Type keyword(s) to search


Survivor's Eliza Orlins on Whether Carolyn Made a Brilliant or Terrible Move

Plus why this season's tribe swap was BS, and why a man needs to get voted out next.
  • Eliza Orlins on Survivor (Photo: CBS)
    Eliza Orlins on Survivor (Photo: CBS)

    Every week, Primetimer is following up the latest Survivor episode with some post-game analysis by a different Survivor alum. This week's episode provided a lot to talk about. The tribes were shaken up after the reward challenge, when three players were swapped to new tribes (and given short-term immunity). Carolyn used some red sticks around camp to fool Sarah into finding a fake immunity idol. Josh tried to lie to his new tribe that he was not a surgical podiatrist but was in fact a lowly personal trainer. And Carolyn got sick of feeling like the decoy vote while waiting for Yam Yam to say "bye, Felicia" to her, so she threw in with Josh and voted Sarah out of the Tika tribe, making four consecutive women voted out to start the season, for the second straight season.

    To make sense of all of this, we reached out to Survivor: Vanuatu and Survivor: Micronesia alum Eliza Orlins. In addition to being the show's reigning reaction-shot queen, Eliza remains an enduring fan favorite thanks to her assessment of an obviously fake immunity idol as merely a "f*cking stick." Surely, in a week when Carolyn used multiple sticks to augment her own fake immunity idol, Eliza was the natural choice for a post-episode Q&A.

    What do you make of Carolyn now, after four episodes, and specifically after this Tribal Council where she seemed to be making her big move? Do you agree with the move that she made, and is she maybe a more strategic player than we've given her credit for?

    No. No, she's fully unhinged, and I love her, but she's totally unhinged. This was not strategy. I mean, you can argue with the people in your alliance, they can piss you off, and you can fight with them, but to abandon them for someone you've known for a matter of a couple of hours when you are not on the outs makes absolutely no sense strategically. And it just shows what a total loose cannon she is.

    I'm glad she's keeping track of certain ways that she's being perceived on her tribe. I think that's probably smart. But I think making a move like this is probably way too early, to throw your lot in with Josh, who you don't really know.

    And Josh who seems to — I mean, granted, he lucked out here — but Josh does not seem to be the most perceptive player so far this season. Whatever the opposite of having your finger on the pulse [is], that's Josh.

    Carolyn seemed to have gotten twigged by the prospect of being made the decoy vote. She's the one who they were going to tell Josh to vote for even though they were all going to vote for Josh. In your experience on Survivor, is that something that's worth being concerned about? It doesn't sound like anybody ever wants to be the decoy, but how much should you be on guard against that when you're on a tribe?

    Well, I feel like I was multiple times being, not necessarily the decoy, but I was the person who was also receiving votes. It's never a good thing when you know votes are coming your way, so the paranoia is real. The fear is real. And when it's on a tribe of so few people, it's even more dangerous because then it just takes one person to flip and you're the one going home. Especially if everyone else in the tribe knows that you're the "decoy." So I fully understand the paranoia there and the desire not to constantly be the decoy vote. But if you're trying to convince a person not to play an idol and make them feel comfortable, then I do think it makes sense to have this loose-cannon-type person be the decoy.

    I want to go back earlier in the episode with Carolyn, when we saw her hiding the fake immunity idol. I was so glad to be talking to you this week, because she literally used sticks as part of her ruse, so I can ask you about something that was, in this case, a f*cking pair of sticks. Do we hold it against Sarah that she bought that? That she believed that the "X" marking the spot was real, or is that too janky for you to have believed?

    Well, because of the birdcage, because of all these other things that production has done, I think that Sarah was well within her rights to believe that that was real. Now it's like production is trying so hard to concoct another "it's a f*cking stick" moment, and they're failing violently, because they're just putting out all these idols that actually do seem as though they're real idols. They're wrapped with real notes. It almost just makes it unfun. It's like production is just trying to embarrass people.

    Poor Sarah in her exit [interview] was beating herself up for not having played this. I'm sitting there going, "God, they just wanted to embarrass her!" Like, to what end? To what end? It's kind of my big issue, you know, I had never seen a fake idol played when I played the stick, because we were out in Micronesia while Survivor: China was airing. I thought I was the first person ever to play a fake idol. I knew it was fake, because it was a f*cking stick, and so playing it didn't feel like this embarrassing shameful thing, because I thought it was going to be very clear that I knew it was fake. But I had the ability to deduce that from [the information] given [to me on the island]. Whereas when it's wrapped in the real [parchment], next to the birdcage, and everything is a part of what now production is giving you, it just kind of cheapens it, and it makes it feel confusing and embarrassing for the players. And I like this cast, it's an excellent cast. They're smart, they're fun to watch — let them play! And I don't fault Sarah at all.

    Josh gets swapped to the Tika tribe and decides to lie about his profession. He's a surgical podiatrist, but he lies that he's a professional trainer to downplay his threat level. We've seen a few people this season lie about their background, and obviously in previous seasons, too. I always wonder about the downside, which is if you can't sell the lie, you just look like a liar.

    I agree completely. It's so funny, because I tell people this all the time, with regards to practicing law or social media or anything you do in life, all people want to see from you is authenticity. They want to feel as though you are genuine, as though you are being honest with them, as though they can trust and believe you. What did he even say? He said "physical trainer"? That's not even the term. "Personal trainer" or "physical therapist"! He mixed up two things, he did a terrible job selling it, and now everybody thinks he's a liar because he is a liar! Maybe he could've said "I'm a nurse," or "I'm a physician's assistant at a podiatry office." Downplay the thing, but don't try to change it completely, because it's just not believable.

    In your experience on Survivor, do contestants look at what others do for a living and determine "I can trust that person" or "I can't trust that person" based on what they do?

    I don't think that that was ever a major theme on either of my seasons, but I do think that in terms of people saying, "Oh, this person needs the money, this person doesn't need the money," people talked about that [near] the end of the game.

    What do you think about the way that this particular swap was designed? I don't think we've ever seen a swap done this way. Are you happy that we're back to swaps? And how do you feel about the way that this particular swap was carried out?

    First of all, this swap in particular was such bullsh*t. I mean, it's outrageous to have a swap where only one person is swapping. That's not a swap. I guess technically, but it's not a swap! I think that there have been other swaps that have been incredibly lopsided outcomes, but that's also really unfun. I think the real way to do a swap — and it exposes alliances and tells people where they stand — is, even though I was picked last, is a schoolyard pick. It's the only fair way to do a swap.

    Who are you most impressed by this season?

    I'm just really enjoying this season generally and really having fun watching these players and seeing how they interact with each other and how they're playing. I love the out-of-the-box thinking of — I mean, I know she's not around anymore — but I'm obsessed with Claire, and I love how she utilized the sit-out bench [to strategize with other tribe's players] in a way that has never been done before. The fact that we're 44 seasons in, and we're seeing new things is really cool. It's just an enjoyable season. I think a lot of them are playing good games. I feel like Danny is playing a good game. I think Frannie and Matt despite being a little too close to each other I think are playing a solid game. I think Yam Yam is playing a good game.

    Who would you like to see get voted out next?

    Literally any man! I don't care who! I don't even care if it's my favorite man. Any man on this season.

    Give it a shot, Season 44, you might like it. Is there anything else you wanna mention about this episode or season?

    I guess we've already touched on the gender bias [issue]. I think [the show] has done a really good job since they made the diversity promise of casting more contestants of color. I think we've all many times called out the impact of race on Survivor. And I think gender needs to be right up there with it, and how these these sexist ideals set women up to fail in the game.

    If you even look at, for example, Jeff Probst's pre-season assessments of the players, I think somebody else has collected this data, and I don't have the exact numbers, but when he talks [to the press before the seasons start filming] about the players who have the potential to win and the players he sees as not being able to win, it's almost always men he sees as winners and women he sees as losers. That pervading sexism definitely bleeds into the show, and the bias is pretty tangible to the contestants. And he's the executive producer now, he needs to take ownership of this. I think Shireen said it best in Worlds Apart, "We keep the team strong, and there's no 'vagina' in 'team.'

    This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8:00 PM ET on CBS. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Survivor, Eliza Orlins, Jeff Probst