Exclusive: Tracy Hughes-Wolf talks about 'Survivor: Micronesia'
By Christopher Rocchio, 03/21/2008
Tracy Hughes-Wolf did her best to try and take down one of the game's biggest threats.
However she was unable to sway the necessary votes in her favor, and as a result the 43-year-old commercial builder from Fredericksburg, VA became the ninth castaway eliminated from Survivor: Micronesia -- Fans vs. Favorites during Wednesday night's broadcast of the long-running CBS reality show's sixteenth season.
On Thursday, Tracy talked to Reality TV World about why she was ultimately unable to bring down Ozzy Lusth; what led her to believe that the Favorites on her tribe had been throwing Immunity Challenges; how the game might have changed had two members of her alliance stayed physically and emotionally strong; and why she feels she never got a fair shake from the other Fans at the beginning of the competition.
Reality TV World: You and Chet Welch were targeted for elimination a few times, yet you always managed to sway the vote so someone else was booted -- until Wednesday night. Why do you think you were unsuccessful in persuading the others to follow through with the plan to oust Ozzy? Tracy: [Ami Cusack] was terrified to go against a friend -- somebody that she committed to be in an alliance with. It bothers her. She would have gone with it had [Cirie Fields] come with her, but she was afraid that it was going to be a lock vote -- three and three -- meaning Cirie, [Amanda Kimmel] and Ozzy, and then it would be our three, [Erik Reichenbach] myself and Ami.
She was afraid that it would be a lock vote and she'd be the next target as opposed to Erik, because Ozzy doesn't take too kindly to betrayal, which is understandable. I couldn't get Cirie to budge. Even going into Tribal Council, I tried so hard to get her -- down to the wire -- to get her to switch. She didn't do it. Cirie's going to do it when Cirie's ready -- she had a plan. I thought it was beautiful to take [Ozzy] out then, we had the numbers. So we'll have to see how it plays out.
Reality TV World: It seemed like Airai's women wanted to get rid of Erik, but then Ami came up with the plan to blind-side Ozzy. Do you think it would have been better if you didn't use Ami's plan and instead had all the women vote for Erik and just eliminate him?
Tracy: Yeah, but I'd be right back at the same spot I was. I had to vote for one of the Favorites because I'm still in the same spot every week.
It was of my opinion that [Airai's Favorites] were throwing challenges -- I mean it was clear to me that they were throwing it. Whether they believe it, whether they say they did... Please. I mean seriously they were. I'm sticking to it.
Reality TV World: So that's just your hunch from Airai losing all those Immunity Challenges right?
Reality TV World: Okay, interesting. Did you talk to Erik about that at all?
Tracy: Oh yeah. I told Erik. I talked to Erik, I said, "Erik, I really think they're throwing the challenges." He's like, "Yeah."
We were doing the tunnel where you had to build the barricades and then take the barricades apart. We got together before the challenge and we talked and Ozzy said, "Okay Tracy you're going in first, I'm going in second." Because I was the smallest and I was going to bend down and untie all the knots, which I would be good at.
As soon as [host Jeff Probst] said, "Go!" Ozzy jumped in first with Cirie right behind him. We couldn't get around. It was just a mess. We couldn't understand it. That's when Erik and I looked at each other and said, "They're throwing the challenge."
Reality TV World: Were you aware that you were about to be voted out heading into that Tribal Council or was it a surprise?
Tracy: I was completely aware. I even told Jeff -- it was edited out -- but I said, "Jeff, I'm going home tonight." Jeff said, "You don't know that, a lot happens at the last minute." I said, "You know what? You're right. I should be more positive."
But Chet had said the week before that he couldn't do it and then I knew that I had to have Ami and she was on the fence and Erik was just in awe of Ozzy after climbing the coconut trees. So it was pretty much a given at that point. I lost Erik and it was sera sera.
Reality TV World: When we talked to Chet last week, he said he was basically told he had to be either voted out or he was going to be medically evacuated. Were you ever confident he'd go along with your and Erik's plan to vote to eliminate Ozzy?
Tracy: I really felt that he could. I thought that if he could just go... Well I mean he was at Tribal. All that it was a matter of was writing Ozzy's name down. But it meant something to him to be voted out as opposed to being [medically evacuated]. That was his viewpoint, and I had to honor that at that point because he was sick and he needed to go and it was his choice to go that way. It would have been much better for me had he not gone that way, but what am I going to say?
Reality TV World: Once Chet was gone did you see any scenario where you might not be next?
Tracy: I saw people wanting Ozzy gone, and I played on it and I was happy about it. Erik was a flipper. He was with you one minute and not with you the next. Whatever you said, Erik would go repeat it. So -- I mean I like Erik, he's a great young man -- but you couldn't trust him. He never kept his secrets, or he would say he wouldn't say anything and then he would turn around and say it. But then he would come to you and say, "I couldn't keep the secret! I told! I told!" So that was kind of tough.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction when you learned that Kathleen Sleckman had decided to quit the competition?
Tracy: I had egg in my mouth! I actually they had boiled an egg from [a chicken we had named] Juanita -- a heather egg -- and I put it in my mouth. They brought it because I was on Exile Island for two days. I didn't even notice [Kathy] she wasn't there because I was so fixated on the egg and the coconut... Limited resources on Exile.
So I got the egg and I put it in my mouth and Jeff said, "Oh," and it just came out. I was like, "Oh my gosh!" and I look over and [Jason Siska] locks eyes with me and he shakes his head like, "I can't throw this challenge now."
Because we had a plan to throw the challenge. He was going to throw it to get off [James Clement]. We had to break up... Ozzy and Amanda had to be broken up or [Parvati Shallow] and James. If the two of them were not broken up then it was going to be a mess to the end. So they weren't going to do it on my side, so Jason agreed to throw the challenges until we got to the merge.
Reality TV World: When did you and Jason make that agreement?
Tracy: Exile Island... it was Exile Island. We were there. We spent two long, wet days there.
Reality TV World: We didn't see any of that trip to Exile Island during Wednesday night's episode. Did Jason tell you he had what he thought was the Hidden Immunity Idol?
Tracy: He told me. Jason and I bonded and we made up and he said, "I have it. We'll be okay." I told him that [Eliza Orlins] and Ami were on my side. I told him, "Eliza will go with you -- Ami will talk to Eliza -- she'll go with you. You've got Eliza and you and Kathy. That's three right there." That's wonderful, that's all they needed. Then on our side I had Ami.
But we got back [from Exile Island] and Kathy was taken out. That took the numbers down and we were back peddling so we had to win that challenge. I was rowing as hard as I could.
Reality TV World: When we talked to Chet he said he went snooping and found Ozzy's idol. Did he ever share that information with you?
Tracy: Oh yeah. I knew he had it, but Ozzy never admitted it. But then Jason told me that he had it, so then I was like, "Okay, Jason's got the idol." So i tried to pop Ozzy, and Ozzy held true. He was like, "No, no, no." So then I was kind of confused because at that point Chet was gone -- I didn't know what to do. I was like, "Are you sure he had it? Was it a fake?" There's so many fake idols, you just assume one of them's fake, right? I didn't know who had the fake one.
Reality TV World: What ultimately led you, Tracy and Kathy to form the bond at the onset of the game? Was it really just based on the fact that you were the Fans' three oldest members?
Tracy: Yeah. It was an age separation. I don't know what they're going to say -- they'll have a thousand different excuses -- but they never got to know us in their short time with us. It was just a pecking order. I think [Michael Bortone] -- from [Natalie Bolton] -- Natalie told me that Mikey B., that was the order that he had put it down. That it was the three of us. She was very honest with me.
I went to Mikey and I confronted him. He denied it. I said, "Mikey, am I married? Do I have kids? Do you know anything about me? I'm competitive. I can actually play this game." He said, "I don't know what you're talking about!" I said, "Okay. So I know where you're going with this. I know you did it and I know you said it. I can't trust you. Game on."
Reality TV World: Were you surprised that the three of you were able to eliminate some of the Fans strongest members at the onset of the game? You three did a pretty good job with that.
Tracy: Yeah, absolutely. I was hoping -- at that point -- I was like, "I've got to prove to them what a mistake it was." There were hours of me talking to people -- Natalie and I talked constantly. She was on the fence sometimes with [Joel Anderson]. She didn't know if Joel was flippy with her. She never knew. So I had her and Erik... I worked very hard to do what I could.
Reality TV World: What prompted you three to build your own shelter? I know you have experience as a builder.
Tracy: For three days... Well when we first got there, we went to go look for Tree Mail -- we hadn't even started the shelter yet -- and it was Erik, Chet, myself and Natalie and [Alexis Jones]. We were all talking about what we do. I said, "I'm a builder." So they were like, "Wow! You're a builder!" So Alexis and Natalie and Erik -- they all knew that I was a builder.
Then Mikey B. says, "Well I never knew that." How could you never know? He never gave me the chance to come up to him and say it, but the rest of the tribe knew. So for three days they tried to build... They built a floor. I mean it was good. They worked very hard on it. It wasn't easy. I'm not going to discredit that they worked hard, but it fell.
So we were wet and the rain was coming in and we couldn't make a decision about what we were doing and they didn't want to help and they were mad and frustrated and tired and felt that they had built one shelter. [They said,] "If we were going to build another one, do it on our own." They didn't want to help. I said, "We need to work together. We're running out of daylight." So that's when basically we went into ours. They said, "Wow! This is great! can you show us how to do it?" And I did.
Reality TV World: After the swap occurred were you more confident with your position in the game or do you think it hurt your standing?
Tracy: Much better after it.
Reality TV World: Okay, why?
Tracy: Ami. Ami was an ally. She had this energy and she was believable -- very believable -- and I liked her. I felt that, "Okay, I've got her. She tells me Eliza's on the other side, Eliza's having trouble."
I guess they had some type of way they could communicate at [challenges] with code. I caught Cirie talking and actually made a point to make mention of it. That's why -- I can't remember if they showed it -- but Jeff's like, "You guys turn around." They made us turn around. I think it was edited out. But we had to flip our backs because they were actually conversing and talking.
Reality TV World: How were you cast for Survivor: Micronesia? Had you previously applied to the show before?
Tracy: Never applied. First time. Went to an open casting call in Virginia... I got lucky.
Reality TV World: Given you were on the Fans tribe, how much Survivorhad you watched before the show? Had you seen every season?
Tracy: Every single season. I love Survivor. I'm a big fan of the game.
Reality TV World: What was your strategy heading into the game and do you think it worked?
Tracy: I think it could have -- lay low and then come out fighting. But Survivor catches you off guard every second and I had no idea I'd be divided from the day I hit the beach. It caught me off guard. I didn't know what to do and I was overwhelmed and pouty. (laughing) But once I came out of it, I began to fight. Next time I would do it quicker.
Reality TV World: After your elimination you commented how competing against the Favorites was "quite difficult." Do you see any scenario in which a Fan wins the game?
Tracy: Oh sure. I think a fan could win. It just takes comradery. That's something that the Favorites had over us. It's very doable. But when you don't keep an alliance, where are you in the game of Survivor? Survivor is a game of alliances -- it's about trust -- and we never had that. I tried to tell them, "Stick together!" But no. We were chronically divided.
Reality TV World: Personally, which castaway would you like to see win? Anybody you don't want to see win?
Tracy: I'd love to see Ami win because she's a sweetheart. I think that she would do great things with [the $1 million prize]. I would not like to see Ozzy win. (laughing)
Reality TV World: So what's next for you?
Tracy: Well I'm a builder, so I have houses to build and families to move in them. I have two daughters to raise. I'll take Survivor and do what I can for charities and see what else comes to me. I'm open for anything, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Check back with Reality TV World on Monday for our interview with Kathleen Sleckman, including if she regrets her decision to quit the competition; why she had felt like an outsider in the game since it began; and her message to viewers who think an "uber-fan" spot was wasted on her.