One player went from almost quitting in the premiere to leading a solid alliance and making several impressive moves. The other found an immunity idol, earned an extra vote, and sent one of the biggest players out of the game.
And they both lost to the woman who was barely seen before the merge.
I spoke to Aubry Bracco and Tai Trang the morning after the “Survivor” finale and asked about Michele’s game, Aubry’s luck, and Tai’s $100,000 buddy…
Gordon Holmes: This has been driving me insane; was Mark the Chicken named after Mark Burnett or your boyfriend?
Tai Trang: Julia named him after Mark Burnett. I told her not to name a chicken after Mark because then we wouldn’t want to eat him.
Holmes: Aubry, you had two medically evacuated partners. Is it accurate to say you were one of the most unlucky players in “Survivor” history?
Aubry Bracco: (Laughs)
Holmes: How did you come to terms with making the most out of some poorly dealt cards?
Bracco: The “Survivor” gods…there were a few days where I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me! How is this happening?” But, I do believe that everyone was struggles in life. And life can bring anything. I think you should take responsibility for your own actions and try to make the best out of everything. I tried to make the most out of it.
Holmes: I do a lot of pre-game interviews and I used to ask if people were willing to lie. I’ve stopped asking that because everyone is like, “Yup, I’m gonna be a lying machine.” However, you seemed more conflicted about this than anyone we’ve seen in a long time.
Trang: I was going through the game, I wanted to play a nice game. I wanted to be myself. But, I realized I was playing a game. I was strategizing. It is conflicting, every single move I do my heart is telling me to do something else. I decided that I would stay loyal to Aubry because I was really comfortable with her.
Holmes: In recent years, winners have had these resumes of big challenge wins, big moves, leading their alliances, where it seems like Michele managed to hang back at first, then come on strong and win votes with her social game. Do you think that might signify a shift in how the game is played?
Bracco: I think that we had a very unique group of people. I think Tai was incredibly proactive as a threat in the game. He found an idol, he won challenges, he made the move he thought was right in the moment. I was proactive too. I worked with Tai, I worked with Cydney, I tried to make the best decisions. And when you have a lot of big personalities, which we certainly did, I think the kind of person that can fade into the background and not pro-actively do anything that would upset those personalities ended up being to her advantage. I also think she was an underdog at that point in the game. And you can’t tell people you’re an underdog, they have to believe it. And in that moment, the people sitting there did not see me or Tai as an underdog. We both played super hard, but we didn’t have it that night with that group.
Holmes: So in a season of big moves the person who hangs back will stand out?
Bracco: Somewhat that.
Holmes: What do you credit Michele’s victory to?
Trang: The jury likes the underdog aspect. I made some moves, Aubry made a lot. I wasn’t managing the final Tribal well. I was not on my game. I was completely exhausted. But, I think Michele had those moments of winning the last immunities and she hadn’t upset any of the jury. I’m not surprised by the vote at all.
Holmes: I like to think that “Survivor” is like the circus where if you don’t like the trapeze you might like the clowns, and if you don’t like the acrobats you might like the animals. For “Survivor” if you don’t like the exotic locales you might like the people in their underwear, and if you don’t like the cool challenges you might like the clever strategy. What I’m getting at is; people who like the strategic part of the game are pretty upset that Aubry didn’t get the votes. Is that any consolation?
Bracco: Yes. I’m flattered. I appreciate it, but I also think the beauty of this game is that it’s the jury that gets to decide who wins. The winner who won was the winner who was right for that jury. I love the game, I love the strategy. I love the social part. Any fan that feels like they related to me, it could have just as easily been them. It’s very nice. It’s very humbling. Every bug bite, infection, and med-evac’d ally has been worth it.
Holmes: When I spoke to Michele she thought that maybe one of the reason’s she had won was because she had worked with more of the jury whereas you had specific people you were working with.
Bracco: I think that Michele would casually speak to Scot or Jason a little more. But it was tough. Scot was not willing to work with me. And if I spoke to Jason, people in my alliance would get funky that I was even socializing with him. So, I agree with her to an extent. But the “Survivor” gods dealt her cards and she made the most of it.
Holmes: When Neal was removed from the jury, were you worried that his comments to her would reflect on you negatively?
Bracco: Yes, absolutely. For a second I thought, “Yes, he was going to vote for me.” Then I thought, “You just made her the underdog.” I think that comment put Michele in this position that she’s playing from behind. I don’t think that it helped.
Holmes: Which juror would you have eliminated if you’d won?
Bracco: I would’ve eliminated Scot. I knew that he wasn’t open to seeing my way of doing things. I wasn’t sure where he was going to throw his vote, there were a couple of people who were question marks. But I knew he didn’t relate to me.
Holmes: Tai, which juror would you have sent packing?
Trang: I’m still going to say Neal. He knows the game so well and I knew for sure that he was going to vote for Aubry. And he can influence the jury.
Holmes: Was Cydney a question mark or did you know she was going to vote for Michele?
Bracco: I thought it was possible that I got Cydney’s vote, but she wasn’t able to get over the way she went out of the game. She didn’t have enough time to process it. I was hoping she’d see my strategy instead of going the emotional route. But, that’s the beauty of the game.
Holmes: Tai, I think you missed the boat by not saying, “You know, I kept a chicken alive around starving people for weeks. How’s that for a social game?”
Trang: (Laughs) I worked hard to feed the tribe so nobody would look at Mark as meat. And Mark has a name, and Mark walks around freely, he’d come and go.
Holmes: And who knew that chicken would be worth $100,000?
Trang: (Laughs) I didn’t see it that way! Yeah! That money can go a long way to benefit a lot more animals. And thanks so much to Sia. I was so shocked and surprised.
Holmes: Were you a fan of Sia before last night?
Trang: Honestly? When she walked up I had no idea who she was. But she’s a huge star. After that I listened to her music and I said, “Oh, I know this music!”
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes