Exclusive: Devon Pinto talks 'Survivor' -- I saw my faceoff with Ben Driebergen as an epic opportunity!
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/22/2017
Devon Pinto finished Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers in fourth place during Wednesday night's finale broadcast on CBS.
Devon, a 24-year-old surf instructor from Carlsbad, CA who currently resides in Solana Beach, CA, defeated the fifth-place finisher Mike "Dr. Mike" Zahalsky, but he eventually lost his spot in the Final 3 after being forced to participate in a fire-making challenge against Ben Driebergen.
Ben therefore went to the end with Devon's allies -- Chrissy Hofbeck, who finished the season in second place, and Ryan Ulrich, who placed third. Ben was crowned the "Sole Survivor" and walked away with the $1 million grand prize.
Ben was shown receiving four jury votes, while Chrissy received two. Ryan was only shown receiving one vote, and it was from Devon. (One jury vote was not unveiled by Survivor host Jeff Probst during the Season 35 reunion show).
During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Thursday, Devon talked about his Survivor experience and coming so close to victory, but falling short. Below is what he had to say.
Reality TV World: If Ben went home like he was supposed to at the Tribal when Mike got voted out, would you have taken Mike to the Final 3 if you had the choice?
Devon Pinto: Mike in the Final 3 all day, baby! (Laughs) He's the man. He would've beaten me.
Reality TV World: Tell me why you voted for Ryan to win. Do you think he really played the best game or were you just hoping to reward your good friend the money?
Devon Pinto: It was a promise I made to Ryan, and I like to keep my promises. I promised him I would never write his name down unless he's in the Final 3.
And I never wrote his name down in the whole game until that point, and he did the same. And he would've written my name down if I was in the Final 3. But I do think Ben deserved to win, and I'm really happy that Ben won.
Reality TV World: I'm assuming you felt pretty underestimated throughout the game. If you had made the Final 3 with Chrissy and Ryan, whom do you think would have won? And do you think you could've beaten Ben if you two were in the Final 3 together?
Devon Pinto: No, I don't think I could've beaten Ben. I think Ben was guaranteed to win; all he had to do was make it to the Final 3. But against Chrissy and Ryan? Yeah, I definitely think I'd have a shot. I would've had a chance to pitch my game, but I'm not a "what if?" kind of person, and it's not what happened, so I don't really think about it too hard.
Reality TV World: Do you think you would've had any jury votes in particular locked in based on your interactions with your fellow castaways?
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Reality TV World: If you had won the Final Immunity Challenge and received the secret advantage, would you have picked Chrissy or Ryan to make fire against Ben?
Devon Pinto: I would've brought Ben with me and made Chrissy and Ryan battle it out.
Reality TV World: Oh really? Wow.
Devon Pinto: Yes, because it's guaranteed Ben would have beaten either of them in a fire-making challenge. Neither of them had made a fire the whole game, so why would I give Ben that satisfaction? Or I could just be honorable and take Ben with me and let those two duke it out for God knows how long. That fire challenge would have lasted all night. I don't think it ever would have ended.
Reality TV World: It would have been entertaining though. (Laughs)
Devon Pinto: Yeah. (Laughs) So I would rather do that and have gone down [to Ben]. I think that would have been hilarious.
Reality TV World: You weren't upset at all when Chrissy told you that she was taking Ryan to the Final 3. Was there any part of you that wanted to convince Chrissy to make Ryan build fire so that you would be ensured a spot in the Final 3? Did you just feel you'd lose to Ben in the Final 3 no matter what, and that's why you didn't seem to mind Chrissy's decision?
Devon Pinto: No, that wasn't the reason. It just wasn't even a thought in my mind because I was honestly just excited. I thought that was the coolest thing and I was like, "No way?! This is going to be the most epic battle going down." And I was just honored to have that opportunity, and I didn't think twice about it.
Reality TV World: You were on the fence about whether or not to vote for Mike at the Tribal when Ben played his last idol. We saw Ryan trying to convince you it'd be a bad idea, so what ultimately convinced you to make that smart move?
Devon Pinto: It came down to my gut. My mind was cloudy with all these "what if" scenarios, and I went into Tribal thinking I was writing Ben's name down. But when I got to the voting station, I sat there for a solid two minutes, and my gut was telling me, "You've got to write down Mike's name," and I just had to go with it. I followed it and it ended up working out for me.
Reality TV World: The episode showed you practicing building fire for a couple of minutes before your flint broke and you began meditating instead. Is that really the way things went down? How long did you actually spend practicing?
Devon Pinto: Yeah, I got like 30 seconds of practicing before that broke. But it was just kind of meant to be. It wouldn't have made a difference if I got to practice for three hours or if I got to practice for another week, you know? It's a skill I learned throughout the game and I just didn't pull through. I didn't end up winning when it came down to the actual challenge.
Reality TV World: How confident were you going into the fire-making challenge that you could beat Ben? And what happened? Did you, for lack of a better word, choke? (Laughs)
Devon Pinto: Every time I started a fire, it was different. Sometimes the spark would catch right away and other times it would take a solid 15 minutes. I think it's just kind of luck of the spark, and Ben was a really great fire-maker.
I thought I was the same, so I was confident going in, but I knew that Ben was a solid competitor as well. So I knew it was kind of a 50/50 shot going in. And I went in with the mindset that whoever wins, I was going to walk away a proud and happy man.
Reality TV World: A turning point in your game was when you helped to vote out Ashley, who definitely would have taken you to Final 3. So it didn't seem like eliminating her would benefit your game -- if anything, I thought it would just cost you a jury vote. So could you talk about why you didn't fight harder to keep her around when she was the target?
Devon Pinto: I don't think there was any keeping Ashley. That was going to happen whether I wrote her name down or not, so I'd rather write down her name, who's going home, vs. writing someone else's name down whom I'm going back to camp with and would have upset at me. I tended to write down only people's names who were being sent home.
Reality TV World: So there wasn't much convincing you could have done.