It’s been a season of momentum swings on “Survivor: Philippines.”
For the season’s first month, the narrative was all about the decimated Matsing tribe, setting up four consecutive increasingly disheartened exit interviews with Russell Swan and his teammates.
Then, things changed. [It helped that the Matsing tribe was dissolved when it reached two players.]
Suddenly, the Kalabaw tribe has contracted Matsing’s bad luck, losing two castaways last week and returning to Tribal Council on Wednesday’s episode. After telling Jeff Probst that any vote would probably be a blindside, the Jonathan Penner/Jeff Kent alliance sent Katie Hanson packing.
The 22-year-old former Miss Delaware’s departure capped a busy episode. In addition to losing an Immunity Challenge seemingly tailor-made for former baseball star Jeff Kent, Kalabaw also elected to trade its remaining supply of rice to the Tandang tribe in exchange for a picnic reward in a competition neither side seemed destined to win.
In this week’s “Survivor” exit interview, Katie discusses the sandwich-for-rice swap, the swift demise of her all-female alliance and whether Jeff Kent’s secret-keeping cost her tribe Immunity.
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HitFix: On Wednesday night’s episode, you seemed relatively blindsided at the Tribal Council. Watching the episode on TV, what did you learn about what was going on at camp than maybe you didn’t previously know?
Katie Hanson: It’s so funny. I had an inkling it was me by the way I was walking into camp, asked nothing about anything Penner just comes out, “It’s Denise!” And it was obviously not Denise. It clearly was not going to be Denise. It was just like, “OK. You just made things really uncomfortable and it’s almost obvious that it’s me.” And when I asked Jeff, “What was that about?” He acted really funny, for Jeff. That was not a normal reaction for Jeff, so it gave me a pretty clear idea that it was me. But it’s like, you know, this is my only shot at “Survivor,” so I’ve gotta try to scramble and make some things like… “Hello! It’s makes sense. This is our time to get rid of him. What are you guys thinking?” You know?
HitFix: And why do you think that you were unable to make that magic happen?
Katie: I think that they established, which everyone had seen in previous episodes, that they’ve got this bond, that they’ve got this Guy Unity going on and I think that the whole idea that Penner has an Idol and that could potentially be useful in saving one of the guys through the Merge. So whether Penner chooses to use it for himself, which I’m sure he’ll do, but if not, there’s still that possibility that it could save one of the other guys and keep their alliance strong. And here I am. I really don’t offer them much, but at the same time, it’s like: If you take me through the Merge, I will be loyal to you and I’m not a physical threat, so I’m not going to prevent you from winning Individual Immunity. I am not gonna be your biggest threat here and Penner knows how to play this game and he’ll play it well and he will play you. I’m sure that later on they will regret the decision of keeping him.
HitFix: One minute you guys got Denise and there was the possibility of a four-woman majority alliance and then Dana went out and Dawson was voted out and there you were at the bottom of the totem pole. You went from power to the bottom so fast. How did that roller coaster feel from your side?
Katie: Oh my God, it was devastating! First off, I was so close with Dana throughout this whole experience. We just bonded on so many levels and she was definitely a mommy figure and she just took care of pretty much all of us with the fire and the chickens and the meals. Dana just had it going on, but at the same time, Dana exhausted herself. It’s just a shame, because I know she was a strong player and she was my No. 1 ally, so to see her go, it was like, “Oh my God! This is not going to be fun anymore living on this Island,” because she made fun for me. And then also, I am now sticking out like sore thumb as person to potentially get voted out and with her, it was like that extra little bit of power that the girls’ alliance had, so having her leave was definitely a pivotal point in the show and it ultimately ended in me going home, so it kinda stinks.
HitFix: You mentioned “fun” and often when alliances have all of the power, they can make things miserable for the people who are inevitably getting voted out. Was there any unpleasantness in camp life from that shift of power?
Katie: I think that overall, the guys were really great. Like we said last night, everyone got along so well that no matter who you are, you’re getting blindsided. They definitely didn’t make it uncomfortable, but it was pretty clear. I mean, everyone knew that Penner had the Idol, so that was a given and then it was so clear towards the end of my time there that the guys spent a lot of time with each other, so they must be bonding and you can’t really take what Jeff tells you as 100 percent, because he’s hanging out with Penner too much. I enjoyed living with these people, but I couldn’t be a fool. You have to read between the lines and see what’s really going on and I was definitely at the end of the rope here and it kinda stinks.
HitFix: The Mud Ball Reward Challenge ended up with a unique conclusion. You had a unique vantage point from the outside the whole time. Why did it seem to be so hard for anything to actually happen in that challenge?
Katie: I think that the people who were playing in that challenge were pretty evenly matched and it was a stalemate. The ball was going nowhere and everyone equally wanted to win this and at that point, it was just like, “Alright. We’re exhausted. We’ve been out here for over an hour and literally we’re getting nowhere.” So it’s like, “How long do you want to keep sitting and laying in the mud or do you want to discuss some things and get this over with.” Yeah, I don’t know. I was happy I didn’t have to get all muddy and I still got sandwiches, so it worked out for me.
HitFix: Was it really just Skupin out there sitting on Jonathan Penner’s head for an hour? Because that’s what it looked like on TV.
Katie: No! They were definitely all rolling around. For a short period of time that was the case, but there would be certain slight movements that people got to readjust. I don’t know. It was definitely uncomfortable for everyone who was playing in that challenge and I think that I can speak for them in saying that they were all pretty excited when it came to an end, especially Kalabaw, because we got the reward.
HitFix: You said that you’re glad you didn’t have to get muddy, but there was no part of you that wished you were able to get out there and actually compete in that particular challenge?
Katie: I think that I actually would have done really well in that challenge. The only problem is that I’ve never actually walked around in mud before and, of course, walking through these challenges, your foot is being consumed by this mud and you can hurt yourself! You can slip the wrong way and twist your ankle. So that’s part’s scary, but I think that I’m definitely an abled human being and I think that I would have done well in this challenge. But, like I said, if I don’t have to get muddy, then that’s even better.
HitFix: Is there a different to how that rice-for-Reward swap sounds when you’re out there and you’ve been starving for 12 days, versus how it feels in your head now several months later?
Katie: Oh my God! I was like, “Give them the rice!” Trust me, we were 100 percent saving our rice, so they got a fair share of the deal. They definitely weren’t screwed out of the deal. so that’s for sure. But yeah, in the moment those sandwiches were great and, “Oh my God, we haven’t have food like this in so long!” But in retrospective it’s like, “OK, so that was probably dumb, because you don’t know when the Merge is coming and it’s pretty evident that now you can’t catch fish after what Penner came back with and this can get pretty, pretty bad for you.” I think a lot of people don’t realize when you haven’t been eating and your body has pretty much gone into starvation mode and when you finally feed it and gorge the way we did at that Reward, you get back and it literally goes right through you. It’s like, “OK. That really did nothing for me, because now it’s all gone and now I’m hungry again and now my rice is gone.” So for the time being? Oh, it was a great idea! Was it the smartest? No. We totally acted on impulse.
HitFix: It looked as if you guys had a pretty major sugar crash when you got back. How much do you attribute losing the following Immunity Challenge to that crash? Or was it just one of those things where the other team just beat you?
Katie: Even growing up, I’ve always been afraid of the damn ball, so for me, I knew I was not gonna be good in this challenge. My parents signed me up for t-ball as a kid and I was in the outfield playing with my mitt and not paying attention. Yeah, I’ve always been terrible with catching, so I knew I wasn’t gonna help them at all in that. But know, now, that Jeff is a pro ballplayer, I’m shocked he didn’t get ’em every time. Knowing that, I wish we knew that he was a pro ballplayer, because Denise could have tried to throw to him the entire time, instead of trying to throw ’em to Carter. It literally made no sense! But anyway, back to your question… I think that, yeah, not having food… Tandang could energize themselves off of our rice and we were leaving that morning with whatever else was left from the Reward. And, lemme tell you, like I already told you, not much was left. It goes right through you out there. So we were kinda malnourished.
HitFix: I see how knowing Jeff Kent’s real identity would have helped on this particular challenge, but if you had known Jeff’s identity from the beginning — longtime professional athlete, fairly well-to-do, etc. etc. — would it have made a difference in your interactions with him, do you think?
Katie: I don’t know. I think that I would have almost, probably, held him on a pedestal. Like, “Oh my God! He’s a celebrity! I’m living with a celebrity!” I think it would have been that kind of effect. Also, with Lisa, I had no idea she was a celebrity and she probably also has money. You know? So it’s like, OK, well, regardless of peoples’ situations, we’re all out here trying to play the same game. So yeah, once he gets in front of a Jury, he’s almost a good one to have there, because no one’s gonna want to give him the million dollars. You kidding me? You? You’re loaded? Why do you need more? So he’s almost a good one to have in front of a Jury, knowing that he’s pro ballplayer. So I don’t think that would have been a reason for me to send him home. In fact, it would be a reason for me to keep him there, because he’s a pro athlete. He can make you win these challenges effortlessly.
HitFix: The season’s other contestant with a pageant background, Angie, felt like that was held against her and it was hard for her to get away from. Did you feel like you had any similar issues? Or did no one know?
Katie: I never told anyone about being Miss Delaware and that kinda thing. I mean, what good could that possibly get you out there? Their assumption is, “What does a pageant girl know about living outdoors? A pageant girl knows how to put on makeup and look beautiful on the stage. What is that going to do for us out here in ‘Survivor’? Absolutely nothing.” So, for me, there was no rush to tell anybody. If they found out, fine, but why would I tell anyone that? No. Absolutely not.