain?
You can't wake up in the night
without waking people up. We all knew Debbie pooped on the bamboo. It's not why
Debbie was voted out, but it's a fun Debbie story. (Laughs) But I
epically apologized to Andrea a few times. It's Survivor, so the gloves
are off, and you make the moves you think are in your best interest. I was also
right, that we were not in the numbers. I wanted to go with Sarah, and she
wanted to go with the numbers. So Andrea and I healed, we were able to vote
together, and the truce was to the loved ones visit. We were going to stay six
strong until then.
So much for that.
The votes were there to get me out.
It was clear I had loyalties to nobody. I was going to keep playing. I started
palling around with Brad, Troyzan and Michaela. I think it was very clear that
I wasn't just going to sit around and be cool. I knew I was on the rocks and in
a tenuous alliance. So, sure. Makes sense to vote me out.
Did you feel it coming? Was it a
Here's the thing: Sierra Dawn Thomas
threw in the towel. She wanted to go. She was done, after the Debbie vote. She
was tired, she was hungry, and ready to go. That six, led by Debbie, that voted
out Ozzy, was so snooty and huffy and walking around like they had it all
locked down. Sierra was someone who had wielded power earlier in the game, and
I think it made sense that we would want to come for her. I thought that was
the plan for that vote. We were going to vote for Sierra, and we told Brad,
Tai, Troyzan and Sierra to vote for whoever they want. It's what I told Brad
and Troy: "Vote for whoever you want. I would recommend Sierra or Tai. And
then it's the three of us, the three amigos, until the end." I remember
thinking Brad and Troy weren't lying to me, so they're not involved in any
alternate plan. Sarah has always been my ride-or-die and has always told me the
truth, and she's my lynchpin, so either I'm voting with her, or she's voting me
out. And that's it. I got to a point where managing my emotions was the most
important thing I could do. You just have to let go at some point. At a certain
point, you go, "It's either Sierra Dawn Thomas tonight, or it's me. And if
it's me, I'm going to get my torch, I'm going to tell them to keep fighting,
and I'm going to go get drunk." I was really running on fumes. I made it
to Day 29. I don't know if I had ten more days in me. I don't know if I had three
more days in me. I was running pretty low.
In its own way, then, was it a
relief to get voted out?
It was a bit of a bummer, because I
felt I was so good with Troy and Brad, and it was the first time in the merge
where I saw a glimpse of light. Enough people are mad at me. I think I made a
good case to Brad and Troy. I think they'll trust me over the girls. It was the
first time I thought maybe, just maybe, there was a way to get to the
end. That was a little disappointing. But in many ways, it was good that I
wasn't out there anymore.
At what point did you realize who
had voted you out?
At Tribal, Brad and Troy looked very
shocked, so I believed they weren't part of it. What confused me was that
Michaela was crying. We were never particularly close; I always tried to be as
nice to her as possible in both seasons we played, but I never thought Michaela
really liked me. But when Probst started reading the votes, I saw my name and
knew it was me, and Michaela was crying. I didn't know it was because she was
sad that she voted me out. It confused me.
Did you feel personally betrayed by
Sarah, your closest ally, since she helped to vote you out?
I didn't. We were very close out
there. You see it in the Varner Tribal, when she says what she had to say.
Sometimes, you meet people out on Survivor and they have an impact on
your soul. I remember after the Ozzy vote, when Sarah left me out of the vote,
that I pulled her aside. I had told her earlier we would be in the final two no
matter what, and at this point, I told her, "Sarah, do not lose a million
dollars because you're trying to protect me. You are released from whatever
deal we have. Don't think I'm going to hold it against you."
You pulled a Rafe!
I did, but look. I love Sarah
as a person, and she's smart enough to not feel beholden to me by any means.
But I wanted her to know. "Let me go. It's fine."
After you're voted out, you're
sent to Ponderosa as the fourth member of the jury. What were those final days
of the season like for you?
It started pretty wildly, because I
was voted out the day before the loved ones visit, and my father was in Fiji.
Ozzy told me that night that I was going to see my father the next day. The
next morning, I woke up and was taken to a different resort in Fiji and my
father and I were given a bungalow and an open bar tab and a day to spend with
each other. It was an infinitely better loved one visit than you normally get
on the show!
And for those who don't remember,
you and your father connected very powerfully during the loved ones visit on
your first season.
Yes. My dad called me his hero. He
never said anything like that to me, ever before. My dad did not know what had
happened, and so I told him. He was really upset at Varner, and was very glad that
I was okay. It was great to spend the day together in Fiji. We ran up that bar
tab. And then I went back to Ponderosa. I think I had two very unique Ponderosa
experiences, because the first time, I had to make an immediate decision on
whether or not to return [for Game Changers] and I stayed in game mode
and started working out and figuring out what to do next. And this time? You
And I have to say, I don't know what
I would have done without Ozzy. He was such a great dude at Ponderosa. We were
roommates. He didn't ask a lot of questions. He didn't want to talk a lot. He
was just there. We watched Game of Thrones together. It was great.
There's something I can't talk about on record, but it really made Ozzy shine
in my eyes. He was my quiet buddy who was there and made sure I wasn't alone
and made sure I felt like I had a friend. It's so insane. Cook Islands was
the very first season of Survivor that I watched. [It was also Ozzy's
first season as a competitor.] I was gaga over him. The fact that I not only
got to play with him, but that he became a friend and became instrumental in my
Survivor time... it feels pretty special.
You applied for Survivor because
you loved the show. As you mentioned, you competed in Survivor simulations
in Brooklyn. You went out for your first season, and did well enough to get the
call back for the very next season, in which this life-changing incident
occurs. Where are you with Survivor now, as a fan?
I would never have chosen this to be
my Survivor experience. In fact, if you would have told me that this is
the Survivor experience I would have had — if I could peek into the
future — I wouldn't have done it. I wouldn't think I was capable of doing it.
But what Survivor strengthened in me was resiliency and adaptability.
Those muscles grew quite strong, so that when I did encounter something that I
did not want to encounter, I knew I had it within me to turn something dark
into something very positive. Although I wouldn't wish what happened on anyone,
I am very proud of the man that Survivor forged. Without Survivor,
none of this happens. I'm not the guy who responds the way I did at that
Tribal. I'm certainly not the guy who can stand pretty tall today. As
complicated as it is, I will forever be grateful to Survivor for turning
me into the person that I am today.
Your story transcended Survivor.
It became international news. There are very likely eyes on this interview from
people who have never watched an episode, or have no idea that this show is
even still on. With an opportunity to address those people, why is Survivor still
relevant and resilient, 34 seasons into its run?
It begins and ends with the
storytelling. There's a great integrity to the storytelling. The people who
create this show are truly incredible, to a person. There are maybe one or two
people who are not spectacular and are part of the Survivor team, and I
could tell you who those one or two people are because they stand out so sorely
— not on the record. (Laughs) The cameramen, the sound guys, everyone,
and led by one of the greatest leaders I have ever witnessed in Jeff Probst. I
did not think that highly of him before I met him, and now, I'm in awe of that
dude. Survivor is a reality show and goofy stuff does happen, but it's
an experience that calls out to people. The idea that you go out there and test
yourself and do the hardest thing you can do aside from going to war or
weathering a terminal illness or something along those lines, it speaks to the
best part of you. It can speak to the worst part of you as well, but for
the most part, Survivor brings out the best in people, and that's what
you get to see. You see people finding their best selves, and you see that
experience being put in the hands of amazing storytellers who get to bring that
experience to the world.
So, when are you going back out
there for round three? Season thirty-seven? Season thirty-eight? Season
Who can say! I'm excited to embark
on new adventures because of the worlds Survivor has opened up for me.
Who knows if another romp in the sand is in the cards.
You're not closed off to it?
Not anytime soon. But who knows.
What's next for you?
I have a few irons in the fire, and
a few passions. I have always been a queer history nerd. The people I have met
over the past few months, and the worlds I have been introduced to, remind me
how excited I am by figures in the LGBT world that are badasses and you would
not think they're badasses. There are so many great figures in LGBT history who
were not recognized in their time, because this movement has happened so fast
and so quickly. I think a lot of young LGBT people are not as connected to our
history, and I think it's really cool. If I can help connect them to that
history, and give people who are so instrumental in making it a chance to speak
before it's too late? That's what I would really like to do next.
05/11/17 01:10 PM
‘Survivor’ Castaway Sierra: ‘I Feel Like I Was Cheated on by
a Long-Term Boyfriend’
Gordon Holmes: Oh, Sierra… Sierra Dawn Thomas: (Laughs) I’m so mad at myself,
trust me. It still eats me alive. I let myself down. And watching it
again was just salt on an open wound. Literally, watching it, I feel
like I was cheated on by a long-term boyfriend. It’s a weird feeling. I
was trying so hard this season and for a moment I slipped up.Holmes: You didn’t mean to tell Sarah about the legacy advantage?Thomas: I didn’t mean to tell anyone. Her and I were
having this conversation and she was crying to me about home. It was
weird. And all this word vomit came out. And you see me regretting it as
I’m saying it. I see the true fear in my eyes that I shouldn’t be
saying it.Holmes: “Survivor” is a game. You had an advantage, she
tricked you, now she has an advantage. So, do you sit there and think,
“Good move”? Or, did she go too personal with the “love” talk?Thomas: I hate to say it, but it got a little too
personal. Seeing my dad brought out all those emotions and I lost where I
was in the game. I let my emotions get the best of me.
Holmes: Speaking of, your dad is adorable. Thomas: Isn’t he the sweetest thing ever? I do not deserve that man. He is so kind and loving.Holmes: He said he was so proud of you because you were facing such strong competition. Was that a shot at Dan Foley?Thomas: (Laughs) I don’t think so! (Laughs) That’s
funny. I think he was just saying that all of these people who’ve played
three or four times and here’s his little girl playing with them. He
was just super proud of me.Holmes: How tall is he?Thomas: I think he’s like 6’3, 6’4.Holmes: They grow those Thomases big.Thomas: My uncle is seven feet. We’re a tall bunch over here.
Holmes: How confident were you that last night’s vote was going to go your way and Andrea was going home? Thomas: Probably 50/50…maybe even a little more
confident. What was scary is when I said the people who talked to me
today, that’s who I’m voting with. Cirie didn’t say one word to me,
Andrea didn’t. I knew they were going to be writing my name down. But, I
thought I had the other half of them.Holmes: When did you learn that Sarah had voted for you?Thomas: At Ponderosa.
Holmes: Earlier you had said you that wanted your final three to be Debbie and Sarah. Where does Brad fit into that? Thomas: Ooo…it was either Sarah or Brad. But I always wanted to go to the end with Miss Debbie.
Holmes: You voted for Tai last week, and he saved you during the Malcolm vote…which I’m still mad about. Thomas: (Laughs) I’m sorry.Holmes: Too late for that, Thomas.Thomas: (Laughs) That’s funny.Holmes: Was last week’s vote a pure, as-long-as-it’s-not-me situation or were you not that close with Tai?Thomas: It was survival mode. You want me to prove I’ll
do whatever you say? I’ll vote for Tai and put a little heart above my I
so you know it’s me. I was trying to make it another day.
Holmes: Is it frustrating to know that Troyzan had an idol and could have bailed you guys out and taken the numbers back? Thomas: 100%! I feel like the best idol plays are when
you play them for someone else. It gives you a better case in the end. I
gave this to this person. And he could have easily changed the numbers.
Knowing that he has that makes me sick because I was close with him. We
could’ve taken over the game.
Holmes: It had to feel good to be the last Sierra/Ciera standing. Thomas: That was on my mind. Just making it as far as I
did, I got to see my dad. There were a million things I was grateful
for. But, that’s one I pat myself on the back for.
Holmes: Zeke thought nobody wanted to take him to the end
after the Varner incident because he’d have a story to tell the jury.
Was it that, were people afraid of his game play? He certainly wasn’t
afraid to make moves. Thomas: Zeke is an amazing “Survivor” player as far as
being knowledgeable and strategic. He’s very personable. So, I think
taking Zeke to the end, there are a million reasons why he could have
won. He’s great at challenges. He’s great at puzzles. He’s great with
Holmes: Last night you alluded that Michaela was prone to
losing her cool. We saw a little of that after she lost the reward
challenge, but we haven’t seen much of it. What was she doing that we
didn’t see that gave people that impression of her? Thomas: She’s a funny girl. When she’s in a good mood,
you want to be around her. But, when she gets frustrated, she really
struggles…especially on “Survivor,” you can’t fly off the handle.
Everybody is watching all the time. And it was a daily thing where there
was a moment where if things didn’t go her way or she was hungry, or
tired, or irritable, she couldn’t control her emotions and would act
Holmes: We’re going to try something new here. I’ll give you
the name of someone on your tribe and you give me a couple of words
about them. Thomas: (Laughs)Holmes: It’s brand new. Let’s start with Aubry.Thomas: Nerdy, but I love her.Holmes: Zeke?Thomas: Strong.Holmes: Brad?Thomas: My BFF.Holmes: Cirie?Thomas: Sneaky.Holmes: Ozzy?Thomas: Provider.Holmes: Troyzan?Thomas: (Laughs) Green monster.Holmes: Debbie?Thomas: My girl.Holmes: Andrea?Thomas: Gorgeous.Holmes: Sarah?Thomas: Scary.Holmes: Caleb?Thomas: (Laughs) I might regret this, but wannabe Beast Mode Cowboy.Holmes: JT?Thomas: My man! I love JT.Holmes: Hali?Thomas: Could never get on the same page.Holmes: Michaela?Thomas: Funny. She’s witty and funny.Holmes: Let’s finish with Tai.Thomas: Very loving.
Holmes: You are the fourth person to bring up Troyzan’s…gifts. Thomas: (Laughs)Holmes: I have a theory that you and your Game Changing
buddies are punking me and trying to get me to ask him about it during
his exit interview.Thomas: (Laughs)Holmes: I have news for you; unless he trips on it during an immunity challenge, it’s not going to happen.Thomas: (Laughs) That’s amazing. It is what it is. When
you think of Troyzan’s…it’s just the green monster. I feel like it’s in
my face right now…just the greenness.Holmes: This is a family site, Sierra.Thomas: I’m sorry!
Holmes: Now, I love me some Sierra Dawn Thomas, but I did not
think you were a Game Changer when I first saw the cast list. Having
said that, I’m ready to give you the Kelley Wentworth – Didn’t Do Much
Her First Season and Came Back and Kicked Butt Her Second Time Award. Thomas: Thank you! I have a very big smile on my face.
That means a lot. I wasn’t super proud of my first season. And when I
got the call to go back, I was where you were. I thought, “I don’t
deserve to go back there.” But if you give me this opportunity, I’m
going to give it everything I have. I’m going to do things that make me
uncomfortable. I kept reminding myself, “You’re out here and you’re
going to have to do big things so you can have a case at the end of the
game.” I was taking chances. I’m proud of myself. I’m a little upset
about what happened with Sarah, but I am proud of myself.Holmes: Before the game I asked if your Worlds Apart
buddies had given you any advice. In the future, you should be the one
giving advice.Thomas: (Laughs) I love that! I’m going to hang that over their heads forever.
05/12/17 12:04 AM
05/12/17 12:28 AM
05/12/17 11:07 AM
05/12/17 11:22 AM
Italo wrote:Brad fucked Sierra (and still), I think she voted for him but I'm not sure. We'll see.
Andrea, Michaela, Zeke and Hali are locks for Lacina. She'll likely get Cirie and Aubry
Ozzy and Debbie are locks for Brad. He'll liekly get Tai.
05/12/17 12:30 PM
05/12/17 05:22 PM
SurvivorfanNinja wrote:Hello LilyBae.
Literally did nothing and being voted out at 13th place.
Telling she has a legacy advantage and then being backstabbed by the assassin yet still gullibly giving the legacy advantage to the assassin.
Are these what you considered players?
05/12/17 06:18 PM
05/12/17 07:13 PM
05/12/17 07:45 PM
05/13/17 12:48 AM
05/13/17 01:33 AM
05/13/17 03:14 AM
iiAlexa wrote:The edit told us that Sierra is the biggest player in the game that screwed herself over and was taken down, how is that not a player edit? What more do YOU need to know?
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