She played a super strong game all season long. She found an immunity idol without a clue. She won challenges. She bobbed and weaved in and out of alliances without making herself a target. She won a tiebreaker (that, granted took forrrrrrrrrrever). But when all was said and done, Carolyn Rivera got only a single vote from the jury. Then, to add insult to insult, she was shockingly not selected by fans to play again for the Second Chance season. A clearly despondent Carolyn called into Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) to chat with Jessica Shaw and me about what went wrong.
DALTON ROSS: It was kind of a rough night for you last night, Carolyn, and it started with getting only one vote from the jury. That has to be both surprising and disappointing, I imagine.
CAROLYN RIVERA: Absolutely. I was kind of a little bit shocked about that. You know, I did think I played a really good game and deserved more than one vote. I don’t want to take anything away from Mike—he played an absolutely great game as well. I guess it just was his night.
JESSICA SHAW: Who else did you think you had a chance with, in terms of getting votes from?
I actually thought I had a chance with Tyler. I thought I had a chance with Hali or Joe.
ROSS: Yeah, I’m guessing Tyler was the most surprising for you because you played with him the longest—then made a savvy move to get rid of him, which you would hope he would have respected.
Yeah, I think Tyler’s vote to me was surprising. I thought for sure he would vote for me.
SHAW: Did he ever talk to you all at about why he didn’t vote for you?
Yesterday he did tell me. So we did talk about it, and he said that he thought Mike’s game was strong because his back was up against the wall for so long. And that’s why he voted for him.
SHAW: Other people we’ve spoken with have talked about Mike’s erratic behavior. Did you think some of the jurors would remember that and not vote for him?
Absolutely. I definitely thought that would come through. They were all there, and they all saw the game that I played, which was kind of downplayed on TV so… You know, it is what it is, and it wasn’t meant to be.
ROSS: You found an idol without a clue, you made strategic moves and shifted around into different alliances, and you won challenges. You played a strong game, but perhaps not a big, showy game. Do you think that ultimately hurt you?
I do. I think it definitely hurt me. I think that people were—it was such a big season in terms of big personalities, and those big personalities kind of took over the season. So I think if I had played a bigger personality game, it might’ve helped me a little bit more.
ROSS: And then the double whammy of not being picked for the Second Chance cast. That is the huge shocker for me. I have to imagine you thought you would at least be getting another crack at it.
Absolutely. Last night, I thought for sure I would be on Second Chance. But I think what happened is that people suspected that I was going to win and a lot of people didn’t want to waste a vote on me, just in case.
ROSS: I spoke to Jeff Probst about that, and the fact that people might feel like they were wasting a vote by voting for you or Mike—since you might go on to win this current season and be ineligible.
Yeah, that’s exactly what it would’ve been. So, you know, people don’t want to just leave it up for random, and they didn’t vote for me. I couldn’t campaign, either. I wasn’t really allowed to do anything but say, “Vote for me!” on social media. I couldn’t do any of the podcasts, I couldn’t really do anything else. I think it wasn’t meant to be this time, and hopefully I’ll get another chance another time.
SHAW: If you had gone back for another season of Survivor, would you have made the fire every single day just to prove to people you could do it?
[Laughs] Yeah. Fire in Survivor is huge, so it would’ve helped for sure, I think.
SHAW: Was it just nerves during that tiebreaker? I have to imagine that you’ve been able to make a fire. Did it take, like, 45 minutes or something?
Oh no, it took, like, 55 or something. And I had practiced that day, and I made two fires within minutes. And then I’m like, “Okay, I’m just going to practice one more time and get this right.” And literally the third time, I couldn’t make another fire. I don’t know if my head was getting in the way or my mind was crazy, but I could not make a fire and I was freaking out. Then Tribal Council came and I was like, “All right, this is do or die, gotta do it.” He got his fire first and I thought to myself, “Girl, now’s the time, put it in gear, make this happen.” And then I got my fire two minutes later, and I stayed calm. I knew once I got a flame I knew exactly what I needed to do. And I think everyone saw it was close, but I had a better plan and I stayed calm and got to where I needed to be.
ROSS: There also was sort of a cloud over the season, leaving a sour taste in some people’s mouths due to the comments to and about women from some of the men. I’m just curious about how you feel about all of that. As a contestant, was it frustrating to see the narrative going in that direction?
It kind of was frustrating, you know. I’ve been a super-fan for 15 years. I’ve watched every season. And to have it go down that we fought and it was all about the bad stuff—that’s not the way I want this season to be remembered. This season was great. We had so many great times. So I just want the Survivor fans to really understand that our season is super close. Dirty 30 is really a close-knit cast, and there are some people—very few—that are still not in a good place, but everyone else is in a very good place. This season was great for everyone.
SHAW: Was the tribal when you played your idol your favorite moment?
That and the fire challenge for me, I have to admit, were the two best places in the edit that took place. Those two episodes were fabulous. I just think I knew I was on the chopping block that day, and I had every intention of playing my idol. But I honestly did not believe that every single person was going to vote against me, so it made it that much more exciting.
ROSS: As we’re speaking, It’s been less than 12 hours since all of this happened. How are you handling getting only one vote and then the denial of Second Chance, now that it’s starting to sink in?
A little disappointing—but again ,you gotta pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and figure out what you gotta do differently next time. So that’s where my head’s at.
SHAW: Does it pain you a little bit that you need to split that second place money with Will?
I really do believe that I should’ve gotten more votes. So tying for second place for me was a little bit stinging, but you know, it is what it is.
Also make sure to read our exit interview with Mike ,and check out our season finale recap, burning questions with Jeff Probst, and analysis on the new ‘Second Chance’ cast. For more ‘Survivor’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter: @DaltonRoss.