‘Survivor’ Castaway Shirin – “I’ve Offered to Donate $100 for Every Act of Misogyny”

"Survivor: Worlds Apart" (CBS)

Quick Note: We’re going to be bringing you all kinds of “Survivor” fun this season including episode recaps, exit interviews, and Power Rankings with Josh Canfield and Reed Kelly. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute news and info.

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Usually my "Survivor" exit interviews take place over the phone in my office at the Comcast Center. This one took place in the waiting room of an Intensive Care Unit.

Quick Aside: Before we get too far into this, the procedure was a huge success. High fives!

My mother, my uncle, and I were the only ones in the room so the interview wouldn't be bothering anyone else. And hearing from the recently booted player would take our minds off of the serious situation at hand.

As the interview went on, more and more families started to pour into the waiting room. And before I knew it, this little interview had turned into something of a live podcast.

When we finished up, everyone had questions about the show. They wanted to know how real it was, where the contestants went to the bathroom, why this guy Will was such a jerk to this nice woman. And from there, conversations continued with people saying how they'd play the game.

And while I think the one guy’s strategy of “hiding in the woods” probably wouldn’t pan out for him, it’s nice to think that “Survivor” could be a welcome diversion for him and for everyone else on what must’ve been a stressful day.

See…”Survivor” is awesome.

Fortunately, Shirin agrees with me. After the verbal abuse she suffered at the hands of Jay Leno's favorite karaoke artist, she's still high on the reality hit.

When life gives you bologna skin, you make bologna skin-ade.

Shirin Oskooi: Gordoooooooon!
Gordon Holmes: Whoa…holy cow.
Oskooi: Homie G!
Holmes: I love that enthusiasm.
Oskooi: Let’s do this. Come at me, bro.

Holmes: Alright, you're in a supermarket somewhere. Maybe you're picking out some produce or something. And then Bon Jovi's hit "Living on a Prayer" comes on over the loud speakers. How do you react?
Oskooi: (Laughs) I sing along. I sing along louder, and more obnoxiously…with so much enthusiasm and love in my heart, because I’m living on a prayer.
Holmes: We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got.
Oskooi: (Laughs) Because we’re only half way there.
Holmes: I’m proud of you for not letting your island experience ruin that amazing song.
Oskooi: You can’t. Honestly, I don’t even know if we should get into this. But when the Will attack happened, all of the people who were in camp who were watching and were complicit in what was going down with the way I was being treated, they’re all incredibly religious people, including Will himself…I didn’t grow up Christian. I’m not religious. The reason Will always loathed me…he claimed that I didn’t have a soul. I don’t know what that means. I don’t know where that came from. I’m guessing there might’ve been some kind of religious tint to that. So after it all happened, my knee-jerk reaction was to look at Christianity. Did religion do this to me? But then I remember, no…Mike Holloway exists and Mike Holloway is a man of God. It’s his faith that made him step in for me. You can’t take these outliers and make them make you think ugly things. You’ve got to look for the positive. When you make yourself smile, if you eradicate the hate in your heart, then life is so much better. So, I’m not deeply religious,  but I love Christianity and Christians, I love Mike Holloway.

Holmes: Someone like Jenn would say that you're annoying. Which isn't a great thing to hear about yourself, but it's such a far cry from something as malicious as "This person doesn't have a soul." What didn't we see that led to such an escalation?
Oskooi: So, back at the tribe swap, it was clear that Will didn’t like me. He wouldn’t make eye contact with me. He’d rarely talk to me. So, I pulled him aside a couple of times and said, “Hey, I get the feeling that you don’t really like me. Can we work through it?” And he’d say, “No, it’s all in your head, baby girl. You’ve got to get that out of your head.” But once the merge happened he tried to blame his flip on me. He was trying to say that I flipped and not him. He was calling into question my integrity and telling people not to trust me. That’s when he’d say things like, “You can’t trust her because she doesn’t have a soul.” And so, it started to emerge that he loathed me because I don’t have a soul. And he never explained it further than that.
Holmes: Well, this is coming from a guy who thought he could make sandwiches out of ocean water.
Oskooi: (Laughs) They never got those sandwiches. I was never a part of the sandwich deal, but I can assure you Jenn was very upset that she never got those sandwiches.
Holmes: The argument was so weird and baseless. You have no family, you have no friends. That’s clearly not the case. Does that make it better that the world is on your side or does seeing again just bring you back to that place?
Oskooi: I can’t lie.
Holmes: Don’t lie to me. We’re better than that.
Oskooi: (Laughs)
Holmes: The game is over. Time for healing.
Oskooi: It was rough. I’ve been anxious for the last seven months leading up to this episode. It was a horrible thing to live through and watching it again…I knew I had to relive it. But, when I watched it I watched it with Mike and Jenn and Sierra and Hali. I was surrounded by so much love and support.  We all cried together and laughed. This brought us closer together. Nothing can break up the Ladies Couch. It was a weight lifted. I thought CBS and “Survivor”  handled it very well with the editing. And people are having the right reactions. We don’t want to focus on the ugly and the negative. We’re trying to make this a positive. We’re raising awareness with a “Raise Your Hand” campaign against bullying and abuse. I’ve offered to donate $100 for every act of misogyny on this entire season.
Holmes: You’re going to go broke.
Oskooi: I’m going to go broke. I’m donating to the National Network to End Domestic Violence. And the response has been so positive. That’s amazing! Let’s do this, right?! Even if I go broke, it’s worth it.
Holmes: Agreed. And when I spoke to Jenn she said it was a crime all three of you were guilty of. You, her, and Mike…but he focused on you. Why would he do that unless it was socially acceptable to pick on you? That’s Bullying 101.
Oskooi: He told Jenn…a couple of people actually…that, “I don’t speak to women that way, but she’s not a woman.”
Holmes: Anybody who saw you running around half-naked knows you’re a woman.
Oskooi: (Laughs) Tyler was there! He should’ve jumped in and said, “Yeah, she’s a woman.”

Holmes: Were Dan and Sierra your best bets to make a move last night?
Oskooi: Unfortunately, Dan just is…his judgment is clouded by his personal feelings for people. He just disliked me so much that he was never going to vote with me, even if it was strategically sound to do so. Which it clearly was. We know he’s on the bottom. And with Sierra it was a matter that she needed to know that someone was going to come with us. She wouldn’t come alone.

Holmes: What about Carolyn?
Oskooi: I worked really hard on her. She was out there hustling. She’s playing a really understated, but stellar game. She’s got that idol. She’s always in the majority. Even with this Axis of Evil thing, Tyler’s kind of on the outside of that. It was supposed to be Will, Rodney, Carolyn, and Kelly. Carolyn is always in control of her destiny and she’s determined to get to the end.
Holmes: What was your pitch to her?
Oskooi: You’re going to go to the end with these people, but you’re not going to beat them. No Collar people didn’t like her that much. The people who like Carolyn who would vote for her to win are the Axis of Evil. They’re her friends in the game. Those are the people she should be putting on the jury. She should be sitting next to me because they’re the ones who don’t like me. I genuinely believe when I was voted out that Carolyn lost the game and Sierra lost the game and even possibly Dan. I don’t know if they can win with the people remaining because Mike, Tyler, and Rodney are such big threats. And it’s unfortunate because the only people left that I want to win are Mike, Sierra, and Carolyn…in that order.

Holmes: Tyler unearthed Dan's voting advantage last night. Had that spread around the camp while you were there?
Oskooi: At that point he had just shared it with Carolyn.

Holmes: Alright, we typically would do a word association exercise at this point. But, your Dirty 30 buddies are trying to mess with my happiness and are coming up with their answers in advance. Did you plan ahead?
Oskooi: I have planned ahead. I have a word for every single person on this season. Even people I didn’t play with. So, I want you to name everybody.
Holmes: I’m starting to hate the Dirty 30.
Oskooi: You love me so much! You are Team Shirin!
Holmes: I am, but I’m also Team Word Association.
Oskooi: And now you have to be Team Mike.
Holmes: Alright, you want everybody?
Oskooi: Everybody.
Holmes: In order…let’s start with So.
Oskooi: Pansy Parkinson.
Holmes: Vince?
Oskooi: Professor Trelawney.
Holmes: OK, I see where this is going. Nina?
Oskooi: Percy Weasley.
Holmes: Lindsey?
Oskooi: Sirius Black.
Holmes: Max?
Oskooi: Somewhere between Dumbledore and Grindelwald.
Holmes: Joaquin?
Oskooi: Draco Malfoy.
Holmes: Kelly?
Oskooi: Katie Bell.
Holmes: Hali?
Oskooi: Luna Lovegood.
Holmes: (Laughs) Joe?
Oskooi: Cedric Diggory.
Holmes: Jenn?
Oskooi: Fred Weasley.
Holmes: Do you have one for yourself?
Oskooi: Hermoine.
Holmes: Alright, let’s hit who’s left. Mike?
Oskooi: Harry Potter.
Holmes: Sierra?
Oskooi: Seamus Finnigan.
Holmes: Carolyn?
Oskooi: Narcissa Malfoy.
Holmes: Tyler?
Oskooi: Lucius Malfoy.
Holmes: Dan?
Oskooi: Wormtail who’s spent his whole life thinking he’s Gilderoy Lockhart.
Holmes: (Laughs) Rodney?
Oskooi: Voldemort.
Holmes: And we’ll finish with your buddy Will.
Oskooi: Horcrux.

Holmes: I have a theory that people in the game like Rodney a lot more than people watching him on TV. What was your relationship with Rodney like?
Oskooi: He really is kind of how he appears on TV.  He’s a Boston bad boy. He’s whining a lot. He’s pretentious and reactive and explosive. But, he’s also comic relief. He’s the only person on the evil side who brings levity to the game and puts smiles on our faces with impressions. Rodney’s impressions I could listen to for days and days. And what you’re not seeing is that everybody wants to go to the end with Rodney and Will. They’re underestimating the power of humor in that swamp of (expletive deleted).
Holmes: Let’s not get too into this. But, I feel like your Jenns and Joes and Halis enjoy the guy and he could take it against the right competition.
Oskooi: A lot of people aren’t seeing that. Rodney’s a young, funny guy. The people on the jury are young dudes and dudettes who could support a funny guy. And the other thing is; he’s reactive and explosive, but he’s not vicious. He’s been kind to me on a number of occasions. He’s rarely proactively mean the way the others are. And that goes a long way.

Holmes: When a super fan goes on "Survivor," there's always the risk of hating something you used to love. Where are you with "Survivor" now?
Oskooi: I still absolutely love “Survivor.” I think it’s one of the greatest shows ever on television. I’m so grateful to be a part of the experience even though I had to go through some hardships. Those hardships did lead to some of the best moments of my life. Mike running in to save me, that was the first time anyone had ever stood up for me, let alone in a situation like that. For that to happen, I would take that attack over and over again just to relive Mike saving me.
Holmes: My mom already has a crush on Mike. You’re just making it worse.
Oskooi: That crush is valid!

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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