Michelle Schubert was a force to be reckoned with, which is why she was an easy person to target on Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X. She had her finger on the pulse of the game, but suddenly found herself on the bad side of the vote after letting her guard down. During our one-on-one interview with Schubert, she explains what went wrong and reveals who she believes is the strongest contender to win the game. Schubert also dishes on the fast path she took to get on the show.
SheKnows: You were clearly blindsided as the votes started falling against you. What was going through your mind at that moment?
Michelle Schubert: The merge happened, and I immediately was playing the game. I found some rifts in the Gen-Xers. I was starting to rally some votes against Chris, but wasn’t pulling the trigger on it yet. You don’t want to do that too soon. You do that when you need to after losing an Immunity Challenge. I had started to rally some things, build some trust and make some alliances. Then, my closest alliances, Jay and Will, pulled me aside and said, “You need to lie low. Trust us. You need to lie low because Michaela was telling Bret and Sunday that you control the game and you’re a strategic threat. You just need to stop for now. Just prove them wrong this first vote and everything will be fine. It will take the target off your back.” I did. In my brain, it seemed logical. My gut said, ‘Don’t do it.’ What that actually ended up doing was isolating me from everyone. This is a game. If you’re not strategizing with me, you’re strategizing with someone else. When my name came up, I think people thought a few things. They were pretty dang sure I didn’t have an Immunity Idol and I wasn’t really talking to people lately. I think those were the determining factors. I did have a lot of clues during the day. People were talking to me less and less. At Tribal Council, I actually started to get inklings. I almost asked Jay for his Idol at Tribal Council. You have to be pretty sure to do that, and I wasn’t that sure because I didn’t want to out him as having an Idol for no reason. I wasn’t sure I would be able to convince him it was necessary. I think he would’ve done it, absolutely, had he known the imminence of my death in the game. I don’t know if I could’ve convinced him because it was such a gut feeling based on reading between the lines of people talking at Tribal Council.
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SK: So the clues you received throughout the day weren’t enough of a gut feeling to trump your alliance logic. Is that a fair assumption?
MS: Correct. At this point in the game, I was very sleep-deprived. I would love to just blame that. I couldn’t even do basic math. I remember trying to add single digits that day on the beach while trying to add up votes. I couldn’t do it. Those aren’t big numbers. There was only 13 people out there. It’s not surprising to me that my decision-making was also suffering. You also want to trust your alliance and listen to what they say. This was the only vote that I didn’t control the relational aspect of. I wasn’t the one looking people in the eye while we were strategizing. I wasn’t the one feeling out the situation of it was really going to go how we want it. I didn’t have any part in that at all. I just sat back and kept to my alliance. Just tell me who to vote for.
SK: Was this really the first time you took a step back to let the game play around you?
MS: It was. That was my fatal mistake. That is the one thing I would do differently. There’s so many things you could say. What if we didn’t vote off Mari? Would there be less people against you? Would that make a smaller target? At the end of the day, none of those things, like Figgy going home, none of those things were the death sentence. I was my own executioner there. I made a terrible misjudgment and decided to sit back for one vote. I shouldn’t have done that. I should have been able to swing my way through any situation, especially this one.
SK: Being somebody who was a strategic player, how badly does it sting for you to think somebody like Taylor is still alive in the competition when he doesn’t even seem to care?
MS: [Laughs.] Oh, man. I mean, that’s kind of how the game goes with a lot of these votes. Wasn’t Mari more of a gamer? Nowadays, the threats don’t make it to the end. Of course there’s exceptions to everything, but a lot of times the biggest threats, biggest strategy players, are the ones getting sent home. It’s not painful to see that. In fact, I love Taylor. I’m glad he’s still in the game.
SK: But does he deserve to win?
MS: [Laughs.] That is a different question. That is a different question right there. Everybody has a slightly different rubric of how they’re grading the other players. My rubric: I want to see strategy play. I want to see what did you manipulate in the game. How did you pull votes together and switch votes around? How did you use the relationships you made to your own advantage? I didn’t see Taylor doing that. In my rubric, I don’t think I would vote for Taylor in the end depending on who he’s sitting next to. Unless it was a vote for just who do I like and want to hang out with, but of course that’s different.
SK: At this point, which player do you see meeting your rubric? Who do you believe is the best castaway left in the game?
MS: I would say Jay. I got to see how good of a liar Jay was pre-swap and post-merge. I also got to hear about the move he pulled against Michaela. He was an interesting player. He was good at challenges. He was good at survival. He was the one catching crabs by hand. He had a lot of things going for him. Plus, he was strategic. He was pulling things together and pulling people together that you wouldn’t expect. I think he’s a huge threat.
SK: What was your end-game plan? Who did you want sitting next to you at the final Tribal Council?
MS: This might surprise you, but I didn’t really care. I was confident enough in my game that I was willing to go with just about anyone. My game play consisted of who would not vote against me. I’m going to keep them by me and get rid of the rest. I feel like it would’ve ended up with something like me, Jay and maybe Taylor. I don’t know. It didn’t have to go that way. I didn’t have all my eggs in one basket by any means. Actually, at final five or so, I probably would’ve started looking to see if I could beat Jay. I think that would’ve come into play later, but at this point, I wanted just to keep my closest people close.
SK: How did you get picked to be on the show?
MS: A co-worker turned to me a little over a year ago and said, “Michelle, have you ever thought about being on Survivor? I think you should apply.” He connected me with some of the right people. Within a week or so, I got calls from the directors. It was kind of history from there. Simply, I think it had a lot to do with my Facebook presence and maybe the wow-factor from my social media presence.
SK: Were you a fan of the show before becoming a castaway?
MS: Yes, but totally different than a lot of other people. I had not watched TV in about 10 years or more. I’m not really a movie person, either. I just wasn’t somebody that watches stuff. I listen to things. I listen to podcasts. I read books. My brother is a huge Survivor fan. He and his wife would come over and say, “Michelle, you’ve got to watch this episode.” So, I had seen it. Once I applied, I ended up watching 16 seasons start to finish; just binge-watching and loving it. I loved every aspect of it. The challenges are fun. The idea is cool. You’re out there to make friends, but you can’t win by being best friends or worst enemies with anyone. It had this weird, very unique dichotomy to the game play. I think that’s what drew me to it. That’s why I liked it a lot.
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