‘Survivor’ Castaway Shirin: ‘I Got Caught Red-Handed Coming for Varner’

"Survivor: Second Chance" (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 Jenn Brown and Max Dawson. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute news and info.

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You know when you say something that seems funny in the moment…but in hindsight…it comes off really badly? Remember this from my pre-game interview with Shirin?

Shirin Oskooi: As much as I was looking forward to doing the Power Rankings for this season, I know that I’m a lock for next season.
Gordon Holmes: Oh, are you? You think I invite first boots to do the Power Rankings?
Oskooi: (Silent Stare)
Holmes: (Laughs)
Oskooi: Excuse me?!

Yeah, I’m the worst person ever.

I had the chance to beg forgiveness from Shirin the morning after she was eliminated from the game. When we were done I asked her about her best buddy Spencer, Varner’s crazy moves, and sharing a beach with a Brazilian dragon…

Shirin Oskooi: Homie G!
Gordon Holmes: Remember that hilarious interview we had in Cambodia where I said that really funny thing about first boots not being invited to do the Power Rankings?
Oskooi: I do indeed remember that. I remember that vividly.
Holmes: The good news? Second boots totally get invited to play all the time.
Oskooi: (Laughs) That’s fortunate then because I’m totally doing Power Rankings next season. I cannot wait.

Holmes: To get to the bottom of this whole mess, I feel like we need to go back to the first immunity challenge where you weren’t able to go back to the beach before Tribal. What was the alliance breakdown at that point?
Oskooi: So, on one side you had solidly Spencer, Kelley, me, and Abi. On the other side was Vytas, Woo, Terry, and Wiglesworth. And they 100% believed that they had Spencer, but they didn’t. And in the middle were Varner and Peih-Gee. Peih-Gee wanted to work with that side, but Terry and Vytas would not give her a deal. That’s why she came our way and voted with us even though Abi was always pretty crazy toward her. And, Varner was supportive of that decision because he wanted to light a fire under the butts of the old-school people. I think it’s pretty open now that he had a pre-game alliance with Terry and Wiglesworth. And he was willing to sacrifice Vytas  to light a fire under their asses for them to start playing the game harder.

Holmes: I floated the theory to Probst that Varner voted with you guys to throw you off of the scent of the old-school alliance. That’s some third-level, Jedi-mind-trick gameplay.
Oskooi: Totally. And the other thing that’s brilliant about what he did is; he now has every single person in that tribe wrapped around his finger. Everybody knows they can work with Varner. Other people have made it clear that they’re not willing to work with people outside of their original alliance. Wiglesworth, for example, refuses to have conversations with the other side. She’s in her little world, working hard around camp, or chatting up Terry and Woo. Otherwise she doesn’t want to play the game. She wants to play “Survivalism.”
Holmes: What’s Terry’s mindset?
Oskooi: Same thing with Terry. He’s talking with a few people, but he has his views of the game. You get some strong dudes, and maybe somebody who’s good at puzzles and that’s it. He had his pre-game alliance. He wasn’t willing to break that. He wasn’t willing to make deals with anyone on the other side of the fence. Varner has shown everyone that he’s willing to work with anyone. But, my take on Varner’s game is that he’s been too public about being the middleman.
Holmes: How does he get away with that without being slapped with the “flipper” label?
Oskooi: That is my question precisely. What you didn’t see last night was I got sent home because I got caught red-handed coming for Varner. He told me he wanted to get rid of Spencer after we got rid of Vytas. And everybody was pretty sick of living with Abi, so everybody else wanted her. So, all of the sudden the two people we’re choosing between were in my alliance. So, I went to the other side, to Terry and those guys and said, “Varner screwed you over, he’s about to screw us over. Why don’t we get rid of him? He’s playing the middleman.” And instead of going with it, they stuck with him and ratted me out. And Varner said, “If she’s gunning for me, I’m going to take her out.”

Holmes: Abi-Maria is a delight in person. However, when you put a buff on her head she goes insane. What is life like with Abi-Maria?
Oskooi: She needs therapy. And what it comes down to is we were playing “Survivor,” it’s rough conditions and she’s kind of like a wild bear, running into your camp, ravaging everything. Lashing out at the people. And after your camp gets ravaged a couple of times, you start building up walls and figuring out ways to protect yourself from the wild beast. And anytime you put up one of those walls, she then has a total meltdown and starts sobbing and says everyone is attacking her. When really they were just defending themselves. There’s the problem, she doesn’t see how she’s attacking people and she’s doing it non-stop. And if you defend yourself, she sees it as an attack. She runs off crying and makes all these crazy claims.
Holmes: You’re always supposed to keep an eye on the people on the bottom of your alliance.
Oskooi: Gamewise, I should have comforted her, but I was emotionally drained from having to deal with her the three first days. Going after her to comfort her would be like going after a wild bear that had just attacked everybody at your camp.

Holmes: I look at someone like Abi and think; this is the Phillip Sheppard to my “Boston” Rob. But, is she too erratic to keep by your side?
Oskooi: First of all, when you see “Boston” Rob do what he does with Phillip, that’s like, “Do not try this at home, kids.” That is a very special skill. Second of all, Abi is no Phillip Sheppard. She’s not one to march to anyone’s orders. She views the world in her own very special way. And you can’t anticipate that world view because it switches constantly. If I were to give it an analogy, I would harken to Harry Potter and call her, Fiendfyre. She’s wild, uncontainable, destructive, constantly jumping from one person to the other. You cannot put a leash on Fiendfyre, it will do what it wants.
Holmes: Never enough Harry Potter analogies.
Oskooi: (Laughs) To think anyone can take her to the end as a shield is insane. However, she does have the potential to be the greatest goat in the history of this game.

Holmes: Last night Jeff Probst compared your interaction with Will on “Worlds Apart” to your interaction with Abi. To me, that’s like comparing apples to trucks. What was your reaction when he said that?
Oskooi: I’m with you on that. It’s such a stretch. There’s no comparison whatsoever. I was viciously attacked by multiple people including the dead fish. And those attacks were deeply personal and rooted in prejudice. In this case Abi was the one attacking everybody, lashing out at everybody. And, she feels like she’s the victim when people don’t allow her to attack them. Was she upset? Yes. Was I upset in my season? Yes. Was that the thin thread of comparison? Yeah. In terms of what caused those emotions, I’d say in my case it was rational and in her case it was rooted in delusion and not understanding the world around her.

Holmes: I don’t know if you know this, but we do a word association here.
Oskooi: (Laughs) I’ve heard!
Holmes: I’ll give you a name, you give me the first couple of words that pop into your head.
Oskooi: Yup!
Holmes: Right off the top of your head. We’ll start with Vytas.
Oskooi: Theon Greyjoy. That just popped into my head, by the way.
Holmes: Alright, liar. Feel free to expound on these not-at-all-premeditated terms.
Oskooi: (Laughs) Theon was smarmy, arrogant, a little bit slutty.
Holmes: Spencer?
Oskooi: Tyrion Lannister. He’s smarter and more strategic than everybody. But because of appearances people don’t want to admit it. And people treat him unfairly.
Holmes: Woo?
Oskooi: Hodor! Because Hodor. (Laughs)
Holmes: (Laughs) Well played. Varner?
Oskooi: I love him. Queen of Thorns. Snarky, strategic…
Holmes: Wiglesworth?
Oskooi: Selyse Baratheon, the wife of Stannis. She’s dour, doesn’t really understand the game, but marches to order.
Holmes: Wentworth?
Oskooi: Arya Stark because she blends in and tries to be unseen. But, now that she’s got an idol, should anyone come after her, she’s got a Needle in her pocket.
Holmes: Peih-Gee?
Oskooi: Ellaria Sand. She’s sassy and does not take (expletive deleted).
Holmes: Terry?
Oskooi: The Mountain, because he’s a brute. He’s strong and doesn’t really see the game for what it is.
Holmes: Abi?
Oskooi: Joffrey, I don’t think that needs explanation.
Holmes: He’s a beloved character, I’m sure you meant that in the best way. Do you have one for yourself?
Oskooi: I do. I am Oberyn Martell, the Viper. I also have one for Shane (Powers).
Holmes: Shoot.
Oskooi: The honorary cast member for season 31.  Shane is Syrio Forel because he’s quirky as all hell and slays.

Holmes: Always looking for positives, which is tough when you’re second out. I’d say last time the players thought you were annoying. This time you were too strategic. Any other positives?
Oskooi: I got to do my life dream twice. That’s pretty exciting. And I was voted in by fans. That’s great. Being voted out second, at least I got to play the game with people who appreciated me and didn’t vilify me for things like love of the game. I made some incredible friendships. A very close friend in Spencer. It was healing to put season 30 behind me and move on to something positive.
Holmes: And you get that second life dream when you get to do the Power Rankings.
Oskooi: It’s more like my first life dream, I just never thought I could achieve it.
Holmes: Most people use “Survivor” as a stepping stone to do the Power Rankings.
Oskooi: I’m in a select group, it’s pretty incredible.

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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