Wednesday night on CBS, 24-year-old celebrity assistant Ali Elliott was betrayed on “Survivor” by her closest ally Ryan Ulrich. (Read our “Survivor” 35 Episode 6 recap.) After her ouster, Ali called former Hustler Ryan a “little twerp” for turning on her and instead choosing to play with Heroes Chrissy Hofbeck and JP Hilsabeck. Do you agree with Ryan’s controversial decision?
We recently spoke with the Los Angeles, CA native about that dramatic tribal council, what her relationship with Ryan is like today, and how she originally got cast on “Survivor.” Listen to Ali Elliott’s exit interview podcast above, or read the transcript version below.
Gold Derby: Okay Ali, before we get into that “little twerp” Ryan, as you called him – he betrayed you big time on “Survivor,” that was absolutely huge – but first take us back to the beginning. How did you get cast on the show? Were you a huge fan of “Survivor”?
Ali Elliott: Yes, so “Survivor” like, runs through my blood. I’ve had multiple family members apply. My uncle, he actually was an alternate one year, years and years back. My sister’s been to open calls twice. My mom has, my cousins, and so I actually just applied last summer and I was kinda just in between jobs and I was like, “What should I do?” So I think I was heading out one day and I was like, “Let me stop and make this video quick and send it in just because I said I’ve always wanted to do it and I would never just make this video.” And so finally I did and the rest is history.
GD: Heading into your final tribal council, you knew that it was probably going to be either you or JP. But how shocked were you when Jeff read those votes and it was you that went home?
AE: I kind of had a feeling. I think that my reaction to the last vote, was more, “Who the heck spelled my name wrong?” I’m just kidding. It was more about my actual experience being over. I think that it’s something that I wanted to do for such a long time and it’s something that I never thought I could actually do and to see your name written down for the last time you’re thinking, “Wow, this experience was great and of course I didn’t get as far as I wanted but I just can’t believe it’s over.”
GD: Now based on the trailer for next week, it looks as though you missed the merge by only one episode. Does that make it extra devastating to be sent home at this time?
AE: I think so, but I think the game’s the game. Whether I had been first or sixth, it doesn’t really make a difference in regards to being one night for me. I think that I just had this feeling going into it that whatever was supposed to happen would happen. Yeah it sucks not making the merge but I was still very happy with how I played and how far I went and with the whole thing in general.
GD: Back to the “little twerp“ comment, that’s what you called Ryan in your parting words. What’s your relationship like with Ryan today? Is there still some anger there?
AE: No, me and Ryan we get along well. I think more of me saying that is more like a little brother. Me and Ryan were so close out there. We were literally… we would poke fun at each other and we would play pranks on each other and we just had a really great relationship so I know he’s playing the game and obviously afterwards I had not clue of this Super Idol so I know he did what he thought was best for his game and I can respect him for that so we have a great relationship still.
GD: I do wonder though if he made the right decision or not. Going back to last week when he voted out Roark and didn’t tell you, it seems like that was just a dumb move on his part. He could have told you and not lost your friendship or… you’re still friends, but you know what I mean.
AE: Yeah, it still doesn’t really make sense because okay I understand with the Super Idol in play, you had to pick Chrissy or you felt that picking Chrissy was a great choice, but you could’ve had your cake and ate it too. You could’ve had Chrissy and you could’ve brought me in and said, “Hey Ali, I know that you’re thinking this but I actually already have this pre-established relationship, come in,” and at that point I would’ve been like, ”Okay Ryan, this is now Ryan controlling my game but at that point I’ve got you.” I’ve gotta let him, at least for the short-term because he would’ve been telling me, “We’re solid and we don’t need Roark like you think that we need Roark.” Because I thought that we needed her because we don’t any relationships with any of these Heroes. I thought that for sure everybody was going to be going to three Tribal Councils and so once we won the first Immunity Challenge I knew there was only two more, and that meant JP and Chrissy just in case we lost, and looking at our team we were way weaker than everybody else so it was very likely that we would lose and so I was strictly thinking short-term in that.
GD: You obviously had no idea about Ryan and Chrissy’s special bond – how he gave her a secret immunity idol back in Episode 1. When you found that out, did that change your opinions on Ryan and Chrissy at all?
AE: Yeah, I don’t think it changes my opinion. I think that Ryan had a lot more to think of and maybe he didn’t think about all aspects because even for him to say, “Oh Ali you’re still here,” it didn’t make sense. Why would you make that vote knowing you would have to come back and deal with me after that vote? It was just interesting to think about his thought process. With Chrissy though I find it interesting. A lot of people keep saying Chrissy is playing this great game and things in that sort, but I feel like a lot of what’s happened even within the Soko tribe, it’s solely to do with Ryan. Ryan is the one who picked Chrissy to receive the Super Idol, Ryan’s the one who told Chrissy, “I’m the one who gave it to you” and then Ryan’s also the one who voted out Roark. So a lot of everything that happened on Soko and a lot of the love that has been given to Ryan and Chrissy has to do with Ryan.
GD: Now, you definitely drew the short end of the stick with your tribes because you had to attend four of the six tribal councils. Comparatively, there are three people — Mike, Jessica and Cole — who have yet to go to a single Tribal Council. What are your thoughts on that?
AE: Yeah, so it was definitely going against my strategy by how much I was going to Tribal because my strategy at the beginning of the game was lay low, create the relationships you have to create, and play the easiest game you have to play until you get to the merge and going to Tribal makes it not easy. You have to keep making these decisions, you have to keep trying to figure out who you actually trust and you go to that many Tribals eventually it’s gonna be you. Especially you’re down to four people now, your name’s coming up a lot and then being left out on a vote. I didn’t feel good about it, I didn’t feel good about all the Tribals. Of course it got my airtime for my first six episodes but if I could definitely go back I would ask for a lot shorter time.
GD: When you first heard that the tribes were going to be divided by Hustlers, Heroes and Healers, what was your initial reaction?
AE: I was a little confused, because we were the last to be revealed so I was like, “Okay Heroes, okay Healers” and I was looking around at us little misfits and like, “What could we possibly be?” And so when he said Hustlers, I feel like it related to me. I feel like I do work really hard and I felt like, “Okay that’s a great attribute to have” but at first I was like, “Wait, drugs? I don’t do anything illegal. What does hustler really mean? People don’t really use that word.” But yeah I was very confused at the beginning but as time went on I actually understand the theme a little bit better.
GD: Watching Cole pass out over at the other camp from a lack of food and water was really scary. Did you have any sort of medical scares out there on the island?
AE: No, not really. For the most part, physically, I felt great. I was shocked that I didn’t have headaches, I didn’t feel hungry. Of course you feel hungry but you get over that feeling. I think there was one time I had a sore on my foot that hit on a nail or something sharp that got a little bit infected and puffed a few days but that was minor. I’m a soccer player so having issues with my feet and my shins and my knees, I’m like, “I’ve had plenty of issues, that’s minor.” But I never, ever felt like “What did I get myself into?” Which was great because it shows that I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was because going out there I thought initially, “Am I even going to be able to do this?” And seeing a guy like Cole drop like that, it’s scary. And even for me going into it I tried to prepare myself. I gained a little bit more weight and even the last few days before the game had started I started to narrow down my portion sizes in my food because I knew I didn’t wanna just go from stuffing my face to nothing and so maybe he should’ve prepared a little bit better for that.
GD: If you could pinpoint one moment as your favorite moment being on “Survivor,” what would that be?
AE: I would say the very first Immunity Challenge when we had already looked at each other like we were on the bottom because of how horrible that marooning boat to the land was and we were already all down and we got together as a group at Yawa and said, “We’re not going to be the losing tribe,” and after we could pull out that win with that ball maze, that was probably one of the best experiences I had out there.
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