Exclusive: Crystal Cox talks dishes her 'Survivor Gabon' experience
By John Bracchitta, 12/12/2008
Crystal Cox, a 29-year-old 2004 Olympic gold-medalist track athlete from Durham, NC, had managed to last 35 days in Survivor: Gabon without many major causes for alarm, despite spending a large amount of that time as a member of the competition's sputtering Fang tribe.
However, on her 36th day, the failed execution of a Tribal Council blindside and a shifting of the game's remaining alliances resulted in Crystal becoming the thirteenth castaway to be eliminated from the competition during last night's broadcast on CBS.
On Friday, Crystal spoke to Reality TV World about what led to her alliance's decision to attempt the failed blindside, why she was unable to put her training as an Olympic athlete to good use in the competition's physical challenges, and why she dubs herself the "Tribal Council Queen."
Reality TV World: What do you think was the key move that caused [Jessica "Sugar" Kiper] to flip on you and vote you out of the game -- was it Kenny's sudden decision to try and blindside [Robert "Bob" Crowley] instead of going with the original plan to vote off [Matty Whitmore] or that argument with Matty in which you tried to "put the stink on him" but ended up upsetting Sugar?
Crystal: I think what changed Sugar's heart towards her alliance was both of those situations: the situation with me yelling at Matty, and with Kenny wanting to blindside Bob. (Pauses) I don't think she could take it anymore as far as me yelling at Matty.
Reality TV World: So do you think she still would have flipped even if [you hadn't yelled at Matty]? That wasn't the one cause?
Crystal: I think that was the main cause, because before then everything that I knew, Sugar knew. We played a very tight alliance in that game, and I didn't keep any secrets from her. So for her to flip and go with Matty, that totally shocked me. I was like, "Wow!"
Reality TV World: So do you think Sugar still would have ended up flipping and voting you off even if Ken "Kenny" Hoang] hadn't suddenly tried to go after Bob?
Crystal: Um... I think she probably would have, I can't say. If Kenny didn't try to go after Bob, she probably would have gone for Matty next.
Reality TV World: During your exit statement, you admitted that you may have gone overboard when arguing with Matty. If you thought that he was going to go home, why did you keep beating him up?
Crystal: Well the thing is Matty was... He kept harping on the fact that his name was written down and he was paranoid and he was whining about it. He was like "I can't believe my name was there," and we're like "Matty, get over it!"
I mean, my name was up there eight times, and it's a game and it comes with the territory. You will see your name sooner or later, and he could not accept the fact that he saw his name. It just was getting to me.
Reality TV World: And going back now, you had said that you [may have] went overboard. Would you have still addressed it, but just maybe not as much?
Crystal: Yeah, I would have addressed it because the thing is with Fang, the thing I liked about our group even though we lost a lot of challenges, we were very much up front with each other. If we didn't like something, we said it. And it wasn't just me, it was the whole tribe. There wasn't any secrets there about each other.
Reality TV World: Based on the show and the comments the other castaways have made, it looked like Kenny was the one that was really making all the decisions in your alliance with him, was that really the case?
Crystal: Yeah, that was the case. I mean Kenny pretty much would say something and I would help him execute it and we just pretty much protected each other throughout the game.
Reality TV World: Did you ever try talking Kenny out of his elaborate plan to get Bob to give him the idol and then blindside Bob? I mean Kenny's last elaborate plan to flush out the fake idol had just failed three days earlier...
Crystal: No, I didn't try to talk him out of it because of the mere fact that anything goes in Survivor, and so I'm like "Hey, it could be worth a shot, I'm not counting anything out. If Bob gives up the idol, then Bob will be the next one to go."
Reality TV World: So even though you had said that one of your biggest mistakes or regrets was [following Kenny's advice and] not voting for Matty at the last Tribal Council, [you weren't] worried that you would make a similar mistake in this round with a similar[ly] [complicated] plan?
Crystal: No, I think that if I would have voted for Matty, my alliance would now be [Corinne Kaplan], Bob, Kenny, and myself, and Sugar or [Susie Smith] would have been the one to go.
Reality TV World: When you left for Tribal Council, how confident were you and Kenny that Bob was going to agree to give Kenny his idol?
Crystal: We thought that he might, because Kenny went crying to Bob saying "I think that I'm in danger," but we did not know that Sugar was going back and relaying all of the information to Bob. That totally shocked me.
But we knew that we had a shot at it, like I said before we didn't count anything out. If it's worth thinking of, it's worth trying.
Reality TV World: How certain were you that either Bob or Matty were going home? Did you have any idea that Bob, Sugar, and Susie had were all planning on targeting you instead?
Crystal: No, I did not know. I mean, I can't say I was completely blindsided because we are down to crunch time, but I didn't think it was my turn to go, like I honestly thought Day 39. I thought Matty was gonna be the one to go.
Reality TV World: Based on your comments on last week's episode, you seemed at least a little skeptical that Bob's idol was real, but why did you think it had any credibility?
Crystal: Because I ended up looking at the torches and the Immunity Idol that he had around his neck and some of the jewels were missing, and I was like "What in the world!" That's what made me change my mind.
Reality TV World: Did you ever consider what might happen downstream if you guys tried to go after Matty and the idol ended up not being real and he remained in the game?
Crystal: No, I don't know. I mean Corinne probably would've been gone, but I don't think that would have affected my outcome in the game.
Reality TV World: Bob actually showed you the fake idol, and you had actually also gotten to see the idol that Marcus had thrown away before it was thrown into the ocean. Was Bob's version really that close a replica to fool people into thinking it was the real one?
Crystal: Oh my gosh, his idol was good. It looked real. Like, it didn't look like a piece of junk. He had it all jeweled up and it had a little face on it. It was nice, he had a work of art. I was almost convinced.
Reality TV World: So it looked similar?
Crystal: Similar, but it was believable.
Reality TV World: Did you ever talk with Kenny about the chance that the idol might not be real?
Crystal: Um, did I? Yes I did, yes I did. Because he was like "Either way, you vote for Corrine," and he was going to write down Matty's name in order to garner up votes in the jury for himself.
Reality TV World: You and Kenny were clearly ready to get rid of Matty at the last two eliminations, but at least Kenny seemed to be distracted by Bob's "idol" and shifted the plans. If Bob and Corinne had just come to you and Kenny without including the fake idol story, do you think there may have been a better chance of Matty's elimination going through with less trouble?
Crystal: Yeah, they probably would've, because somewhere down the road Sugar would have probably been blindsided, so... Yeah they may have, but we knew there was a lot of deceit floating around in the game, so you had to take your chances.
Reality TV World: Do you know why Kenny felt that he needed to give Matty a third vote in order for his plan to work last week? I mean wouldn't Matty have still just as easily been the second highest vote-getter even if only Bob and Corinne had voted for him?
Crystal: Well he did that because he needed to garner up the trust of Bob and Corinne either way. He was trying to work on his other alliances, and he needed to garner up the trust of Bob and Corinne.
Reality TV World: Okay, I see. And going back to last night's episode, Matty and Sugar seemed to easily break away from you and Kenny. Had there been arguments, or breaks in the alliance before that they didn't show on TV? It seemed like the alliance had been as tight as ever prior to the vote for Matty.
Crystal: No. Well actually... What they didn't show was me and Sugar having a moment by the pond. I just went to her, or actually she came to me, and I just started crying. I was like "it feels like something is weird." And she was like "No [Crystal] you're fine" and stuff.
I didn't know that she was going to turn on me like that. But the whole thing is Matty just kept harping on the fact that his name was written down, and he was treating it as if he was too good to have his name written down. That's what was annoying me.
Reality TV World: And did [Matty complain] additional times to what was seen on the show?
Crystal: Oh yeah he did it several times! Oh yeah.
Reality TV World: Moving on to your gameplay. You were very open that you have very strong emotions will let them be known. [But] a big part of Survivor is the social game, [so] did you ever consider bottling them up a little to prevent rubbing anyone the wrong way?
Crystal: Yes and no. I mean, after I saw how my co-castaways were playing I was like "Fine then. Once we go to [Tribal Council] if [Survivor: Gabon host Jeff Probst] asks me a question I'm not gonna hold back," and that's pretty much what I did. I was like the "Tribal Council Queen." (Laughs)
Reality TV World: You're a former Olympic athlete but you struggled with a lot in the physical challenges to the point where some of the other castaways have told us they were shocked to fine out about your past...
Crystal: (Interrupting) Oh yeah! I mean the challenges were really hard. And it wasn't like [I was just] getting on the track and racing around the track. Half that stuff was like... some bold craziness that the challenge crew thought of. (Laughs)
They weren't easy stuff, I mean no person in their right mind would probably do half of those things. But it wasn't any situation that you could train yourself for or prepare yourself for. Whereas with track and field I'm just used to running in a straight line, and the first one to the finish [wins].
Reality TV World: So it was just a different type of thing?
Crystal: Yeah, and once I realized that my strength wasn't the challenges, I was like "Alright, fine. I'm gonna play a social game." And that's what I did.
Reality TV World: A lot of the castaways we've spoken to have said that Kenny has benefited more from luck and strong allies than because of his "mastermind" gameplay tactics. Putting your alliance aside, do you agree with that?
Crystal: No, not really because Kenny was good at some of the challenges, and he pretty much got along with everybody. If someone didn't like Kenny, it's because they rubbed him the wrong way or he rubbed them the wrong way. But Kenny pretty much got along with everybody out there.
Reality TV World: Do you think he started to bite off more than he can chew with his increasingly elaborate plans?
Crystal: Yeah, he wants to be a big power mover and shaker, so... Some of that stuff I was a little bit surprised at. (Laughs) I was like "C'mon Kenny now, let's take small steps." (Laughs)
Reality TV World: Do you think that Bob would have given his idol to Kenny if he felt he was really in danger of being eliminated, or do you think that, like Jeff Probst suggested in a post-show blog entry he posted his morning, he was putting on as much of a performance as Kenny?
Crystal: Oh I definitely agree with that. Bob was not a dumb player, he was very much a physical threat out there. And yes, Bob was putting on a show just as much a Kenny was.
Reality TV World: So, I guess this would probably be for Kenny as much as you, why did you bank so much of your plan on him doing so then?
Crystal: Because anything can happen, you know? Expect the unexpected. And when you have hardly any food out there you're not thinking clearly. So we were hoping that maybe he wouldn't think clearly.
Reality TV World: What did you think of [Randy Bailey's] comments during a Tribal Council a few weeks ago where he called you and G.C.'s actions on Fang like that of a "posse" and a "gang?"
Crystal: Oh my gosh I was appalled. I think that Jeff saw the anger on my face (laughs), and what they didn't show was when Jeff said "Well Randy, what if Crystal called you a 'redneck'" (laughs)
You know, I don't wanna entertain his childish thoughts because I wasn't raised that way, and, you know, I had no major bitterness towards Randy. My bitterness with Randy started when he called me a "B" and I told him "Don't ever disrespect me like that," because he doesn't know me.
That was the moment of me becoming an outspoken person in the game. And I don't think they showed that, but I told him "I'm gonna respect you because your name is Randy, and you're gonna call me Crystal."
Reality TV World: He said he had spoken to you since to apologize, is that true?
Crystal: Yes he did. Yeah, we did speak and he did apologize. We've had minimal conversation since then. But he tried to make amends to some extent and, you know, to some end.
Reality TV World: What surprised you the most about Survivor?
Crystal: I didn't think that my need for food, and my desire to have food would be so great. That's what surprised me the most. I was starving! I lost 25 lbs when I was out there.
But overall it was a great experience, but it's hard as hell, and any person that goes into that situation my advice to them is don't take it for granted, because it looks easy on TV but it is really difficult. I'm glad I did as well as I did to last as long as I did.
Reality TV World: Was there anything that didn't make it on the air that you wish had?
Crystal: Hmm. Yeah, I wish the whole me-crying-to-Sugar thing woulda made it on, then the viewers would see that I do have a soft side because I'm being edited as the angry... the angry castaway.
But what they didn't show too was I spent most of my time joking with the castaways around camp. I think that they showed a lot of times when I was frustrated or bitter, but they didn't show me having a good time with the castaways either because, you know...
I didn't do anything wrong to them. They just thought about me the way they did. It'll be interesting on the reunion come Sunday.
Reality TV World: I'm sure. And going back a little, in retrospect, do you wish you had taken the opportunity to blindside Sugar when you discovered that she had the hidden Immunity Idol but instead voted out G.C.?
Crystal: No, I think that wasn't the moment for me. I think, like I said, my moment would've been to write down Matty's name as opposed to Corinne.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on the show? Had you applied previously?
Crystal: This was the first time. I went to a casting call.