Exclusive: Keith Tollefson talks about 'Survivor: South Pacific'
By Reality TV World staff, 11/17/2011
Keith Tollefson's time spent in the merged Te Tuna tribe was cut short when a member of his own Savaii tribe's alliance, John Cochran, decided to flip and join with the former Upolu tribe members and vote Keith out at competition's first pre-merge Tribal Council.
Following Keith's ouster from the game, fellow former Savaii tribe members Ozzy Lusth and Jim Rice soon joined him on Redemption Island, and the three castaways battled it out in a three-person duel for only one position in which Ozzy won the right to continue competing for the one million dollars and Keith and Jim were permanently eliminated from the game -- becoming the first two members of the jury during Wednesday night's broadcast of Survivor: South Pacific's tenth episode.
On Thursday, the 26-year-old water treatment tech from Edina, MN, talked to Reality TV World about his Survivor: South Pacific experience.
Reality TV World: So did you go into that duel thinking you had a good chance of winning, or do you think you had come to believe some of Ozzy's self-promotional hype and come to feel he was the overwhelming favorite to win?
Keith Tollefson: I definitely went into the duel knowing that I had a chance to win. Being competitive, you never go into a game or a duel or whatever basically expecting to fail. I was actually quite surprised when it was basically a two-person elimination. I thought it was only going to be one [person eliminated]. I kind of thought it was going to be something similar to last season.
So, that definitely through me off a little bit mentally, and it was tough because me and Ozzy had kind of talked about it said, "Me and you, let's win. Let's go back and catch some fish and just chill out." And then as soon as I knew it was two people, I was like, "Okay, this is a lot more serious now of a duel than I thought."
Reality TV World: You were obviously very upset at Cochran when he flipped. But now that you've had a chance to cool off and maybe look back and try and see things from Cochran's perspective a little bit more, do you understand why he decided to flip on your tribe once the merge came or do you still feel it was as unjustified as you did when it first happened? Because based on what's been shown on TV, it really did look like while your tribe didn't vote him out, most of the tribe didn't treat him very well and he was the clear outsider.
Keith Tollefson: It's one of those things where I'm never going to understand why he flipped -- just based on strategy, I'll never understand it, because in my eyes, if you flip, you're more than likely a candidate to be severed. To a group, who knows, one more day in the game definitely increases your chances of winning, so I respect him for taking -- like he said -- his game into his own hands.
But we treated him well in my eyes from what I thought. If there was bullying, that was basically ["Coach" Benjamin Wade] kind of probably campaigning to him and he started believing it. They would have shown it. They would have shown it on TV if there was, at this point.
I actually considered Cochran to be a friend out there. I thought I treated him pretty well. I think the self-deprecating thing that he loves to play is just based out of some major, maybe, self-esteem issues. He makes fun of himself before somebody else can make fun of him.
We never even made fun of him. I stuck up for him. I worked with [Whitney Duncan] to save him a couple times -- with Jim, we had saved him a couple times -- it's because I valued him as a player. I knew he was such a big fan, that I wanted to play with him. I told him, "Final 3," so he was definitely in more than one person's Final 3 scenario.
Reality TV World: So it sounds like you don't have any regrets from being out there then? You wouldn't have changed anything?
Keith Tollefson: I mean, you always have regrets because I'm sitting out on the sidelines while everybody else is still in the game. So you definitely have regrets. You think twice about this move here, this move there. I think it was just -- There were definitely some huge mistakes that we made.
I think when we got to the merge and we knew it was going to be 6-6, we put us up in the best scenario with the best odds when we used both Individual Immunity and the [hidden Immunity Idol]. I think that we shouldn't have done the double agent [idea] and let Cochran -- basically our weakest player -- make our biggest move by trying to get someone to flip.
That was our biggest mistake. We should have just kept our tribe tight, six tight -- no one is able to cross the line and that's what Coach did. And that's why Coach actually made a very big move -- in my eyes, that was the first big move of the season -- was Coach getting Cochran to flip. That was a huge move.
Reality TV World: I need to ask you a few questions about your relationship with Whitney. First off, I guess, can you confirm the reports that you two are currently dating and you're the unnamed boyfriend she's been mentioning on Twitter?
Keith Tollefson: Unfortunately, I cannot confirm or deny anything right now. That's really a topic that's going to be, I think -- the culmination is going to be at the finale. So unfortunately, I can't answer anything right now. We'll be able to answer all the questions at the finale. It's definitely going to be very, very interesting. So, you'll just have to wait and see until then. (Laughs)
Reality TV World: Okay, well when you two were [filming] the show, was it your understanding that she was single [and not married]?
Keith Tollefson: When she was on the show, people had talked about whether she was in a relationship or not. If she had said something in the show, they didn't really show if she said that she was single or in a relationship, so just based on that, I don't really have a comment about what she said or if she was dating or anything. But like I said, all those questions will more than likely be answered at the finale and that's kind of more of a question for her. She's still in the game, so.
Reality TV World: Well, I was just asking because you were shown saying you were interested in her during the show, so I was just trying to understand what your understanding was when you were shown making that comment and offer you an opportunity to explain it.
Keith Tollefson: At the time I was playing the game, I was playing based on strategy. I really trusted Whitney. I respected her and I got in an alliance with her and Ozzy. I told her just boldly, "I don't know why, but I feel like I can trust you," and she told me the same thing.
It was just one of those things that we became very close in our alliance, as well as just in the game. You really become close with everyone out there. I got really close with Jim, with [Dawn Meehan] -- even with Cochran -- the whole group, we were very close.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on Survivor: South Pacific? How did you end up on the show?
Keith Tollefson: I'm a huge fan just like everybody else. I sent in a video. I definitely didn't know what my chances were. Luckily, I thought that I had a decent chance just like everybody else when I applied, because I had had some hardships in my life growing up with a pacemaker, but I've really been able to prevail through that and see that as a positive motivation to basically try to succeed and do your best in everything that you attempt in your life.