Idol-ed out. Survivor season 35’s latest castoff, Alan Ball, opened up to Us Weekly about his surprising exit during the Wednesday, October 18, episode of “Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers.”
The 32-year-old former NFL player admittedly came into the game hot with idol paranoia, even forcing fellow “hero” tribe member JP Hilsabeck to prove he wasn’t hiding one with a strip search on the beach. And call it ironic if you want, but an idol — and a so-called “advantage” — was the one thing that sent Ball packing in the end.
The Detroit native, who said he “can’t stand liars or people who feel entitled” in his CBS bio, didn’t get along with Joe Mena after the three tribes were switched up.
Here, Ball breaks down the game with Us and how timing played a factor in his demise:
Us: How did you feel going into tribal council? Where did you think the votes were going?
AB: I didn’t give Joe enough credit. Was it suspicious the way he was acting? Yeah, but I think my mind was made. I was so developed in my thoughts that Joe has to go. We can’t be here together. I was fixated on it. We threw around the possibility of voting Desi [Williams] out. We threw it around and decided that wasn’t the best way to go. I think we were fixated. Joe was such an annoying person. It was like, “He has to go.” And him doing all he did and causing chaos, I didn’t give him enough credit that he was doing it for gameplay. I’m thinking, “This is just him being annoying because this is who he is.” Looking back, would I have voted differently to stay in the game? Possibly, but I really stand by my vote. Even getting voted off. I don’t think I would have lasted very long in that tribe with Joe, either way.
Us: What was going through your mind when he pulled that idol out?
AB: Before the idol even got played, when Devon [Pinto] read his “advantage,” I knew that it was shifting in a way it wasn’t supposed to. At that moment I knew I was probably going home, when he read that advantage. And when [Joe] played that idol, it was icing on the cake. I knew they weren’t voting for Ashley. I knew Joe was intimidated by me and we didn’t get along. It was like, “OK, Jeff. You can snuff my torch now.” Honestly. You don’t even need to read the votes, I knew I was out of there.
Us: Were you playing the scenarios in your head about how this could play out, as you sat during tribal council?
AB: I played scenarios in my head, but like I said, I was so entranced in Joe going home. It didn’t matter. Looking back now, yeah. And I thought about it after I left. The best thing that could have been done was to vote Devon out. He doesn’t have a vote. At the end of the day, he’s nothing to this tribe right now. We’ll just figure it out when we get back to camp. It will be two versus two. Right now, let’s just get rid of him. Would that have been the best thing to do? Yeah, for me to stay in the game. But again, for my sanity, I would have had to go back to that camp with Joe. Would have I been able to do that? I don’t know (laughs). [Devon] was a loyal guy and I think him, Ashley and I could have worked well together to get rid of Desi and Joe. But it didn’t turn out that way. It is what it is.
Us: Was there whispering going on? Were you and Ashley weighing your options during tribal council at all?
AB: I think tribal got so intense that … we were on the fence about whether it should be Joe or Desi. That was on our minds. I think as tribal went on, it was like, “Joe, Desi, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe’s gotta go” (laughs). It was like he reinforced everything throughout it. I tried to make it clear throughout tribal that Desi was going home. I wanted him to, if he had it, I wanted him to believe I was voting for Desi. “It’s going to hurt you more if I get rid of Desi.” We had talks about getting rid of Desi, but those talks dissolved the more Joe ran his mouth throughout tribal. It was like, “OK, the decision is made. Bro, you gotta go.” It’s either you or me. It happened to me. It sucks, but if I could vote again, it would still be Joe.
Us: He claims to have read Ashley [Nolan]’s face…
AB: Sometimes we give ourselves more credit than we deserve (laughs). Everyone is entitled to that. Whether he saw it or not, I’m not going to give him that much credit. I think he made a good play. He had a 50-50 chance of playing the idol the right way. Whether it was on Ashley’s face or not, hopefully she gets a poker face to stay in the game. But I don’t know what he saw. I couldn’t see Ashley’s face. I was sitting behind her. But at the end of the day, he guessed right.
Us: Were you not a fan of Desi or was she just associated with the wrong person?
AB: I actually was. I was a fan of Desi. The more I talked to Desi out there, I think I could have worked with Desi. I liked Desi. But she had a dark cloud over her. It’s kind of like if you have garbage in your pocket, you’re going to smell like garbage (laughs). You’re associated with Joe. I like working with you and I think she kind of felt that way. She felt like, “My association with Joe is killing me,” but her knowing he had the idol put her in a tough situation. He had the most power on the tribe. She didn’t really have a move to make, in a sense. I got the feeling that she wanted to get out from under that and she wasn’t happy to be in an alliance with just Joe. But she didn’t have a choice. For her, it was best to just ride the wave and that’s what kept her there. That was a good play on her part. If Joe didn’t have that idol, the game obviously would have been different. You never know.
Us: You came into the game hot with idol paranoia and ultimately had JP strip down to prove he didn’t have one. Do you think that hurt your game at all or did it play out OK?
AB: I think it ended up playing out fine. My intention was to play the game aggressively. My intention was to play the game with a little bit of fire. That’s what I wanted to do. And the first chance I had to show that, that’s what I did. The timing of the game, with the buffs being dropped, kind of hurt me a little bit. I feel like our tribe was just getting to the point where the lines were drawn. We know how everybody feels about each other. We know what’s going on. Chrissy [Hofbeck] and Ben [Driebergen] were just beginning to trust me again and see that I was just playing the game and not being crazy. The timing sucked. If we had a little more time, things would have been different. I don’t regret coming out guns blazing.
Us: Who were you looking forward to working with long-term?
AB: Ben and Chrissy, I’m pulling for them now. My goal going in was to find people from that initial tribe who I could really trust. I think part of that was to say, “OK, I’m going to be fiery. I’m going to be aggressive. But I want you to know that I’m going to ride with you if I’m with you.” When I had my blow-up, I really wanted to put Ben and Chrissy in a situation where they had to choose. I put it out there of who I am. If you want to ride with me, if you don’t, you don’t. We have to create that bond now and trust that what I’m doing is for the game’s sake. I really feel as though, regardless of how it showed on TV, I really feel as though me and Ben were getting to the point where we could work together. I trusted him. I think he’s one of the most loyal people in the game. I think Ben and Chrissy, of anyone, I could have saw myself aligned with further in the game.
Us: OK, so you would have dropped Ashley at some point?
AB: Oh, no question. The only reason I was working with Ashley was because I had to. And that’s no knock on her, but if I had my choice, no. That was just the hand I was dealt.
Us: Last question — was there anything you could have done at tribal council to save yourself from going home?
AB: Looking back, like I said, could have I done [something]? Yeah. I could have easily whispered in Ashley’s ear. And said, “Hey Joe and Desi, let’s just vote Devon. Let’s just get rid of him.” That would have been a last cry. Because he had no say-so. He had no vote. He had no impact on anything that was going on. Let’s just get rid of him. … That would have been something I could have done at tribal. Before tribal, there were things I could have done with just vibing with Joe and Desi, and said, “Hey, Ashley’s got to go.” I felt like my loyalty to her, no matter what we had been through, was greater than for Desi and Joe coming from another tribe. I had to roll with that punch and that was the decision that I made. Was it the best decision looking back? Maybe not. At the time, I felt that was what I had to do. I stand behind every decision I made. I don’t regret anything.
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