Archive for December, 2012

Who Does Jeff Probst Think Would Do Well in a Celebrity Edition of ‘Survivor’?

December 24, 2012

Jeff Probst and Neil Patrick Harris (CBS)

With all of the excitement surrounding the “Survivor” Hall of Fame 2012 induction process, the “Survivor” Question of the Week was postponed and we ended up having some leftovers. Now, normally you have to wait until after the holidays to enjoy some leftovers, but we’re going to dish these out now…

Which speech/question is the all-time jury jaw-dropper?

Gordon Holmes: You’d think that after 24 seasons someone would be able to top Sue Hawk’s dressing down of Kelly Wigglesworth, but it still hasn’t happened. Sue’s snake-eating-the-rat, leave-you-dead-on-the-side-of-the-road masterpiece has yet to be touched. The angry bar was set high that evening.
Jeff Probst: Yes, I’d have to agree that since Sue’s speech it’s been a series of people attempting to recreate it and it just doesn’t work.  I wish the jury would stop trying to make great “speeches” and just have an honest dialogue.  But it’s just too tempting because it’s their last shot to make an impression.  Sue’s speech is also helped by the context of it being the final episode of our first season.  The heat around the show was insane.  I remember people talking about that and mocking it for years.

What is the most dastardly move in “Survivor” history?

Holmes: There have been some strong contenders since we did this last; Corinne Kaplan’s Tribal Council speech about Sugar’s dad, “Hero” James Clement  bullying Stephenie LaGrossa, basically everything Russell Hantz did ever. But, it always comes back to Dre “Dreamz” Heard accepting Yau-Man Chan’s truck reward and then stabbing him in the back during “Survivor: Fiji.” For some reason, the dishonest acceptance of something that has monetary value outside of the game is where I draw the line.
Probst: Well, this question is clearly flawed because it requires us both to have the same definition of dastardly and believe that it’s even possible to make a dastardly move in “Survivor.”  If you consider dastardly to mean a combination of cowardice and evil then I must say Mr. Holmes that I cannot think of a move that qualifies.  This is “Survivor.”  Anything goes.  Everybody knows that going in so it’s hard to put a judgment on it. Even Dreamz move to take the car and vote out Yau-Man was really just another day on “Survivor.”  Hmm…maybe this is why I host and don’t play.

What is the scariest moment in “Survivor” history?

Holmes: Michael Skupin’s fall into the fire used to hold this title, but my blood ran cold the first time I watched Russell Swan’s eyes roll back into his head during “Survivor: Samoa.” I watched it knowing I’d be talking to him the next day, I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like for you to have been there in person.  
Probst: No question – Russell Swan.  For one reason; I thought he was dying.  We knew Skupin was severely injured but we knew he would live — but I thought Swan was gone.  In those few seconds so many things rushed through my head.  I am so grateful that we have an amazing medical team who was right there and saved his life.

Which celebrity do you think could excel at “Survivor”?

Holmes: Of all the names I’ve heard tossed about in a hypothetical “Celebrity Survivor,” I’m going to go with Neil Patrick Harris. He seems to fall into a few sweet spots that I look for. First of all, he’s fit, but not so fit that others would find him intimidating. From what I’ve heard he’s a fan of the show, so he’d be up on the latest strategies. He’s seen the ups and downs of a Hollywood career so he’s used to some adversity. He seems like someone who can relate to people of all ages. And, the grueling grind of a Broadway schedule will probably have him prepared for the endurance necessary to survive 39 days in the middle of nowhere.
Probst: Funny, I would say Neil too.  He’s very likable.  I also think Jimmy Fallon would do very well.  I think Alex Trebek would be first out due to his bossiness but I’d love to see it.  Jimmy Kimmel would hate it but I’d love to see him out there.  The truth is most celebrities don’t really want to do it because you really stand to lose a lot.  This game will kick the ass of the most fit, most patient, most loving people.  It just doesn’t care.  It will beat you down until you beg for mercy and even then quite often we just pick you up and send you back to camp.

What Are Your Answers? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

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‘Survivor’ Hall of Fame 2012 Post-Mortem

December 21, 2012

hofpostThe Hall of Fame votes have been tabulated, the Power Rankings are done, and the exit interviews are all transcribed. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Now that another induction season in in the rearview mirror, I’d like to take a quick minute to reflect on everything, answer some questions, and discuss some potential changes.

But, before we get into it, I want to thank everyone on the voting committee, the amazing team at CBS, our crack vote tabulating crew, and all of the voters for making this year’s induction by far the most successful one to date.

(more…)

‘Survivor’ Finalist Michael Skupin: Jury Member Tried to ‘Blackmail’ Him

December 19, 2012

'Survivor: Philippines' (CBS)

Quick Note: Don’t miss out on our interviews with “Survivor” champion Denise Stapley, runner-up Lisa Whelchel, and castaway Malcolm Freberg.

Part of me thinks the reason Michael Skupin was cast on “Survivor: Phillipines” was to get me to shut up. After all, I’ve been nagging Jeff Probst about it since “Survivor: Gabon.” But, the rest of me knows he was brought back because he had one of the show’s great unfinished stories.

Is it finished now? Probably not. How do you not bring back a guy who has played twice and never been voted out?

I spoke with the accident-prone Tandangian the day after the finale to get some insight on the moves he made, the attitude toward returning players, and the odd feud he has with Artis…

Gordon Holmes: Mr Skupin!
Michael Skupin: Mr Holmes! How’ve you been, buddy?
Holmes: I’m so glad you made it to this interview in one piece.
Skupin: (Laughs) It was an act of God that I did.

Holmes: Going into this, we knew you could provide and survive based on your time in Australia. But, we didn’t know how you’d do when faced with the social and strategic aspects.
Skupin: I tell ya, the things that I got to experience from the merge on was insane. And then you talk about winning an individual challenge and the family visit, the food auction, the final three, winning that last immunity challenge where Jeff said, “You’re guaranteed a spot in the final three.” Everything that I set out to do, I did. I was thrilled with the way it turned out, except for the final vote of course. But everything that I thought I could control, I controlled.

Holmes: The game is so different now than it was before. If you were to give advice to someone who played back when you played, someone who never came back like a Keith Famie or an Elisabeth Hasselbeck, what would you say to them?
Skupin: Wow…I did this interview and the guy said, “I can’t believe how savvy the new players are.” And you know what? I didn’t find that. He said, “They know about immunity idols and the strategy.” They still make the same mistakes that they made, that I made my first time out there. They play the game with their cards face up. They telegraph every single strategic move that they make. So, being a returning player, although you have the bull’s-eye, the advantage of having played before is such a greater benefit.
Holmes: The math works out; every time new players face returning players a returnee makes it to the end. I’ve spoken with many new players before the game has started and many of them say, “Gotta get rid of any returnees.”
Skupin: I thought about that, and I thought, what are the reasons to keep me? After we got through that first challenge, we sat down in the pouring rain and Pete said, “I hope they get rid of Russell Swan.” And in my mind I thought, “I’m the Russell Swan of my tribe!” I knew I had a bull’s-eye but I didn’t know it was a day-two bull’s-eye! This new breed of players is so tired or returning players making it to the end. I thought the window for returning players had closed. Within a minute of meeting Jeff Kent he said, “Skupin, we hate returning players, but we hate Penner more than we hate you.” So you’ve got another three days, we’ll make this as comfortable as we can for you. Enjoy it.
Holmes: (Laughs) Like they’re pulling the plug out of the respirator.
Skupin: Yeah. There were more people who thought that returning players had to go than the others. I had to focus on those and fortunately it worked out and I was able to gain support from enough players that cared less. And as soon as Penner was gone, because Penner would scream from the mountaintops “I’m a returning player, let me show you how to do this, let me show you how to chop that coconut, let me show you how to climb that tree.” Until he left, the bull’s-eye was still bright and neon. When he left I never heard the term “returning player” again.

Holmes: The big question during the finale was; do you take Malcolm to the end, or do you take Denise? Can you walk me though that decision and tell me why you ultimately decided to take Denise?
Skupin: Malcolm and I had both won three challenges and he was such a master of the social game. When I’d ask Denise a question about strategy she’d say, “Go talk to Malcolm.” I thought, “Wow, she’s got no game. I’d better take her to the end.” She did have game, but it was so radically different from mine. She was playing an under-the-radar game. Stay out of making any decisions that would burn a bridge with jury members. I don’t have that game. I asked my tribe on day one, “Would you have given Russell Hantz the million bucks?” Every one of them said, “Yes.” So, I thought I could play an offensive, strategic game and they would respect that. I’m not saying that an under-the-radar game is less respectful, it’s just not my game. When I got credited with four people in a row sitting on the jury, starting with Jeff Kent, Artis, then Pete, then Penner, I thought, “Wow, that’s  a good pat on the back. Will that translate to jury votes?” Apparently it didn’t.

Holmes: I keep going back to final five when Abi was voted out. She seems like the perfect person to take to the end, especially if the alternatives are people the jury is fond of like Malcolm and Denise. Why didn’t you and Lisa pull the trigger and take out Denise?
Malcolm: From your perspective, that’s exactly what you would have thought. Two things; one, the way Abi works the jury. She winks and smiles at Artis and Pete every time coming in and on the way out. They’d wink and smile back. They made it very clear that they were still in an alliance. I thought, there’s two of the four votes there. Both Carter and Penner said in exit interviews said that they would have strongly considered voting for her had she made it to the final three. People have taken the goat to the finals before and the goat ended up winning. Even bigger than that, Malcolm had two immunities. He had a hidden immunity and he won the challenge necklace. We were just talking one day and I said, “What are you going to do with two? You’re certainly not going to take one home.” And as he was walking away he sort of flippantly said, “I’ll just give it to Denise.” I ran to Lisa and said, “Lisa, if we throw two votes to Denise, he’ll give her the idol. Why would he keep it?” So, Abi’s still going to go home and we’re going to blow up the alliance and one of us is not going to make it to the final three.
Holmes: Very insightful. That makes a lot of sense.

Holmes: During my exit interview with Artis, he seemed very upset with you. And not “I don’t like him because he voted me out” mad, more like “We have problems in real life” mad. Do you know what that was all about?
Skupin: Artis is a very angry, bitter man. After Abi found the idol, I didn’t have five words of conversation with him. And to this day, I have not spoken to Artis. I have no idea. I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone who’s ever had a bigger chip on his shoulder just about life. And, I wish I knew. He played a very subdued, introverted game. It was him, the fire pit, Pete, and Abi and that was it. He was very obvious about his game and who he was with and what he was doing. And since he won’t speak to me, I’ve sent him several text messages, before the finale I said, “Artis, let’s talk, let’s have this conversation. Let’s enjoy this. Let’s make this ride a memorable one for both of us.” All he said was, “Watch your back because if you turn your back on me at the finale, I’m coming after you.” And I was like, “Whoa!” So, I don’t know, Gordon, I wish I had a good answer for you.
Holmes: It’s always a shame when whatever animosity started on the island doesn’t stay there.
Skupin: Gordon, I had a person on there say, “If you vote me out, I will go back to Ponderosa, I will beg, cheat, lie, steal, I will make up things you said about their kids and spouses. I’ll make sure you never, ever get a single vote. You might last three days longer than me, but you’ll never win this game.” And I had to weigh that. Do I fall for the blackmail? All I could do was play full speed ahead. And I shook that person’s hand afterwards and said, “Good game.”

Note: After this interview took place, Artis tweeted that his animosity toward Michael had to do with a shelter Michael had built that collapsed. Nobody was injured during the incident, but Artis took offense that someone could have been.

Holmes: Alright, let’s do some word association. We’ll start with Malcolm.
Skupin: I would have to say…he could vote you out and you would turn and wave at him on the way out.
Holmes: Denise?
Skupin: Under-the-radar.
Holmes: Pete?
Skupin: Played with his cards face up. Good game, face up.
Holmes: Abi?
Skupin: The word I’m looking for is…short-fused.
Holmes: RC?
Skupin: Relentless strategist that lacks a social game.
Holmes: Lisa?
Skupin: Motherly.
Holmes: Penner?
Skupin: Brilliantly entertaining even at the expense of gameplay.

Holmes: When are we going to see Michael Jr. playing “Survivor”?
Skupin: Michael Jr. is the reason I got on “Survivor” in the first place. He said, “There’s this great game, they’re taking applications for the second season. You’ve got to get on it.” He went to every interview, we talked strategy when he was twelve years old. When it came time for this season we talked about him making it to the family visit. And the fact that he got to compete in a challenge was huge. And way bigger than that, he got to spend a 24-hour period with me. He gave up all of his food, we won food on that challenge, they never showed it. There was peanut butter and jelly and cookies and some kind of beverage. And the family members sacrificed their food for the starving survivors. I got to snorkel with him and spearfish and climb coconut trees. I’m telling you, it was an experience that Bill Gates couldn’t buy. It was maybe the most incredible and intense experience of my whole life.
Holmes: How would he fare in the game?
Skupin: His social game blows mine away. He is ten times more likable that I will ever be. I can teach him the strategic part, but he has a gift. He’s the most likable person I’ve ever met in my life.

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

‘Survivor’ Runner-Up Malcolm: ‘Lisa Whelchel Is a (Expletive Deleted)’

December 18, 2012

'Survivor: Philippines' (CBS)

Quick Note: Don’t miss out on our interviews with “Survivor” champion Denise Stapley and runner-up Lisa Whelchel. We’ll also be having an exit interview with Michael Skupin  later this week. Follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.

Don’t let the headline of this interview fool you, Malcolm Freberg and Lisa Whelchel are still buddies. That’s just another example of what made Malcolm such an effective “Survivor” player.

Malcolm wanted to play with the icy efficiency of a Brian Heidik…and he did. He didn’t hesitate to send people packing when he needed to. But, he paired that with a charm that probably would have earned him a million dollars if he’d gotten to the end.

Now, it isn’t news to anyone that my pre-game intuition isn’t always dead on. I thought Ace Gordon would be the major villain coming out of “Survivor: Gabon.” I thought NaOnka Mixon was way too sweet to compete in “Survivor: Nicaragua.” And, I thought Malcolm Freberg would win “Survivor: Philippines.”

However, I was right when I said that America was going to fall in love with the charismatic bartender.

I spoke with Malcolm the morning after his elimination and had a chance to apologize for placing a curse on him, ask him about the hesitation that probably cost him the game, and make him feel worse about his loss…

Malcolm Freberg: Hold me.
Gordon Holmes: I’m glad you’re in a good mood, but I feel terrible.
Freberg:
Be my big spoon. I need some comfort. (Laughs)
Holmes:
I feel awful. I’m the reason you’re not the “Survivor” champion right now. I cursed you.
Freberg:
That’s true, you jackass! I see “Oh, wow, I’m Gordon’s favorite! Oh, now it’s not going to work out. I’m toast.” (Laughs) This is all your fault. Seriously.  I’m going to start taking a chunk out of your paycheck up until a million dollars over the next 20 years.
Holmes:
(Laughs) It’s going to take a lot longer than that.

Holmes: Alright, let’s talk about this awful, crappy show that has ruined so many lives. What was your thinking when Denise came to you with the plan to split the vote and you responded by being non-committal?
Freberg: I didn’t see how dead set Lisa was on getting rid of me. I had no idea. All that I’d seen was that Lisa and Skupin shook hands with me and had stood by a final-four deal. So, if I can get them to shake on a final-three deal, that’s set in stone and that’s done. It sounds horrible, but as soon as we shook hands on that boat I thought, “Got it. Done,” even after I lost that immunity challenge. So, when Denise came to me I was just trying not to piss off a jury member. It’s a little bit of a cocky thing, but I thought I had it. I found out in the middle of that last Tribal that I was getting kicked off. Unfortunately, Lisa Whelchel is a (expletive deleted). (Laughs)
Holmes:
(Laughs) So, at the final five when it was a possibility to take Abi to the end, you didn’t see the need because you had complete faith in your alliance with Skup and Lisa.
Freberg:
I didn’t need to. I didn’t want to piss anyone off. I thought I had it. Have you ever played “Mortal Kombat”?
Holmes:
I have.
Freberg:
You know when you don’t get hit and you win the fight and they go, “Flawless Victory”? I’m pretty sure I said that in my head before we went diving with whale sharks. I thought I’d just won the game.
Holmes:
So in your mind, you’ve got a Westman/Spradlin-esque perfect clean run to the end.
Freberg:
It turns out I’m not as good at challenges as I thought I was, but I thought I’d pulled it off. I thought I had it locked. I had their word. Skupin doesn’t really have a mind for strategy and Lisa, I had no idea she was a professional actress. I just thought she was a crazy Christian woman who cried all of the time. I really thought I had it locked.

Holmes: When did you learn about Lisa’s role on “The Facts of Life”? At Ponderosa? (Note: Ponderosa is where the jury stays when they’re not at Tribal Council.)
Freberg: Nobody knew until Penner’s speech at Tribal. I had no idea. And when he said “Facts of Life,” I think me and Pete said, “What the hell is ‘The Facts of Life’”? (Laughs) Penner didn’t tell us beforehand. And I’ll tell you, Penner’s final Tribal Council speech was all-time awesome. They didn’t show it, but most of the jury applauded when he was done.
Holmes:
So you’re trying to tell me if Lisa Whelchel had been on “Boy Meets World” you would be a millionaire.
Freberg:

Holmes:

Freberg:
…That’s a really sad, true statement. (Laughs)
Holmes:
(Laughs) My goal was actually to make you feel much worse.
Freberg:
I know, really! Everyone else is being so nice and comforting and telling me I did a good job. You’re just throwing out scenarios to make me realize how close I was.
Holmes:
I think you did a fantastic job. You went out there and you were like, “I’m going to be cold-hearted, this is going to be a business trip. I’m going to be like Brian Heidik.” And you didn’t have to. The only misstep was trusting Lisa. I thought if you won immunity that would have been a slam dunk.
Freberg:
I’ll stand by my logic based on the knowledge I had at the time. The only thing I had wrong was my read on Lisa. She absolutely played me. And good for her, it’s a game. I told everyone going into this; if you get me, good on you. I’m  not going to be mad at you. But, I’m going to be pissed off that I lost. If we were sitting around playing Candy Land I’m going to be pissed off if I lose, I’m a competitive guy. And “Survivor” is the biggest stakes you can play for.
Holmes:
You can’t beat me at Candy Land.
Freberg:
(Laughs) You haven’t seen the way I can pull cards.
Holmes:
(Laughs) You haven’t seen my ability to pull the card that shoots you ahead to the…peppermint…thing…I don’t know. I’m canceling this joke.
Freberg:
(Laughs) You can’t remember the fine details of Candy Land.

Holmes: You’re a gamer. I knew you were going to vote for Denise because you respected that she got the best of you. But, you still gave her a hard time. Were you worried that something you said might have cost her some votes?
Freberg: Our jury knew who was winning that game. When I said “Congratulations, Denise” after I got booted, that was just the truth. Me and Denise at the final four, one of us is going to win a million dollars. They wanted it to look like Skupin and Lisa had a chance. They never had a chance. Nobody respected Skupin’s game. I still like Lisa and Skupin, I talk to them all the time. Nobody respected Skupin’s game and nobody thought Lisa was playing the game. She clearly was, but we didn’t know that. She was doing it all in interviews and confessionals. She was just this weepy Christian lady to us. So, everyone was throwing Denise softballs and I came off much angrier than I meant to. (Laughs) I wanted to make her get defensive. I wanted her to rip on Lisa a little bit. But, there was no doubt about who was winning that thing.

Holmes: As an original Matsinger, I wanted to ask about how Russell Swan was at the reunion. He and I spoke after his elimination and he hadn’t come to terms with what had happened out there.
Freberg: I get along with all but very few of the people at the reunion, but Russell, he’s just still that guy. He is not over it. He was not talking to anyone. It hit him hard. I’d be upset too if I got a second chance, and I was taken out a bad way the first time. He didn’t get to win a thing. The only thing he won was the challenge they did on “The View.” He’s still hurting. He was perfectly polite. We shook hands a few times. But, he’s still hurting really bad.

Holmes: Alright, let’s do some word association…
Freberg: Wait! Hold on, let me get my computer out.
Holmes:
No, no, no…
Freberg:
I didn’t prepare for this at all…obviously….but I need to look at my answers. (Laughs)
Holmes:
(Laughs) Damnit, Freberg.
Freberg:
You know I read your stuff every week. Obviously I prepare for these things.
Holmes:
I’ve had people before who’ve said, “I knew this was coming, why didn’t I prepare?!” And you’re the first one to ruin my fun.
Freberg:
(Laughs) I came up with this idea on how I was going to do this…I think I was drinking somewhere. I got home at like three in the morning. I thought, alright, this is happening, and I wrote it all down.
Holmes:
Somewhere drinking? That doesn’t sound like you.
Freberg:
I know, right? I have a Sierra Nevada in my hand right now.
Holmes:
You’re defeating the purpose of this exercise.
Freberg:
(Laughs) You don’t get to boss me around. I’m doing it the way I thought, and it’s awesome.
Holmes:
Well, after I screwed up your game, I guess we’ll call it even.
Freberg:
You cost me a million dollars, I get to cheat at word association.
Holmes:
Fair enough. Let’s start with Abi-Maria.
Freberg:
Abi is Iago.
Holmes:
Carter?
Freberg:
Carter is Scooby Doo.
Holmes:
Pete?
Freberg:
Pete ‘s Scar.
Holmes:
Denise?
Freberg:
Denise is Pongo.
Holmes:
Lisa?
Freberg:
Lisa is Dory.
Holmes:
Artis?
Freberg:
I couldn’t come up with one. Let’s come back to him. (Laughs)
Holmes:
(Laughs) You cheat and you can’t come up with one?! Skupin?
Freberg:
Skupin is the Sultan from “Aladdin.”
Holmes:
Let’s finish with Penner.
Freberg:
Penner is the Cheshire Cat.
Holmes:
Do you have one for Artis or do you need a couple of minutes and Google?
Freberg:
You didn’t ask me everyone.
Holmes:
If you’ve got your list, just rattle through it.
Freberg:
Kent is Jafar, RC is the second evil stepsister, I couldn’t think of one for Artis. Which Disney character just sits there and is a funny, charming guy who stares angrily at you and looks like he wants to kill you the entire time?
Holmes:
(Laughs) I don’t know.
Freberg:
That’s who Artis is.
Holmes:
(to the CBS Representative) He broke the word association, how did you let this happen?
CBS Representative: (Laughs) This is a first.
Freberg:
(Laughs)  I didn’t win “Survivor,” I did win the word association.

Holmes: OK Mr. “Survivor” fan, you got to go in there, tear it up, win immunities, meet your hero Jonathan Penner. What’s your takeaway? Was it everything you wanted minus that million-dollar check?
Freberg: Yeah, except for the amount of bank accounts I have to open today. It was everything I could have hoped for. Every time something I saw on TV would happen I’d have like a little baby fit of giggles. I didn’t play it cool at all. At the merge, when I got to make the flag, it was awesome except for coming up a day short.

Holmes: Malcolm, I love you.
Freberg: I love you too, buddy.
Holmes:
Although I hate you for the mockery you’ve made of my gimmick.
Freberg:
(Laughs) I wasn’t going to let you off the hook, you cost me a million dollars!

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

Lisa Whelchel on Penner’s ‘Survivor’ Blindside: “Why Didn’t I See That Coming?”

December 18, 2012

'Survivor: Philippines' (CBS)

Quick Note: Don’t miss out on our interview with “Survivor” champion Denise Stapley or our look at Lisa Whelchel’s next project after “Survivor”. We’ll also be having exit interviews with Michael Skupin and Malcolm Freberg later this week. Follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.

Lisa Whelchel could have easily been the first person eliminated from “Survivor: Philippines.” Usually the least athletic, least liked member of a tribe is an easy first vote. Luckily for her the Tandang tribe was a challenge monster, RC and Abi imploded, and Matsing beach was cursed.

From there, the former “Facts of Life” star made her own luck. She ramped up her social game and went from outcast to motherly figure. She made moves to try to eliminate the game’s most dangerous player. When that failed she eventually regrouped, went after him again, and succeeded.

I spoke with Lisa the morning after the finale and had a chance to ask about her strategic moves, her hectic 2012, and if any of her “Facts of Life” castmates will be following her lead…

Gordon Holmes: Lisa, I have to congratulate you. We didn’t have high hopes for you when we watched the early days in the Philippines, but you managed to turn things around and make a strong run of it.
Lisa Whelchel: Thank you, Gordon. I have to say that it’s surreal talking to you now because you’ve been a part of this “Survivor” journey. Every Thursday morning I read your recap and your interviews. You’re kind of a “Survivor” celebrity to me. (Laughs)  So, I’m continuing to pinch myself. Being part of this “Survivor” family is so cool.
Holmes: You are making me blush from across the country, that’s very impressive.
Whelchel: (Laughs) It’s true!

Holmes: Nobody has had a year like you’ve had. We found out that you separated from your husband right before you went to the Philippines, you contracted West Nile virus, you had a great run on the show, and eventually won the Fan Favorite award. When you look back at 2012, what’s going to stick out the most? What did you learn?
Whelchel: In the middle of all that, my daughter got married, and I’m moving to California. So much is going on all levels. So, for 2012 I’ll see a roller coaster. You’ve got the emotional ups and downs that sometimes you get nauseous, sometimes you’re squealing with delight. That’s what 2012 has been like for me.
Holmes: I hope you’re up now and for a long time to come.
Whelchel: Oh, both hands are thrown back and my hair is blowing in the wind. I’m so excited.

Holmes: Let’s start with the beginning of your game and work forward. Very early on in the show you were on the outside looking in with the Tandang alliance. You were miserable. The weather was getting to you . What was the moment where you were able to turn the switch and get into the game?
Whelchel: I would say there were two moments. The first moment was when Pete approached me for the four in Tandang which meant I was no longer going to be the first person voted out. And a matter of fact, there was a buffer of two people in front of me. That was the first light. My fear was I’d be voted out first, because in “Survivor,” like dog years, I’m ancient. So, I thought I would be voted out first. That’s where I jumped in with both feet. I thought, I’ve got some solid ground here, I can make a run for this. I thought I’d have a better shot after the merge and I thought I could get to that point. But after the merge, after I orchestrated that potential, but failed, blindside of Malcolm I lost the strength I had with Tandang…which still doesn’t make sense to me. I also lost my ability to play my game without my internal compass getting in the way. So, that knocked me out of it for quite a few days. It wasn’t until my brother came back and recalibrated me that I was able to regain my equilibrium and play the game.
Holmes: Speaking of your brother, what is it with the Whelchels that they make such good-looking kids?
Whelchel: (Laughs) Hey, have you seen my own kids? You can’t ask me, I’m a proud mom and people will say, “Oh my goodness, shut her up about those kids!”

Holmes: The one move that left me scratching my head was when you kept Denise and voted out Abi at the final five. Take me through that decision.
Whelchel: I realized that it didn’t matter who was going to be sitting up there, if Malcolm was in the mix, he was going to win. So, even if we voted out Denise, Malcolm was probably going to win the final immunity challenge because he’d won almost every challenge up until that point. We needed all guns to defeat Malcolm. And Denise has a pair of guns that most men would envy. We thought it was more important to have her there to defeat Malcolm. And, I was realistic about my chances. But, I did think I had a better chance, not necessarily against Denise, but with Abi on the jury. Because, she hated Denise and Skupin and she did have a relationship with Artis and Pete. I hoped that she would tell them first hand that I truly had stayed with my primary desire to go Tandang all the way.

Holmes: What was going through your mind when Penner outted you as a former TV star?
Whelchel: It really should have already gone through my mind that he was going to do that. The fact that it caught me off guard still shocks me. Why didn’t I see that coming? That was so Penner. And, it was the perfect opportunity for him to do it. I should have been prepared for it. I should’ve known he’d wait for the most dramatic moment to pull it out of his sleeve. I was taken aback because we were really close out there. He knew how important it was to me to win or lose the game based on my gameplay, not on a persona.
Holmes: What did you say to him when you had a chance to speak?
Whelchel: I told him over dinner after we did the Probst show that, “I’m glad you outted me, because as far as a storyteller goes, that needed to be resolved to answer the question from the beginning.” So, as far as the show goes it was a necessary part of the ending.

Holmes: Have you heard from any of the “Facts of Life” cast since you’ve been on this adventure?
Whelchel: I absolutely have. I got a text message from Nancy McKeon last night congratulating me. I‘ve had encouragement from Charlotte (Rae) and Mindy (Cohn) and Kim (Fields) all along the way. They have been right there with me.
Holmes: That’s good to hear. Is one of them going to be on the next “Survivor”?
Whelchel: (Laughs) I don’t think so.

Holmes: OK, you’re a loyal exit interview reader, so you know word association is a part…
Whelchel: Oh again! Why didn’t I see this coming and think about it?! You do it every time! Oh my word…OK…I’m ready. This really will be right off the top of my head.
Holmes: That’s the point of this exercise, Lisa. We’ll start with your buddy Skupin.
Whelchel: Lovable.
Holmes: Penner?
Whelchel: Brilliant.
Holmes: Malcolm?
Whelchel: Perfect.
Holmes: Artis?
Whelchel: I’m trying to think of the word…split?
Holmes: Abi?
Whelchel: Spicy.
Holmes: RC?
Whelchel: Confident.
Holmes: Pete?
Whelchel: Cute.
Holmes: Let’s finish with Denise.
Whelchel: Solid.

Holmes: At the reunion special, Dawson jumped out of her chair and planted a kiss on Jeff Probst’s lips. My question isn’t why did she do that, it’s why didn’t everyone else do that?
Whelchel: (Laughs) I guess we just didn’t have the guts that Dawson has. Or maybe we have a filter.

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

‘Survivor: Philippines’ Winner Denise: ‘It’s Hard to Believe It’s Really Real’

December 17, 2012

Denise Stapley (CBS)

Quick Note: We’ll be having exit interviews with Lisa Whelchel, Michael Skupin, and Malcolm Freberg later this week. Follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.

Denise Stapley attended every single Tribal Council that was held during “Survivor: Philippines.” So, not only did she have to sit through two hours of tension every two or three days, (we only see about five minutes, the actual Tribal Council is a loooong process) but she had to keep herself safe.

However, the reward at end was worth it…no matter what Jeff Kent says.

I spoke with the sole Survivor the morning after her big win and had a chance to ask about breaking her alliance with Malcolm, when she knew Lisa’s secret, and what she intends to do with her million-dollar check.

Gordon Holmes: Good morning, Denise.
Denise Stapley: Good morning, Gordon.
Holmes: My morning is good, but probably not as good as yours.
Stapley: It’s a pretty nice day here in LA. I’m not going to complain.
Holmes: Sun is shining, grass is greener, food tastes better…
Stapley: You name it!
Holmes: Congratulations, by the way.
Stapley: Thank you, Gordon.
Holmes: You played a killer game and the best woman won.
Stapley: It’s hard to believe it’s really real. It really happened.

Holmes: The second Malcolm lost the final immunity last night, I thought the million was yours. I didn’t think Lisa or Skupin could defeat you. Did you have any doubts?
Stapley: You know, I did. I wanted Malcolm with me even though I knew that could cost me the million dollars. I did think that I had a pretty good chance against Lisa and Skupin. But, there was this worry about the jury. Quite honestly, I was so worried that I had just voted out Malcolm, and would he still give me his vote? I was really worried about Abi. That woman has been there, and how tainted is that jury? You can’t discount that.

Holmes: Last night Penner said you had shown the jury that you could be a bitch. What do you think was behind that statement?
Stapley: Penner and I are going to have to sit down over beers and really talk about that. I think we’d had some conversations. And with Abi there was so much tension and I was very concerned about that. How’s this going to be taken? I’m not sure what his intention was, but I need to get clarification on that. I’m pretty sure it was about Abi.
Holmes: Is that where you follow up with, “Oh yeah, well this bitch has a million dollars.”
Stapley: It’s like, “Suck it!” (Laughs) That would have been nice, but that wouldn’t have gone over well with the jury.
Holmes: (Laughs) It’s very rare that the phrase “Suck it!” is spoken in front of a jury.
Stapley: I know!
Holmes: Honestly, the three things that make me laugh the most is when women in wedding dresses fast dance, when little kids wear full football pads, and when women say, “Suck it.” Cracks me up.
Stapley: (Laughs) I think you just don’t expect it. You don’t expect it to come out of our mouths, but it does. With my potty mouth, a lot comes out of it.

Holmes: Abi gave you some grief over your little feud. You apologized for hurting her feelings.
Stapley: I knew it was coming. I knew there was no way I’d get out of there without her blasting me. You don’t see the full questioning, but part of it was, do I have issues with strong women? I thought, “No, I have issues with you.” But I had to tap dance around it. We had a whole conversation when the rest of them were off on the reward about our strategies and our strategies were just totally different. So, I just went back to that. It was me just owning it and I had to manage her vote.  I knew the only way to get her vote was to make amends with her.
Holmes: What was your reaction when you saw that you got her vote?
Stapley: I was shocked. Still, she gave me her vote. The woman who I fought the hardest with, the tension was so much.
Holmes: I think that says a lot about her and a lot about your game.
Stapley: Yeah, I think she’s going to grow from this.
Holmes: She’s grown quite a bit, she had no problem owning up to everything she had done in our exit interview.

Holmes: Quick question here, was the merge beach the old Matsing beach?
Stapley: It was, it was the same beach. So, coming back at first it was like, “Oh no, I don’t want to be back here!”

Holmes: It seemed like you didn’t make a move against Malcolm until last night’s conversation where he was so non-committal to your plan. Had you had discussions with Lisa and Skup before about flipping or was that the inciting incident?
Stapley: That was it. That was the final thing. Truly, I wanted to see our alliance go all the way to the end. I would have loved that. I had written out my own strategy before this game. I had like a two-page strategy document. I knew that when it came down to it, when it’s time to jump ship, I’m jumping. And he just couldn’t give me the conformation, so I just had to shank him.
Holmes: (Laughs) I like that you wrote a mission statement before the game started.
Stapley: I did. I laugh, it’s still on my computer.
Holmes: You should sell it to future “Survivor” players.

Holmes: You were under the radar for a large portion of this game. Was there anything we didn’t see that you want to brag about here?
Stapley:  I suppose it was under-the-radar based on how you define it, but every time I got switched to a new tribe it was a big move for me. It was like becoming a guest in someone else’s house all over again. You have to be gracious and make sure that they don’t want to kick you out. So, I had to do this tap dance and make new connections and new friends and why I was good enough to keep around, but not too much of a threat to kick out. It was all little moves. And I knew at some point I was going to have to do something.

Holmes: Alright, let’s do some championship word association here. We’ll start with RC.
Stapley: Strong minded, strong willed.
Holmes: Lisa?
Stapley: Sweet.
Holmes: Skupin?
Stapley: Just…genuine. He’s like a ten-year-old little boy in an adult body.
Holmes: Penner?
Stapley: Incredibly smart strategist.
Holmes: Abi-Maria?
Stapley: Crazy Brazilian.
Holmes: Artis?
Stapley: Artis in the game or out of the game?
Holmes: I’ve heard that a lot, actually.
Stapley: Can I do two for him?
Holmes: You’re the champ, I don’t tell you what to do.
Stapley: In-game, seriously guarded. Out-of-the-game, great guy.
Holmes: Malcolm?
Stapley: Buddy. Malcolm’s just Malcolm, there are no words. He’s just a great guy.

Holmes: The young-uns, they don’t know what “The Facts of Life” is.
Stapley: No.
Holmes: People like you and me, we should know.
Stapley: Well, it looks on there like I was shocked, but I knew who Lisa was from day one. In the mud ball challenge I talked to her about it. I asked if people knew who she was and she said, “No, I want to play as long as I can without her knowing.” So, I actually outted Lisa to Penner at Kalabaw. And he knew her from somewhere,  I just handed him the conformation. For me it never would have benefited me because  I might want her as an alliance down the road. I was surprised that Penner did, that was his final dig with her.

Holmes: Now, I remember your husband and daughter were part of an elaborate ruse that explained where you were during your trip to the Philippines. You were supposedly going to some big conference in Florida?
Stapley: (Laughs) Yup.
Holmes: They have to be in line for a pretty big holiday, right?
Stapley: You know, people wonder what we’re going to do with this. We’re so low-key, we’re just going to breathe. This was our holiday. Just being here and being part of the finale experience, this was our gift. This was our Christmas right here. Some treats may come. Life will be a bit more comfortable. But we’re going to take our time to figure it out.
Holmes: With the way things have been lately, that seems like a smart strategy.
Stapley: Oh my gosh, you’re right. I’m a planner, I want to make sure everything is secure.

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

‘Survivor: Philippines’ Finale Recap: Lisa’s Secret It Out, But Does She Win?

December 16, 2012

'Survivor: Philippines' (CBS)

Quick Note: We’ve got a whole ton of “Survivor” stuff going on.  We inducted three new members into the “Survivor” Hall of Fame; Amanda Kimmel, Rob Cesternino, and Ethan Zohn.  Tomorrow we’ll have an interview with the winner of “Survivor: Philippines.” And, we’ll have interviews with the rest of the final four as the week goes on. Follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.

Last Week: Malcolm, Skupin, and Lisa promised to take each other to the final three, Denise learned her neck was very tasty, and the person voted out of the game was named Abi.

Also: The top three in my pre-season rankings are still in the game. If Malcolm can pull this off my curse will be officially broken.

39 Days, 18 People, 1 “Survivor” Blog

Let’s take a look at the tribe as it currently stands…

The Dangrayne Tribe (wearing black)

Denise – Sex Therapist, 41
Lisa – Former ‘Facts of Life’ Star, 49
Malcolm – Bartender, 25
Michael – Professional Speaker, Author, and Coach, 50

We kick this party off after Tribal Council and for some reason nobody is upset that Abi isn’t around anymore. In fact, Skup and Denise break into a celebration dance.

Malcolm is glad she’s gone, but isn’t thrilled that she threw him under the bus on the way out. He doesn’t like that everyone thinks he’s a slam dunk to win.

Fortunately for Malcolm, Skup doesn’t think he’s a slam dunk. He thinks his personal story of a returning player who survived 47 separate injuries is much more compelling.

Tree mail arrives and apparently there’s a reward challenge that offers an advantage if they can defeat “The Dragon.” Too bad Coach isn’t on this season, he has experience with that.

Reward Challenge Time: The players will race through a series of obstacles while gathering bags of puzzle pieces. Then, they’ll complete a dragon-shaped puzzle. The first person to complete the puzzle wins an advantage in the final immunity challenge.

Wow, that is worth playing for.

In the challenge, Malcolm, Skup, and Denise are pretty even in the beginning with Lisa trailing behind. Skup eventually breaks ahead and he’s the first one to the puzzle. Malcolm, Denise, and Lisa aren’t far behind him.

The puzzle is very similar to the super-hard tree puzzle from “Survivor: One World.”

Denise jumps out to a lead, but Malcolm manages to pass her and win the immunity advantage.

On one hand, “Hooray” for Malcolm. On the other hand, way to disprove Abi’s theory that he’s the mega threat.

After the challenge, Malcolm lets us know that he thinks he can defeat Denise, but her story is too close to his. Denise takes him aside and asks if he’s willing to have the vote go to a tie so she and Lisa have to do the fire-making tie breaker. Malcolm’s not willing to commit to this plan. This makes her nervous because Malcolm was so pro-active in all of their other plans.

Why wouldn’t Malcolm just make a deal? I think you need to keep her happy here in case you lose.

Denise approaches Lisa with a plan to join up with her and Skup. Lisa hugs on it, but she doesn’t shake hands or give her word. That’s like Jeff Kent’s weird three-fingered handshake. Celebrities have different honesty rules than we do.

Skup isn’t sure he wants to jump on board with this plan because he thinks he can beat Malcolm in a challenge or in front of a jury.

The fallen comrades walk is up next. I’m not placing an over/under for the word “competitor” because I’m always wrong.

Highlights from the walk include; Angie referring to herself as “well rounded,” Dawson’s Skinemax description of what she wants to do with Jeff Probst, and Jeff Kent being proud of not pissing off too many people.

Competitors Count: Dana and Dawson.

Immunity Challenge Time: The players will use two handles to hold up blocks of wood. Balancing on the wood is a single marble. They’ll add more wood as they go. Last person to keep their ball a-balancin’ wins immunity.

Malcolm gets to read his advantage, which is a second chance in case he screws up.

Not much to describe here except for standin’, handle holdin’, and concentratin’.

Malcolm drops his ball in the second round, he gets a second chance.

When they reset, Malcolm continues to have serious trouble. He shakes like crazy and eventually loses it. Booo… Is this Ozzy in “South Pacific” all over again?

Denise is out next before the end of the second round. So…it doesn’t matter who wins now.

Skup and Lisa battle it out, going two more rounds. Lisa eventually loses control and drops her ball. Skupin wins immunity and a guaranteed shot in the final three if he lives that long.

The guy in me who started loving “Survivor” in 2000 and has been begging for Skupin to come back for years is giddy.

Back at camp, Malcolm is worried that Skupin and Lisa might come up with some crazy ideas. Keeping you is a crazy idea, Malcolm.

Denise is worried because Skup wants to go toe to toe with Malcolm. She tries to lay it out to him saying there’s honor in taking Malcolm to the end, but that won’t be followed by the honor of defeating Malcolm.

She then makes the argument that her and Malcolm have an alliance, but her and Skup have a friendship. Meh… Skup has 30 kids, he doesn’t need friends.

I’d also argue that Skup can’t beat Malcolm or Denise, but that ship has sailed back to Brazil.

That night at Tribal Council, Abi gives everyone the stink eye. Wait, it might’ve been the evil eye.

Malcolm doesn’t think he’s as tight with Denise as he used to be.

Denise thinks they were separated at birth and by the luck of the draw came back together.

Malcolm and Denise both admit that they’ve only had an agreement to the final four.

Lisa refers to her relationship with Skup as an open relationship. Meanwhile in Delaware, I throw up in my mouth a little.

Skup says Malcolm has favors for life for letting his son visit the camp.

Lisa disagrees, saying it’d have to be a million-dollar favor.

Malcolm brings up that Denise has had to attend every Tribal Council. That stat amazes me.

Probst asks for a reason why Lisa should take Malcolm to the end, she can’t come up with one. Uh oh…

Voting Time: Denise votes for Malcolm, Malcolm votes for Denise, and the rest aren’t shown.

JPro does some tallying. We’ve got one vote for Malcolm, one vote for Denise, one vote for Malcolm, and the fifteenth person to leave “Survivor: Philippines” and the eighth member of the jury is Malcolm. On his way out, Malcolm congratulates Denise.

ARGH!!! So close…so close…

Also, the former lead actor of the ‘80s sitcom smash “The Facts of Life” is in the final three of “Survivor.” So weird…

Back at camp, the mood is somber for a trio who’s on their way to the final three. Denise doesn’t feel too bad though, because Malcolm’s a fan and that’s the way the game is played.

Skup’s a little weirded out that Malcolm congratulated Denise, because they’d been aligned since day one and she stabbed him in the back. C’mon Skup, you have to know that Malcolm’s the type that will reward smart gameplay.

The next morning the gang is treated to the final-three feast. Lisa quips “It’s not tree mail, it’s tree meal!” If she can turn phrases like that in front of the jury, she can’t lose!

Skup says he knew he could’ve made it to the end of “Survivor: The Australian Outback” 23 seasons ago. I don’t know about that. Colby Donaldson might not have accepted him as a mother figure.

That night at Tribal, Denise says she isn’t going to apologize for making it to the end. She’s very proud of being able to survive the demise of three different tribes and that she outwitted, outlasted, and outplayed everyone on the jury. Well done.

Lisa thinks they all got to the final three different ways and that her strategy wasn’t pretty. She thinks she ran wild, fell down, dusted herself off, then got up and tried again. Well, that’s something. She admits that she hadn’t been playing the game to the best of her ability until her brother gave her a wake-up call. She takes credit for throwing the punch that knocked out the heavyweight champion.

Skup points out how hard it is for returning players to play the game. He thinks the recent successes of Boston Rob and Coach put an automatic target on his back.

Fun Fact: A returning player has made it to the finals every time they’ve had newbies face returnees.

Overall, the opening statements were good. But I’m giving that round to Denise. We’ll see who does well in the evening gown competition…

Artis goes first, he won’t congratulate anyone for making it that far because he thinks they’re all holier than thou. Artis admits to making alliances, but he held true to them. Wha-huh?

Carter is impressed that Lisa and Skup made it so far even though they were early targets. He asks Skupin when he knew Carter was going home. Skup compliments Carter for playing a good game, but says that they knew they couldn’t beat him. Notice that he never answered the actual question.

Pete thinks Lisa has been hiding behind never voting for Artis and Pete, but Lisa knew they were going home. Then, he asks Denise why her game was the best. Denise says she had to scramble several times because she kept hopping tribes.

RC admits that she wanted Lisa out first. She compliments her for making it to the end. She then asks if Skup knew she was going home. He says that he thought Penner’s number was up when she was voted out.

Malcolm is impressed that Lisa swang for the fences with her opening statement. He then tells Denise to stop nodding. He thinks it’s her way of appeasing everyone. He asks why she deserves to win over Lisa and Skup. She says she listened and observed and played the game. He calls her out for not answering the question. She responds that she doesn’t think they played a strategic came.

Jeff Kent bats lower in the order than he’s used to. He admits to being bitter. He asks Skupin if he’s someone who made things happen, someone who watched things happen, or someone who wondered, “What the hell happened?” Skup thinks he made things happen. Skupin thinks his head was on the chopping block the whole game, but Lisa and Denise had been safe for a while.

Kent then asks Lisa about how she floated during the middle of the game. Lisa doesn’t think she floated, she thinks she made the move to get rid of Malcolm earlier when he had the idol. Kent thinks she did float by because her plans never worked. He’s got a point.

Abi is upset because she was called the most unlikable person in the game. She wants to know why Lisa deserves her vote. Lisa says she was true to her alliance until it fell apart. Skup thinks he deserves her vote because he followed the Outwit, Outplay, Outlast values. Abi thinks he disrespected her.

Finally, Abi calls Denise out for thinking she was unlikable. Wha-huh? Denise apologizes if she was hurt and that she should have come up with another way to express herself.

Penner gets to go last. Penner admits that everyone is upset that they’re not in the final three but the final three deserves his congratulations. Penner thinks that Denise was being too appeasing. He says that Denise was worried about looking like a bitch, and now she has shown the world that side of her.

Ouch.

Penner doesn’t think Skupin’s name came up as much as he thinks it did. Penner then points out that he has been voted for more than anyone ever except for “Redemption Island” secret agent Phillip Sheppard. Wow, and we thought Cochran knew his stats.

For his finishing move, Penner tells everyone that Lisa was the star of “The Facts of Life.” Lisa responds by asking Penner if he told everyone what he did as a teenager.

Note: If anything, I’d respect Lisa more for keeping that secret for 39 days.

OK, nobody hit it out of the park, but I think Denise did what she needed to do to win.

Voting Time: RC votes for Lisa, Penner votes for Denise, Carter votes for “Skoopin,” and the rest of the votes will wait for Probst to get to LA.

We’ve got one vote for Lisa, one vote for Denise, one vote for Skup, three votes for Denise,  and the winner of “Survivor: Philippines” is…Denise.

Verdict: My second pick won, that has to count for something, right?

Anywho, I was fine with anyone in the final four winning and this is easily the best season since “Heroes vs. Villains.” So, high fives in “Survivor” town. Be sure to check back Monday afternoon for my interview with Denise!

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

‘Survivor’ Hall of Fame 2012 Inductee – Ethan Zohn

December 14, 2012

'Survivor' Hall of Fame 2012 Inductee Ethan Zohn

Quick Note: We’ve got a lot of “Survivor” stuff going on as we hit the home stretch. This Sunday we’ll have a full recap of the finale immediately after the episode. And, next Monday we’ll have an interview with the winner of “Survivor: Philippines.” Follow @gordonholmes on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates.

Fifty percent of the voting for the ‘Survivor’ Hall of Fame was based on the ballots of the Executive Voting Committee. This blue-ribbon panel consists of “Survivor” luminaries such as Host and Executive Producer Jeff Probst, Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer, Executive Producer David Burris, Producer Jesse Jensen, the current members of the “Survivor” Hall of Fame, the “Survivor” press corps, and XFINITY TV’s “Survivor” Guy Gordon Holmes. The other fifty percent came from “Survivor” fans like you.

The Class of 2010 included Parvati Shallow, Russell Hantz, Rob Mariano, Richard Hatch, and Sandra Diaz-Twine…

The Class of 2011 included Cirie Fields, Ozzy Lusth, and Tom Westman…

Earlier this week, Amanda Kimmel and Rob Cesternino were inducted as the first members of the Class of 2012…

And now, the “Survivor” Hall of Fame is proud to induct Ethan Zohn into the Class of 2012.

We had a chance to speak with the newly crowned Hall of Famer to get his thoughts on this honor…

Gordon Holmes: Ethan, congratulations on your induction into the “Survivor” Hall of Fame Class of 2012.
Zohn: If I had to choose a single word to define me these days, it would be “Survivor.” The term “Survivor” means so much to me for so many different reasons. So, to be chosen by the fans, crew, and my fellow Survivors for the Hall Of Fame is a huge honor and inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing.

And this most recent experience at being a survivor has helped me realize this one absolute truth – that with all our differences, old or young, man or woman, Boran or Samburu we all have one thing in common, we’re all survivors on this Earth for just a short time. But it’s not about how or when you leave this world, it’s what you do to make the most of each day and of each crisis while we’re here.

Holmes: One of the things brought up in several of your votes is your charity work (Grassroot Soccer, Stand Up 2 Cancer, etc). How are things going with your initiatives and what’s the best way for fans to help out?
Zohn: It didn’t take long for me to leave the reality show and get back to reality (although my brothers may disagree). Winning that million bucks made me take a good hard look at who I was – and who I wanted to become. And I’m sure a new car and flat-screen TV would make me temporarily happy, but I wanted to be the type of person who used his sudden celebrity and big check to make a difference in the lives of others. So, having “Survivor” as a platform to educate and raise awareness/money has enabled Grassroot Soccer, Survivor Stand Up 2 Cancer, and many other initiatives to grow and reach a high level of success. The best way for fans to help out is visit our websites ( www.grassrootsoccer.org and www.standup2cancer.org/survivor ) and share what you have learned with all your friends. And this is a great opportunity to thank everyone who has taken the time to help us with our mission.

Holmes: How are you enjoying “Survivor: Philippines”?
Zohn: I’m loving this season. I give lots of credit to Burnett, Probst, and the whole crew for keeping it fresh and exciting after all these years. It’s not easy and very rare for a reality show. But, if I have to be completely honest (and remember I’m very biased), once I got voted off “Survivor: All-Stars” the show pretty much jumped the shark. (Laughs)

What the fans said about Ethan…

“Richard Hatch proved a schemer could win. Tina Wesson proved a winner could slip under the radar. Ethan was the first ‘good guy’ to win.” – Candice

“Not only is Ethan a winner at the game of “Survivor,” but his work with Grassroot Soccer proves that he’s a winner in life.” – Paul

“Every class of the Hall of Fame needs a hot guy. Ethan Zohn should be 2012’s guy.” – Mehgan

What the Executive Voting Committee said about Ethan…

“Even though he won way way back in “Survivor: Africa,” he did it playing one of the cleanest, good-sport games to date.” – US Weekly’s Mara Reinstein

“First, he won “Survivor: Africa,” one of the toughest seasons ever and he won with class.  There has never been a bad word uttered about Ethan.  He has always carried himself with grace.  Equally important is how Ethan has used his celebrity since winning the million dollars and title of Sole Survivor.” – Jeff Probst

“He’s probably the only guy to ever win “Survivor” by playing nice. Since winning Africa he’s devoted his life to developing his charity, Grassroot Soccer and is a Hall of Famer in my book.” – Parvati Shallow

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

Watch the ‘Survivor: Philippines’ Finale this Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS.

‘Survivor’ Castaway Abi-Maria: RC Is a ‘Bitter B**** That Got Blindsided’

December 13, 2012

Abi-Maria Gomes (CBS)

Quick Note: We’ve got a lot of “Survivor” stuff going on as we hit the home stretch. We inducted two members into the “Survivor” Hall of Fame this week; Amanda Kimmel and Rob Cesternino. We’ll be inducting a third this Friday at 2 p.m. ET. This Sunday we’ll have a full recap of the finale immediately after the episode. And, next Monday we’ll have an interview with the winner of “Survivor: Philippines.” Follow @gordonholmes on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates.

Set Your DVR to Record “Survivor: Philippines”

There are two kinds of villains on “Survivor.” The ones like Russell Hantz who show up ready to set the world on fire, and others like NaOnka Mixon who become overwhelmed by the game and the environment.

Abi-Maria Gomes definitely belongs in the latter group.

I spoke with Abi-Maria the morning after her elimination to find out what happened to the sweet girl I met before the game, how she tried to convince everyone that’s she was the perfect person to take to the end, and which player she still has issues with…

Gordon Holmes: Alright, we need to set some ground rules here.
Abi-Maria Gomes: Oh gosh.
Holmes: I don’t want you calling me an idiot…or a moron…
Gomes: (Laughs) C’mon, I’m a rebel!
Holmes: If I deserve it, then feel free to call me that.
Gomes: Idiot! (Laughs) Just joking.

Holmes: One of the best parts of the exit interview process is it gives the player a chance to immediately defend themselves if need be. You were obviously this season’s villain. Was that portrayal accurate?
Gomes: It was definitely accurate. I’m not going to try to blame it on editing. I said all of those things that I said, I acted the way I acted. I was not very fun to be around. But, to defend myself a little bit, I had a major injury on day one and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it because I didn’t want to be seen as weak. I was scared and defensive at all times. I actually had to have surgery when I got back. I was in pain.
Holmes: What was the injury?
Gomes: I really hurt my right knee badly.

Holmes: People always say, “You should go on ‘Survivor.’” And while, I’d love to have that opportunity, I think I’d be a nightmare to be around if I wasn’t eating properly. Did that have an affect on you?
Gomes: Oh yeah. I was so hungry. I was in so much pain. And, you don’t really sleep, so you’re tired.

Holmes: Last night you tried to tell Skupin and Lisa that they wouldn’t be able to beat Malcolm and Denise at the final Tribal. I agree with this 100%. Why couldn’t they see that?
Gomes: That was a dumb move on their part. I still don’t think they have a chance in the world of winning with Malcolm or Denise. So, I was just being honest with them. Do you want to win the game or do you just want to go to the final three?
Holmes: It seems like every week Lisa points out a move she should make, then she doesn’t make it. Why is she afraid to move to the front of this game?
Gomes: I think she answered that question herself. She’s trying to be good. She’s a good lady, playing the game really took a toll on her. You have to be a villain to make it far. She has her own demons in her head. She wanted to make the move, but  it didn’t work out. And I’m really surprised with how wishy-washy she was and how badly she was talking about me in the confessionals. I really did think she was a nice Christian lady.
Holmes: What is it like to be sitting in your living room and then to see a side of someone that you hadn’t seen before?
Gomes: Surprising. But, I have a lot of respect for her. She was playing the game.

Holmes: I love me some Malcolm.
Gomes: Oh, I love him.
Holmes: I met him first. But, you guys had a nice moment where he comforted you after you had a rough Tribal Council. Did you think that was genuine or did you think it was gameplay?
Gomes: We were playing the game. We were all trying to get to the end. I tried working with him but he was really tied to Denise. I couldn’t get through to him.  And he called me the…Harry Potter thing?
Holmes: A dementor.
Gomes: Dementor, yes.  I didn’t know he thought I was a dementor. But it was pretty funny when he did his Abi impersonation. It was great.
Holmes: Was there any chance to try to get to Denise when you were alone during last night’s reward?
Gomes: I tried working with her. But, you saw it, she was just trying to brush me off. That’s what happened with all of them, I was trying to work with them. They hated me.

Holmes: The earliest indicator that you were going to be this season’s villain was your relationship with RC. What was the inciting incident that split you two up?
Gomes: RC approached me so quickly on the beach for an alliance. And the more I got to live with her, I realized that she was such a smart girl. She was highly intelligent. So, it was like a cat-and-mouse kind of thing. If I didn’t get rid of her she would’ve gotten rid of me first. And, she’s super competitive. Peter and I formed an alliance and we had more numbers. It was a strategy. I have nothing against her. I think she’s beautiful and a super smart girl.
Holmes: CBS.com posts videos from Ponderosa, and there was one where you were trying to apologize and she wasn’t interested in it. Have you two had a chance to make peace since then?
Gomes: No, and I don’t think it will happen. After reading her exit interviews I don’t want to have anything to do with her.
Holmes: One of the things that sparked issues between you two was when Pete moved the immunity clue. When did you find out the truth about that?
Gomes: I found out at Ponderosa! At that point I was so exhausted that I didn’t want to deal with it. Peter and I talked about it, and I actually thought it was funny. (Laughs) We were playing the game.

Holmes: Alright, let’s do some word association. We’ll start with your buddy Pete.
Gomes: My buddy Pete, I love him.
Holmes: Malcolm?
Gomes: Charming.
Holmes: Skupin?
Gomes: Idiot. (Laughs) Just joking. Um…injury.
Holmes: Lisa?
Gomes: Sweet lady.
Holmes: Artis?
Gomes: Pirate…Arrr!
Holmes: RC?
Gomes: I used to joke with Malcolm and Peter that she was a BBB…a bitter bitch that got blindsided.
Holmes: A B-cubed.
Gomes: You have to put a fourth B in there, a beautiful, bitter bitch that got blindsided.

Holmes: Every season of “Survivor” has a villain. Was there a point where you knew it was going to be you?
Gomes: Clearly. Yesterday was pretty obvious. I was like, “Take me to the end, I’m the bottom feeder here. No one likes me.” I knew that. I was a bitch. I was aggressive. I was using all I had. In real life I’m not like that.  My ex-boyfriend just emailed me and said, “You are so not what they’re showing on TV.” I actually feel honored that CBS is spending that much time on me. I was playing the game. I didn’t play a brilliant game. I made a lot of mistakes, clearly.
Holmes: What has the fan reaction been like?
Gomes: It’s really interesting to watch. They fight for me, I love it. I have haters and I have lovers. It’s awesome.
Holmes: Every Thursday morning I get an email from my mother, and she is not an Abi fan…to put it lightly.
Gomes: (Laughs) Awww…
Holmes: I’ve gone to great lengths to defend you. I tell her you’re a very sweet girl and it’s a stressful game and a challenging environment. So, it’s good that you’ve come out of this with such a good attitude. It can’t be easy to be the villain.
Gomes: I’m trying! Hopefully nobody tries to kill me on Sunday.

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

‘Survivor: Philippines’ Recap: Everybody Hates Abi

December 12, 2012

'Survivor: Philippines' (CBS)

Quick Note: We’ve got a lot of “Survivor” stuff going on as we hit the home stretch. We inducted two members into the “Survivor” Hall of Fame this week; Amanda Kimmel and Rob Cesternino. We’ll be inducting a third this Friday at 2 p.m. ET. This Sunday we’ll have a full recap of the finale immediately after the episode. And, next Monday we’ll have an interview with the winner of “Survivor: Philippines.” Then I’ll leave you alone…

For a while…

Set Your DVR to Record “Survivor: Philippines”

Last Week: Abi found herself without any backing, Lisa’s brother thought her strategic game was lacking, and some blonde guy the producers claim had been on the show from the beginning was sent packing.

39 Days, 18 People, 1 “Survivor” Blog

Let’s take a look at the tribe as it currently stands…

The Dangrayne Tribe (wearing black)

Abi-Maria – Business Student, 32
Denise – Sex Therapist, 41
Lisa – Former ‘Facts of Life’ Star, 49
Malcolm – Bartender, 25
Michael – Professional Speaker, Author, and Coach, 50

It’s high fives all around after Tribal Council as everyone is psyched to be a part of the final five. Even Abi is in a good mood as she thought her time was up. She isn’t sure if anybody bought her immunity idol bluff, but she’s prepared to try it again. C’mon Abi, it’s like trying to convince people you have four aces in a game of Uno.

Later, Malcolm is concerned because Lisa said she wanted to be with people she could beat. Wait, there are people Lisa can beat?

The next morning, Abi tries to convince Lisa that Skupin, Malcolm, and Denise are plotting against her. Lisa doesn’t buy it for a second, but I’ll give credit to Abi for trying to get something going.

Lisa lets us know that she intends to use Abi for her best game plan, whether if that’s a final three or to have Abi on the jury. Lisa, you need Abi by your side at the final Tribal. You can not beat Denise or Malcolm. It’s debatable if you can beat Skup.

Reward Challenge Time: Players will race up and over a slide and into the water. In the water they’ll retrieve some rings. They’ll return to the beach, drop off the rings, then do it again. Once they have all of their rings they’ll compete in a ring toss. First one to land five rings wins a trip to do some pizza eatin’ and whale shark watchin’.

Whoa! Probst says he knows it’s worth playing for. He doesn’t even ask. Dude’s getting cocky after 25 seasons.

We start off and Skup and Malcolm jump out to a quick lead. There’s like a slip ‘n slide at the end of the ramp which makes for some hilarious visuals as everyone skips across the beach.

Skup, Malcolm, and Denise are the first ones to start ring tossin’. It’s close between Skup and Malcolm, but Skup picks up the win.

Michael is allowed to take two buddies with him, so he chooses Malcolm (because he picked Skup last week) and Lisa (because they’re BFFs). Abi is not thrilled. As she walks away she not-so-subtly says “I guess my vote doesn’t mean anything.”

Back at Dangrayne, Abi and Denise are doing their best “Odd Couple” impersonation. Maybe they’re angling for the next Boston Rob vs. Russell season?

At the reward the trio enjoys some pizza and cookies on a boat. Aww…too bad Angie didn’t stick around longer.

Then, Skup drinks “pop” for the first time in 30 years and goes a little crazy. Oh great, the most accident-prone guy in the history of the show is on sugar high. Someone strap him to the boat “What About Bob” style.

Heh…”I’m sailing! I’m sailing!”

They discuss strategy afterward and Malcolm pitches the idea that they should get rid of Denise at the final four. Skup and Lisa don’t want to make the same mistake Penner did and agree to it.

Back at camp, Denise is not feeling well and has a weird bite mark on her neck. Lisa and Skup share a quick prayer to help her feel better. Oh man, remember how Roxy’s religious stuff drove Denise nuts earlier in the season? She must be hating this.

Fun Fact: If you think religion in “Survivor” is big now, go back and watch “Survivor: Marquesas.”

Immunity Challenge Time: Players will use planks to cross a rope bridge. As they cross they’ll collect pieces of a maze. They’ll then put the maze together and navigate a ball through it. First one to complete the maze wins immunity.

Malcolm has a lead, but falls off of the rope bridge at the very end and has to start over. Skup and Denise are the first ones through.

By the time Malcolm catches up, everyone is already working on their maze.

Then, Malcolm tears through the puzzle and wins immunity! That was pretty amazing. Also, that maze puzzle was very cool.

Back at camp, the fire explodes and nearly kills Skup. It’s like a greatest hits CD.

Later, Abi smartly gets in Skup’s ear and plays the “You can’t possibly beat Denise or Malcolm” card. Skup approaches Lisa with the plan and she’s completely on board. Their only concern is if Malcolm wins immunity at final four.

Denise approaches Malcolm about handing over his idol. He says he’d do it if the situation called for it. This makes no sense to me. If it’s the last Tribal he can use it and Abi’s going home either way, why not look good in front of the jury by protecting your buddy? He says he wants to give it to his mom. OK, it’s tough to argue with that.

That night at Tribal Council, Lisa commends Abi for not going down without a fight. Why’s she fighting if she has an idol?

Probst points out that Abi is the best person to take to the end because she’s the worst person who has ever existed. OK, he didn’t use those exact words, but it was close. Abi agrees that she is the perfect person to keep around.

Denise thinks it’s smart to take Abi if that’s the kind of game you want to play. Denise then says that Abi was lucky that she didn’t have to outwit or outplay because Tandang never went to Tribal Council.

Lisa smartly says that Tandang’s wins weren’t luck. Every Tandanger on the jury nods. This was like something a politician would do where they twist someone’s words around, because Denise was not saying Tandang was lucky to win, she was saying Abi was lucky to be on their tribe. Well played, Whelchel.

Abi doesn’t think anyone can beat Denise or Malcolm at the final Tribal. Whoa…it’s so weird to agree with Abi.

She then calls Skup an idiot and a moron and says that he’s giving away a million dollars. Skup tries to play it off, but she won’t let up. It’s kind of hilarious.

Malcolm thinks goats have won “Survivor” before, so taking Abi to the end might not be a great idea.

Voting Time: Abi votes for Denise, Denise votes for Abi, and the rest of the votes will wait for some tallying.

JPro does the aforementioned tallying and returns. He asks if anyone would like to play an idol and…Malcolm does not. Happy Holidays, Mrs. Freberg.

We’ve got one vote for Denise, two votes for Abi, and the fourteenth person to leave “Survivor: Philippines” and the seventh member of the jury is Abi.

As they’re walking away from Tribal holding their torches, Skup breaks out into a happy dance. How he didn’t set himself on fire, I’ll never know.

Verdict: I don’t think there’s ever been a time headed into a finale where I was cool with everyone winning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m Team Malcolm, but I’m fine with the other three walking away with the check. (Not to mention that I picked three of the final four at the beginning of the season. Go me.)

Who’s Going to Win: Lisa and Skupin don’t have a chance. Malcolm and Denise have managed to skate through the second half of the game without ruffling any feathers. The only questions is; who wins if Malcolm and Denise both make it to the end? Right now, I think Malcolm has an edge with all of the Tandang votes.

Power Rankings Results: Kat and I got it right again. We both had Abi in spot five. So, the final score of the “Survivor: Philippines” Power Rankings Challenge is Team Kat: 133, Team Awesome Thunder: 134. I’d like to give Kat mad props (that’s a thing, right?) for being a fierce competitor.

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


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