‘Survivor’ Castaway Interview: Elyse Umemoto

‘Survivor’ doesn’t exist in a bubble. All of the contestants know exactly which strategies worked in the previous season.

Unfortunately for Elyse Umemoto, the last season before “South Pacific” was “Redemption Island.” Why was that bad news? Because Ometepe rode a numbers advantage into the merge and wiped out the Zapatera tribe. Any tribe that’s going to repeat that strategy is going to need to be strong in challenges, and that’s why Savaii voted her out instead of Ozzy Lusth.

I spoke with the latest victim of Redemption Island the morning after her elimination and had a chance to learn about a budding romance that seems to be taking place on Savaii beach, how Cochran is taking everyone by surprise, and how she nearly caught Jim in a major lie…

Gordon Holmes: You were the victim of a Savaii blindside last week. Did you have any idea that they would be gunning for you?
Elyse Umemoto:
No, none at all. Looking back, I’m not sure I had the capacity to see that. I don’t think there was anything I could have observed that would have led me to that conclusion. For the longest time it seemed like we were so unified and on the same page.
Holmes: It looked like Jim was the one who orchestrated the plot to send you packing. Did that shock you at all?
Umemoto: That definitely did not shock me.
Holmes: We’ve learned that Jim’s lying quite a bit. Jim even told the tribe that he was a teacher, even though he seems to have a dozen careers…none of which involve teaching.
Umemoto: Oh my gosh, the funny thing is he turns out to be this poker player and this business man. And that didn’t surprise me because he’s just got that big “I want to sell you something” grin. And he’d say things about how excited he was to be on the show because there were 12 million viewers so that means six million chicks. So, I wasn’t surprised. But he said he was a science teacher and he had this really convincing story where he had this rule where he wouldn’t date a student until three years after she’d graduated.
Holmes: Good cons have a lot of details.
Umemoto: But it was so slimy. But, I should’ve thought more about it when I asked him what the boiling point of water was and he couldn’t really give me an answer.
Holmes: Before the alliance break-up, what had the plan been?
Umemoto: We were all part of the same team, we were going to the final five, final four, whatever. And we just knew it. We’d look each other in the eyes and we had each others’ backs. And Jim just formulated a plan and put it into motion.

Holmes: They hinted at a bit of showmance between you and Ozzy. Any truth to that?
(Laughs) No, there was definitely no showmance. We were just homies. We got along really well as friends and that made it nicer.
Holmes: On that same topic; Papa Bear hinted that there was a showmance between Whitney and Keith. Any truth to that?
Umemoto: Oh…I would definitely believe that. I remember when Whitney confided in me something that I thought was really surprising. She had said that she’d been with this man that she’d been dating and they live together and that she really thinks that she was falling for Keith. So much so that she could see herself with him and not this man she has a life with back home.
Holmes: In her defense; Keith is super dreamy, so I could see why that would happen.
Umemoto: (Laughs) He is so dreamy. And he’s such a good, wholesome guy. After every challenge, whether we won or we lost, he was always, “Hugs and high fives, guys.” And he’s totally easy on the eyes.
Holmes: Was there a pecking order with who got hugs and who got high fives?
Umemoto: No, it was just love for everybody all around.

Holmes: How’s Cochran doing out there?
Oh, Cochran!
Holmes: Oh, Cochran.
Umemoto: (Laughs) I think we realized way too late what Cochran was all about. We underestimated him. He learned how to follow direction, but he couldn’t take the lead. He learned to adapt really well to the environment. And he knew so much about the game, he was so prepared.

Holmes: Let’s do some word association. We’ll start off with Dawn.
Swimsuits. All Dawn would ever worry about is us getting our stinking swimsuits. And when they came, you would have thought it was the Ark of the Covenant.
Holmes: Now see, you’re not supposed to look at the Ark of the Covenant and when you got your swimsuits…I…uh…was looking.
Umemoto: (Laughs)
Holmes: Let’s try Ozzy.
Umemoto: Oh, that hair! All that hair. Ozzy was my buddy, and I think of him as Mowgli. We ended up as snuggle buddies and his hair made an amazing pillow.
Holmes: Whitney?
Umemoto: Barbie. I think that a little bit has to do with her beautiful looks and blonde hair and charm. But we built a second shelter and the only people who’d sleep in it were Keith and Whitney, so I called it the Barbie Dream House. And they didn’t particularly like that.
Holmes: Alright, Keith?
Umemoto: Baseball.  Because if I had to guess anything about Keith, I’d have guessed that he plays baseball. He seems like an athlete, and I was wrong.
Holmes: Is that because before the game he was running around in a Minnesota Twins baseball cap?
Umemoto: Oh, I didn’t even notice that! He just looked like a tall pitcher to me.
Holmes: Papa Bear?
Umemoto: Larger than life. Everything about him was so over the top. Him running around in his undies…ugh…please put your shorts on. He made such a production out of everything. Kind of a diva.
Holmes: Cochran?
Umemoto: Sneaky! Sneaky McSneaksalot!
Holmes: Chewed-up pork?
Umemoto: Ugh. Barf. I had sauce in my inner ear. How does that even happen? It was way too Hannibal Lecter.
Holmes: Let’s finish this off with Jim.
Umemoto: Goodness…lots of words. OK…creeper.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

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