Courtney Yates does not suffer fools gladly.
Fans of “Survivor: China,” where she finished as runner-up, know that. Fans of “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains,” where she was eliminated on Thursday (April 15) night, know that.
And this interviewer knows that, having been the fool at several points during my conversation with Courtney on the morning following her “Survivor” eviction. With Courtney, what you see was always what you got. She made no apologies for being snarky, judgmental and sometimes physically weak, because those things did nothing to keep her from outplaying, outwitting and outlasting 20+ castaways over her two seasons.
And when I asked questions that Courtney thought didn’t make any sense, she didn’t shy away from letting me know.
The result is a prickly, candid and funny interview in which I sometimes apparently sounded like a fool.
HitFix: In your exit last night, you seemed uncharacteristically relaxed and kind to your fellow contestants. Why so upbeat?
Courtney Yates: I don’t know. I think I am a kind person. It’s not my fault I’m funny, you know? I’m sort of linked to being sarcastic and snarky to everyone. It’s not just to any one person. I’m not a mean person. I’m just funny.
HitFix: But it’s still a circumstance where even the kindest person is sometimes allowed to be bitter, but you were totally OK with your departure?
CY: You know what? It’s a game show. People get a little too wrapped up and they define themselves by how they placed on “Survivor” and think that it’s going to change their life in some way if they get sixth place instead of 12th. It really isn’t a big deal. If you win, you get a lot of money and if you lose you’re not going to get that much money. So I took took it in stride and I’m happy for how far I got. I went in with no expectations. If I was voted off first, at least I was voted off as an All-Star. So that’s pretty good for someone like me. I never had an expectation and I don’t take myself that seriously in the context of this game.
HitFix: When did sarcasm become a villainous trait anyway? Were you surprised by the team you ended up on?
CY: You know, I’m not. I’ve seen the show and been part of it before and if you are a woman who dares to speak more than [she goes into a high-pitched voice] “Yeah! I know! Let’s work as a team!” then you’re automatically a heinous bitch who is the undoing of everyone and whatever. So it’s fine. I didn’t want to be on the Heroes women’s team. Come on.
HitFix: What kind of women were on the Heroes team?
CY: It doesn’t matter, because they didn’t stay on it very long, did they? They were just locked out. And then it was like, “You’re not strong enough, Stephenie,” even though she can bench-press me. “Get out of here, you weak woman.” She’s gonna break your legs. You’d better watch out for that girl. Those dudes are just ridiculous. But no, I was proud to be on the Villains team. The Villains, they’re killin’ it, man, although all of our people were funny and dynamic and memorable for not being necessarily a challenge-dominant blah blah blah. It’s like everyone has to do well despite something.
HitFix: If you say that one of the things that makes a woman a Villain is being outspoken, how did the Villains tribe end up so completely dominated by Russell and Boston Rob?
CY: Right from the beginning, we ended up not losing a lot, so we had all of these shifting alliances. It was like a lava lamp, you know? Things bubble and it keeps changing shapes. It started off with Rob and Russell and Sandra, Parvati and Danielle. But Rob and Russell have two wildly different ideas of how to play “Survivor” and what’s important in that game, so they started bumping heads and then there was nowhere to let pressure out. While that was happening, Danielle wanted to be with Rob, but Rob couldn’t stand her, so she sort of slunk off into a corner. Then Russell had time only for Parvati and he wouldn’t even talk to anyone else, so they ending up factioning off. Then Tyson and I ended up palling around. Then Tyson came over with Rob and us and he brought Coach and Jerri and so it turned into 6 vs. 3 instead of 3 vs. 3 vs. 3 and then targeted Tyson and he left and then the whole thing splintered. I think that having an opinion and being a strong woman necessarily leads to “Kumbaya, girl power, let’s all sing Indigo Girls and sit around and vote off the men-folk.” It’s just that in the context of the show, some girls will sit around and not say anything. And the people who do are maligned. Parvati didn’t do anything that Amanda and Cirie didn’t do, but she’s a Villain and they’re not, because they smile sweetly and say what you want to hear and Parvati’s like, “Nooo…” and she smiles sweetly and does what she wants. So she’s a Villain.
HitFix: Of course you don’t need to go all Kumbaya and vote out the men from the beginning, but there you were with the other side thinking you were picking off the men. Did anybody stop and go, “Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad idea… Maybe we should get Russell.”
CY: Well, Russell wasn’t really my alliance. My alliance was in a pile of ashes. My alliance was Rob, Tyson and Sandra. Russell had nothing to do with my alliance and I can’t tell another alliance how they’re supposed to work things out. They’re not going to listen to me. I’m not with them. I don’t know what you’re saying. Am I supposed to be in charge of the other two girls?
HitFix: I was just wondering if, within your earshot, Parvati or Danielle at all entertained the possibility of getting rid of this puppetmaster before a merge.
CY: But what you’re ignoring is that they’re sitting pretty in a dominant alliance. Why would they ever break something that’s working for them? Russell is doing all of the dirty work and they’re just sort of along for the ride. Why would they be like, “You know? We’ve got something that works really well. You know what we should do? We should stop it. Let’s team up with these losers who don’t like us.” We were trying to vote them out. They were trying to vote us out. We’re in different factions and we’re not gonna be like, “You what we all have vaginas! Let’s stick together. Bye, Russell. Thanks for saving me with that Idol and that ridiculously amazing play. Peace out. I’m gonna go with these girls.”
HitFix: Well, when you put it that way… At least that would have been interesting TV…
CY: I don’t know. I can’t carry the entire show.
HitFix: In China, you were very outspoken about all of your Tribemates and most of them weren’t even very interesting. Was it hard to stay quiet surrounded by big, broad personalities like Russell and Coach and Boston Rob?
CY: It’s a different experience. The first time you go out, you don’t know what to make of people. Then when you go back, you already know what to make of them. We all know what Boston Rob is like. We all know what Jerri’s like. Everybody knows what I’m like. So it becomes irrelevant. You’re just playing the game and it’s a different. I tried to just skulk around in the shadows as much as I could, but it’s not easy, because they’re like, “Ah. That’s just Courtney. She’s doing her thing where she doesn’t get involved.”
HitFix: Did you contemplate taking any sort of different approach this time around?
CY: I think when you are me, the best thing that I can do is make a strong alliance and then flank myself on all sides with strong players and that’s what I did. I don’t think changing anything would have been different. I don’t think that I made a wrong move. I feel like we got FUBARed with the whole Tyson thing and then obviously there were the Idols that kept popping up. I lost fair and square. I think that I put myself in a good position and I was in the center of a really strong six-person alliance against three and then all of a sudden it all went to hell. You know? I don’t think that by siding with the minority, I could have been like, “Let me get out my crystal ball and see that three misfits are going to somehow wrap all of us around their finger. I should jump on the losing train!” No. You want to be on the winning train. I thought I was. I mean, Rob is an amazing player. I wanted to be aligned with him. Sandra was a solid alliance for me to have. Tyson and I got along great. Then Jerri and Coach were just like extra numbers. I think I had myself in really good position and then things went awry. I did what I could. I spoke to Parvati and tried to sway her to keep me over Sandra, just because of our connection and what we could have done together and the fact that she knew that I was loyal to her and not the other two people in her alliance. I think I did what I could.
HitFix: So would you do this game again?
CY: Ummm… I don’t think so.
HitFix: Physical reasons, emotional reasons or just because twice is enough?
CY: For boring reasons. I don’t think anyone is interested in seeing me anymore and I’m going to bow out gracefully.
Previous “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” Exit Interviews: