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I don’t wonder what it’d be like to be Chandler Bing trying to come up with hilarious quips when I watch “Friends.” And I don’t wonder what it’d be like to flambé my handmade gnocchi* when I watch “Top Chef.” But, I try to figure out how I’d react to every situation when I watch “Survivor.”
I’d want to be someone who’s strong in challenges but not overwhelming. I’d want to be someone who never causes a stir around camp. I’d want to be someone who always keeps his emotions in check.
I’d want to be Aras Baskauskas.
I spoke with my “Survivor” role model the day after his elimination and had a chance to ask about being stabbed in the back by Gervase, the plan he never got a chance to implement, and his recent engagement…
*I have no idea if it’s even possible to flambé gnocchi.
Gordon Holmes: Congratulations on your engagement, sir.
Aras Baskauskas: Thank you very much.
Holmes: Kat was worried that Hayden was going to dump her because she didn’t make it to the merge. Did you propose because you were worried your fiancé wouldn’t want to marry the first member of the jury?
Baskauskas: My engagement was a direct result of Kat’s fear of not making the merge. (Laughs) No, no that had nothing to do with it.
Holmes: You don’t want to take any chances with a moment that big.
Baskauskas: (Laughs) Exactly. But, the engagement was certainly a direct result of my experience on “Survivor.” I will say that. It puts everything in perspective when you’re out there. I came back and couldn’t wait to see her.
Holmes: You’re out there for two months or so, you’re thinking, “I don’t want to go another day without this woman.” Then you get home and pop the question.
Baskauskas: Yeah. One of the beautiful things about “Survivor” is it makes you appreciate the things you have back home.
Holmes: Both you and Vytas seemed very confident before you were voted out. Were there any signs that a blindside was coming?
Baskauskas: I feel a little bit like I suffered from guilt by association with that confidence. I will say I was confident in my relationship with Gervase because we were friends before the game. But I wasn’t going around saying, “This season should be called ‘Aras vs. Vytas.’” Things were not feeling right to me. I was very worried about that Tribal. I had this bad pit in my stomach and I told medical “I’m either getting blindsided or I have a virus.” Obviously I didn’t have a virus.
Holmes: Right. What was making you uneasy?
Baskauskas: It’s hard for people to maintain a straight face when they’re voting you out, and Gervase was starting to be a little bit ruder to me that he normally was. Even at Tribal Council, Monica answered some questions that… Jeff asked Monica who she’s voting for, and she said, “I’m voting for the person that has the best relationships on the island.” And that was obviously not Ciera or Laura Morett.
Holmes: Is there anything you can do at that point?
Baskauskas: Jeff asked at the end of Tribal, “Is there anything else anyone wants to say?” I was ready to say, “Jeff, I know it’s me.” But I was so paranoid of being paranoid that I didn’t say anything. I regret that because I think I could have potentially flipped that Tribal on its head and convinced the Moretts to comes with Vytas and I and the Wessons.
Holmes: I have a theory about Gervase that he is made of Teflon. Season one he says that women are dumber than cows and it doesn’t come back to bite him. You literally have to drag him to the boat in the first challenge. He stabs you in the back and the first thing you do is let him know you’re not mad at him. It seems like the things that would sink other players roll right off him.
Baskauskas: Gervase is a really likable guy. He has a lightness about him. He’s funny and he rarely takes things very seriously. I think it’s a testament to the kind of guy he when he does something, people don’t want to be vindictive.
Holmes: What was the plan going forward if the vote had gone your way?
Baskauskas: Take out the Moretts first. That would get us to nine. Then we’d take out Caleb and Hayden, which would get us to seven. Then Monica would go. At that point, things get tricky for me. I wanted to go to the end with Gervase and Tyson. I also really loved Tina. But, my commitment was to Gervase and Tyson and Vytas’s commitment was to Tina and Katie. If we’d gotten down to the six, that could’ve been very challenging.
Holmes: Wait, so you weren’t planning on taking Vytas to the end?
Baskauskas: No, no, no…my brother would’ve been right next to me. He was a lock. The final four would’ve been Aras, Vytas, Gervase, and Tyson or Aras, Vytas, Tina, and Katie.
Holmes: When Tina had her outburst after you were eliminated, everyone raised their hands, saying they’d talked about being in an alliance with you. Were you worried that that strategy was going to set you up with some bitter jurors?
Baskauskas: No, not at all. It’s funny, the person who was in more alliances than I was was Tyson. He was saying, “Aras was in an alliance with everybody.” Which is funny to me. It was a smart move on Tyson’s part. He made everyone afraid of me. And so everybody in the game at that point was thinking, “Oh man, Tyson saved me. He’s got my back.” That saved him for a few Tribal Council until he was picked up as a threat. It looks like in this next episode that they’re finally going to wake up and realize how powerful Tyson’s position is.
Holmes: He’s doing a great job of making it seem like these eliminations are just business.
Baskauskas: Yeah, Tyson’s played three times in four or five years. He’s got a lot of practice. I think in order to win you have to treat it like a game. You can’t make it personal. That’s really hard to do. He’s also doing a great job of making people feel like they’re coming up with the strategic ideas that are in his best interest. He’s getting people to come to those conclusions using really subtle, manipulative suggestions which I think is quite powerful.
Holmes: OK, let’s get into some word association. We’ll start with Hayden.
Baskauskas: Bug bites.
Baskauskas: Back stabber. (Laughs)
Baskauskas: The messiah.
Baskauskas: Teddy bear.
Holmes: Laura Morett?
Holmes: Let’s finish with Vytas.
Baskauskas: My brother. That wasn’t very good.
Holmes: Yeah, c’mon. I say there are no wrong answers here, but you can do better than that.
Baskauskas: OK… friend, rival, better looking of the brothers.
Holmes: Am I a bad person for laughing when he took a cheap shot at you during the sumo challenge?
Baskauskas: (Laughs) No, I think you’re required to laugh.
Holmes: You can’t watch “Survivor” without wondering how you’d do if you were in the game. You’re someone I always hoped I would emulate. This was cemented when I saw your reaction to being eliminated from the game. I’m a big believer in; if you get the best of me, even through devious means, I’ll tip my cap. I’m sure it’s easier said than done. How’d you do it?
Baskauskas: Probably the same thing that the narrative of the show credited for my downfall; my meditation. Take all of the spirituality out of meditation, and it’s really a practice of awareness. I think in order to leave the game tipping your cap you have to be very aware of the emotions that come out when you’re voted out and be willing to process them. I think a lot of times when you’re voted out, anger and sadness comes up and instead of processing those feelings and taking responsibility for them, they want to put them on the people that voted them out.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes