Adam Klein’s Survivor story is one of the most emotional we’ve ever seen. He tearfully revealed throughout the season that his mother was back at home battling stage-4 lung cancer. Even worse? He was stuck on an island with no outside information about his mom’s health until his brother arrived for a family visit late in the game. Sadly, Adam’s mother died within one hour of him returning home. In our one-on-one red carpet interview, Adam discussed the unique situation CBS gave him that essentially allowed his mom to know how well he was doing in the competition. He also explained why he knew all along the jury had voted for him to win and revealed behind-the-scenes details about his biggest move in the game.
SheKnows: I am so happy you won the $1 million. I argued throughout the season in my coverage that you were the most deserving player to win it all.
Adam Klein: Thank you. I really appreciate it. There were few people who had that kind of faith in me throughout the entire season, so I definitely appreciate that.
SK: You mentioned in the reunion show that you told your mom shortly before she died that you won. Did you really know you had won or was it just hope?
AK: I felt very confident about my chances as soon as Dave was voted out of the game. I went into Tribal Council thinking I was going to win, knowing that I was going to be able to articulate exactly why I made the moves that I made and the reasons why I wanted those two sitting with me at the end. I left that Tribal Council feeling even more confident. By the time I went home, enough of the jury members had told me they voted for me. I knew I had won.
SK: Had you been up against David at the final Tribal Council, what would your argument have been to win jury votes?
AK: There is no situation where Dave and I are in the final three together. I would have never gone there with him. It was always going to be either vote me out or vote him out. There was no other way. I told him that to his face because I didn’t want him to be able to run to somebody else and say, “Well, Adam’s trying to get you out.” I wanted to be able to say to Hannah and Ken, “I want to go to the end with you. I’ve always trusted you. The only name I will be writing down is Dave’s.” At the final four Tribal Council, Dave actually whispered over to me and said, “If you want to make the final three vote Hannah.” I said out loud to everybody what he had just told me and I said, “I’m not doing it!” If I go to the end with Dave, I lose the game. I had been saying that enough out loud, that if that situation would ever come true, perception is reality. If that was my own perception, what kind of winning argument would I possibly have at the final Tribal Council if I’ve been saying for a week that this guy would beat all of us?
SK: What were your thoughts going into that final four Tribal Council against Dave?
AK: Dave and I had two different strategies going into that Tribal Council. My strategy was to say to Ken, “You made a final-three deal with me and Hannah and Dave, so we’re equal at this point. You might as well break your word to the person who will certainly take the money away from you and your family. I’m here for my family. You’re here for your family. If you want a shot at this, then we need to vote this guy out.” Dave’s strategy was the right strategy for Dave. Dave’s strategy was relying totally on Ken’s loyalty. That’s what he was appealing to. That was the right call for him because it was clear enough that Dave would win at final Tribal Council to the rest of us that it would’ve been a little bit worthless for him to try to make the argument that I was a bigger threat than he was. So, instead, he went with the correct strategy, I think, of appealing to Ken’s loyalty.
SK: Is there one move in the game that you think was the tipping point toward your victory?
AK: I don’t know that it’s one move in particular, but there are definitely a number of moves that I made in the game that put me in the position where I had a strong chance. Voting out Figgy set the course for the rest of the season. What you didn’t see on the show, actually, was at that Immunity Challenge, Will, Michaela and Jay turned to me from Ikabula and they said very emphatically, “Vote Figgy.” So I had this opportunity to align myself with some Gen-Xers, show them that I was willing to work with them and do the bidding of some of these other Millennials so I would have options going into the merge. I put myself in the best possible position to be in a majority. Going into the merge, I felt like I had a very strong six-person alliance, which was me, Hannah, Zeke, Jessica, Ken and Dave. Me and Jessica were in the middle. Jessica was by far my closest ally, which we didn’t see much of on the show. As soon as we were able to get rid of Michelle and then Taylor after that, our six is now the majority in this group. The only hiccup there was that Dave and Zeke needed to turn on each other too soon. That could’ve cost me the game.
SK: A big part of your story is that of your mom and her diagnosis with stage-4 lung cancer. It was information you shared with the audience throughout the season, but kept a secret from almost everybody in the game until the final Tribal Council. Going into the game, did you plan on revealing that story?
AK: I thought there may be a time where I would want to or have to share that information. Going in, my plan was absolutely to not discuss it with the rest of the cast. In my pre-game interviews, I said the reason why is because having a sympathy story like that is a perceived threat, but it’s not a real advantage. I absolutely believe, and I think you can confirm it with any of the jury members, I did not win because of the story that I shared at the end of Tribal Council. I already had the votes by the time I revealed it. It was the close of that story for me on the season. Now, it’s going to be even worse in future seasons where people are gonna think people win because of these kinds of stories. People vote for the person they think played the best game or the person they had the closest relationship with. I think I had both of those things with members of the jury.
SK: You went from having the highest high at that final Tribal Council to the lowest low shortly after when your mother passed away just one hour after you returned home.
AK: All I wanted to do was get home and see my family. I had absolutely no idea what I was coming home to. Neither did my family. My mom had been at such a high when I was gone. She recorded videos for me as I said at the reunion, and watching those videos, you see she was gaining strength throughout the time. Because they did stop treatment, my mom did not want to pull me from the game. That was not an option for her. [CBS] made the decision that if I were voted out of the game, whether I was on the jury or not, I would have gone home immediately. So [my family] got to play along. My mom knew whether or not I was in the game because I wasn’t coming home yet. I don’t know that any family gets to follow the story like my mom got to follow. The whole idea of going out there, the whole reason for going out there is so I could watch Survivor with my mom. It didn’t happen like I anticipated it would have with us watching together on the couch. But I absolutely believe she didn’t just watch it, she lived it every day alongside me. I felt her energy with me all of the time. She was there, and I think she’s here tonight.
SK: In those recorded videos she made, is there any message she left behind for you that you’re willing to share?
AK: The thing I would want people to know about what she was saying, and she said it over and over again in 11 different videos, but the theme of all of them was, “I am doing great. This is such a joy for me. Every day that we go by that I know you’re getting closer to the end gives me so much strength and hope.” She focused her energy throughout each day on sending that good energy to me. It’s so crazy. She started to decline the same day that final Tribal Council ended. When she knew the game was over, and she had given me every ounce of strength that she had, she started to let go. But she waited for me to physically be there with her. No one realized it. I believe that I brought her the joy that I intended to do.
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