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[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched the finale of Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.]
I don’t know if it’s possible to retroactively jinx someone, but if so, that’s exactly what I did when I picked Ryan Ulrich as my episode 1 selection to win Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers. Ryan’s loss in the finals to Ben makes him the 20th straight selection of mine to go down in flames.
But while I must hang my head in shame for a spectacular streak of futility, Ryan can hold his up high for making it all the way to the final three. But there he was faced up against the unstoppable challenge force in Chrissy and the immovable object in Ben, who made the finals thanks to a new final four twist that allowed him to escape being voted out and instead compete in a fire-making challenge against Devon (which he won).
We asked Ryan how he felt about that new twist, what he wishes he could go back and change, and how he thinks he would have fared had Devon made it to the end.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, how does it feel to be retroactively jinxed by me picking you to win?
RYAN ULRICH: I even blamed you out there. I said, “Oh, I bet Dalton’s going to pick me to win so I’m never going to win the season!” But it was my fault. Trust me, it was all my fault.
Well, that’s still an incredible accomplishment to make it all 39 days.
Thanks. The theme was just, don’t go with Ben to the end. Anybody else but Ben. And unfortunately for myself and Chrissy, we were sitting next to Ben. And Ben won. And I’m so happy for him. Ben is such a good dude.
How much did your heart sink when you heard about that fire-making challenge twist?
I was distraught by it, because first of all Chrissy was dead-set on taking me and letting Devon go in the fire-making challenge. So from my perspective, Chrissy has won immunity so she has done a part in putting Ben on the jury. If Devon wins, now Devon has a grand display in front of the jury in putting Ben on the jury. And the way it was worded at Tribal Council was that I was being taken to the end. When I heard that I was like, “Jeff, I’m not being taken to the end. I worked hard to be here.” But yeah, the fire challenge. I definitely think I would have had a better chance against Devon and Chrissy because I’m the one who felt like I started those alliances rather than go to the finals with Ben.
A lot of people on social media are pretty upset about that twist. Do you think it was fair the way that was sprung on you all?
Uh, I don’t know. Survivor is a fair game, It’s the 35th season — there’s going to be twists, there are going to be advantages. But it did come late and I feel like I’m jaded a bit because I knew that it was not going to benefit me. Going back and looking at it, I should have just gone for broke and convinced Chrissy to let me go to fire. I think I overestimated my ability to change people’s minds at final Tribal. I thought I was going to be a little more successful at doing that. So I was banking on that. I was like, just give me a ticket to the playoffs and maybe I’ll win the championship! But that did not work out and maybe I should have just gone for broke. And if Devon wins that fire, now he’s got that big display in front of the jury so that’s a really, really bad spot for me to be in.
So if Devon does indeed win that, how do you think you do against Chrissy and him in the finals?
I don’t know. I know Ben was going to vote for me, and out of that final three I knew that Joe was likely going to vote for me. I think Chrissy gets Mike and JP, and then Devon gets Ashley and Lauren. And then it’s going to Desi and Cole, who had been at Ponderosa for over two weeks at that point. So I really don’t know. It was just: Don’t go to finals with Ben and you’ll have a shot. So I definitely would have had a better shot being at the finals with Devon and Chrissy because I viewed myself at this person that started that alliance with that super idol
But once Ben made it, you knew it was a long shot for you, right?
Oh, yeah! C’mon! It was done! I put up a good fight at Tribal. That Tribal was so long. It was like three hours’ worth of content. So we were going at each other — blow after blow, argument after argument. I feel like I put up a good fight for myself, but again, I overestimated how open-minded people were going to be going into final Tribal Council.
I don’t think anybody’s minds changed at final Tribal Council. I think every person’s mind was set going in and that’s who they voted for and that was that. I thought I might have changed a vote or two my way, but that was not the case. But I wouldn’t have changed anything I said at final Tribal. I was proud of my performance there for the most part.
You and Chrissy got a bit chippy there at final Tribal. Did that surprise you?
No. Chrissy’s a gamer. I’m a gamer. It was even more chippy than what they showed! I thought that didn’t show any of what we got into really. Chrissy and I really went at each other. My plan going into the final Tribal was to separate myself from Chrissy because I knew people would view us in lockstep and then try to go after Ben. So I really tried to hammer on Chrissy and Ben, but obviously I think people voted how they were always going to vote.
If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?
Don’t tell Ben about my idol! I freaked out because JP saw me dig it up and I knew Chrissy was going to catch on, so I was like, Okay, two people know about this. This is going out. If people know about an immunity idol, this is getting out. So I tried to beat them to the punch. I told Devon, and my plan with Ben was, Okay, I’m going to make him think that I’m his closest ally, and then I’m going to blindside him at seven. It’s going to be great. Then he’s going to vote for me at final Tribal! But obviously he saw right through me and that did not happen. He went right to Devon and that was that.
So you did it, lived your dream, got out there and played Survivor. Now do you do it again?
I don’t think you cannot pick up when Survivor calls you. And you didn’t come to location this time so I have to play when you come to location! That’s really the only incentive anybody has to play at this point. But I love Survivor. I think that comes across, and I’ll always pick up the phone.
Make sure to read our full Survivor finale recap as well as our interviews with winner Ben, runner-up Chrissy, fourth-place finisher Devon, and fifth-placer Dr. Mike. Also get some inside intel on NEXT season from Jeff Probst as well as Probst answering all the finale burning questions. And for tons more finale coverage, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.