In a season dedicated to offering redemption for three of the most famously medically evacuated players in “Survivor” history, it almost would have been an affront to the show’s Gods not to offer up at least one new sacrifice.
Unfortunately for Dana Lambert, she ended up being that sacrifice.
The 32-year-old North Carolina cosmetologist saw her “Survivor” journey come to a premature end on Wednesday’s (October 17) episode when dehydration got the best of her. “Survivor” host Jeff Probst would be (and was) quick to note that the medic gave Dana a chance to stay in the game another 12 hours, an opportunity she declined, meaning that she removed herself from the competition.
In the first of two exit interviews this week, Dana explains that she had been battling increasing discomfort and, eventually, crippling pain since the beginning of the season. She also discusses many of the other things that viewers didn’t get to see from her Kalabaw tribe, including her fire-starting skills and her ties with Jeff Kent.
Click through for the full interview. And check back tomorrow night for the week’s second “Survivor” exit interview.
HitFix: First off, what was your diagnosis and what was the recovery time?
Dana Lambert: The diagnosis ended up being dehydration. I guess from what you guys saw, it probably looked like I’d just got sick that day, but I’d actually been fighting it for the full 12 days, every day, 24 hours a day fighting that sickness. Recovery, I spent four days in the hospital. I had lots of fluids and lots of antibiotics and that’s pretty much it. Lot of down-time and recovery.
HitFix: Was there any answer for why this struck you as hard as it did and maybe not other people?
Dana: I dunno. I felt like, honestly, when I got off the plane, I just wasn’t right. My stomach wasn’t right. I don’t know. I think maybe I just kinda have a crappy immune system, literally speaking. It just never subsided, from before the show started, and it just never quit. I don’t know why. I don’t know if drinking coconuts day in and day out helped or if it hurt. We did this Jeff Filtration System that Jeff Kent came up with where he decided that we no longer needed to boil the water, that it was probably OK to drink. I guess that on top of me already being sick? And it didn’t affect everyone else, but that and everything else just continued to wear at my body after a while where it was just a lot of getting up and down and just sick, super-sick.
HitFix: And how long did it take, once you were in the hospital, before you were able to forget about the pain and you maybe wished you stayed in the game? Or did that moment never even come?
Dana: Actually, when I got on that boat, Dr. Turner, Joe, he gave me some shot in my arm and, I am not kidding you, if they could have turned that boat around right then… I don’t know what the shot was. B-12? Adrenaline? I have no idea. I think I could have fought the vomiting and the diarrhea and all that other stuff, I probably could have still fought, but it was that pain in my stomach that was killing me right then, that I just couldn’t fight. And as soon as I got that shot, that pain started to go away and I started to kinda feel a little bit better right then. But once medical gives you anything, you’re done. That’s it. There’s no going back. But yeah, I would have turned around and gone back immediately.
HitFix: And in that actual moment when Jeff Probst gave you the choice between leaving the game or the 12-hour wait-and-see, did you have any thought process about staying in the game still? Or did you have too much pain to think about anything?
Dana: Honestly, at that point, because I knew that I had been fighting it for 12 days and I knew it wasn’t getting better, I knew that it was all going downhill. I was so out of it. There were so many times that I blacked out and it doesn’t even show on TV how many times I blacked out. I knew I wasn’t getting better and I knew 12 hours was only going to mean that they were gonna have to come back out there again and I was like the walking dead at that point. There was no other decision to be made. I’ve asked myself this a thousand times, “If I was in that same position, would I make the same choice?” And I would. I would make the same exact choice, because I knew that it wasn’t getting better. I know my body and I know my mind was just done. It was just done. And I hated it.
HitFix: It’s interesting that in this season with the return of the three famously evacuated players that we had at least one medical evacuation. Did Penner talk at all, in the days you were out there, about the circumstances of his medical evacuation?
Dana: We asked him about it, of course, seeing the way he way he went out in his season and, of course, seeing that scar that he carries for the rest of his life because of it on his knee. He did talk about it a little bit. At that point, I knew that I was sick, but there was still nothing in my mind that thought that that was gonna me my end, that that was gonna be the way it ended for me, so I never really took it anywhere or even thought anything else about it. I just thought, “Bad luck for him,” and then how ironic that, in the end, that’s what it was. Yeah. It was tough.
HitFix: Because Matsing kept losing each week, we kept spending more and more time with them. That meant that we didn’t spend as much time with the other two tribes. When you watched this season, are there things that you really wish that viewers got to see from your “Survivor” experience in those first 12 days?
Dana: Absolutely. There were so many things! I killed two chickens and I was the cook and I made fire. As a female player, I felt like I hung in there pretty well. I was a hard worker and there was this one case where I was on the rice container with the Immunity Idol right there between my legs — None of us had a clue at that point — and I was beat-boxing and trying to keep things light-hearted — it was raining and whatever we were just trying to be kumbaya — and wish it would have at least showed that side of my personality. I feel like me being sick and watching it now, I just look terrible on TV, because I felt like I didn’t really get to get my personality through, my bubbly, hyper personality. So it was a little disheartening not to get to see some of those moments. But, you know, it’s only an hour an episode, so it is what it is.
HitFix: You had the developing female alliance with Katie and Dawson but, again, because Matsing kept losing, we never saw that alliance put to the test. How strong do you think that alliance might have been?
Dana: After the fact, I guess everyone’s seen where we decided it was gonna all of us newbies against poor Penner. And I liked Jeff Kent. I had no idea who he was, not a big baseball fan, no idea who Jeff was, but I liked him. But there was a point when I started to realize that I had a way better chance with the girls. The girls, I knew they had my back. There was this one point where Jeff told me, we went to get Tree-Mail and he said, “Know you’re in my alliance. We want Dawson out. We’re going to write your name down as a decoy and I’m gonna tell the girls that exact story.” And I told him, I’m like, “Jeff, that worries me, because if you were in my alliance, I would never write your name down. Ever. Because then we would have trust issues.” So I went back and I told him, I’m like, “Why would I follow the guys if I could lead the girls.” And as soon as he got back, he started pulling Katie and Dawson off and as soon as I came back to came, they kinda gave me the eye like, “I need to talk to you.” So as soon as they both confronted me with what Jeff said, I knew the girls were on my side. I knew that I had ’em and I knew that they were gonna be loyal. Now whether they said something differently, I don’t know, but I truly believe that they were going to be loyal. I felt like it was gonna play out.
And then Denise came over. We got really lucky getting Denise and that totally helped us and I felt, “Man. We’re gonna have a strong four-girl alliance. We can take this somewhere.” Of course, my health didn’t go with that.
HitFix: What was the plan if you guys had had to go to Tribal Council at six players, split at three per alliance? What was the play going to be?
Dana: If it turned out that way, we were gonna vote for Carter. At this point, thinking about it now, I don’t know why we wouldn’t have gone with someone strong. I don’t know why we wouldn’t have told the guys and them that we were gonna vote for Carter and then go ahead and vote Penner, because Penner had the Idol and he would have not been expecting it, probably, at all. And I told the girls “Carter,” too, but if we went to Tribal, I was gonna change that, because I didn’t want their body language or anything to give it away at camp and I would have said, at the end, “Let’s vote Penner.” Because Penner would have been the least expecting. So then it could have been a 3-3 vote and whether we would have had to draw rocks or make fire, I knew I could make fire. I’d been practicing that for months before I got on the show. I would have rather it played out for the dramatic effect and just to say, “I’m a chick and I beat some guy to making fire.” That would have been cool. Or even to have drawn rocks. However it would have went. But I guess that’s neither her nor there.
HitFix: Did you guys know out there that Penner had the Idol?
Dana: Yeah, we knew. Actually, I believe it was Dawson that realized first and you see in the episode where you see me carrying the rice container up and I’m like, “Oh, that emblem thingie is gone” and we already knew that it was probably in his bag, because we were all away in our little cave and we knew that Penner was not looking for his contact, obviously. We knew that hew as scrounging. And I would be too. It’s my third time playing the game and I’ve got all these kids against me? I’m sure he felt the vibe. But when I brought that rice container back up, it was basically we all knew what was going on and I just said it so everyone could get Penner’s reaction.
HitFix: What was his reaction?
Dana: I believe he said something about, um, what was it? “My ass hurts?” Something very strange. I could tell there was a bit of a shock there, but I think he knew that we knew too and he was just trying to play it off as best as he could.
HitFix: You said you didn’t know about Jeff Kent’s baseball career and that you weren’t a baseball fan, but would it have made a difference if you’d known that he had been a professional athlete for all those years, that he made “X” amount of money?
Dana: Probably not. What worried me with Penner was just the experience that he had with playing the game twice before and I didn’t really care how much money he had for doing it. In a sense, I would have liked someone that really needed the money to win, but it didn’t have anything to do with the way he played his game. If he played his game well, then he deserved to win. Knowing what I know now about Jeff Kent? Me being a lesbian and him being against everything that I stand before, we probably wouldn’t have been in an alliance. I don’t believe that you win people over by being a jerk to them. I believe that basically you just have to show your personality and once they decide that they like you or don’t, then you connect and then they judge you according to that, whether you’re gay or not. And I think maybe Jeff sees who I am and maybe… He’s still Mormon. He’s still gonna have the same believes. But maybe he’ll say, “I did meet a gay girl and I liked her. They’re not all just out there and flaming and crazy.” But I don’t know. Maybe not.
HitFix: Having been medically evacuated from “Survivor,” do you understand that compulsion to return that Russell and Penner and Skupin all had this season?
Dana: Yes. Absolutely. And for them, some of them waited… Gosh, Skupin waited almost 10 years? And I understand wanting to come back after leaving that way. That is just the worst way to leave, to not get the closure of actually getting your torch snuffed and feeling like, “I did everything that I could do in my power to win and it just didn’t didn’t happen,” but to be sick and leave that way? It’s so dishearteaning. So disheartening. But you know, life’s not fair and everyone can’t be the million dollar winner.