Ciera Eastin's ticket to Survivor: Game Changers may also have been her downfall. Returning for her third go, the 28-year-old had already proven she wasn't afraid to make epic moves (she booted her own mom, Laura Morett, in Survivor: Blood vs. Water) — and her castmates took notice.
So when Eastin showed early signs of strategizing during the Wednesday, March 8, double-episode season premiere, her Mana tribe members made sure she was the first sent packing. Going into the game, "I wanted to lay low," Eastin tells Us Weekly, "but my laying low was obviously too much for all of them!"
The Salem, Oregon, mom of two dishes more on the "rookie mistake" that led to her early exit.
Us Weekly: How does it feel to be the first sent home?
Ciera Eastin: It sucks. Definitely it's really, really crappy. I've had some time to get over it, but reliving it [on TV] brought back those feelings of disappointment.
Us: You caught a lot of flack from your tribemates for throwing names out — specifically Tony Vlachos and Caleb Reynolds. Do you think that was your downfall?
CE: Everybody was talking about Tony. Everybody was saying, "Tony is looking for an idol, Tony is up in the middle of the night with Caleb going to look at idols." I walked into a conversation and [my tribemates] were talking about Tony, and I said, "Well, if we think Tony has an idol, let's just get rid of his right hand man, Caleb." It’s not like I was the only person saying names, but I think that the second I said, "Caleb" — knowing now that Malcolm [Freberg] was working with Caleb, I can see that being the reason why [I was targeted].
Us: When did you know you were on the chopping block?
CE: I never had a conversation with Malcolm that had to do with strategy. I definitely tried and he was really, really standoffish. I could tell that he did not want to work with me and he definitely had Aubry [Bracco] and Hali [Ford] in his back pocket, so I already knew that he was building his army. It was very evident and I think the moment [I mentioned Caleb], he knew that it had to be me [going home].
Us: What would you do differently if you got to play again?
CE: I watched the queen, [two-time winner] Sandra [Diaz-Twine], respond to a comment and she said, "Tell me who you're thinking about and I'll tell you what I think." Comments like that are so subtle, but they're so tactful, and I wish I would have handled the situation [with Caleb] more in that way. I should have just said, "I'll do whatever you guys want to do." That was definitely my regret for the season. It was such a rookie mistake!
Us: Who do you think is the biggest threat left in the game?
CE: Brad Culpepper. People want to take Brad to the end because they think, "There's a successful NFL star, nobody's going to give him the money." So that is a huge, great advantage for Brad. On top of that, he's so, so smart and has [his wife] Monica in his ear telling him, "Here's how you maneuver." I definitely think that he is a big threat in the game.
Us: Of all the returning players, who were you most excited to play with?
CE: Sandra, the queen!
Us: Would you have tried to take her to the end, because no one would give her a third win?
CE: No way! You do not take that girl to the end. That is something we have learned. I definitely would not take Sandra to the end, but I was really excited to see her game play and how it all worked. She is incredible.
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