By Dalton Ross
May 16, 2019 at 10:16 AM EDT
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Lauren O’Connell found a hidden immunity idol on day 2 of Survivor: Edge of Extinction and passed up every temptation to use it, putting herself in an incredible position to have it for the last possible Tribal vote and guarantee herself a spot in the final 4. Instead, she (unnecessarily) used it on someone that had just walked back into the game in Chris. Then she did not have it to save herself at the next vote, and was promptly eliminated.

What happened?!? Lauren walks us through her seemingly perplexing decision and explains why it was the right move for her at the time. She also weighs in on how she would have done at both fire and in the final three, while making her displeasure with the way she was treated in the game by Rick Devens very clear. Read on for an insightful chat with the fifth-place finisher.

Robert Voets/CBS

ENTERTAINMENT WEKELY: You know what I’m going to ask you about first.
LAUREN O’CONNELL: I sure do, but ask it anyway.

You gave away that hidden immunity idol for Chris, and the thing that’s so amazing about this is you were so patient in not playing it all game, even though it seemed you were at every Tribal Council imaginable. And then you just flush it down the toilet after a remarkable con job by Chris and don’t have it to save you at the final five vote. Just break it down for me. What happened?
That was a pretty good recap. [Laughs] My thoughts on this during this whole situation is I wanted to sit at the end with a combination of either Chris, Gavin or Julie, right? So that means that either Devens or Victoria has to go. Well, Devens wins immunity, so he can’t go and so I had heard earlier in the day that Victoria had pitched to Devens that she was going to vote for Chris, and I don’t want Chris to go, I want Victoria to go. So knowing that she’s going to vote for Chris and I’m thinking that there’s no way Devens is dumb enough to sit by Chris at the final four for fire making, right? She was going to give her vote to Chris as well.

And so going into Tribal, this is what was going on in my head. It’s like, “Okay so Chris is probably going to get two votes. Victoria’s going to get one, and the rest are going to go on Rick. So if Rick plays his idol, it’s real, then I have to play my idol for Chris because I want Victoria to go home and I want to be the one who sent her there. So I was playing with the information I had. I was trying to make a big move because at that point I was playing to win.

It’s something I’ve replayed for months and months but I don’t know I’d play it any differently because I didn’t know Chris had an idol at five. If Chris doesn’t have an idol at five, he goes home. I have the numbers. I didn’t need my idol, so I thought, at five because I had the numbers to get Chris out if I needed to. And so it’s frustrating to watch that because you’re like, “Oh man, I was stupid,” but I don’t think I’d change what I did.

Let’s play the what if game and let’s just say you are still in there and you end up in the fire-making competition. How do you think you’d do at fire?
I think I would have done very well at fire. I know that Gavin, Julie, and I had talked about it a lot on who was going to take on Rick. This was before Chris was back in the game and the consensus was pretty much that I would because I’d been making fire with Kelly and David and Chris at the beginning all throughout the entire season. I was the one making fire and I knew how to do it and so the consensus was if we got to the four then I’d be the one to take Rick on.

Chris is such a wild card it’s sort of hard to know that because all the moves change if you’re still in the game, but out of Rick, Gavin and Julie, whom do you beat and whom don’t you beat at the end out of those three?
I don’t know, because I don’t know what the jury would have been thinking at that point, but I know that my endgame was to sit by Gavin and Julie because I felt like my game was different from theirs and I had a more compelling argument. I don’t know if I’d beat Rick. I really don’t. I think that it probably would have been close or it might have been a landslide for Rick. I just don’t know because the journey is so unpredictable. You get there thinking one thing. Maybe someone argues so well that you change your mind. So I don’t know.

You know that to win this game you have to win over the jury, so tell me how you felt about all of Rick’s theatrics at Tribal Council. Because he works on camera for a living and knows how to do that and he clearly was doing that. What was your take on all that as he’s winning them over and they’re lapping it up?
I thought: Look, at the end of the day Rick has no idea what’s going on with these Tribals. He’s just kind of going in here with theatrics. It was me, it was Victoria, and it was Gavin making all these big moves, and so I thought, “Okay, let him do this now. Let him make his show and then vote for the wrong person again and then when we get to final 3, I will sit here and I will say, ‘This is what I did.’” You know the Julia vote, and the Aurora vote — when he pretends to play his idol for Julie, that was already constructed before we got there. His theatrics had nothing to do with it and I figured, let the jury think what they want right now but when we get to final 3, I will sit here and I will tell you what actually happened.

When he did the whole fake idol thing with you and Julie, do you think that crossed a line?
I think that there was a lot of things that happened between me and Rick that crossed the line on a human level. Just the way he spoke to me. And so I think that his hiding a fake idol for me personally was maybe a little malicious, but if that’s the way he wants to play the game and that’s the way he lives his life, that’s totally fine. That’s the people you’re playing with and you just have to kind of get over it. I think it’s going to be funny one day to watch that, just maybe not tonight.

When you say that the way that he spoke to you crossed a line, do you think that’s just because he was mad that you had voted him out, or did he just not treat you with respect?
I don’t know. You’d have to ask him. I think that he was maybe angry with me. I think that seeing him on the bottom and not really knowing what’s going on probably takes its toll on you. I hope he doesn’t speak to everyone that makes him angry the way he spoke to me, but that’s just life. So I think it’s a good thing that we can move on from that and be okay with it. I think watching it back was probably more fun for him than it was for me.

Let’s talk about your vote for a little bit. You voted for Gavin to win. Tell me why you went for Gavin.
I think, for me, it was just who I experienced the game with more, who I watched play, and I never went to the Edge. So I didn’t know what that experience was like. For me, it felt like they were out of the game. I voted you out. I voted you out on day 8, and you did as much as you could when you came back into the game, but I watched Gavin integrate himself and just from so many different alliances and I saw him work his way into the final 3 without ever getting a vote cast against him and I think that a lot of people really reward individuals who work harder than the whole team, like Kelley. It’s like, “Oh she’s targeted. She’s targeted. She’s so amazing for getting constant votes,” and that is true. We should reward that, but the game is to not get voted out.

So you never get a vote against you, you never get voted out. I felt that was a compelling argument and I think what Gavin said about “You guys on the Edge don’t have to deal with the social hierarchy and the stress of being voted out,” which is something I personally experienced versus maybe what Chris experienced on the Edge. So that’s why I voted for Gavin.

What do you remember from the challenge where you passed out?
Oh gosh, all I really remember from that was thinking, “I can win this challenge, but this is an endurance challenge. This is all about heart and I will stand up here until my toes turn blue or obviously until I pass out.” So when I started going black, I just thought, “Okay, hopefully Aurora and Victoria fall before me,” and the next thing I remember is waking up and Dr. Joe and Jack are there comforting me and making sure I’m okay and I was just so angry with the fact that I lost because I want to win everything. I want to win everything and I’m also embarrassed to have not endured longer than the girls.

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