Eric Abraham reacts to being first person voted off Survivor 41
Eric Abraham broke one of the cardinal rules of Survivor: Never push too hard to get a certain person out right off the bat, because if the people you push are aligned with or would rather keep that person, then guess who becomes the target? You.
After his Yase tribe lost the first immunity challenge of Survivor 41, Abraham (who went by his last name on the show) targeted Tiffany Seely as the weakest link due to what he deemed a subpar performance at the marooning challenge. Unfortunately for the the 51-year-old cyber security analyst, the rest of the tribe then rallied around Tiffany and unanimously voted Abraham out instead.
He was clearly blindsided but appeared to take being the first one voted out of the game in good stride. However, how does he feel now, several months later, after watching it play out on TV? We spoke to Survivor 41's first victim, who explained why he went by his last name, what he wishes he had done differently, and how he feels about being cast off.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, why did you decide to go by your last name, Abraham, instead of your first name, Eric?
ERIC ABRAHAM: I served 22 years in the military, and they called me Abraham the whole time. And I just said, "Hey, Abraham is a name that I enjoy being called. And nobody really calls me Eric. So I'll use Abraham." And if we're really good to go, Dalton, you can call me Abe.
I hope we are good to go! We'll see by the end of this interview. So let's get into what happened in the episode last night. You said it twice: You were completely stunned by your blind side, right?
Coming into the show, you know one thing is for certain: If you go to Tribal Council, you got to vote. And I said, "Hey, the best way to stay out of being voted out is to show your strength to the whole team." And I went to work. You look at that sandbag challenge, you look at the boat challenge — I thought I'd put in the effort and time to make sure, "Hey, look, I'm a valuable asset and a valuable shield. I can shield Xander. I can shield [Tiffany] Seely. I can shield one of them. But everything was moving fast, as 26 days is not a lot of time, so there were lot of twists and turns. I did not see the blind side because I thought I was valuable.
So why do you think they voted you out?
You look at it and say, "Okay, I want to stay longer." So my tribe was like, "What's the best way for me to stay? Well, we're going to vote him out." It's so tricky, and Survivor, one wrong move… I said, "Hey, look at it and say, 'What's the best move for me? You got three guys. They got three young ladies. Let's take out one of the guys.'" Well, the young ladies now have the upper hand and then some people just don't see what's coming.
A lot of people voted out first in the game are really traumatized by the experience, but even though you seemed completely shocked, you appeared to take it really well with no hard feelings towards the others.
It's a two-fold thing. Firstly, I made it on Survivor season 41. I applied way back in 2000, the very first time Richard Hatch was on the show. So in itself, just to be in that position to be on Survivor and see what it takes to bring that to CBS and the people that they put together, it is one surreal thing in itself. Secondly, I'm coming back. So all it did was get me ready to come back down the road somewhere. So I'm going to rest up.
It's probably in a sense better to be voted out first than second because fans are always asking for that season of all the people voted out first. So if they do it, I think you're in there!
I feel like I marked my position and was like, "Look, y'all just saw Abraham. You see what he brings to the table. Let's get him back out there again."
So you go through that whole experience out there back in April, and then you have to wait five months to watch it all play back on TV. What was it like for you last night watching it all go down?
Oh, that was freaky crazy. 'Cause I've been a fan of Survivor and I'm looking at these different contestants and then I'm like, "Wait a minute, that's me on this tribe! That's me out there walking to do this event!" Then I'm like,"Wait a minute — I'm looking at people that are looking at me. They're laughing as stuff is going on. And then they're looking at me while I'm looking at it." I'm like, "This is crazy. I'm actually on Survivor and I'm one of the fans looking at the other tribes as they go through their different tribal stuff." It's a great experience.
So, Abe — and I'm going to call you Abe because I feel like we're that close now — do you think you came on too strong in your desire to oust Tiffany? Do you think that had you laid low on that, then maybe you'd still be there?
You know what? You can never tell. You can never tell what the right direction is on Survivor — you're just really hoping that your direction works out. And then as we go on to the next episode, you realize that was probably a bad decision for whatever tribe as you see the next person get voted out. So really, you're just trying to do what you think is going to be the right strategy, but when it's Survivor, there truly is no correct way to go. You're just hoping that it goes in your favor, and it just didn't.
Who did you think your biggest ally or allies were in the game?
I was counting on Xander, 'cause I looked at him and was like, "Hey, we're the workhorses of the team, and they're going to need workhorses to be able to get through these challenges, especially if you look at the first two challenges." But like I said, Survivor is fast-paced. This season was even faster, so it's like, "Hey, should that be who I need to be aligned with?" And you look and say, "Okay, how did we lose a challenge?" That's how I looked at it. How did I lose that challenge? Well, it wasn't because we couldn't get the stuff we needed to be in the puzzle. It's because we didn't have participation where we needed to have it. So Xander would have been my first, Liana would have been my second, and that would have been how I would have racked and stacked everybody after that.
Okay, what the hell happened at the day 1 marooning when your tribe could not find the oars and even get off the boat?
[Laughs] The adrenaline was so high. We were on Survivor! We jumped on that task, but nobody looked behind us. So as we were running around frantic to try to find the oars, nobody looked to realize the other team had got the other two oars, and we were like, "Wait a minute. What are we missing?" And we just couldn't find it.
What's more embarrassing: Not even getting in the water or rowing your boat with the anchor still attached?
Not getting in the water. I want to take that one because that rowing with the anchor still attached was like, "Did y'all just forget about that part of it?" You're so amped up that you're just trying to do whatever to get in that boat — you just forget stuff.
So much does not make it into an episode. What's something that happened out there that you wish could have made it on air?
On our first night, we slept in the dark and there was a bird on the island that made it inside our little tent we built. And we thought it was a rat. So Tiffany said, "There's a rat in here!" and we all just scattered. So that was one of the funny moments.
If you could go back and change one thing about how you played, what would it be?
You know what, we've replayed that question since we've gotten back, and I don't think I would change anything. I went in there to say, "Hey, look, you're wanting to be one of the strongest ones." This is early on. The strongest person has never gotten voted out on Survivor. I've looked at every season. So that approach to me was the best approach at that time. Now, as you get closer to the merge, I would change my strategy. But just showing that, "Hey, look, I'm here to work. You use me, and I need you, and let's see how these cards get played." But again, like [host] Jeff [Probst] says, Survivor is changing, and that strategy didn't work.
Well, I'm sorry we didn't get to see more of you this season.
I had a lot more jokes to tell. I had some entertainment left. They never showed the chair I built for the tribe. But it was a blast. The time to the public may seem short, but we had a great time out there on the island.
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