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Survivor 43 has come to an end, and Pop Crave had the chance to speak with the final 5 castaways about their time on the season.

Keep reading for our full exit interview with this season’s runner-up, Cassidy Clark!

Courtesy of CBS

You’re the runner-up of Survivor 43! Congratulations on your run on the show. How have you grappled with your loss since filming wrapped?

It’s been a lot to process. I’m extremely proud of the game that I played and I feel like I deserved to be there at the end. It was hard because I wasn’t sure what the perception was from everybody else, because, obviously, it was a landslide for Gabler, and I was quite shocked about that. I was wondering, “Is this all in my head? Did I just have no shot?” So I’ve been trying to grapple with that. But then to see the reception, and to see how much support I’ve gotten from the fans and everybody in my life, it justifies the fact that I wasn’t crazy for feeling like I had a really good chance at winning. So that’s like a small consolation, I think. Obviously, it’s not winning, but I feel like I did the best I could with what I was given, and I’m proud of myself.

I have to say, going into the final tribal council, it looked like you had this in the bag. It even seemed that you were cautiously optimistic about your odds to win. What were the main points that you wanted to get across to the jury, and is there anything you think you could have explained better?

I think the main point I wanted to talk about was how tribal used to be framed: Outwit, Outplay, Outlast. I feel like in all those categories, I did a really good job. I had great social relationships and alliances that brought me to the end, and I won three immunities, so I crushed it physically. Then I also was like, I worked my butt off every day on that beach strategically and made sure that the person I wanted to go home was going home. I was always on the right side of every vote, and whether I voted correctly or not, I always knew where the votes were going and what was going on. So, I was really proud of the well rounded game that I had played, and I didn’t feel like the people I was sitting next to could say the same thing; I did my best to explain that. I feel like I was getting some guff no matter what I said, though, and that was kind of difficult to deal with since it’s already a stressful situation. There’s a million things I probably wish I could have explained or done differently, but I’m not sure how much it would have mattered, to be honest with you. Like, I don’t know what else I could have done or said. I think they had already made up their minds before we got there.

Going off of that, I have to say that many fans were outraged, to say the least, at the results of the FTC. Not even from a biased standpoint, but the fact that it felt like your very strong game was undermined by the jury. Do you feel the same way?

I did. I did feel that way. I don’t want to discredit Gabler’s win. I don’t want to take that away from him, but I do feel like the decisions weren’t completely unbiased and looked at from a completely objective standpoint. Because I think if they would have, like on paper, I could have won. And then also, if a man had played the way that I played, they would have 100% won in a landslide. If a woman had played the way Gabler played, they would have been laughed at, you know what I mean? So just to see that play out was disheartening. I’m grateful to get the support that I have, and I don’t want to take away from anybody else’s win, but I do think that if there was another jury in another life, maybe I could have won. It’s crazy to think that I was that close.

Courtesy of CBS

During the after-show, Karla mentioned the jury having a checklist for all of the finalists, which would ultimately determine their fate in the final vote. Since your time off the show, have you had any clarity on what your unchecked boxes were?

I think maybe they wanted me to own up to more of a hiding in the shadows kind of thing. But the thing was, I never sat back and said, “Just tell me where to vote. I’ll just go with the numbers.” I was always out there pushing. I worked just as hard as Karla strategically and just as hard as her physically. We played a very similar game, but for some reason, she got most of the credit. I don’t know what it was about me that didn’t give me that perception. Obviously, that helped me in the game, because I was able to get to the end and I didn’t want to be a huge threat until it was too late. I think one of the things that they wanted from me was the fire, but to me, that just seems crazy. I don’t understand why I needed to do that… why I needed to give up my well earned immunity. It just didn’t feel like that was a fair ask of me to do something that could have lost me the game.

Did you ever consider taking that risk and going into the fire making challenge?

I considered it, but the fact that Jesse was pushing so hard at me about it and saying if I didn’t go up next to him that he wasn’t gonna vote for me… that rubs me the wrong way. I was like, you’re literally doing this just to… obviously, he’s gonna do whatever he can to stay in the game. And if his best chance is beating me in fire, I completely understand him pushing that agenda. I just didn’t think it was fair to say, “You’re not getting my vote if you don’t do this, because this is what I want. This is what’s best for my game, and not yours.” I wish people looked at it from a point of, this was the best move for me. I made the decision that took out the biggest person in the game, and I got a lot of the blame for it, but not really any of the respect. So it was just hard because I think they all wanted to see Jesse win. And then for me to be the person that made that decision, it got more guff than credit.

Another issue fans voiced this season was the edit you were given as a game player. How satisfied were you with your edit in general? Was there anything pivotal that you think we missed?

Yeah, I think just my relationships with people. I was super close with James. I had a good relationship with Jesse. I had a good relationship even with Gabler and I just played really hard socially. So I feel like that wasn’t shown. I’d say my strategy as well because I’m such a super fan. I really worked hard with every vote and was intentional with everything that I did in the game, and talked about all this and a lot of it didn’t make the edit, which is unfortunate. I think if I had won, you would have seen a lot more and it would have been more justified. But even with what people did see, I think they still think it was justified. And so I’m grateful that people can still see that I played a good game, but like, I wish that more of my strategic and social game had been shown. I know there’s only so much time and there’s so many big characters, and that was one of the ways I was able to hide in the shadows. But at the same time, I was still intentional with everything. I had conversations with everybody. I’m still grateful for just even getting the chance to play, so I don’t want to dwell on it too much. 

You and Owen practically had your jaws dropped at every vote that went Gabler’s way, and then when he won. Where do you think you miscalculated his threat level?

I think the whole way. I mean, I don’t want to say I underestimated him the whole time. Obviously, I saw that he was a very likable person, and I feel like he had good relationships with people, so I was aware of that. I just didn’t realize that that would be enough to win him the game and that it would just be completely based off of a social decision or the fire making thing. My perception going in, I think as well as Owen, was, I thought it was between me and Owen. I thought Gabler had a really tall hill to climb to get the win. And I think that was a lot of people’s perception before they got voted out. Like, we didn’t really go after Gabler because nobody saw him as a big threat to win, so I don’t think it was just in my head or Owen’s. I don’t know what else I could’ve done because if I had gone to the end with anybody else like Jesse, Karla, or Cody, you know the jury would have given it to them. So that was my best shot. And I really felt like I had a good shot to beat him. Obviously, that was a fatal mistake, but what else could I have done in the position I was in, you know?

One unfortunate theme of this season was how often women were being booted from the game, which was even more than we usually see on Survivor. You mentioned it a bit during final tribal council, but how does it feel to overcome a challenge like that when the odds were stacked against you?

Yeah. I mean, it’s crazy. Like I said, I was the last woman standing, and I really was the person who was fighting for the women in the show, even more than you saw. It’s ironic to know that my first confessional was about how I have to play under the radar because a woman can’t play the same way that a man can and win. It’s just ironic that that sort of was my fate. Like, it didn’t really matter. I did what I could with what I was given and I tried my hardest to fight for the women in the game. I’m proud that I was the last woman standing because that did mean a lot to me. I will say it was just unfortunate to be on a season where it felt like being a woman was its own detriment. I know that was probably nobody’s honest intention, but there are biases in our culture and in our society and that’s something that women face every single day. And it’s no surprise that that was what happened in the game because it is like a microcosm, and you never know how things are going to shake up based on who you’re playing with. But I really wasn’t surprised because that’s something that women face every day. We face an uphill battle against men no matter what we do, so it wasn’t that surprising, but it was also kind of a bummer at the same time.

Survivor 44 premieres on March 1st at 8/7c on CBS and Paramount+.