“Survivor” Castaway Karishma: “I Call Myself an Indoor Cat Now, Very Happily Purring”

“Survivor: Island of the Idols” (CBS)

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Gordon Holmes: That was a wild Tribal last night. Were things calm as you were heading in? Was there any clue that Dean was going to tip Tommy off?

Karishma Patel: I had no idea. I had no tip off. I had no reason to believe that anything other than the plan for us to vote for Tommy was going to move forward. From my perspective, sitting in the front row when Noura said, “Dean, why are you talking to Tommy?” I didn’t see them talking, I didn’t hear them talking.

Holmes: So as far as you knew, the opposing four were going to split the vote and you, Noura, Dean, and Elaine were going to vote for Tommy.

Patel: Absolutely.

Holmes: We got to meet your husband last night.

Patel: Yeah!

Holmes: And you two are adorable.

Patel: (Laughs) Thank you.

Holmes: Earlier in the season, it seems like you had expressed concerns about arranged marriages. Or maybe how your family reacted to it? Did your time out there help put things in perspective?

Patel: I think what happened was a lot of viewers latched onto this buzzword “arranged marriage.” That isn’t entirely true when it comes to my circumstance. My struggle has been this pressure I had been feeling from my parents to get married. So, when I did meet my husband, I probably got married a little bit sooner than I would have. As soon as my parents found out I was seeing this guy, they were like, “When are you getting married? When are you getting married?” It was not an arranged marriage or forced marriage. That’s not to undermine that the concept still exists, which is something I’m against. Women should be valued for their independence and ability to stand up on their own two feet. Not for their marital status. It was a five-year itch. You come home, you eat dinner, you watch TV, you go to sleep. Where’s that spark? Let me figure out a way to go home and communicate better. Let’s bring that spark back. That’s what my journey was about. I got an extraordinary amount of appreciation for what I have at home. Every time I’m around my friends, my family, and my husband I see everything I have instead of everything I don’t. I feel so blessed that this is the gift that “Survivor” gave me.

Holmes: It’s possible that you and I have the same mother.

Patel: See! It’s universal, it’s not just the Indian people. It’s unfortunate. If you don’t want to get married, who cares?!

Holmes: Agreed.

Holmes: Despite being on the bottom for much of the game, you made some big moves. You’re one of the few people to play an idol correctly, you were key in getting Missy out. What was the thought process behind the move to take out Missy over Tommy?

Patel: Missy and I had an alliance all the way from Lairo. We called it BOT, Bench of Trust. We would go sit on this little bamboo bench and have a conversation. And when we were done, Missy would always give me the same speech, “When we get back to camp, I hate you, I don’t know you. You’re not my friend.” It was like a broken record, but it was fine. Whatever. During the course of the game, Missy would be a little too brutal. She’s a cutthroat player. She’s laser focused on the game. That was not working with me. I couldn’t tell if it was part of the game anymore. So, when Missy pulled me down to have the conversation, well, not really a conversation, she was telling me what needed to be done. She was telling me, “You need to make a fake idol, you need to do this and that.” But, as I’m standing there my bag is up at camp with my idol in it. And the whole time I’m thinking to myself, “Holy (expletive deleted), why is she holding my arm? Why won’t she let me go?” I was wondering if she was told to keep me occupied while they checked my bag. I needed to get my bag and go re-bury my idol. And then later on when she wanted to talk again but she was like, “Can we talk? Elizabeth is going to come with us and hold me back if she needs to.” And, I was like, “Missy, honey, we will talk. But we’ll talk when you don’t need to be held back by a third person.” I’ve been around the block. I know what it’s like when you’re emotional and want to have a conversation with someone who will not have it. But, we needed to wait. And I weighed my options until all the way up to Tribal Council. It’s still a game and I needed to make the right decision for myself. And after I talked to Tommy, talked to Elaine, I decided that I had a better chance of working with Tommy than Missy.

Holmes: Alright, let’s do some word association. We’ll start with Noura.

Patel: Noura World.

Holmes: Dan?

Patel: Blah.

Holmes: Lauren?

Patel: Bubbly.

Holmes: Missy?

Patel: Fierce.

Holmes: Tom?

Patel: Manly.

Holmes: Ronnie?

Patel: Poker.

Holmes: Jack?

Patel: Lovable.

Holmes: Kellee?

Patel: Sweetheart.

Holmes: Jamal?

Patel: Deep.

Holmes: Aaron?

Patel: Dad.

Holmes: Vince?

Patel: Squirrely.

Holmes: Chelsea?

Patel: Homegirl.

Holmes: Elizabeth?

Patel: Warmth.

Holmes: Janet?

Patel: Fairy Godmother.

Holmes: Dean?

Patel: Calculated.

Holmes: Tommy?

Patel: Real.

Holmes: And let’s finish with Elaine.

Patel: One of a kind.

Holmes: This season is going to have a shadow over it due to the incident between Kellee and Dan. I’ve been struggling with how to cover it. It seems like you were a distant third party in all of it, so what I’ve come up with for you is asking what your experience with it was and where are you with it now?

Patel: To be fair to the readers and to the cast, I wasn’t really a big part of the situation. Any thing that I may say isn’t entirely credible because I wasn’t a part of it. What I will say is that the game is really hard and instead of making a comment on the situation or the players, I just want to say two messages because they’re really important to me; believe women, first and foremost. And the second message is; keep your hands to yourself.

Holmes: Those are good rules to live by.

Patel: I don’t want to interject some kind of left field perspective that isn’t relevant. I just feel very strongly about those two things.

Holmes: There was more unpleasantness where you felt like you were being bullied by your tribemates. We only get to see 42 minutes of a three-day period. Were there incidents we weren’t seeing?

Patel: Bullying is a real loaded term that has varying degrees. In the beginning it was really subtle. When I got hurt I felt like nobody really cared. That felt like a group of people coming together and making the decision that we’re not going to care for this person. It impacted me very strongly. But then after the merge what happened was a lot of group think and mob mentality came into play. As soon as the concept came up that “We don’t like Karishma” it gave that sentiment credence. It morphed into this whole concept of, that’s it. It’s the bottom line, we don’t like her. It became the status quo to insult me outright. To say things like, “I hope she gets med-evaced” out loud. Or say things like, “You don’t deserve to be here” and the people around giggle. To me, that’s bullying. The purpose of it is to put me down. But at the end of the day, I think people were wearing tinted glasses. They had a lot of emotions about my gameplay, how much I was working around camp. That really took a toll on me. I could’ve gone 30 more days without food or shelter. But that negativity of not having one person stick up for me. It felt very lonely.

Holmes: Without going into spoilers, have you been able to make peace since leaving the game?

Patel: Over the course of the last seven months I have had the opportunity to get to know my castmates outside of the game and they’re warm and loving and incredible people. I don’t think they would purposely treat someone like that outside of the game.

Holmes: Dan thinks you’re like a cat with nine lives. I was thinking you’re more like the Road Runner or maybe the baby from “Animaniacs” who keeps swerving out of trouble. How would you sum up your game?

Patel: That’s so funny.  Dan called me that, Elaine called me that. I never heard it out there. I told myself that I would do everything that I could. All I wanted was to play with someone and look at someone and say, “We’ve got each other.” I was playing by myself. There were spurts where we voted together, but I was playing by myself. When you’re doing that you have to be like the Road Runner. You have to be dodging bullets and having a Queen Sandra, “Anyone But Me” mentality. But, I call myself an indoor cat now, very happily purring.

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