The run of bitter Savaii “Survivor: South Pacific” exit interviews is finally over.
After a month of speaking to castaways still grumbling about John Cochran and his game-changing flip-flop, it’s finally time to change gears and talk to the members of the now-cannibalizing (not literally, but in a voting sense) Upolu tribe.
Up first is Edna Ma, the 35-year-old anesthesiologist who found herself in sixth place on the Upolu totem pole and was voted out two weeks ago. On this week’s episode, the diminutive Edna faced off against Ozzy in a Redemption Island Duel built around the completion of consecutive puzzles.
Although it was a challenge that seemed to give Edna a fighting chance against the physically stronger Ozzy, it ended up being the latest in a string of Duel victories for the All-Star.
In her exit interview, Edna discusses the Duel, her frustrations with her fellow castaways and the first night piece of bad luck that doomed her. We barely mentioned Cochran at all.
HitFix: So you get to the Redemption Island Duel and, all things considered, it was about as well-suited a Duel for your strengths as you could have hoped for. Did you feel lucky when you first saw what the Duel was?
Edna Ma: Well, “yes,” in terms of not having to climb up a 20-foot wall, so I thought that was lucky, but I felt a little bit unfortunate in that the slide puzzle I think was the same slide puzzle as in the group challenges, the first challenge that I had sat out on. So I was berating myself for not studying that puzzle during the challenge when our tribe lost that particular challenge.
HitFix: I’d forgotten that. Under those circumstances was it helpful that you had Albert and Sophie and Rick yelling coaching at you?
Edna: I think that it’s relatively helpful, because they were rooting for me and not Ozzy, so that was helpful.
HitFix: But in terms of actual, practical advice was it useful?
Edna: No. The practical advice was not useful. There weren’t specific cues or whatever. It wasn’t like, “Move the left one to the right and then this one…” It wasn’t like that. It was just sort of like, “Get the hatchet out! Get the hatchet out!” It was a little bit more in that regard.
HitFix: That almost sounds more detrimental and distracting.
Edna: Well, it was encouraging to see that they were rooting for me.
HitFix: Jeff Probst seemed surprised at all of the encouragement from the people who had just voted you out were cheering for you. What did it feel like to you in that circumstance?
Edna: It didn’t feel as though it was very sincere. I just the night before had been voted out and sent to Ozzy’s Pleasure Dome, so it was hard for me to think that any of that rooting and cheering me on was genuine.
HitFix: And how was Ozzy’s Pleasure Dome, as people keep referring to it?
Edna: It was actually quite nice. It was nicer than I expected, since I didn’t go to Redemption Island for the family visit. He had a little fish waiting for me that was cooked and he had some papaya, which he shared with me as well. There were actually rats out there as well, pretty big ones, so if I had gotten back there, I probably would have tried to catch a rat, because I’m not as good a swimmer as Ozzy is.
HitFix: When you were voted out, you were very upset and emotional. You’ve had a lot of time to get past the emotional aspect. Analytically, how do you now look at what sent you home?
Edna: I think it was very hard for me to convince the remaining five people who voted me out to change their strategy. They just had one plan, which was to get to the Final 5 and that was it. After that, they didn’t know and I felt frustrated because they weren’t thinking past that and I think that was evident during the episode last night after I was sent to Redemption.
HitFix: In this retrospect, are there specific people you blame, or just a general group-think?
Edna: “Group-think.” That’s a very good way to put it. I think that because there was a lot of group-think going on in our tribe and I think that the group-think was busted up a little bit when Cochran came over, but I think it was more of group-think. It was impossible to talk to Rick, for example. He would refuse to engage in any conversation regarding strategy and our conversations were pretty much limited to his ranch and his farm. Brandon, on the other hand, has very binary thinking — Good/bad, Upolu and then Edna — so it was very impossible to talk to him. It was possible to engage Albert a little bit. He entertained some ideas about keeping Cochran and mixing things up a little bit, but I had a hard time believing any of his promises. Like, “Oh, yeah. We’re writing down Rick’s name.” I had a hard time believing him and his promises didn’t seem very genuine either. Sophie did make some plans for me, like “OK, we’re do this when we get to the Five,” but very abstract plans, so it was very hard for me to believe in them. So when they’re telling you all these plans when five people or four people, you don’t really feel like you’re truly sixth on the hierarchy.
HitFix: Well, there’s the one person you left out of that listing. What are your thoughts on Coach now?
Edna: So I definitely feel as though everybody kinda deferred to him in terms of the experience, but I think like any power he had earlier is kinda slowly disintegrating as the game progresses. He doesn’t have as much authority over the tribe, definitely not at this point, from what I can tell. I feel as though he’s accustomed to that kind of circumstance. I’m sure that people come up to him during practice and during games like “Coach, what do you think about this?” and “Coach, what do you think about that?” And he’s losing some of that power.
HitFix: And how about your own relationship with Coach? At times it seemed like you guys were very close, but towards the the end it clearly didn’t seem that way.
Edna: In the beginning, he definitely saved my hide, so we were very close at that point. I knew that during the group challenges in the pre-Merge aspects of the game, as long as I had somebody who was a stronger male figure to protect me, I would be OK til the Merge. So I relied heavily on him and I gave him my loyalty and everything to let him to know that I was on his side. After the Merge, generally speaking, the dynamics change and strategy changes, in that historically people keep the weaker andthe more unpredictable people, like Phillip Shepard around towards the end. People hated him, or didn’t enjoy being around him. It’s not about being the best survivor out there. It’s about playing a relatively good game, compared to the other contestants. So after that, I thought that I was relatively safe, because I wasn’t a physical threat and so that’s made me think that it’s not possible for me to be at the bottom of my alliance, because I’m just 90 pounds and not very threatening. So, to me, I was maybe in a little bit of a denial state. So after the Merge, my relationship with Coach… he was pulled in all of these different directions and he was primarily pulled towards dealing with Cochran and Brandon, because he was trying to nurture that relationship with Cochran, so that he can feel safe and trust from Cochran and it worked, because Cochran came to the Upolu side.
HitFix: One think I’m missing in all of the analysis you’re doing: Do you feel like anybody is playing a GOOD game this season?
Edna: Gosh. That’s a hard question. I think that there are moments in which all people are playing a good game. The fact there are six people still in the game, those people are all playing a good game in their own aspects. Ozzy’s playing a very good physical game out there, beating pretty much everybody who comes through Redemption Island. Ozzy seems to slide out there and he doesn’t have to deal with the social aspect of the game and I think that if he had his way, that would be his choice. Coach is playing a good social game in that he was a returning player and he wasn’t voted out after the first challenge and he’s kept our tribe cohesive, even me, to the end, so he’s playing a good social game. Albert seems to be trying to mix things up, or at least change alliances around and I think that while that’s being strategic, it annoys his other tribemates. Sophie’s playing a very good competitive game overall. I don’t really understand the way that Brandon plays his game. And Rick, I think he’s playing that Good Ol’ Cowboy. So each person has a strategy that seems to be working for them. Obviously my strategy didn’t work and that’s why I got kicked out.
HitFix: One of the things that Jeff Probst asked about at the Top 7 Tribal Council was the idea that you and Cochran should have been attempting to make some sort of minority alliance to swing power. I assume you guys did try to do *something* like that, right?
Edna: Yes. That would be a safe assumption. When Cochran was still there, that was really my only chance to mix it up a little bit. I felt really frustrated that these people were not planning past the six and primarily, by “these people,” I’m speaking about the group mentality of primarily Brandon and Coach, who wanted to do whatever was the honorable and… What was the mantra? Integrity, honor and loyalty. And to them, that meant keeping your promises from Day One. But to me, things change in life and you have to be able to change with it. Having Cochran around would have changed that dynamic and I wish they would have thought past five. What are you going to do with five? You can’t do anything with five, unless you start planning earlier. But I didn’t get the impression that the team was thinking that.
HitFix: So nobody was receptive?
Edna: Nobody was willing to switch it up, to switch up the original five. I asked Coach to play his Idol on Cochran. He wouldn’t do it. When it was my turn, I said, “Play your Idol on me.” He wouldn’t do it. Coach was just so afraid that if he played his Idol on me or Cochran, he would be the next person voted out because it would be disruptive of the five.
HitFix: When the Merge first came and you knew your position with Upolu, did you make any overtures at all to switch to Savaii and take Cochran out of the equation entirely?
Edna: You know, Cochran was pro-active. He came to us. So it hadn’t occurred to me that it would happen that fast and he came to Coach during the Merge feast. So I didn’t have to really do anything at that point. So why would I try to initiate something if Cochran already agreed? Cochran already started initiating that direction, so that would at least guarantee me a spot at the bottom of my six, though I didn’t think that I was at the bottom of my six.
HitFix: Just as last question: When you replay this season going back to Day One, what could you or should you have done differently so that you weren’t where you were?
Edna: Well, the obvious answer to me is just “Be on that beach that first day.” I think that I was a casualty of just being at the wrong place at the wrong time. A lot of this game has to do with luck and my bad luck was that I was in a shelter and not on the beach with those guys.
HitFix: Just that simple?
Edna: I think that’s the simplest answer. I can’t change certain things like my physical size or my gender. Coach was the one who initiated the alliance and he picked all of the men and the strongest-seeming females. The fact is that I can’t change my size and my capacities, so I’d say that that’s the simplest thing.