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Survivor 44 Episode 8
Courtesy of CBS

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

And that’s why it’s smart to try and split the votes.

In Wednesday’s episode of Survivor, a war between former Soka and Ratu members came to a head after Lauren won individual immunity, leaving the rest of her Ratu alliance vulnerable to the vote. After concocting a plan to get Frannie out of the game, the Tika tribe played the middle, giving Danny the floor to both save his ally with his idol and boot Brandon out in one fell swoop. (Read a full recap here.)

Below, TVLine speaks with Brandon about why the Ratu four didn’t split the vote, the Tika tribe’s smart gameplay, who the most dangerous player in the game is and so much more.

TVLINE | You were unfortunately taken out by a successfully played idol. When Ratu put together the plan to vote for Frannie, did you guys talk about the possibility of an idol being played?
BRANDON COTTOM | We did. It actually goes back to last week. We thought that Matt had the idol. I know he showed us the fake one, but in our heads, we were like, “He could have just shown us the fake and had the real one the whole time.” So we weren’t exactly sure if he had it or not. And then as soon as we got to the beach, he’s like, “Oh, I don’t have my bag. Where’s my bag?” And we’re all immediately in our heads. We were like, “Oh, he’s got [the idol].” So when he went home without it, we’re thinking Frannie or Danny has it.

Survivor 44 Episode 8We did very briefly talk about trying to split the votes early in the day. But there was so much that happened between that conversation and when we actually left for Tribal that everybody either forgot or just didn’t want to go through with the plan. We were all over the place. So it worked out how it worked out. I actually was thinking that the votes were gonna be split once he started reading them. There’s actually a moment that they don’t show. I look over to Lauren and I’m like, “Oh, he has no idea what he just did,” when Danny plays his idol, because I’m thinking that we have it set. Then, the next thing, I see: Frannie, Frannie, Fran, Fran, Frannie. And I was like, “Well, that’s too many Frannie votes. What’s going on?” And next thing, you know, Brandon, Brandon, Brandon. I was like, “Oh, there I go.”

TVLINE | How was your relationship with Danny out there? Did you think that he would eventually try to come for you?
We had a pretty good relationship. I think because of the dynamic of how the game was going, I knew that there was always gonna be a chance he was going to come for me. We knew there was a Ratu/Soka war that was happening, and we knew that we were both gonna have to choose a side at one point or another. It was just a matter of when it was going to be. I expected that was going to happen, not necessarily as soon as it did, but I knew that was going to happen eventually. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when he actually played the idol for Frannie.

Survivor 44 Episode 8TVLINE | Tika is very much riding the middle at this point. Was that obvious to the former Ratu and Soka players on the island, and was there a mad dash to secure their votes?
We were kind of aware of it just from the simple fact that there were three of them. We knew that those votes had to go somewhere. Honestly, we thought we already had Carson. We thought that we kind of pulled in Yam Yam just because of the situation. We had our last tribe split where we could have sent him home, but we sent Matt home. So we thought that we had worked that alliance a little bit or enough where we could keep them for a couple of votes.

What we didn’t realize is how much in the middle they actually were playing it. Carson played it beautifully and we had no idea how aligned he was because he and Yam Yam, they were both aware of what was going on. They knew that they didn’t have to say anything or have to even change what they were doing because they had the firepower to execute that move without putting their necks out there. We definitely didn’t realize how under the radar they were flying. We knew that they were in the middle, but I personally didn’t realize the extent of how in turn they were with Soka as well.

TVLINE | Carolyn and Yam Yam seem to be underestimated out there. Was that the case?
I won’t say that Yam Yam was necessarily underestimated. We thought he was running the show on the Tika beach, so people understood how socially aware Yam Yam was and how he’s very likable. You can’t help but like the guy. We knew he was kind of a threat, but we knew that they didn’t have the numbers.

Carolyn, on the other hand, and I said this to her as well: I completely underestimated her game. I’ll give it to her 100 percent. You obviously don’t have all the information out there, and she was just playing an under the radar game. She didn’t necessarily seem like she actually knew what was going on, but that was all a facade. She knew exactly what was happening. She was very in tune with what was going on. She had an idol the whole time that nobody knew about, so 100 percent kudos to Carolyn. She surprised me with her gameplay and she’s playing a great game.

Survivor 44 Episode 8 RecapTVLINE | Who, at this stage of the game, was the most dangerous player out there?
I really thought that Frannie was one of the most dangerous players. She was very tuned in with Soka. She was likable, but she was also killing a lot of the challenges. I knew she was a big issue, and honestly, the biggest threat out there. I thought that Yam Yam could be a threat, but I thought he was in such a weakened state that he didn’t really have the numbers to do what he would have wanted to do. But socially, he was right up there as well. It’s hard not to jump on the Yam Yam train! Between Frannie and Yam Yam, I knew they were both very, very, very critical players to try to get out.

TVLINE | Had you survived this vote, what was your Final 3 plan?
It’s funny you ask that because I had a final two [deal] with Lauren. I didn’t necessarily have the third person who I would have tried to bring with us. I think that there was a possibility for me and Kane at one point or another. But I did think that there was the chance of him trying to gun for me later on, so I probably wouldn’t have taken him. I would have probably chosen Jamie and Lauren. I think those would have been my two that I would’ve taken to the Final 3.

Survivor 44 Episode 8 RecapTVLINE | I want to rewind a bit to ask you about Ratu’s first Tribal Council. What was it about Maddy that the two of you couldn’t get on the same page?
I had such a great respect for her. She was very articulate, very smart and I could tell. You know how sometimes you just meet somebody and you’re like, “Oh, we’re just not on the same page”? We just didn’t click like that. We had many conversations where it almost felt like… not forced, but it was like heads butting a little bit. So before we even got to the moment where I had the opportunity to either work with her or let everybody else know [about finding the cage key], I felt like I couldn’t trust her.

It’s funny because everybody’s like, “Oh, you did a terrible job hiding this, that, the other” — I tried to hide them. I actually tried to tuck [the key] in my underwear, but I didn’t have any on because they were wet and hanging up. So it almost fell through my shorts. I grabbed it at the very last second and that’s when you see it balled up. It’s actually underneath my shorts. So I knew that she saw that I had it. I had two options. I could try to keep this a secret with her and then have to play under her thumb, or I could just let everybody else know because mind you, I didn’t know that there was an idol in that cage. I thought it might have been an advantage or something, but I had no clue that it was an idol. To my surprise when I did open it up, I was like, “Oh, that was a terrible move. Now everybody knows I have it.” Not only do they know that I have an idol, but they also know I have a fake idol now. So that has no power at all until the merge. But if I could go back, I would have done the exact same thing because I didn’t want to have to play under somebody else’s thumb or have somebody else dictate my game. And it would have been way too easy for her to turn around and tell everybody else.

TVLINE | When I spoke with Maddy, she said she was an Alpha and that you were intimidated by her! How do you feel about that?
Yeah, I wasn’t intimidated by Maddy. I respected her as a player. I was not intimidated. It was more so I didn’t think that we could work together. Period. Point blank. There’s no other way to put it.

TVLINE | Is there anything you regret from your time out there, or anything you think you could’ve done to prevent being voted out?
The one thing that I could have done differently was check in with everybody before we left for Tribal. It’s funny, you think you have a plan, you think you know what’s going on… We actually were sitting there painting our flag and the next thing, we’re all going to Tribal. And I was like, “Oh, no. We’ve been sitting here painting this flag for two hours and I haven’t checked in with anybody.” Just a complete rookie mistake.

In that moment, I was like, “Alright, it’s up in the air whether we’re all on the same page, whether the plan has changed or not.” As soon as the vote started getting read, that’s when I realized I screwed up. It played out how it played out. I’m happy and thankful to have been a part of it and a part of this cast. But that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.

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