I’ll admit it: When Cirie Fields finished in fourth in “Survivor: Panama,” I felt like she’d stumbled into such a high position, either through luck or by flying under the radar.
It was only watching Cirie again on “Suvivor: Micronesia” that it became clear that it wasn’t a coincidence how frequently Cirie kept finding herself on the right side of every alliance, having her voice heard in every vote. She only advanced one place further in that season, coming in behind Parvati and Amanda, but it was suddenly easier to appreciate one of the better social players in the game’s history.
Of course, by the time Cirie signed on for her third tour of “Survivor” duty, there wasn’t much of a chance she’d be able to be underestimated for a third time. Indeed, that’s why when Alpha Males Tom and Colby sensed a threat on Thursday (March 4) night’s “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains,” they immediately turned their attentions on Cirie and with the help of some opportunistic voting from JT, they took the potential puppetmaster out of the game.
HitFix caught up with Cirie on Friday morning to talk about her alliance-making difficulties this time around, the advantages of being underestimated and why she never considered herself a Hero.
HitFix: So how’d you watch the episode?
Cirie Fields: I always watch at home with my family.
HitFix: Had you spilled the beans at all?
CF: No, I never tell them.
HitFix: And how’d they react?
CF: “Awwwwww…” My 12-year-old today, today’s his birthday, his name is Jared and he was so sad. He tried to be strong and a big guy for mommy. He gave me a hug and said, “Oh, Mom, it’s OK.” But I could see on his face that he was so disappointed. Otherwise, it was pretty much just “I’m proud of you” and “It’s OK” and “You did a great job” and “Don’t feel bad about anything.”
HitFix: But as you watched the episode, were you constantly seeing things you could have done to save yourself?
CF: I think the only thing I probably could have done differently is that I should have spent more time cultivating some type of relationship with JT. He didn’t trust me. I didn’t trust him. We were in alliance together and that was basically the gist of it. When you’re aligned with someone that you don’t trust, there’s always the opportunity to turn on them and get rid of them and he seized that opportunity. Other than that? No regrets. I think I probably would have tried to do everything the same.
HitFix: At Tribal Council, you said you thought you might be going home and Tom said he didn’t believe you were really worried. How confident were you that Colby was going to end up being the target?
CF: You know, when you’re outside of a numbers alliance, you automatically assume that everyone within that alliance feels safe. What Tom didn’t know is that he didn’t really understand the structure of that alliance. He didn’t understand that I was in that alliance by default because he and Colby would not align with me. He knew the hierarchy of the alliance, but I guess he assumed… And that’s the problem. Instead of getting to know someone, Tom basically ran with his perception of me from the previous shows and based all of his decisions around that. If he had gotten to speak with me and gotten to spend time with me and made the effort to get to know me, then he would have known that I was really not as comfortable and I didn’t feel as safe as he thought I did and I didn’t feel comfortable in the alliance and I didn’t trust JT. But he couldn’t know all of that, because he never attempted to find out.
HitFix: So what effort were *you* trying to make with Tom?
CF: Oh my gosh. From Day One! Tom and I went to gather material materials for the shelter and it was just he and I. You don’t want to jump right out on Day One and put a target on yourself by trying to just come right out and say, “Hey, we should be aligned.” So you send out your feelers. I said to Tom as we were carrying a tree stump back, I said, “Tom, my mother really loved you and she told me to stick with that guy Tom.” I said that just to see where his head was at. And his response to me was, “Yup. You should listen to your mom.” That was it. And unbeknownst to him, my mother didn’t even see his season. See what I’m saying? So that my first indication. My second attempt, I went to Stephenie, because Tom and Colby wouldn’t even talk to me and Stephenie did make the attempt and we started talking and I told her, “I’d much rather go with you guys than with Amanda and them” and she told me they were all worried about the Micronesia Alliance and I explained to her, “If there’s an alliance, I’m not part of it. As usual. I’m left out of it. I’ve already been down that road and I don’t want to go down that road again.” And she said to me then, “I don’t know. Tom and Colby just won’t hear of it.” So there were several attempts to try to play the game with them before they lost the power, JT flipped on them, and then they wanted to be aligned with me. Well at that point, I don’t feel that comfortable being in a second-choice alliance with you when from Day One, you wouldn’t do anything with me and he just kept telling people how I needed to go. That’s like a mouse aligning with a cat. When he gets hungry what’s going to happen?
HitFix: Do you think, to some degree that this is a flaw in the structure of any All-Star “Survivor” season? That people are aligned from previous seasons or just aligned from outside of the game? And it takes the pure strategy out of the game?
CF: I don’t know anything for certain. You hear rumors or whatever. But I think some of the organic-ness, if there’s such a word, is lost in an All-Star season, because some people are friends. I couldn’t sit here right now and say, “Well these two were aligned” or “These two people were aligned,” because I wasn’t there and I don’t know that for a fact. But you do know who remains in contact. You hear who’s friends. And you don’t know whether or not that comes into play. It could. Logically you would think it would. But you never know.
HitFix: In your first two times playing, how much of your success to you attribute to being underestimated?
CF: Oooh, I think most of my success was based on that. My first season, and rightfully so, they looked at me like a fish-out-of-water. Because I was, as far as the outdoor living part of it. But I’ve always been in a position to have to deal with people and manage people. Working in an operating room is a difficult place. You have a lot of egos. You have really smart people. My ability to adapt and get along with people was, I guess, what surprised people and also the fact that I *could* think about the game. Just because I can’t start fire or I don’t like bugs or leaves, so to speak, doesn’t mean that I don’t have the mental ability to think about the best strategy or the best decision in voting. I guess good for me that people labeled me as a fish-out-of-water, but the game is more than just living outdoors. I wish people would have *still* thought of me as a fish-out-of-water. That played to my advantage, people underestimating me. By the same token, though, it hurt me, because people no longer underestimate me.
HitFix: Though you were still a bit overlooked your second time through the game. Were you shocked you could be underestimated again? And did that lead you to having a different strategy this time?
CF: I actually thought what happened this time was going to happen the second time. My mother said to me, “I don’t know. They saw you play. People know you’re not as innocent as they think you are.” So I was shocked to make it as far in Micronesia. Foolishly enough, this time around, I didn’t feel like people were going to think I was as big of a target as they did. I knew that I was exposed. I knew that. But I just thought with the calibre of player that was in the game, my exposure for being a strategist wouldn’t be the biggest threat.
HitFix: But it was probably the right move to vote you out now, wasn’t it?
CF: Oh, hey. I agree with them. If I was any one of them, I would have been voted out first.
HitFix: Knowing that, you didn’t try mixing it it up differently this time? Or are you just who you are?
CF: That’s the problem. I am who I am. I’m good at hiding how I truly feel, but I’m not good at becoming somebody else. This is who I am. I’ve been the same person every time, because it’s hard for me to change. Now if I can’t stand the sound of you breathing, I may not show that, but who I am is not going to change. I’m just me and I can’t stand the sound of you breathing.
HitFix: So what did being a Hero mean to you?
CF: Absolutely nothing. Being a Hero to me? Honestly, I wouldn’t deem any person on my tribe a Hero. I think “hero” is a strong, strong word for these average people. I know a lot of them don’t think they’re average, but I consider myself an average person and I don’t know of anything heroic that I’ve done in my life or in this game. I actually questioned which side I would be on, because I feel like all of us can fall somewhere in the middle. Except Russell. Now Russell is a Villain. I think that “Hero” title might have gone to a lot of the Heroes’ heads and that’s why we’re not doing so well.
HitFix: How would you have reacted if you’d been a Villain?
CF: I would understand. I felt like I could go either way. If we got there and I was a Villain? Well OK. I’m a Villain. Well, that day, I was a Hero. OK. I’m a Hero. I really think I fell somewhere in the middle. I’m not a complete villain. I’m not a complete hero. They needed to have a middle category. Everybody Else. It should have been “Heroes and Villains and Everybody Else.”
HitFix: If Russell’s a real Villain and you’d be with Everybody Else, would anybody have been on the Heroes side?
CF: Ummm… Let me think. You know what? After last night, I think Coach maybe should have been on the Heroes side. In his season, I don’t remember him doing anything that villainous. And Coach is who he is, almost like I just said. He’s a Villain on the Villain’s side, but he’s over there crying because you still are who you are. Without that title, you are who you are. You can’t live up to a title if that’s not you.
HitFix: Last question: You’ve done this three times now. Would you do it again?
CF: That’s the hardest question I’ve gotten today. If you’d asked me this last year, I’d have said “Absolutely.” But after seeing people’s perceptions of me and spending time with people who aren’t willing to give you the opportunity to change that perception, if everyone feels that way and no one is willing to get to know you and let you in, how much of a chance do you actually have at winning this game? To go and play the game is an amazing experience, but to go and not play the game and not be able to come home, back with your family, well then it becomes a toss-up. So now, if I was ever given the opportunity again, I would have to weight, “Do I think I have a legitimate change of winning this game, or do I want to go and try anyway and risk the chance of being away from my family for so long without a chance at the money?”
Previous “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” Exit Interviews:
As always, “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” airs at 8 p.m. on Thursdays on CBS.