‘Survivor 44’ continues this week with a predictable, yet fully entertaining hour of television. The remaining idol cages were opened and a new showmance was teased, which provided a reaction from castaway Claire Rafson that will be ingrained in ‘Survivor’ meme history for all of eternity. Not to mention, Carolyn’s story about navigating her son’s lost tooth is evidence alone that we might have one of the most memorable casts in recent memory on our hands.
After losing tribe member Bruce in last week’s season premiere due to a medical evacuation, the Tika tribe found themselves down another number thanks to their loss in this week’s immunity challenge. By the end of the night, product manager Helen Li, who seemed to have been playing a genuinely decent game, had her torch snuffed by a vote of 3-1. The Tika tribe now moves forward in the game as a four, with Sarah seemingly next on the chopping block.
Pop Crave chatted with Helen about where things went wrong with her game, knowing that Sarah lost her vote at tribal council, why she didn’t suspect Carolyn of finding Tika’s idol, and more. Keep reading for the full exit interview!
Hey, Helen! I have to say, it’s so sad to be speaking with you today. It must be incredibly tough to not only experience your vote off in person, but then relive it on television. What was your experience like watching back the episode?
I was really nervous. You never know what they’re gonna show, and you never know if what is shown is going to, you know, align with your memory of what happened. I think it did. I think a lot of what was shown was exactly how I remember it. So that was really relieving, but I was also super super nervous, especially for my post-game-interview. I just remember my whole body was like, I don’t know how to process what’s happening right now, and I think you can hear how emotional I was in that interview. I just felt like I was a zombie and could not comprehend anything that was going on. So it was emotional for sure. I had some tears yesterday. I wiped them up and I’m okay now, but it’s definitely an emotional journey.
At the end of the episode, you said that your elimination made you second guess the connections you had made in the game. Where do you think things went wrong?
We started off kind of weaker since we lost our strongest guy (Bruce), and this was all in the first 24 hours of the game. So things definitely started going wrong pretty immediately. And then I felt like I had maybe some momentum because I had formed that alliance with Carson and Sarah; I felt pretty safe in that alliance. It felt like we would be really logical partners that would work really well together. And of course, then you have a three person majority out of a five, one of your alliance members goes on this island, loses her vote… It just felt like such a rollercoaster of like, every time I felt like I had some footing, I lost some footing two seconds later. So, I think that the time it really went wrong was when Sarah lost her vote. I think that was probably a big factor in Carson flipping since both of us knew that she had lost her vote. And at that point, it becomes a 2-2 split if we keep the alliances the way that they are, so I don’t fault Carson for making that move. But that definitely was not a helpful thing for my game.
Speaking of connections, Carson definitely played the middle man on Tika, which we saw Carolyn point out in the episode. Did you ever have any similar doubts about his loyalty?
We were very aware that he was also talking to Carolyn and Yam Yam. I think from the get-go, it was pretty clear to me at least, that Carolyn didn’t want to work with me. And I don’t think that she wanted to work with Sarah either. Carolyn and Yam Yam were tight so it felt like for us, the best way to try to sway any of them to our side was to have Carson kind of be our liaison and try to pull them over over. So we knew he was having conversations. He did a really good job of playing the middle. I didn’t suspect that he was on their side because he would give us information that they were telling him as well, so it was definitely a surprise that he had flipped over.
Yam Yam mentioned being afraid of your intelligence and how much you verbalized different strategic scenarios in the game. You also exercised your intelligence by doing the Savvy puzzle with Carson on Day 1. Do you have any regrets about playing that way, perhaps too soon into the game?
It’s so silly, because you read my pregame interviews and I’m extremely aware of the things that I should tamper down in my personality to try to lower my threat level to a level that I can actually make it far in the game. Then I go into the game, and I do exactly the opposite of everything I said. So, absolutely there are regrets there. It looks like I volunteered really quickly for the savvy puzzle. I think there was a lot of hemming and hawing there, and then in the back of my mind, I’m just thinking like, “I do puzzles. I do brain teasers. Should I just step up?” We were already down a person, essentially, with Bruce getting hurt. I thought, “How are we going to survive without a machete and flint?” With the slide puzzle as well, those blocks were massive. I almost felt like I was volunteering to help with slide puzzle so I could remove myself from having to push those boxes, because I don’t think I was the most helpful person there. So there’s definitely a perception that you create really early on when you’re putting yourself out there like that and putting yourself in that exposed position. I think my mindset was just trying to get the tribe in a position where we weren’t going to tribal councils, and that ended up exposing me individually within the tribe a little too much, too early.
The Tika tribe as a whole seemed pretty anxious after finding out that your camp’s cage had been opened. What was the tribe’s general consensus about the idol and who may have had it going into tribal council?
I think you kind of see that there was no general consensus, right? Everyone had a different idea. I know that Carson very much thought that I had it. I didn’t notice in the game, I found out afterward. He had the FBI tactics… My body language was wrong, and he was convinced that I had it [laughs]. I thought it might have been either Carson, Sarah, or maybe Yam. I actually did not suspect Carolyn at all because she did such a good job of being so unfiltered out there, that I felt like if she had found something, we would have been tipped off somehow. Like, she would have screamed in the jungle or something and we would have figured it out. I think during the scene where you see the four of us and Carolyn’s not there — and we’re kind of like, “Oh, I wonder who opened this bird cage?” — she was in a confessional or something like that. So people were accounted for. It was over probably a larger timeline than what was shown in the show, so big kudos to Carolyn because she didn’t tell a soul and I don’t think many of us suspected that she had it.
In last week’s episode, Carolyn had expressed to you that no one was strategizing with her. What was your relationship with her like? How much of an effort did you put into making her and Yam Yam feel comfortable with you?
I put a lot of effort in. I think that scene you’re referring to kind of looks like I brushed her off a bit and I’m like, “Oh, that’s too bad.” But I do think I remember that conversation and then I remember saying something like, “Oh, I’d love to work with you and we should make something happen.” I think for me, maybe it was a gut feeling. It always felt like there was a little bit of trepidation that she maybe had with me, and I had vice versa. I think it was a two-way-street where we were unsure of each other, and that didn’t provide a good foundation for a working relationship, so we ended up on opposite sides. But I would have loved to work with Carolyn. I think some of the more savvy and strategic parts of her were shown in her alliance with Yam and Carson. I didn’t get to see as much of that, so I wasn’t aware of that side of her. It’s a bummer, because I think it would have been really fun.
An interesting factor that went into this week’s tribal council was that Sarah didn’t have a vote. Did she ever reveal this to you after her journey?
Yeah, she did. She told the tribe her story about Shipwheel Island: only one person getting a vote, maybe she had a vote, maybe she didn’t, and that she wouldn’t find out until we voted. I think in the days after that, she had told Carson individually. She and I were trying to kind of keep our distance because people were already viewing us as a unit. So we didn’t get a chance to actually catch up until, I think, nighttime of day three or something like that. Then she whispered to me and she’s like, “Okay, this is what actually happened.” Tells me about the grab bag, tells me she lost her vote. She was very good about not telling us anything about the Inheritance Advantage, so we didn’t know that she had an advantage. Obviously, you suspect and you speculate, but we didn’t know anything about that. We just knew that she didn’t have a vote.
Speaking of Sarah, she didn’t seem surprised by your elimination. From what you can share with us, was she in on the vote? And if so, are you surprised that she didn’t clue you in?
I will say, when I came out of the tribal, I think the reason I was so distraught is because I knew that Carson had flipped. He had a vote, I knew Sarah didn’t have a vote. But when you don’t have a vote, that means that there is nothing; there’s no proof of which side she was on, right? So my mind went immediately to the worst case scenario of like, “I thought I knew where I stood with these four people, and I misjudged all of those relationships. It was four versus one, like, everyone get Helen out!” So that was definitely part of the emotion that you see in that post-tribal confessional. But yeah, we’ll see where she actually stood.
Are there any moments from your time on the show that didn’t make the edit that you wish was shown?
Yeah! There are some fun moments that we had. I think as a tribe, we took the boat out one day just to swim around, have fun and like, be out on the ocean and enjoy how beautiful Fiji was. And that was really nice. I also think strategically, to kind of get a sense of just how hard Tika was playing and the paranoia around our camp. Every single night, it was just like, chaos. People were always up at night off doing whatever, who knows what. So it was hard to sleep because you’re obviously in the sand, it’s cold, things like that. And you wake up and you’re like, “Okay, I see this person’s not here. I think this person’s not here,” and it’s just madness.
New episodes of Survivor air Wednesday nights at 8/7c on CBS.