November 22, 2013 8:00am PT by Kimberly Nordyke
'Survivor: Blood vs. Water': Aras Baskauskas on Getting Blindsided and His Biggest Regret
Aras Baskauskas isn't taking home the $1 million prize a second time after all.
The Survivor: Panama -- Exile Island champion was seemingly running the show at one point this season, only to get blindsided by his alliance, sent to Redemption Island and fall in a duel to his brother Vytas Baskauskas and fellow former winner Tina Wesson.
On Thursday, the 31-year-old musician from Santa Monica spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about his second time on the island.
How do you feel about your performance in the game? Are you satisfied you made it to the jury at least?
I had a blast. It was great. Survivor is an amazingly nasty, incredible, fun, challenging game, and the fact that I got to play twice is wonderful. Obviously, I'd like to win twice, but I had a great time the whole time.
Honestly, I'm surprised it took everyone so long to get you out, considering you were a former winner -- and champions always have targets on their back from day one. The second time Tina played, she was voted out right away.
Fortunately, there wasn't a big push from the other castaways to knock out the winners early, and I think that obviously explains why we didn't get targeted immediately. It would be kind of silly, if you're not taking the winner out right away, it would be silly to take me out because I'm relatively good at challenges and stuff for the tribe. It would have weakened the tribe substantially if they would have taken me out before the merge. Obviously, at merge time I became a target, and Tina was targeted directly after Vytas and I. She wasn't as big of a threat socially as I was -- without tooting my own horn too much, I had a lot of really good relationship on the island. But why I was targeted first, Tyson pulled a big coup and knocked me out first. If Vytas had gone out before me, I would have maneuvered and worked my way out of [getting voted out]. But that didn't happen because I went first.
It always seems like whenever someone gets too confident, they're the next to go. Did you have any idea you were going to be voted out that night?
I did have a bit of an inkling. I had a stomach issue that day, and I remember telling medical I was either going to be blindsided or I had a virus -- I didn't have a virus. I did feel comfortable largely because of my relationship with Gervase. We had been friendly for years before we played the game together, and we had a commitment to stay with each other to the end. They didn't really tell that in the [show] narrative; they didn't explain my line of thinking. But I was guilty by association. Vytas is more cocky, and it was easy to think I was the one walking around saying, "I own this beach." But it didn't seem that way out there. I knew my place in the tribe was threatened.
Tyson also tried to make you look like kind of the bad guy after the tribe shake-up. Were you aware of what he was doing at the time?
I was obviously present for some of those conversations. Gervase, myself and Tyson had a great friendship. We joked around a lot. The three of us were tight, and I had no reason to think that Tyson was as diabolical as he was. He took a great risk targeting me as well. My blindside was truly a blindside.
What do you wish you'd done differently?
I wish I would have won, first and foremost. I also probably should have done a better job [talking with] Gervase. When we merged, we should have stuck with the families; the six of us should have bonded and come together. That was the biggest missed opportunity of the season. We would have had six to their five; it made perfect sense.
There was a lot of talk about your and Vytas' relationship, and Jeff Probst also queried you about it after you were eliminated at the duel. Where do you two stand now?
We're great. We live a block away from each other. I see Vytas almost every day. I love him, and this was a great experience to have together.
Had you and Vytas talked about what would happen if you had to vote one another out?
We were playing a game that allowed us to make it all the way to the end together. I personally disagree with Ciera's logic that her mom had to go. I think there would have been other ways that allowed her to stay. I certainly think it's probably better to keep as many family members in the game as long as possible. There is no guarantee that just because her mom is gone, she's going to make it to the final three.
Does he blame you for his getting voted out? Do you blame him for your ouster?
No, I don't blame Vytas. I am the sole author of my own ouster. I think if you asked Vytas, he would tell you [the same thing]. Obviously, it's more complex when there are two people playing, there are more challenges. You could argue that Marissa [who was in Vytas' original tribe] getting voted out had a direct impact on Gervase backstabbing me later in the game; but I don't blame Vytas for anything that happened to me.
What do you make of Monica's decision to burn the hidden immunity idol clues early on? Was there any discussion at camp about that before or after?
That was something that came out at tribal council. I think Vytas said to Brad, "Tell her to burn it," and so Brad yells, "Burn it." I thought it was a smart thing to do. I certainly wouldn't want the clue at that point in the game because it makes you such a target. I didn't need any more of a target on my back. It was very much a spur-of-the-moment decision.
As you were leaving, you told everyone you had no hard feelings. Were you able to cast your final vote with an open mind?
Obviously, I didn't want to lose. But once I lost, I was looking forward to being on the jury. I was determined to make sure I was not a bitter jury member, and hopefully anyone [voted out] after me, I could encourage to make a positive vote.
Would you play Survivor again if asked?
It depends on when you asked me. I have so many wonderful things happening in my life: I got engaged [and am expecting a baby], my music project Odd Us is really going well. We played at the Troubadour [in Los Angeles] and opened for Edward Sharpe. So if they asked me, hopefully it would be at a time where it would work without me asking away from other pursuits in my life.
Would you want to play Survivor with Vytas or any other loved one again?
I'd much rather play by myself. It simplifies the game. Having a family member out there makes it more complex and harder to get control of the game.