You can prepare yourself to outwit and even outplay your opponents on Survivor, but in order to outlast them, you must also have luck on your side. No Survivor winner in history has become Sole Survivor without at least a little bit of luck (and often times, a whole hell of a lot). And nobody should know about Lady Luck and her role in the outcome more than a professional poker player, like Anna Khait, who this Wednesday on “Survivor: Kaoh Rong,” found out that a Survivor win for her just wasn’t in the cards.
If you haven’t yet seen the most recent episode. Get caught up on Episode 5 here.
You could say that the deck was stacked against her the minute Anna drew a new buff during the episode’s tribe swap. Previously, she was sitting pretty (literally) on the Beauty Tribe, smack-dab in the middle of the show’s most powerful all-female alliance along with Julia and Michele. They were looking like they were going to dictate what went down at their camp, until their male ally Caleb went down himself. Surely you can chalk up Caleb’s medical evacuation to bad luck, and his exit ultimately led to the decimation of Anna’s alliance.
Following Caleb’s exit, not only did Anna and ally Michele end up on opposing tribes, their third alliance member, Julia, was sent by herself in exile to the Brawn beach…a twist that the game introduced only because Caleb left them with an odd number of remaining contestants. With Julia and Michele stripped from her side, Anna knew that she was now in big trouble and that it was either her or Tai who was going to be targeted. She did what she could to throw Tai under the bus, but ultimately Tai endeared himself to the others more than Anna was able to. Tai did mention to Anna that he had an Idol, but Scot’s own personal motives helped Tai to decide to keep the Idol in his pocket. The result was that Anna was sacrificed, and became the first unlucky victim of the tribe shake-up.
Things could have been so much different for Anna, had a chip fell a different way here and there. I had the chance to speak with Anna today and we discussed her time in the game, if she was truly blindsided at Tribal, and just how much of her game she attributes to bad luck. Here’s the transcript:
Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: OK, so last night at one point, Neal said that he had a philosophy that people “create their own luck.” But based on what happened with you this season, I’d assume you might disagree with this statement…
Anna Khait: I do disagree (laughs). I love Neal but I do disagree with that. Luck is an outside factor. You can try to use luck to your advantage, but it’s really like the Survivor Gods or in poker it’s the Poker Gods. There’s math and there’s an analytical mindset, but then there is Lady Luck, and luck is a completely separate entity. You try to play your best game and then hopefully Lady Luck is on your side the whole time. And that’s when you can use it to your advantage. So I’d have to disagree with that. Luck is something that is a part of the game of Survivor, and unfortunately, Lady Luck wasn’t on my side. But that doesn’t make me love the game any less.
Tom Santilli: So do you ultimately chalk up your game this season to just a string of bad luck then, something that was more out of your control?
Anna: I think I was pretty fortunate because I had an awesome tribe. We really had a great time out there. They didn’t show us playing charades out there every night. We were really playing the game but we had a great time. We were lucky to have Caleb and the girls were all strong, and Julia was close with me. And we were fortunate in that we kept winning. But I think that in Survivor, there is a double-edged sword to everything that happens. In one way it’s awesome to keep winning, but on the other hand you want to get rid of some people that you maybe don’t trust. You want to have a shot at some people who you may think might stab you in the back. I think everything was great until the point of the swap. The day before I was on top of the Beauty tribe, to 24 hours later, I was on the complete bottom of the new tribe. That was the worst luck that could have happened. Plus, with the extra twist of Julia coming back in to take someone’s place, that puts a very unfair target on my head. I mean, they don’t want to have the girls reunite and be strong. So it was a complete 180 of where I was the day before, but that’s what happens in Survivor and that’s what happens in life. You just have to try your best. I fought my butt off and it just didn’t work out.
Tom Santilli: Caleb’s medical evacuation was a big deal not only for his health but it also affected your game greatly. If he doesn’t leave, there is a good chance you at least end up with one of your allies on your tribe. Tell me about the medical evacuation from your perspective and also when it was all over with, what you thought that it may have meant for your game at the time.
Anna: When the medical evacuation happened with Caleb, the first thing you are thinking about is you really, really hope that he’s OK. So you’re worried right away for his health. The game is on hold, you don’t care about the game in that moment. You just really hope he’s OK. And when Jeff told us he was getting evacuated, the helicopter coming, I was like oh my God, this is really way more serious than I thought. I saw him getting water, I thought he’d be better. But when the helicopter came in I knew how serious it was. But then it sets in like wow, we just lost Caleb. We lost a monster competitor and someone who is very loyal. And we lost our ally. So you come back and you’re like OK, I’m still in a good spot with the girls, we still have three girls and two guys, we can just pick off the two guys. But I definitely realized right away, even though it was just one person, it was an important person to lose. I mean, we had the numbers [heading into the swap] before Caleb was evacuated. Mathematically, we would have had an advantage in the game even after the swap. So I definitely think about what might have happened if Caleb would have stayed in the game, but you never know though, even with Caleb still in the game I might have drawn a buff and been on a different tribe than the rest of my alliance. So it’s just luck of the draw, and you really don’t know what could have happened.
Tom Santilli: As a player in the game, did they eventually tell you that Caleb was OK or did you have to wait until you were out of the game?
Anna: Yeah, yeah. The next Immunity Challenge we went to, Probst was like by the way, Caleb is going to be OK. Because we were really worried about that. I’m really happy he told us because it was just a weight off of our shoulders. We were all very worried for him.
Tom Santilli: You were very close with Julia and Michele. Had you gone further into the game, did you have more loyalty towards one or the other of them, or did you look at it purely as a solid three who were all equals?
Anna: Me and Julia were really, really close, from Day One. She told me she was 18 and I told her I was a pro poker player. I wasn’t going to tell a soul in that game and I didn’t until about five days in. We had a really close bond. It took like three or four days for Michele to really click with us. She was nice and all and I liked her, but I still had my insecurities about maybe she was going to come after me. So I wasn’t sure about her until like Day Four. Something happened where Nick was really trying to come after me and was trying to get Michele to realize that she was probably on the bottom of our alliance. So I was gunning for Nick because he was sort of figuring it out. But yeah after about Day Four, Michele was really close with us. I had both of their backs completely. Completely. It took some time but I saw them almost as equals. Just Julia a little bit longer. But I love both girls and really trusted them.
Tom Santilli: Once the swap happens, you were shown sort of distancing yourself from Tai and trying to get the target placed on him. Then he shows you his Idol and talks about a plan to blindside Peter. Did you ever give any thought to outing Tai at that point? Like going to the Brains to tell them that he had an Idol, to try to blindside him and flush the Idol out of the game?
Anna: Tai told me he had an Idol about a half-hour before we went to Tribal. I was certain at that point that I was going home, and he wasn’t so certain. But just before Tribal, he was certain I was going home too. He was like Anna listen, I’m pretty sure you’re going home and I’m planning on using my Idol to save you. Let’s blindside Peter and he told me and Scot, and I was like wow, I love this game! I love blindsides, I love Idols, so this was awesome I get to be a part of this, this is great. So my read on him was that he was really going to use it. From my perspective he really wanted to use it, but it looks like, from the episode, that Scot might have persuaded him not to use it, that it was too early to use it. He changed his mind, so I wasn’t a 100% sure he was going to use it, but I was pretty confident that he would. I think it would have been an interesting game and move, it might have been a bit early but it would have been an interesting game to play and watch. Did I think about outing him with the Idol? No. Because I’m already going home. It was a half-hour before and I didn’t want to make it too crazy. I was convinced he was going to use it to help me and I didn’t want to tell Peter or let Peter know about that. I didn’t want to ruin the plan. And I didn’t think they’d be splitting votes at Tribal either.
Tom Santilli: We know you are a professional poker player, so you’re good at reading people and judging situations. Watching Survivor play out on TV though, who were you most surprised by, or maybe feel that you misread or underestimated when you were out there?
Anna: Surprisingly, I feel like my reads were on. I knew that Joe was trustworthy, I knew that Aubry was playing the game. I knew that she was more strategic than people think. I watched again and I’m really not that surprised by what I had discovered when I was out there. Actually I know who surprised me a little bit, Peter. I knew he was coming after me and I knew Aubry was too, and I really got to see that though. I don’t want to say that I always have 100% perfect reads, I mean, no, I’m wrong. But I think that I was pretty good with my reads out there. I kept telling the girls that I thought Tai had an Idol and they didn’t believe me. But I was pretty good with most of my reads. But I think Peter may have surprised me the most, a little bit.
Tom Santilli: I watched your day-after interview on CBS.com (video above), and in it you talked about all the preparation you did for this season: You watched a ton of Survivor, you read books, you prepared in other ways. Now having played the game, in what way do you feel that this pre-game preparation helped you? A lot of people who want to play Survivor spend a lot of time preparing…what advice would you give as to what worked and didn’t work for you?
Anna: That’s a good question. I definitely think that it’s really helpful to prepare yourself before you go out there. I mean I camp and hike and backpack and stuff, but I had to learn how to make a fire, I never knew how to make a fire before I went out there. I think that’s very important to learn. I think that it’s good to re-watch Survivor and think about the moves that you would have made, but at the same time, you can’t really just focus on what has happened before. It’s always different and there are always different people and you always have to be able to adjust. So you have to be able to watch it and realize that my situation is going to be different. Just make sure when you go out there, to be aware and be ready to adjust. You have to have somewhat of a game-plan, but it’s also a mistake to have a game-plan going in because things are going to change in the moment, and you have to be aware and pay attention. So keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. I would say that if I were to come back again, I think that I would just learn how to make fire again, because it’s been a while now (laughs). But yeah, that’s pretty much it, but I’d be ready to go back again for sure.
Be sure to join me next Wednesday for another episode preview, full recap and instant analysis, and of course, the next exit interview next Thursday.
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