Exclusive: 'Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance' castoff Stephen Fishbach talks (Part 1)
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/01/2015
Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance's merged Orkun tribe snuffed Stephen Fishbach's torch during Season 31's special double episode last week on CBS.
Fishbach, who had first appeared on Survivor: Tocantins, became the eleventh castaway voted out of the game and the season's fifth jury member on Night 29 of the game. He received four votes even though he had used his advantage.
Ciera Eastin, who previously competed on Survivor: Blood vs. Water, was blindsided and got eliminated from the game three days earlier when Jeremy Collins shockingly used a hidden Immunity Idol to save Fishbach, who was the group's main target at the time.
Below is the first half of Fishbach's exclusive interview with Reality TV World. Check back with us soon for the concluding portion.
Reality TV World: What exactly did you go into Tribal thinking was going to happen? It appeared you thought your alliance was going to split their votes between Joe Anglim and Abi-Maria Gomes, but then what about the witches' coven?
Stephen Fishbach: Well, I actually thought there was a good chance that EVERYONE was voting with me, you know? It seemed so obvious! Joe's been winning Immunity after Immunity Challenge, he's finally up for elimination, there's a good chance he could win every other Immunity Challenge. He just so happened to lose the one with his feet, but he almost won that one too anyway!
So it came to me, "There's a real danger this guy is going to win out, everyone knows this, you know, [Kelley Wentworth]'s annoyed with the guy, [Keith Nale] wants to win some challenges, Abi's annoyed with him." I thought there was a shot that everyone would be voting with me and we were totally going to split the vote between Joe and Abi.
Now, shortly before we left for Tribal Council, I started getting the sense that something was up, like something was wrong. And what happened was, you saw the conversation that we had in the shelter with Keith and Wentworth. It was like, "Hey, let's split the vote. No need to strategize. Let's just do it."
And everyone agreed. We also all agreed, "Hey, we're all staying together," and that way, nobody can go off and make some counter plan... And then, so many people started going off. Abi and Wentworth went off together, then [Spencer Bledsoe] and Abi went off together, and so, we were like, "Something is wrong here."
I was talking to [Jeremy Collins] about it, like, we figured something was up. So we decided, "Who do we really have?" And I thought we really had me, Spencer, [Kimmi Kappenberg], [Tasha Fox] and Jeremy -- and then my stolen vote.
And so, with six votes, I thought, "Well, wouldn't it be cool if we used the stolen vote to split the vote, and at the very worst -- even if Joe has an idol, which we all thought he did -- even if Wentworth, Keith and Abi are against me, the best that they can do is make a tie and then we'll re-vote out Abi." So I thought I had made a pretty good defensive maneuver. I just never counted on Spencer flipping.
Reality TV World: So it sounds like it was an easy decision for you to split the vote then. I didn't know how close you came to throwing all the votes on Joe, and I'm sure you regret not doing that now.
Stephen Fishbach: Well I definitely regret it! I mean, it caused me to go out, so I regret it. But I think when you look at it, you know, it seems much dumber than it is because that caused me to go home, so it's easy to say, "Oh, you're done just because you split the vote. If you didn't you'd [be fine]."
Going into Tribal Council, I thought there was a good chance everyone was going to be voting as part of this plan. And that's literally, every one. Because I thought Abi would be voting for Joe and Joe was going to be voting for Joe! So, you know, I thought there was a good shot that this was going to be a really clean thing.
I thought people were going to think I was dumb for wasting my advantage when I didn't even need to play it. And then as Tribal Council went on, I really started to feel like, "Okay, something is up here. There's a lot of talk about my advantage. What's going on?" And I started to say, "It might be me." But I didn't know HOW, you know?
Because my six were solid and I thought, "Are they going to double idol me out? Where's the weak link here?" And I didn't see where the weak link was.
Reality TV World: Did something in particular lead you to believe Joe had a hidden Immunity Idol? Why were you so certain you needed to split the vote?
Stephen Fishbach: Yes, everyone thought Joe had an idol. Everyone, everyone. He was looking SO hard for an idol and we just assumed he found one, especially because that day, it was the first time he was ever up for elimination and he was playing it so cool!
He was just sitting around, hanging out in the hammock, and it was like, "This guy is not playing like he needs to save himself," you know? He knows he's up. He knows everyone is coming to get him. Why is he not doing anything?" So that really reinforced the suspicion that he had to have an idol.
Even Spencer who was aligned with Joe, right before the votes were read when [Jeff Probst] said, "Does anybody have an idol...," Spencer said to Joe, "Joe, play your idol!" So, yeah, but he didn't have one. We ALL thought he had an idol.
Reality TV World: You were definitely a threat to the tribe, but there's no question about the fact Joe was as well. Thinking from their perspective, do you think they made the right decision or a mistake in getting you out before "The Golden Boy?"
Stephen Fishbach: My question is, why get me out before Jeremy? If you're going to make a move on my group, Jeremy's the guy! Right!? Let's say you're Spencer or let's say you're Wentworth, like, they could both beat me at the Final Tribal.
They can both beat me in challenges. Why take me out when I'm not really a threat to them? I knew that was also a part of my trouble in understanding it. What are you thinking?
Reality TV World: Do you think you would've stuck around longer if it wasn't for that advantage? I mean, you got so excited thinking it was the best thing in your wildest dreams but it basically did you in. (Laughs)
Stephen Fishbach: Oh totally! And I think you're absolutely right. The problem was, I thought it was the thing of my wildest dreams. I was SO -- I started, you know, fantasizing, like, "Wouldn't it be cool if I played it at the Final 6 and then this happened and then this!"
You know, I got so caught up in these ideas for what COULD happen that I sort of lost sight of the game in front of me. And that cost me, right? I think what I should've done was immediately play the advantage. Immediately. That night play the advantage even though I didn't need to just to get it out of my hands.
Reality TV World: On a bit of a random note, what happened to your feet? They looked pretty bad. Did you get them checked out after the game?
Stephen Fishbach: Yeah, there was a doctor there and he was looking at them, but there was nothing [too helpful said] other than, "Keep them dry." I was like, "Keep them dry!? I'm out here in a monsoon. What do you mean keep them dry?"
Reality TV World: So nothing too serious.
Stephen Fishbach: No, what happened was because it was so wet out, my feet swelled up so much and then my shoes had all of this sand accrued in them from the challenge or whatever, so because my skin was so soft, it was like razor blades lacerating my feet. It was really, really painful.
Reality TV World: It clearly shocked you when Jeremy played his idol to save you. I know you gushed about having each other's backs, but what did you think at the time was his real motive?
Stephen Fishbach: I think what was great about that move was it was both strategic and personal. I think Jeremy wanted to show his alliance, "Hey, I'm here with you." This is a game that has lost trust and it's like, "I would've done it for anybody. If it happened to you, Spencer, I'd do it for you."
The fact that he was willing to stick his neck out, I think it really changed the dynamic of the game, where we had been a trustless game and now suddenly trust was emerging. And I think it was personal too, you know, it's like, "I'm doing this for the guy who's been with me since Day 2."
I think what was so great about that move was it was able to combine the strategic and personal into one move. Now obviously you could say you have no respect for the move, like, "What a waste of an idol. You're screwed now," but you know, it's hard to analyze results from that perspective.
You can't say, "Three years later after 1,000 other things happened, suddenly some move you made three years ago doesn't make as much sense." You just can't. So much circumstance goes into the game.
Reality TV World: Do you think it's safe to say Jeremy will be in trouble going forward? Because I just talked to Ciera and she said the fact he played his idol for you was pretty indicative of the point he probably had another idol, and things like that.
Stephen Fishbach: Well really, you know, that's such nonsense. She can say that now because she's seen it on TV. But nobody thought that. Nobody thought that. And when I got to Ponderosa, nobody was saying, "I think Jeremy has a second idol."
That's such nonsense. There's no logic to saying -- I think people online are saying, "Hey, didn't you guys realize that he must've had a second idol because of that first idol he played?"
And it's easy to make that logical argument once you've seen it happen. You know that that was part of his decision making. But for us, the fact he had one idol was amazing and mind-boggling. No one thinks he has 16 idols in his bag, you know? I don't believe that. I don't believe she thought that either.
Reality TV World: Did you envision taking Jeremy all the way to the end with you? Whom did you envision in your ideal Final 3?
Stephen Fishbach: You know, I even said this to Spencer -- and this was so stupid of me -- I was like, "I wouldn't be sad if Jeremy won this game." I said that to Spencer. What a dumb thing to say! But I also said to Spencer, "Look, just so you know, I'm good with taking Jeremy out. At some point, we have to do it, otherwise, he beats everybody in this game."
So, I definitely was aware of -- especially after he played his idol for me. I couldn't go to the end with him, right?! How could you vote for me if Jeremy was sitting there and the only reason I'm in the game is because of him? Although, I guess people voted for [Parvati Shallow] over [Russell Hantz].
But anyway, I think at some point, I probably would've made a move to take him out around 5 or 4. He was good in challenges, and so I figured, "Keep him around that long. He's a great ally; He's a great friend. But I'm not making the same mistake I made last time."