[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched the finale of Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.]
She swept the last three immunity challenges. She tied the record for most individual immunity victories by a woman in a season with four. She went from on the verge of elimination and puking at the very first challenge on day three to making it all the way to day 39. She did math on the fly. But it was still not enough for Chrissy Hofbeck to win Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.
The 46-year-old actuary from New Jersey was ultimately undone by a new final four fire-making twist that saved Ben from elimination and eventually gave him the victory. Does she feel the new twist was fair? Did the jury not respect her accomplishments? And what could she have done differently to have won? We asked her all that and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You won four individual immunities, including the last three. So, were you robbed?
CHRISSY HOFBECK: No, I don’t think so. First of all, I believe in the game and that the right person always wins. I loved my game. I am so proud of my game. I think I deserved to win. But Ben also played an awesome game and I think Ben also deserved to win. We both unfortunately happened to be playing the same season. Although I don’t really mean unfortunately because I loved playing with him so much. And I think he loved playing with me. I think we both pushed each other to extremes that we didn’t know we could do. But at the end of the day it was just a question of which play style did the jury like more, and they liked Ben’s. And I can’t fault them for that.
The other thing is, I came out here for an experience, and I got 39 days. I got the full experience, so the fact that I didn’t win the million dollars — that’s okay. This whole experience is just such a gift. I honestly do feel like our season had a great winner. Of course, I feel like it would have a great winner if I was the winner too. I can definitely understand why people would vote for Ben.
How much did your heart sink when you saw that fire-making challenge twist that kept Ben alive?
Yeah, that was a real shocker. I felt like Devon — this is not an advantage. Here goes Ben again, staying in the game. But I did feel like I wanted to take Ryan to the end. We had played the game together, but I also thought I had the best chance of beating him. Honestly, my heart broke for Devon. There are some shots of me looking sad, and it’s not because Ben was making fire, because at the end of the day I do love Ben. I love that guy. But my heart was breaking for Devon. So that wasn’t great.
Do you think the twist was unfair?
I don’t want to say that the twist was unfair because I think this game of Survivor is a game that I signed up for, so I signed up for all the twists. So, no. I’m too much of a lover of this game to say it was unfair. However, I think it really gave Devon a raw deal. I really do. But that’s the game we signed up for.
Let say there is no fire-making twist or that Devon beats Ben there. How do you think you do against Devon and Ryan in the finals?
I still think that I beat Ryan. How I felt about Devon in the game was very different than how I feel about Devon now having watched his game. Devon’s whole plan was to act like a surfer bro and then come out at the final Tribal Council and say, “Here’s all the things that I did.” So truly at the time I thought Devon was a surfer bro. He was playing masterfully. Now, the question is, would the jury have believed him when all of a sudden he comes out as this strategic mastermind? I don’t know what the answer is. I do think probably at the end of the day I would have won against Devon, but who knows? All I know is I played a way better game than I ever thought I could play. I never went into this game thinking I would come in second place and win four immunity challenges. And win the awesome overnight reward with Devon. There are a thousand things I never thought I would do.
Once Ben made it, what did you think your chances were when you first showed up at that final Tribal?
I thought that could be anybody’s game. I thought that it was probably 50–50 going in, coming out I still probably thought it was 50–50 and coming here tonight I still thought it was 50–50. As I watched the episode I was pretty sure that Ben had won, just because of all the personal content that he got. After he started talking about his kids going to college and being a vet and all that stuff — and I didn’t have any of that — I was pretty sure. So as Jeff was reading the votes, I don’t feel that I was super surprised at that point. I really was expecting it. Ben deserved to win. I mean, I deserved to win also. But I don’t feel like I lost the game to someone who played less of a game than me.
What’s it like for you just a few hours ago thinking you had a 50 percent shot at a million dollars to now reconcile that and be at peace with the fact that you didn’t win?
Actually, psychologically it’s a relief. If you go out before the final three, you have a sense of closure. You know how you did in the game. And if there’s a final three with a very clear winner or a jury spills it, then you know how you did in the game. To spend this many months and have no idea, like at some point I thought how many hours until I actually know? Of course I wanted to win. I would be a liar if I said I didn’t want to win. I wanted to win because I wanted to be the Sole Survivor. I’m really okay Ben taking the money.
Was there anything they did not show at that final Tribal you wish we could have seen?
Oh my gosh, first of all that particular Tribal Council lasted like three hours! The only reason we know that is because we were watching how often they changed the 45-minute tapes. Going out there I really felt that Ben and Ryan were two-on-one going against me. But I just didn’t want to say anything bad about them, which is probably why I lost. I felt like it was their dream too and I didn’t want to crush it. And I was good with where it was. They did a good job editing it, although I do feel Ryan raked me over the coals a lot more than he needed to. I was very surprised. But you didn’t necessarily see a lot of that.
If you could go back and change one thing about your game, what would it be?
Clearly my biggest mistake was not making good relationships outside of my alliance. But I’m not beating myself up over that. I feel like I played the best game that I could. I recognize watching it back that I should have put myself out there more. But I’m old. I’m tired. I really could only do what I could do. And honestly, I feel like I did more than I expected I could do.
If you get the call again would you go out there and play again?
I don’t know. I think a lot of people play because they want to correct their mistakes and do better, but honestly I feel so happy with how this played out. I feel really proud of how I did, and I don’t feel I need to prove that I can do better. Maybe if Jeff Probst himself called me on the phone and said, “I need to have you play my game,” then maybe I’d think about it.
I think that could probably be arranged, Chrissy.
Every day out there was such a gift. I feel good about how I did, so what do I have to prove?
Make sure to read our full Survivor finale recap as well as our interviews with winner Ben, finalist Ryan, 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.