Blindside backlash. Ali Elliott was rightfully heated after her closest ally, Ryan Ulrich, left her out of the previous vote on Survivor season 35, “Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers” — and unfortunately, that broken trust couldn’t mend itself in time for the merge.
The celebrity assistant (who works with YouTube star GloZell Green), 24, was surprisingly voted out of her tribe by Ulrich, Chrissy Hofbeck and JP Hilsabeck following a rather tense blow-up at camp.
The Los Angeles resident confronted Ulrich about leaving her out of the loop and he ultimately decided to stick by Hofbeck, with whom he formed a bond over a day one advantage he gifted her.
Here, Elliott breaks down what went wrong for her:
Us: How did you feel going into tribal council?
AE: I definitely felt there was a good chance I was going home. I had hoped I was able to mend these relationships. I hoped I was able to build trust back up with a few people, but I was definitely nervous. I was shaking the whole entire time. It was cold, it was windy. It was disheartening because the last few days were leading up to tribal. They were very hard for me. Even though there were four people in the camp, I felt very alone. I spent a lot of time with myself. Just trying to think of what I could possibly do. It was definitely hard going into that, just praying I got some of these people.
Us: Was there a point during tribal council where you felt the tide turn? When did you realize it might be you after all?
AE: Yeah, because I felt over the last few days that Chrissy and I had kind of bonded a little bit. There was one point where she just kept taking JP’s side and I was thinking, “OK, I didn’t win her over.” I thought maybe I convinced her to come my way, but it was a little bit of a feeling. And then as people were walking up to write down names, I got a gut feeling it was going to be me.
Us: Would you credit the downfall of your game to Ryan’s advantage and how it bonded him to Chrissy?
AE: Yes. You can say his advantage was my disadvantage. His luck was my un-luck. That super idol, from day one, if that would have never been there, Ryan would have been begging me to get close to Roark [Luskin]. We only needed one. The whole entire game would have been completely different because he would have had no pre-established relationship with Chrissy. Even with the super idol, I think he still decided to trust Chrissy over someone he had already know for quite a few days.
Us: You are a very smart player as well. Do you think Ryan maybe felt threatened or recognized that?
AE: Yeah, I think so. Ryan definitely saw my social game and we were playing very similar social games. We were connecting to people, laughing with people, getting to know people. I was just being myself. I’m just meeting people, being myself. I didn’t really realize Ryan was paying that much attention. I feel like it was too early to worry about me. Ryan knew he had my trust. It was too early to get me out. He had time. Maybe he thought the merge, I would have created more relationships and wouldn’t have needed him anymore. I have no idea. My whole game was get to the merge and then we start playing. I was trying to take the easiest route to get to that merge.
Us: I was surprised he reacted that way and didn’t seem to back down…
AE: Ryan was blaming it on Roark because he didn’t want to tell me about his super idol. He was picking at the only thing he could possibly say to make sense of it. And I wasn’t having it. If he would have come to me and said, “Hey Ali, we are going with Chrissy. Me and Chrissy have this pre-established bond because of this super idol. This is our best bet.” I would have said, first of all, I have no other choice. I wasn’t going to give up my life in the game for someone I just met. My motto going into it was, “As long as it’s not me.” Especially at that moment, I would bite the bullet and say, “OK, Ryan. I’m trusting you in this situation. If you think it’s Chrissy, we’re going with Chrissy.” It’s interesting that he didn’t tell me knowing he had to come back to camp with me (laughs).
Us: Did you think about approaching him differently after the Roark blindside? What were you thinking on your way back to camp?
AE: I was like, “OK, Ali, stay calm.” Because I knew I was upset and I was trying to fight the fire inside of myself. Blowing up does not work. I started like, “Hey Ryan, what was that all about?” Like I don’t need to take you aside. These people all saw that. So whatever you have to say to me, you can say in front of them. You already voted with them. I wanted to put everything out in the open. He got very defensive right away. I didn’t plan on it being that way. But because he got so defensive, it made me upset because I was like, “Just tell me. Just tell me your reasoning.” Saying Roark was not a reason for me. Saying because I trusted this girl too much was not a reason for me. He was saying it like the only reason I was upset was because he didn’t vote Roark. But I was not upset that he didn’t vote Roark. I was upset that he didn’t tell me to vote Roark. I was upset he didn’t include me in that. I felt like we bounced ideas back and forth the whole game. We were close. It only got heated because he was so defensive and he didn’t really have a real reason for his decision because I had no idea about his super idol.
Us: Did that heated conversation seal your fate? How did that affect your relationship?
AE: I don’t think so. Ryan and I played like brother and sister. We would joke with each other, pick at each other. He would pull my hair. We would laugh. We were very close. Very quickly — which they don’t show — we mended that relationship very quickly. The very next morning, we sat, and I was like, “I’m sorry. I didn’t expect it to get to that [point].” Still, in my head, I didn’t plan for it to be a big blow-up. It was almost like a brother and sister fight. Of course, it had to do with our game so it was a lot more serious, but he was the one who came to me and was like, “Ali, you don’t need to worry about it.” I didn’t know whether he was telling the truth, but at that moment, I knew in my gut, if he still wanted to work with me, he would have included me.
Us: What was your plan going into the merge?
AE: I planned on sticking with Ryan and I really wanted to get back with Lauren [Rimmer]. Because we were a close four. That last Patrick [Bolton] decision was very difficult. We had to come together and decide that was the best for us, moving forward. I was planning on staying with him. And then after Ryan voted against me, I was never going to trust him again.
Us: Did you look for the idol at all?
AE: Oh, of course I looked for the idol. I wanted to look at night. Because I didn’t want them thinking I need the idol. Because if I have any chance socially, I need them to think I trust these people. But really behind their backs, I was like, “I really need to find an idol. I can’t trust these people.” So there were times I got up at dawn and was looking for the idol, on the beach, flipping over rocks and looking in the trees. But then I look up and see a red turtleneck staring back at me. And even at the pizza reward, I was searching everyone’s Cokes to see if there were any in the bottle. Also, in the cinnamon jar, I looked to see if there was a scroll in there. I knew I needed one to ensure my safety.
Us: Lastly, do you think there was anything you could have said or done at tribal council to switch the vote?
AE: Honestly, before tribal, I thought I would just lie and say I had an idol. I was thinking that was going to be my last Hail Mary. Just throw that out there and not tell people who I was voting for. Just hope someone decided to flip and vote JP out. I was just going to lie and see if that was enough for someone to vote JP. I don’t know if there was anything that would have swayed them.
Us: Well, I was bummed to see you leave. I hope to see you play again.
AE: I would love to play again. I’m already waiting for the call.
Survivor airs on CBS Wednesdays at 8 p.m.
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