Exclusive: Mike Borassi talks about his 'Survivor: Samoa' journey
By Christopher Rocchio, 09/25/2009
Mike Borassi was bummed that his Survivor: Somoa journey ended the same way his Survivor: Tocantins experience began -- by being medically evacuated.
The 62-year-old private chef from Marina del Rey, CA was eliminated from Survivor: Samoa during last night's broadcast after a medic deemed him unable to continue competing due to dangerously low blood-pressure levels following a challenge that had him wrestling other castaways.
On Friday, Mike talked to Reality TV World about how he recovered from his Survivor: Samoa medical problem an hour after being taken out of the competition; why he was duped into trusting Russell Hantz but still gave him props for playing such a good game; and how his pleas for Ben Browning to keep his mouth shut fell on deaf ears.
Reality TV World: At what point during last night's challenge did you start to feel light-headed? As a viewer, it looked like you were winded right after the first round.
Mike: Yeah, actually after the first hit. I went head-to-head with [Erik Cardona] and I knocked him pretty good, but he jogged my cookies pretty good too. Right after that I was like, "Alright, it's going to be like this." But I didn't give up. It even made me play harder. But I knew. I said, "This is tough."
Reality TV World: Did you think your time on Survivor was up when you were being examined by the Survivor medic or did you think there was going to be a pretty good chance that you'd be able to stay?
Mike: I knew I was going to recoup. I knew I was just dehydrated. I know that the effects of extreme dehydration and extreme exertion, it'll break anybody. I knew that was the case and I knew I just needed some time to recoup. Off camera I kept saying, "Just give me some time." Because an hour later, after they took me out I was fine.
Reality TV World: Just to be clear, last night's episode made it look like things were bad enough that you weren't given the choice to remain in the game, is that what happened?
Mike: They gave me 40 minutes and they gave me water. The blood pressure wasn't coming up fast enough. [The medic] made the medical call, and I respect that. But like I said, an hour later I was fine and ready to go.
Reality TV World: You were also pulled from Survivor: Tocantins' cast right before the show started because of another health issue so this was actually kind of the second time you were medically evacuated from the show. Did the Tocantins experience make more or less difficult to deal with your Samoa evacuation?
Mike: Well, the [Tocantins] thing was high blood pressure. Granted, it was like 110 degrees and I was like 50 pounds heavier. The adrenaline was pumping like crazy. They pulled me as they were loading onto the truck to start the game. They pulled me at the last second. Then they told me I had sleep apnea too. So I'm like, "What the hell?!"
So I came back and I had jaw surgery to fix the sleep apnea. I lost 50 pounds. I got in better shape. I came back with more of a vengeance. Then when I got eliminated last night I was like, "Oh man, all that work. I really worked hard." But that's the way it goes.
Reality TV World: Did you tell any of the Samoa castaways that you'd previously been pulled from Tocantins due to health issues?
Mike: No. I kept it a secret because you don't know what is a liability or what will make people think to get rid of you. Actually the first night I fell and separated my shoulder.
Reality TV World: Geez...
Mike: I fell into the banyan tree. I was like, "Oh my god." [Betsy Bolan] was with me. She goes, "You okay?" I go, "Yeah, I'm fine." It's like that commercial with the guy's getting electrocuted and he goes, "Yeah, I'm good. I'm good." But I'm like, "Oh my god..."
Reality TV World: You seemed really eager to prove yourself physically prior to last night's challenge. Did you think it was a bit of a "damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario" where if you went all-out you were running the risk of being injured but were also going to be viewed as weak if you didn't give 100%?
Mike: No, I even said it at camp -- I wanted to take [Galu tribe leader Russell Swan] on and bring him down. If we knocked out their leader, they'd fall apart. I went into it like a gladiator: prepared to die.
Reality TV World: Do you think you would have still been the next one voted out if you hadn't been medically evacuated?
Mike: I think I would have been the next one on the block. But I think if I was there with Betsy, I think we could of... You know, I had a couple people like Ben and [Mick Trimming] -- I think I could have swayed them. Maybe [Ashley Trainer] and [Natalie White]. Between Betsy's influence, I think we could have mixed it up -- maybe even got rid of [Russell Hantz].
Reality TV World: That leads well into my next question. Are you surprised at how blindly everybody seems to be trusting Russell and what was your own opinion of him while you were out there?
Mike: Well, this where I look back at myself and how I was playing and say, "Jesus, I look like Lennie from Of Mice and Men." (Imitating Lennie) "I'll take care of the rabbits! I'll take care of the fire." I was like oblivious to everything. I didn't see it.
He came up to me before the first Tribal Council and said, "[Marisa Calihan] is plotting to get you out." I panicked and I said, "Well what are we doing?" He said, "We're going for her" and I said, "Alright, I'm in."
He completely fooled me and I'm kind of pissed about it. But I didn't get into the social game quick enough. I thought we'd have more time. But Russell started as soon as we hit the camp -- he was into it.
Reality TV World: You seemed to have been close with Betsy. Were you aligned with anyone while you were out there?
Mike: Oh yeah, Betsy and I hooked up right at the start. We're both in AA, and once we found that out we were both kind of like, "Alright." We're also the two oldest. Actually, I tried to get Betsy, Marisa and Mick together right off the bat. But Russell was screwing everything up.
Reality TV World: What was your take on Ben while you were out there? We didn't see you guys interact very much.
Mike: Ben and I got along great. Actually [when the competition started], Ben voted for me as leader. I like Ben a lot. We got along good, and I kept saying to him, "Shut up! Shut up! What are you doing? You like the taste of foot? What are you doing?"
He's like (imitating Ben), "I don't care! I'm an outlaw!" (laughing)
Yeah, you're a real Jesse James.
Reality TV World: So were you aware of Russell's search for the hidden Immunity Idol?
Mike: No, actually me, Betsy and Ashley went out looking for food. So we weren't there when that whole scenario was happening.
Reality TV World: Interesting, so you weren't aware that Russell might have the hidden Immunity Idol?
Mike: Well I figured there was a hidden Immunity Idol somewhere along the line. But I was waiting for the clues to pop up. I've got to give it to Russell, he really... He must have been up for months -- or years -- planning what he was going to do. He was very well organized. You've got to give him that. He knew what he was doing, and he did it.
Reality TV World: Was Survivor: Tocantins the first time you had applied for the show? I'm assuming you're a big fan.
Mike: Yeah, I've been watching for years and my wife finally was sick of me saying, "I could do that." She said, "Why don't you do it?" I sent in a tape and got called the week later saying I was in the final and that was it. I never looked back. Hey, how could you not like this personality!