‘Survivor’ Castaway Elisabeth: ‘(Debbie Is) Probably the Best Liar’


Elisabeth Markham (CBS)

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Muscles don’t help you figure out how to whittle down your alliance to get to the end, and beauty rarely helps you decide on the perfect final jury speech. You need brains to do all of those things.

The problem comes when you’re on a tribe of people as smart as you are.

I spoke with the first smarty pants out the door the morning after her elimination and had a chance to ask her about tribe dynamics, hidden idols, and the benefit of ice cream pants…

Gordon Holmes: Alright, what’s worse; nine days of heat, starvation, and bugs or dating Stephen Fishbach?
Elisabeth Markham: (Laughs) Stephen is a smart guy. He’s a good conversationalist. We only had a few dates. But, I think nine days of starvation is worse. On the other hand, playing “Survivor” is really fun.
Holmes: So, it’s a tie?
Markham: Oh yes, a tie. (Laughs)

Holmes: It seems like Neal was targeted last night because you had problems trusting him. What led you and Peter to that distrust?
Markham: He’s a very smart guy. He’s savvy. He was very interested in playing the game. And, just based on the way he acted, he seemed like someone who wouldn’t have any qualms turning on an ally. He seemed willing to make moves against his side. It was more of a vote of respect.

Holmes: With Debbie, in hindsight were you surprised that she could be so deceptive or were you always wary of her?
Markham: I think it’s easy to underestimate her, especially at first. But after a few days of getting to know her, I think we picked up on the fact that she’s pretty perceptive. And of everybody in the game, or at least on the Brains tribe, she’s probably the best liar.
Holmes: With the juggling and the cheering, do you think any of that is an act to throw you off?
Markham: Sometimes I wondered. I don’t know why she does those things. I don’t think it’s an act, I think maybe it’s an attention getter.
Holmes: Do you think it’s a super power to be able to look at water and tell if it’s contaminated?
Markham: (Laughs) I think most of the time water is just fine, but if it’s not fine and you get a parasite or an infection you’re going to really regret it. It’s a question of odds, it’s a gamble. I do not think you can tell if water is safe by looking at it.

Holmes: Aubry had a meltdown on day one. It seemed part physical, part mental. Did that change your opinion on working with her?
Markham: Before Aubry had her breakdown, I wanted to work with her. I thought she was going to be my best friend in the game. But, she took it very hard. I think the intensity was too much. Everyone is scared. It’s a different situation. She actually almost quit and Debbie and I talked her out of it. We thought going into the first challenge down numbers would be pretty bad.
Holmes: How far into quitting process did she get?  Was Probst called in?
Markham: They called in medical to check on her. She wanted to get look at for dehydration. Peter had checked her out. The resident E.R. doctor. We thought she was fine. It was definitely more of an anxiety attack than a physical illness. She was suffering out there. We did what we could to comfort her.

Holmes: Peter did not look great last night. He came off as really arrogant. Tell me about the Peter you know.
Markham: At first, I thought he was really arrogant. I think the reason I thought that is on day one you have these opinions of people, what sort of classic “Survivor” character archetype they fall into. And I sort of mentally slotted Peter into that arrogant guy role. When I got to know him, he was full of self-effacing humor. He seemed insecure more than arrogant. I guess my opinion of him shifted a lot, but not so much the other contestants. They thought he was pretty arrogant.
Holmes: Which classic “Survivor” archetype are you?
Markham: (Laughs) I guess I fit the role of the late-20s/early 30s professional woman who does not know how to stop playing the game.

Holmes: Were there any clues before Tribal that you and Peter were in trouble?
Markham: About half an hour before we went to Tribal, things started to feel pretty different. The tone of interactions with Joe and Neal shifted. Aubry and Debbie were better at concealing their intentions. I thought that it was going to be Peter at Tribal.

Holmes: You and Joe butted heads a few times. What was that all about? Did you just not click?
Markham: I think most of the times things were good between us. The first couple of days he was so likable, so positive, I thought he was the biggest threat to win the whole thing on the tribe. After a couple of days he got more hungry and more irritable. And he had a tendency of snapping at people for things. In particular, it bothered him pretty much any time I tried to do anything survival related. The one time I grabbed the matches to start a fire, he started yelling at me. He said, “Let the boys do this!” I felt that it wasn’t personal because he’d snap at other people. But in hindsight it was me and Neal. Neal was the second-most person he’d snap at.
Holmes:  Were there girl jobs and boy jobs?
Markham: Fire, fishing, those were things that were in the boy job category.
Holmes: It’s like the ‘50s. And the girl jobs were…baby making?
Markham: (Laughs)
Holmes: That’s so bizarre to me to divide work in that fashion.
Markham: We’d go out looking for edible plants, coconuts, that sort of thing, collecting firewood.

Holmes: Alright, word association time. Let’s start with Neal.
Markham: Sneaky.
Holmes: Peter?
Markham: Obama.
Holmes: Aubry?
Markham: Manatee.
Holmes: Joe?
Markham: Grumpy.
Holmes: Debbie?
Markham: Wacky.

Holmes: Was there anything that happened out there that we didn’t see that you wish we had?
Markham: My shellfish allergy…and the fact that they didn’t give us any rice. In most seasons the tribes get a big bag of rice that they gradually eat. But, I guess the abundance of shellfish made them think that they didn’t need to feed us.  So I pretty much didn’t get to eat much of anything. A little bit of coconut now and then.

Holmes: Who was looking for the hidden immunity idol?
Markham: I think everyone spent a lot of time idol searching. But, none of us had found anything as far as I could tell. Peter and I had suspicions that Neal had one based on the fact that he stopped going out as often.
Holmes: That’s why you wear ice cream pants, to camouflage any idols.
Markham: (Laughs) The pockets are useful.
Holmes: Does last night’s vote affect how you view ice cream?
Markham: (Laughs) One of the first things I ate when I got home to America was a pint of Three Twins Ice Cream.

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