On Monday, Mick talked to Reality TV World about why he didn't think his chances were very good; what he feels separated him from Natalie with the jurors; whether he had any problems following the path Russell had carved to the finals; and how he reacted to being elected Foa Foa's leader on the first day of the competition.
Reality TV World: Viewers only saw seven final Tribal Council votes -- five for Natalie and two for Russell. Do you know if you received any Tribal Council votes and if so, from who?
Mick: (laughing) You know, I'm not sure. I'd like to think that there were at least one or two in there. [Brett Clouser] and I were pretty close and I think we had somewhat similar strategies, so I'd like to think maybe I got one from him.
The whole thing is just speculation. I'm not really sure.
[Editor's Note: Brett told Reality TV World that he cast his jury vote for Natalie.]
Reality TV World: Were you confident that you had done enough to win following the final Tribal Council vote?
Mick: To win the whole thing?
Reality TV World: Yeah.
Mick: No, no, no. I really had no notion or no real idea in my head that I was going to win the whole thing. I had kind of hoped for second place, third I wasn't going to be surprised by -- particularly after that Tribal Council. Any hopes that I had of possibly walking away with $1 million were pretty well squelched.
Reality TV World: So what do you think happened?
Mick: I don't know. I think [Erik Cardona] had a really good speech that turned a few people off. Later on he said a lot of it was actually directed towards his own tribe in a sense. I think he was so tight with [Russell Swan] and Galu and started making some comparisons, which I don't think were really fair. I think it swayed at least a couple away from either voting for me or from voting for Russell and pushed some votes Natalie's way.
Reality TV World: The jury recognized Natalie's strategy of not playing overly aggressive and kind of laying low until the right moment, however they gave you no credit even though it seemed like you basically employed the same strategy. Why do you think Natalie was rewarded for that strategy but you weren't?
Mick: That's a tough question to answer. I think part of it was also she was one girl sitting between a couple of guys. Even a couple of girls got up there and said, "Listen, I want to vote for you just tell me why I should." So I think it was a little bit easier of a point for her to argue for her to swing those votes, and she did have better connections with the women on Galu. She was in there with them every night and they became a pretty tight unit. She definitely got those votes.
In terms of some of the guys, they like the stronger gameplay that Russell showed. I would have too I think if I were them, I probably would have voted for Russell as well in terms of gameplay.
Reality TV World: I've already talked to Jaison and Brett this morning, and they said a majority of the jurors was undecided between you and Natalie heading into that final Tribal Council. They attributed Natalie's delivery to the jury as what put her over the edge. Did you get any sense of that while Tribal was going on? Do you think your delivery was a problem?
Mick: Yeah. In hindsight, I'm sure there was some issue with it. At the time, it's so kind of anxiety provoking -- you're exhausted, you're thirsty, you're hungry, you're tired. You do the best you can in that moment. Obviously I could have done better, it shows by the number of votes that I did or didn't get.
Reality TV World: You made several disparaging comments about Russell's strategy during the final Tribal Council. Do you think that had any impact in swaying the jury vote in Natalie's favor or do you think by that point there was no way Russell was winning?
Mick: I think that for some people, I was kind of the good guy. For me to come on and finally open up and say something really negative about somebody who I was particularly close to -- that person being Russell -- it probably did sway a few people. They were like, "God, if his own teammates can hardly stand the guy, did he really make any sort of attempts at showing an ounce of humanity or humility on this thing?"
So I think it probably did for at least one or two people, if not more, getting votes against him
Reality TV World: You told the jury you didn't compromise your morals during the competition. Can you explain what you meant by that, because like Russell noted, you had no problem "following the snake" all the way to the Final 3.
Mick: If somebody's going to cut that path, I don't see any reason not to follow it. He basically stood up and was like, "I will take the bullet, that's fine." If I can get through it without treating the people the way he did and kind of stay within the confines of how I normally deal with people, I wanted to stay within those sort of limitations. Maybe it burned me a little bit in the end.
Reality TV World: Do you think there's any way you would have made it as far as you did without Russell?
Mick: Oh... With those numbers going into [the merge], we absolutely needed a guy that was playing that hard. He was almost possessed out there. (laughing) It would have been pretty damn hard. I don't know if the rest of us three would have or could have stepped up and played that hard. I think without that dominating of a player, it is going to push you more to kind of fill in that sort of gap. But I think he was definitely necessary to make it that far.
Reality TV World: You seemed paranoid before the penultimate Tribal Council and Natalie had to assure you that you were safe.
Reality TV World: Were you nervous because you were aware of Russell's deal with [Brett Clouser] to possibly take him to the Final 3, or was it simply because you never really knew what Russell was going to do?
Mick: I usually felt pretty sure about what Russell was going to do, I guess just because what he told me we were going to do kept happening. Eventually I started putting some trust his way. Then his behavior changed a little bit and he started spending more time with Brett -- you definitely develop a pattern and you understand people's behaviors out there. When it changes it freaks you out.
Reality TV World: Did you see any logic in Russell's thoughts about taking Brett to the end?
Mick: No, that didn't make any sense at all. If he were to do that, he may as well just written a check out [to Brett].
Reality TV World: Before the Final 5 challenge, [Jaison Robinson] and yourself both seemed to be in agreement that Natalie was going to have to be the one to go next if Brett won Immunity for the third straight time. But once he won the challenge you guys both seemed to immediately drop that plan and instead fall for Russell's plan to get you to vote for each other. What happened?
Mick: I don't know. I think at that point I kind of wanted to go after Russell, but neither of them really wanted anything to do with that. I think that Jaison and I sort of formed an alliance or whatever, and at some point, we just didn't check in with each other and try to make that happen. We could have.
Reality TV World: You just mentioned wanting to target Russell, so did you and Jaison, Brett or Natalie ever discuss getting rid of him after Brett won Immunity for the third straight time?
Mick: Absolutely. You kind of put the feelers out for it -- particularly with Natalie. She was so strongly aligned with him and she took her word with him so seriously. I don't know what it would have taken to break that.
Jaison was pretty tight with him as well, and I definitely had loyalties to those guys -- so it was a hard subject to bring up without then stirring, "Well hey, Mick is thinking about getting rid of you." I was afraid because then I definitely would have been next. So it was a topic that you would touch on, but very carefully.
Reality TV World: Do you think Russell and Natalie's decision to keep you over Jaison was strictly based on them thinking you would be more of a help in beating Brett, or do you think there was more to it than that?
Mick: When I think about it, I think it had to do more with me beating Brett. I think at that point they probably knew that I would get more votes on the jury than Jaison. The overwhelming feeling was that he had checked out of the game -- almost even before the merge. So we had spoken about it and basically said, "Keep people that are in this thing to beat Brett, and we're not going to stop until that happens." So our heads were just more in it at that point.
Reality TV World: You seemed aware of how dangerous Russell was throughout at least most of the competition and seemed to at least be considering blindsiding him when you told [Monica Padilla] and Brett the [snake fable] in the shelter. What made you decide to continue to remain loyal to him and not go after him?
Mick: It made sense to keep him. We were backed into a corner, and so we had to... Although there was a certain amount of distrust there. I trusted him more than I did the Galu people, that's for sure. They had no alliance with me. As things went on, he generally kept his word to me. I was never led astray. Time and time again, thinks worked out the way we had talked about and planned.
Reality TV World: Were you concerned when Russell, Jaison and [Shannon "Shambo" Waters] went on their Reward trip and you were left at camp with Natalie and Brett? Did you think that would make them see you as a threat?
Mick: Of course. I figured them winning that challenge and going off together to reap the benefits of a reward that there would definitely be some strategy talking there.
Reality TV World: That's interesting because in the episode, it didn't look like Brett tried to talk strategy at all with you and Natalie. Was that the case?
Mick: We didn't really because our plan still at that point was to get rid of Shambo and Brett. So we didn't really feel the need to strategize much. We had been though so many Tribal Councils and so many different plans that we made a decision and we stuck to it. At that point, that's what the decision was. Things had worked out well for us up until that point, so we just stuck with it.
Reality TV World: What was your initial reaction when you were elected Foa Foa's leader and how did you approach the position?
Mick: Oh man... I wanted nothing to do with that thing. It was a really difficult and awkward role, as you can see. I tried to stick to my plan of staying on the down-low, but also try to organize people to get things done around camp that needed to be done.
The problem with that was, we had so many personalities out there that just did not work well together -- at all -- and basically said in no certain terms, "I'm not going to be told what to do. I'm not going to be led."
I didn't have any real support, kind of another strong guy player to go to help me out. [Ben Browning] did a great job, but he was also really unmanageable. Could I have handled it better? Definitely. I wish I would have, but that was one of those things that I walked away learning from this thing.
Reality TV World: Looking at it as objectively as you can, do you think the jury votes were based more on a belief that Natalie deserved to win or that Russell didn't deserve to win?
Mick: Oof... I think initially it was that Russell did not deserve to win. But then I think Natalie's speeches were pretty compelling. I think she played to people who otherwise thought she just kind of trailed along, I think she was able to present herself as a more strategic and more intelligent player than maybe they would have given her credit for without her speech or without her ability to answer some of those questions pretty well.
Reality TV World: How were you cast for Survivor: Samoa? Was it your first time applying to the show?
Mick: To be honest, I was actually recruited. I was actually out at dinner with a friend of mine, and met one of the casting directors. I was so fortunate to become involved in it and I had definitely watched several seasons before that. So that's kind of how it all came to be.
(Photo credit CBS)
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