Exclusive: Michael Skupin talks about 'Survivor: Philippines' (Part 2)
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/21/2012
Michael Skupin was beaten by winner Denise Stapley during the live portion of Sunday night's finale broadcast of Survivor: Philippines on CBS from Los Angeles.
Michael, a former Survivor: Australia castaway, tied with fellow castaway Lisa Whelchel, a 49-year-old former actress from Dallas, TX, after they each received one vote. "RC" Roberta Saint-Amour voted for Lisa, while Carter Williams voted for Michael to win. Denise had received the four other votes which were revealed by Survivor host Jeff Probst and therefore ended up claiming the $1 million grand prize.
In an exclusive interview on Monday, Michael talked to Reality TV World about his Survivor: Philippines experience.
Below is the concluding portion of Michael's interview. Click here to read the first half. To read our interview with Denise, click here and here. For Lisa's interview, click here and here. To read our interview with fourth-place finisher Malcolm Freberg, click here and here.
Reality TV World: When I talked to Pete Yurkowski earlier in the season, he had a couple surprising things to say. He said the only reason you stuck around as long as you did was because Lisa chose to keep you around, which kind of diminishes the strength of your own personal gameplay. Do you agree with any part of that, how big a role do you think Lisa played in the fact that you did make it to the end there and survive?
Michael Skupin: Well, I think that there were times when -- that's the beauty of our alliance. And I think it's part of this thing that nobody knew. Even production didn't know about our Day 1 alliance until about Day 25, because I told Lisa, "Don't sit next to me. Don't eat next to me. Don't offer me water."
We were on such opposite ends of camp that they felt comfortable downloading to Lisa, which she was going to tell me. And at other points, they felt comfortable telling me things about Lisa, and then I would run and tell her. So there were times when I relied on Lisa. There were times when she relied on me. But that was a part of our alliance.
So you know, Pete's strategy was very cards face-up. We knew -- he screamed who his alliance was with. When we had the wicker ball challenge, and we were negotiating for that rice and [Artis Silvester] was on the sidelines mouthing off about, "Don't take the deal." He finally said, "I'm going to tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to talk to Pete, and whatever Pete says, that's what I'm going to do."
And I thought to myself -- and me and [Jonathan Penner] were standing over the wicker ball, and Penner looked at me and said, "Boy, it's not obvious they're in an alliance, huh?!" It was like, "Paint a bullseye that you're in an alliance together right on your chest." And that's the biggest threat you could be out there -- is to be in an alliance.
So yeah, everybody relies on other people if you want to play a strong endgame and if you want to get to the Final 3. You have to rely on people. You have to trust at some point. It's just, you have to make a decision on whom you could trust the most. So I know there are things that -- Pete came up to me last night and gave me a big hug and said, "I respect the heck out of your game, Skupin."
He said, "After seeing the show and after living these seven months that you played one heck of a game." But out there, there's not enough time to get over the sting of your torched being snuffed.
I only imagine what it feels like. I played this game 56 days and I never even had a single vote -- let alone get my torch snuffed. And so, I don't know what that feels like, but I can only imagine that there's no bigger sting in this entire adventure than to have that torch snuffed.
Reality TV World: When I talked to Pete, he had also said he didn't feel that Abi-Maria Gomes, himself or Artis had ever really ostracized or bullied -- whatever the terminology was that was being thrown around out there -- yourself and RC. What are your thoughts on that? Do you still stand by that, that you do feel they did that to you?
Michael Skupin: Well, you and I watched the same show. So for that statement to be made, it's crazy, you know? (Laughs) I can tell you this, that out of the three, Pete definitely played a good game. Pete, the negative part of Pete's game, was in confessionals. So he, on the surface to your face, was the best game player.
He telegraphed his alliance totally. But to your face, he was the one that played the best. Abi bullied everybody that wasn't in her alliance. Abi would have extra food and she'd say, "Um, I'm full. Pete, do you want this?" He'd say, "No thanks."
"Artis, do you want some of this?" [asked Abi].
"No thanks," [said Artis].
"Fine, I'll just eat it," [said Abi].
So Lisa and I would be sitting there, and even though none of the three of them would want it, they would figure out a way to disseminate it or disperse it without me and Lisa. I mean, that's how bad it was from Artis and from Abi.
So I mean, it's okay. It's a part of the game. I don't hold anything personally that anybody did in the game, but you know, some of the things that have been said outside of the game are just crazy. I mean, yeah, we were definitely shoved out of the alliance.
Look what they were saying at Tribal Council. Even the stuff that they showed at Tribal Council, which are two to three hours long but you only get to see 10 or 15 minutes of stuff, they definitely made it very clear that I was not a part of their alliance and neither was RC.
And I asked Pete afterwards, I said, "If you would've just faked the fact that we were in your alliance" -- and RC even said it at the reunion show -- if he had just faked it, he would've guaranteed himself a spot in the Final 3. So, you know, they couldn't even fake it to play the game for a million dollars. But no, it was as blatant as blatant could be.
Reality TV World: When Penner addressed the jury, he basically said something along the lines of how two of you had been ridden like oxen by the third person in the Final 3. Obviously, in retrospect, I guess he was referring to Denise. Was that obvious to you at the time and did you leave there at that point realizing Denise had won if so?
Michael Skupin: I didn't really understand the oxen analogy. Penner will often times say things because of his desire for entertainment. He's brilliantly entertaining, but Denise played a very under the radar game.
She was never a part of any decisions that got rid of anybody or ever a part of a decision that was a big move in the game. She burned less bridges -- the only bridge that you can even point your finger at that she burned was Malcolm at the Final 4.
So if an under the radar game is a "riding of the oxen," I don't really understand that part of his final speech, which I thought was entertaining -- even the parts that weren't so complimentary towards me. But she definitely did not ride the oxen, because Lisa and I called most of the shots out there -- including who we were going to take to the Final 3.
So you know, I look at Denise's game and it's a game that I can't play. When I asked her strategically about a move that we were going to make, she'd say, "Go talk to Malcolm." And I still, to this day, don't know if that's strategy or if she just really didn't want to make that decision.
She just didn't want to be a part of it. She didn't really understand how to be a part of it. Now of course, in the post-game interviews, it will come out that that was her brilliant strategy before making it into the Final 3.
And in fact, her game was great. She was. The game speaks for itself. I have no bitterness or nothing bad to say about the fact that she won the game, because in this game, it truly speaks for itself. The person that gets the most votes truly deserves to win this game.
I underestimated how much game is played in Ponderosa. There is more game played at Ponderosa than their is on the island without question. There are people that will go into Ponderosa and be so upset.
I was actually told that if I voted somebody out, they came right up to me and said, "You vote me out and I will go back to Ponderosa. I will lie, cheat, beg, borrow, and steal. I will lie about what you said about their kids. I will lie about what you said about their wives and husbands. You will never get a single vote."
They said, "You might be good at this game but you will never win it if you vote me out." Even with that, I weighed out, "Am I going to send this person home? Am I going to keep them?" The Ponderosa part of this game is the one part of the game that I did not figure out.
I figured out Probst and what he does, how to take his involvement into my strategic game, the side confessionals -- I took that part in to account when people would come back, what they said, were they angry, were they happy? What did they uncover about themselves? I totally grasped that part of the game.
I found out what the other team players were thinking, who I could trust, who I couldn't trust -- I just could never figure out that Ponderosa. And watching that Ponderosa video coming back, that is a part of the game that I completely underestimated. It is a part of the game. I'm not going to complain about that being a part of the game, but that's the part of the game I still haven't figured out.
Above is the concluding portion of Michael's interview. Click here to read the first half. To read our interview with Denise, click here and here. For Lisa's interview, click here and here. To read our interview with fourth-place finisher Malcolm Freberg, click here and here.