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Five players down, only three voted out through the traditional process, and only one person on the right side of two of those votes: Elizabeth Olson, plucked straight out of a Western and onto the beaches of CBS’ Survivor.
Among the most dynamic players through four episodes of Survivor: David vs. Goliath thus far, Elizabeth has emerged as one of the key castaways to watch this season. She was the person who launched the vote against Jessica Peet into action, thanks to relationships built with fellow underdogs Lyrsa Torres, Gabby Pascuzzi, Christian Hubicki and Nick Wilson. After a tribe swap left the Davids at a numbers disadvantage on all three tribes, Elizabeth found herself staring down the barrel of an early elimination — only for the work she put into building a relationship with Goliath’s resident surfer Alec Merlino to pay off, resulting in the ousting of Natalia Azoqa.
With all of that said, Elizabeth joins The Hollywood Reporter this week to offer her view on the first 12 days as she lived them. How did the vote against Jessica come together, and more recently, the shocking vote against Natalia? Read on, as Elizabeth digs into both of those votes and everything in between.
How did the weather impact the first few days of the season?
The first days on David beach were terrible. I can’t explain to anyone how awful the rain was. The nights felt like they were 100 hours long. But the weather played a crucial role in the bonding and human connection that we experienced. It was truly beautiful to witness. Vulnerability and authentic connections in a ruthless game of singular survival. It was so human, and so refreshing. In those long nights, I glimpsed clearly that humans are good and compassionate, and we have way more in common than we see in day to day life. The struggle just stripped the pretense away.
You made some key relationships with unlikely allies in your first few days of the game. Can you speak to your approach in terms of the people you wanted to play with?
Going into the game I had some grand ideas — grand, but kind of crazy. Who inspired my gameplay? When Jesus assembled his team of closest allies, he chose 12 of the roughest and strangest group of guys you could assemble. Most of his disciples would have been misfits, and I have always found that misfits make the best friends, because they are loyal, and people that push the boundaries and are free to be themselves have nothing to hide. Why not play like Jesus played? I wanted to gather the ones on the outskirts, the ones not in the center of it all, and it really played out for me in the beginning being on a tribe themed around underdogs and outsiders. I was then able to rally a shift in power to the misfits from the David tribe. Unlikely group, unlikely alliance, but give me the unlikely any day!
Talk us through your first vote of the season, in which you targeted Jessica after she and others tried to target one of your closest allies, Lyrsa.
I have this intense desire as an older sibling of eight kids, and now a mother of three kids, to protect. It goes against my grain to do nothing. Try your best to protect your own. I am genuinely loyal, and that was my strategy: Be likeable and play very loyal. Attempting to save my closest ally proved my loyalty, or at least proved it to those that were on my side. Besides all that strategic crap, I just knew that I had to try to save Lyrsa. I didn’t want to regret that later on.
After losing immunity, it was awkward, all of us huddling around the shelter. I kept telling Gabby that she needed to come to the beach with me, but she was extremely apprehensive to leave. I could clearly see the anxiety on her face, and I wanted to get inside her brain. Why was she anxious? I really didn’t know. She had numbers on her side, and she knew more of what was actually happening. It seemed clear to me that Jessica was calling the shots. She was the shaker and mover. Carl was a huge influence too, but Jessica had sway. Jessica had Carl and Bi in her back pocket. Gabby appeared to be pretty close with Jessica and Bi, so her anxiety was a crack that I needed to exploit.
Gabby finally made her way to the beach and I pounced like a hungry lion that just had a meal plop in her lap. Gabby was Lyrsa’s saving grace. Gabby was feeling very insecure in her closest group. And fear is the biggest reason someone will flip. I believe I took that fear and utilized it to quickly shift the target to Jessica. I presented it logically to Gabby first, then Christian. And I purposefully wanted Christian to sway Nick. I wanted to have more loose alliances and secret alliances than what was on the surface. Plus, ‘buy-in’ helps people feel secure. No one likes to be unimportant.
Going to Tribal, I was pretty confident that the switch had been made, and that Jessica was going home. I never in a million years thought that I could go to Tribal Council that confident out the gate. But I had a pretty solid group of people that I shockingly felt like I could trust — or at least trust to vote out Jessica.
Next up: the tribe swap, four days after Jessica goes home…
When the David tribe woke up on the morning of day 10, we had a group meeting. We had talked about staying true to the Davids no matter what [in the event of a swap], even if we were to suffer losses between now and the merge. Our goal was to stay as strong as possible between now and then and reconvene with however many at the merge with hopefully a few new allies from across the ocean. We all agreed that the winner had to be a David and it was up to us to stay strong. I had heard no talk about an idol being found from our beach so I decided we should do a group search because the last thing we needed was for a Goliath to come to our beach and find an idol.
When I saw that the Davids were outnumbered on each of the three tribes, I was pissed and I was scared. I was pretty confident in my tribe’s ability to win, or at least not lose, [but] I was likely in the most vulnerable position on Vuku again simply because I am a female from the minority number.
The only other David on your tribe, at least at the start: Davie.
Lovely Davie. We both were adventure-loving and always out and about. He would bring worms and lizards and stuff — you know, octopus, crabs and limpets — back to camp. I would always eat something stupid with Davie. Once he brought back the giant grubs that Gervase couldn’t swallow during a challenge way back in season one. Evidently those grubs grow wild in Fiji, and they are edible! Davie and I were like hunting buddies, and I tried to talk strategy with him, but he never seemed to give me information and he was very cautious when he did. But I really liked the guy and was very hopeful that we could work together.
In the episode, it appears you and Kara hit it off as well.
I really liked Kara. She just seemed so genuine. She was my first hopeful target to infiltrate and build a relationship and connection with from the new Vuku tribe. I had no idea that she shared in my faith, or that she had horses when she was younger. It was very fortuitous that we had so much in common. And I really liked her. But I felt like she was yanking my chain. I didn’t feel like she actually wanted to work with me. She wasn’t feeding me information. She was sucking me for all the info she could get. I gave but didn’t get in return, which is to be a little expected when you are on the outs and outnumbered. I actually found it exciting to be with Natalia, too. She is extremely intelligent and direct. You never have to wonder what she is thinking, and I appreciated that.
You get to the first immunity challenge of the post-swap era, and it doesn’t go your way…
When the challenge came up, I felt like I was in a very bad position. It is so hard to play smart in this game. The competitive side wanted to take charge in the challenge and be the caller. I am really good at breaking down information and consolidating it into the most concise wording to get the job done in the most efficient way possible. That’s what I do in the restaurant industry — I work as the expediter. But I am not super great at puzzles. What kind of puzzle would I have to lead my tribe through? And already having numbers against me, I couldn’t afford to be the cause of a loss. So I didn’t fight to be the caller, even though I knew I was the best suited for that particular challenge. We shockingly lost. I immediately started freaking out inside. Was this to be my last day in the game? Statistically, my chances were not good. I was thinking, “Dear Jesus, help me lasso the best bronc to get me through this Tribal!”
How did the afternoon play out, as you remember it?
After we lost the immunity challenge, I was desperate. I was hopeful that Davie or I could sway a Goliath. But the hope was minimal. I had zero percent chance with Natalia. I felt like I had a five percent chance swaying Kara. I had no idea what my chances were of swaying Alec, so I approached him at the beach. He started off saying that he felt good vibes with me and really wanted to work with me. That opened the door for me. Of course, I played my cards of why it would benefit him. I knew he was considering it, too, because he said why he shouldn’t do it. He was being authentic and real back with me. It would be dangerous for him to flip. We went back and forth. I wanted to work with the best and strongest and most deserving in the game. I wasn’t sure if he would just vote out Davie instead of me or if he would consider voting out Natalia with an all-in vote, so of course I asked for the bigger ask first … but I also said that I would vote for anybody he wanted.
The feeling leaving for Tribal was very uneasy. I was certain that my work was not done, and that I was in real danger of getting my torch snuffed that very night. My most probable hope was that it was Davie going home instead of me. I didn’t realize until watching it that Natalia’s adamance about voting me out over Davie was perhaps the final straw for Alec. Watching the episode, it appeared to me that Alec working with me at all was only an option if Natalia was gone. My best bet was to push back at Tribal and fight with logic. Don’t wait until it’s too late! Act while you still can. Make big moves and build a résumé while you still can.
Out of nowhere, Alec comes and whispers in my ear: “You’ve got to trust me, Elizabeth. Trust me! Vote Natalia!” I wasn’t sure if he was trying to trick me to not vote for Davie and then somehow I would go home instead of Davie … I was genuinely confused. But I had to pretend that everything was fine, and try to give Alec confidence that I was trusting him and now console Natalia, who naturally freaked out. Eventually when I walked up the stairs to vote, I stood for a while trying to think of any other reason Alec would tell me to write down Natalia’s name. It only made sense if he was actually voting for her, too. It was shocking. I still didn’t believe it until Jeff [Probst] read the votes. It was the most improbable outcome, and the most glorious wind in my sails from the Survivor gods to keep me afloat.
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