QUICK NOTE: XFINITY.com is the place to be for all of your bug-eatin’, back-stabbin’, “Survivor” coverage. Follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.
Gordon Holmes: Ryan, how did you know on day one when you gifted an idol to Chrissy that she was going to become this generation’s Colby Donaldson?
Ryan Ulrich: (Laughs) You know, I thought she’d be good at puzzles. But she might be the best puzzle solver in “Survivor” history. I knew she’d be a strong player, but I wasn’t expecting her to break records.
Holmes: Chrissy, you’ve entered rarified challenge air.
Chrissy Hofbeck: I love doing puzzles. I’ve been doing puzzles my entire life. So, in that respect I was very well prepared for this game.
Holmes: This season was odd in that the original concept for this show is you have this society, and then every three days, for whatever reason, you vote someone off. The majority of votes were going toward Ben for four consecutive Tribals and he still stuck around. Now, you were all dealt the same hand, but was it frustrating that you couldn't make it happen?
Hofbeck: First of all, that’s the game we signed up to play. I do feel like the idols were a little too easy to find. They were planted in particular places, but I don’t want to take away from Ben’s game because Ben played an awesome game. It was certainly an interesting season and an unexpected way for it to turn out. I was shown in the edit several times saying, “Nobody’s going to find that many idols.” I don’t think any of us thought an idol was going to be put out at final five. But, that’s the game. And we’ve seen historically that twists have been introduced. As an actuary I’m supposed to think of all of the things that can happen. And I didn’t think there would be a fire-making challenge at final four. Did I think someone could wake up and find an idol after 15 seconds of hunting? No.
Ulrich: To echo what Chrissy said, even that final five idol, Ben found that within seconds. Me and Mike went right to the raft. We joke about it. We went to the raft that day and still weren’t able to find it. I think all of our games were reduced to “Let’s get Ben out. We’ve got to get Ben out.” When that doesn’t happen four times in a row, it ultimately becomes a bad reflection on your game. For a whole week you tried to do something and you just couldn’t do it. I think when that happens, and we end up sitting next to Ben, he had the biggest target on his back and he ended up in the same place that you did. He persevered. I think, as a fan, that there has to be a round where we can vote for the person that we want to vote for if they don’t win immunity. That round used to be final four. But now you can play idols every consecutive round, then the fire challenge is there too. I don’t think anyone will be able to do what Ben did again. Ben played an amazing game. The luckiest players are the ones that are working the hardest. And he went out every day and hunted for those idols. So, my hats off to him.
Holmes: The jury only got to hear about Chrissy's immunity wins. They got to witness Ben's idol plays. Do you think that made a difference?
Ulrich: Oh yeah. When the jury is seeing something tangibly…the jury loves seeing that. I think Joe was blowing kisses one time and clapping when Ben was playing idols. So, I think if Ben gets to the end, Joe’s definitely going to vote for him.
Holmes: Wait a minute, you’re telling me Joe was making a big scene? I don’t believe it.
Ulrich: Yeah, that might have just been the edit. Maybe the kisses were for me.
Hofbeck: I totally agree with Ryan. I think that when you ask what’s more important to a jury, the jury sees the idol play and it becomes what’s ingrained in their brain. I won four challenges, that’s a record. The next youngest person to do that was 20 years younger than me. But, the jury doesn’t see that. So, it could potentially become less important.
Holmes: Devon played a very low-key, solid game. How would you two have beaten him at final three if he'd won that fire challenge?
Ulrich: If he wins that fire challenge, that’s a huge leg up. What are you doing in front of the jury? To send Ben to the jury would be huge. I don’t like it in the sense that the immunity challenge was so hard and for Chrissy to pull it off is a big deal. So, Chrissy should get the credit for putting Ben on the jury. But now, it’s going to be Devon who put Ben on the jury. It takes credit away from Chrissy, and then what did I do? I really don’t know what would’ve happened if Devon had won.
Hofbeck: I do think I would have won the game if I had gone to the end with Devon and Ryan. I don’t think I would have swept the game because Devon and Ryan both had great social games. I think Devon would have had problems because he was playing the surfer bro. And he was a master at that. I could not believe when I was watching the season back. His confessionals were great. He was playing the surfer bro, but he was a mastermind. I think he’d have a tough time convincing the jury that he wasn’t a surfer bro. And let’s not discount Lauren’s moves. She was incredible. I think Devon would have had to take credit for some of Lauren’s moves and that could have rubbed her the wrong way. But Devon absolutely belongs in the final three. I was heartbroken for him. That final advantage, was not an advantage.
Holmes: Chrissy, I sensed some negative sentiment toward you from some of the early exit press. But, it seemed like the jury had nothing but respect for your gameplay. Did you sense that you were rubbing people the wrong way and then you course corrected? Why was there that difference?
Hofbeck: No, I think I was more well liked than the exit interviews let on. Shortly after those exits were coming out, I had a number of people in the cast call me and I also reached out to some people, I think some people in the cast were surprised by the exits. And I also think Roark got a raw end of the deal too. I was told by some other people in the cast, that it was a story that was thoughtfully crafted to remove any and all blame from people who potentially wanted to play again, extend their fifteen minutes. I think it’s human nature to want to blame someone else. But, I don’t think while the game was going on that that existed. Apparently that was a story that was crafted afterwards by recruits. I feel like in the game of “Survivor” nobody has ever come up with a strategy to vote only based on demographics. And so to assume that someone was voting based on demographics does a disservice to the game and does a disservice to me. It was hurtful to me, but there were so many flaws in the argument. And I think the better podcasters and “Survivor” reporters, including yourself, Gordon, could realize that there was something off on that.
Holmes: Ryan, you're not used to camping…I hate to use the word "helpless," but that's what it seemed like. But everyone adores you because you're likable, non-threatening, and hilarious. But, behind the scenes you're a secret genius. Are you worried you've ruined that game for others going forward?
Ulrich: Yeah, my fear going in was the last full season we saw was “Millennials vs. Gen-X.” David, Adam, Zeke, Will, Hannah…they all made it deep. So now a good social player who isn’t good at challenges or around camp, they’re just going to get voted off really early. I felt like that might’ve been me. It’s tough. Even out there, players on seasons remind you of former players. Joe accused Mike of being that David character. He was gunning for him from second one. I may have ruined that for future players. So, when you get to camp, you should know how to cook rice.
Holmes: And start a fire, apparently.
Ulrich: (Laughs) Yes. Or don’t be able to and the winner will take you to the end.
Holmes: Probst finally revealed how a final Tribal tie would be broken. The finalist with the least amount of votes would cast the final vote. If that had happened last night, who would you have voted for.
Ulrich and Hofbeck: (Silence)
Hofbeck: I don’t think either one of us wants to go first.
Ulrich: Ugh…I don’t know. I think we both would’ve voted for Ben to win. (Laughs) What do you think Chrissy?
Hofbeck: Yeah, if there was a tie between Ryan and Ben, I have to admit that I would’ve voted for Ben. I just think he made more moves.
Ulrich: How did he get there?! He’s still sitting there!
Holmes: I told him he was lucky I wasn’t there, because I would’ve lashed him to my arm or to a tree or something.
Hofbeck: It’d have to be the latter. Even if you’re following Ben, if he finds the idol, it’s still his idol. So, you’d have to tie him to a tree.
Holmes: But Chrissy, I know you’re not above tackling Cole to get an idol.
Hofbeck: (Laughs) That is true! And that was one of the best moments of the season. That was such a fun moment.
Holmes: Didn’t you try to choke him out with his buff?
Hofbeck: I did! What happened was, he started digging and I was digging, so I’m screaming for JP because I needed help. But Cole is twice my size, so I jumped on his back and pulled his buff over his eyes. That was my best move at the time. Then Devon and Ben jumped in and it was a big rumble.
Holmes: You should not be proud of trying to choke out poor Cole!
Hofbeck: (Laughs) C’mon! That’s such a big move by the grandma of the game.
Holmes: Thanks so much for your time, I know you’re super busy.
Hofbeck: One last thing, thank you for making me your winner pick in your Power Rankings with Aubry. I’m sorry I couldn’t pull it out for you.
Holmes: I was pulling for you last night. Sorry, Ryan.
Ulrich: Well, Aubry picked me. So, we both let you down.
Holmes: What the hell, guys?
Ulrich: How are we not doing word association?
Holmes: It’s too hard and takes too long with two people.