If you’re like me, easily entertained but not a [air quote] deep thinker [/air quote] when it comes to television entertainment – I mean, come on, isn’t that why we watch reality television in the first place, for cheesy entertainment? – your head was spinning from the Machiavellian voting plans that would take a logistics expert with a white board and five different colored pens to map out thoroughly. If Person A comes back with Idol B and awards it to Person C then vote for Person D but if Person C really turns out to be Person B then take it back, split the vote sideways and flap your arms like a chicken. I couldn’t keep it straight, and without even a pen to write a cheat sheet on your hand, I don’t know how the people in Mikey B.’s alliance were going to pass the midterms that week.
But what surprised Mary Sartain the most were the machinations that were taking place behind her back. “I had an idea that people were talking, but I didn’t know it was about me,” she says. “I was expecting it to be Tracy. It should have been Chet, but my alliance had said they wanted to vote Tracy out.”
Kathy was the first name on everyone’s wish list…but she was untouchable, thanks to a little help from Yau-Man in the first few minutes of the game. “Kathy had the immunity idol so we couldn’t vote for her – that would have been an easy first out,” she laments. But there was as clear a division in the tribe as we were led to believe on the edited show. “We wanted to eliminate the three people who had alienated themselves – Tracy, Chet and Kathy. Chet had sabotaged us in the challenge when he said he was a great swimmer and we realized he couldn’t swim at all. Tracy just tagged along with the other two, and she didn’t really do a lot of work. She’s a builder, and she should have helped us build our shelter.” Mary adds that she herself did a lot of work on the shelter, and wishes she had been shown on the edited program a little more to prove she was a hard worker around the camp, but the first episode was mostly about the Favorites with their various smarmy showmances. “I just wish they would have gotten to know the Fans a little better by showing us a little more.”
In Survivor lore, it’s not wise to step up as a bossy-pants the first few days in your new tribe – but it’s also not wise to look like the bossy-pants’s girlfriend, you know? Since Mary was characterized as a “fan” of the show, she would have a little more know-how than the average Joe on how to fit in with your tribe. “There wasn’t a whole lot of me and Mikey B. escaping into the woods,” she says defensively, saying people perceived them as hooking up rather than being partners. “I also had alliances with Natalie and Alexis, and with Jason. Jason remained loyal to me.”
But while Mary appeared to be in a flirtatious relationship with Mikey B., it was a real alliance, not a budding showmance. “I didn’t find anyone too overly attractive on the island,” she says. She and Mikey B. agreed early in the game to never write each other’s name down in Tribal Council – but she says she also had similar agreements with others. Joel was flirting with Alexis, Mikey B was flirting with her, but she saw that as the men trying to win their favor.
How far would that flirtation have gone? She doesn’t know, and has good reasons for not speculating: she recently became engaged to another Survivor alumnus, Pearl Islands’ Ryan Opray. “If I didn’t get the boot early on, it could have never happened. I met him through another contestant on the show who was also booted off early; he introduced us, and now we’re engaged!” Fans of spoilers will note that she let slip that another early boot will be MALE! Okay, I know that wasn’t much of a spoiler but we can pick that apart as much as we like.
When asked what she thought of her co-alliance partner – or more bluntly, what the heck was Mikey B. thinking with the elaborate plans – Mary thinks her time spent with Mikey B. learning what to do in a variety of Tribal Council situations triggered a simple emotional reaction amongst the others. “I don’t think it would have been played up so much as Mikey having control over the tribe if Joel didn’t get so jealous of that,” she says. From her point of view, Mikey B.’s Svengali-like sway over the younger women in the tribe were a threat to Joel. But she also admits that Mikey B. “overstrategized, and it backfired.”
The mastermind behind her eviction was Joel, who she describes as “a little crazy” and “completely paranoid.” She is still resentful of the way it played out. “Mikey B. and I wanted nothing more than for the Fans to go as far as possible, and keeping the best, most deserving people in the game.” She names Kathy and Chet as the two least deserving Survivors, saying they sat “on the sidelines watching things happen.” She regrets not voting for Chet, but she was following the dictates of her alliance. “My vote would have made it a tie, and Chet would have gone home that night.” Tribal Council was a complete shock. “I didn’t expect more than maybe one vote.”
But despite the split vote, she blames Joel. “There wasn’t a method to his madness. He wasn’t consistent. Isn’t it interesting that he voted for Tracy? I don’t know what his strategy was, maybe he wanted to fool Mikey B., but it doesn’t matter by that point. I’m pretty sure he did that to throw off Mikey B., but I’m pretty sure he was thrown off by that time. ”
As a fan of the show – and she clarifies that she “appreciates the purity of the show” and does not participate in internet message boards, boo hiss! – her strategy going into the game was to “take an inventory of people’s personalities, and align myself with two strong players – not necessarily physically, but people who knew the game well – and hopefully go in with an alliance of five strong people with different things to offer in the game.”
In practice, it turned out her story was as much about who she didn’t get along with as it was about who she did. But to hear her tell it, it wouldn’t have happened any other way. “There really shouldn’t have been any division [between the younger and older members of the tribe], but from the very beginning, they alienated themselves. I think Kathy was feeling a little uncomfortable and she didn’t know how to deal with that. She took Chet and Tracy on, and basically they alienated themselves. They built their shelter with capacity for three,” she points out. “If we would have gone in to that second challenge as a unified team, I think we would have gone farther.”
She describes Kathy as lacking an “edit button – viewers just got a tidbit.” At one point, Kathy’s response to Chet being targeted (it sounds like he was an obvious target after his poor swimming in the immunity challenge) was to threaten to step down in the game so that Chet wouldn’t be voted out. “She either just really wanted to exit or start some drama in our camp.”
Being a Survivor is no picnic, what with the constant rain, poorly built shelters, and lack of dry clothing – but it’s especially bad when your shelter turns out to be a rats’ nest, literally. “We basically got picked at by rats. We infiltrated a rats home in our cave, and they wouldn’t leave us alone.” They were in the tropics during the rainy season, and had to resort to a cave rather than a shelter under the trees. “We weren’t a very clean bunch. It was raining all the time, our clothes never got a chance to dry and some people had some mold issues going on.” Let’s hope the Fans tribe got all their shots on their return home – and a long, hot shower. Rats, ugh!