Interview: Shirin Oskooi talks ‘Survivor: Worlds Apart’

On last week's “Survivor: Worlds Apart,” several castaways talked about talking much-maligned underdog Shirin Oskooi to the end because of the assumption that nobody would vote for her.

This was crazy-talk and I figured Shirin would have been a lock for at least four votes.

“Five, bro! I had five Jury votes bro, five,” Shirin was quick to tell me when we spoke after Wednesday's “Survivor.”

Of course, the fact that we were speaking on Thursday meant that Shirin would actually be receiving zero Jury votes, because she was sent to join the Jury herself in a vote that at least had drama thanks to an Idol bluff from Mike. Sensing an inevitable vote against Shirin, Mike feigned like he was going to give the former White Collar member his Hidden Immunity Idol and suggested the ruling alliance would be wise to cannibalize itself. Mike's move caused a couple surprise votes to go against Dan, but he opted not to actually give Shirin his Idol and she went home.

Shirin still insists she didn't expect Mike's Idol and says that the minor upheaval was, itself, a small victory for Team Shirin.

In general, despite a number of unpleasant “Survivor” interactions, with the aforementioned Dan and more dramatically with Will, Shirin sounds positive about her overall experience.

She's very candid about the mistakes she made in over-aligning with fellow superfan Max to start the season and how she'll be a better player if she gets a chance at Cochran-esque redemption.

Oh and who was the fifth vote she was counting on?

You'll have to read Shirin's whole exit interview below…

HitFix: You said after you were voted out that you understood why Mike didn”t use the Idol on you but in the moment as you kinda skipped off to cast your vote what did you hope or expect was going to happen?

Shirin Oskooi: Yeah, so I knew that Mike had an Idol and I knew that he was gonna do something with it that night. I suspected that exactly that was gonna happen, that he was gonna pretend to play it for me and not play it for me. And that was exactly right for his game. My job was to get people to switch their votes, to get them to show cracks in the alliance. If that happened to magically save me wonderful. I didn”t think that was gonna happen. I didn”t even think we would eke out any votes. The fact that Mike and I together sold it that she was really gonna play it right with me skipping down the voting aisle got two votes for Dan and that is a win for Team Shirin.

HitFix: When did Mike tell you that he had the Idol and what were the contemplations regarding how that Idol could be used to actually make a tangible difference out there?

Shirin Oskooi: It was actually probably the best moment in the game for me. After Will attacked me and Mike, Jenn and I went to our special cave. We were sitting there and I was like, “What are we doing? We need to go find the Idol to screw these people.” And Mike, he looked at us and just says – and this is not good game play at all, this is just in the moment, us connecting as people — he said, “Look guys, I have the Idol.” And that for me was the moment where it was no longer a game. That for me was when it was, you know, Good versus Evil, one of the three of us needs to win and I don”t care if it”s not me. And so that”s when I knew that he had the Idol. And then prior to this Tribal Council he told me he”s like, “We”re not down and out.” He”s like, “I”ve got one more trick up my sleeve.” And that was it. And I pretty much figured out what he was gonna do. I didn”t know how he was gonna play it, but it played perfectly. I mean, it was masterful.

HitFix: Is it hard to put your ego aside and to go okay, to some degree this was a win for Team Shirin but on the other hand you totally went home. So, you know, it wasn”t actually a win at all.

Shirin Oskooi: No, it”s not at all hard for me to put my ego aside. Like I said, when I was attacked personally it went so above and beyond the game that at that point I was thrilled by my “Survivor” experience. I had a wonderful time. I went on amazing rewards. I met some amazing loving people. I had life epiphanies and beautiful moments that had never happened to me before and that was including Mike coming and saving me from an ugly situation. I”ve never had a man stand up for me like that ever in my life. So was it hard for me to put my ego aside and get voted out? No. No, I was ready. I would have fought tooth and nail to stay, but eking out two votes and Mike staying in the game, Mike having something to work with now, I”m thrilled. And Mike better win. I will stab my face if he gets voted out. And like that”s it. Mike better win.

HitFix: So the actual moment of Jeff snuffing out your torch. How did that compare to your expectations?

Shirin Oskooi: It”s funny. He started saying, “Shirin, the…” and I interrupted him. I like leaned in almost Dawson-style. People thought I was gonna take a kiss. And I just said, “I”ve been waiting my whole life for this.” Like a creepy idiot! But and then he kind of reset and then that”s when you saw me gushing about how I was excited and he snuffed my torch and it was so much better than I ever could have imagined because I went out in style.

HitFix: You mentioned Mike standing up for you but how about when Jeff told Dan that being adopted and being a child of abuse were different things. Like how did you avoid running over and giving him a hug in that moment?

Shirin Oskooi: [She laughs.] I think the difference is that when Dan says those kinds of things equating adoption and domestic violence like that”s Dan. I was laughing. It's horrible. I mean it”s so clearly absurd that you”ve just got to laugh. And I was thrilled that it was Jeff who spoke up and pointed out to him how ridiculous it was. For once it didn”t have to be me or Mike pointing out how silly of a statement it was. And the other thing that was great about it is that Dan at this point only listens to Dan. Dan doesn”t listen to anybody else who”s out there, but he listens to Jeff and I think that Jeff at that point understands he”s the only person in the entire game who can say something to Dan where Dan might actually take pause and internalize an iota of that thought, that maybe it was wrong. But he didn”t. So…

HitFix: In last night”s episode Sierra and a few other people went on and on about how taking you to the end was smart because nobody would vote for you and blah, blah, blah. Now by my count sitting on my couch I gave you roughly four votes in most circumstances in which you would make the Final Three.

Shirin Oskooi: Five, bro! I had five Jury votes bro, five.

HitFix: OK, so I give you the three people who were already on the Jury. I assume if you make the Final Three that that means that Mike doesn”t so he”s a vote for you. Who was the fifth?

Shirin Oskooi: Sierra.

HitFix: Okay.

Shirin Oskooi: Sierra and I were incredibly close out there. We were really good friends. You know she wasn”t treated the best by those people either but, she was in their alliance. She got me. And especially when I raised my hand and stood up for myself, I think that she was really proud of me. I think that”s why I won her jury vote. When I raised my hand I won Sierra”s jury vote and Mike”s jury vote.

HitFix: So you were figuring out there at that point that if you could just somehow stumble to the end that this was your game?

Shirin Oskooi: Yes.

HitFix: And was that hand raising moment, was that the point at which yourealized that or when that clicked in for you that if I can just somehow, you know, trip and stumble my way to the end I get a million bucks for it?

Shirin Oskooi: I was always thinking about who I had to sit next to in order to win the game and whose votes I would have and who”s I wouldn”t have. And I think it”s really hard early on in the Merge to actually make educated, honest assumptions about that kind of thing because there”s so many days left you have no idea how it”s gonna play out. Yeah, the hand-raise moment, that was about mid-Jury and so that”s when you can start to see what people think of you, who”s gonna vote for you, who absolutely won”t vote for you. And that”s when things started crystallizing as “I can turn all of this into a great victory story for me that will, you know, win the love and respect of the No Collars, of Mike of Sierra. And the rest of them are a lost cause and they”re never gonna vote for me anyway.”

HitFix: So talk about watching the show for the past couple of months and how that has impacted your memories of this experience. Specifically how watching TV and the passage of time have made you feel about Will and Dan.

Shirin Oskooi: Let”s see. It was really difficult for me going into last week”s episode knowing what was coming. Obviously I had no idea how much of it was going to be shown, what was going to be shown, if any of it was gonna be shown. I think it was cathartic for me to see it play out. I was so thrilled that they included Mike saving me, because I didn”t even know if they could really capture how much Mike did for me in the moment to get me out of there when everybody else just stood there. And so I think once that episode was over it was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders and I knew I can turn this into something good. I can raise awareness for causes that are deeply meaningful to me. I have so much love for Mike and Sierra and Jenn and people who were there for me. And so going into this week”s episode it was gravy. I just knew it was gonna be really fun. We had a fun time my last two days out there. I think the kind of worst parts of the episode were these confessionals that I didn”t know about. And so from my couch at home it was shocking. They were not glamorous. They were ugly words to be said but that”s on him. That”s not me.

HitFix: Do you have the ability to step away from the game and sort of distinguish between game frustration with Will and Dan and real life kind of still anger I guess?

Shirin Oskooi: Oh yeah. I mean like to be clear even though I was so like emotional out there after that attack and so many awful things happened to me, I never wanted to play the game emotionally, right? Like I never was going around trying to get Will voted out, because that would have been a terrible vote. I was trying to go after strategic people like Carolyn and Tyler. And so in terms of separating the game from Dan, I mean you saw. I knew he didn”t like me. I knew he was talking crap about me behind my back and I knew that he wasn”t going to work with me. But that doesn”t mean I still can”t try. So that”s why I pulled him aside in that hilarious scene where he”s like kind of gargling and whatever. And I mean I”m trying. I”m trying as hard as I can and I was like, “Dan, I know you don”t like me but yo. Let”s try to do something.” And you”ve got to just like beat that guy over the head with this argument. Like I had to come at it directly at him like, “I know you don”t like me, but here”s where things stand. Let”s do this.” And it didn”t work. Yeah, no personally I didn”t like him. Personally I don”t like him. It has nothing to do with the game. Unfortunately it had to do with his game. Unfortunately his game is, “I let my emotions impact who I”m voting with” and they make him crazy. They make him illogical. They make him irrational.

HitFix: The past couple of weeks in my exit interviews I”ve heard a number of variations on the, “Once Shirin got away from Max I really liked her answer…” [She laughs.] So when you look back on it what is the balance of good versus bad that came from having Max out there as your in-game partner-in-crime?

Shirin Oskooi: I think Max and I are both in total agreement about this. We love each other so deeply. We”re really close friends. Like we”re kindred spirits. We were so thrilled to be able to play the game together. However it was terrible for both of us to have to play the game together. We just geeked out. We, you know, talked about the game too much. We riled each other up. We had a lot of fun together but it game-wise it wasn”t good for us.

HitFix: Do you realize that when you”re out there or is it only in retrospect that that becomes crystal clear?

Shirin Oskooi: In retrospect it becomes crystal clear. We knew that we were talking about the game too much and that”s like that”s a huge regret. I needed to can it. We needed to shut up.

HitFix: But in the moment, something like bottom-less dish-cleaning. That seems like a good idea… why?

Shirin Oskooi: So I was way down the beach, right? And it was close to sunset. Everybody was back at camp not working and so I didn”t want my pants to get wet. So I take my pants off and my top wasn”t gonna get wet because it was just my bottoms, I was gonna be sitting in the water washing the dishes. And then all of a sudden the men, fully clothed because they”re not working by the way, walked down the beach and I”m horrified. I was like, “What are they doing? Why are they here? I”ve got my pants off and I”m washing dishes. Why? Why are they here?” And you can see they”re just standing there. It”s like, “If you don”t want to see it go away. I”m not in the middle of camp. I'm down the beach.” So it was a good idea because I didn”t want my clothes to get wet. It”s unsanitary to go to sleep with like wet underwear. I didn”t want a yeast infection. I mean in retrospect, if everyone else wasn”t working at all I shouldn”t have been working as hard. I just should have saved the dishes for the morning. Then I wouldn”t have to worry about getting my pants wet.

HitFix: So having played the game once and gotten the jitters out do you think that you have a Cochran-esque second run in you at this point?

Shirin Oskooi: [Sing-song] Ab-so-lutely! Yeah. I see what I did wrong. I”m not too proud to admit any of it and I”ve grown from it and I think I can go back in there and really stir up some shit. 

HitFix: Okay, just give me the littlest peek at what 2.0 looks like.

Shirin Oskooi: 2.0 you”re still gonna see an energetic passionate enthusiastic person. You”re not gonna see me talking about being a superfan all the time. You”re gonna see me reining it in a lot more and playing a lot more of a sharp game.

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