Roark Luskin (‘Survivor’ 35) exit interview: Chrissy Hofbeck and I were ‘oil and water’ [PODCAST]

Thursday night on CBS, 27-year-old social worker Roark Luskin was #blindsided on “Survivor” after fellow Soko tribe member Ryan Ulrich decided to oust her instead of Chrissy Hofbeck. (Read our “Survivor” 35 Episode 5 recap.) After last week’s tribe switch, former Healer Roark found herself alone on a team of two Heroes (JP Hilsabeck and Chrissy Hofbeck) and two Hustlers (Ryan and Ali Elliott). Despite being outnumbered, Roark doesn’t necessarily blame the tribe switch on her elimination.

We recently spoke with the Santa Monica, CA native and self-described superfan about that dramatic tribal council, why she believes her and Chrissy were like “oil and water,” and whether she thinks Ryan made the right decision in flipping on her. Listen to Roark Luskin’s podcast interview above, or read the transcript version below.

Gold Derby: You got #blindsided on last night’s Survivor episode. At the end of the day, it looks like you’re sitting here today because Ryan chose to keep Chrissy over you. What was going through your mind when Jeff was reading the votes and at one point it’s tied, two to two?

Roark Luskin: Honestly, the first time I see my name, I know. Because there was no reason for it to show up beyond me going home. So when Jeff [Probst] reveals the first Roark I’m just like, “Oh okay. You can just excuse me now. We don’t need to keep reading.”

GD: Do you think Ryan made the right decision for his game? Is Chrissy someone that could help him make it farther than, say, you could have helped him?

RL: No, I totally think he made the right decision. I completely understand and respect his move. He had built trust with Chrissy through that Super Idol in Day 1/Day 3. And I had no idea about it, Ali had no idea about it, and I landed on that swap mat thinking that I could fulfill the sort of Survivor trope of being the one person swinging between the two sets of two, and unfortunately I did not realize that there was this other relationship that would take primacy over all of that and just completely… not to use a tried-and-true phrase but say, changed the game. I think what happened with Ryan is that he watched Ali and I bond really closely. There’s a secret scene of Ali describing our relationship and I think that captures it really well, and I think Ryan started feeling afraid that he had lost Ali. He was like, “Roark and Ali love each other too much and Chrissy still loves me,” and so his choice was really… it was a choice between who to vote out of me and Chrissy but it was a choice in his own alignment between Ali and Chrissy.

GD: A lot was made of the fact that Chrissy only came to you on that last day because she needed you. Were strategy talks something that were just kept to a minimum? I mean, this was a small tribe of only five people.

RL: I’m of the belief that on Survivor social is strategy. I think everything pretty much comes down to social game and so my idea was to really just try and bond with people before having to have a strategy talk. What happened with Chrissy is that she landed on our swap beach and let it be known that it was my time. She really wanted me out from jump. And I understand why, strategically. They had one of a six-man squad captive. Totally understand why you wanna eliminate that person. I get it. That said, she was so locked in on that, that that meant that any strategy talk that we have had in those four, five days where I was on swapped Soko would have been fake. Just as fake as that conversation we had on that log was where she had no intention of fulfilling that plan and I had no intention of fulfilling that plan that she and I discussed and it just would’ve been more of that. So really there’s no point in us having a strategy talk before then.

We get into it at Tribal, but I don’t know what either of us… neither of us would’ve really gained anything by talking strategy with each other earlier because I believe that even though… it’s not exactly a regret but something I could’ve done to just see how it would work out would be to have a sit-down with Chrissy and lay our cards on the table because before the Immunity Challenge she came up to me and Ali and said, “I know you’re voting for me. I know you’re coming for me.” And so something I could’ve done was sit on that log with her and say “Hey. I know you’re coming for me, you know we’re coming for you. Can’t we put that aside and try to work together for just one vote and see what happens?” I don’t think the outcome’s any different. I don’t think there was a bridge to be built between myself and Chrissy. I think she and I just happened to be oil and water, but that’s something that I think about that maybe could’ve been different, but I don’t think it would’ve changed anything.

GD: In your parting words you said you were not going to blame your elimination on the tribe switch. Why is that? Because a case could be made that if there was no tribe switch you would still be in this game.

RL: No, you’re absolutely right. I very much changed my opinion since coming home and learning the full picture of everything, especially with that advantage relationship, I was incredibly subtly swap-screwed in a way that has really never happened before. That relationship really made Ryan the swing, it eliminated my opportunity to be the swing, frankly, and I don’t think that there is any… excluding a genuine Hidden Immunity Idol, a real one, there’s no way I’m getting out of swapped Soko.

GD: Yeah it was a tough position, especially because you didn’t know what was going on between Ryan and Chrissy’s special bond, and if you had known that is there anything you could’ve done to maybe join those two and be like “Hey let’s get out Ali or let’s get out JP?”

RL: Yeah, so that’s why I think my best case scenario was three more days. Ryan was amenable to voting out JP. Ali was not because we just would’ve died in the next challenge, and then I’m sure she probably thought it would’ve been Chrissy but it definitely would’ve been myself. Maybe it would’ve been Ali next, not me, who knows? But I really do think that even if let’s say we got rid of JP, I’m next.

GD: You were originally a Healer and you guys were six strong. Let’s say there never was a tribe switch and you six had to go to Tribal Council. Who do you think would have been the first Healer eliminated between you, Jessica, Cole, Joe, Desi and Mike?

RL: If we had lost the first challenge it would’ve been Dr. Mike. Not because I didn’t really wanna work with him but because Joe was just so loud in his dislike and suspicion of Dr. Mike that if the game had gone on, I totally could’ve figured out something to preserve Mike but in the first three days I’m not gonna put my neck out and go against Joe. Definitely not. That’d be insane.

GD: Joe is a very polarizing person on the show – some people love him, some people hate him? What was it like being on a tribe with Joe and were you happy to swap to a different tribe than him?

RL: I have a lot of affection for Joe. I have a lot of respect for people who say what they mean and do what they say and their behavior aligns with their words and I think that that can put people on tilt on “Survivor,” because usually things are cloak and dagger. They’re behind closed doors; they’re secretive. Joe comes up and just directly confronts people in front of other people. That’s crazy! A lot of people are giving him the Tony comparison obviously but Tony created chaos by lying and Joe does it by telling the truth. And that is equally disorienting but for a different reason and especially if you’re on the right side of it it’s pretty great. If you’re on the wrong side, it’s scary.

But Joe was really loyal. Joe was really Healer strong and one of the things, he called me the lying lawyer ‘cause he was convinced I was a lawyer, and once Joe gets an idea like that in his head there’s no correcting him. Like he had decided on Healers before meeting him that Alan was a cop, and we’re like “Okay dude. Sure.” And he’ll just get these ideas and no matter what we say, “Nope. Alan’s a cop. Alan’s a cop.” “Okay. He’s right here saying he’s not.” “Nope, Alan’s a cop.” “Oh, okay.” It’s fantastic. But I appreciate somebody who’s upfront. There’s nothing fake about Joe. There’s no artifice. Joe is just Joe and I have a lot of respect for that.

GD: So, you’re a superfan right?

RL: Yeah.

GD: I always love asking superfans, who are your dream castaways from the past – let’s say one man and one woman – that you would love to play with.

RL: Oh gosh, that’s such a tough call because it’s like, do I pick two people to play with that I can take to the end? Do I pick two people that would probably screw me over because they’re so smart and wonderful? That’s a really, really tough question. I would love to play with Dave Wright. I adore him. In a lot of the preseason press if you were consuming any of that, Ryan and I really wanted to work together and just circumstance and fate made it so that that story remains fan fiction. But I feel like I can get my Ryan fix by playing with Dave. And then I’m trying to think of a woman. I feel like I’m gonna end up having recency bias. Oh no, you know what? I would love… this is just someone I wanna hang out with which probably means we wouldn’t play together very well but I would love to play with Sophie Clarke. She’s my girl.

GD: And being a superfan, you come into this game with the decision of whether to tell everyone whether you’re a huge fan of the show, or whether to keep that secret. What was your thinking on that dilemma?

RL: I kept it very low-key on Healers. Because I just read the room and Mike was getting a lot of crap from Joe for being a superfan and so I was like great, so definitely not gonna reveal that and so people would be like talking about seasons and people and misquoting things and I would just have to sit there, my tongue bleeding from the bite down. But then once Ryan and I got together on swapped Soko there was a nice moment between him and I where we woke up before everyone else and sat around the fire and kind of talked about being a fan and how we hadn’t really had a chance to talk about it on each of our starting tribes and we had a nice personal bonding moment over that.

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