Exclusive: Edna Ma talks about 'Survivor: South Pacific'
By Reality TV World staff, 12/15/2011
Edna Ma thought she was tightly woven into the former Upolu tribe's major alliance arguably led by "Coach" Benjamin Wade, because he led her to believe she was his right-hand woman and protected and guarded under his wing.
While Edna's belief proved to be right all the way up until the merge because Coach had used his power to ensure her safety at every Tribal Council session, once the game got down to only Upolu members remaining, it became an individual game and Edna eventually realized she was the sixth castaway in a six-person alliance. Edna was hurt and disappointed to learn she wasn't higher up on the totem pole, because she was convinced her tribe was truly united when all they had preached was honesty, integrity and loyalty.
Edna was then voted out of the merged Te Tuna tribe last week and was sent to Redemption Island to battle "Ozzy" Oscar Lusth in the game's tenth duel, which she lost -- resulting in her permanent elimination from the game, becoming the sixth member of the jury during Wednesday night's broadcast of Survivor: South Pacific's thirteenth episode.
On Thursday, Edna, a 35-year-old anesthesiologist from Los Angeles, CA, talked to Reality TV World about her Survivor: South Pacific experience.
Reality TV World: So it really seemed like you had no idea you were actually the 6th person in your six-person alliance until a few days before you got voted off. Was that really the case, and if so, can you explain that a little, because based on what's been shown on TV, a lot of viewers have been surprised you didn't seem to know.
Edna Ma: Well, I realized it once they were trying to get [John Cochran] off and things fluctuate so quickly in the game Survivorwith time compressions, I knew that I was outside the alliance probably on Day 3 or 4 when [Brandon Hantz] came into the shelter and told me. But then as the game progressed, he referred to the six of us as "The Upolu 6."
And then when it started coming down to the wire and he was saying, "Okay, Cochran and then Edna," he really wanted to save Cochran and try to force the Final 5 to think about what their plan was after the Final 5. So, it really wasn't obvious to me what -- if they had a plan moving forward after me, and I think in last night's episode, it was pretty self-evident the inclusion of the remaining five Upolu members.
Reality TV World: How had you seen the rest of the game playing out before you discovered you were the sixth person in your alliance -- had you been anticipating making it to the jury vote? And if so, how had you seen that happening?
Edna Ma: Well, historically speaking, you try to keep your tribe strong before the merge. So, when it's a team sport, you play with all the team. You play with all the strongest physical players. And then it makes sense of the five people that Coach had selected to be in his alliance, but after the merge, the strategy typically changes.
You generally try -- it's not you against the entire world, it's you against these other contestants remaining in the game. So it makes sense at that point to get rid of people like Ozzy, [Keith Tollefson] and [Jim Rice], because they tend to be more physically threatening.
It doesn't make any sense to me why they kept their same strategy from Day 1 to Day 33. That was the part I refuse to think -- obviously I incorrectly thought that they would change their strategy. The game changes. That's the point. I was shocked that they didn't see it that way.
Reality TV World: Many viewers feel that, based on what's been shown so far, it's hard to see how anyone would be able to convince a jury that they deserved to win more than Coach if Coach were to be one of the final three castaways. Did you feel the same way when you were out there, and if not, what type of argument did you think would be successful against Coach?
Edna Ma: Against Coach? Well, first of all, I'd like to start things off on a little bit of a positive note. Obviously, Coach managed to come back as a returning player and get himself down to the Final 6. That being said, he still has Ozzy, so he has managed -- his whole entire tribe has been obliterated -- and he's the only Savaii or former Savaii individual out there.
So, both players in my mind have gone a lot further, than say, Russell Hantz did last season, because his tribe threw a challenge just to get him off. So, Coach has managed to finagle that.
Now, when I see some weaknesses in his strategy, is that the use of religion has been used in a pretty unfavorable light, especially in this last episode where it shows Coach praying multiple times and you see Brandon making the ultimate Survivor sacrifice by giving his individual immunity to save [Albert Destrade] and then Coach basically votes Brandon out.
I think that's -- even though we didn't see the individual vote, on the jury, it was pretty obvious that Coach had voted Brandon out.
Reality TV World: What happened during your Redemption Island duel with Ozzy? That seemed to be your ideal challenge scenario -- I mean if there's a situation in which a smart, petite doctor was going to have an advantage against a guy like Ozzy -- who is considered more of a "brawn" not "brains" guy -- it was a mental puzzle challenge like that. But that didn't seem to happen, obviously.
Edna Ma: I think for me, the resignation started when I started walking away from Tribal Council the night before and it was very psychologically beating on my part, and the night before the duel, I just kept thinking that, "Let's say best case scenario, I go back to the bottom of my alliance again?"
And so, that was kind of playing -- I have to admit that I maybe had talked myself out of some confidence and that seemed daunting -- like I misassumed that there's one or two more duels after mine, depending on how the game changed up. I was just -- I felt psychologically defeated and exhausted and I think that that was my own fault.
Reality TV World: Brandon's decision to give up his immunity necklace to Albert on last night's episode has had a lot of viewers talking this morning. You one of the jury members that got to see that unfold at Tribal Council first hand -- what was your reaction when you saw that happen and could you immediately sense that Coach, [Rick Nelson] and [Sophie Clarke] were going to turn on him and vote him off?
Edna Ma: No, you couldn't see that from where I was just five feet away from them. First of all, it was a complete shock that Brandon would ever give away his immunity necklace and I think that will probably go down in Survivor history as one of the very memorable -- probably not the most non-advisable -- moves strategically.
But he was playing -- I think that Brandon is very emotional and he was playing emotionally, and there is the proof there. I was shocked that Coach had voted his name, because he had been nurturing Brandon the whole entire game from the beginning, and that's why he chose him to be in his alliance from the beginning.
Coach had also selected Brandon to be in his alliance before he knew he was Russell Hantz's nephew and multiple times after that, he'd be like, "Stop doing that. You're reminding me of Russell," and it happened again and again because he had so much post-traumatic stress from having lived and dealt with Russell in Heroes vs. Villains. He brought back a lot of that memory.
So despite that, he still was nurturing and coaching Brandon to contain his emotion and try to play with -- try to be less impulsive about things. So, I was really surprised that he did turn on Brandon.
Reality TV World: That Final 9 Tribal Council where [Dawn Meehan], [Whitney Duncan], Cochran and yourself were all still in the game seemed to be the obvious point for two members of the Upolu tribe to flip and make a move and that episode even showed [Jeff Probst] coming right out and suggesting that to everyone, but no one made a move.
And when I talked to Cochran, he said he wanted to ally with you and be part of an alliance that also included Dawn, Whitney and Albert, but they were afraid that you were so close with Coach you would just run and tell him about it. So what are your thoughts about that? Did you ever seriously consider making a move, and what do you think your reaction would have been if Cochran and his group had approached you about flipping?
Edna Ma: They never approached me, actually. So oddly enough, it seemed like they had approached everybody except me. I would have considered it. You have to maintain a dynamic approach when you're playing Survivor, and at that point in the game, it wasn't very -- my relationship with Coach was getting further and further distant.
I could tell that his relationship with Sophie was actually getting closer by the way he had talked to her and spent hours on the beach with her, talking about whatever they were talking about -- which excluded me. So I would have been open to that move had they approached me with Dawn and Whitney there.
I would say that if Cochran proposed that idea, I would hesitate to believe that Whitney and Dawn would jump onboard with any of Cochran's plans because they felt so betrayed already by his initial flip, that to have them onboard with one of Cochran's other plans, I would have a hard time believing that would actually work.
Reality TV World: We seem to be on the verge of having two seasons in a row where a returning castaway has successfully gotten all the way to the end while playing against a group of first-time players. What are your general thoughts on that? Do you think it's fair to have returning players play against newbies given the results we've seen so far, and do you think the fact Coach, Ozzy, [Rob Mariano], and even Russell all did as well as they did against newbies kind of diminishes the significance of their accomplishments? I know it's small sample size, but it almost seems now like any returning player would do well against newbies.
Edna Ma: I have to agree with you on that, because they have an advantage on the little things -- just the logistics of playing the game -- what to expect and it's like planning a trip internationally. If you've been season traveling and changed to different destinations, you're still a seasoned traveler. And so, I think that they definitely have an advantage because they're psychologically up for the marathon.
And for example, me being sent to Redemption Island, I was psychologically just checked out at that point. I was exhausted. I hadn't played any -- I was done, especially sitting there at the last Tribal and looking over at Dawn and Cochran and Whitney, they looked so happy and shiny and plump.
I was excited to be somewhere different than with the remaining Upolu people. So they do have an advantage. I think that it was an unfair one too.
Reality TV World: When I talked to Whitney, she said you had lied about your occupation during the game and not told anyone you are a doctor. I don't remember seeing that on TV, but it could be I just missed it or forgot about it -- so just to clarify, did you keep that a secret, and if so what did you tell the other castaways and why?
Edna Ma: That was a good pickup on your part. I said that I was an entrepreneur. I never disclosed that I was a physician. With that being said, Whitney didn't disclose that she was married to somebody else. She was married -- full stop, period, paragraph!
Reality TV World: Did you think Albert was being sincere when he told Jeff that he'd give Brandon the necklace back if he felt he was in danger?
Edna Ma: No. I think Albert's main problem is that he comes across as a disingenuous individual. I don't know if it stems from his mastery of being a pickup artist, but he does what he came to me and Cochran saying, "Okay, you, me and Cochran will get Coach and the four of us will vote Rick off to mix it up a little bit." He just comes across as being very disingenuous.
Reality TV World: Did you ever get the sense that Brandon regretted giving up immunity after he did it -- before the vote results were announced, I mean, obviously -- or did he seem resolute in his decision? And afterward, did he really handle it as well as it appeared to be on TV or was there more than what viewers saw?
Edna Ma: The Tribal Councils are much longer than what appears on TV and he -- his body physically manifested his regretful decision. He looked like a crumpled up paper puppet doll on his Tribal Council. He really, really regretted giving that idol -- his safety -- up in the game. You could just see him becoming deflated physically.
After the decision was made and he carried his things off to Redemption Island, I think he came at peace with the idea and at that point, there's just no other decision to do other than being regretful and re-living the situation, knowing its just caught angst to yourself.
Reality TV World: What is your general opinion of Brandon, because he's obviously been one of this season's most controversial castaways.
Edna Ma: (Laughs) That's an understatement. He is a very emotional individual and I think that there's some -- although he has a lot of experience and he had a very rough upbringing and that was evident on the tattoos he wears on his body -- I think he still has a lot of experience and emotional growing still to do.
He probably has to learn a little bit better impulse control. He can't just say or do anything and expect an apology will cure anything that he's just done.
Reality TV World: How were you cast onSurvivor, how did you end up on the show?
Edna Ma: By accident! I ended up -- I was trying to see or get in front of Mark Burnett for Shark Tank for a business that I had started. I am an entrepreneur. I created a skin care product that numbs your skin before bikini waxing and it's called BareEase and Numb Nuts, and I said, "Okay, I'll go try to be on that show."
I ended up being on Survivor because I had to meet Mark Burnett, Jeff Probst and all the CBS executives. I showed up and I was thinking, "Okay, what is the worst thing that could happen? I could get cast for Survivor, but at least I would have had the opportunity to present my idea."
And I walked in there, I pitched my product like I was on Shark Tank, and Mark Burnett said, "I think you're at the wrong audition," and they said they wanted me to do the show. They thought that I was relatively interesting and they said, "You have two hours to make a decision. We leave in two-and-a-half weeks."
And so, if that had never happened to me, it probably would never happen to me again. So I just seized the opportunity.
Reality TV World: Any luck in your skin care business since then?
Edna Ma: Yeah! We've been selling the product for about a year-and-a-half and so, I'm a strong believer of, "You make your own work." And so, I was the most ill-prepared individual to probably play the game this season. I hadn't applied until I got cast. I only watched the game casually.
I'm not like Cochran in that regard, and typically, I can't bench press a fat kid like Dawn can. I just felt like my name was written down every single Tribal Council before the merge and getting to No. 6 on the jury, to me, was more than I had ever, ever expected.