HitFix Interview: Sarita White talks ‘Survivor: Redemption Island’

In three of the past four weeks, my “Survivor” exit interviews have involved listening to members of the not-so-fiercesome Russell Alliance talk about how even though they were successfully eliminated by their Zapatera tribemates, the ruling group was playing a game without any strategy.
This week, the shoe was on the other foot, “Survivor”-wise. The Zapatera Six had to turn on their own, voting out Sarita White in a bizarre after-the-fact attempt to protect tribal strength over loyalty, exactly in time for a Merge. And on Wednesday’s (April 6) episode, Sarita lost a Redemption Island Duel against Matt, when the apparently unbeatable isolation champion  was able to spend a longer time perched between two walls.
So did her alliance have a strategy? Could she somehow have won? And why does everybody keep talking about Dave’s occupation as if being a lawyer were the nastiest job a person could have?
These answers and more, after the break…
HitFix: During the Redemption Island Duel that aired this week, Jeff Probst said that it was a challenge that has traditionally favored female contestants. Did you feel that way as you were doing it?
Sarita White: Matt’s so much smaller than me. I think that what he meant is that women have smaller feet, and mine are really narrow, but Matt’s just a tiny, light guy. I felt it was pretty equal equal. I did think I would be able to hold on for longer, especially because he had the hurt foot and I felt like the fatigue of being alone for so long was getting to him. He did seem a little bit down when when I was on the island with him, just in some of the conversations we were having. But yeah, I did my best, but it was kinda like what happened to Mike [in the post-Merge Immunity Challenge]. When I saw Mike fall off that thing, you’re like, “Surely you could have held on for longer.” But it’s like, “I know. You can’t.” You get to a point where your body’s like, “Hmmm… In fact, we’re done with this.”
HitFix: So you knew that Matt had that foot injury?
SW: Yes. 
HitFix: Did you assume that that would give you an advantage?
SW: I did. Once I actually saw it… I just knew that he had a foot injury and I knew that he was injured, but then when I saw it last night? It was a little scratch. I was like, “You know what? That band-aid probably helped him keep traction.” That was like the smallest cut. Please!
HitFix: Well, it was on the outside of his foot and the outside of a foot that was supposed to be, as you say, giving him traction.
SW: Truth. True. True enough. I was looking at the band-aid like, “Get some of those on my tootsies. Get me some leverage up here.”
HitFix: When you saw both full Tribes were there at the Duel, did you immediately know, before Jeff could say anything, that it was the Merge?
SW: I had a strong feeling that it was coming, just because of the way the numbers were. I had a feeling, but when I heard it, I was just like, “Oh God.” It’s the dreamiest circumstance, but it just makes it so much more stressful.
HitFix: And what was it like doing that particular challenge with everybody there just staring at you for more than half-an-hour?
SW: I’m really shy and that was something that I did have a hard time with on the show. I don’t know if you could tell, but I definitely would shy away from different things. And by that point, I was freed from all of that. You just go into this moment where it’s like, “OK. This is my Olympics. This is my challenge.” And everything else fades away. Know what I mean? The President could have been sitting there and it’s just like, “OK. Eye on the prize.” It just got so, so quite. You have to go inside yourself. It’s just you at the end of the day.
HitFix: You’ve described yourself as a shy person. Was doing a “Survivor” sorta an experiment to test your limits or did you know that you were always going to have that as a fairly big problem facing you?
SW: I didn’t realize how much. It’s such an incredible experience. Nobody would say no to it. It’s such an amazing experience. I do train athletically, even though I’m sure you can’t tell it from the show. I do love sports. I love to work out. I love to see how far I can push myself. But I was nervous about just having cameras on you 24-hours-a-day. You know? I do like my quiet time and having to be ‘on’ all the time was a challenge. But you just find your time where you close your eyes and kick back and go to your special place, because it’s full-on. You’re working 24-hours-a-day trying to figure to out what the next steps are and then you throw in the not eating and you throw in the challenges. The artists that make these challenges, they’re really amazing artisans. They’re so hard you can’t imagine. I remember I used to watch the show and be like, “Oh, that person’s kinda walking slow after they just got done doing that. They need to speed it up.” And then once you’re in it, you realize that you’re exhausted just walking to the challenge. You’re fatigued at every little thing. So the shy-ness and the “Oh, I’m on camera” kinda thing, it does die away, because you’re just surviving.
HitFix: But your reservations in this way, is that what people were interpreting as being “high maintenance” when they called you that?
SW: I do. I definitely would keep a distance at times. But also, I did have opinions. I like to talk about books and film. I was asked about that and I’d have opinions on things. So I think that for people who were looking to more go-with-the-flow on things, it would seem… I don’t even think “high maintenance” was the right term. I don’t think they used a very good descriptor. So that’s my thoughts on that.
HitFix: You say you have opinions… What’s your opinion on the three booted people from Russell’s alliance who have all told me that your particular alliance had no strategy in the game whatsoever?
SW: Well, it cracks me up. No strategy? Those three sat around like he was the Queen of Sheba and those two sat around fanning him. So it just cracks me up when they’re like, “You guys aren’t strategizing.” We were strategizing all of the time. We just didn’t have to be bullies and throw the torch around. Look, they strategized me right out of the game. We did. We were constantly strategizing and we did say that after a certain point, it was going to be every man for themselves. We had an open dialogue about the truth of what it’s like to play “Survivor,” that you weren’t going to be best friends forever. You can have alliances and you can have individual alliances within those alliances and see how far it takes you. They were more of the mind to just stomp their feet and be like, “Well Russell’s the best!” You know? OK, really? Because he just lays around a lot and talks about the checks that he gets from the things that he sells on eBay. There was just nothing impressive about him. I saw no strategy on his part. And I realize he was a really good player before and that he did have strategy — For good or for bad, whether you respected it or not — he worked. Now, I don’t know whether he just got complacent or what it was, or whether this was how he socially came into the game, but they all just sat around and didn’t do anything. And they really weren’t a part of any of our conversations, so they don’t have a place to even comment on what we were speaking about.
HitFix: Well, they strategized you out of the game. But they also decided to favor tribe strength over loyalty exactly one episode before the Merge. Doesn’t that reaffirm the lack of strategy somewhat?
SW: Well, that’s the bad thing. And I played a part in that, too. I should have been more active. I didn’t know. I really thought that David would be the next to go, because we just talked so much and we knew the Merge was coming, but they had that football player mentality where they were like, “Strongest, strongest, strongest. We can’t lose another challenge.” And that came at the risk of going into the Merge and knowing, “Oh hey, it’s all individual and Sarita’s who you want in individual” because, hello, who’s bad at challenges? Me. Good thing to have. But he just worked it in a way that only a lawyer can work it. He made a great case and he sold it, where I trusted and got thrown under the bus. But I really have no regrets about it. I really love a good blindside. I actually was applauding them. It’s my favorite move in “Survivor.” I wish I wasn’t on that side of it, but I was really proud of them for pulling it off.
HitFix: Why the hostility towards Dave? And why the hostility towards Dave specifically as a lawyer? It seemed like there were a ton of lawyer jokes being tossed around the past couple weeks…
SW: It’s actually who he represents, which I don’t think they go into, so I shouldn’t talk about it. He represents… Everyone deserves the right to representation, but who he represents in particular, it’s the worst of the worst criminals. There’s just something about his flippancy when talking about it. It’s not even that he does it. OK, if you believe everyone deserves the right to legal council, absolutely. As we do. But it’s his flippancy and his cockiness with it and his joy at getting these mass-murderers off that just completely was mind-boggling to me. So that’s why people keep alluding to it. It’s not a good look.
HitFix: As a last question: Let’s say that you had made it to the Merge instead of Dave. How on Earth were you going to *win* this game?
SW: Right? Good question. I would have to be so tucked away, really the same way I went into the game, which was to feel everyone out, understand everyone’s personality — what people were good at, what people were bad at — and find out where I fit in. That really would have been my only thing. The thing that probably would have kept me around a little bit longer was just that I am not… When you put all those people together, you can see who the big threats are. They talked about it last night. They talked about Rob. They talked about Mike. They’re going for the big guns now, when they get to the single ones. I could have done well up until there. I don’t know. I was playing with some really good players.
HitFix: So you had no tangible strategy for what moves you were going to make? You were just going to let them pick off the bigger people?
SW: Yes. I just wanted to get to the Merge and let them in-fight for a while and.. My strategy was for Ralph and I to take it as far as we could. I really felt like we were good foils for each other and if we could have kept it together, I think he’s one who could have actually opened up and been more aggressive and really been able to bring Matt over, not just flimmy-flammy, but really circle the wagons on Matt. I didn’t see him playing the way I had expected him to play come this Merge, so…
Previous “Survivor: Redemption Island” Exit Interviews: