The following contains spoilers from Wednesday’s episode of Survivor.
As it turns out, sitting out of too many challenges on Survivor can cost you.
That’s the lesson Soka’s Claire Rafson learned after agreeing to sit out three immunity challenges in a row. When her tribe lost their very first immunity, not even her tights bonds with Matt, Frannie and Heidi could save her from Jeff’s snuffer, as all four of the tribe’s votes fell her way. (Read a full recap here.)
But of course, the edit can’t show everything! Here, Claire talks to TVLine about her relationships with the showmance and Heidi, why she sat out so much and her biggest strategic fail in the game.
TVLINE | It seemed like Matt and Frannie were going to be your lifeline in this game. What happened there and why do you think Frannie ultimately decided to vote you out?
CLAIRE RAFSON | Frannie and I were pounding the pavement doing what we could, trying to get Heidi to move over to our side, but ultimately Frannie made the right move. Why be the lone vote against somebody who’s going to stay? I think it was completely the right move. I have no hard feelings. Frannie was thinking smart and whether she threw a rogue vote wouldn’t have changed whether I went home or not, so I’m glad she did the protective thing and kept herself on the inside.
TVLINE | Did you try to switch the target to the showmance at any point?
At that point, no. Originally, I was happy to ride with Heidi, Josh and Danny and do the anti-Matt and Frannie thing, but at that point, Frannie was one person who I felt very confident wanted to work with me and was ready to ride with me if we could get the votes together. I also really wanted to work with Matt. I think he’s lovely. I thought working with the showmance would’ve been a good protective shield for me. Unfortunately, Matt didn’t have a vote, so I probably should have indexed more on the other three, because without a vote, we were an alliance of three but were two people, effectively. I totally love them, but maybe I should have picked allies that had votes.
TVLINE | Tell me a bit about your relationship with Heidi. She was a big factor in this vote and seemed very torn up about what to do.
I thought Heidi and I were incredibly close! In the early days, she was a little less connected. You have Matt and Frannie who were instant, nerd-bonded best friends who I was close with. You had Danny running around in the jungle doing summersaults, building us a mansion of a shelter. Then you had Josh who was a little more subdued and was doing his own thing, but also making individual relationships. Early on, I remember people being like, “Well, Heidi is not as close with us.” I had to kind of beg Frannie to give Heidi the time of day because they just didn’t connect.
I spent a lot of time learning about Heidi’s life and story which is so beautiful and strong. She reminded me a lot of my mom, honestly, and I really thought we were closer. It was shocking to me and I think you could see the pain in my face. Not only the pain of going home, but I thought Heidi was someone — and I love her outside and inside of the game — but she was somebody who I thought would play more with her heart. She even said it herself that she was closer to me than Josh, but I guess the bonds we had formed weren’t as strong as hers and Danny’s and her desire for tribe strength. And she hated sitting out, but voting out the sit-out means you’re going to be sitting out. She was only thinking about it in terms of not making Danny mad. And Danny was a loud and very persistent voice against me at that point. Honestly, I was pretty hurt. It was sad to feel like someone who reminds you of your mom, that you spend a lot of time getting to know as an individual is staring at your face and saying, “I just don’t know if you’re worth keeping around.” It was honestly the most brutal few hours.
TVLINE | Did the rest of Soka give you any inclination that they thought it was odd that you were sitting out of challenges so much? Did you ever think it would be a factor if you went to Tribal Council?
I did not feel like I was in danger for the first or second Tribals, and I felt reassured that what mattered most was us winning, and also that me sitting out was not going to be the reason I went home. At that moment they’d be like, “Claire, totally feel free to sit out.” But at the third immunity challenge, they wanted me to sit out again, Heidi’s kicking her feet, and at that point, they’re still telling me, “It’s cool. You’re good.” No one had ever been like, “Claire, we don’t know if you’re strong.” At Day 6-ish, I started to notice that Danny was moving away from me as an ally, and at that point you go, “OK, they’re telling me I can sit out,” but there are two options. I either sit out and we win, great. I sit out an we lose, they’re still going to call me weak. And then there’s this third option. If I push back and ask to be put in a vital position and we win, great. But if we lose that challenge, they’re going to do the exact same thing and say, “Claire is weak either way. What’s different? Claire’s playing. She’s got to go.”
Matt and Frannie practiced the insanity puzzle more than me, and I thought they had the best shot of doing it. At that point, the best shot we had at not losing if they’re going to say I’m weak either way was me sitting out. You want to be a team player, you want to be a person who’s like, ” I trust you.” I was trying to be easy-going and someone who would be good to work with and go along with things. When push came to shove, somebody would inevitably go, “It’s OK to sit out,” and I’d say, “OK.” I’d turn and raise my hand. Maybe I said it a little too peppy, but that was kind of how it felt.
TVLINE | As a viewer, I don’t feel like I have a good read on Josh.
I wonder why! [Laughs]
TVLINE | People didn’t seem to trust him too much out there. What was your take on him?
I loved Josh. I gravitated toward him. We talked early on, me, Josh and Frannie, about our coming out stories, our experiences being a queer woman, a queer person of color. I loved him personally, but Josh had come into the game telling us he was a personal trainer. If you asked about his scars, he would evade. I get why he thought those would put targets on his back, but when you’re lying so fundamentally about something, it kind of closes you in. By proxy of him just being more reserved, and a little on edge because he was actively lying about things, it was easy to think he was a little less trustworthy. Also, he had come up to me one time and told me, “You’re my No. 1.,” but Matt had already told me Josh had said that to him, so that was already sus. We kept finding him in the middle of rumors going around… he was definitely playing and was crucial to our team, but that was kind of the read that we had. I loved him and really enjoyed my time with him, but he was someone who was harder to pin down. I couldn’t read him the way I could read everyone else.
TVLINE | The birdcage. Did you have any idea what was going on there?
Yes, I did. On the bench, I got some information from Matthew so I actually had a good sense that there was going to be a fake idol. By the time Matt got his idol and told me about it, I was like, “Baby’s got a fake idol.”
TVLINE | If you were given a second chance, what would you do differently?
I think knowing that I had less time, I would have pushed back and played and had some of those experiences. Unfortunately, the biggest thing, once my ally in a group of three lost his vote, I should have just abandoned ship and doubled down on the other three. That is probably my biggest strategic error. I didn’t have the numbers with the people I wanted to work with most, so I should have been all over Danny and Heidi and really locked that in, or brought Josh in, but I was being idealistic. I was hoping there would be a way for an easy vote out, which ended up being me apparently. But the biggest strategic issue — when somebody loses a vote, that’s not a good person to be near.