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Exclusive: Chris Hammons talks 'Survivor' -- Zeke Smith's betrayal was premature and stung big time


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 11/28/2016 

Chris Hammons and Jessica Lewis were eliminated from Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X during Wednesday night's back-to-back episodes on CBS.

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Chris, a 38-year-old trial lawyer from Moore, OK, was voted out of the merged Vinaka tribe during Episode 10 on Night 28 of Survivor's 33rd season.

Chris said in his final words he was "completely blindsided" because he thought the majority of the tribe was voting out Jessica with him. He was disappointed about not making it further in the game, saying Jessica outplayed him, but she was eliminated him at the next Tribal Council due to a random drawing of rocks.

During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Monday, Chris talked about his Survivor experience. Below is the first half, so be sure to check back with us soon for the concluding portion.

Reality TV World: I'd just like to confirm that you were blindsided. Whom did you think was voting with you heading into Tribal Council and whom did you believe the opposing alliance was voting for?

Chris Hammons: I thought the people voting with me, I felt, were going to be me, [Bret LaBelle], [Sunday Burquest], [Justin "Jay" Starrett], [Zeke Smith] and [Hannah Shapiro], which would've made the majority. But I also figured [David Wright] would roll with us on that vote against [Jessica Lewis] because he'd have no choice as long as Zeke and Hannah were in on it.

Obviously that was not the case. Zeke flipped, so Dave got to go with what he wanted to go with, with [Ken McNickle] and Jess. The other side of it, I didn't really think anybody was going to be able to put together much of anything. But I didn't hear a whole lot of grumbling, so it was a true blindside! They got me good.

Reality TV World: So clearly you didn't think Adam Klein was a package deal with Hannah and Zeke. Any specific reason why?

Chris Hammons: I felt like he was really close with Jess, and the fact he voted out [Jessica "Figgy" Figueroa] and not Ken or Jess at the swap vote, I felt Jess was like the hub of that group, you know? You've got Dave, who's kind of calling the shots, but Ken is with Jess, Adam's with Jess. And if we got rid of Jess, then those three would kind of be free agents for us to pick up and work with.

Reality TV World: Were you shocked to discover Zeke had betrayed you? And did you have any hard feelings toward him during and after the Tribal Council when you got voted out?

Chris Hammons: Not during the game because I thought we were friends, but directly after it, you bet. It's hard to take. When I was walking down that ramp trying to figure it out, and it hit me, like, "The only person who could've pulled this off was Zeke flipping and getting Hannah to go with him," yeah it stung, big time. It stung big time.

Reality TV World: Do you regret getting so buddy-buddy with Zeke, a millennial, and trusting him when you could've just stuck with Gen Xers the whole time?

Chris Hammons: The only thing I really regret is, at the time when I had him at his most vulnerable stage at the swap when we had a majority of Gen Xers, I wish I had just voted Dave off at that point. And then Dave wouldn't have been able to show Zeke his idol and get to buddy up with Zeke as much. And then it wouldn't have been a problem. I think Zeke then would've had to stay tight with me.

Reality TV World: Thinking about the game from Zeke's perspective, do you ultimately think he made the right choice in taking you out when he did? Because he lost a close ally and then Dave immediately gunned for him afterwards.

Chris Hammons: I think he made a mistake in that. I think Dave made the great move, you know, he had this kind of two-way go with Ken and Jess or to go with our group. And I think for Zeke, it was premature to go after me.

I think Zeke and I could have -- if we got Jess out right then -- run the game. And yes, would it have gotten messy later, down the road? Sure. But we could've really chosen from that point on who goes, who stays, and then we could've battled it out later down the road.

Reality TV World: You mentioned how a part of you thought David was going to vote Jess out with you. Could you elaborate a little more on your relationship with him out there? Because you didn't seem to realize you were on Dave's radar, never mind the fact he got the ball rolling on your vote-off to begin with.

Chris Hammons: No, I knew. Dave and I had an interesting relationship because we were actually a lot closer than it shows. As far as, you know, we had many talks about strategy and talks about voting Jess or whom we might vote off.

But it was one of those things where both of us knew we were going to come after each other. It was like, "Hey, we kind of understand this is Russia and America talking here, and eventually, we're going to have to go to war." But at the time, I felt it was just too early in the game for him to attack me.

I thought he would use me more as almost a shield going forward, and we had kind of gotten tight there on Vanua too. We had been on a roll, so we did have a closer relationship that it shows, but we also both knew that we weren't going to go to the end with each other.

Reality TV World: Just to clarify, were you the one who came up with the idea to target Jessica in the first place prior to the Tribal Council when you went home, or was someone else in charge but you were onboard considering your history with her and that Paul Wachter vote?

Chris Hammons: Honestly, that was Dave, and that's why I think Dave is brilliant. I think Dave pushed that agenda, and I was happy to accept it also and push it through my group. But I think Dave just did it so that he could have that two-way street and then Zeke can decide. He goes to Zeke and says, "Hey, maybe we should take Chris out."

And then if Zeke says, "No," he says, "You're probably right. Let's just go." And then he rolls over with us. Well, he threw it out there and Zeke took the hook and the rest is history and I'm gone.

Reality TV World: When you said at Tribal Council you had moved on from Jessica's betrayal when she had voted Paul out, I gathered you didn't really mean that. So were you actually convinced during the game Jessica believed you and wouldn't anticipate you targeting her?

Chris Hammons: I don't know that Jessica believed it at all, but it was just kind of "Tribal speak." I wasn't completely over it by any stretch of the imagination. I felt like she betrayed us, a good group that we had, and I certainly felt like it would be justice -- Survivor justice -- for her to go home.

But it was more strategy also because I felt like, again, "If she goes home, then you have Ken, Adam and pretty much Dave looking for someone to cling to."

Reality TV World: Jay suspected he'd receive votes after the Individual Immunity Challenge because no one was talking strategy with him. So what was your reaction when Jay didn't end up playing his idol? And do you think you could've done more to convince him that he was going next or put more pressure on him to play it?

Chris Hammons: Yeah, I think maybe we could've put more pressure on him, but I honestly felt like that was a bold move on his part in that position that he was in -- not to play his idol. So maybe he knew more than I thought he knew, but I really felt like we did put a lot of pressure on him to play his idol.

So, I don't know. It's an interesting question to see if he knew more than we thought he did, but that was a bold move, not playing his idol in that position. I have to give it up to him; That was a big gamble that went his way.

Reality TV World: Zeke seems to think he's running the show. Did you get that impression at all while you were out there, and if not, how has it been watching his gameplay unfold on TV?

Chris Hammons: Dave and I had actually talked about the fact Zeke was getting too bold and talking to other people without us there. Honestly, I don't know if I had pushed for Zeke, I'm not sure Dave wouldn't have agreed with me.

But I didn't. I just said, "Dave, we need to watch him," and he agreed with me. But I figured Zeke would come a couple votes later if I stayed in the game. I wasn't anticipating him turning on me then.

Check back with Reality TV World soon for more from Chris' post-elimination Survivor interview.


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