Her elimination is still a head-scratcher. Mari Takahashi went from being an early fan-favorite to surprisingly becoming the second person voted off Survivor: Millennials Vs. Gen-X. Although filming wrapped in Fiji months ago, Mari tells us in our one-on-one interview that she’s still upset about her tribemates blindsiding her. Plus, she reveals which castaway she harbors the most saltiness toward.
SheKnows: It was such a disappointment to watch you get voted out of the game so early. Based on first impressions, I figured you would go really deep.
Mari Takahashi: You and the rest of the internet, man. You and the rest of the Reddit-ers. I usually don’t go on Reddit because I’m afraid of it. I was like, “Oh, man, people are going to be talking crap about me.” But one night I went and looked at it. There are so many people who thought I was gonna go to the end. I’m so humbled by that. I’m just sorry that I disappointed, man.
SK: But you didn’t really disappoint anybody because you didn’t know it was coming. What was going through your mind when you were eliminated?
MT: Nobody walks into Tribal comfortable. At the same time, we were kind of distracted by the fact that we were at the legendary Tribal Council that we’ve seen on television so many times. Did that knock me off kilter? Was I soft? I don’t know. There’s a huge maybe in my mind because going up to it I thought the votes were solid [against Figgy] and if it was gonna go another way I sure as hell did not think it was my name being thrown out there because I never heard about it all day. During Tribal, we all know the side conversation was happening [between Michelle, Jay and Hannah]. I should’ve questioned it and been aggressive and asked what they were talking about. I think I sat back and was polite rather than going aggro. That was bad game play on my part, and I do blame myself for that as much as people say I can’t blame myself for not seeing it coming.
SK: You couldn’t hear anything they were talking about before blindsiding you?
MT: No. The whispers were good. We all have mics on, so I guess it’s picked up by them. I wish I had tipped the sound guy like $5 before to give me a signal if he heard anything. That would’ve been awesome. They were on the other side of Tribal, and it’s interesting because it’s done in a way that you really have to lean in in order to see the other people. I didn’t see it coming. I felt like I got sniped.
SK: When your torch was snuffed out you said one word: “Salty.” How do you feel today?
MT: Salty. I’m still salty, dude. Salty is a word that is often used on the internet or gaming scene if you lose in a way it was cheesy, salty is what you say. I think it’s really funny I said it because I don’t think I even consciously knew what I was saying, which is pretty much what I would do in real life with a real game. I figured I just have to make it a thing now because it’s funny I said it.
SK: Do you have any hard feelings or do you respect the move they made in taking you out?
MT: It’s a little bit of both. If I remove myself enough from the emotions of the game, then I can absolutely say this was a smart move. Including Hannah who switched at the very last minute. It’s important to remember Hannah’s vote was not the catalyst for me going home. That was not the reason. She was just another vote in a number of votes that was already going one way. From that perspective, she made the right move. She found out during Tribal Council where the votes were going and she voted with the majority to keep herself safe. In that sense, I think it was smart. I can respect that. If salt-queen Mari with her emotions gets in the way, I’m still asking why. Of course, I’m upset but I try to be the removed Mari more than the other.
SK: You say it was smart for Hannah to switch, but was it really? Just days earlier she was plotting with you to take out the “cool kids” like Taylor and Figgy, but she suddenly swaps her strategy and votes with them. Is that strong play considering that she’s now turned to a group of people who down the line may not care she’s even there?
MT: I think it is smart for the short-term because that evening she knows she’s not on the bottom. Long-term she has to know she’s at the bottom.
SK: Is Michelle the sole reason Figgy was spared?
MT: Yes. Michelle gets all the credit. Figgy is like the one banging all the pots and pans making a lot of noise, but Michelle is the one cooking the dinner. Does that make any sense? Michelle really got the ball rolling in a way which was sly and a good game move. Of course I’m not happy about that, but it was a good game move and I have to respect her for that. Within their four-person alliance [Jay, Taylor, Figgy and Michelle], she knew that Figgy’s name was on the chopping block. So if Figgy goes home, the next person in that particular alliance has to be Michelle. There’s no way the tribe is gonna take their two strongest physical players out of the game this early, and that would be Jay and Taylor. She really needed to keep Figgy to save herself, and that’s a great move on her part.
SK: Are there any hard feelings toward the people who voted you off?
MT: I go back and forth. If I’m able to remove myself from it, I know it was a great game play. At the end of the day, I like them as people. But yeah, there are hard feelings. Like I said, I’m still salty and I don’t think that’s really gonna go away. That’s not like me saying I hate these people. Salty is just the best word to describe it. There’s a bitter taste in my mouth, and I want to play again. I almost wish it would be the same people, but I get a replay.
SK: Is there anybody in particular you’re most salty with still to this day?
MT: I’d say the popular kids. That’s probably me projecting high school Mari asking why they can’t let everyone into their group. I think I’m the most salty with Figgy because she was so outspoken about her love connection with Taylor. She was basically running our tribe. She was very much loud and out there, yet she didn’t see the consequences of all those actions. Instead, it was me that went home and I am salty about that.
SK: Do you think Taylor and Figgy have a future together?
MT: I don’t know. We’ll have to see.
SK: If you could vote for a winner right now out of all the remaining players, who do you think is most deserving at this point?
MT: I gotta go with the charmers. I think David and Zeke are really charming, and they’re not seen as direct threats. I think those are always the most dangerous ones. I could watch their confessionals all day. Give me an uncut version of all their confessionals.
SK: How does somebody like you, a well-known video gamer, end up on Survivor?
MT: How did a ballerina become a video game player? Honestly, I don’t know. All of my life is extremely random. Usually a video game player doesn’t climb Kilimanjaro, and a ballerina doesn’t jump out of airplanes or do stunt training. I feel like it’s a hodge podge of random things that are probably all related to being very inspired by Lara Croft and Tomb Raider at a young age.
SK: So did you seek out Survivor? Did you apply?
MT: I didn’t seek it out on my own. I was recruited by the casting people who casted my friends Joslyn and Erin on the last season of The Amazing Race. So they found me through their social network and I was pulled in. In that sense, I like to say I was training for Survivor my whole life and I didn’t even know it.