I don’t understand why Christian Hubicki ever got cold while playing Survivor. After all, he could have just huddled in the corner of the shelter, where it is always 90 degrees. Hahaha! That’s a little math humor for you right there. But there was nothing funny about the most popular Survivor player in years finally seeing his magical ride come to an end when the 32-year-old robotics scientist was voted out of Survivor: David vs. Goliath on Wednesday night. Christian was undone when Mike once again set his sights on the social, strategic, and challenge threat and orchestrated his demise.
Was Christian surprised by his ouster? Was he hurt being betrayed by Gabby? And he is upset he fell one vote shy of tying the record for most votes cast against a single player in a single season? We asked the fan favorite all that and more, and he regaled us with tons of incredible stories about stuff we didn’t see on TV. Like secret Tribal Council code words. And secret late-night meetings. And secret spy shacks. You will not want to miss out on this incredible intel that Christian is dropping. Read both pages of the interview to get all the scoop!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, has your girlfriend, Emily, turned into a huge diva since she got famous on national television?
CHRISTIAN HUBICKI: Zero-point-zero-percent chance. If she would want to be recognized for anything, it’s her choice of skirt she wore out in Fiji. Her mom made that skirt by hand, and the pattern is actually a bunch of fish all laid side-to-side. So I think she’s most proud that she got her unique fish skirt on TV. Notably, that robot shirt I wore on the island is also one of Emily’s family heirlooms. That shirt is probably decades old; so old that the cut is extremely long to the point it covers my briefs and it has the tag in the front, not the back like modern shirts. It’s so vintage that I would have no idea where to buy another one.
Obviously you had been getting votes all season, but were you surprised when you were finally voted out, or not so much?
I was surprised, actually. I know that sounds dumb considering what a target I was for so long. So much craziness was happening on that beach that day, so many stories were being juggled, that I was concentrating most on what I would do to pick up all the pieces if I got back to camp. I had this plan of who I was going to tell what and where I hoped the battle lines would be drawn for the next vote. Once I was at Tribal, if my number was up, there would be little I could do anyway. Once I saw the second vote for Davie, it was the first single vote in the game that honestly surprised or concerned me. Right then I knew I was toast, so I started gathering my things and steeled myself for the eventual and familiar “Christian” votes. Sure enough, they were the final votes read. True to Survivor drama.
Mike appeared to spearhead your ouster this time out, calling you the biggest threat to win the game. Was he right? And was he smart to take you out?
I have this instinct to hedge on that question, because daring to think of yourself as the “biggest threat to win the game” just feels so arrogant. I will say it this way: I just could not believe I felt so well-liked out there. It was such a surprise compared to how I thought I would have fared before starting the game. I really feared that I would be socially ostracized immediately.
You see, even though my science babble clicks well when chatting with other scientists and engineers, I had no idea how well my shtick would be received by the Mayor of Slamtown, for instance. When Alec told me I was being targeted right at the merge by Angelina, I was stunned. That she had labeled me as such a threatening figure that I was being called out as a potential merge boot, I realized that any path to the end for me was going to be insane. With each passing vote, my Survivor story grew seemingly more miraculous. In so doing, it became an increasingly powerful story to tell at that final Tribal Council.
Was it smart for Mike? Yes, I absolutely believe so. It both spoke to his adeptness at deception and willingness to win, not just skate by. You see, I actually always wanted to work with Mike, even after the “Strike Force of Six” fell apart spectacularly. I always saw Mike as a guy who was weirdly honest. When he confesses to me at final 12 that he’s worried about Gabby (and me too, by the way) being truly being committed to the six, I thought that was such a weird thing to say. Who tells their alliance member they’re worried whether or not they are loyal to their face? Perhaps someone who will make a mistake and create an important opening for me down the line.
Then, in the aftermath of that now-famous John blindside, he and Nick had a very ugly breakup, where I heard that Mike said Nick was “insulting his intelligence” with his lies and “we’re done.” I thought this would be a good opportunity to swoop in and say, “Mike, we should work together. I know you voted for me, but I have never lied to you, and I won’t start.” Add on top of that, I thought that he may, on some level, not really have his heart set on winning because he’s already a millionaire. Maybe this is a guy who may take me to the end, so I promised him final three.
So I started meeting with Mike on the beach in the middle of the night every single night after Dan went home. It was his idea, and it was brilliant. I would wake up from my edge spot in the shelter, delicately remove myself from Angelina’s warmth-hungry grasp, and tap Mike on the shoulder to chat. We’d talk 80 percent about life and the poignancy of the Survivor experience, and 20 percent strategy. He would be seemingly blunt in his honesty. So I started to put too many chips down on him as an ally. This, in hindsight, was the long con of Mike’s game. He played it well, and he played me.
Because the tribe appeared to split the votes to get you out in case you had an idol, you did not break Laura Morett’s record for most votes cast against someone in a season, as you came up one short. Was that disappointing? Like, if you were gonna go, did you want it to be in record-breaking fashion?
Honestly, that did cross my mind. Once you lose, you start reflecting on what legacy you might have left in the game. Having a quantifiable record is an easy thing to point to! Mostly though, I was just proud that I was able to dodge as many bullets as I did.
However, Laura was voted out TWICE in her record-breaking season of Blood vs. Water, so should there be an asterisk on her record?
Laura is free to maintain her title. Certainly, it is an advantage to padding your vote total if you can come back into the game. However, so is playing on a season with hidden immunity idols, as compared to Survivor: Guatemala and earlier. And yes, Survivor nerds, I mean Guatemala, because Gary could not receive votes after playing that initial version of the idol. I would simply phrase my record as “It took more votes to vote me out than any other player in history.” Technically, Laura required fewer votes to “vote her out,” but more votes to be “eliminated from the game.”
How disappointed were you when you heard that Gabby wanted to vote you out?
Not at all. I always knew she would come for me eventually. She even told me early in the game once that she didn’t want to be viewed as being dragged to the end, like other players. So I always tried to make sure that she had agency in our alliance. Equal buy-in. I always made sure she felt like she was being heard by me — and she was. We were strategic partners.
However, one thing that became clear was that I kept absorbing the credit for all these joint moves. On day 31, probably an hour after she started mobilizing the vote against me, I actually approached her saying that she deserved more credit for her game and tried to float a plan with her to achieve that.
My first thought when Davie told me she was targeting was “Of course. That makes complete sense. Next round I would see it coming, but not this round.” You can see my actual reaction to Davie telling me in the moment. It’s not one of disbelief, but actually one of immediate acceptance. She was living up my expectation of her, that she was here to play and win. So I never felt hurt or betrayed by it. If anything, I was strangely proud of her making the move. I’m just glad it didn’t work.
Had Davie not tipped you off, would you have played your idol at that Tribal Council?
There’s so much to this question. The short answer is “yes.” Davie approached me first with by far the earliest, most specific, and most hilarious tip-off: more on that later. However, much closer to Tribal, three other people individually told me I was being targeted. First, Mike told me to play the idol but to pretend I sniffed it out at Tribal so we could work together secretly next round. Then, Angelina asked me if I had an idol. I said yes to build trust — I knew I was playing it anyway — and she told me to play it, that this was a “trust fall” and to tell no one.
Finally, right before Tribal, Nick pulled me aside and told me to play it too, but to pretend I sniffed it out at Tribal. We even had a secret code phrase (“Please, please, please”) that was supposed to signal me to play it. Davie had a similar idol-play signal, which was that he would fake one of his frighteningly loud sneezes.
After that I’m thinking, “This is amazing.” These four people are all low-key working against each other, and I’m the common thread that knows about all of this. So at Tribal, you had Nick whispering behind me “Please, please, please, please…” and Davie repeatedly sneezing so I wouldn’t miss the signal. It was all so absurd that I had to keep it together not to laugh. My vote for Alison was knowing that Gabby was going home. I said “This is a vote to build trust” and keep four secrets that I hoped to use to my advantage. I figured I could tell Alison that Gabby tried to play both of us against each other, and bond with her over the deception that made us vote for the other.
But back to Davie. That man is a gem. We were so much closer than they showed on the show. We would meet in private once per day to discuss strategy and not be detected. On night 31, after Gabby told him and Nick the plan to oust me, I was down on the beach talking to Nick. After Nick left, I stayed behind to watch the waves. Soon, I started feeling a spray of sand in the wind. I’m thinking, “Wow it must be windier than I realize.” Then I keep feeling these impacting sand volleys, with increasing velocity. I’m like, “What is happening?” Then I hear from the tree line, “PSST!” I am flummoxed, and go to the tree line. It’s Davie. He’s tells me that this is one of his spy shacks, and has a message for me. “Trust no one. Talk tomorrow.” He then disappears into the dark. It was like something from The X-Files. (Interview.)
After the merge, who were the people you wanted to sit next to at the end?
After I started getting targeted at the final 13, anybody and anyone. I knew the path for me was going to be messy and crazy. Any time I caught myself thinking, “Can you beat this person in the end?” I ejected the thought from my brain. This was not out of some confidence or assuredness that I could beat anyone, instead, out of mere practicality that shaping the jury is the absolute last of my concerns. Just get to the end any way I can.
What was your favorite moment of the season? The one thing you will remember above all others.
I will remember the three-hour mark of the crazy-long immunity challenge with Alec. That’s when I remembered that I was free to talk to my heart’s content. That’s also when I realized that once I started talking, I felt no pain. It was transcendent. From that point on, I had no temptation to step off from the pain, because it weirdly didn’t exist. I have no idea why. I felt like I could have stood there through the night, reciting my doctoral dissertation to a captive Jeff Probst.
What was your lowest moment, besides, you know, getting voted out?
Day 34. It was a day of heavy rain after so many days of shine. I got caught in the downpour with all of my clothes on. I was shivering and drained from not having eaten much since the “wraps and letters” before the Alec vote. I had lost my closest ally and most thorough strategic sounding board in Gabby. During the storm, I curled up in a fetal position next to Mike under a tarp and wearing his “Can’t we all just get along?” shirt.
It was the only time I felt truly miserable, and the elements really affected my thinking. It was the worst timing too. This vote was when I needed to be most alert and on my toes, because the game had become so fluid and crazy. Instead, I was just concentrating on ignoring the misery.
So much of what happens out there never makes it to air. What’s something that happened that we didn’t get to see that you wish had it made it on an episode?
Back on David beach, we had figured out there would likely be a swap on Day 10. So on that morning, I suggested a big group idol hunt so that a Goliath wouldn’t find the idol at our camp. That’s when I enacted the counterpart approach to my “breadth-first search” for the idol, the “depth-first search.” Instead of looking around a lot of places a little bit, I looked in one place a lot. It was an awful idea. I became obsessed with the idea that the idol was buried next to the water well.
You see, there were these decorative wooden masks around camp that were probably just for Fijian ambiance, but I thought they were clues for the idol. I even started counting the masks from day to day and thought that more were just showing up. Gabby told me I was crazy. I was undeterred. To test this hypothesis, I went and stole all the masks and hid them off in the trees somewhere so I could analyze patterns in the mask markings in private. This required removing some masks that were serving as structural components for the shelter. In the process of hiding them, I stepped in a fire-ant mound, which I did not enjoy.
Ultimately, I concluded these masks were referring to the mask-like cover on the water well, so I started digging next to it. I kept digging and digging. Davie, who already had the idol, was trying to give me subtle hints to stop. I ignored them and dug until it was time to leave camp. Internally, Davie had to be dying of laughter.
You obviously don’t know everything that is going on while you are out there, so what surprised you the most watching this season play back on TV?
I was surprised how quickly I grew a beard. I shave every single day, so I had no idea that’s how I would look.
You have been a huge fan favorite, and there is no doubt the show will want to have you back. So how do you feel about going back out there and going through this entire crazy adventure all over again?
That’s very kind. I’m glad people enjoyed watching me on the show. It was such a risk for me to go and play in the first place at my career stage, especially when I thought there was a non-trivial chance I would be voted out immediately. There were so many moments out there where I felt so invigorated — so alive and emboldened to engage, bond, and collaborate with strangers. I wish everyone could feel that rush of empowerment.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t crave that high all over again. On the other hand, I’m running my very own robotics research lab now at the Florida A&M-Florida State College of Engineering, and I’m teaching robotics to college students. It’s my dream job and my life’s passion. I would need to weigh the effects of leaving that behind for another go at Survivor, but of course, there’s nothing quite like this game.
Also make sure to read our weekly interview with host Jeff Probst as well as our episode recap (complete with updated season rankings). And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.