Survivor star Liana Wallace gives her current take on Xander's face
Liana Wallace knew what had to be done. She just couldn't get the people she needed to go along with it. Presented with a guaranteed way to get Xander out of Survivor 41 on day 5, Liana watched in horror (and tears) when tribemate Tiffany got cold feet and moved the target onto someone else, sparing the dangerous Xander… who eventually took his immunity idol and extra vote into the merge.
The inability to take Xander out gnawed at Liana so much that she eventually found herself face-hating on her rival during a challenge. So how does she feel about Xander now after he used that extra vote to take her out of the game and force her to look at that face from the jury? We asked the Georgetown student all that and more the morning after her televised ouster.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You chose not to partake in the challenge rather than risk the Do or Die twist. I think that was definitely the right call. What went into your decision on that, and were you surprised more people did not sit out?
LIANA WALLACE: So going into that immunity challenge and hearing that there was this Do or Die twist, my initial thought is like, "I want to go out of this game with people voting me out. I don't want to take a 1-in-3 chance." And we didn't even know what the percentage chance was. And furthermore, on top of that, I knew in terms of individual immunity challenges, I was often one of the initial people to go out. So the likelihood of me dropping first is high, and also with little balls and stuff like that, I'm terrible at that stuff.
So I was like, "This is a no for me. You will vote me out of the game, and I'm not gonna take this kind of toss-up." And so I felt good about that decision, and I still feel good about it. I was surprised to see that more people wanted to compete given that it was this very volatile thing — we didn't know how they'd be going out of the game in terms of the Do or Die twist. I stand by that decision.
How worried were you heading into Tribal that if Deshawn survived you would be voted out?
I knew immediately after that eighth vote with Shan going home, I'm in the bottom now. So my entire game changes, and I have to figure out who I'm going to pull in and what numbers I have, right? I don't want to work with Danny and Deshawn because of what they just did, but the reality is, I need numbers. I need anybody. So I try to pull in as many folks as I can. I knew Erika and Heather would be that swing vote, and so my goal was just, "I've got to throw Ricard under the bus. Ricard is a bigger threat than me. I'm not a threat in immunity challenges."
I'm pushing that to Erika and my Spidey senses are going off. I'm like, "Okay, well, do I use my Shot in the Dark?" But my biggest thing was I had seen how Sydney used it at the merge vote, and she inadvertently shot herself in the foot. And I was like, "I don't really want to do that if my vote does matter when we're down to these numbers. I'm not going to do that." And I was pushing Erika to please vote with me. I also had a plan to talk more about why Ricard is a threat during that Tribal Council, but as you saw, it turned and there was so much going on with the Do or Die thing that I just felt really disoriented.
Erika did seem like she wanted to keep you.
Yeah, right before we went to Tribal, I was like, "Erika, are you voting with me?" And she was like, "Yes." She had to make the best decision for her game, and that's what she thought the best decision was, so I had to accept that. I had no cards to pull at that point.
Let's talk about Xander's face. What are your current thoughts on it?
[Laughs] Yes. Okay. Well, first and foremost, in real life and outside of the game, Xander is an amazing person: super genuine, super kind, a complete sweetheart. And so to see how that was misconstrued in the game was kind of hard to see, but let me explain. It provides some things that led to that relationship and dynamic between us. So at Yase camp, I think there are three things that contributed to me and Xander's relationship. First, you see in the scene when he first finds the idol, I go left, he goes right. He finds the idol, fine. You know, that's the game. The second piece is that when he did find the idol, he managed to tell everyone in the tribe, but was really, really adamant for whatever reason about not letting me find out about it.
From day one, for whatever reason, Xander never wanted to work with me. So for me, when you show me your true colors, I believe you. And I'm like, "Okay, well, if you see me as a threat, then it's in my best intention to get you out of the game at some point." And on top of that, now he has all these advantages. The third thing is, and I think this is kind of downplayed in the episodes, but me and Evvie were actually really close.
And so as we begin losing immunity challenges and don't know if we're going to make it to the merge, I'm like, "You know what, Evvie? It makes the most sense for you to play up your relationship with Xander and make sure he feels comfortable. So when we do go to Tribal Council and we don't win one of these immunity challenges, he doesn't play one of his advantages and one of us goes home." I was like, "Let's play that up."
And so for the 14 days that I'm at camp, I'm downplaying my relationship with Evvie. I'm acting like I don't have any social connections in the game. I don't even think Tiff knew how close me and Evvie were. And so that ate away at me, and throughout the game, it's just time after time I couldn't find a way to convince people that Xander was dangerous and needed to be voted out. And so that just followed me throughout the game. And so when I'm looking at him, he's super excited about this challenge, and he's like, "This is my challenge!" I'm like, "Come on!" All of this just led up to this moment. And so I was irritated in that moment for sure.
I totally get it. As I wrote in my recap, it seemed like mounting frustration. But if you hated his face during the game, how did you feel about his face looking at it from the jury? I have to imagine that was not easy, knowing you had this guy dead to rights on day 5 and there he is still playing while you were not.
It was hard. But I think Xander played an amazing game, and what's awesome about our relationship is that we both saw exactly what the other one was, and we saw how much each of us was a threat. So I respect the hell out of him. It does suck to be on the jury, but I played my hardest, he played his hardest, and he got farther than me in the end.
What was going through your mind when you asked him for that idol with the Knowledge Is Power advantage and he said he didn't have one? Take me through that sinking feeling as we watch your heart break on national television.
So that vote was crazy, and I think the twist of the Knowledge Is Power advantage was crazy too. Because there's a couple of things that led up to that moment. I genuinely thought Xander had that idol on his body. Initially, I think something that didn't really help my game was I did keep it a secret when I got back to camp. I said all the right things and created a story and everyone believed me. But as soon as they get to merge, Shan spills the beans. And I'm like, "All right, I got to do damage control. That's not super great for my game." Furthermore, she told Tiff instead of the person I was closest with on my tribe in Evvie.
So I do go ahead and tell Evvie about it because I want to mend that relationship. And the entire day I'm banking on the fact that she would never think I would go against her and I'm by her side. And I'm like, "I really want you to stay! I'm going to do whatever it takes!" I'm with them the entire day. I even asked Shan, 'cause I know she has a real idol, to check and see if the idol that's on Xander is real, and she does and she's like, "It's real."
And so I know it's a gamble, right? Like, I'm playing with fire — the Knowledge Is Power advantage and the fact is this knowledge has become commonplace. Everybody knows about it. How powerful is it? And does it become a liability if I don't play it right now? But generally, when I sat down I was like, "I think Xander has this on his body." Hindsight is 20-20. If I would have asked Evvie, "Do you have the idol?" and it's not on Evvie and Xander has it, then I look like an idiot again. So, it was gambling the entire time. But I still stand by my decision. I wanted to play a hard game and I did, and, you know, it happens.
So what about this revelation in a secret scene that Xander had a bit of a crush on you and found you really attractive?
[Laughs] Yeah, I was just laughing at that. I was like, "Oh my God, that is the cherry on top — that this entire time he has this little crush on me." But at that point, I'm so fed up with him. I'm like, "I don't care how big of a crush you have on me, I just want you out of the game." So that was a funny dynamic. I think it's a fun thing for people to watch and see, because it makes our season interesting, but that really like just made me laugh. I was like, "Oh my God, this game."
It made a lot of other people laugh as well. Okay, let's talk about the decision to tell Shan that Deshawn and Danny were targeting Ricard. Was that a strategic move, a personal move, or both?
Something really important to me coming into the game was that I played with authenticity. And something I really valued was me and Shan's relationship, and that moment we had at the summit. And so, that day I was weighing a lot of things, and I wasn't sure if I should blindside Shan or keep her as my ally. And anytime you're giving truths to another player, you're taking risks, right? So, I knew that, and I really value this connection. So I went ahead and told her, and, you know, that ended up backfiring. Everyone has a best friend, and she told her best friend, and, you know, it got back to me.
So I think you go into this game and you're like, "I'm not gonna tell anyone anything." But when you get out there, it's a different beast entirely. I really wanted to build this sense of trust with her, and I did trust her and thought that was a way to do it. That's the way I played the game, and I wanted to have that authenticity. That's something that, again, I gambled with.
Did you want to sit with Shan at the end?
I did want to sit with Shan at the end. Like when I was talking to her, I said, "I don't care if people might think you're the better player than I am — I would take that challenge. That's a risk I'm willing to take sitting with you at the end." And so I did want to go to the end with her. At that point in time, it was a decision I made. I was like, "Well, by telling you this, I'm resolidifying our bond, and I want to go to the end with you."
I don't know if you watch Big Brother, but I'm assuming you have at least heard about the Cookout. What was it like for you hearing about that all-Black alliance forming on day one and going all the way to the end when you all — who competed before Big Brother started — could not quite get that done?
My values were important going into the game. And so when I get to merge and Danny and Deshawn are like, "Oh, we should do this Black alliance thing,"… like, I didn't walk in there like, "We need to do a Black alliance." They brought that to me. So I was like, "You know, I value this. This is something I take seriously. If you say that, then I assume you're gonna mean that."
And then furthermore, at the Shan vote at eight, you know, World War II was already brewing amongst us, right? World War II can happen, but at eight, numbers wise, I'm like, this makes no sense for them to not knock out Erika with me and Shan. We're in the majority! We can have this vote and then have World War II after that. But you'd be really silly not to. And we'd be silly to write Deshawn — me and Shan. I'm like, "They're not going to do that. That doesn't make sense. That's stupid. That's emotional." But they did the opposite.
And so, like I said, I valued what they said when we came to merge. And furthermore, in terms of the societal piece of it, I value what that meant for viewers watching, and what that represented for me. So it was hard to see that dynamic on Big Brother — and that contrast. But it's also like, this is a million-dollar game, and it's cutthroat, and that does happen. Values you have outside the game are hard to bring through when you're competing and blindsiding people essentially.
What is something that happened out there we never got to see that you wish had made it on air?
Just Yase camp life. We were just so fun. I wish they showed me and Evvie's first interaction. When I first met Evvie, we looked at each other and were like, "I think you're someone I want to work with. If you don't write my name down, I'm not going to write your name down." And we were like, boom, solid. And we all built the shelter together, and were so proud we had created it. We felt so good about that. So I feel like people would have loved the dynamic of our camp life, and that's the trade-off of having more advantages in the game and getting to see less camp life. I think viewers would have really, really loved to see that.
Finally, what's it been like on the Georgetown campus being on national TV every week?
It's so wild. After last night's episode, I leave my best friend's apartment and I'm walking outside and there's a Georgetown Survivor club. And so this kid walks over and he's like, "Liana, we were rooting for you. We love you so much!" Just random people know I'm on Survivor and know my name. It's just crazy. And it's really cool to see that kind of culture of being created at Georgetown. I'm so excited I got to be a part of it.
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