Interview: Dan Foley talks ‘Survivor: Worlds Apart’

To say that Dan Foley has been one of the polarizing players in this “Survivor” season would probably be a misnomer, because the “positive” side of the pole hasn't been over-represented as far as fans are concerned.

From condescending chatter about how to talk to and apologize to women, to bullying behavior towards Sierra, to the particularly odd Tribal Council moment in which Dan compared being adopted to being a victim of abuse, the editors have had fun creating an unappealing carousel of moments with Dan, but also Rodney and Will.

Dan hasn't done so well with the men either, launching a feud with former ally Mike over a misunderstanding, and seemingly randomly calling Rodney's mother a whore.

Several months after an ouster in which Dan's two-vote Tribal Council advantage was negated by a surprising Idol play by Carolyn, Dan's got explanations or context for a lot of the things that made him look bad on “Survivor: Worlds Apart.” Dan is capable of talking a blue streak and some of the Maine resident's justifications and whatnot seem reasonable.

And, to his credit, he doesn't claim that if he'd made it through this vote he was going to sweep through to the end to win the million, but he's given it some thought, just like he's given thought to why the editors have given him such a one-sided depiction this season. Dan is forthright and earnest, but not eager to play the hindsight 20/20 game that is a normal pastime for “Survivor” veterans.

[An apology: I did this interview on an upfronts morning with a 4:30 schedule announcement. I fully meant to ask about the abuse/adoption Tribal Council, but things were just slipping through my mind left and right. Sorry.]

We talked about regrets and how he'd play if he got a second chance. Hint: He and Popeye share a philosophy.

Click through for the full Q&A…

HitFix: Talk me through the emotional swing and how you remember it of you playing those double votes and then Carolyn pulling out the Idol.

Dan Foley: So the whole thing started back at camp and Sierra came up to me and she said, “Listen Dan, Will just came up to me and said maybe it”s time to get rid of you.” And I said, “Really?” Because long before this point, Sierra and I had made up very, very well. I had genuinely groveled for her forgiveness because I felt really bad about the way I had treated her that night. And her and I were very tight. After I knew somebody had gone through my bag, I wanted to make sure that I had the power back in my hands because as long as somebody had that knowledge I had a problem. So I needed to do something positive to get that power back. So I told Rodney and Sierra what my advantage was. That resolidified me with them because we”ve been together since Day One. And if you remember, Rodney voted with me last week. He didn”t vote against me. And that was his chance to do it. So Sierra comes up to me, tells me that Will”s talking about flipping. Will had just gone with Carolyn and Mike on that reward together. Mike”s got a golden tongue, you know. I call him Teflon Mike for a reason, because nothing bad sticks to him. So I was real nervous about that. And the way that I was processing using my vote, because I can do basic math, is I don”t want to use it on a night when there”s an odd number of people because my vote-doubler will make it an even number of votes. That potentially makes a split. You can”t have that. So the best night to use it is a night when there”s an even number to make the numbers odd, to put the numbers hopefully in my favor. So Will has told Sierra that he”s thinking about getting rid of me. I didn”t know where he stood. I thought maybe Mike, Carolyn and Will were all coming for me. So that”s the time to play my advantage. Will also makes a comment at Tribal Council. He says, “If Dan”s got that advantage, he better use it tonight.” And I says, “Well, there”s a clear message right there.” So I whipped it out, used it and as soon as Carolyn said, “Oh, maybe I better play this.” I reached down, I grabbed my rucksack, I put it right over my shoulder. I knew I was done. That was no blindside.

HitFix: I have no answer for this but how sure are you that Carolyn was playing that Idol regardless or does any part of you wonder if you”re playing the advantage tipped her off?

Dan Foley: I didn”t know she had it. I had no idea. I mean the fact that Mike said that “I have something that can dictate you going home or not,” I didn”t really know what it was. I thought that was possible but I mean I give Carolyn her credit. She kept the fact that she had that Idol secret. She kept it hidden. Nobody knew. I think Mike suspected but, you know, good on her. I was stunned.

HitFix: I know you didn”t know about the Idol, but what I”m wondering is do you think that there”s any chance that you playing the way you did tipped her off that she needed to play the Idol or do you think she would have done it regardless?

Dan Foley: I can only go on what I saw in the edit and obviously the edit can”t be trusted. But yeah, I think having the advantage was kind of a double-edged sword because playing it may have given her more of an indication that we were coming for her. And if I hadn”t played it at all and just kept my mouth shut I don”t think it would have mattered. I think she still would have played that Idol. I think Mike had her paranoid enough that, you know, she was really concerned.

HitFix: Fair enough. Now when you go back and you play the 20/20 hindsight game in your head do you use the advantage differently at a different time? Do you take Mike more seriously when he comes to you and suggests changing things up? What is the thing you focus on when you go back and do hindsight?

Dan Foley: Nothing. That may sound arrogant but no, I don”t play the 20/20 game. I don”t. Mike showed his colors at the Auction. And as much as I tried to get him to understand how badly he betrayed everybody”s trust he just refused to wrap his head around it. And he came to me on the back path – you saw it last night when we were kind of going at each other — He was trying to get me to vote Rodney out because he knew that I wanted to take Rodney to the end of the game. And he”s like, “I need you to vote Rodney out.” And I said, “You know I”m not doing anything for you. You”ve proven that there”s no reason that I should trust you. None. So why should I? You need to earn my trust back.” And he was just so condescending and he was so smug in his approach. So he had to have known that Carolyn had an Idol. Whether she knew it or not I don”t know. Whether she told him or not I don”t know, because they never showed us. But I think he knew that she had it and he manipulated her into using it to his advantage. And, you know, good on him. You know, Carolyn got further in the game and unless I knew that she had that Idol there was nothing I could have done otherwise.

HitFix: I know you”re putting all of the onus on what Mike did at the Auction but you guys had already had your falling-out involving, I guess, it was the Joaquin vote and you”re not believing that people were out to get him. Now having been able to watch the season and seeing that he really was being targeted, does that make your opinion sort of change about any of that?

Dan Foley: The Joaquin vote was actually my decision. None of that was shown. Mike and Sierra were adamant that they wanted to get rid of Joe that night and I kept telling them, “Tt is the wrong move. If you get rid of Joe and not Joaquin we are screwed because Joaquin and Tyler are tight. They”re hiding from each other to make us think that they”re not but they are.” Every time we went to a challenge there”s Carolyn waving and blowing kisses. So we knew they were tight. We didn”t know Shirin at that point so we presumed they were still tight with Shirin. That”s four and I knew for a fact that Rodney was gone, long gone. That gives them five. And if we suddenly merged it”s only me, Kelly, Sierra and Mike. That puts us at four. That puts us at a disadvantage. So they were adamant about getting rid of Joe and I convinced them to go after Joaquin instead because I already knew that Rodney was trying to make side deals. So when Mike said to me, he goes, “Dude, they”re coming for me. They”re coming for me.” I looked at him and they actually showed that, I said, “Look, everybody”s coming for you. Everybody”s coming for me and everybody”s coming for Sierra and everybody”s coming for everybody.” You know? “It”s too soon.” It was too soon to make the move because there were too many people on the short end of the numbers that if just a couple of people from our side flip, now all of a sudden we”re in a very bad position. And I understand there”s a time to make a move and there”s a time not to make a move. But we knew that they were coming…  I was coming for Mike. The day the merge took place I went to Kelly, I went to Sierra and I went to Rodney and I said, “If we go to the end right now, who wins?” And they all said Joe. I said, “Right.” I said, “But if Joe goes away, who wins?” And they all looked at me and said Mike. I said, “Thank you very much.” I said, “It may not be today but we have to come after Mike.” Because everybody knew that Mike was a threat. I think the biggest mistake in the game was Jenn and Hali kicking out Kelly instead of Mike. They said they wanted to get rid of a Blue Collar person to strike a blow against us. Kelly didn”t represent a threat and Mike did. And the fact that they got rid of Kelly instead of Mike, I think that was bad on them. But, you know, anything can change with just one simple vote, so I don”t like playing the 20/20 game.

HitFix: That”s sort of the 20/20 hindsight game, but sort of from your position in the game going forward as you”re at the Top Six, if you survived the vote last night who did you figure that you beat at Final Tribal and who did you figure beat you? How did you have the votes laying out going forward?

Dan Foley: At that point in the game, I didn”t feel like I could beat Mike. And I felt very confident that I could beat Will. Rodney”s stock went through the roof when he started doing impersonations. [I laugh.] I mean it did. It just went through the roof. I mean all of a sudden people really liked him after that point. But people started to dislike him when he started complaining about not giving up their rewards and everything else. So I felt confident that I could beat Rodney. I don”t know whether I could or not. Sierra, I felt like I could beat her. I wasn”t sure, because there”s always that girl power thing and it”s happened in the past. But it”s always a crap shoot. You never know who you can. You never know who you can”t unless you get there and I didn”t get there. So…

HitFix: As you”ve been watching things play out on TV this season what is has the line been for you between regretting the things that maybe you said or did and regretting the way that the things that you said or did were depicted in the edit?

Dan Foley: The two things that I truly do regret are the comment about Rodney”s mom and simultaneously I really was upset about the way that was portrayed because what had happened was we had just done the leaking water bucket challenge and I actually passed out. It was so hot that day I blacked out. And I was lying in the shelter trying to recover from exhaustion and Rodney and I were actually having a conversation about when you know people and you”re buddies and you start picking on each other”s mothers and “Yo Mama” jokes and all that. They didn”t show any of that. Well then Mike starts busting on Rodney to do some work around camp. And then Rodney turns around and looks at me and goes, “You”re gonna get out of that shelter today?” And I”m like, “Yeah, your mother”s a whore.” So they didn”t show anything that led up to that comment, but they just simply showed the comment and made me look like a real jerk. And, you know, there was a lot of things. What happened with me and Sierra. They didn”t show what Sierra had done to me. I gave her a hard time when we got back after voting Lindsey out. They didn”t show Kelly defending me. They didn”t show Kelly saying exactly the same things that I was saying because if they had shown a woman saying it well then maybe I wouldn”t have looked so bad. And there were very small things that they could have done to have actually made me look a little bit better. And it definitely bummed me out a little bit. But they did show my softer side. They could show how much I loved my wife, how much I loved my family and at the end of the day I think I showed my loyalty. I showed the people that I was loyal to because they showed the loyalty back to me again. And I must have said this a thousand times in the game: You”ve got to give trust to get trust. And that was a pretty common theme throughout the game for me.

HitFix: Do you think that it hurt the way people perceive you that the editors were able to link some of the things that you said and did with some of the other blustery things that Rodney was saying and doing out there?

Dan Foley: Oh there”s no two ways about it. They”ve linked me, Rodney and Will together as one woman-hating group. And I think that”s really unfair. I think that we all say for every single person on this season has said things that they regret. There”s no getting around it. Let”s just get the pink elephant out of the way. Let”s just get it over with. My comment about “Somebody just slap Shirin and shut her up,” okay. I had no idea that there was domestic violence in her past. I would have never made that comment had I known. That was supposed to be nothing more than an expression like, I know you”ve heard people say, “God, I could just kill this person.” Do you think they go home and plot murder? It was just an expression because there wasn”t a single person all season that didn”t say derogatory things about Shirin. Even Mike referred to Shirin as the man hater. He said it point-blank and it showed that. They want to make the rest of us look bad. And I really feel like they targeted some of us because I speak my mind. It may not be PC but you know where you stand with me and I expect the same courtesy back from you. And I”m sorry. In my world that”s not a bad thing.

HitFix: Do you think that was something specific with this season? Comments like that, it wasn”t just you, it was Rodney, it was Mike, it was Will. Do you think that it was this specific cast or for some reason this was just the way that the storytellers wanted to tell the story this season and they could have told almost the same story any “Survivor” season?

Dan Foley: I think it”s a combination of both. I think we have a very huge, huge cast of personalities on this season. And how is anything that as said any different than… What”s a good example? Corinne said about Sugar, you know, in “Survivor: Gabon.” I mean she made some horrible derogatory comments about her. I mean some real [inaudible]. And I mean it”s not like it”s hasn”t happened in the past but it just really looked like they were trying to play the “men versus women” thing and the “men bullied the women” thing. I don”t know. What can I say? I”m not the one in charge of such things and I”m kind of on the receiving end of a lot of this hate and it was definitely a little tough to handle. I wasn”t expecting that. 

HitFix: If you got a chance to come out and do “Survivor” again would you be a different Dan or would you be the same Dan?

Dan Foley: That is a great spin on that question. Tyler actually asked me in the game at one point. I guess he went up to Sierra first and he said, “Do you think Dan is like this all the time or do you think Dan is just putting on an act because there are cameras around?” And I wasn”t there to hear that but they told me afterwards. Sierra said, “You know, I”ve been wondering that since Day One.” And it”s Tyler. So he just came right up to me and asked me. And he said, “Are you like this all the time?” And I”m like, “Dude, I have two modes. Awake and asleep. That”s it. There”s nothing in-between. Whether I”m at home, at work, in the grocery store or church it doesn”t matter. This is who I am.” And Max Dawson probably said one of the nicest things to me. He sent me a pretty lengthy text message and basically in a nutshell what he said was when you talk to Dan if you spend half-an-hour with him, you will genuinely feel like you have just made your best friend. He may not always be PC but he is always authentic. And I took that as quite a compliment. So do I think I”d play the game differently? I don”t know. I really don”t know if I”m capable of doing. Popeye was a great philosopher. I am what I am and that”s all that I am. I don”t put on airs. I don”t put on a façade. I went up there to play to win and I got a helluva lot further in the game than even Jeff Probst thought. He wrote me off as a pre-Jury kick. So I feel like I made a respectable showing. I would have liked to have done better of course but I”m not disappointed with the outcome. I played the game on my terms, not Mike”s, not Carolyn”s, not Will”s or Rodney”s or Sierra”s. My terms. And I suffered the consequences for it. I”m okay with that. If I actually went with what Mike said, got rid of Rodney and then the next episode he convinces everybody, “See Dan turned on you. He said flippers would never win. We”ve got to get him now.” And then everybody ganged up and voted me out, I would never forgive myself.

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