Once again, viewers were surprised to see two Survivors out of the game this week. This time the reason wasn’t from an injury during an overly complicated challenge crafted by the wily production team. Instead, one Survivor found the game’s natural challenges just as impossible to surmount, while another found herself on the wrong end of last-minute vote machinations. Kathy Sleckman and Tracy Hughes-Wolf both started out on the Fans tribe, were split up by a tribe reshuffle, but reunited to talk with the press as a united front.
So, were the two of you and Chet pretty close?
Tracy: We were like three little puppies that were picked up and thrown in the pound.
Kathy: Or a sack over the dam!
Tracy: We just had to muster up the strength to stick together.
Kathy: And not by choice.
Tracey: We were just old and worthless to the others.
Kathy: Anyone over 25 thought we were old and worthless.
What do you think of Joel and Mikey?
Tracy: Bada bing, bada boom, bada bang! Mikey. Mikey had a plan, and Mikey told his plan one too many times. If you keep repeating yourself, eventually someone is going to hear it and do something about it, and…(evil voice) we did!
There was confusion with what happened with Chet. It looked like he gave up and let everyone vote him out, but he says he talked to medics and was actually told he needed to leave the game because of his injury. What really happened?
Tracy: They had to do an initial lance on his foot to remove pressure, and this is going to sound gross, but – it was a glob of infection that could fill a teacup. He was actually in the hospital for a week or so, maybe more like ten days. He had a really bad infection, and the medics came to him and said to him that his liver was double its size, going on three times its size, from the infection. They told him, “You need to think about getting out of this game now.” And he begged to stay to do the challenge, because he wanted to go out with dignity and if they lost, he could be voted out. Of course I wanted him to vote against Ozzy with me, and it just didn’t work out that way, doggone it.
Considering the big deal they made about Jonathan leaving, why couldn’t they do that with Chet? And why couldn’t he just stay through Tribal Council and vote Ozzy out, and then be taken out?
Tracy: We did that. I mean, we begged! I literally was begging. Erik and myself were begging and begging. We begged for hours; for two days we begged him. It’s a three-day episode, and we were working it as hard as we could. It was hard because I really care about him as a person, and for him to be that sick, it was sort of self-righteous for me to…you know, I wouldn’t want to win and have something happen to him. I mean, look at the infection and how quickly it spread in Jonathan’s leg. We knew that, and the second after Jonathan was medevaced, it started to work on Chet. He was really afraid, because he feeling bad. He didn’t put his heel down for thirteen days; he walked on the ball of his foot. I don’t know why they didn’t show that more, there’s just not enough time in editing to get it all in there. But it was bad, it really was. It wasn’t just a boo-boo.
Then Chet wasn’t lazy, he was just dealing with his hurt foot?
Kathy: Oh, no. The water.
Tracy: Chet carried all the water, and that was the hardest job.
Kathy: We all did.
Tracy: (agreeing) First of all, the well was so far away from the camp, and you had to walk, and he had a bad foot. So we had to walk all the way to the well, and he would carry eight jugs back himself. They were heavy, and it was a long haul.
Kathy: They show you what they want to show you. We got delegated to doing the grunt work, the behind-the-scenes work, because everybody else wanted their moment in the sun. With one machete, we weren’t allowed to have it. With the flint, we weren’t even allowed to attempt to start the fire. We did things like tried to get everybody’s clothes dry, or gathered palm fronds and coconuts. We got the water; we boiled the water when we had fire. We got firewood. We had to do all the grunt work.
Tracy: You’ve got one pot and one machete, and ten people. You think how hard it is to boil water when your firewood is damp. It took a long time, and that was a serious issue for me. Forget the food – we had to hydrate. Yes, it poured rain and we’d run and suck the water out of the floor of the canoe. You get to a point where you don’t care, you just need water. You know you’re drinking contaminated water, but you can’t wait for it to boil all the way. When they would boil the water, it was never a rapid boil. (chuckling)
Kathy: We kind of took over the water duties, which was a big help.
What do you think of Chet now?
Kathy: Love him. Love Chet.
Tracy: Yup. It’s hard, because my husband was like, “Gosh Tracy, all he had to do was hang on for you guys.” But there’s two sides to the story, and you have to be there to be a part of it, and with a TV show there’s not enough time to show you everything. I’m pretty sure if everyone had seen the entire story, you would get it. Chet didn’t want to be humiliated and dragged behind Joel and have his head bashed against a pole. He could barely walk, and it was slippery and muddy. He tried, he did.
Kathy, do you regret leaving the show?
Kathy: If I said I didn’t think about it, I’d be a liar. I have thought about it, and the immediate conclusion I come to is I just mentally could not take another second. I mean, I just shut down mentally. It wasn’t a big gory infection or anything, but pretty much my brain shut down. I was thinking bad thoughts. In my mind, I would always talk to my daughter or my husband to find my inner strength, and that was gone. I got really close to Jonathan and when he left, that was like the third strike. I lost Chet, I lost Tracy. James and Parvati were very lovely to me, but there just wasn’t that closeness.
Tracy: We were two hours away from turning the game around. That was the hardest part for me. Because if Jason had gotten back to camp – if she had held on until that nightfall, then Jason would have gotten back, he would have looked at me, and I was going to signal, and we were going to take over the game, and it just snowballed. What I mean by that is that he was going to throw the challenge and we were going to vote out James, and continue to throw challenges. We figured it would probably be two or three more before the merge, and we had a plan to get the fans back together. We were going to bring Ami and Eliza with us, but it didn’t work that way.
So you were planning to throw challenges?
Tracy: There were challenges that were being thrown back there. If you rewind your Tivo, you’ll find out. From the Favorites, one of the first thing Fairplay and Yau-Man said – if we split, we throw them until we get back together again. So be it.
Which ones do you think were thrown?
Tracy: Definitely, when we were breaking the plates, we had such a lead. Look at the ones where we had such a great lead and it was always the Favorites in the back slowing it down. You don’t think about it. You’d think that after they threw one challenge, you’d make sure not to let them be in the back again, but when you have people saying they’re good at something, they’re going to tell you where to go. Ozzy pretty much dictated a lot of what we did and how we did it. I mean, we didn’t even get a chicken! There was Lulu, Gloria, and Juanita. We didn’t even eat them – they all sat there for Ozzy so that he can have a big feast.
Kathy: I knew Ozzy had the immunity idol, and how they showed it is that I just sat there – and I didn’t. Obviously, Cirie and I had found all the clues so I knew the idol was on Exile. I told Ozzy I wasn’t interested – “No, you go ahead” – because that gave me some alone time to look for it, which it did while he was gone. I just had it in my head that it was in one of the nooks or crannies above my head. I just kept looking, and when Ozzy came back, I knew he had it. Even after he held up the white tiny starfish thing, as soon as he turned away my head is up because I’m looking in the nooks and crannies for the idol. So I was a little disappointed they didn’t show that but maybe it didn’t jive with the story they wanted to tell. Ozzy’s a very nice guy. We talked that first time on Exile island, it was two days. It’s like, “Ozzy, can you go find us a clam? Because you’re Ozzy. That’s what you do.” I really adored all the Favorites – Ami was really lovely to me, Cirie was very lovely to me.
Tracy: I think Ozzy’s a nice guy and one hell of a swimmer. I look forward to seeing him at the reunion. He made a comment about me not telling the truth, and I think the game just gets the best of you out there. Certain things, you go back and rewind and I don’t know what he’s talking about. I think he’s frustrated because this is his second time around, and he wanted it even more than you can imagine. I don’t know what he’s talking about, I have no idea. I try to be as honest as I can. I think one of the things the Favorites did, and Ami got tired of it and she pulled away, but they would make fun of us. They were brutal. What the heck were they teaching us? Cirie would maintain the fire by poking it and poking it, and we would go get water, but what was there to teach us? We had a challenge where we could have gotten a fish, and the Micronesian guys could have come over and teach us how to fish, and Ozzy said verbatim: “That’s the stupidest challenge because we already know how to fish, and we’ve already won all the fishing supplies, so why would we want to win?” It was like, “Maybe I want to learn how to fish, Ozzy. Maybe I want to depend on myself to catch a fish.” He was playing the game very well, and looking out for himself, and that’s good. I’m proud of the way he played the game. No hard feelings.
Was it fair to put the Favorites, who have experience, against people who had never been out there before?
Kathy: Fair, schmair. I thought it was a brilliant idea. When they came out, I thought, “Wow, what a great idea instead of another All Stars.”
Tracy: I loved playing with them. What we failed to do was in our tribe. We are responsible for not sticking together as a tribe. That’s where we fell short. When I was with Joel and we merged with Malakal, I looked at Joel and he was taking Chet out. I said, “Joel, do you actually think that you are not now in the pecking order? You are such a threat to this tribe and Ozzy. We’ve had so many water challenges, and We’re going to have more challenges that are going to be brute strength. You’re a threat. How many water challenges can you have? And he said, “Well, Chet doesn’t want to be here, and I’ve bonded with Ozzy.” And I’m like, “What a fool!” The second he decided to do that, they were laughing at him in the cave, talking about him, Cirie and Amanda. Amanda was like, “He creeps me out.” And I was like, “He’s so done!” And I went back down and reiterated to him, and he wasn’t budging—he was taking Chet out. I was really quiet, I didn’t say anything to Erik, because I knew he’d run right to them and say something, so I just kept Erik out of the loop, and Joel, and Chet and I went with them, and took them out. It was sweet revenge.
Kathy, in your time on Exile island, looking for the idol, how hard was that going back and forth with Cirie?
Kathy: It took us a total of about six and a half hours. It was pretty tough. Cirie can keep her head above water, but she’s not a strong swimmer. She was so kind to me at a moment when I really needed it; we bonded really close; I helped her, I promised her nothing would happen to her while we were going back and forth. We just kept thinking, with the last clue, “It’s just over your head, but under a rock.” So it had to be in a nook or a cranny in the rocks. She cried when we could find it, we kind of made a promise to each other—I said, if we ever won a reward challenge, that I would send her back—that never happened. And I kind of made a promise, because I was pretty sure they would keep sending me back, that I wouldn’t help anyone else find the idol.
What was that like getting sent back to Exile island over and over and over again?
Kathy: It’s kind of like getting kicked in the butt by a mule, over and over again.
Tracy: They wanted Kathy to go because they thought she just wasn’t mentally all there, and she’s having a hard time.
What was the issue with the machete?
Kathy: They wanted to be the macho heroes, my-moment-in-the-sun heroes.
Tracy: I don’t know. We didn’t purposely isolate us from the others. We tried to fix the shelter. We sat there hours by ourselves. We needed the machete! We took the war canoe to find fruit, or basically to get away—we needed a new beach! And they said, “I hope they don’t come back,” but Joel said, “We need the canoe!” When we got back, they had taken all the wood, which all has fire ants, and put it in our shelter to keep it dry!
Kathy, at what point did you consciously make the decision, “I may have to leave this game early”?
Kathy: The start of the breaking point was Exile island with me and Amy. We just sat there in the rain like POWs against the wall. Between the rats, and I mean the two-legged rats and the four-legged, and Mother Nature…
Tracy: My husband said something to me: “If you’re going to go on this show, you need to start sleeping in the yard with no pillow and no blanket.” That’s how you prepare.
Did you shut down, or go somewhat crazy out there?
Kathy: Oh, I’ll own crazy. I’ll own the badge! Are you talking about the rumors on the internet about some crazy lady who tried to cut her fingers off? I had some bad thoughts. It was well received that I should go. Eliza said to Jeff, “If she does stay, we’ll always wonder where the machete is.”
What was Amy’s plan to get rid of Ozzy, and what went wrong?
Kathy: My jaw’s just open. I thought it was masterful. It would have been girl power!
Ozzy seems like a dominating force in everything you did in that tribe.
I think Fidel Castro is his uncle—he’s definitely a dictator. I wanted to kill a chicken, pluck it, and cook it—but he wanted to keep all three chickens ‘til it was just him, so he could have a big royal feast at the end.
When did Chet really get hurt, and how did it happen?
Kathy: It was the wrestling challenge. He got some coral in his shoe, and I noticed him limping after that every time we went for water. If you watch, he never put his heel down after that, he walked on the ball of his foot. And it’s a long way to the water hole.
How is it that the two couples are persisting in the game when they’re so out there and visible as strong pairs?
Tracy: People got foolish. They forgot that it’s a game of Survivor. That’s a beautiful question. I love that question. I’m going to put that on my wall.
Kathy: Jonathan knew they needed to go. Jonathan –
Tracy: That was the whole thing! When I bonded with Jason, after he came back from Exile island, he was going to throw the challenge to get James out. Because we had to get rid of James and we had to get rid of Ozzy. We agree.