He was famous. He didn’t need the million dollars. And he wore a goofy t-shirt. So how did Mike White make it all the way to the end of Survivor: David vs. Goliath? By laying low when he needed to, and then stepping up, identifying targets, and getting them out when he had the opportunity. Mike played stealthy and smart, but it wasn’t enough to win in the end as he was bested by Nick Wilson when the jury awarded the prize and money to Mike’s one-time fellow Rock Star alliance member.
We spoke to Mike after Wednesday’s finale and reunion show to get his take on why he lost, what he could have done differently, and whether he would play again. Read on! (Also make sure to read our interviews with Survivor champ Nick Wilson, Angelina, Kara, Alison, and Davie.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So. Nick gets seven votes, you get three. How does that final vote sit with you?
MIKE WHITE: I mean, always a bridesmaid. Never a bride. Never a bride.
Were there any votes you were surprised you didn’t get?
You know, the truth is I really have no sense of anything. Some of the votes I thought I got, I didn’t. And some of the votes I did get, I didn’t think I was going to get. I really didn’t know. There was like a day, maybe, where I thought like, “Did I win?” Like rumors were floating around and I was like, “Was it possible I won?” But I feel like I would have probably been terrified of winning.
I feel like I’m happy with my results. I mean, I did want to win and I played to win, but especially after sitting up there like, oh my God. The whole scene with me as like the guy on a joy ride and I’m on Survivor, while there’s a guy next to me whose dad sold his blood for milk. I don’t know. If I was a home, I was like, I would be wanting that guy to win. Not me. So I think it all worked out for the best.
Well it looked like the Goliath bros all went for Nick. So maybe that was what did you in there.
Yeah, me having more of a role engineering the results happened more toward the end. So I feel like the people that went out early in the jury probably didn’t really see what I was doing. So I could understand why a lot of those votes didn’t go to me.
When you were heading into that final Tribal Council, how were you feeling about your chances? Sort of just a little unsure?
I felt like I could do a strong case as far as talking about the original game that I played, because I feel like I created a persona out there and really stuck to it. But I also have to say… Nick won the game and he deserves to win. He played an amazing game. But there was a part of me that was afraid to, I don’t know, fight too hard for it. I was never at mixed purposes as far as getting to the end, but at the end I did sort of feel like… It was a little bit more of an existential crisis for me.
You know, had it been just the title of Survivor winner, it would have been easy to fight for it. But because it was about money and a lot of those people… For me, a million dollars is still a lot of money, but it’s not transformative. It wouldn’t be transformative like it is for some other people. And I love Nick. I’m like, whatever. Not to take anything away from his victory, because he won it fair and square. I think he won it based on people thinking he played the best game. But it was a little hard for me to just ask for it and just ask for the win.
Well it was interesting in your final comments there, you gave this really touching speech about how it’s about the rainbow, not the pot of gold, at the end. I thought on one hand that’s what a jury wants to hear in terms of how much the game meant to you. On the other hand, because of your background they might think, “Oh, this is Mr. Hollywood over here.” Do you think the fact that you were saying it wasn’t about the money hurt you?
I mean, honestly, I feel like I could have done more. There are so many things that I had planned on talking about and wanted to say. It’s a long conversation. The format doesn’t really lend itself to being able to really completely create your own… I think that when people ask the individual questions, you could kind of create your own criteria for what a great Survivor winner is. And now it’s a little bit like, “Oh, did you do this? Did you do that? Did you whip out the idols? Did you work at camp?” All those questions are like … really? This has nothing to do with the game. Who cares who worked at camp? And I felt like people weighed that into it for some reason.
Whom would you have brought to the end? Whom did you want to be sitting next to?
Somebody else Goliath strong obviously. That’s why people hate me, because I was the Goliath strong guy. Like I said the first time we talked, I realized the minute we were Goliaths, the only way a Goliath could win would is if we’re all Goliaths. So I was always just like, “Let’s get out the Davids!” So I was happy to sit with any of those Goliaths at the end. I’m not saying I for sure would have won, but I felt like that was the best shot of any of us to win. But if there was a David that I was wanting to keep till the end, it was Nick. I loved him and I felt like if I’m going to lose to somebody, he’s a great guy to lose to.
I think one of the most inexplicable things I’ve ever seen on Survivor is when Angelina asked you and Nick to help her to improve her jury game against you with that whole idol fake idol thing. Were you just trying to wrap your head around that whole situation?
Yeah, way more awkward than it seemed the show. It was much more awkward, because Alison was a good friend of mine and I really had played most of the game with her. But I wasn’t thinking straight to be honest. Day 37, I was fried and when someone has some vision, it was almost easier to be like, “Uh huh,” than to be like, “You’re nuts. Stop this. Don’t do this.” And I didn’t.
You made it all the way to the end, but if you could go back and change one thing that maybe would have changed the jury’s mind, what would it be?
I’m really happy with the result. I know that sounds lame, but there have been times over the last couple weeks where I’m like, Oh, maybe if I had just asked for the votes. Or, If I’d been a little stronger. My regrets came at final Tribal. I feel like I was afraid to kind of push too hard and try to dismantle the other people’s game. I just wussed out. I mean, I don’t regret it, but there is a part of me that was like, I like you. I want to win. It just was hard. There’s a big conflict that I just didn’t know what I wanted in that moment.
You’re such a big fan of the show. I remember when we first spoke, you told me you thought I was going to like this season. I had no idea I would it this much. I mean, a top five season for me. That’s gotta feel good, just to know you’re a part of one of the best Survivor seasons ever, I imagine.
I feel like I want to take credit for it. Not because of my character or my presentation, but I do feel like in my head, Jeff wanted to really freakin’ nail it. I have to say the cast was amazing and I did feel like it was cool out there, but I felt like they put the show together in this way and wow, they nailed it. Obviously you want to be the star of every episode or feel like it’s all about you or you, but it’s amazing how they were able to distill what is such a complicated thing going on out there and still keep it entertaining for the whole arc. I just can’t say enough about how impressed I am by the whole crew.
Okay, you did Amazing Race twice. Would you do Survivor twice?
I don’t know. It’s hard. Today, if you ask me, no. I don’t think I could do it again.
Also make sure to read our interviews with winner Nick, Angelina, Kara, Alison, and Davie, our full episode recap as well as intel from the host and four returning players on NEXT season of Survivor. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.