Andrew Savage: It was emotional to see. It just reopened those gaping wounds from the blindside. For me, it was emotional because I'm watching it with my wife and kids. I kind of forewarned them [laughs] that it was gonna be a tough night. Having them visually see the pain in my eyes, they can read me like a book. It was tough. It was very emotional.
SK: When Kelley played her hidden Immunity Idol, did you know your time was up?
AS: What went through my mind when I glared over at Jeremy was, "Sorry, dude, you're going home." I thought, "I'm the old guy, right? He's a young guy, super fit and a great athlete." I thought, "This is not gonna end well for him." Then I also thought back to last Tribal when Ciera wrote my name down. I thought, "Maybe Ciera is coming after me," and that's what happened. My first thought was, "No, don't take out my brother, Jeremy."
SK: When you were officially snuffed out of the game, you gave Abi-Maria the middle finger when she made a comment about you making the jury. Any regrets with your reaction, especially after seeing comments from fans?
AS: The reaction from fans was understandable. I'm not proud of that moment. I don't defend it. It's something that in real life I wouldn't do. I would ask that folks keep in context that I waited 12 years for my second chance. I gave it everything I possibly had. I just got blindsided. It was extremely raw and I had my heart ripped out. In that situation, when I get a very snide, snickering comment from Abi-Maria who just voted me out that "at least you made the jury," it hurt. It hurt badly. My natural reaction is exactly what you saw. Was it appropriate? Was it proper? No. Would I do it again? No, I wouldn't. I'm human just like anyone else and it was very raw.
SK: Fan reaction toward you has been strong, with many being very rough and critical of you this season. The first time you played in Season 7, social media was non-existent. What is it like experiencing fan reaction of this magnitude that isn't entirely polite.
AS: To be honest, it's painful. I try to stay off social media. As you said, 12 years ago none of it existed. It was a very easy road then. You have to take the good with the bad. There's enormous support for me out there, and yes, there are a lot of naysayers and that's OK. My daughters said something that was very interesting to me. They said, "Daddy, if they're not talking about you, then you're not relevant. If people are criticizing you, at least you're relevant. At least you're doing things that got their attention." There are a lot of haters out there and that's OK if they disagree with what I did. I would say to them that it was my second chance and I did everything I could. I poured my heart and soul into the game. They can disagree with what I did, but I gave it everything I had. I teach my girls this: You do your best in every single situation. That's what I did. If you disagree with what I did, that's OK. I'm just saying I am who I am and I did what I could.
AS: [Laughs] They were like, "Daddy, really? You actually said that?" It was a true story. My older daughter, who is almost 18, a couple seconds later said, "You know what, Daddy? That's how I feel about Joe and I'm happy to tell the world." My little one, who is 15, just agreed with it. They're both incredible young ladies. They stood by their story [regarding Joe]. It's a true story and they're proud of it.
SK: You also had an attraction toward Joe as far as alliances were concerned. What was it about him that made you feel so connected?
AS: Joe is a big-hearted, noble, courageous guy. He's a great athlete. I play sand volleyball and I have for years. What I've found in the guys and ladies that I play volleyball with is there's just a certain element to those folks. There's a real loyalty and courage with those folks and I learned through research that Joe is a dedicated sand volleyball player, as well. I was thinking of getting to know him if we got on the same tribe because, drawing on my experiences with friends that I play sand volleyball with, they're just great people. They are honest, hard-working, great athletes and never quit under any circumstances. That set my expectations for Joe. When I met him, he made fire, he was building shelter and doing old-school Survivor stuff. It just rang true to me that, yes, this is the Joe that I thought he was. This is the kind of guy I want to go through Survivor with because we have each other's back. Same with Tash. She's similar. She is this incredible athlete and loyal and courageous and just a blast to be around. She's very uplifting. That is why I stuck with Joe, Tash and Jeremy.
SK: What was your final three plan? Who did you want to go to the end of the game with?
AS: I never had a final three; I had a final four. We just didn't get to that stage. In my mind, the final four was Jeremy, Joe, me and Tash locked and loaded. At that point, I was thinking let the best person win... I wanted to be up against the best of the best and that's who I was looking to go to the finals with.
AS: It was tougher the first time 12 years ago. I kind of let myself down with the Outcast twist. I didn't do everything I could to overcome that obstacle. It was a horrible twist I didn't agree with. I didn't do a lot with it. There were a few things I probably could've done and I didn't. Watching myself go the first time was very painful. I let myself down. This time, I just gave it everything I had. I did everything that I could and they escaped because we didn't split the votes with Ciera and Wentworth. We should've done that for sure. But it was much tougher the first time.
SK: Why didn't you guys split the vote instead of landsliding Kelley?
AS: It was actually really simple. We split the votes at the last Tribal Council between Kass and Ciera. It was exhausting because it took us a couple hours for us to strategize and figure out how to split the votes with who in the majority alliance was going to vote for who. We were making sure that we locked it up. Splitting the votes is very risky. We talked briefly about splitting the votes. It was exhausting to do that. At the time, one of my toes was ravaged by a poisonous spider. It was quite infected and I wasn't feeling well. You don't see that on the show, but that's OK. I didn't have the mental energy to spend two hours trying to split the votes. Nobody did. We honestly didn't know that Idols were in play. Wentworth and Jeremy were the only two Idols and they didn't share that. Me, Joe and Tash were looking for Idols every time. We would scour looking for clues, but nothing. We didn't think Idols were in play at that time. We thought Wentworth wouldn't expect to be voted because Ciera had votes last Tribal. We chose to vote up Wentworth and take her out. Next Tribal probably would've been Fishbach. I wanted Fishbach out and so did Joe at the last Tribal. Jeremy made a good case to take out Wentworth because she's a physical threat. Abi and Ciera are never gonna win Immunity. Wentworth has that capability, so let's take her out and then take out Fishbach in the next Tribal. [Laughs] What a horrible plan that was, but that was the thinking.
SK: Let's go back to Lill. Have you and Lill had any conversation since you played 12 years ago?
AS: [Laughs] No, we haven't spoken since the live finale 12 years ago. We hadn't even spoken at the finale. Our families were in the same elevator going up to our hotel and she said something to me and I said something to her. That was it. We have not spoken [laughs].
AS: I would actually hash things out, let bygones be bygones. It's 12 years ago. She did what she had to do. It's part of the game. I absolutely, totally forgive her. I don't harbor any ill will toward Lill whatsoever. Actually, in the game I had great respect for Lill. I didn't want to vote her out the first time. It was my alliance that wanted to. Lill had an incredible work ethic. They never showed it, but I was fighting for Lill. Regardless, we can be friends now for sure.
SK: Of the remaining castaways left in the game, who do you think is the least deserving of being there?
AS: [Long pause] I'm old-school Survivor. That's just who I am. When folks raise their hand to volunteer to sit out of challenges, I don't understand that unless they're physically ill. I look at who is performing in challenges and playing a strategic game. Of course, it's going to be Ciera [who doesn't deserve to be there]. I don't think she's playing a great strategic game. She keeps calling us out at Tribal to "play the game." In reality, we're playing the game better than her because we're on top and she's on the bottom. It was driving her crazy, so she played the only hand she had, which was to try and create some rifts with folks who had a solid alliance. It's a big play, but it fell on deaf ears. I would say Ciera. I would say Abi [is also undeserving]. She was a powder keg early in the game, but she's more behind the scenes now. She's not great in challenges. I like Abi. She's a friend, but I would say those two.
AS: I had the time of my life. You don't see a lot of it, but I was smiling a lot. I did have a bit of a tough go with the two tribe swaps and being on the bottom. I tell folks it was three times harder than Pearl Islands. That kicked my butt, while Cambodia was absolutely three times harder. I loved that. That's why we play Survivor. For the challenge. It was, for me, the adventure of a lifetime and then some. I had the time of my life. Would I do it again? Time will tell. I honestly don't think they'll ask again. If they do, I'd have to talk to my wife and kids. It was very difficult to leave my wife and kids this time. My daughters are older and more aware. They were 3 and 5 when I played 12 years ago. I am getting older. I'm 52. Survivor is very mentally and physically demanding, which can be very dangerous. I'd love to play again, but it would have to be the right situation.
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