Pop Crave had a lovely chat with Survivor 44 runner-up Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt following Wednesday’s finale to chat about representing Puerto Rico, her record-breaking fire-making challenge win, taking shots at Carolyn and Yam Yam at the final tribal council, and more. Keep reading for the full exit interview!
Congratulations on such a stellar run! I saw that you celebrated the finale last night at Wendell and Brice’s watch party in NYC alongside the cast and Survivor alums. How was it?
It was amazing. It really was amazing. We just had a blast. The 18 of us are tied together, and we no longer have live reunions. All of this is well known; it’s not a secret. But we wanted to make sure that we spent the time together to watch it with our families and friends. So it was an amazing moment. My kids were there. My husband was there. So many friends and family were there. And I’m so grateful for that. We had an amazing time.
Survivor 44 marks the first season where the winner and runner-up are of Puerto Rican descent. That video of you waving the flag of Puerto Rico as Yam Yam won was so cool to see. How does it feel to be able to represent your community on such a large platform?
It’s amazing! It’s the first time in 44 seasons that we have had two Puerto Ricans. And, like, we were both born or raised in Puerto Rico. I moved to the US as a grownup, and Yam Yam lives on the island. So it’s the first time we’ve had two, which was epic for us, and for us to get one and two, it blows my mind. I’m so proud of us. So yeah, I’m so excited, and I hope Puerto Rico knows that we are so proud to represent them.
How did you feel about your performance at the final tribal council?
I was proud. I was proud. And I had opportunities before to make some moves with so many people; it’s always like, “Woulda, coulda, shoulda.” But no, the flashy players go home. So if you do it too early, you go home. To me, I knew it was a lot about timing. And so many people say, “You should have done this with the idol, yada, yada, yada.” But if I was to flush the idol too early, just like Danny did, they would have sent me home, and I probably would have been fifth. So I’m proud of the game I played. I was proud at the time, and when the jury started voting, I was like, “I did everything I could. I have no regrets. Whatever happens happens.” When I saw the results of that, obviously, I was bummed. I wanted to win. But if I’m gonna lose to someone, let it be Yam Yam, because he’s awesome too. So no regrets, and I’m proud to be number two this season.
You threw some shots at Carolyn and Yam Yam during the final tribal council, mentioning how you felt that Carson was the brains behind the Tika three. Was that your genuine perception of their alliance, or was that just an effort to downplay their games and get yourself votes?
Good question and good comments. A couple of comments before I maybe answer it, but let’s just talk about it. I came with a strategy as the oldest female of the season. I knew I had to be a little bit under [the radar], maybe not speak the way I speak because I speak way too much. I don’t shut up, I’m too loud—although I don’t have a voice today—and all of that. So I knew if I did and I was the true me, I probably would have been gone first. So I knew I had to play a little bit of an under [the radar game] and then progress my game, including at tribal council, because you can see I’m not shy and I can speak plenty. I have a little bit of shyness in terms of having an accent; it’s my second language because I talk about how I barely spoke English when I moved to the US and all of that. Of course, there’s always a little bit of you like, “Oh my God, am I gonna be well spoken?” or whatever. And then throwing a few things at them is really [that] I’m fighting for a million dollars, just like they were. I love them; they played an amazing game, but I had to throw everything I could out there. I was throwing the kitchen sink at it. I was just trying to win the game at the time, so I was just trying everything I could.
Can you talk more about your decision to keep the Tikas in the game as long as you did?
Yeah, great question. So for me, when I played the advantage, and that was the very first vote after the merge where Matt went home, I got a lot of information. It was very evident to me that there was going to be a Soka and a Ratu battle. And then you can tell that the Tikas were going to be in the middle. So after that time, I knew I had to make relationships. I had [also] just thrown [out] Yam Yam’s name, so I had to do massive damage control and try to make relationships with them to play the middle with them while doing this whole thing. So it was interesting. I think at the point in time where I voted for Carson, of course, we didn’t know the idol was gonna get played and all that. But that was the opportunity when we were trying to convince Jaime and Lauren to kind of pair up with Danny and I so it could be 2-2-2. It didn’t work out that way. They actually went with the Tikas and that’s when we started losing the numbers. We actually tried, but it’s a lot about timing and when to do it, and it just wasn’t perfect. But I’m proud to say that I actually got my way to second [place] within all of that because nobody saw it coming. Nobody believed that. As a viewer, everyone was like, “Heidi is the lowest one. She’s number 18, and she’s gonna go first.” No one believed in me. I was just like, “Just wait for it because I’m gonna be fighting.” It’s a lot about timing, for sure.
Your move to give up safety and compete against Carson in the fire-making challenge was absolutely crazy in the best way possible. Did you consider any other variation of that move, or was Carson always going to be who you wanted to compete against?
So at the time, I felt that Carson had the strongest game because he was in the Tika three and he was part of the strategies. He actually was part of Ratu for a bit, so he had friends with Ratu and Tika. He was the only one in Tika that actually went outside the island and had relationships outside their three. So to me, that was very strong. Plus, he won challenges. Immunity, rewards, etc. And everyone loved him, including me. He is a very loving person. So at the time, I thought that of the three of them, he had the strongest one. I selected him for fire because I thought he had the strongest game. I wanted to just get the strongest player out. Of course, Yam Yam had an amazing game. But at the time, on the island, I just wanted to go against the person that I thought had the best game at the time.
What was reconnecting with Danny like after the show, especially considering that you hid your idol from him?
So I throw Danny’s name out. I was the rogue vote; people call it the rogue vote. It was not meant to be a rogue vote. It was meant to be, to everyone else outside of Danny, “I’m willing to put his name down. I’m not Danny’s puppet.” I was an ally, and I think it became evident even though, in the edit, not many people saw the ins and outs of it. But on the island, everyone knew. So I had to throw his name out there because I needed to separate from him and I didn’t want to tell him about my idol. I was playing my own game to win, and I wasn’t sure how I was gonna end up using it. It was burning a hole in my pocket. But I also knew that I just didn’t want to share it. I was actually willing to share it if it was meant to be something for the game. But at no point did I think it was a good time to share it with anybody, so I just played it myself. I have no regrets about that idol because it made me be in the top five, and I got control of the game in my hands without relying on anybody else. So I just took control of the game for myself.
We sadly have to wrap this up a bit early, so my final question. What moment encapsulates your entire Survivor experience?
What a powerful question! Okay, great question. I think maybe the last few days on the island because I’m by myself. Yam Yam and Carolyn are also there, but you have a little bit more space to breathe and actually enjoy the island because there’s not that many people there. Especially in the last three days. You’re done with strategizing at that time. You are planning, “What am I going to say? What are they going to ask me?” and just going through your own game. It’s such a powerful moment to be there because I knew I was the underdog, big time, starting this whole thing. To be there in the top three, that was epic, and those moments, I will never forget the feelings. I hope that encapsulated the whole thing because the whole experience was wild, but it was so worth it and so awesome.
Survivor returns for its 45th season this fall on CBS.