By Dalton Ross
October 10, 2019 at 08:47 AM EDT
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He invaded the other tribe’s camp and stole ashes from the fire. But then Vince Moua’s own tribe stole his chances of winning Survivor: Island of the Idols when they voted him out of the game. But why? It was never really presented on TV why the women decided to turn on Vince (who wanted to work with them), so we asked the third eliminated contestant what went wrong when we spoke to the admissions counselor the morning after his televised ouster.

And that’s not all we asked. How hard was it to invade the other team’s camp? Did he come close to playing his immunity idol? And what did he tell his tribemates (including Elizabeth, who had already been there) about his visit to the Island of the Idols? See what Vince had to say about his short but sweet time on Survivor.

Robert Voets/CBS

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’m confused by why I am talking to you right now. You wanted to work with the women, so why did they vote you out? What’s missing? What did I not see?
VINCE MOUA: Yeah, so with the edit, it doesn’t show everything. I’m gonna be real in that I actually started working with the women on day two, and I would say it was more like a women’s plus Vince alliance starting from day two because Aaron and Ronnie were coming for me from day one. So I had to align with somebody, and I came into the game wanting to work with women, and I came into the game wanting to work with underrepresented minorities. So we were aligned very early on.

With this vote in particular, it was just a lot of scrambling and not enough time for the votes. I was pushing hard for Tom, and there were women who were on board and then there were people who are unsure. And it was just a lot of stuff that didn’t come together. So I don’t exactly know really what led to my vote-out aside from the fact that Aaron also had it in for me and was pushing things along as well. So it was a shocker to me.

Any clues or any idea when you walked into Tribal Council or at Tribal Council that it could have been you? And did you ever consider playing your immunity idol?
I thought I had hustle enough, boy! I was like, for sure Tom is going, it’s totally fine. I have hustle enough to get everybody to be on the same page. Because at that point I was like, “Yo, we’re gonna swap soon.” At that time, we were thinking that we’re going to swap within the next two Tribals, so, I was already telling the ladies like, “Yo, we have to find people who we can trust.” And the guys, unfortunately, they just were not very trustworthy. So I thought that I had already gotten the ladies on board.

The funny thing was that my grandmother said that I was to be the shaman, and before coming out my parents were like, “Listen to your spirits.” So as Jeff was calculating the votes, in my head, I heard Jeff’s voice say, “Second person voted out, Vince.” And I was just telling myself, “Yo, don’t be paranoid. It’s not good. You got it. It’s fine. Save the idol for later on.” So I was really conflicted if I should use it or not. And at the end of the day I thought I would just be way too paranoid and I told people to not be paranoid, so I didn’t use it.

Where is the idol right now, Vince?
I don’t have it.

Oh, they stole it from you?
Yes, to be replanted, I guess. I was super sad about that.

We saw a lot of activity with Karishma whispering to everyone at Tribal Council. Tom wasn’t buying it. Could you hear or make any sense of what she was saying or doing?
At that point in time, I thought that she was just playing it up because there’s a point where Jeff asked Elizabeth “Is this vote going to draw the line in the sand?” And Elizabeth was like, “Yeah, I believe so.” And so by that point I thought that we were just all playing it up to make sure that Tom didn’t know it was going to be him. So with her whispering in the ears of the other ladies, I thought that was just another part of the ploy. But I will also say that at that point when she did that, I was about to get up and go and ask everybody like, “Yo, should we just squish the vote?”

Tell me about your trip invading the other tribe’s camp to steal the fire. How hard was it to even find the fire pit since apparently there was no fire in it?
It was so hard. I think what the audience doesn’t realize is that it’s pitch black out in Fiji. You cannot see anything in front of you. So when I arrived onto their island, I was hoping to see some sort of light that would indicate that the fire is going or they got it going or they had something protecting it. But when I got there, it was pitch black. The only thing that allowed me to see anything at times would be whenever lightning would flash. And then I would see just the outlines of stuff.

I didn’t even know until yesterday when I was watching that I was literally next to them! That map showed that the fire pit was actually a bit further away from their shelter, but in reality their fire pit was right next to their shelter. So it was really hard. I also was told that if anybody stirred that I would lose my vote. So I had to be super careful about stuff, and my shoes kept making noises. So it was an incredibly, difficult challenge.

You’re told to bring fire back. You get there, there’s no fire. So you have to improvise. What are you thinking when you realize, “Okay, there is no fire. I have to figure out a plan B and hope that that works”?
When we started heading out, that’s when the storm started rolling in. And I was given the opportunity and the option to just go when I needed to go. So I was like, “I’m gonna wait until people are asleep to go on the Island.” So in my mind already, I was not going to get the fire by lighting the torch. I was going to steal embers that were still hot and still alive. And then pour that into my canteen and then pour it onto the torch after running away —  just because that torch was really big, and I was like, “Yo, if I light this torch, they’re gonna see me for sure.” So I had already prepared this little shovel that I kinda crafted out of a piece of bamboo.

And so when I get there and I realize that, you know, they ain’t got no fire live, then I was like, I have to improvise. And the the only other thing left would be to try to steal ash to get coal from the pit because you can start fire using that. I’ll do other methods. Because originally I was like, “Yo, I’m gonna just have to steal their flint and and start fire on the beach before leaving.” But it was so dark, I couldn’t find the flint and I didn’t want to try to just look around and make sounds and have them wake up. So that’s when I was like, I’m just going to take the coal and ash and hopefully that will be enough. So you really have to improvise on the spot. And the Survivor gods are just like, “You know what, Vince? We’re going to make it extra hard for you. Let’s make it rain.”

We saw how everyone reacted when you left for Island the Idols, but we never saw what happened when you got back to your tribe. What did you tell them about your visit there? What did you say and what was the reaction?
I was gone from the camp for about 24 hours — the whole day. And when I got back, I told them that I went to Island of the Idols and was presented with the game. And in this game I had to memorize five different sets of tiles with animals on them. So the five animals were the crab, the salamander, a bat, a shark, and a jellyfish. So I said I had to memorize five sets of these animals, and then remember all those sets in order and then find those sets at night in order on Island of the Idols and get them all lined up correctly. And unfortunately, due to pressure, I wasn’t able to do that and I had to sleep outside without shelter.

So when I got back I made sure to get little wet so that they thought that I was sleeping outside with no shelter. But then to my core alliance of the women — in particular, Elizabeth, Elaine, and Missy — I told them that I lost my vote on top of sleeping outside. So that was the kind of the deal and I don’t know how they took it. I mean there I was hoping that saying I lost the vote would trigger Elizabeth to say, “Oh yeah, dang, homeboy is telling me the truth.” And that’s why I was pushing the women. Like, we have to vote all five votes onto Tom because I lost my vote.

So did you ever have a private discussion with Elizabeth or about your visits since you are the only two who really know what’s going on there?
Yeah, I did. Immediately when I got back, Elizabeth was one of the first people to come to me. And I was like, “Girl, I know where you got the idea to put the papaya underneath to dig a hole and put the papaya in the hole [to make fire],” because Rob and Sandra gave us a lot of advice on even just general living stuff. So, we talked and I was like, “Yo, I think it’s gonna be great if you and I could just stick together because in the future, if it turns out that we’re going to have to send people and we can choose, we can pick and choose each other.” And she was also on the same page with that.

So at that moment I was kind of confused about what happened with her and whether or not she was able to get something or if she lost her vote. But we didn’t have enough time. Honestly, there was only like an hour before we had to go out to the challenge, so I just didn’t have enough time that day to really collect everything.

Who was your ride or die? Who was the person you really wanted to work with long term?
There were two of them: Missy and Elaine. Missy and I just shared a lot. We were both queer people of color that have gone through hardships and really were out there to represent our communities. Likewise, Elaine is also queer and me getting onto the Island, one of the first things that I made sure of was that a woman was not going to go home on my season first. And I also made sure to stand up for the women whenever anything happened at camp. So we were very much so aligned in those visions. I definitely wanted to continue working with them long term.

It’s interesting hearing you talk about that this, because this is, for Survivor, a very diverse season in terms of ethnicity, and you’re also talking about having three gay people on one tribe. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen that before.
Yeah, I definitely noticed it. That’s something that we all connected over. And I thought that that bond was way stronger than it had been. Which is what led to my vote out, I guess, because there were just other bonds that they thought needed to be prioritized. So it was definitely something that I took notice of and tried to connect over with them. And I think it’s just a great time for more queer visibility, and queer people of color visibility.

If you could go back and change one thing about your game play, what would it be?
The one thing would be on my vote-out night, I decided to stay away from talking with all the women because I was like, “I don’t want to spook the guys. I already talked with the women, multiple of them together, but not all together, but I think we’re set.” But looking back now, I think I should’ve gone down to the beach and just been like, “Y’all, what’s happening?  Y’all know that these three guys, they are not going to have our backs. They are gonna cut us as soon as they can if we get swapped.” And I think that that’s probably what needed to be done to get the push to stay on Tom because everybody with the exception of Elaine were fine with Tom.

Is there anything else about your experience out there that you wish had made it into an episode that we didn’t get to see?
I wish what would have been shown were the relationships that formed with the women — each and every one of them. We had such wonderful discussions and I learned so much about them, and also just the advocacy that I that I had out there for them. You know, the first day that we got onto the beach and we are going to make the shelter — one of the first things that Aaron did was he started dictating and saying, “Okay, the guys are all gonna go gather stuff and the women are gonna stay here and you can prepare this and that.” And I cut it immediately and said, “Nah, like the women can go get the things that they want to gather. Ladies, if you want to gather things, go for it. There’s no need for us to put the gender expectations on people, and the guys can also stay here and clean.”

So I really wished that those kind of conversations would’ve been shown just because I think it’s great to also show men and young boys out there that we should definitely support everyone in their endeavors. We have to also think about why it is that people are so afraid of women’s alliances when no one questions men getting together to create their own alliances. So I really wish that those relationships would have been shown more.

Check out an exclusive deleted scene at the top of the post and also make sure to read our weekly Q&A with host Jeff Probst as well as our full episode recap. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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