They didn’t win Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, but they’re happy Ben Driebergen did. SheKnows talked with the four finalists on the red carpet about their thoughts on Ben taking the $1 million prize. Plus, we squeaked in a few extra questions about the game with each of them, too. Enjoy!
Chrissy Hofbeck (runner-up)
On truly not knowing who was going to win before the final votes were revealed:
We genuinely had no idea who was going to win. Jeff gives us a little talk beforehand and says, “We want to keep the integrity of this game. Jury, don’t tell your votes. Finalists, don’t ask your votes.” We all respected that request. Coming in, I did feel it was between Ben and I. Ben and I, we both played awesome games. They were very different games. It just depended on which game spoke to each jury member. Ben and I even tried to count the votes up as to who got what, but we had no idea. It was OK. I felt that I played a great game. He felt he played a great game. It always works out.
As I watched the show and saw all of Ben’s personal content about being a veteran, winning the money for his family and sending his kid to college, as I saw that I kind of felt like it was going to go his way. He got so much personal content. Ryan and I did not.
Her reaction to watching Ben win the fire-making challenge:
My look of surprise, horror, sadness actually wasn’t that Ben was winning. It was that my heart was breaking for Devon. Devon got the short straw that he had to even be in that and that twist even existed. When I saw him trying to make the fire, my heart was breaking for him. Here’s the thing: you come into this game and you honestly fall in love with all of these people. I was just in love with all of these people. I just saw Devon’s heart breaking as he was doing that. That was the hard part for me. At the end of the day, Ben and I had this very complex relationship since the beginning. He’s awesome. I don’t know. It’s all fine.
Her thoughts on Ben finding all those hidden Idols and why they didn’t follow him around:
Some of it, I think, was the edit. I don’t think that Ben was necessarily off all day and we were laying in the shelter all day. It was hard to keep track of people all the time. In my case, sometimes I didn’t want to be running around after Ben because I might have had Immunity and figured I’m safe. When you’re only getting a half a cup of rice a day, sometimes you don’t want to. I don’t know. It is what is. We all made a million mistakes. Should we have followed Ben around? I don’t know. I personally didn’t need any of those Idols because I had Immunity every time. I’m not beating myself up over it. Ben is wonderful. The guy had a knack for being a magnet to Idols.
On losing her job to be on Survivor:
I lost my job for this. That, too, was a gift. I came back from the experience. Now I’m just really enjoying the time with my kids. My kids are big. I have a kid in college and two in high school. I don’t have much time left with them. So, it’s really nice now to be doing the mom thing again and driving them around to their sports and going to all of their sports, helping them with their homework and all the things I didn’t necessarily have time for.
Ryan Ulrich (third place)
On Ben winning the game:
Ben is a phenomenal winner. Ben could go toe to toe with any Survivor player that has ever played the game. He’s so likable. He’s so social. He’s so smart. He’s good in challenges. In team challenges, he really carried a lot of those wins. Ben’s a great Survivor player, but he’s an even better guy. People recognize that. I recognized it. I think everybody at home watching can see it, too. I love Ben. I love him like a brother. Me and Ben are buddies for life.
Why he had no faith the jury would vote for him to win:
That was over back in May. First of all, the fire challenge was not beneficial to me whatsoever. Chrissy won the Immunity, so she gets to put Ben on the jury. Devon had to make the fire, so he gets to put Ben on the jury [had he won] and I’m being taken to the end. I think Jeff used that exact phrasing. I was like, “Dang. That is not looking good on me.” Even though I built the bonds on Devon and Chrissy. That was rough. I think I’m well-spoken, and I thought I could appeal to the jury. Hiding the plate from Joe with the clue, they didn’t know about. I don’t think they knew about the super Idol specifically, so I had moves. I swung Devon back over. I knew Ben won. That was the theme. You go to the end with Ben, you were not going to win Survivor. Anybody who goes to the end with Ben, not just me and Chrissy, you’re gonna lose. That’s what happened.
Why final Tribal Council was such a tough night for him:
It was three and half hours. What was seen? Like eight minutes? I think it’s a better format for people to pitch their case, but at the end of the day, people don’t change their votes. People go in set wanting to vote for somebody and then they vote for them. You saw just how that happened. Desi opened by saying I didn’t really have a shot. Desi had been out of the game for 19 days. Come on. Do you know everything that happened? You were in the minority alliance along with Joe and Cole. It was a tough night. I think people on the jury still wanted credit for things. It’s tough when you’re trying to get credit and the jury is like, “No. That was my move.” I would’ve had a shot without Ben in the finals.
Why he believed his argument to win the game was actually the strongest of the final three:
I think Ben played better strategically. I think Chrissy, obviously, played better physically. I do think I made better arguments to win than them. People told me when we got to Ponderosa that I won that final Tribal. Between me and Chrissy, it got heated in the final Tribal. Heated. They didn’t show that. Ben was saying I would talk about iced coffee. It never really got personal, though. When you want something so bad and you get to the end and you’re like, “Here’s my shot.” Then someone says, “Nobody’s really thinking about voting for you.” Tough night.
On the item he wants to get from the show:
The coolest thing I probably have are the instructions to the Idol. That’s in a frame. Because Devon voted for me, I kind of want that vote. You voted for me to win Survivor.
On his passion for turtlenecks:
I’m in law school, and a lot of people wear turtlenecks. Do I wear turtlenecks every day of my life? No. But if I’m dressing up or put my best outfit on, for better or worse, it’s a turtleneck.
Devon Pinto (fourth place)
On Ben winning the game:
The right person won. Ben deserves the million. I’m super happy for him and his family.
Why he voted for Ryan to win:
I started the game with Ryan. We were buddies since day one. We just have a connection, and I just had to vote for him. I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for him. I knew it was a long shot that he’d win because I had a feeling Ben would win. I just wanted to put my vote down for my guy, Ryan.
His thoughts on whether or not the fire-making twist was fair:
It might not have been fair, but Survivor is not a fair game. Life isn’t a fair game, either. There’s lots of shit that happens in life that I think is totally unfair and I would like to change, but there’s only so much one can do.
I knew as soon as Ben got a flame I was pretty much done. Once you have that flame, that’s all you need. It’s not hard to build a big fire once you have a flame. The hard part is getting that initial flame. I didn’t give up. I kept striking that flint as hard as I could to get a flame. It didn’t end up happening, but I didn’t give up and I’m proud of that. We were probably doing it five minutes before Ben started his fire. He’s a great fire maker. He’s a great outdoorsman. The better man won.
How he got on the show:
I applied with my mom. My grandpa filmed it. I would’ve loved to have gone on with her, but it ended up just being me. My mom was just as stoked for me. Hopefully we’ll get to play together in the future.
Mike Zahalsky (fifth place)
On Ben winning the game:
I think Ben is one of the best players of all time. He is a legend. He deserves this all. He’s a great role model. He’s fantastic. I also think Chrissy is fantastic. She orchestrated getting out so many of the biggest competitors in this game, so good for her.
Why he voted for Chrissy to win:
If you equate finding an Idol to winning Immunity, Chrissy had four and Ben had three. If you look at their social games, Chrissy was on the top with Ben, goes to the bottom, and then makes her way back to the top. Ben has a great story; I’m super proud he won. In retrospect, maybe I would’ve voted for Ben. At the time, I think Chrissy played an incredible game. They are both fantastic Survivor players. Yes, Ben got the upper hand on me with all of those Idol finds, but I was looking. Yes, there’s a lot of laying around in the shelter, but people would attest I never laid in the shelter. I would be looking for the Idol nonstop. Ben found them all first.
His plan to win the game:
I played a great social game. You need to earn the respect of the jury members. At the same time, I had three Healers on the jury. I knew I was getting three votes. We had such a tight bond from the first nine days of the show because we never lost. There was never any stress. We all loved each other. It was like the Soko beach party. To put me in front of them, all I needed to get was one more vote. Lauren was gonna be that vote. If I was there with Chrissy and Ryan, which I thought I was going to be, I would’ve had Lauren’s vote and I think I probably would’ve had Ben’s vote. If I would’ve been there with Ben [in the final three], I don’t know if I would’ve won. I would love to say I would’ve because of three Healers on the jury, but it would’ve been harder.
I just never gave up. I had what I called Jeff Probst rules of Survivor. Wake up every morning and say hello. Just be nice to everybody and use justifiable ethics. That’s what could’ve flipped the tide. People knew I was real and genuine.
What it’s like to be recognized by fans:
Yes, I get approached lots of times every day, and it’s awesome. I love it. I say to my wife that I want a better penis-to-picture ratio. Meaning, I see lots of penises every day [as a urologist] and a lot of people take pictures with me. I would like more pictures being taken and less penises being seen. That’s why they call me Dr. Nuts [laughs].
What his kids think of him being on the show:
It’s actually very funny because my kids are all fans of the show. It’s the perfect family show; we all watch together. My son, who is 11, and my 8-year-old daughter just love it. My 14-year-old acts like she’s embarrassed, but I know she loves it, too. All of her friends love it. I’ve picked them up from parties and what they make me do is call Cole or Ben on FaceTime and they freak out. My daughter loves everybody else on Survivor except me.