Interview: Carolyn Rivera talks ‘Survivor: Worlds Apart’

Carolyn Rivera had a rough “Survivor” finale night.

Not only did the Florida-based corporate executive lose the “Survivor: Worlds Apart” crown to Mike Holloway, but she received fewer votes than she anticipated, in tying with Will Sims for third with one vote apiece.

And then to make things worse, Carolyn's candidacy for next season's “Survivor: Second Chances” fell short. [It's no solace, probably, but Mike thinks Carolyn got hosed in the Second Chance voting process]

So you'll forgive me for treating Carolyn as the season's second place finisher, at least in terms of exit interview publication. 

Carolyn earned it. 

In addition to a key Individual Immunity win, a crucial play on a hidden Idol that she found sans clue and successful maintenance of majority alliance that would have won the day were it not for Mike's Immunity hot streak, Carolyn also earned her place in the Final 3 with a thrilling, tie-breaking fire build victory over Rodney. For the last few weeks of the season I repeatedly said that Carolyn was one of only two players with a deserving claim on the Sole Survivor crown. She just fell short.

In another slightly truncated exit interview — Carolyn and Will were supposed to be paired, but I ended up with slightly less time for them as individuals — Carolyn discusses the adversity she faced as an older woman, the social failings that left her weak with the No Collars on the Jury and the frustration and then elation of that fire tie.

Click through for the full Carolyn Q&A and look for the season's last “Survivor” exit interview tomorrow night…

HitFix: Going into the live show last night what were you guessing the vote was going to be?

Carolyn Rivera: I actually thought the vote would probably be 4-3-1.

HitFix: Okay. So whose vote did you expect or hope to get that you didn”t get?

Carolyn Rivera: I thought I would get Tyler”s vote and I thought I would get one of either Hali or Joe.

HitFix: You get to Final Tribal Council and what was the Jury tone that you were hoping for and how did it actually compare with what you got out there?

Carolyn Rivera: I thought the Tribal Council went really sort of as expected. I think every Tribal Council, when you get to the final one, is all about selling yourself back to them and putting up how your game play was throughout the season. We didn”t actually go through an opportunity to really plead our case, so I think that put me at a little bit of a disadvantage because I don”t know that I was able to share all the different moves that I made.

HitFix: Okay, that was actually a question, because we didn”t see opening statements and that was kind of a surprise because you always get opening statements at Final Tribal, but I wasn't sure if that just didn't make the edit. What was your reaction when that wasn”t the thing that was happening?

Carolyn Rivera: Yeah, I was very disappointed not having opening statements, because I think opening statements really help you remind the Jury members of all the different moves that you”ve made throughout the game. And I think because the way the season went and because there was so many people on the Jury that had something to say, in the essence of time we didn”t really get that opening statement. And I honestly believe that”s what gave me a little bit of a disadvantage.

HitFix: So in a certain number of seconds here, what was your opening statement going to be?

Carolyn Rivera: I was just gonna share some of the moves that I made and how hard I played the game and how successful I was at some of the challenges. People don”t really look at an older woman as being somebody who can compete.

HitFix: How much do you feel like that is still the case? I feel like we”ve had a number of winners now who have been the “older woman” and maybe have moved us away from that argument. Do you feel like there is still a perception that people go out on “Survivor” with, involving women who are slightly older?

Carolyn Rivera: Oh there”s no question about it. If you go back to some of the beginning challenges when we were at those Immunity challenges and I was on the team with all the young people, they would barely allow me to do some of the things. Like throwing the anchor and throwing the ball. I was the one who got maybe five tries. Everyone else got maybe 15, because I was the older woman. No question about it. But in each and every one of those challenges, they can go back and see that if I had to get an anchor and grab a buoy, I got it. If I had to throw the ball and hit a target, I got it. If I had to do that puzzle on the wall, I got it. So, you know, the perception and the reality were two different things.

HitFix: I”m wondering how much that had to do with the much discussed tone of sexism that was happening out there. Were you feeling that in addition to just the older woman thing?

Carolyn Rivera: You know I was not involved in any of the sexism issues. I did not feel like that happened to me in any way, shape or form. So I don”t think that played a role in anything at that point. I think the older woman issue was certainly there and I think I fought against it and I”m happy with the way I played. If I was going to do it again, the one thing that I would do differently is I think I would spend a little bit more time building some deeper bonds instead of, you know, I had my game face on and I was just all about strategy. And I think I”m a lot more personable than I probably let out. 

HitFix: Who were the deeper bonds there and available with? Who in retrospect do you wish you”d tightened things up with?

Carolyn Rivera: I think a lot of the No Collars, you know. We spent a few days on the beach together. Jenn and Hali, they”re young and hung out together. They never wanted to really talk strategy and they really didn”t want their mother, you know, hanging with them all the time. Do you know what I mean? So I think as you saw when Nina was out there, she felt a little bit pushed aside and I don”t think that they were really pushing her aside. They just enjoyed themselves together and the company between them together and so if you wanted to really hang with them you had to go out of your way to go after them. And I think I did that a little bit, but probably not enough.

HitFix: We saw last night after he lost that Rodney was very, very, very angry at Mike for having made the two of you guys make fire. Were you similarly frustrated with his wishy-washy approach that left you guys out there making fire for an hour?

Carolyn Rivera: Well initially when I knew that it was going to be a tie and I would have to make fire, I was really upset because I”m like, “Are you kidding me? I deserve to be there,” but in retrospect I am so excited that it happened. Well, of course, because I won that”s number one. And it just made me feel like, “Wow, now I really didn”t have to be here.” So yeah, frustrated initially but super happy at the end. It showed a great ending. It showed a great ending to a great season.

HitFix: Knowing Rodney as you do, it seemed to me like your two different fires were basically your “Survivor” games in microcosm. When you saw that he had the flame and you didn”t yet did you get freaked out or did you know that he was going to do basically exactly what he did and you would still have time to make your fire at your own pace?

Carolyn Rivera: I know he had fire and I kind of peeked over there for a minute and I was like, “Okay Carolyn, get with the program here. So I just focused on myself because, you know, staring at him and worrying about his fire was not going to help me get to the end.” So I just went into my Zen place, got focused and I knew once I had a flame that I could get it up quickly. But not by throwing everything into it at once. Just by building and getting where I needed to be. 

HitFix: It seems to me like there are definitely seasons and Juries that you would have beaten Mike at and that there are also obviously, as we saw, seasons and juries where Mike beats you. What was the right Jury do you think for you to win?

Carolyn Rivera: I think it was a little bit of an older Jury. I think we had a lot of young people on the Jury. I think that I mean Mike should be winning all those challenges, right? He”s clearly the athlete in the group and what – I”m 15, 20 years older than him? So he”s expected to win. So if he doesn”t win then its like, “Are you kidding?” So I think that the game that I played, the moves that I made, people would have – I guess I don”t know the type of person on that Jury that would see that. I thought the people on there should have seen that.

HitFix: I guess what I was thinking was that there could be a certain Jury composition in which people were not only pissed off at Mike like they were but they were pissed off at him in such a personal way that they would have voted against him. I think we”ve definitely seen juries where that was the case. Did you think there was a chance that things were going to be personal enough that that was going to sway people against him?

Carolyn Rivera: No I think that because he – at the end of the No Collar Alliance with Jenn and Shirin, not so much Hali because Hali, wasn”t there anymore, basically with Jenn and Shirin he built that bond because it was the three of them against the world at that point because that was the point in the game that Mike saw when he basically started getting a little bit paranoid. I think that those two had such impact on Hali and Joe that it was almost a shoe-in for him at that point. He didn”t need any other votes.

HitFix: And are you going to be able to watch next season do you think?

Carolyn Rivera: I”m a “Survivor” fan. I watch every season.

HitFix: And are you going to be able to root for Joe and Shirin or are you going to be rooting for the other “Survivor” people?

Carolyn Rivera: I have to see the game. Of course I”ll be rooting for, you know, the best players out there. And Joe and Shirin are part of the Dirty 30 so hopefully they play a good game.

Other “Survivor: Worlds Apart” exit interviews:
Will Sims II
Sierra & Rodney
Dan Foley
Tyler Fredrickson
Shirin Oskooi
Jenn Brown
Joe Anglim
Hali Ford
Kelly Remington
Joaquin Souberbielle
Max Dawson
Lindsey Cascaddan
Nina Poersch
Vince Sly
So Kim