"It was just really disappointing. It just bummed me out. I was just like, 'This really, really sucks.'"
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Her biggest ally in the game talked about being a driver and not a passenger, but when Lydia Meredith got behind the wheel on Survivor 42, the car — and her game — crashed and burned. Lydia was voted out after targeting new alliance member Jonathan Young, thanks to Jonathan's buddy Omar Zaheer then flipping the script to save his bromance partner.

Even Hai Giang (Lydia's biggest ally in the game) and Mike Turner (who said he would take a bullet for her) ended up voting for Lydia to leave in a stunning turn of events — sending her home one spot before both the merge and the jury. (Ouch!)

Why did Lydia make the big move to take out big Jonathan? Was she surprised her closest allies voted against her? And what does she make of the hourglass twist that undid their immunity victory at the play-in challenge? We asked the waitress all that and more, and she served up some delicious answers.

Survivor
Lydia Meredith on 'Survivor 42'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, are you really as big an Applebee's fan as you made yourself out to be on national television?

LYDIA MEREDITH: I'm a walking ad! No, I'm not, unfortunately. I'm more of a Chili's girl. But in the moment, I was like, "Yeah, this is everything I've ever wanted!"

So what happened? Why are you here talking to me?

Before we really jump in, I have to tell you, Dalton, before I knew who you were, I'd see you on my Twitter feed. And I saw your profile picture and it's the zombie, but I never looked at your account. So I thought you were an actor on The Walking Dead for literally the longest time. Until the Survivor stuff and was like, "Oh, okay. Now I know!" But for literally the longest time, I was just like, "He's an actor, and his name is Dalton Ross."

So you thought I was some Walking Dead dude that just really liked Survivor?

Literally, yes! I did not look into it as much as I probably should have. And then it all made sense. And in terms of ending up on the show, Jeff Probst fell in my lap. I was just at this party, I see him and I was just like, "Oh my God, why is he here?" I'm just at this random party. And so I go up to him, give him a hug, and I'm just like, "I would do great on Survivor, blah, blah, blah" — just ranting at him. and he's just like, "Oh, okay." And that I'm here after this insane experience...

So let's talk about the end of the insane experience. Hai was ready to go to rocks for you once and told anyone who would listen that he would do so again while Mike said in this episode he would take a bullet for you. Yet they both voted you out. How surprising was that to you?

Well, Mike and I really did work together for the Daniel vote and everything, but that one was not surprising because we really weren't working together as closely. We were definitely tight. I loved Mike, I loved hanging out with him, but just strategically, we were just not working together.

But when it happened, I kind of had a feeling it was Hai. To me, it was just kind of like… why? I feel like I really could have been an easy number at that point to just have me in his pocket, you know? And that was my whole strategy, too. I sneak by. It's a little frustrating sometimes. I feel like I've gotten criticism just for playing a very passive game. But I was like, well, we all can't be making the big moves because then you see Daniel and it just implodes. So there are different strategies.

And then also I was like, why wouldn't you just let Jenny stay then if you were just gonna walk away two Tribals later? It kind of doesn't make sense to me. I mean, it is what it is. Hai was playing his own game, and unfortunately, that's the way it happened. It sucks. And also, I don't think I was really on anyone's radar until the twist. So I feel like it's just unfortunate all around.

You talked about playing a passive game, but you didn't seem passive in this episode. What made you want to turn on Jonathan right after making that eight-person alliance?

I was just like, it seems like the obvious one. Those are the types of players that really do go on streaks. And people were like, "Oh, well, we can just get him out later," but then that's always the trap. It's like, "We'll get him out later," and then who knows? So that was just like my initial thought.

And also, I just wanted anybody but me. So I was just kind of like, "Yeah, I'll say whatever." I'm not like trying to pull this big thing, you know? But at the end of the day, it still got twisted by Omar. And watching it back, was I turning on them and everything? No. I just was just being like, "Yeah, I'll go with the numbers at the end of the day." And it was all twisted and everything, but good for Omar.

Survivor
Lydia Meredith of 'Survivor 42'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

So who first said Jonathan's name? Was it you, or was it Romeo or someone else?

I heard it from so many people. Those two days were insane. Everyone's name was out there, but I heard it from somebody else first. I wasn't the [one who] initially thought of it. It definitely wasn't me.

And if Tori doesn't win immunity, does none of this happen? Does everyone just vote Tori out?

Yeah, I think Tori was dead on arrival. She was raked through the mud. Chanelle was pretty raked through the mud and then Tori. It was those two, definitely.

Sydney and Danny were definitely not fans of the hourglass twist last season, with Danny saying they were lied to about it. What do you think of it?

I was also honestly kind of confused. I thought [whoever was sent to Exile] automatically got immunity, so I was just like, "Okay, so now it's more of an equal decision." But then when I found out that they didn't, and they had to smash it to get immunity, I was like, "Dude, this kinda sucks. This is kinda weird." And especially because I did work my ass off, too. Jenny gave me her puzzle powers because I killed the rest of the puzzles that I did in the game and everything. So the physical portion of it, obviously, I'm not gonna do great. But then me and Maryanne killed that puzzle

So I had bliss for two days and then, of course, there were rumors that it could be flipped and everything, but the whole time I was just like, "No, he told us so many times we won immunity." Like, we won immunity! So it was just really disappointing. It bummed me out. I was just like, "This really, really sucks"

I wish it could have automatically made [Rocksroy] immune [going to Exile] and then we really could have a different conversation about it. But there's no reason not to break it, you know? And also all of his allies were in the other group… or Ika was on the other thing. [Laughs] We don't know who Rocksroy's aligned with! We have no idea who he was aligned with! But it just sucks.

After you all won that challenge, you were told that whomever you sent to Exile would get a power, so why send Rocksroy instead of Lindsay?

It was Tori. Tori was just like, "I don't want him over here." And, of course, no one's gonna argue. Tori was just like, "No." And then the Taku folks were saying that Lindsay was really hungry and everything. And knowing Lindsay, she's a dietician, the girl needs to eat!

Did you or anyone from your winning team consider trading spots with Rocksroy to get that mystery power?

Well, you put a huge target on your back. I don't think anybody was actually going to risk it because yeah, it's this big power, but it really wasn't even about the Applebee's. It was more "I don't want to be putting a blazing target on my back right before this merge thing."

Yeah, and not only that, but at that point, you're giving up immunity. You don't know what the power is, but you're giving up immunity.

In hindsight, you probably should have, but also you don't know. And immunity was there and you hold that close and then when it gets taken away, it's just like, "Are you serious?"

So when you went to Tribal Council that night, did you have a sense it might be you, or were you feeling pretty safe?

I was hoping for the best, but I never felt safe going, especially after what happened to our first Tribal. But I was totally blindsided. Because I played a very social game, and I was definitely talking to everybody. So I was totally blindsided.

Survivor
The Vati tribe on 'Survivor 42'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

Rocksroy was the only member of this new eight-person alliance to not vote for you. Do you know what that was about? Was that due to your journey together or something?

No one knows. Could not tell you a single thing. He's a mystery to us all.

And he voted for Lindsay, the person that he said "Oh, she needs some food. I'm happy the tribe picked her over me." And then he votes for her.

So weird. I don't think he had any idea what was going on, and watching it back, I was like, "Okay, I did have a sense of what was kind of going on, except that it was switched to me." But everything else that I witnessed, I was like, "Okay, I did know that." I knew who was on the outs and everything, and that Tori needed to win that immunity.

Let's go back to that tie at Tribal Council a few weeks back. When Daniel opened up by saying he didn't want to go to rocks, were you like, "We're good here, he just lost all his negotiating power"?

He was done. Done in the moment, like, "All right, bye!" It was really clear. I wish they would've shown Jenny fight a little bit more. I feel like we like missed out on her narrative a little bit, because she was working them and everything.

And then even coming back [to camp] after that, Daniel was just like, "I think we should all just go to bed and not talk about anything right now." And we're all like, "No. Bye!"

How hard is it to be that close to the merge and jury but just miss out?

I mean, literally, I'm walking out and heard them all cheer and it made me so sad. I was just like "Lydia, get through your last little confessional and then you can cry your eyes out. You can just wait a little bit longer." It was like another dagger in my heart. I was like, "Noooooooo!"

It was so sad, but I think it was also harder because I met everybody. I was in there with everybody! It felt like a merge! And then them being like, "Yeah, and you're not a part of that jury." I was just like, "Are you kidding me?" It was just dagger after dagger after dagger.

I think at the end of the day, it's just the twist of Mike and Chanelle losing their votes when Jenny really did have the majority — so I got an advantage basically because of that twist. So it kind of feels very balanced in the world that an unfortunate twist got me out in the end, you know? I really can't complain.

What's something that happened out there that didn't make it into an episode that you wish we could have seen?

Our first seven days were so lovely. Obviously, we hadn't gone to Tribal yet. We were cracking up. Mike was cracking us up. We all were just bonding and just having a great time together. And so in a nostalgic way, I just wish I could see all that footage of us just messing around.

And then there was our very first night, too. We had this half-built shelter and the stars were so beautiful that night and the Vati beach was unreal. It was so beautiful. And we had this natural canopy, but there's a small opening. And so we were all [cramped together] with all of our asses in the crevice of the bamboo and we're all just looking up and being just so grateful to be there. It was such a beautiful night. We were laughing. We were falling outta the shelter. That was like such a sweet moment that I'll hold with me. It was lovely.

I remember the one night I spent on Exile Island in Panama being awestruck by the stars on display.

Oh my gosh, it was unreal. There was one more moment too where this was the first time I s--- in the game. I was severely constipated. And I'm on the beach near tears with getting this log out of my body and the stars were so pretty. And I was like, this is such a beautiful moment, even though I'm going through excruciating pain right now. It felt like a hug. The stars were like a hug every time I needed it.

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