8:13am PT by Josh Wigler
'Survivor' Season 35: Ali Elliott Reveals the Most Painful Lie of the Game
Welcome to The Hollywood Reporter's Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers regular season coverage! Every week, we're bringing you exit interviews with the latest person voted out, recaps from THR's very own Dan Fienberg and weekly check-ins with executive producer and host Jeff Probst. Bookmark our season 35 one-stop shop to make sure you don't miss out on any of it.
Warning: spoilers ahead for season 35, episode six.
And then there were three.
Three Hustlers and three swapped Soko remain in the game following the elimination of Ali Elliott, the Los Angeles celebrity assistant who found herself on the wrong side of last week's vote against Roark Luskin. Originally aligned with turtlenecked bellhop Ryan Ulrich, the damage between Ali and the self-described "weasel" was too severe to repair following a second consecutive visit to Tribal Council, in which Ryan sided with the Heroes tribe's Chrissy Hofbeck to send Ali packing over JP Hilsabeck, and things like that.
It's an early elimination for a player with a lot of promise, seen in the way Ali socially handled her fellow tribe mates during the opening days on Hustlers beach. One imagines Ali's time on the pre-jury trip was especially memorable, given that her former fellow Hustler as well as former fellow classmate Patrick Bolton was on that trip as well. If it's any consolation, in our weekly column, host Jeff Probst made it clear he hopes to see Ali play Survivor again some day — and one can only imagine she's up for the task.
Read on for our full chat with Ali, covering those painful final days of the game, her view of the season from Hustlers beach, her side of the Patrick story and more.
I know. (Laughs.) I'm sorry.
What was it like watching the episode play out?
I was very calm at the beginning, and then I had no idea I would start crying once I saw myself crying. There were certain things I said that would trigger my emotions. It was hard at points. Now I've watched it back again, and when I watched it the second time, it was fine. It was fun to watch!
Your final few days in the game seemed really difficult for you.
Yeah. I knew I was at the bottom after Roark, obviously. I was trying to find any crack and any crevice I could squeeze through and get myself back up, because I knew the merge was literally one vote away. Whether it was killing myself to try to win that last immunity challenge, or try to build these relationships back up anyway that I could … it was tough. Watching it back, I could recall the hurt I was feeling in that moment.
What happened once you came back from the Tribal where Roark went home?
The funny thing is, I thought about it. Of course I've watched the show millions of times. I know you're supposed to come back and be calm and say, "I got got." That was the plan. I put my stuff down and [calmly] said, "Oh, Ryan! What was that all about?" He starts to deflect. I didn't think I needed to take him to the side. He did it in front of these people. Whatever you did, you can now say it in front of these people. They saw you vote the way you voted. I would like to hear, and I would like them to hear as well, exactly what you were thinking. When I approached him with that, he got so mad, and he got mad quick. It made me uncomfortable, how upset he was. Looking back now, in hindsight, it makes sense: he had no real reason [to vote Roark] aside from the super idol [he had given to Chrissy], except to say, "You were too close to Roark." And I was like, "Ryan! I knew this girl for four days! We were together for nine before that! I had no inclination you were unhappy with the decision we made." That's where I was hurt.
Knowing what you know now, do you think Ryan was right or wrong to withhold that he was voting for Roark?
I think I would have been receptive to it. At that point, I wouldn't have had the votes. It wouldn't make sense for me to stick with this girl I barely knew for four days if Ryan wanted to do something else. At that point, I would have just had to bite the bullet and say, "OK, Ryan. We're going with your plan." He could have even told me about his super idol. If he had told me about it, I would have looked at Ryan as my person in the game. He trusts me enough to tell me that! He could have gone forward with me and Chrissy, and he would have been even better set up for the future. I didn't understand why he decided to pick JP over me in that situation.
What was your relationship with Ryan like, heading into the swap?
At Yawa, we got close pretty quick. They didn't show it as much, but we had a very good relationship. We were almost like brother and sister out there. We would laugh and joke around and it would seem like we were on the same page. When it came to the Simone vote, I don't think any one person had to say Simone's name first. It was an understanding. Even when it came to Patrick, because of my pre-established relationship with Patrick, I was never the one to say his name first. But like I said in pregame, as long as it's not me … and at that moment in the game, I had built better relationships with people that were more even-keeled than Patrick, and I can further my game with those people. Ryan was one of those people, and so was Devon, and I knew bringing Lauren in could further my game as well. We're all very social people and we all got along together well. I knew once we hit the merge, we would all come back to each other very easily.
How did you feel about your chances once you saw yourself on the new Soko tribe?
I felt OK. At least I still have someone I trust. I still have Ryan. I trust my social game. I know Roark is around my age. She's someone I can get along with. I knew going forward, there would only be about three Tribals before we hit the merge. In my head, logically I'm thinking I have no idea about Ryan and Chrissy's relationship. Why would I want to go two to two against [the Heroes] and get rid of a Healer, even though there are six of them in the game? It did not make sense to me. Roark was the swing vote. We have two and they have two. We won the first immunity challenge, and I'm looking at the situation and going, "Wow, we made it. There's only two more challenges. These people are expendable. We get rid of JP, we get rid of Chrissy. I'm happy to lose both." Still to this day, if I played again, I would play it the same way. I have no idea about this super idol. How could I? And people wonder, "What about going into the merge with six Healers?" Well, I trust my social game. Even hearing from Roark, she gave up a lot of information on the cracks within the Healers. I trust that I could squeeze into those cracks and build those relationships. You watch the show, you know when you hit the merge you need a lot of numbers. Surely I could have been seven or eight [in a group], but that's better than 10 or 12.
But do you think Ryan recognized that within you — that you were the person who could negotiate that social situation, which made you more of a threat to bring along than JP?
Of course. After the Roark vote, and after not telling me about the Roark vote? I don't think there was a way I could have survived. Unless I found an idol on the island. And I looked! I looked every chance that I had. I looked in the pizza [we won in the reward challenge], I looked under the pizza …
How was the pizza?
I mean, you're starving out there, so it definitely did the job. I guess I can say this now, though when you mention "poo" you're through — but it did run right through me. (Laughs.) That's because I decided to eat a whole pizza out there, sitting there the whole time going, "I know my mother's told me not to eat a whole pizza!" We had 10 pizzas and we had four people, so … (Laughs.)
We need to talk about Patrick. Your pregame thoughts on the matter are well-documented. What was going through your mind once you saw you were on the same tribe together?
As with any situation, you just have to play it out. Seeing Patrick on the boat, I was at least happy that he was on my tribe. I can watch him. I can see and hear what he says, and we can go from there. Once we got to the island, we both looked at each other, and they show that moment — which still doesn't make any sense — where we go, "I got you, you got me, it's done." When we got out there, he told people he went to school at Auburn. I had to lie: "I went to community college." I didn't want to say a place that was a university, because people can be from anywhere, and you don't know these people! So I went as small as possible, to make sure nobody knew I didn't actually go there.
The first few days were fine with Patrick, but his antics quickly rose. He was all over the beach. You saw it. The crabs! He was just being Patrick, which is fine and it's fun, but it's not how you play Survivor. I love Patrick to death. He's a good guy and he has a kind heart. I know he's a great person. But to be the person I have to play a game for a million dollars with? He was not that person. He would not be my first choice, or maybe even my tenth choice. But we do have a great relationship, and so I felt bad when his name first started coming up. I wanted to tell him, because maybe we could have found a way around this — but then Patrick would have blown stuff up. Who knows? I could have gone home in the aftermath of that.
I do feel bad about the whole situation, but it's just unfortunate that he was put in that situation even, that we had to play this game together. And I hate that people say the only reason Simone [went home first from the Hustlers] was because Patrick and I had this bond. No, Simone was always the first vote. She was a bit on the outside from the get-go. She was adapting, and of course not everyone is used to being out there and having to survive, but she was always going to be first. Surprisingly, we didn't know Patrick was going to be next, but it just happened that way. I wish it could have been different. I still love the kid to death.
How awkward was it when you arrived at Ponderosa and Patrick was there waiting for you?
He was still fuming at first. (Laughs.) Even me, being voted out, I had a good attitude about it. Whatever is meant to be will be. I know it's God's will for me to go either to the end or to get voted out second — whatever. Going into it, I knew whatever was supposed to happen was going to happen. I get back to Ponderosa, and he was just so mad! I thought it was funny. I knew he didn't know the game as well as I did, and he was talking about it like life was over. Dude, let's move on. We have great days to come! It was fun while it lasted.
Jumping back to Soko, what was it like to play with Chrissy?
It was interesting to play with Chrissy. I really liked her from the get-go. When we started talking strategy, maybe I backed off a little bit. I felt she was very straightforward: "This is the vote, this is how it needs to be done." I thought anything I said she would let it go in one ear and out the other. Chrissy had her own game and didn't want to hear about anyone else's. That kind of threw me in the beginning. You're not willing to bounce ideas, or say what about this and what about that? After Roark went home, we actually got pretty close. That's the reason why I had some hope. If I don't find this idol, maybe there's a possibility they'll understand I'm stronger to bring in socially to the other side, because I don't think Chrissy was that strong socially. We related well, but up to that point, I had to relate to her. I had to say yes, Chrissy; of course, Chrissy; because I really want your vote, Chrissy.
After the vote, I was kind of hurt. To explain my comment about liars [in Ali's final words], it's because … look, I understand lying is a part of the game. I've lied, people lie, it happens. But the one reason why I felt maybe I had some hope is because Chrissy had told me … we had talked about family, friends, religion, everything. You're out there, bored. I told her my family visit would be my sister. She said hers would be her husband. She said to me at one point: "We are so good, Ali. You don't need to worry about anything." I was like, "OK, you're just trying to keep me calm and keep me from finding this idol." And then she said: "I think we're so set up on the other side that I can't wait to see you run and jump into your sister's arms." For something like that? For me being as close as I am with my sister? It was almost like, "Wow. Why would someone lie about this? Maybe I am squeezing through here." Even to go home after that … that's why you see in my exit speech that I'm still very heated. It hurt in the moment. Looking back, I know Chrissy is playing the game. We all understand that. I just hope it benefits her. But I still feel like even though I spent so much time with her, I still don't feel like I really know her — what was real and what wasn't.
How were you feeling about the other two Hustlers in the game, Lauren and Devon, as you were on your way out?
Lauren's my new winner pick! We had a great relationship at Yawa. We became very close. We look like we're from two very different parts of the world, but I loved her. She's hilarious. She's so straightforward. She says exactly what she thinks. I was hoping to get to the merge, because I knew I could get back to Lauren and we would be tight again. She trusted me completely with the Patrick vote. I really hope she can keep going out there and win it all. And Devon, we were also very close. He's a lot smarter than he comes across. That's a strategy. People don't think Devon's there because of his surfer attitude and how chill and low-key he is, but Devon's definitely smart. I think he can go a long way.
In our weekly chat, Jeff Probst told me he hopes to see you back on Survivor. I have to assume you would come back in a second.
Oh my gosh, if they called me back the day I got back? Yeah, I'm going. This experience was … I guess you call it "once in a lifetime," but if I can make that twice in a lifetime? Because it was the most amazing experience ever. I want to thank Survivor for all of it. Even though it didn't end the way I wanted it to, it was the most fun I've ever had in my entire life. My family are all die-hard fans. My sister has tried out twice, my mother's tried out, and the whole story with my uncle … they are overjoyed with how I was able to keep being myself out there. Sometimes, you lose yourself out there. I was happy to play this game completely as myself. I didn't have to lie about who I am. I loved every moment.
Click through the slideshow below for Ali's final words, from before she played the game.
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