By Dalton Ross
November 12, 2019 at 11:00 AM EST
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The original Lairo tribe on Survivor: Island of the Idols excelled at one thing — losing. This was evident on the show as the team lost three out of four immunity challenges. But according to tribe member Elaine Stott, they excelled at something else: strategic dysfunction.

Every season, EW does a mid-game merge interview with a contestant, and with this week’s merge episode hitting on Wednesday, we decided to check in with fan-favorite Elaine to find out exactly what was happening out there on the island. What were the real alliances percolating on the tribe? And then how did she feel about being tossed aside by fellow Lairos Aaron, Missy, and Elizabeth before she scored that block-a-vote advantage? Speaking of which, what was going through her mind when she dropped said advantage on the ground while trying to retrieve it? And what’s this about Jason playing a fake idol that we never saw?

Elaine weighed in on all that and more in our mid-game chat, and we’ve also got some exclusive merge feast photos to share along the way, so read on, enjoy, and then see what happens post-merge when Survivor: Island of the Idols airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBS.

Robert Voets/CBS

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with the original Lairo tribe. We heard talk from the women about a women’s alliance. But then Chelsea told me there was also another alliance that involved her, Dean, Aaron, Missy and Elizabeth. And then your biggest ally at times appeared to be Tom. So what were the real alliance dynamics on that tribe?
ELAINE STOTT: Well, that’s why I called it Hot Mess Lairo, because there were so many alliances and sub-alliances it was crazy. Yes, the girls had agreed on something early on, but as the days passed, the dynamics in the tribe changed, people started branching out and forming bonds with other tribe members. Chelsea is right, there was that five-person alliance that I found out about from Aaron on the day she went home.

That alliance didn’t last long because Aaron and Missy decided to jump ship. The move was crazy to me, but because I was trying to move myself up into a better position in the tribe I thought if they wanted to get rid of one of their own, I’m for it because I was clearly on the outside of that. Then you had Missy and Elizabeth who had gotten super close, and then they pulled in Aaron and become a strong three. I was a lot closer to Elizabeth than people knew. and we both were connected with Tom. So, for me, Elizabeth and Tom were my core alliance and I trusted them completely.

Vince was another person that I really trusted and wanted to work with, but I was put in a position of choosing between him or Tom, and I went with my No. 1. That’s the thing, there are so many layers to these relationships that it’s hard to navigate at times and you don’t know if you are making the right choice in the moment. That’s also what’s so fascinating about Survivor. Your relationship with someone can change on a dime for the smallest of reasons, and that is both terrifying and thrilling at the same time. So to answer your question, the dynamic was all over the place and things were constantly moving and changing.

Karishma said after the tribe swap that she was bullied on the original Lairo tribe. Tom disagreed with that when we spoke after his elimination. What is your take?
No, I don’t think Karishma was bullied. I think what happened was Karishma wasn’t fitting in for whatever reason and she couldn’t figure out how to change it, so she isolated herself even more. At one time, she had made a comment about being an older woman, and that Missy, Elizabeth, and Chelsea were like sorority girls together, and it struck me kind of funny because I’m a few years older than her, and I got along with them just fine.

I could see that those three girls were close, but I made it a point to try and make connections. I think Karishma done the opposite. Her actions just separated her further from the group instead of pulling her closer. She really didn’t participate in much around camp like getting wood or building shelter and that rubbed people the wrong way. So I just think when she didn’t fit in and didn’t know how to fix it, the seed of “Woe is me” become a reality in her own head. Instead of trying to change people’s minds, she gave into that way of thinking and didn’t try to improve her position.

Robert Voets/CBS

You accepted Boston Rob and Sandra’s Island of the Idols test without even knowing what the test was! What happened to patience being a virtue, Elaine?
Patience has never really been my thing [laughs]. Hell, I get road rage driving my lawn mower!!! So no, it’s not a virtue of mine! But I came on Survivor to win a million and to get one hell of an experience. I was like a kid in a candy store — I wanted to do it all! And the thing was, no matter what I done I was on the bottom of everything because I couldn’t shake the target that Aaron put on my back. So any means to get ahead when I felt like I was at the back of the pack sounded like a great idea to me.

What was going through your mind when you picked up the hidden advantage in the challenge and then dropped it back on the ground while trying to stuff it under your clothes?
I was like, Holy s—!!! Omg!! I literally had a mini freak-out. I had tucked my shirt in because the original plan was to grab it and put it down the collar of my shirt, but in the moment, I thought nah, I better not do that because everyone is staring right at my face. So then I thought I’d just shove it in the back of my shorts, but I literally couldn’t get it in my pants because of my shirt being so big and tucked in. When it fell out, I really panicked. It happened so fast, I stomped my foot on it and pushed it against the cage and immediately turned around and picked it up and shoved it in my pants. I felt like a bumbling teenager on my first date.

Robert Voets/CBS

What was it like to watch that episode and learn that before you got that advantage that Aaron, Missy, and Elizabeth all seemed ready to turn on you and vote you out rather than go to rocks?
I wasn’t surprised by Missy and Aaron, but I was surprised by Elizabeth. We were super close in my eyes, so to hear she was throwing my name out there took me back a little. Here’s the thing: I never trusted Aaron from the jump. And after the Chelsea vote, I felt the same way about Missy. Her and Chelsea were in an alliance and she was willing to cut Chelsea’s throat without hesitation and that made me nervous. From that point on, I didn’t trust Missy. So when I heard that they were throwing me under the bus, I wasn’t surprised in the least. I knew they didn’t have my back. That’s why I was so on board to get some kind of advantage, and when I finally got it, I knew I had to tell them because I knew they were going to flip on me. I guess Elizabeth felt like she couldn’t go down with a sinking ship, so she jumped on board with them and I don’t blame her for it.

Do you think if you didn’t have that advantage that you would have been voted out at that Tribal?
I was always nervous at Tribal because there’s always a possibility of going home no matter what the circumstances are. With that being said, even though it may have seemed like I was in danger, I still didn’t believe I was going home. I thought it would be Aaron or Missy over me because they were more immediate threats than I was, anyone could see that. If you read Jason’s exit interview, he says that Vokai was never going to put my name down that Tribal. It was going to be Aaron, but they switched the vote to me after I played my advantage at Tribal, hoping that Aaron would then flip. I got nervous when I played the advantage that something could go wrong. I mean they didn’t show it, but Jason actually played a fake idol. which had me a little concerned. But I really think if I hadn’t have gotten the advantage, I would’ve still been safe.

Robert Voets/CBS

What’s something that didn’t make it to TV pre-merge that you wish we as viewers could have seen?
The beginning of the game — listen, even though it was Hot Mess Lairo, we genuinely laughed until we cried; it was some really funny times, I can’t explain it — it was ridiculous fun. I also wish we saw more of the relationship between me and Big Tom. Big Tom is one of the coolest guys, he really does remind me of my dad a lot. A real down to earth genuine dude. He’s big, tough, and rough, but at the same time he’s got a heart of gold.

Me and Tom would bust each other’s chops all the time, and he would talk about how it made him sick that I was in love with Jeff Probst, and then I would say, “Someone needs to do a pulse check on Dad because I’m afraid he’s going to die. He’s up there in age I’m worried about him having a heart attack.” He’d nap all the time, I was afraid he was dying over there lol.

I really think me and Big Tom should take this show on the road and call it Big Dummy Little Dummy and do a ventriloquist act and just crack jokes. They should really release a reel of Lairo those first few days, it’s guaranteed TV gold!

What has surprised you the most so far watching the season play back on TV?
There’s two things that surprised me. One was the spy shack, of course, and seeing Boston Rob and Sandra in their sweat box with the Bert & Ernie commentary. Listening to those two is freaking hilarious. The second thing is people actually buying that I’m dumb, lol. I thought for sure that people would see through a lot of that crap, lol. Like when Lauren said that I wasn’t smart enough to play an advantage, that had me rolling.

Listen, I don’t blame people for saying things like that because that’s literally how I was acting. I would misspell words, and say things off the wall to get them laughing. I didn’t want to come across as smart because I was worried about being seen as likable and strategic. Hell, I even fooled Sandra into thinking I’m dumb because at Tribal I would try and give as little away as possible, lol. No hard feelings though, I love Sandra and Lauren. So yeah, I was surprised people bought my BS that much.

For more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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