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Post Mortems

Survivor 43's [Spoiler] Explains Why Advantages Have Yet to Be Played

Survivor 43

The following contains spoilers from Wednesday’s episode of Survivor 43.

In Wednesday’s episode of Survivor, a majority alliance seemed set to dominate the game, but 43‘s four underdogs weren’t going down without a fight. With Sami throwing Gabler, Owen, Jeanine and Noelle a lifeline, a potential plan to cut Ryan was pitched, with majority members like Karla and James actually considering the ploy. But at the end of the hour, the group’s original target Jeanine — who incorrectly thought her idol had been flushed from the game — was more or less a sitting duck, and she was voted out in an almost unanimous vote. (Read a full recap here.)

Below, Jeanine talks to TVLine about the merge’s lack of ladies, learning her idol was still in play and why she thinks idols and advantages haven’t been used yet this season.

TVLINE | So why am I talking to you right now and not someone else?
JEANINE ZHENG | I think the downfall of having such a strong ally is being seen as a threat, as a tight couple. From the get-go at the merge, we were seen as a threat. “Got to take them out. Got to separate them.” Ellie gets booted and my game from there is a little bit of an underdog story. I’m always working my way up from that huge blow, and unfortunately what you saw last night is that I couldn’t turn the tide in my favor.

TVLINE | What was your reaction after learn that your idol was still in the game? 
When I found out my idol was still alive, I had a few reactions. First and foremost was just shock, like “That’s my baby, give me my baby back!” [Laughs] Also, just pure admiration, honestly, for the fact that it was able to have been a secret. I’m such a fan of the game, so to experience that, even being on the side of where I was, was truly like, wow. I can appreciate that gameplay.

TVLINE | Did it worry you that so many women were voted out so early?
One hundred percent! This is actually something I’m glad you asked about. It wasn’t shown, but the reason why post-merge, the votes were being thrown on James and Ryan was because Noelle and I felt this moral — and this was a moment outside the game, it was an emotional stance I had taken — I did not feel comfortable writing another woman’s name down. Other people were kind of indifferent on who we voted for on Coco, which lent itself to splitting votes on the men. It was so disappointing seeing woman after woman after woman being voted out, and post-merge, it was down to the few of us left. That was something I felt like I played emotionally in that moment. I’m glad they highlighted that with Cassidy this episode because it was something we talked about, even regardless of who was voting with you, but it was something we were really concerned about and not feeling great about with our season.

TVLINE | Let’s play a little game of What-If here: Let’s say you didn’t vote out Morriah, and instead, Gabler goes first. How does your game look like if that had happened?
It’s hard to say, but I think that running through this theoretical, the next challenge would’ve been the snake challenge. That was a very brute strength challenge and I don’t know what the outcome would’ve been. Who’s to say we wouldn’t have had to go to Tribal again? That was the fear. If we keep Morriah and send Gabler home, potentially having to go to Tribal again and again, where does that leave us with numbers at the merge? When you’re out there, I don’t think people understand how terrifying it is to go to Tribal Council. Even if you feel like you’re in the majority alliance, which would’ve been this girls’ alliance, putting yourself at the risk of going home? You never want that. So that’s the first thing you’re thinking about in the pre-merge game. Who’s to say what would’ve happened?

TVLINE | We saw Sami approach you and Owen about possibly flipping the script on the majority seven. Did you believe him in that moment? What was your relationship like at that point?
It’s so ironic because this is kind of the first time where Sami’s willing and wanting to work with me, right? But at this point, it’s too little, too late. I’m like, “You lied to me about the Elie vote, you lied to me about the Dwight vote. I don’t think I can trust you now. I really don’t think I can trust what you’re saying.” I was super wary, but at the same time, him offering to work with me was something I had to entertain because it was hard being on the bottom and not feeling like I had a lot of agency or people to work with at that point.

TVLINE | There’s a lot of idols and advantages floating around, and a lot of idol passing, but why isn’t anyone playing anything?!
Oh my god, yeah, it’s almost just like Hot Potato, right? Like throwing advantages left and right. [Laughs] I think that our season so far has been a very careful, intentional, subtle season. We saw people sticking their necks out too much in the beginning and getting chopped for it, and people being seen as too strategic or paranoid or whatever, and having that being the reason they go home. No one wants to play too hard and be too obvious about the advantages they have.

But also, the irony there is everyone knew what everyone had. In this new era, especially with Knowledge Is Power, I don’t think it’s the best thing to be the person with the advantage. It’s the best thing to be the right-hand man of the person with the advantage. Either you can hold on to it, or you can reap the benefits of where it’s going to be used, but not have the name associated with it.

TVLINE | Tell me a little bit about your injury. How did you bang up your chin so badly, and when did you first get to see what actually happened?
[Laughs] I’m so glad I finally get to talk about his! Of course, I’m on national TV and I have this giant scar on my face Day 1. I got it from the log challenge. I was honestly suffocating under the log and the only way I could free myself was by pulling my face up against it an scraping the skin off my chin. People were speculating at first like, “Is it a bruise? Is it an infection? Someone tell her she has dirt on her chin!” Nope, it was a chin scrape.

TVLINE | That must’ve burned like all hell.
It wasn’t comfortable, but I was grateful there were no mirrors out there, so I didn’t know about it until we started rewatching it live together now. [Laughs]

TVLINE | What do you wish was shown on TV but wasn’t?
With the Noelle-Dwight Vesi-Baka relationship, that was a lot of build up pre-merge. Dwight and Noelle told me the first day of merge, “We saw you do the log challenge, we knew you were a badass and we wanted to work with you.” We had this rapport between Vesi and Baka. You saw that a little bit with us helping each other in challenges, but feeling this connection to them from our mats, I really wanted to work with them. I got along with them really well from the first day we were allowed to speak to each other.

Also, the close relationships I had with the people on Baka. It’s of course dramatized and the divide is there, but on the day-to-day, I appreciated the Baka boys so much, bonded with them so much, got close to them — yeah, I wish that was shown more.

TVLINE | If you played again, how would you change your gameplay?
Oh, I have particular things I’ve already been thinking about. [Laughs] This time around, I don’t regret this, but I did definitely play in terms of what could further me in terms of my long-term game. At this last Tribal Council I was thinking about, “How can I have the numbers or majority moving forward?” That being said, I do think that having such a loyal tie to people was maybe a detriment to my game this time around. If I’m given the chance again, it’s a 26-day game, I understand now that maybe preserving yourself to the next day maybe can make a difference because things can change so quickly, so I think I would play a more selfish game.

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