HitFix Interview: Ozzy Lusth talks ‘Survivor: South Pacific’

When you get deep enough into “Survivor,” every little mistake is a Million Dollar Mistake, even when you’re widely regarded as one of the best challenge players in the game’s 23-season history.
For Ozzy Lusth, the third time was very nearly the charm. 
After withstanding two tours of duty on Redemption Island, Ozzy returned to the game, won his first Immunity challenge back and stood one challenge away from facing an overwhelmingly Savaii-heavy Jury just itching to vote for him.
And the challenge seemed perfectly tailored to Ozzy’s strengths, a puzzle that could only be completed after a five-tier obstacle course. After completing the obstacle course with a predictably big lead, it was the puzzle that stymied Ozzy. Instead, Sophie finished the puzzle, won Immunity, secured Ozzy’s eventual Jury vote and won the prize Ozzy hasn’t been able to take home.
In our exit interview, Ozzy discussed his America’s Player consolation prize, his feelings about Coach and Cochran and his thoughts on someday playing “Survivor” for a fourth time.
Click through for the full Ozzy interview and check back over the next few days for my exit interviews with Coach, Albert and Sophie…
HitFix: First off, talk me through your Jury vote.
Ozzy Lusth: Really what it comes down to is giving respect to the person that actually beat me and that was Sophie. Coach, I tried to lob him a softball with my Jury question. I really wanted to vote for him. I really just wanted him to tell me that he tried to play a game of honesty and integrity and it wasn’t possible for him and so he lied and manipulated people. That’s what he did and he wasn’t honest with himself, so I couldn’t reward that. But the fact is that Sophie aligned herself really well, she played a great game, she won Immunity challenges and I respected the fact that she beat me, so I had to give her my vote. 
HitFix: Did it require much thought on your part, or once you were in the moment, was it obvious?
Ozzy: No. It required a lot of thought. With the Jury, the general consensus and the feeling I got before we left to go vote, when we were all at Ponderosa, is that people were totally undecided. Nobody really knew what to do. That’s why, in my Jury speech, I told them that nobody had decided and it was really up to them. And really, it actually was up to Coach to win or lose the game and I just really think that people wanted a little more honesty, people wanted to hear him own up to the fact that he manipulated people and that he did it knowingly. He really did. He tried to use the guise of honesty and integrity when, in fact, he was just playing a really good game of “Survivor.”
HitFix: You also said, I think, that the Jury wasn’t sure it wanted to vote for any of the three of them. Did you feel like this was perhaps a less worthy Final Three than other Final Threes you’ve seen?
Ozzy: I think it was just because of the fact that I had a pretty epic run at the end, and of the people sitting on the Jury, half of them were my tribemates and the other half were people who had been wronged by Upolu, so were wronged by the three-person alliance. I don’t want to say “unworthy,” because they’re sitting there for a reason… I thought Sophie did deserve to be there.
HitFix: And congratulations on being America’s Player. Other than the money, what did that designation mean to you?
Ozzy: It means a lot. It’s huge. To me, the fact is that there’s a couple ways to win the game and one is just obviously on paper, walking home with the million dollars. But when you can’t have that, it’s nice to be runner-up and at least have America say that you’re the winner in their eyes. I wish the prize maybe had been a little bit larger, but besides that, the amount of love and support that I’m feeling from everyone, just the outpouring of comments on my Facebook and Twitter and website and email and all of that, just pouring out from everyone, it feels great.
HitFix: What do you make of that disconnect between what America might like in America’s Player versus what actually wins on “Survivor”?
Ozzy: Yeah, it’s hard, man. Winning “Survivor” is really difficult and a lot of times the person that doesn’t necessarily deserve to win wins, because it’s very easy to fill the void once the person that’s deserving is taken out. That’s the hard part about that game and it’s the interesting part about that game. At the same time, I would like to explore the possibility of doing some sort of other television work that is a little bit more geared toward my specific talents and capabilities.
HitFix: All of the recent castaways I’ve been talking to in these exit interviews have all talked about how comfortable you were on Redemption Island compared to when you were in the game. I assume you’d agree with that?
Ozzy: Yeah. Of course.
HitFix: After three times playing the game, why do you think it would be that you’re still more comfortable in that other setting?
Ozzy: It’s just what happens when the cameras start rolling and the game is on. It’s really hard for me to be disingenuous. It’s really hard for me to lie to people. It’s always been really hard for me to manipulate people and I can’t fake wanting to get to know people and when you’re playing for that million dollars, all of a sudden it feels more fake when you’re trying to get to know someone and you’re trying to build relationships with people. That’s one reason I don’t think Sophie and I ever got along, is because there was a million dollar prize. As soon as the game was over, we got along great and we’ve actually become pretty good friends. That, to me, was always the weird thing, knowing that you’ve got to compete against these people and yeah, you might enjoy them as people, but you’re going to be competing against them and you’re gonna be stabbing them in the back. That’s something I’ve never really been good at and I’ve never done. I don’t think I’ve betrayed anyone in the game, the whole time I’ve played. I don’t think I’ve ever stabbed anyone in the back. Coach talked about honesty and integrity and playing honorably, but I think actions speak louder than words and I don’t think his actions lived up to his words. I don’t think he actually played an honorable game. That’s fine. Still, he got to the end. I think he should have just owned up to it. Whereas I did play an honorable game, but I didn’t go around blowing my own horn that I was playing honorably. I just did it.
HitFix: I know a lot of “Survivor” veterans get to know each other over the years through The Circuit. Did you have any sort of relationship/friendship with Coach before this season started?
Ozzy: No. That’s actually one of the things that I was kinda afraid to admit in the very beginning, is I had no idea who Coach was. I didn’t watch his seasons. I didn’t watch “Heroes vs. Villains” and I didn’t watch “Tocantins,” so I really had no idea who he was or what he was about, besides very, very, very small things like that he was The Dragonslayer and the fact that he has a certain passion for Affliction clothing and really gaudily garnished, embellished embroidery. But besides that? I had no idea who he was or what he was about, which in a way was a really good thing, because I didn’t have any prejudices or preconceived notions about who he would be and how he would play the game. I’d just sorta take what he was saying and take the way he was at face value.
HitFix: Obviously you didn’t put too much stock in his vow, as a Christian Man, to take you to the end?
Ozzy: No way. No way. There was no chance ever… Just because he told me that, there’s no chance in hell that he was ever going to take me to the end. That’s one of the reasons why I blew his cover at that Tribal Council, because I knew that having Sophie stay was going to be bad for me, that she would really be the only competitor that could give me a run for my money. It’s true and that’s what happened. I wish I maybe would have leaned on Albert a little more at the very end. I’m really surprised that he wanted to keep Sophie around. He was trying to vote her out and for whatever reason he decided to stick with… I don’t really understand what they were thinking. No one was going to vote for Rick. Rick really didn’t do much the whole game. He just was in their pocket the whole time. No one was going to vote for him. So if Albert had made a couple big moves, people would have been much more likely to vote. I think that’s a good lesson for anyone who wants to play “Survivor,” anyone who wants to play the game, is you’ve gotta make big moves. You can make it to the end, but second place and third place and fourth place? You might as well be last place. I know that there’s a little bit of a difference monetarily, but if you don’t win, you lose. You might as well play big and play bold.
HitFix: So by that standard, do you have some residual respect for what Cochran did, at least playing bold?
Ozzy: Yeah, I do. I do. I respect the fact that he made a big move. It was a stupid move, but at least it was a big move, so I’ve gotta respect that. You know, the only thing I would say to him about his move is that he should have known better, because he’s a student of the game. No one who flips ever gets taken with the tribe. There’s one way that Coach would have won, though: If he’d actually lived up to his promises to Cochran, if he’d lived up to his promises to Edna. If he had taken those two, then Coach would have won, no doubt in my mind.
HitFix: Do you feel any responsibility for letting Cochran slip away?
Ozzy: Yeah, a little bit. The strategy that we had, we took a few hours to really decide the way that we wanted to play that Tribal Council where we were supposedly deadlock-tied. At that point, Cochran was telling the other side everything that we said, but I really feel like if I had known how much Cochran was worried or how much he was considering flipping to the other side based on the fact that he was scared — him alone — of pulling the rock and getting sent to Redemption, if I had known that he was that scared, I would have given him the Hidden Immunity Idol. I think that if he had had that, he would have had no reason to flip, because he would not have been in the line of fire. It would have been somebody else in our tribe. The decision to give it to Whitney was a purely strategic decision based on how we thought they would vote. We thought that they wouldn’t vote for one of the strongest players, they would vote for somebody who we wouldn’t think they would vote for and that’s actually who they were going to vote for, because they told us that they had decided they were going to vote for Whitney. So it would have worked out if Cochran hadn’t flipped. I just wish that I had been a little bit more aware of his fear and given him the Hidden Immunity Idol.
HitFix: Are the regrets only that sort of last minute, last second regret? Or do you have any regrets about not making him feel like he was more part of the overall alliance the whole time?
Ozzy: Oh, I think that’s a bunch of bulls***. He was aligned. He had an alliance with Jim and Jim blew it by getting pissed off at him at that “Jack & Jill” challenge when we were blindfolded. Cochran, if he had just made it past that Merge, he really could have made some big moves in the game, because he was one of those players that people are going to want to take to the end, because he’s not a threat in challenges and he’s likable, but not in that way, so people would have wanted to take him to the end. I think that he did make a big mistake. The whole thing about him being bullied and all of that, I still, to this day, I don’t agree with it. I think that that is something that he played up in a way that’s really not fair. He started the game off being a very self-deprecating and nervous player, so when people want to vote him out, it’s no wonder. He’s sitting there saying that he’s a weak player, that he’s not strong, that he’s socially awkward, that he’s nervous, this that and the other. You know? That just feeds into the whole feeling that people get about him, so I think he’s really grown a lot as a person and he’s become a little more comfortable in his own skin and a lot of it has to do with the way that he played the game and seeing that he doesn’t want to be seen as that person. But you know, if you call yourself something and you put off this certain persona, people are going to see that. You know what I’m saying? If you act a certain way, people are obviously going to take that and they’re going to think that that’s who you are and it’s up to you to decide how you want people to perceive you and I think that that’s something that Cochran is becoming more aware of.
HitFix: I just talked to Coach and Coach insists that he’s done with “Survivor” forever, but predicted that you would someday come back. What do you say?
Ozzy: Oh, I don’t know about that. I’m not gonna say never. Never say never. There might be some really cool “Survivor” game in the future that would be really enticing to me, but as it is right now, I’ve got too much to do and too much on my plate and I can’t be taking time off to go play in these games in the jungle, unless there’s a really good reason. CBS knows what they can do to get me back out there if they wanted to.
Previous “Survivor: South Pacific” Exit Interviews…

Semhar Tadesse