HitFix Interview: Albert Destrade talks ‘Survivor: South Pacific’

Although “Survivor” shifted to a three-person finale back in the “Cook Islands” season, Jury votes turned nearly every season into a two-castaway contest, leaving one finalist suffering the ignominy of a Jury shutout.
In the case of “Survivor: South Pacific,” the castaway who left Sunday (December 18) night’s finale voteless was Albert Destrade, who finished third behind Sophie Clarke and Coach.
Throughout the season, Albert never lacked for confidence and he headed into the final Tribal Council convinced he’d trounce his rivals and take the million.
Instead, Albert chatted with me on Monday morning still irked at the Jury shutout, but also irked at himself for not properly positioning himself as the season’s mastermind, which he believes himself to be.
In our exit interview, Albert passionately makes his case for his influence on this “Survivor” season, while also lamenting the moves he didn’t make that could have won the game for him.
Click through and see if you’ve been swayed to Albert’s cause [Coach’s exit interview tomorrow, followed by Sophie’s the following day.]…
HitFix: How much of what the Jury announced on Sunday had you already anticipated?
Albert Destrade: A pretty good amount, Dan. I had a good idea after that final Tribal that things probably weren’t going to pan out the best for me. It’s a little disheartening knowing that I played what I thought was a pretty optimal game, but the end result didn’t work out for me, but I’m not apologetic about the way I played the game. I went out, I did what I had to do to win the game, I fell just short this time. The one aspect I think that I maybe didn’t prepare for the best was maybe Jury management. I think I came in and I had a good idea of how to play this game and how to make the best possible moves at each and every juncture, but it came down to a matter of manipulating the Jury and I fell just short.
HitFix: Well what do you think the Jury result validated? What do you think their decisions appear to have been based upon?
Albert: Interestingly enough, I think a big factor contributing toward the jury was a lot of the latecomers to Ponderosa and their influence in the game and their thoughts. Additionally, it’s a pattern on “Survivor” that Juries like to base on “What have you done for me lately?” They don’t necessarily grade on a 39-day game all the time, which is, to me, what the game should be about, is the full body of work. I feel like my full body of work was just better than my other two opponents. My hat’s off to Sophie. She played a great game. I think it’s pretty unique that the three of us made it to the end. If you look at the game from a “Survivor” fan or “Survivor” refined eye, the three best players made it to the end, which is pretty rare. It’s really rare where the three people who played the best game make it to the end and we had that this season. Clearly if I had it to do over again, I would love to have gone with one of the goats with the Jury or with two of the goats to the Jury, somebody that would never win and have a Cochran or an Edna or players like that. But I was kinda pigeon-holed in the scenario that I was, given the way the dynamics broke up after the Merge.
HitFix: Did you watch this season?
Albert: Oh yeah. I was glued to it.
HitFix: Tell me what we didn’t see that maybe makes your case better than what we did see.
Albert: Dan, honestly on a daily basis, I go back and I replay scenarios and plays in my mind that were exactly that, that we didn’t see. It was literally the dozens of things that I could have said at final Tribal, even if it wouldn’t have convinced the Jury — We all know that that jurors by and large have their minds made up on their way to final Tribal — but at least America would have known, like “Wow, this Albert guy, man, he really deserved to win the game.”
I actually created that alliance of five people. I went in with a plan to create a majority alliance on Day One. I approached Sophie. I approached Rick. I brought Coach in and he was actually in a pretty precarious scenario. Stacey. Christine. Mikayla. Rick, even. They were all ready to vote out Coach. I had seen Coach play both times and I knew he’d be somebody that I could use in an alliance, not necessarily because he’s a great strategist or a great challenge player, but he’s a blowhard, man. He really is. God bless his soul, man. He’s a guy who could do exactly what I thought he would do, he would act like he’s the leader and let me fall in behind him, putting every piece of strategy in his ear for the most part and kinda be my shield in game. To me, that was a huge part. I created an alliance, with the five people who took it to the end of the game. When I found that clue, I didn’t tell Coach and Sophie, “Help me find the Idol.” What I did was I had them take the people away from camp, so I could look in camp. I had set the tone in camp, “If anybody starts Idol-hunting, we’re gonna look down on that.” It wasn’t cuz I didn’t want to look for the Idol, but because I didn’t want anybody else looking for the Idol. What happened was that Coach ended up going on one of his Coach Wade walks and ended up finding the Idol inadvertently, but I didn’t tell them, “Hey guys, help me find the Idol.” I told them, “Hey guys. Clear camp and take everyone away” so I could have free rein to look through camp.
There’s a lot of things that don’t make the air. It’s tough to cram in all of the stuff that really goes on in the game into each and every episode.
HitFix: Based on what you watched on TV, though, how would you say it looked like your game went down?
Albert: Based on what I saw on TV, yeah, I can see how I would A) Be portrayed as kinda a villain and B) Be portrayed kinda as a follied character, somebody who fell just short. I think that’s part of the narrative when they’re telling the story from a production standpoint. I feel like if they showed me playing the game that I played, a lot of people would have felt short-changed that I didn’t win. I really do. I think that that’s a contributing factor to the edit that I got, was I think they knew what the end result was and wanted to create a storyline that was congruent with that. It happens, man. I’m not ashamed of it. I think that people who really love the game can kinda see through things like that and hopefully can hear what I’m saying and pick up on the rationale and the logic behind all of my decision-making and my thought-process and realize that I was actually there to play the game of “Survivor.” If I wanted to go camping with my friends, I would have packed a cooler and some tents and gotten some snacks and we would have had a fun time. I was there to play a million-dollar strategy game. I wasn’t there for S-es and G-es. So, you know, to me, I hope it’s something that the true “Survivor” fanbase can connect to and say, “Man, I like the way this guy approached the game.”
HitFix: As you talked about, you had the alliance that was built on the first day, but throughout the season you were depicted as feeling antsy. Why were you contemplating so many different moves? And was there any move where if you had made it, it would have allowed you to win?
Albert: Yeah, there’s definitely a few moves that I think if I’d made them could have significantly increased my chances of getting the win in the end. The word “ansty” I don’t think is accurate. I think it was more that I was looking at better alternatives. The funny thing is that I had a pretty direct path to the end with Coach and Sophie for the majority of the game, but I didn’t want to just get there. I wanted to hedge my bets. I wanted to get there and solidify a win. Sophie, to her credit man, her approach was, and she told me candidly, “I just want to get to the end and let’s see what happens at final Tribal.” It ended up working out for her. I had a different approach. I don’t want to get there and see what happens. I want to get there and I want to win. Even despite the fact that I had a Final Three deal that was in place, I had alliance of six in which the sixth person didn’t know they were sixth and the fifth person didn’t know they were fifth and the fourth person didn’t know they were fourth, I still was ready to go above and beyond.
The move that I thought we could have made, where I could have gotten rid of Edna when Dawn and Whitney were still in the game, I think would have put me in a really unique scenario. I could have played a kinda Rob Cesternino-type role where I kinda jumped alliances. I could have made a move with a couple Savaii members and gravitated back towards Upolu. If Coach makes a move and we can get Edna and Cochran to go deeper in the game  and vote off Sophie or vote off some of the other players in that spot and really bring those Jury votes to the end, I think it would have improved my chances to win the game. It’s tough looking back, because I was just so limited in what I could do, because I just couldn’t procure the numbers after the Merge for any of my plays.
HitFix: Why didn’t you or couldn’t you make those numbers?
Albert: It was just a numbers thing. I would always come pretty close and I would feel like there was a lot of value in the play I was making and there was a good reason for people to do them, but there were just a lot of people who were playing scared. They were playing a rigid, pretty constricted strategy, which is a blessing and a curse. A guy like Rick Nelson is never going to turn on you, because he’s not creative and not intuitive enough to make a move. So it hurts you because you don’t have flexibility to shake things up, but it helps you because he’s never going to come after me. Realistically, I should have been voted out immediately after Savaii was gone. I should have been the first guy out. I’m here strategizing, trying to make plays to win the game. Nobody else was playing a winning game there. Everyone else was just kinda skating along. So to me, it’s frustrating when I know that there’s value in a play and value in a move and I just can’t procure the numbers, so I’m not gonna out myself and just vote alongside with a bad play just for the sake of doing it. I’m only going to make a move if I have the numbers behind it, but I just couldn’t rally around the people to do it after the Merge.
HitFix: And bottom line: Did you Brandon was in trouble?
Albert: Oh, 100 percent. Yeah. Coach told me pretty directly. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Coach and I were thick as thieves in the majority of the game. We were really, really close. And he told me that he was going to vote out Brandon. I tried to talk him out of it and have him vote out Sophie, because I really felt Sophie was a far bigger Jury threat than Brandon was, but he told me pretty directly that Brandon would be going home that night if he gave me the necklace. Coach was actually considering giving me the Hidden Immunity Idol if Brandon didn’t do the necklace move as well, which was another part that wasn’t incorporated into the narrative. Yeah, that play within itself, it kinda reflected negatively on me in the eyes of the Jury, which is really perplexing. How can people look at me keeping an Idol that’s given to me when I have one foot out the door as a negative thing? I really thought that the Jury would respect that as gameplay. It kept coming up that, “You Upolu people, none of you guys are playing the game.” I felt like them seeing me make that move and banking on that relationship and getting an Idol from Brandon at that stage  in the game and keeping it? I thought that would be something that they’d be impressed by, or at least say “Wow, Albert’s making some moves.” Unfortunately, I think they took it negatively and they graded with their emotions. They let their heartstrings get the best of them.
HitFix: When Brandon was asking you point-blank at final Tribal, why couldn’t you say exactly that?
Albert: Because he said “Yes or no?” I wanted to say that. I was ready to say it. If you watch me, I’m trying to get my point out, but he says “Yes or no? Yes or no?” I didn’t really feel like I had a fair and legitimate shot to state my case. I was on the cusp of saying it, but Brandon just cut me off. That’s why every single day since I’ve been back, I replay final Tribal in my head, because there are so many points that I could have made that would have been valid. And at least, like I said, even if I don’t win,  because a Jury’s got its minds made up, America would have said, “Wow, this guy deserved to win and maybe this guy deserves a chance to play again.” But I don’t know. Unfortunately, the Jurors made the decision they wanted to make and didn’t give me the opportunity to give my case like I felt like I should have, but it is what it is.