Exclusive: Ami Cusack talks about her 'Survivor: Micronesia' adventure
By Christopher Rocchio, 04/04/2008
Ami Cusack says she was telling the truth when she told Ozzy Lusth she'd stick with him to the end.
Unfortunately she didn't get the opportunity to prove it, as the 35-year-old former Survivor: Vanuatu contestant became the tenth castaway eliminated from Survivor: Micronesia -- Fans vs. Favorites during last night's broadcast of the long-running CBS reality show's sixteenth season.
On Friday, Ami talked to Reality TV World about why her fellow Favorites lack of trust in her was something that originated early in the game; her harsh criticism of Chet Welch's decision to be medically evacuated instead of helping oust Ozzy when they had the chance; how her indecision after the tribal swap ultimately cost her; and why -- despite Ozzy's role in eliminating her -- she still wants him to win the $1 million.
Reality TV World: Since Erik Reichenbach basically threw you under the bus, did you ever tell Ozzy, Amanda Kimmel and Cirie Fields about Erik and Tracy Hughes-Wolf's plan to blind-side Ozzy prior to the Tribal Council that saw Chet's elimination?
Ami: I don't think it would have mattered because it would have hurt Ozzy's feelings more had he known that I was plotting against him than Erik and Tracy. He would have expected it from them. He didn't expect it from me.
Reality TV World: Okay, so you thought telling Ozzy about it would have done more damage than help? You think it would have put you at a further disadvantage?
Reality TV World: I'm assuming that as a Favorite you had to be anticipating a merge, so why do you think Ozzy, Amanda and Cirie thought you would be less trustworthy than Erik once the two tribes came together?
Ami: I don't think it was Amanda and Cirie and Ozzy. I think it was just Ozzy -- and I think he was just worried about my past history with bringing the women together [in Vanuatu]. Had he kept me and left Erik to the sharks, he would have been with three women and with my past that wouldn't have been a good place for him to sit.
Reality TV World: That leads well into my next question. Had you survived last night's Tribal Council and made it to the merge, what would have been your strategy? Would you have sought-out your previous alliance with fellow former Vanuatu castaway Eliza Orlins and aligned yourself against some of the stronger Favorites?
Ami: Probably not. I really wanted Ozzy to win. So I probably would have just stuck with Ozzy -- for sure.
Reality TV World: Interesting. Is there any specific reason why you want to see Ozzy win?
Ami: Because he deserves it. He's a stud. Are you kidding me? Hello! Were you watching the show? Ozzy is a frickin' stud.
Reality TV World: Okay, so you think he's the most deserving castaway there?
Ami: Yes. Definitely.
Reality TV World: Ozzy felt you were placating him when you dismissed his worries about being seen as a leader. Were you being honest when you were telling him that or were you just feeding him lines?
Ami: Seriously, it wasn't any place or any time to be worrying about [being seen as a leader] yet. It's like, "Right now, let's worry about keeping the numbers in our favor. It's not about who's the leader." He's a leader. He's a great leader. So accept it and run with it. He's a super-cool guy!
Ami: Yeah, especially after playing the game twice. Yeah, you don't want to be seen as "the leader," but at least take some of the responsibilities for the part you play in the tribe and don't blow it off like, "Oh whatever. I'm just little, old Ozzy." No. You're amazing. Own it.
Reality TV World: Do you think Amanda and Cirie were sincere when they told you that they wanted you to be on their side -- and Ozzy basically changed their thinking once he got back? Or do you think they were just stringing you along and had already decided to vote you out?
Ami: No, I think they were actually into it. I thought we had a great day -- the rest of the day -- and the second Ozzy got back, I think that ruined all the work that I had done with [Amanda and Cirie].
Reality TV World: Erik cornered Ozzy as soon as he returned from Exile Island. Did you similarly approach Ozzy before Tribal Council?
Ami: There was not one second for me to talk to him before Tribal Council. The second he got back and I got back down to the beach from the cave it was time to go to Tribal Council and I was not able to speak to him -- not one word.
Reality TV World: Had you been able to speak to him, would you have taken the opportunity? If so, what would you have said?
Ami: I would have definitely spoken to him. I would have asked him what happened with him on Exile and explained myself. Because [Alexis Jones] gave him information that wasn't true [while they were together on Exile]. She thought that I was the one who found four clues on Exile Island -- when in reality, it was Cirie. [Alexis] gave Ozzy the wrong information which made me look bad.
Anyways, I would have talked to him and I would have straightened stuff out. I think he would have seen the picture a little clearer. Because when I had time to talk to Cirie and Amanda, everything was fine.
Reality TV World: Can you give your perspective on what happened with that whole situation where you, Tracy, Chet, and Erik were going to blindside Ozzy -- but couldn't get Chet to muster up the strength to remain in the game long enough to vote for Ozzy? When we talked to Chet, he said that Tribal Council was basically symbolic and he only attended as an alternative to being med-evac'd out of the game.
Ami: What a namby, pamby, cry-baby little girl! Are you serious? He can't take one for the team and not go out in your flames of glory just so you can help your favorite people in the game? Seriously? Take one for the team, pal. Suck it up and last one more day. You can go out in dramatic tears with a bonfire on the beach. I don't care. I thought it was really sad that he left the way that he did.
Reality TV World: So do you fault Chet for that? That was a major point in the game where you guys could have turned the tables.
Ami: Yeah... Yeah.
Reality TV World: When we talked to Tracy, she said you were "terrified" to go against Ozzy and would have only done so if you could have gotten Cirie on board with the plan. Did you ever talk to Cirie about joining with you, Erik and Tracy to boot Ozzy?
Ami: We all talked about it -- but I wasn't "terrified." The fact that Ozzy and I had a pretty close relationship -- we talked a lot and spent a lot of time together just he and I -- I didn't really want to go against him. It had to be a really, really great plan for me to go against Ozzy because I really like the guy. He's frickin' hot!
Reality TV World: Also when we talked to Tracy, she accused Malakal's Favorites of intentionally throwing Immunity Challenges to could weed-out the Fans on your tribe. Did you know anything about that?
Ami: That's not the truth at all.
Reality TV World: Okay, so that was just suspicions on Tracy's part?
Ami: Yeah. That's just Tracy being Tracy.
Reality TV World: Once the swap occurred, you lost Eliza and Jonathan Penner -- two of your allies in the game. What was your strategy after the swap? Do you think it would have served you best to align yourself with either Malakal's Fans or Favorites?
Ami: I think just me kind of going back and forth between the two and not really being sure where I fit in was not a good play on my move. I definitely should have had some conversations with Ozzy and Amanda and Cirie and solidified my relationship. But I didn't do that.
Reality TV World: So that's the route you would have taken instead of aligning with the Fans?
Ami: For sure. Definitely.
Reality TV World: You mentioned a few times that you felt like an outsider with Malakal's Favorites. Do you think that was a divide that originated at the beginning of the game?
Ami: Of course! The second [Yau-Man Chan] was gone, and [Jon "Jonny Fairplay" Dalton] -- who knew about Fairplay -- but the second Yau-Man was gone, I'm just like, "Ah, I'm screwed." Once Yau-Man was gone, like the guy's my rock. He's such a great guy. I love Yau-Man. I think the game would have been a better game had we gotten to see him play more. I really missed having Yau-Man there.
Reality TV World: So you saw Yau-Man's elimination as a turning point for you in the game?
Ami: Yeah. Right then and there -- that was the splitting point. Cirie made the decision on how the game was going to go. It was completely up to her to make it.
Reality TV World: Based on that answer, why do you think Ozzy, Amanda, James Clement and Parvati Shallow were so quick to trust Cirie -- a notorious Survivorfence sitter -- yet had a hard time trusting you?
Ami: Because they were in with her from the very first few days. They weren't in with me. I was on the opposite side of the playing field. I voted against Cirie -- I wanted to get rid of Parvati straight away. She was my No. 1 get-rid-of. It just started out that way.
Reality TV World: So you think your desire to oust Parvati was something they picked up on and held against you?
Reality TV World: Cirie's "fence-sitting" seemed a lot like what Dolly Neely had done to you way back in Survivor: Vanuatu. Back then, you and Eliza were in opposite alliances at the time but you two still managed to get both your alliances to team-up and turn on the fence-sitter. Why didn't that happen again this time with Cirie?
Ami: Are you kidding me!? Because I'm not banging either one of the hot chicks [Amanda and Parvati] on this show -- Ozzy and James have those two girls wrapped! They had a solid alliance of five. Why would any one of them change? [Ozzy, Amanda, James and Parvati] were super tight and cuddling every night. There was nothing I could do in that situation.
Reality TV World: I'm assuming you watched last night's episode, did you buy Parvati's claim to Natalie Bolton that she's going to turn on James and Ozzy once the merge happens?
Ami: Of course I do! She's a woman! (laughing)
Reality TV World: How strange was it allying with Eliza after the role she had played in your Vanuatu ouster? Had you guys buried the hatchet since Vanuatu or was your Micronesia relationship really just an alliance of convenience?
Ami: In reality, I love that girl so much. She's like my little sister. I mean she talks a lot, but all that aside she's a brilliant young lady. She knows the game better than anybody. I love her to death and I was happy to be playing the game with her. I just had to be under the radar with how much I did care about her because otherwise we would have been a huge target.
Reality TV World: How do you like Eliza's chances going forward without you -- or any of the other members of her initial Favorites alliance -- once the merge happens? Do you think she has a shot?
Ami: Yeah! Did you see that girl fighting for her life in the challenge last night! That girl is tough as nails and will do anything. She made it to the Final 4 in [Vanuatu] -- and she was one of the first people that was supposed to get voted out. She's a tough cookie and I think she's going to do just fine.
Reality TV World: Going into last night's Tribal Council, were you confident that Erik would be the one eliminated?
Ami: No. Going into Tribal Council I knew it was me.
Reality TV World: How did you come to that conclusion?
Ami: I walked up to Ozzy as he got back to the beach [from Exile Island] and I looked at him and all I said to him was, "You're voting for me aren't you?" he looked at the ground and walked away and it was off to Tribal Council. So I knew it was me.
Reality TV World: Considering your conversation with Amanda and Cirie, were you surprised they followed Ozzy's lead?
Ami: Like I said, I'm not hosing these girls -- Ozzy and James have got that in their corner. I've got no power over that. (laughing)
Reality TV World: Do you think Ozzy, Amanda and Cirie's decision will come back to bite them? What moves do you see Erik making now that he's survived to the merge?
Ami: I certainly hope it comes back to bite them. (laughing) I really would love to see Ozzy win, but I think this choice that he just made is going to be a big mistake for him.
Reality TV World: What about the second part of that question? What moves do you see Erik making now that he's survived to the merge? He seemed really eager to make it that far.
Ami: That kid's just like a happy puppy. If you give him a bone or something he'll be happy no matter what -- whether he makes it to the end or makes it one more spot. The kid's got a bone and he's just wagging his tail and is as happy as can be.
Reality TV World: Were you ever aware that Ozzy had the Hidden Immunity Idol?
Ami: Yeah. Ozzy told me the day he found it. He came back and took me in the woods and he's like, "Ami! I found it!" Because I gave him all the clues that I had gotten from Exile Island because I wanted him to find it -- especially if he did find it then he'd have a little bit owed to me because I gave him all the clues that I had. So yeah, he told me the day he came back that he had it.
Reality TV World: If you would have made it to the merge, is that information you would have used against Ozzy?
Ami: No. Even when I knew he was going to vote me out, I didn't disclose any of that. I kept it to myself. I did tell Cirie, because the morning he voted me out -- I think he was starting to doubt me at that point -- because he came up to me and he's like, "Ami, I just want you to know I really didn't find the idol."
Reality TV World: So he was backtracking over his previous comment that he had found it?
Ami: Who makes a play like that? It's like, "I know you found it. Don't mess with me."
Reality TV World: Jeff Probst has mentioned how some of the Favorites began talking about alliances and strategies before they even knew that they'd be coming back for sure. Had you had any of those types of talks? If so, with whom?
Ami: The only person that I was really close to was [Vanuatu runner-up Twila Tanner]. We all decided that to keep our chances really powerful and strong during this time of CBS choosing, that we should keep our mouths shut. So we just said, "Let's stop talking now and I'll see you on the beach and just know how much I love you." That was pretty much the end of that conversation.
CBS is really strict with that stuff. They don't want you making alliances behind the scenes. You have to be really careful with that stuff. So I just said, "You know what? I'm not answering my phone." (laughing) If anybody else calls, I'm just going to be on vacation or something.
Reality TV World: So was it difficult to get to the beach and see Twila wasn't there?
Ami: Crushing. Crushing. That girl owes me! Yes. That was crushing. I really wish she would have been there.
Reality TV World: How did you end up being part of Survivor: Micronesia?
Ami: It was two weeks before the leave date and I got a call. They asked if I'd be willing to do the show again and before they'd even finished asking me I was already in the emergency room getting my medical stuff done. (laughing) I was ready to rock n' roll. So the second they said, "Will you?" I was going through the process, trying to make it happen.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction when you discovered it wasn't going to be a full All-Stars edition? Were you disappointed or happy?
Ami: Both. It's a challenge either way. It's a challenge not knowing these people, not knowing what their strengths were or their strategy plans in the past. So that was a challenge. But at the same time, they had never played the game before. So either way it would have been great. Both had pros and cons.
Reality TV World: What was your original strategy heading into the game and did it differ from the first time you participated in Survivor?
Ami: Well it definitely was different just because I was playing with all women in Vanuatu and I know women pretty well. So standing on the beach with a bunch of different people, I wasn't sure how I was going to handle it. (laughing) So that made it a little bit tougher. I felt like after Yau-Man got voted out, I was kind of out of the loop anyway.
Reality TV World: Did you do anything physically or mentally to prepare for the competition this time around?
Ami: I only had two weeks to train really, so there wasn't a lot I could do.
Reality TV World: Do you think the Fans have real chance of winning Survivor: Micronesia? So far it's been a bit of a slaughter, and once the jury starts, it seems likely it's going to be stacked with Favorites.
Ami: Well yeah. There's four Fans left and six [Favorites]? So yeah. Pretty much I think the Favorites are going to take it over.
Reality TV World: So Ozzy is the castaway you'd like to see win Micronesia, right?
Ami: Yeah. Ozzy's the guy! I just love him. He deserves it.
Reality TV World: Any castaway you don't want to see win?
Reality TV World: Okay. Any specific reason?
Ami: She's just boring. (laughing)
Reality TV World: Any regrets about your second Survivorstint?
Ami: Of course I've got regrets. I would have liked to of made it a lot further. I wish I would have communicated a lot more with Ozzy and Cirie and Amanda. But things worked out how they were meant to and I feel so lucky I got to play the game twice.
Reality TV World: So what's next for you?
Ami: I'm still working at the coffee shop. I just had knee surgery -- I blew out my knee on one of the challenges...
Reality TV World: Geez, which one?
Ami: Which challenge or which knee?
Reality TV World: Challenge.
Ami: (laughing) The one where I was tied to Amanda and we were chasing James and [Jason Siska] through the woods.
Reality TV World: Wow, that challenge happened a while ago.
Ami: Yeah, I just wrapped it up with a T-shirt and a buff and went on my way. I figured the damage was already done.
Reality TV World: Did you see the medics for that?
Ami: All they did was see me. There was nothing else that could really happen. They can't give you any advantage over anyone else. So they just made sure my leg wasn't going to fall off and threw me back into the game.
Reality TV World: Alright, since I cut you off before, was there anything else you wanted to add?
Ami: No, I think that's it. I just feel really, really lucky I got to play this game twice. It's been an adventure.
(Photo credit CBS)
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