Interview: Marissa Peterson talks ‘Survivor: Blood vs. Water’

Marissa Peterson never really had a chance in this “Survivor: Blood vs. Water” season. 
Well, she had a chance, but the chance got messed up pretty quickly. She responded negatively to future tribal ringleader Brad at the very first grouping of the castaways, putting a target on her back. Then, when the Returning players defeated the Newbies in the first Immunity of the season, Marissa’s uncle Gervase, a veteran of the very first American “Survivor” season, made a display of enthusiasm that rubbed Brad the wrong way and made the target even bigger. 
Marissa was the first member of her Tadhana tribe voted out and weathered two Redemption Island Duels before going out on this Wednesday’s episode.
Perhaps if Brad hadn’t been so giddy to vote out the strong, feisty Marissa, followed by the strong, feisty Rachel — keeping the much less strong and much less feisty Katie and Ciera — Tadhana wouldn’t be searching for its first challenge win of the season. We’ll never know. 
Marissa certainly thinks Tadhana would be doing better if she’d stuck around. She’s also the first contestant I’ve talked to this season with a pragmatic understanding that this is a game and it may have been necessary to writer Gervase’s name down at some point. 
Click through for the full exit interview, which may make you wish we’d gotten a bit more Marissa…
HitFix: So have you been watching this season week-by-week watching Tadhana go down and thinking none of this would have happened if they hadn’t targeted you first?
Marissa Peterson: Oh, you know I have! You know I have. Especially that next challenge with the 1-on-1, with the pillow-pushing-off thing? I would have killed that. I would have dominated in that challenge and I know we would have won. But I’ve stopped saying all the shoulda/woulda/couldas, but definitely I feel like Tadhana would be in a completely different spot right now if they had chosen to vote some of the weaker people out the first night, instead of me because of my uncle.
HitFix: When you place the blame in your mind, what is the percentage of blame that goes on your uncle and what is the percentage that just goes on Brad?
Marissa: I would say maybe five or 10 percent on Gervase? I really don’t blame him at all. I just thought that blaming me for Gervase was just a cowardly way to go out. It was just stupid to me, because there were other people whose loved ones were celebrating. Of course they weren’t saying, “Oh, don’t let that fool you!” and stuff like Gervase was, but other people were jumping for joy before we even finished the challenge. Before the Galang flag was even raised, somebody said, “OK, guys! We just won our first Immunity!” And that didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings? So yeah, Gervase rubbed it in our face, but he was playing as if we’re not loved ones, because if this were a completely different game and this twist wasn’t thrown in, it would have been OK. It wouldn’t have mattered. That’s how he’s playing. Gervase isn’t my soulmate. He’s not my dad. So we do have this interesting bond, this competitive uncle-niece relationship, so that’s why you see me just giving him the hand after, because I was thinking like he was saying that all to me, because we’re really competitive. That’s why that really didn’t bother me, so when I got back to the tribe and someone said, “Poor Gervase,” I just wanted to lay it out there that, “OK. Me and Gervase aren’t the same person. That wasn’t cool what he did, but we are not the same people at all and you shouldn’t judge me based on that.” But it was too late.
I do put a lot of the blame on Brad, because it was his decision. Then later he was trying to act like, oh it wasn’t his decision and it was so hard, but in his confessional you see him say, “Oh, your loved one’s going out. You wanna rub it in our face, but…” and the hold tribe because, of course, everybody just wanted to go along with it. I feel like nobody was really thinking about how that decision was going to effect the tribe. I think other people were just thinking, “Oh, it’s not me, so let’s just go with it.” So most of the blame, to me, was just on the tribe.
HitFix: Do you think it was really just as simple as Brad targeting Gervase? Or was there any sort of tension between the two of you on other points?
Marissa: There was definitely some tension from the beginning from Day One when Jeff Probst asked Brad, “Oh, you and your wife have been married for 22 years. How will your relationship handle this competition?” and Brad admits that basically he would throw a challenge to give a tarp to his wife and immediately I say, “I don’t want you on my tribe!” I don’t want somebody who’s gonna have that mentality. We haven’t even competed in a challenge and you’re already saying you’re gonna throw a challenge? Which you NEVER do. You’re already saying you’re going to throw a challenge for your wife? So that was strike one and I guess, basically, when it comes to it, I am the most different from everyone else and that’s why maybe they decided to get rid of Laura, Rupert’s wife, first. Because I’m thinking, “OK. You know Rupert. You have a Rupert No. 2 here, so she’s going to be doing all of this stuff to help the tribe. Why do you want to get rid of her so soon?” And you see her in the other challenges with Galang kicking butt. That’s why I didn’t understand why Laura was the first one to go. I voted for Brad. That’s the only thing that I had to judge them off of. And two people wrote my name down. So that’s why I feel like, “OK, maybe there was some other stuff that’s going on that I’m not aware of that’s been happening before the game,” because I just felt like, “Why me?” I felt like  I was definitely a team player and I wanted to help my tribe win. Before we even did a challenge, Ciera was saying, “Hey guys. Don’t be offended if we lose, because our moms have been doing this longer” and I was like, “When do you ever go into a game preparing to lose? No. We can win this!” And we should have, but we didn’t.
HitFix: Something you said earlier that’s a really good point is that the uncle-niece relationship is very different from a husband-wife or a longterm boyfriend-girlfriend. How do you think that different relationship would have played out if that had been a Merge? Were you going to be tied to Gervase regardless? Or could you have a imagined a circumstance in which you were willing to write his name down if necessary?
Marissa: Yeah, me and Gervase had talked about it and he was saying and I was agreeing, we should basically use our relationship as an opportunity to be a free agent. He’s like, “Tell people if you need to before the Merge, ‘I’ll be more loyal to you than to Gervase. He’s not my dad or my boyfriend. He’s just my uncle. He’s not gonna be upset.'” Both of us, of course, knew if it came down to it and there was only a handful of people left and it comes to one of us, one of us is gonna have to write the other person’s name down. It doesn’t mean we’re not gonna be uncle and niece anymore. It doesn’t mean that we can’t call each other or text each other anymore just because of that. I felt like some of the other couples, it was like, “OK. If I write your name down, we’re not gonna be together anymore.” And then I see at the physical Immunity Duel in the second episode, Laura was saying to Ciera like, “I don’t wanna hurt you.” And I felt like me and Gerv could definitely benefit from that, because we would not have that shield in front us. Even though I wouldn’t have faced Gervase, they wouldn’t have put me up against him, but we would have been prepared to fight, no disclaimers in the beginning or anything. So I thought that that would show me as an asset to my tribe, but you could see in this last episode, Brad is thinking people who don’t have strong connections on the other side are not valuable. So that’s why he’s like, “OK, now John needs to go and Caleb needs to go, too.” I don’t know. I thought that people would think that I would be more of an asset because of that, but I guess not.
HitFix: Much of your game this season obviously was on Redemption Island. How was that version of “Survivor” for you? Did it feel at all like the game that you’ve watched on TV?
Marissa: [Laughs.] No! It was completely different and I was prepared to learn from people. Like, “OK! I’m gonna learn how to make a shelter! I’m gonna learn how to fish! To take care of the fire! To do all this stuff that you watch on TV.” And then, OK, three days into it and now I’m secluded, on my own, with one other person. But I actually ended up learning a lot. I feel like I got way more of the “Survivor” experience that I wanted actually doing all of those things and submerging myself into being a real castaway, versus the experience that I got while I was on Tadhana. Our tribe it was like, “Hey guys, lemme help with the shelter!” “No, Marissa.” “OK. Hey, I know you’re tired of trying to make fire. Let me try.” “No. We have more power.” I would just be told, “No.” That’s part of the shushing thing that Candice harped on, because someone came into Redemption and said something about that. But I’m just saying, personally, I hadn’t been shushed, but I’ve just been told “No” or a hand is just raised whenever I’m talking as in “Stop talking, I don’t want to hear it and we don’t need to hear your input.” So yeah, Redemption was my home and I was really bummed out at first, but after me and Candice came back from the first Duel, I was like, “OK. I can be this person that comes back into the game and makes these people fear my wrath,” but unfortunately it didn’t end up happening.
HitFix: Tell me a couple things you did out there on Redemption that you were particularly proud of.
Marissa: OK, yeah. One of the things was I wanted to try fishing. I’ve fished with different fishing rods out on a lake, but not in the ocean using that Hawaiian sling, so the first time I went out there, in about 20 minutes, the first that I shot for, I got. So we had fish that night after the Duel, which was way better than eating the cup of rice that we got to share each day. So during the day I’d be out there fishing and Candice would be making rice for the meals and stuff. And one of the first nights I was out there, I was tending to the fire… Most of the time when you watch “Survivor,” you see the guys staying up at night making sure that the fire doesn’t go out, but that would be my job and I would be up all night making sure that the fire stayed and when we went to the Duels, making sure that the fire was good enough to burn til we got back and we didn’t have to start it all over again. So I had a greater sense of independence and self-worth when I was out on Redemption with Candice versus just feeling like an insignificant female. Brad even said like, “Oh yeah. All the girls, they’re all the same to me.” I definitely felt more appreciated at Redemption.
HitFix: What do you think about the sexism or strengthism that has been so prevalent at Tadhana. What has caused that tribe to be so man-dominated, I guess?
Marissa: I don’t know. I guess it’s just the numbers, because five guys and four girls. That’s why I was so confused why the girls were trying to vote out Laura. Why wouldn’t you want to vote out a guy? That’s what it tends to be sometimes, is the guys have more numbers and then then guys are going to be in an automatic alliance. So in the beginning, all the guys would be going to get water at the same time and I knew what was going on. Vytas came to me and my uncle had told me to work with Vytas because he was going to try to work with Aras and the four of us, our goal is to make it to the Final 4 together. So I’m thinking, “OK, I’m in this type of sub-alliance.” I could tell that Ciera and Katie were the weaker ones and I was like, “OK, if I stick with this, it’s almost like I’m the sixth guy and I’m OK with this right now and then I can work things out later.” But then I see later that Vytas was saying the same thing to all the girls, so that really wasn’t the case. I’ve even talked to Rachel about, “Man, if only we would have tried to round up one more guy to basically get to vote with us, we could get rid of the guys so the girls could just have the numbers.” That would have been a completely different game.
HitFix: Do you really think you could have done that? Or were you really just doomed as soon as it was 5-4 out there?
Marissa: Yeah. That’s what I always think about. Who would have switched? Definitely not Vytas, Brad or Hayden. Maybe moreso Caleb or John might have been able to? But then I was think that John, OK, he’s not going to want to vote out a guy to go and compete against his wife. So I wasn’t thinking John and then I was like, “These five guys… ” I knew it was solid. I was more worried about trying to come between them and put a target on my back when there wasn’t already a target on my back. So I was like, “OK. Let me just sit here and wait this out after this first Tribal and then I’ll make moves.” I was just worried about making a big move too soon.
HitFix: I assume you’ve listened to Gervase’s “Survivor” stories for a decade. Do you feel like you got enough stories out of your “Survivor” experience?
Marissa: Yeah, I did have some good stories, but I’m just sad that most of my best stories are after-the-fact, like Ponderosa afterwards. But I do have a good amount of stories to tell. But still, I just wish that it could have lasted longer. I wish that you were talking to somebody else right now and not me.