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Gordon Holmes: So, it felt like Dean’s good in challenges, but will be trouble after the merge. Karishma is weak in challenges, but she’ll do whatever we want. Let’s split the difference and vote out Tom.
Tom Laidlaw: Yeah…for me, when I went out on the show I made the statement that I wanted to win every challenge. Not just because I wanted to win, but because then you won’t be voted out. Obviously the opposite happened. So, Karishma became the focal point. I wanted to get her off. I think Janet touched on it, and I’m not saying she controlled Jack and Jamal, but they really listened to her. We got to be friends in a short period of time. But, she thought I’d be loyal to my alliance and that alliance became Aaron, Elaine, Missy, and Elizabeth. They all went to the other tribe. And Janet believed, rightfully so, that I’d be loyal to that alliance. I think that was the tipping point.
Holmes: The former Vairo tribe seemed to be bulletproof. But, we know that Noura was having trouble fitting in. Was she a possible crack in the armor?
Laidlaw: Noura was very open with me saying that she wanted to get Jamal out. And Jamal said he wanted to get Noura out. We didn’t know that the division was that big. When we lost the challenge, we went to Jamal and told him that Noura wanted him out. He wasn’t surprised to hear that. I said, “You can get Noura out now and Dean and I will vote with you.” But, that Vokai five that came over, they weren’t budging. And like I said to Jeff, I’m not going to beg. But, if there’s an opening? I just didn’t get a sense that there was.
Holmes: Karishma claimed that she had been bullied by the classic Lairo tribe. Did you witness any examples of this?
Laidlaw: I want to be careful when I say this, I don’t even know Karishma that well on a personal basis, I view it that her style of play was that she wanted to paint it as “poor Karishma.” The Lairo tribe, everyone was included. As much as we were playing the game, around camp everyone was helping everyone else. We had a blast. We had a ton of fun. She really alienated herself. She’d sit around camp with her head in her hands. In fact, at our first Tribal Council, when she talked about how alienated she felt, the girls were really insulted. They really made a point that everyone was pulling together. Everyone was playing the game hard behind-the-scenes. But, we were all pulling together, doing things together. So, when she made those statements that she was being bullied…I don’t want to disrespect her feelings…but I certainly didn’t see that. I almost feel like Karishma’s strategy was to portray herself as the person that people were picking on.
Holmes: I’ve been going to “Survivor” for years and have done quite a few challenges. I’ve dove in the mud, run obstacle courses, you name it. But, if Jeff Probst ever asked me to do that sand crawl, I think I’d tell him to take a hike. It looks brutal.
Laidlaw: (Laughs) Especially when it’s hot out there. The sun is beating down on you and there’s no shade at all. With Janet, who’s a great person, she was having a hard time with it so I had to drag her. And she’s so nice that she’s apologizing during it. I said, “It’s alright, just keep going.” It’s tough. They strap you in there tight and it’s scraping your skin off and you’ve got sand in your face. Having a hard time breathing. It was a hard one. But it was a blast. Jeff came to me at one point and said, “It’s really tough out here, isn’t it?” And I said, “No man, I’m loving it!” I turned 61 when I was out there, and I had this thing where I really didn’t want to play like the oldest guy out there. I don’t want to use age as a crutch. I wanted to play hard and I feel like I did. I really enjoyed that.
Holmes: I see Elaine throwing all of these suplexes…but only to people smaller than her. Was she trying to throw you around at any point?
Laidlaw: (Laughs) She didn’t. She’d mess around, she’s a tough old farm girl. But she’d do things like call me Pops or Dad because I was the old guy. And she’d say things like, “When Pops goes to bed, check his pulse in the middle of the night to make sure he’s still alive.”
Laidlaw: Yeah, she was funny. And then at the first Tribal Council, she put on an act with Jeff where she started crying. She knew she wasn’t getting voted out. I felt very confident that it was going to be Ronnie, but she put on this act. She gave me a hard time back at camp because I was saying, “Oh Jeff…I love you…I miss you…” It became kind of this thing between the two of us. She said whenever I was talking at Tribal Council I’d use my hands a lot, so we did this thing where I’d stand behind her and put my hands up where her hands are and I’d do the hand motions while she’d imitate me talking. It became a pretty good comedy show between the two of us.
Holmes: Who can I talk to about getting you guys to recreate that during the finale?
Laidlaw: (Laughs) They’ll probably want us to. After the tribe swap, the Vokai people that came over were fantastic people, but totally different. Our old Vairo tribe, we were playing hard, but when we were hanging out together we were funny.
Holmes: OK, it’s word association time. Let’s start with Aaron.
Laidlaw: Strong than expected.
Laidlaw: My buddy.
Laidlaw: Difficult to get to know.
Laidlaw: My buddy.
Laidlaw: Huge personality.
Laidlaw: Difficult to get to know.
Laidlaw: Little sweetheart.
Holmes: And let’s finish with Karishma.
Laidlaw: Not a team player.
Holmes: When they were considering getting rid of Dean last week, they were going to keep you in the dark. And yet, they brought you into the Chelsea vote. Why were you cool voting out one and not the other?
Laidlaw: I played a big role in the Ronnie vote because they were after Elaine. I played a big role in the Vince thing. But, that whole day was unique. There were a lot of different ideas being tossed around. But, they made a big deal about a showmance between Dean and Chelsea, I didn’t really believe it, but they were looking for a reason. I think they felt like Dean helped more in challenges. I didn’t play a big role in that, but that’s the way people were going. It was really right before we left for Tribal. I felt bad for Chelsea, I didn’t know she had an idol. She thought everything was OK. Looking at it again, it was one of those things…I still would’ve gone for Karishma because I wanted to win challenges.
Holmes: You’ve played sports at an elite level. What do your old hockey buddies think of your weird Fijian adventure?
Laidlaw: (Laughs) At first you’re worried about being out there in your underwear and what if you make a mistake…but I said to myself, “If you want to do something, don’t let anything stop you.” Don’t just talk about it, do it. Going out there at 61, I had one teammate who saw me out there. He had a heart attack when he was 60. He’s fine now. But he said, “Holy smokes, I had a heart attack at 60 and you’re out there playing ‘Survivor!’” So, I think they view it, especially because of how old I am like, “Wow, that’s some impressive stuff.” And that’s how I look at it, I’m out here and I’m doing this.