The fourth-place finisher didn’t just sit around wondering why she wasn't appearing in early episodes. She rang up the show to get some answers.
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Heather Aldret didn't exactly get a lot of screen time on Survivor 41. Nor did she appear to get a lot of respect from her fellow players. But all that changed on the final-four fire-making contest in which Heather gamely battled Deshawn Radden with a spot in the final three on the line. Heather didn't win that competition, but she proved her mettle, creating and sustaining a fire she just couldn't get to stay centered beneath the rope that needed to be burned through.

Heather's effort may not have earned her a spot in the final three, but it earned her the respect of the jury, who gave her a loud ovation as she was having her torch snuffed. How did Heather feel about her exit and just missing out on the final three? What was her reaction to Deshawn's truth bomb? And is she upset that so little of her journey along the way made it to the screen?

It turns out that Heather took a very proactive stance when she didn't see herself getting much screen time, placing a call to get some answers. Get ready for tons of insight from a fourth-place finisher who actually tried to stay in the game even after her torch was snuffed. Say what?

Heather Aldret on 'Survivor 41'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What happened on that fire-making competition because it looked like you had the higher, more consistent flame, but that rope would just not break?

HEATHER ALDRET: I did have the higher, most consistent flame, but I don't know if you could see it, but the wind was blowing so hard. I felt like I was in a little wind tunnel, and it was pushing the flames back. It was actually blowing in at me! I had to keep backing up because it was gonna burn my face. And now that I think about it, if I had just taken my knife and actually pushed my sticks and all the stuff closer into the string, I might have had a better chance of it actually catching fire, but it was the wind. The wind was blowing it towards my face. I had the stronger one, but it just wouldn't go up. I got started, and it got ready to do it, and then it would blow towards my face.

 How much have you been thinking about that over the past seven months?

I thought about it afterwards, and I thought about it for like the next week, but then I had to let it go because I didn't wanna be consumed with all the what-ifs that I've always heard other contestants have been stuck in for years. I didn't want that to happen. I recognize what went wrong after the fact and thought, "Hmm, I could have remedied this by just pushing it forward. I didn't do it, my mistake. And I lost."

But I was glad I was able to get the fire started. And the one thing that shook me was all the time while I was practicing in the woods, we had this stuff that almost looked like burlap and that's what I practiced on all the time. And I was able to get it in like six seconds. We would count it. And when I went to go get my materials to build my fire, they didn't have those materials there that I was so used to using. They had string, and there was no string out there in the jungle. We had the coconut-husk-looking stuff. That's what sparks the easiest in the jungle for the next contestants out there.

What did it mean for you to get that ovation from the other players and the jury while having your torch snuffed?

I didn't even realize it was happening until watching it back this season. I didn't realize a lot of those things until I saw it back because you're so hyper focused in the moment or just trying to deal with what just happened. I had no idea that even happened. I was just taking it in.

And what you don't know is Deshawn was my friend out there. And so to lose this challenge to someone I considered my friend too? It was bittersweet because I hated losing, but I was happy for him because he was struggling with different issues, and to watch him overcome something and be so proud of him was gratifying for me. I hated leaving, but I loved leaving it to someone I cared about.

What was going through your mind when Deshawn detonated that truth bomb all over Tribal Council about what Erika had said?

What you didn't see was Deshawn actually pulled me aside before that Tribal and told me all of that. He told me every bit of it, word for word. And listen, I've watched this game for 20 years. I know there comes a time when you have to break and go your separate ways. [Erika and I] weren't there yet. We knew it. We've talked about it. We had our pieces still in a row to get to the end. We were on a mission. And so when he told me, I listened. I was like, "Thank you for sharing that with me."

But when he pulled that out at Tribal, I didn't know how to react. I was crushed because I already knew it. So I didn't wanna stand and be like, "I already know all this. It's okay." But I hated that he was doing it because it was hurting Erika, and dumb. I was close with Deshawn, but to have my good friend try to sabotage my other good friend out there? It was hard because I didn't understand it. He was trying to shake us up a little bit. And it didn't work.

When I was shown on screen being upset. I wasn't upset with Erika. I was upset with that whole situation that was starting my breaking point that night. We were so hungry, then that happened, then we ended up on that island where we didn't even know where the water well was. The only thing that brought us comfort to the game this far was knowing where things were in our camp. I knew where I hung my bottle every night. I knew where I put my clothes. There's comfort in that. And when that was taken away, it just intensified everything. So I needed a good 12 hours to get back into it and to think about things objectively instead of emotionally, because I was kind of wrecked after that one.

Heather Aldret on 'Survivor 41'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

Look, it's no secret that you didn't exactly get a heavy edit this season. Was it tough during the season not seeing more of your journey on the screen? How did you feel about that?

How would you feel?

Not good.

It's a myriad of emotions because you get so hyped for it and so excited and you wanna promote it and get people to watch it. And then people show up and in the first one, there was a little bit, and then there wasn't, and then there wasn't again. And then you start seeing the comments online. "What did Heather do? She has a foul mouth. She cussed too much" or "it's because of this or she's trying to hide something." And I really didn't understand why. And I need to know the truth if I'm asked a question.

So I actually called [Survivor casting director Jesse Tannenbaum] and I was like, "Jesse, I need an honest answer. I can handle it. I'm a big girl. We've always been very truthful with each other. Did I do something wrong? Am I being punished?" Because I'm sure you saw everything online, from "Did she steal Jeff's khaki pants?" to "Did she kidnap a member of production's kid?" I mean, it just went on. It was a funny meme, but it hurt. It stung.

And he said, "No, you did nothing wrong. They loved you." He told me that the first part of the season, everything was around an advantage. It was around something of that capacity. And at that point, everybody in my tribe had been connected to something that way, whether finding the advantage or breaking the hourglass, because we didn't even go to Tribal yet. So everybody had a part in that but me, and that's where the focus was.

So with the focus being there and me not being a part of it, I'm not a part of the show. But yeah, I did call and ask because I wanted to know if I did something wrong. Then I could say to my kids, "Hey, guys, I messed up. I shouldn't have done this. This is why." But that wasn't the case. So I was glad to hear that, but disappointed some of my journey wasn't shown. Or the parts that were shown, for the first part, it was like so dramatically done with my failings. And that was kind of hard to watch too, because it was dramatic enough living it, but then to see it, like the epic fail of that challenge, and seeing it just stretched out and all the drama and the slow motion… that was a lot to watch.

It's so difficult because you live the whole experience, then it's almost like PTSD because you have to watch it play back on TV all over again few months later. What it was like for you watching that challenge play back because it's framed as this sort of triumphant moment, even if the person doesn't necessarily feel triumphant?

The people I saw in the comments were talking about them trying to create another Cirie moment, but nobody knew me for them to get behind me and be like, "Wow, let's cheer her on." I was the old lady out there that couldn't throw a ball, you know? And couldn't run. So that was hard. But something else I would like to share is that they showed afterwards my confessional saying, "I'm proud of myself." I didn't say that after that confessional. I said that after another one. After that confessional, I said, "That was awful. I lived my worst nightmare out here. I can move on. But I let myself down. I let my team down because they had won everything that far."

And I felt horrible. I wasn't embarrassed, because you can't go on a show like this and get embarrassed. You have to own it. I owned it, I sucked at it, I lost it, and it was horrible. I never said I was proud of it. And I also didn't remember anybody clapping either. So to see the clapping part, I was like, "Wow." But it did hurt doing it. I was not proud of myself.

Heather Aldret on 'Survivor 41'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

With so little of your journey making it on air, what is something you wish had made it into an episode?

I wish they had shown me being a part of coming up with the plans and where to put the votes. Erika and I would sit down and say, "Okay, let's figure this out." And we would draw the holes in the sand. "Okay, if you can get Danny to see the vote this way, I'll make sure this person does too. And then that way we can cover it if this person plays the idol." We did that through every vote, and were on the right side of every vote. So I wish they had shown more of that for the both of us because, you know, she earned that credit too.

Another thing I wish they had shown was where I created this live Tribal with Tiffany — I actually liked Tiffany, and I had only gotten to know her briefly because we had just merged. And it was quite chaotic with her and her group. And just so I was sitting back when all that was going down, but I wanted to get to know her better. She was just a lot of fun. And I knew the vote was going to be on her, and I didn't want that to happen.

And I also felt like something was going on because what you didn't see is I had just come back out from doing a confessional, and two seconds later we were at Tribal, and I wasn't sure if things had changed or what was going on. I was trying to figure out what is really happening because I wasn't trusting Shan and Liana at that time. And so I had told Tiffany just to sit still 'cause I didn't want her to cause a commotion. I was gonna try to save her. But I couldn't say that. I said, "Just sit still." And so I was trying to flip it on Naseer because Naseer was a threat at the time. I was like, "Now's the time to do it. If everybody's quiet, maybe I can save her at the same time."

I don't know if you saw this clearly, but Liana actually said to me at that point, "What are you doing? Why you trying to flip this? You're trying to mess this up!" I was like, "Well, I'm not sure what's happening. I'm trying to figure it out!" She goes, "If you don't sit down now, the votes are gonna be turned on you!" And then I see Shan pointing at me, so I was like, "I better do what I'm being told. I'm gonna remember this, and this isn't gonna happen again, but I'm not gonna chance this."

So that is why I sat down at that moment and voted the way I agreed to before it started. That's why that happened. So it wasn't me trying to create chaos. I really liked Tiffany and wanted her to stay, but I was being threatened that I was gonna be going if I messed up their plan. And that is why Tiffany and Evvie voted for me: because they were hearing Shan saying, "Vote Heather."

Even though you were close with Deshawn and Xander, I assume it was always a slam dunk you were voting for Erika to win, right?

Absolutely. I didn't consider Deshawn as much. I felt like his play, even though I loved him, was something that was not measurable on success. It was measurable on chaos and not getting what he wanted with the chaos. With Xander, I didn't know a lot of the great things he had done until I saw it on television. I wasn't there the first part of his chapter, and that's something he never talked about. After the game I was like, "Why didn't you tell me about all these things I'm seeing on television?" And he was like, "I guess it just didn't come up."

I felt strongly about voting for Erika because I was on that journey with her the entire time. I saw it all. She handled a lot of things with grace and dignity and is just this powerhouse of a little person. And I was so in awe of the way she handled so many situations where she easily could have crumbled or made a mistake. That was something I applauded her for. I think she deserved the win.

Look, I know you're not proud of that one reward challenge, but I hope you are proud of making it this close to the very end.

I wanted to play the game and I got to play the game. I knew I was never gonna outrun Xander or Danny. And so my point was, going into every challenge I wanted to enjoy it and not be scared. And that's what I did. I could tell you every detail of every challenge where every GoPro was, because I saw it and I lived it. So I lived my dream. I wish they would've showed that I wasn't just a warm body out there because I was part of strategies and things.

I'm proud of making it as far as I did. And I even said at the end, "Let me just go finish. I don't care. I don't wanna win at this point. Just let me go. There's only a few hours left. I got this far." I was more upset leaving and that I couldn't finish it with those three because we had gone so far together. Seriously, if they would've let me go back out there and just rough it with them, I wouldn't have eaten the breakfast. I would've done it just to finish it with them.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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