Wednesday night on CBS, 26-year-old lifeguard Ashley Nolan from Satellite Beach, FL was eliminated in sixth place in “Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.” After “Survivor Devil” Ben Driebergen played his hidden immunity idol before the votes were even read, the remaining five castaways had to send home one their own. While Ashley voted for Mike Zahalsky, she was outnumbered 5-1, which meant her closest ally Devon Pinto turned on her.
Was Ashley able to forgive Devon for his ruthless betrayal? And what does she think of the fact that women are dominating this season’s immunity challenges? Listen to Ashley Nolan’s “Survivor” 35 exit interview podcast above, or read the transcript version below.
Gold Derby: Okay Ashley, so after your elimination last night on “Survivor,” you gave Ben a hug, but you did not give Devon a hug. In other words, you felt pretty betrayed by him, didn’t you?
Ashley Nolan: Yeah, I was much more surprised by his decision than I was Ben’s. Ben was to be expected, I felt like. We had not been working together for quite some time and I respected his gameplay up to that point. He didn’t tell me any lies, that’s for sure. As far as Devon goes, that was a huge blindside for me. Yeah, I was shocked. He couldn’t even look me in the eye right before we voted. He shook his head and was just like, “I’m sorry.” I don’t know if they really show that but he verbalized, I was like, “Come on, Dev, what are you gonna do?” And he was like, “Sorry Ash.” And my heart sunk. I was not gonna hug him after that. I forgave him by the time I reached the end of the dock, it was just like whatever, he did what he had to do. I trust that our friendship was real in the time out there, but it’s a mind game. People mess with his mind people, mess with everyone’s mind so it’s just like, you do whatever you have to do.
GD: Take us through what it’s like for you just sitting at home, watching this all play out on TV. What was going through your mind?
AN: With this final episode, you mean?
GD: Yeah, watching your own elimination on TV. That must have been kind of strange.
AN: It was surreal, yeah. It was definitely strange. I watched it with a pretty big group of people at a restaurant near me and I hadn’t told anyone what was about to happen. I hadn’t told my parents, nothing, so to be in a huge room full of a lot of people who had no idea what was coming, it was bizarre. I’m watching like, I know what’s gonna happen, I j just don’t know how they’re gonna show it or how it’s gonna feel when everyone looks at me, and knows that I got voted out, I just was kind of trying not to cry and accept it, like, “This is definitely weird, sorry guys. It’s what happens” (Laughs.)
GD: So your relationship today with Devon is okay, right? It was just at that moment when he turned on you for really, not a good reason, I don’t think, but that’s what did it and now you guys are okay?
AN: Yeah, we’re great. Like I said, we were great as soon as the show was all over we were best buddies again back on the plane ride home. We’re good, good, good. Like I said I think he did what he had to do. He did what I should have done, in all honesty.
GD: Do you have any regrets about what happened at that Reward Challenge, when you made it known you were not happy that Devon and Chrissy chose Ryan instead of you?
AN: Not really as far as that goes, no. My comment about them, Chrissy took that the wrong way but it was honest. It was genuine and I think Devon knew exactly where I was coming from and I was shocked that he picked him and it shows where his head was at that he just let Chrissy be like, “I think we should take Ryan,” and that was just perfectly fine. He was aiming to get back in with them. I have more of a regret that I didn’t do pretty much what Devon did at loved ones reward, when Chrissy kind of said, “Hey, you’re in an alliance with all these powerhouses. You should vote with us, you should come with us.” But at the time I didn’t see any reason to do that, ‘cause I was in a good alliance. I had Lauren I had Devon, and Lauren had an extra vote and we were good to go, so I just completely put up a wall between us and looking back on that, I could’ve jumped ship right there and been with the underdogs and then started to make moves that way, but they got Devon instead.
GD: Just a couple weeks ago, you and Devon had a Final 4 deal with Lauren and Ben. You guys were all running the game. But needless to say, Lauren was voted out last week, you’re voted out this week, so what’s your take on what happened? Why did the Final 4 split up?
AN: So we’ll go back to the Reward Challenge that that all happened. Me, Devon and Lauren were good to go as the three I thought, and Lauren had her vote. When she disclosed that information to Ben, I remember thinking, “This is a big mistake. We should not be bringing Ben in on this.” I don’t know where her head was at in doing so. I think maybe even the emotions of the reward, of just us being there, like, “Why not?” So that was an interesting move that she decided to bring him in on that. While it worked because we got to use him as the double agent, as you saw, I think it started to become obvious that Ben was a much bigger threat than any of us, so when he started to catch on that we were working against him after we got him to trust us so much, I think that’s pretty much what set it off. Ben turning against Lauren was like, well there goes all that.
In terms of what you can’t really predict happening when you get into an alliance is, say when it was me Lauren and Devon I’m like, “Okay this is a good Final 3, I think I could beat them,” and they’re all thinking the same about each other, but as you work closer and closer with someone, and you start gaining more and more insight on how their mind is working and what kind of moves they’re trying to make, you start to realize they’re a better player than you maybe thought. So that’s something that happens within alliances that makes them turn on each other, I think. From the outside I’m like, “Yeah, Devon and Lauren, I’ll totally beat them,” but once we start talking gameplay and we start realizing, “They’re actually a mastermind, maybe I shouldn’t be working with them, I should work against them,” I think that’s how an alliance can easily implode on itself.
GD: This season’s Immunity Challenges are absolutely being dominated by women. You won two, Ashley, Chrissy won two, Desi and Lauren both won one. I think the only man to win so far has been Cole. How does this make feel knowing that you were a part of the female takeover of the physical aspects of the game?
AN: Oh I love it, and I think “Survivor’s” done a great job in creating these challenges that it’s not just physical strength, it’s not one of the guys are gonna win or whatever. These are physical challenges but they’re an equal playing field and I just love that the girls came out and dominated this season. I just think it’s the coolest. I love all of us strong girls. That’s what I love to see, and yeah, I think that’s awesome. We had some really good female contenders. I’m super proud of that.
GD: What do you think was behind the tribe’s decision to not follow Ben when he went into the woods? I think you all knew he was looking for an Idol, but how come nobody tailed him?
AN: I guess in the one scene that they showed, I guess he got up before everyone else was even awake so it’s kind of hard to go out on this huge island and just tried to find him. I mean yeah, we definitely should’ve, that’s what everyone’s saying, we should have followed him so that we knew, but it’s just one of those things you can look at in hindsight and you can say from your couch what should be happening but for some reason or another it’s just harder to do. I guess it was somebody’s shift that wasn’t… somebody fell asleep on Ben duty I don’t know (laughs).
GD: Devon was sleeping that day.
AN: Yeah, yeah.
GD: If you had made it to the Final 3, what would your pitch have been to the jury? What would have said? “My best game move was this.”
AN: I think that if I would have made it to Final 3, I would have had a couple key components. Winning the challenges, definitely, being that physical, that is “Survivor,” those challenges, come on, I’ve earned at least this many extra nights here just from winning these challenges, I beat you all in that way. So that’s one thing. If I made it with a Devon or a Mike or anyone else other than Chrissy, “I won more challenges than you.” At the same time, I was a part of almost every vote, other than maybe two that I can think of off the top of my head. I was in part of the discussion, I was never really, other than once with Alan and Joe, never really blindsided by a vote, and my own. So that’s a big thing that a couple other people can’t really say. Mike didn’t have any clue who was being voted out ever. He was blindsided at every single Tribal Council. So there’s that, and just my relationships. I think I had good relationships, maybe not game-wise but I had good friendships and relationships I can confidently say with every single person out there. It’s not all about making friends, but it doesn’t hurt. If I was on the Final 3 with someone like Joe, yeah maybe he played a louder game but he also insulted the character of multiple people on the jury, so I’d have that going for me.
GD: And the flip side of that question, Now that you’re a jury member, what type of game player are you looking for to cast your winning vote for?
AN: I guess just well-rounded, somebody who’s maybe had advantages and used them well, somebody who did well in challenges and used those to their advantage and never gave up and was a hard worker at camp. And I look at the type of person that they really are. Did they do a good job building friendships and bonds with people and jury management, as they call it? There’s a whole group of things and I can say it was not an easy decision, there was no easy decision, ‘cause everyone that makes it to this point is obviously a good player and they obviously can argue forever on why they should win. So it’s tough but it’s an accumulation of reasons. I can say, I do a really good job of unintentionally just seeing the good in everyone. I hear all the stuff, people are talking badly about this person, that person as they leave or are bitter about this and hold grudges. And I’m just like, “I never saw any of that.” I just think everyone did a great job and they’re all good people so it’s tough for me, so I just use all kinds of different reasons for my vote.
GD: Well Ashley, it was great talking today, and the finale is just one week away so we will see you at the reunion show.
AN: Yeah, thank you, sounds good.
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