Interview: Spencer Bledsoe talks ‘Survivor: Cagayan’

[Prelude: This was a nutty, chaotic week and I really wasn't able to get on top of my seven “Amazing Race: All-Stars” and “Survivor: Cagayan” exit interviews. Apologies for the slowness, but it means a little extra content over the holiday weekend and whatnot. Starting tonight, I'll post my four “Survivor: Cagayan” exit interviews, one per day (give or take) starting with the season's fourth place finisher. Then I'll get to the three “Amazing Race: All-Stars” exit interviews, by which time you'll hopefully have forgotten how awful the finale was. Again, though, sorry for the delay.]

My first two “Survivor: Cagayan” finale exit interviews could hardly be more different.

Up first is Spencer Bledsoe, who made a disadvantageous alliance at the beginning with Garrett, an alliance that nearly led to his snuffing from the notoriously weak Brains tribe. Spencer came close to being in a power position after the Merge, but Kass' abrupt flip-flop had him scurrying for several weeks. Only a string of Immunity wins, aggressive scrambling and Tony's paranoia kept him from going home, but a tight Immunity loss to Kass at Final 4 ended his run.

In some cases finishing fourth is a disappointment, but given Spencer's early position, such a long run was so impressive that he earned a vocal apology and a sealed letter of apology from “Survivor” host Jeff Probst, who underestimated him initially.

Reflecting on his experience, super-fan Spencer is humble, introspective and self-deprecating, which runs counter to the Spencer we met at the start of the season. He's quick to point out his strategic flaws and fast to credit the season's winner, Tony, who he says he would have voted for over himself, had he somehow been both on the Jury and in the Final 2. 

The next exit interview, posting tomorrow, is with Kass. Her hindsight perspective is a bit different.

Click through for my Q&A with Spencer, who candidly handicaps his Jury prospects had he made the Final 2 and explains the speech he made in Tony's favor at Final Tribal… 

HitFix: First question: What did Jeff's letter say?

Spencer Bledsoe: [Laughs.] Man, I really messed this up. I've gotten that question every interview so far and the sad answer is that I've been really busy and I haven't read it yet. I still have to open it.

HitFix: So it was enough for you to see him admit to having been wrong on national TV? 

Spencer: That was enough, yeah. For the time, that was all I needed to hear. But yeah, I'm definitely saving that letter for whenever I'm feeling down, I'll just crack it open and I'm sure it'll give me a little bump in my day.

HitFix: So how much money would you say that Tony owes you for that last Jury plea of yours?

Spencer: [Chuckles.] I think I deserve, you know, a thousand bucks, maybe? Why not? Or at least a beer or something. Next time we go out, drinks are on him. But to be fair, I think he was in pretty good shape without me doing that. There's no telling for sure, but I think he was in pretty good shape regardless.

HitFix: So you figure there were just a few people on the Jury who needed to vent, but it wasn't going to matter in terms of their actual votes?

Spencer: Yeah, there were definitely some people who needed to vent. I felt like Jeremiah wanted to say his piece, but I felt like he was pretty much voting for Tony regardless. And I felt like Trish needed to say her piece, but I'm pretty sure she was voting for Tony regardless. I think there were a few others who were a little more on-the-fence and potentially I could have swayed one or maybe two of them. But ultimately I think the result would have been the same either way. I think if I don't do my speech it's not a big difference, but maybe he wins 7-2 instead of 8-1.

HitFix: But that was still a speech that you felt like you needed to make?

Spencer: Right, right. I did think that there was a chance that Woo could win and as long as I felt that way, I obviously felt really strongly that Tony was the right guy to win, so as long as I felt like Woo had a shot, it definitely was important to me to do anything I could to influence that. If I'm not gonna win then, as a fan honestly, what I really want to see is just a good ending to the story.

HitFix: Was it specifically you not buying Woo's “honor” argument? Or was it just the general principle of avoiding a Natalie-beating-Russell situation?

Spencer: A little bit of both. I don't think that Tony is that comparable to Russell, or at least not as much as a lot of people are saying, but at the same time, I also didn't completely buy Woo's “honor” argument. I would say that the side that we saw of him in the edit was not perfectly representative of his perception in the game. I'm not doubting his loyalty and his honor and I think he's an awesome guy, but I did feel that he was a little disingenuous in saying that he was taking Tony purely out of loyalty and honor.

HitFix: Do you think there's a way to deserve to win “Survivor” with the Five Codes of Tae Kwon Do argument?

Spencer: [Laughs.] Sure. There's always a way. If you have the right people and the right circumstances and the Jury happens to be in a certain mood or see the game a certain way, it's definitely possible. But I think that that approach is pretty hard to pull off. I think that for the most part, it's not a game where you can realistically play it well and uphold honor to the extent that Woo tried to uphold his honor. You cannot take Tony to the end over Kass and say that that's playing well. I think it speaks volumes to Woo's character and to him being an awesome person, but it's just not something that speaks to him well as a player.

HitFix: I can buy that. Now I assume that you've done the math in your head. Give me the hypothetical Jury votes if you had gone against any of the other people in the Top 4.

Spencer: OK. So I would say that Kass, I would probably win 9-0. Woo, I could see maybe Tony voting for Woo? I think I would have won, though, by a pretty good margin. Against Tony, I think it would have been a lot tougher. I think that LJ would have voted for Tony. Not Tasha. I think that Kass probably would vote for Tony in that situation and I think Woo would vote for Tony and I think Trish would probably vote for Tony. And I felt pretty good about the other five. So I guess if I had to  guess — and there's no way to really know — but if I had to guess, I think Tony versus me is probably a 5-4 vote and could go either way.

HitFix: When you were out there, were you conscious of that? Like when Tasha went out, were you like, “That's the last person out I'm not confident I could beat”?

Spencer: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, I thought Tony would beat me when I was out there. In retrospect, I got to Ponderosa and everyone said, “Oh, we were gonna vote for you,” but at the time? I definitely thought Tony would have beaten me. But I thought Tasha would beat me 100 percent, no question. So yeah, she was the last person that I felt very strongly would beat me.

HitFix: So the Top 4 Tribal Council where you told Tony he played a better game and would probably beat you, that wasn't you being disingenuous and playing the game?

Spencer:  No. No, no, no. If I were on the Jury and it was me against Tony, I'm voting for Tony. I think he played a better game.

HitFix: Tell me why.

Spencer: I think Tony, he was in much more control of the game. I think I had a good grasp on strategy, but I don't think I really implemented that well and I think Tony implemented it really well, that he was able to betray his alliances and convince them to come back to him. It's true that he had a Trish, who was putting out fires for him, and a Woo, who was very, very loyal to him, to a fault. But I can't knock Tony for that. For all the controversy surrounding his game, I think he's a brilliant player. He was aggressive, he was inventive. He was ingenious. Pinning targets on Jeremiah by giving him an Idol? Getting LJ to say, “Hey, maybe we can blindside Woo” only so that he can then turn on LJ and claim that he didn't break his promise first? I thought he played a brilliant game and just did a lot of things that I was not able to do.

HitFix: Jeff Probst last night, he praised the whole cast for coming out to play this season. Leaving Tony aside, a lot of the big moves this season didn't seem to impress you that much in the moment. From a fan's perspective, how do you think the cast other than Tony did this season?

Spencer: Oh, I think it was an awesome cast. I think this was a really strong cast both from a TV perspective and from the perspective of, as Jeff said, playing the game really well. We had a huge proportion of people who were familiar with the show. We had a huge proportion of fans, a pretty big proportion of applicants and, yeah, there were a lot of people who really knew what they were doing.

HitFix: Out there, you were not particularly impressed with Kass' game, but in her exit interview, she wanted to emphasize to me that if you were Charlie Brown, she was the Lucy who kept pulling the football away from you. Does that sound right to you?

Spencer: [Laughs.] I would modify that and say that it's like a Puppet Lucy and it was kinda a Lucy with strings attached to her being manipulated into pulling the football. Because honestly, as much as Kass influenced the game, I think the real credit for that lies with the people who convinced her to do it, because her Big Move, really the one game-molding decision that she made, was when she decided to vote out Sarah and I give Trish so credit for that. In my opinion, Trish convinced Kass to do something that was bad for her game and that's very hard to do. I was never able to successfully do that, so I give Trish a lot of credit for that.

HitFix: So when Kass tells me that the male version of Kass, Man-Kass, makes the same moves and then beats everyone at Jury, do you think she's wrong?

Spencer: Yeah. I do think she's wrong. I don't think she's wrong that there's a double-standard. I do think there's some sexism in “Survivor,” that mothers and women should be allowed, more than they are, to be villainous. And I think is exemplified really well when you look at the game of someone like Dawn Meehan, a few seasons ago, who I think played a really good game and was chastised really because her game didn't match her image as a mom. I don't think that's fair. But that said, I don't think that's what happened to Kass at all. I think the male version of Kass is just as hated by the Jury. I think the male version of Kass is just as bad a player.

HitFix: The two of you do agree on Dawn, so at least you're on the same wavelength there.

Spencer: Yeah, I think there's a very valid point to be made for a double-standard. I think she's absolutely right that oftentimes there are things that men would get credit for that women would not. I agree with that in theory. I just really don't think that was what was at play with Kass specifically.

HitFix: When you lost that last Immunity to Kass, Probst said that this was the first time he saw emotion from you. Now I didn't actually think that was true. I didn't think you'd been especially emotionless out there. What did you think of the amount of emotion you brought to the game?

Spencer: Yeah. I felt like I showed emotion. You didn't see a lot of it, but I definitely felt that throughout the game it was an emotional ride and that was something that really caught me off-guard, to be honest. I was expecting it to physically hard. I was not expecting it to be emotionally hard and it definitely was. Jeff saying it was the first time I'd shown emotion, that's fine, but I don't necessarily display emotion that openly, so I can understand him saying that. But at the same time, I think there was definitely an emotional side to me that he could have missed.

HitFix: Last night when you were asked the Twitter question about regrets, you mentioned trying to sway Jefra with the Idol. Go back earlier. On the Luzon tribe, what should you have done instead of aligning with David and Garrett?

Spencer: [Chuckles.] Well, I didn't align with David.

HitFix: Right. Sorry. With Garrett.

Spencer: With Garrett, yeah, I felt like I had to not make waves. When Garrett did his open forum, I felt like I had to not make waves and I think that was a mistake. I think I needed to go have the private conversations with Tasha and figure things out for myself. If there's one theme throughout my game of the mistake I was making, I think it was just not being aggressive enough. And I think that's a prime example. That's an example and it's the same thing with the Jefra thing is an opportunity came and passed to be honest with my alliance and really try and solidify something and I let it go. So I think a big flaw that I had was just not immediately seizing those chances. 

HitFix: Tasha told me that she wished you guys had actually talked in those first seven days because then you could have been a stronger alliance long-term. How aware were you throughout that you were missing that one person, that you were missing a right hand man or woman to get you to the end?

Spencer: I changed at different parts of the game. I think in the beginning, I absolutely did suffer from a lack of awareness that I needed a right hand man who was gonna be there with me through a lot of the game. Garrett I kinda saw as that person, but I think I could have done a much better job at forming relationships in the beginning. Definitely. Going through later parts of the game, I did think that Tasha and I got closer. I definitely had some relationships, but yeah, I definitely think that was something I could have worked on.

HitFix: You talked about needing to be more aggressive, but you were scrambling from Day 2. There was very little you could do, it feels like. So talk a bit about the other “Survivor” that you never got to play because you were too busy scrambling and trying to save your own butt.

Spencer: [Chuckles.] Yeah, the other “Survivor” I never got to play, I don't know how it would have been this time around. I think I fancied myself a great strategist and who knows if I would have been a great strategist, but I definitely was antsy to play that game and to be in a position of power where I could actually make some moves and make some things happen for myself, instead of depending on Tony to help me out every once in a while. So it was regretful that I didn't get to play that game, but at the same time, I don't know how good I would have been at that. I think in my pre-game interviews, you see me a little bit cocky and talking about how I'm about to play that type of game and if I had come off like that playing that type of game, it probably wouldn't have panned out that well. So maybe I was not meant to have that experience this time.

HitFix: In a perfect world do you take two or three years of life experience before you play “Survivor” again? Or if you get called to play again in one cycle or two cycles, are you there?

Spencer: Depending on the circumstances, obviously I'm not gonna just make a blanket statement that I'm there immediately, but yeah… In general, I'm pretty much there, as long as the other aspects of my life cooperate, definitely it's something where I have to take the opportunity when it presents itself.

HitFix: But would you be BETTER with two or three years of seasoning and experience in the world?

Spencer: Yeah. I think so. I think I would be, but at the same time, you never really know. Going into this season, I thought I would be better in a position of power and it turned out that maybe I was better as the underdog. I think it's very hard to predict. In a vacuum, I do think the more life experience the better. I would love to have 20 years. Or maybe not 20, but 10? I would love to go out as as 30 year-old. But you take what you can get.

More “Survivor: Cagayan” exit interviews:
Trish Hegarty
Tasha Fox
Jefra Bland
Jeremiah Wood
L.J. McKanas
Morgan McLeod
Sarah Lacina
Alexis Maxwell
Lindsey Ogle
Cliff Robinson
J'Tia Taylor
Brice Johnston
Garrett Adelstein
David Samson