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‘Survivor 44’ castaway Claire Rafson seemed to be playing a game that was sure to take her deep into the season. With a personality to match, she truly had everything it took to become an icon of ‘Survivor’. Unfortunately, the tech investor met her demise on Wednesday night’s episode after being eliminated by a unanimous vote of 4-0.

Despite Claire’s elimination being in part due to her decision to sit out of the first three challenges, it is important to note — and trust me, fans have — that she is now the third consecutive woman voted off this season, a pattern all-too-familiar for the current “new era” of ‘Survivor’. There isn’t a definitive answer as to what changes need to be made to fix this issue, but Claire was happy to let us know where the reality TV juggernaut can start.

Pop Crave spoke with Claire following her elimination to get more insight on why she got voted out, what the tribe dynamics at Soka were like, and more. She also shared her thoughts on being the third consecutive woman being voted out, and what ‘Survivor’ needs to do to prevent this pattern from continuing. Keep reading for the full exit interview!

Hey, Claire! Congrats on your ‘Survivor’ run, despite it ending too soon. You’ve mentioned before just how big of a ‘Survivor’ fan you are, so I’m curious what your experience dealing with your elimination has been like since filming wrapped last year.

It’s been a roller coaster and a bit of a ride. No one goes out hoping to be the first person voted out of their tribe, so it’s been a lot of work. I think it’s been kind of a blessing to be on an even season because I’ve had probably what, eight months to process this? And so I’ve been processing a lot of devastation, a lot of sadness. I am lucky and also unlucky, getting to Ponderosa and getting to see Maddy, Helen, and Bruce, which was a huge pick-me-up. And, you know, I was a big pro-therapy girlie before this, and I continue to think that therapy is very important. It’s been a lot of disappointment, but also a lot of new learning and personal growth. I feel a little freed by the entire experience. So yeah, it’s been an experience.

You had a moment at tribal council where you blatantly asked Heidi where her head was at with the vote, and she basically said her thoughts remained the same. How did the conversation you had with her at the beach end, and did she let you know beforehand that she would be voting for you?

She never said it explicitly, but you saw that her poker face isn’t so strong. And so I was definitely able to read between the lines. You know when you’re talking to somebody and they won’t even just lie to your face and say, “Yeah, I’m on your side”? She wasn’t even trying to blindside me, which I appreciate. Like, I think she thought she was doing me a service by saying, “I don’t know… I don’t know if I should keep you. I don’t know if you’re worth it.” But I just wanted to check. I left it all out there at tribal. I was partially just fighting for my life but at that point, I was like, one thing I don’t want this to be, and I want to make sure it’s clear, is that this was not a blindside. I knew I was always gonna play my Shot in the Dark whether or not Heidi said, “You know, Claire, I turned a leaf.” I just threw it all at the wall. I threw every argument I could try to, everything I could think of. All day was just throwing it, throwing it, throwing it. Nothing picked up. I just wanted to confirm that because you never know. But yeah, that was it.

I feel like besides Matt and Frannie, the relationships on Soka have not been pretty clear. Can you talk a little about where your loyalty lied on the tribe, and who you had the best connection with out there?

Yeah, I think that’s an interesting thing. Also, I think a contributor to my vote out is that the best way to see where people lie is by having a vote. And so going two challenges without going to tribal, we had ideas of what the relationships looked like, but we never had the opportunity to test them. So they felt definitely a little bit more fluid than probably a tribe that went to a tribal and had established boundaries. So in terms of that, Frannie and Matt were people I just loved. Frannie and I had an instant connection, so we were really close. I was kind of sitting in the middle though for at least the first six days or so, so I also got really close with Heidi on a really personal level. Josh and I had started to connect but it was definitely a little bit slower. I really felt like I was kind of chipping away to know more about him. Even Danny and I had a pretty good working relationship, so I spent a lot of time with Heidi and Danny on one side. So [for] the first two votes, I probably was gonna vote with Heidi, Josh, and Danny just because of ease, but I really wanted to work with Frannie and Matt. I was really trying to find a way to salvage that. It was definitely very fluid, it was like everyone talking to everyone. I’m pretty sure there was a version of four or three of every single combination. Even Heidi proposed an all-girls alliance to me and Frannie which she clearly didn’t want to actually do, but other than that, everything was thrown out there when you were sitting on an island for six, seven days.

Courtesy of CBS

We saw Frannie mention to Danny and Heidi that Josh was “suspicious” out there, but because he’s been so under-edited, I was a bit confused by that comment. What was your perception of him out there?

I think I had a similar read but a little bit less. I think Frannie thought very strongly about that but she was trying to save my ass there, so it makes sense. She’s gonna play that up because she had decided she wanted Josh gone. I think it was that we’re all very loud, very open, very forthcoming, and Josh is just a little more reserved, so it takes a little bit longer for him to warm up. And so when all you have is somebody like Matt who’s ready to share about his life — the good, the bad, the ugly — and then somebody who’s like, potentially lying about different parts of their background and a little bit more quiet, it’s easy to think that they’re a little bit more sneaky. And definitely the people who went out alone a lot. Danny was always off in the trees, like, he literally was just somersaulting around. Which again, makes it a really smart move because when he was doing sneaky stuff, we were like, “Danny’s being Danny!” But then Josh was also alone a lot and would go on long walks for firewood and maybe come back with like two things. And like, if you go on a walk for firewood, there’s enough that you can come back. So it’d be a lot of stuff like that.

Earlier in the season, there seemed to be suspicion from Soka as a whole that Danny was searching for the key to the idol cage, but now it seems that he is well-intertwined with the tribe. How was he able to get those eyes off of him?

The thing about Danny is, again, he’s always doing something. He built — and I’m sure there’s shots and there should be more — a mansion for us. We had multiple walls and every day he was adding things, so he was always running around. We figured everyone was looking, but that’s the game, right? A lot of people were looking and I was personally looking a lot less because I was just trying to not be seen as scheming. I will say, I don’t think there was ever a target. I’ve heard every name come up in the those seven days, except for Danny’s. Candidly, Danny was such a help around camp and challenges. He was probably the best challenge person across the board. Danny was never going to go home. His name was never going to come up and he was never at risk, which is why I think when he was the sole voice really, really saying “Let’s get Claire out,” it carried a lot of weight. By virtue of being a strong, really capable, really energetic, really likable guy, he got to be at the center. And so I think his weight and when he said, “I’m voting Claire. We’re voting Claire,” that kind of impacted Heidi and really helped her make the decision.

I read a stat from a Twitter thread you retweeted that mentioned among new era ‘Survivor’ players, 12 of the 19 pre-merge vote-offs were women. That’s 70%. I’m sure you have thoughts on this. What do you think needs to be done to prevent this trend from continuing in future seasons?

I think there are a lot of things. I think there’s things on both sides that can be done. I was kind of thinking about it in two parts. There’s ways to have game mechanics that can make it right. When you have six people tribes and you have no expectations of having a swap, you’re like, “These are the people I’m stuck with to the merge.” And then you have incredibly physically demanding challenges, like even the puzzles we are given. That slide puzzle (seen in Episode 1) was not a table side puzzle that I could have done. That was putting two people’s bodies and pushing it. Or that [other] puzzle where you see people rolling those blocks… they were not like blocks. It was tall and it was hefty. And so the game design right now makes sense. That’s why someone like a Danny is invaluable. And so that’s game design, right? But there are ways to change it. If we knew there was a swap, why do we want Danny to go to somebody else and beat us? There are different things like that. When you have six people and one loses a vote because he has to put his hand into a bag, yeah, that’s going to change the dynamics pretty heavily. And so those I think are things that could be changed and triggered, and I think keep the game exciting, right? Like, it was exciting when we swapped to three tribes more. It was exciting when we started journeys. It’s all really fun. But definitely that’s one. And then I just think there’s an interesting self-perception that everyone had on the island. There are things that make it easier to vote out women and small people. People still have individual choice and people are still choosing to do this. Like you saw it on [Season] 41, I think it was a great example. Tiffany didn’t do great in a challenge and they kept her around because they cared about loyalty. For them, — and I tried to say this at tribal — what they valued when they said what strength is, was loyalty. It was end game. It was not lift something heavy or push something. And people make those trade-offs every time and you see it time and time again. And what I tried to point out too is that we were making it to the puzzle first every single time because we had the strength, but we were losing on a puzzle or getting second on the puzzle. And so at that point you’re like, it’s just in our heads that what matters is brute force. Yes, you have to get to the puzzle, but you can just choose to value your relationships over tribe strength. There’s probably two or three more challenges before we went to merge. We had two sit-outs and could have ridden no matter what, but they didn’t even give me a chance. I was in the best shape of my life. So I think there’s a lot of things but it does all look like a lot of women are the fall guys. A lot of, unfortunately, LGBTQ men, and a lot of smaller men. Just a lot of people who look like me. I think Helen, Maddy and I are literally all the same height and weight. I would see them getting picked off and I was like… “I’m next.”

Courtesy of CBS

You clearly seemed to have the support of your tribe-mates to continue sitting out in challenges, so I’m curious as to what the conversations were like among Soka in the event you guys ever lost a challenge. What were they telling you?

“You’re good, just sit out. We gotta have our best shot. You’re good, you’re good, you’re good.” So, kind of reassuring me. I mean, I think they decided I was weak and in their heads I was weak, so it’s hard to push back. It’s hard to do that. I didn’t want to be like, “No, look, I’ll be a big threat,” so it was a lot of that. I know that people can say what they say, but they have certain preconceived notions. And again, I was playing a long game so I really just wanted to get us with as many numbers to merge as possible and hope that my relationships could win out. And for that first one, two and three [challenges], it looked like there was a better composition of the team than me being in it, so I sat out. I had a lot of fun on day one with Matthew. It was the best and so fun.

Your relationship with Hai is iconic! I also saw that you’re now friends with other players like Zach and Jenny from Season 42. What has it been like to be able to connect with them and other alumni outside of the show?

So technically, I don’t know anyone and I’ve never met anyone… But I will say, one thing that I’ve found is that the community that ‘Survivor’ has brought me has been such a weird side effect. I was joking and I was like, “Maybe I did just come here to make friends.” One thing that I love about ‘Survivor’ and especially in this new era, is that everyone wants to be there so badly. Even when I was getting voted out, I was like, “At least they get to live their dream!” They want to be there too, just as badly as I do. And I see it in a way that just because I’m out, I’m not going anywhere. This is a community. I’m a super fan and I will continue to be a super fan. So getting to meet people who I’ve watched on my TV and I’ve been obsessed with and followed them for years is like… Having someone like Courtney Yates tweet at me or Sandra tweet at me!? My 7 to 9-year-old self is peeing her pants. And so I’m somebody who, wherever I go, I’m a yes girl. You ask me to go somewhere, I’ll go there. If you ask me to do something, I’ll do it. I’m just looking for fun. I’m looking for thrill, and ‘Survivor’ has given me a community of people who also are craving endorphins and dopamine. I’ve made, weirdly, some of my best friends in the world on a show where like, you’re not supposed to, and only one person wins. And that was not me. But yeah, I’ve loved just feeling embraced by both the fans as well as the community.

New episodes of Survivor air Wednesday nights at 8/7c on CBS.