Exclusive: Erinn Lobdell talks about 'Survivor: Tocantins'
By Reality TV World staff, 05/21/2009
Erinn Lobdell's Survivor: Tocantins future was looking bleak when, only about a week in the game, her Timbera tribemates began making it clear that she would be the next castaway voted out of their tribe.
However Erinn got a second chance when Jerry Sims fell ill and asked his tribemates to vote him out of the game and then flipped on her tribe and joined a new alliance that ended up controlling the game the rest of the way -- allowing her to survive until James "JT" Thomas Jr. , the game's eventual winner, voted her out of the game one day shy of its conclusion.
On Monday, Erinn talked to Reality TV World about whether she was surprised that JT and ally Stephen Fishbach had decided to keep her over Tamara "Taj" Johnson-George, the third member of their long-time alliance; why she wasn't that surprised that JT then opted to vote her off at the next Tribal Council, whether she believes she could have won the game if she'd made it to the Final 2 jury vote, and why she thinks Stephen ended up not earning a single vote from the jury.
Reality TV World: Congratulations...
Erinn: Thank you.
Reality TV World: I know you'd [told Survivor host Jeff Probst] you wouldn't have been "shocked" if JT and Stephen had decided to keep you over Taj, but just how "surprised" were you when they did?
Erinn: Honestly, it was it not a huge surprise because we had definitely talked early on about that fact that a Final 3 with the three of us would be a good idea. I had spent a long time kind of convincing them that Taj was a really big threat and that I wasn't so much.
The way I played this game early on was just "Get me one more Tribal Council, get me here for three more days so that I can figure out something to get to the next three days."
So I had definitely kind of felt like I was setting some things up for that. They kept saying "This is the way it's going to be, this is the way it's going to be" but there was still a part that, until it happened, I did nooottttt believe it.
So even though I was prepared for things to go my way I was still a little surprised when they did. (laughs)
Reality TV World: So after you got back to camp from that Tribal Council [where Taj was voted off] you made some comments that you felt like Taj knew she was going home and wasn't upset or surprised. Where those genuine, were you just misreading her?
Erinn: No, I think that there was definitely a point where there was a lot of people that would try and stay that would really talk a lot and say what they needed to say and you know, kind of run around to everybody [when they thought they were being voted off].
And none of that happened [with Taj] so it was [either] that [she] was so comfortable in staying or [knew she] was going to go home. And that was actually what we were talking about and what was shown was actually about half that conversation.
Reality TV World: Were you aware how upset that guys were there, they seemed a little put-off?
Erinn: I do have this problem where when I get nervous I talk. (laughs)
And I will talk about anything and everything. And when I'm uncomfortable I chatter and I know I do it (laughs)
Watching that was actually really funny, we were kind of all laughing about it. And of course they string things together and they make it look like a little bit more than it is, but I'm always aware of it when I'm doing it.
And there's this voice in my head that goes "Shut up, shut up, shut up," but yeah, I wasn't listening to it (laughs)
I probably ought to. (laughs)
Reality TV World: What was your reaction when you walked into that final Immunity Challenge and saw it was the ball track thing?
Erinn: What was really funny about that was that, okay, for everything we did, coordination is not my strong suit (laughs)
And they actually gave us a moment where Jeff said "Take a ball and get a feel for it, even kind of run them through [the track]." So we had a moment to practice before the challenge actually started.
And I dropped my first ball and I watched it go through the thing, and I put it through one more time and I dropped a second ball in so that I could figure out the timing of it. The second I put that second ball in, I dropped my ball. Immediately. It was literally 10 seconds into the practice round. (laughing)
And I just thought "Alright, I'm screwed, I'm out. I'm going to try as hard as I can but I'm not going to beat myself up over this one." (laughing)
It was not the kind of thing where you can will yourself to win. You were either going to do it or you weren't and it was pretty clear that I was not.
Reality TV World: Were you expecting the more usual type of endurance -- physical endurance -- task?
Erinn: Yeah, I thought it was going to be an endurance or a -- you know those final challenges are usually the sort of thing where you've got some sort of endurance. It's not like brute strength, it's really who's got the best composure. Who can really get in your head and mind over matter.
And that was really what I was expecting, and that's what I was ready for. And there was definitely a mental element to that challenge, but I was surprised that that's what it was.
One of the things I was really good at throughout the entire game was knowing what the next challenge was. When we would get our Tree Mail, I was the one that was able to figure out "Okay, here's what we're doing today."
So walking into that and seeing what it was... (sighs)
I knew I was screwed. (laughs)
Reality TV World: After you got eliminated at the Final 3 Tribal Council you said you were a little bit surprised but deep down you knew that was the decision JT was going to make.
Erinn: Yes, absolutely.
I mean JT and I had kind of sat down and he had said to me over and over again "I know it will be a good idea to take you, I know it would be a good idea to take you."
He never said "I know it would be a good idea to take you andthat's what I think I'm probably going to do." (laughs)
I think we all know what kind of a guy JT is and strategically and otherwise -- like, morally I think it was the decision I knew he was going to make. And strategically, if he picked the hard road he knew that was going to get him votes.
So I was a little surprised but I saw it coming and really, deep down, you knew that was the way things were going to shake out.
Reality TV World: But Stephen had told you flat-out he was going to take you and you were confident he was telling you the truth, right?
Erinn: Oh my god, yes, absolutely!
Stephen and I had talked from, I think, Day 2 of the merge, that "This is what is going to happen." He said "I think we're really equally matched, we're on pretty equal ground." He was like "I feel like I have the best chance of beating you but I feel like it could go either way depending on how things go out in the next 20 days or whatever it was."
I mean we'd had those talks a million times. There was always that "Well, what if we could win immunity, what if we could take JT out," you know? We definitely knew that neither one of us wanted to be sitting next to JT [in the Final 2].
Reality TV World: That kind of leads me up to that "Fallen Comrades" walk. When you walked up to Coach's torch or whatever it was, you said it was your "most satisfying blindside to date." Was the "to date" part a little bit of a slip?
It really wasn't but I watched that and I kind of laughed about it.
Really, I think what I meant was just of everything that had come up [so far]. And really, Stephen and I had said it would be great if we could win, but at the same time I think that JT knew that neither one of us was going to take him.
So we had never had a solid conversation before that Final 3 about "We're taking JT out" or "Let's get Taj" or "Let's pull Sierra in" or "Let's get Coach" or whatever.
We had said "Well, maybe this is a thing that maybe we should think about." But neither one of us was really committed to, or making any decisions to get rid of JT, until that final Tribal Council where we knew that we didn't want to sit next to him.
Reality TV World: Last night's episode also showed you telling both of them that you felt they could easily win against them in the Final 2. Did you really feel that way or were you just trying to get there?
Erinn: I just wanted to get there. Clearly I think I had a much better chance of being able to beat Stephen. I had definitely laid out in my mind over and over and over "What do I have to say in closing arguments to beat either one of these guys?" And it was a separate argument for each of them.
But I had some things going for me in that these are the people, whether they like me or that hate me, [that I had] been living with since Day 1. The entire jury and Taj -- six out of seven people -- were people that I'd started the game with. So love me or hate me, I'm still one of you.
Reality TV World: And Taj had been betrayed by Stephen and JT.
Erinn: Exactly, and I was pretty sure that Taj would have been a lock if I had been sitting over there.
She's sitting here next to me -- she just said "definitely."
(laughs) But I was pretty sure that I could have had that coming my way.
Had I been sitting next to Stephen I was ready to make the case that he'd rode JT's coattails the whole way to the end and that I had to get there by myself. Had it been JT, JT was the one who made tight alliances -- deep friendships -- with all of these people and then put them on the jury.
So I definitely had my arguments set and I think I could have made a very good case for myself.
Reality TV World: So do you think [Stephen's decision] was just more that Stephen didn't want to take JT, that's what it was?
Erinn: Yes, I don't think that Stephen felt that he had a lock if he had taken me as much as "If I go against someone else [other than JT] I have a good chance." It's not "I know I'll win [if I take Erinn]" but "I know I won't be blown out of the water."
Reality TV World: Why is it that you think Stephen didn't get a single jury vote. I know you only got to spend that one day [with the rest of the jury] before the final Tribal Council, but what was the thinking of the jury members?
Erinn: Well I think a lot of the feeling at Ponderosa was just that Stephen was really not super honest. He was making a lot of promises to a lot of people. He was kind of credited with breaking a lot of alliances. There was definitely a general feeling there.
And you could hear it in the line of questioning at Tribal Council. I mean I literally said to him "Why shouldn't I just vote for JT? Should I just vote for JT?" And he couldn't give me a clear-cut answer.
I was walking into that Tribal Council with a vote for Stephen that I was absolutely 100% going to vote for him. And he couldn't give me a reason not to vote for JT and he really just fell apart.
It seemed desperate. It seemed like all he could do to try and get the win was really sort of throw JT under the bus.
If he had sat down and he had said -- you know, coming back and looking at this now, after I've watched the whole season -- if he had taken credit for all of the great moves he had made, and he had said "I did this and I did this and I did that." Like "I masterminded this plan and this plan and this plan," I think I would have really respected that and that would have gotten a vote from me.
[But] what we got instead was "JT and I did everything together, we did all of these things together, it was both of us."
Because he was so worried that he was going to offend people. He was so worried that he was going to lose votes [that] he forgot to take credit for anything and show us what a good game he did play.
Reality TV World: Do you think his answer to Debbie's question cost him any votes?
Erinn: You know, I don't know that it was the fact that he said that he said he would take me that cost him the votes. I think it was the very roundabout way in which he finally got to answering the question.
And then it was the fact that JT (laughs) played a really good game of acting so hurt and acting so surprised.
I think it was more the way JT reacted that made [people] want to vote for JT instead of Stephen just saying "I would have taken Erinn."
We all [already] knew that. We all knew that!
We wouldn't have voted for Stephen for the same reasons we would have voted for JT. We would have voted for Stephen for playing a really great game -- sneaking and snarky and whatever -- in a different way than we would have voted for JT, which was we just really think he's a good guy who deserves it.
Reality TV World: What was the critical move that convinced you that you needed to flip? Was it when Timbera was all set to vote you off until Jerry got sick?
Erinn: Well, the thing about my tribe was that they were really -- just like, there was a lot, a lot, of dysfunction in that tribe. There was a huge struggle for leadership.
Nobody really was sure about anybody else but they always wanted to reassure everybody that "We a family, we do everything unanimously, we always make our decisions together."
And so the way that worked was we were always going to have one person that we unanimously agree is going to go. We have one person who is definitely going to be the goat this time. You know, just all of those things.
And so, when Candace was gone, I was the next easy target because when everyone went swimming and she stayed to make the beans on Day 5 or 6, I said "Well, everybody's leaving, I'll hang out with you."
So I spent 40 minutes with her while she made dinner for everybody and now we're [supposedly] in an alliance and we're running the show and we've both got to go.
So I kind knew from there that I definitely had to make some moves. When I really knew that I was going to have to flip was when nobody seemed to care what I was doing.
I felt like they had written me off so early and I had gotten the vibe from the rest of my tribe that "We know you're going to flip and we don't even care, that's how little you matter to us."
It made it so much more satisfying to do it.
Reality TV World: Obviously Coach was one of those people that you clashed with the most out there. Why do you think it took so much longer for the rest of the folks to come around to your thinking?
Erinn: You know I think that -- Coach is kind of a tough case. Because he just is -- he's impossibly arrogant. He tells these crazy stories. He just has an ego too big for himself even. He's just this legend in his own mind.
And I think there were people that tolerated it because they didn't want to push buttons. They didn't want to cause any tension. I think everybody kind of thought what I was thinking but they weren't vocal about it in any way.
And I came into this with some agenda. I definitely didn't wan people to know how smart I was. I definitely came in and kind of played dumb, which ultimately hurt me in the end with my own tribe.
But the one thing that I said was -- even if I sit around the campfire and I tell a lot of "So this one time..." stories and whatever -- every time I set foot in Tribal Council that is the one place to air your laundry and I'm going to be myself. I'm going to answer things honestly and if I have something to say I'm going to say it.
And you know, maybe there were times where I should have just kept my mouth shut, but there were things with that man that I just couldn't let go.
And I think that in nine cases out of ten everybody was thinking exactly what I said, I was just the only one that had the guts to say it because really, in most of those cases, I had nothing [left] to lose.
Reality TV World: You were obviously already really thin my the time your dad came to visit, how much weight did you end up losing out there?
Erinn: I lost 17 pounds. And it doesn't sound like a crazy amount but I didn't have 17 pounds to lose, I probably didn't have five pounds to lose (laughs)
Reality TV World: I think it was Candace that had said that you had put on weight intentionally before you went out there?
Erinn: Yeah. My doctor is also a good friend of mine and he said "If I'm going to sign these papers and you're going to go and do this I really, really would love it if you would put on five pounds first."
And I said "I can do that" so I ate like crazy before I went. Like I can't even imagine had I not done that. I don't think I could have lasted in the game as long as I did because on Day 38, my last day, if I had the chance I would have made it another day, but I don't know if I could have made it another day.
Reality TV World: One of the things Candace seemed to take you for task [when we interviewed her] was hair extensions.
Erinn: Okay, please! This girl acted like I put them in for the show! (laughs)
I have been wearing extensions for god, I don't know, the last four or five years.
I'm a hair stylist, it's what I do for a living. And A) I'm not going to change who I am to go on a television show, B) I'm not going to take them out, it doesn't make any sense -- this is who you cast, this is who you're going to get.
It didn't make any sense to me, I don't know why it was an issue, it never was [while we were out there]. I think I lost one the whole time I was out there.
I really got blasted a lot for that but it's what I do for a living and that was the best calling card I could have ever put out to the world. It's been great for my business and I don't regret it for a second.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on the show?
Erinn: [I was in Louisville and] they found me at the Kentucky Derby, the day after [the race].