David Voce on his devastating, logic-defying Survivor blindside
Jeff Probst told the cast of Survivor 41 that this season would be extra tough due to the fact that they were playing only 26 days as opposed to the standard 39. It's even tougher when you are on a tribe that can't win a challenge. The Yase tribe continued to come up short in the competitions, once again heading to Tribal Council, and once again voting off a man who went by his last instead of first name.
This time it was David Voce, who became victim number three in the game after Evvie Jagoda sided with the women on the tribe over David and Xander Hastings. Xander was actually the intended victim, but then Tiffany Seely became paranoid Xander held an idol, so the target moved to David instead, with both David and logic proving to lose out in the end. We spoke to David to get his thoughts on what went wrong, find out how the super-fan dealt with his early exit, and score some inside scoop on stuff we didn't see.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I'll ask you the same first question I asked Eric Abraham last week. Why go by your last name of Voce instead of David? As someone with the middle name of David, I am slightly offended.
DAVID VOCE: I even talked with the producers and people beforehand, about how going out there by my last name, that's a loaded name to use when you go onto Survivor, because the greats are known by the last name. But for my entire life, I have gone by Voce because there were so many Davids growing up that everyone just said Voce. It was easier for my mom to scream. It was easier for friends to scream when I was in trouble. So that's my identity. That's who I was. And when you go on Survivor, you're going to be telling so many lies already that I wanted to be true to some things. And that's just what I go by. That's who I am. That's how I'm known. So it would be weird for my family and for my friends back home to see "David" on the screen and be like, "Wait, who is that?" That is not what I'm known as, so I said, "Screw it. I'm going with it. It's what I do. It's who I am." And there you go.
So let's get into that Tribal Council. Any hint or clue that you might be in trouble walking into that Tribal Council, or complete blindside?
Complete and utter blindside, and complete and utter does not make sense, no strategy. What are you doing? What is wrong with you? Get your heads in the game! And at the end of the day, everyone can vote emotionally. They don't have to vote logically, but you still vote according to what is best for your alliance. I didn't know the all-women's alliance was so strong, but for the all-women's alliance, you get Xander because he's the one that's loaded with all these advantages and he can't do anything!
So I actually had a hunch that there was an all-women's alliance because on day 4, the girls wanted to kind of keep me calm because we all thought the target was Liana, and Liana came up to me and she had not been talking any strategy to me, and then all of a sudden she was like, "Hey, we should work together. What about getting Xander out?" So I kind of knew that that was in the works.
A lot of the preseason press was like, "Oh no, he's going to be arrogant." So I was like, ride this out. Xander's going to be the one that goes, if there's a blindside, keep it cool. Try and get Tiffany if that's the way it's going to go, but otherwise just keep it cool because there is no reason to get me out over Xander. If you're the all-women's alliance, you have to get Xander out. Xander is dangerous. He has an idol that's not active. The frustrating thing is, is that it got so confusing because Xander had the extra vote, but you can't use the extra vote if you don't have a primary vote. And then you have the Shot in the Dark, which many people were so confused by you can't use a Shot in the Dark if you don't have your primary vote. So everyone's heads were spinning and it became a game of Russian roulette.
I was wondering if you considered Xander or Evvie your ride or die, but if you suspected an all-women's alliance, I'm guessing it must have been Xander.
So when I went into this, I was like, I am not aligning with Xander. There's no way because you know, young guys or whatever. But Xander and I are actually completely different. The backstory that you guys didn't get is that Xander and I actually ran into each other in the gym at University of Chicago years ago and live two blocks away. And I had this flash to HHH with Ali and Patrick who knew each other from before. I was like, "Don't screw this up. You have this bond. You think the same."
We sat down on that water challenge, and we realized we have very similar lives, very similar thinking. And I was like, latch on to this. The girls actually did not think we were that close, but having that backstory where we literally had worked out in the same gym before where we had that recognition, we definitely felt like that is something to latch onto.
I know for superfans how hard getting voted out really early can be and I've talked to a lot of them and they've been very open and honest about the difficulties of dealing with it after achieving that dream of getting on the show and then going out early. How has it been for you over the past five months?
You know, it sucks. Cause I was originally cast before COVID and I was supposed to go out there. I had arranged my crazy schedule to let that happen, then COVID happened. I obviously got sucked back into the hospitals. I didn't think I was going to be able to go back out there for this, so when the opportunity came up and actually worked out, there was just so much excitement, so much pressure, so much just this is a dream. And so to have that cut short was devastating.
And you hear about everyone talk about the mental health and everything afterwards, dealing with it. And I kind of thought, "Oh yeah, sure, that's fine." But that's a really big reality of it in terms of especially when you go out for something that seems so stupid at the end of the day, in terms of no logic, no reasoning, no explanation. And so that's something that you've got to work through. But I am so grateful for the experience. And that's what I keep going back to, just to be able to go out there and have had that opportunity. And as cliché as it sounds, Jeff is right: It strips you down to your core. It teaches you about yourself and teaches you what's important in life. And that's something that is irreplaceable essentially
What was it like watching it play out last night on TV?
You know, it was really vindicating because a lot of times you have to be careful about the edit. Abraham was a unanimous vote from day 1 after the sweat challenge when he broke our flint in half and it was like, "What are you doing? No." And so there was no women's split convincing Xander and me — it was five versus one from day 1 against Abraham, great guy outside of the game. But watching it on TV, it was just very clear that strategy went out the window and paranoia set in. Tiffany was very confused, love Tiffany, we had so much fun out there together. She's a larger than life personality. And we would poop together, we slept together next to each other. But to watch that unfold where it's like this doesn't make sense was really vindicating because it was like, this was not something that I did.
I think people thought I was going to go and play really hard and screw up. I looked angry — word to the wise, don't get LASIK surgery before you go out there. I had a raging tropical eye infection like Jessica Lewis. So I couldn't open my eyes in any of the publicity pictures, which is why it looked so angry. So it was kind of great for me to be able to kind of prove these people wrong and say, "Hey, I actually had fun with this. I wasn't this arrogant bossy person that was out there playing." And I think they were able to see that from just the two episodes. And I really think that they saw that I didn't overplay and that I kind of was in it. I thought that I was in an ideal situation, but that's Survivor. It can flip on a dime for some willy nilly reason.
Follow up question: When you say you guys pooped together, is this an aqua dump situation or is this on land?
Primarily aqua dumps, or we would go out together and we would just, you know, tell stories about life together. You lose all sense of decency when you're out there being naked around each other, so Tiffany has definitely seen my tush a couple of times when the tide went out really quickly and I was like, "Whoops, there we go!"
So enlighten me because I can't figure out if Evvie is playing this game really well and taking information and using against people and manipulating, or if she just can't keep a secret and can't keep her mouth shut. What's your perspective on that?
We all knew that Evvie was playing very hard and on day 4, I went to Xander and I said, "She made a final two with me. I bet she made a final two with you." And she made a final two with Tiffany. So we knew that she was playing very, very hard, which is where we were all being very wary. The problem is, in a five-person tribe, you have to have trust and you can't express this kind of paranoia too much. Otherwise they flip. The thing that superseded this season was the all-women's alliance there was going into this. We didn't know about the bios and everything, and Evvie was very much, "I want women strong." And that theme superseded almost, I would say, logic, where it was at all costs, we will do women strong.
The other thing that I'll say that was delusional on this tribe is that everyone said, "Let's do an intentional Matsing!" And I'm sitting there thinking, you have five people, you can't have all five people saying, "Let's do an intentional Matsing!" because there are only two people by definition that are going to make it. That's not a strategy when there's five people left.
So there was paranoia on all counts. I think Evvie, you know, you see saw her on the screen. She's so magnetic. And I'll say this: I would have thrived on conflict, but this tribe got along so well. And I said this after Abraham got voted out: "I'm terrified because lines have not been drawn in the sand." People say that after your first vote, that's when you have lines drawn. There were no lines drawn in the sand after the first vote. So it was really hard because we got along so well.
Why did you all struggle so much in challenges, going all the way back to not being able to even get off the boat at the marooning?
Okay, I just said, I'm not an arrogant a--hole, so I'll try and hold to that. Xander and I were the two athletic guys on the tribe, but what we quickly learned was that we were also the puzzle people on the tribe, and you had to select people to be in the athletic portion and then the puzzle portion. And so the first challenge we had done, Evvie and Liana tried to do the puzzle, but they didn't show at the end of that, we only had four pieces in the puzzle. So we realized Xander and I — one of us has to be on the puzzle.
The reason why I'm standing in my underwear doing that second challenge puzzle is because I was supposed to swim. But last minute we said, "No one can do puzzles. Either Voce or Xander has to do the puzzle because we are so bad." And Tiffany said, "I can do the balance beam." I felt very bad for her on the balance beam, but what they didn't show is that was about five minutes of her on the beam. It was not close at all. In terms of it was a complete blow-out challenge. It was almost like she gave up on the beam. And I love Tiffany to death and she is just a great human being, but it was so frustrating to be sitting there waiting to do the puzzle and just to completely see it slip through your fingers. So that at the end of the day, that was it and you can't swap people in and out.
How bad was it hauling that water back and forth with Xander on day 1?
The only thing I am upset from the edit is how undersold that was. That was the most excruciating challenge you can imagine. We almost didn't make it. I literally had blood pouring down from my thighs from the chafing, from going back and forth. It wasn't just go to the beach right down there. You had to go around an obstacle. We had these cuts and scars going down our back from where we were trying to wedge it some way. I actually passed out at one point in the ocean because I was just seeing stars. That night, when I was laying down, my hands were cramping. My toes were cramping because it just destroyed me.
I was trying to convince them beforehand and say, "This is a challenge that will destroy us. And it will separate us." And what drove me crazy was Xander was so eager because he wanted to prove that he could do it. I'm like, "You don't need to prove anything here! You need strategy. Put your pride aside! Think through this. It is a bad decision." And I will stick to that and say those girls formed that all-girls alliance so solidly when we were away. And that's what I was screaming.
And people caught on to this. I realized I was putting up a little bit of a fight to say, "No, we shouldn't do this," but on day 1, you don't want to be the one that saying, "No, I'm not going to do that." And so I kind of said, I have to cut my losses, but there was a point when I was hauling water where I had a little bit of a panic attack where I said, "This is bad. This is so bad that we are not back there at camp." And I stick to that. That was a horrible decision.
Only a fraction of what happens out there actually makes it to the episode. What's something that you wish we had seen on air?
A couple of things. One is how unanimous the tribe was against Abraham, just because I think that gives you a flavor of how close we were together in the sense that Abraham broke the flint. He just didn't mesh well. And so the five of us were a unified five. Even if there were sub alliances there, we really were that close. And just in general, you know, the chaoticness that happened after that challenge loss was unfortunate.
And I forgot to mention Evvie coming back from that island, she only had five to 10 minutes to talk to us. That was how late in the day she came back. So she could not convince Tiffany with logic. All hell broke loose and pandemonium set in. I don't even think I got a one-on-one with Evvie because it was only five minutes back and then we were going to Tribal Council. So I think that it's unfortunate that people didn't really see that just how quick it happened and how we could not have conversations with everyone because of how quickly everything was moving. A lot of people say, you have to get yourself in there, yu have to have these conversations. And literally that didn't happen in this game.
Normally the third person goes out on day 9. This was day 5. And you had think that Evvie was off on her island, you had Xander that couldn't vote, you had only three people back at camp that could vote, you had people that didn't understand Shot in the Dark and didn't understand the votes and stuff. And you saw a little bit of that craziness, but you didn't see how crazy that part actually was. And so that's what I think is unfortunate is that that was kind of missed.
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