Exclusive: Gillian Larson talks about her 'Survivor: Gabon' experience
By Reality TV World staff, 09/29/2008
Gillian Larson, a 61-year-old retired nurse from Temecula, CA who was raised in South Africa, became the second castaway to be eliminated from Survivor: Gabon during the second half of the series' two-episode premiere last Thursday.
After avoiding elimination during the first episode -- during which her Fang tribemates elected to send home Michelle Chase and her negative attitude instead -- Gillian wasn't as lucky the second time around.
On Monday, Gillian talked to Reality TV World about what she thought about the game's tribal pick 'em process, how she knew about Crystal Cox's secret Olympic past all along, whom she shared her secret with, what she really thought about tribemate Michelle Chase, why she tried to stay so positive during her time in the game, and what her two biggest regrets were.
Reality TV World: I guess for my first question I just want to start at the beginning. What made decide to pick [Crystal Cox] at the [initial tribal] pick 'em?
Gillian: I had learned that Africa reveres their elders so I knew I was going to be one of the pickers when I saw that [Robert Crowley] was [also] in the cast. So I knew the two of us were going to pick, so I had given it a lot of thought. I knew that Crystal was an Olympic runner because I'm a huge Olympics fan and I just knew that when I went in because of that whole thing, so...
Reality TV World: Oh, so you recognized her?
Gillian: I recognized her, and I absolutely suck on land -- which was quite obvious running down the hill towards the [other] hill -- and when I saw that the hill was going to be featured in our first challenge I just knew I needed a counterpart to my weakness. I can't run, she can run.
So it was really between either her or [Marcus Lehman] -- who I had liked the look of, he has a very nice, open, friendly face -- or Crystal who can run while I cannot. So when I saw the hill I thought "I am so screwed. I am on this land and it's going to be a challenge to run, but I'll do it. I can do it. It won't be great but I'll do it." So I picked Crystal.
Reality TV World: Did you ever let Crystal know that you recognized her?
Gillian: I did not let her know. I decided that I needed to give it some thought and assess as to when would be the best time to let her know. I couldn't decide whether I wanted to talk to her about it and form some sort of an alliance with her because of what I did know. I didn't know if I wanted to talk to the other people about it because I thought that maybe she was hiding her light under a bush because, well... I beat her up the hill in case you didn't notice.
I thought that maybe I should use it to talk to the other five members about it as far as doing a blind-side. But it was wrong. She didn't run well in that challenge but she was very, very physically strong and I always thought it would be so dumb to vote out the strongest people first -- although we voted off [Michelle Chase] but she was very emotionally weak -- so I didn't.
I was giving it two or three days [to think about it]. I did mention it to [Dan Kay] and I was giving it a few days to decide how I would use that and just never really found the right opportunity.
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I thought if I used it either way -- too soon it could definitely be my quick death, and I waited maybe too long and that is one of [my] regrets... well two of [my] regrets.
The first one was picking [Crystal] and [the second] was not 'outing her' -- as I called it -- because I think that was something that could've been very useful but I just couldn't do it to her.
Reality TV World: So you actually say picking her was a regret?
Gillian: I do think it was a regret. There was a very strange vibe between us, First of all she was not great on land so she was not my counterpart [after all]. She did not pick up where I was weak. It just didn't work out I thought she'd sprint up that hill like a gazelle and get that [immunity idol] and she'd be great. So she wasn't that strong on land.
Secondly, she was hugely responsible for what I call "rabble-rousing" and telling everybody that I was useless. I wonder now looking at the footage if it might have been a bit embarrassing for her to have done so poorly and I got up before she did.
We both needed help, and I didn't have [Matty Whitmore] pushing me up the whole way. So I wonder if, maybe -- (laughs) [I] sound like a seventh grader -- she had it out for me. (laughs again)
I'm only kidding. It just didn't work because she was a huge part of turning people totally against me.
Reality TV World: So Dan was the only person you did tell that you recognized her?
Gillian: Yep. I did tell Dan.
Reality TV World: And he kept it to himself as far as you know?
Gillian: As far as I know he did. When I told him it was basically our first day but he and I connected right away, we are a very similar sort of people. He and I connected immediately and he would keep talking about how he couldn't trust people and I said "Hey you can't trust people. This is Survivor! You'd be crazy to trust people." And I said "You can trust me to a certain extent -- you probably can't trust me totally -- but I wanted to tell you something that I know."
And [then] I told him about Crystal. And I said "As a matter of trust don't out it yet. I'll let you know when I want to use it." So it was sort of like a like a pact that I was throwing out there regarding trust with people.
Reality TV World: After that pick 'em Survivor host Jeff Probst and several of the other castaways were pretty open about the fact that they felt your tribe had made some questionable decisions. Did you feel the same way or were you pretty happy with your tribe?
Gillian: (laughs) I saw that tribe forming on the mat and I couldn't believe how badly it was going. I looked at it and I thought "I can't believe it!" We are this huge group of eclectic, different, older variety of people. The other tribe was young -- except for Bob but he looked pretty spry and athletic -- athletic, good-looking, fun sort of people. I thought "God, I am so screwed."
Reality TV World: So you didn't have any input in Crystal's decision to select [Susie Smith] after [you'd selected Crystal]?
Gillian: Not at all. I had no input at all and neither did I want to. I felt that each person should be able to pick their own person without having anybody make suggestions or blabbing about what they think they should do or anything like that. Not at all.
I have no clue how it turned out -- well I saw how it happened, but it was the weirdest, weirdest thing and I thought "I'm dead."
Reality TV World: And then right after that you went into your first challenge. During that first challenge Jeff straight out said that one of the points of that challenge was to find out who would be selfishly competing for themselves and who would be a more selfless team player. Were you surprised by any of the decisions that anyone on your tribe ended up making?
Gillian: To be quite honest I didn't know much of it. I was so focused on the ground and not tripping on the termite mounds and grass clumps and just running -- it didn't look like I was running too fast but I was running as fast as I could -- and then I saw everybody. [Randy Bailey] was just in front of me, he wasn't that far so I could see him.
Otherwise everyone was just kind of like a blur in front of me. And then I saw Matty and Dan coming towards me and I said to the "Hey you're running the wrong way!" (laughs) And they said "No we've come to help you" and I said "No, go for it. I'll get there. I'm sorry that its not gonna be out five up there first because of me but you guys go for it. Don't worry about me!" But they said "No, no, no."
I thought that was pretty cool. I thought that was really cool that they did that and helped many of us. They were helping a lot of us up the hill and I thought that was pretty cool. I said to them at the top of the hill "Hey guys I really appreciate you getting my back --literally -- and I've got you're back for the rest of the [competition].
Reality TV World: So how about Michelle and [Danny "G.C." Brown]? Were you surprised that they didn't come back to help you folks out?
Gillian: No. First of all I didn't know that they had gotten where they had gotten. I actually didn't know that Michelle had been the first girl up there. I had no clue. Everybody was kind of collapsed on the mat at the top. We didn't talk about it, and actually, I don't recall any kind of conversation afterwards about who was where at all. None of us discussed who was first, last, or in between or who helped and who didn't.
Reality TV World: What was your opinion on Michelle? Was she really as much of an outcast as it looked during Thursday's broadcast?
Gillian: I felt really badly for Michelle. [Both] the mother and the nurse in me-- my heart really went out to her in a lot of ways. She just suddenly got so miserable and she was cold.
She was freezing. She's thin and she had hardly any clothing. She was wearing Dan's jacket most of the time, which was a big help, but I just thought this poor girl was gonna crack. [She was] just so sad and so miserable.
Also because I'm such a positive person -- which became my downfall. It was really funny [we were the first two voted off] because she was very negative and I was very positive but neither [extreme] worked. It really shows you how well "middle-of-the-road" works.
I thought the negative vibe that she was giving out would really impede us already. [She was] very disjointed [with a] strange vibe.
Reality TV World: So her attitude really was as negative as it came across in the episode?
Gillian: Yeah I thought it was just negative and she was just crappy. I just thought the poor girl -- I just felt so badly for her. I thought "she needs to get out before something bad happens to her."
Reality TV World: So when you were making those types of comments before that first Tribal Council you sincerely felt that? You weren't just trying to save yourself?
Gillian: No, not at all!!! I really felt badly for the girl. I just thought "My God, this poor girl is gonna crack." And also I thought the negative vibes I really thought would be a negative impact on the tribe.
No, I wasn't trying to save myself. I knew -- I didn't [just] have a target on my back, I was actually a target. (laughs) [I knew] it was gonna come sometime.
They pegged me as... I don't know why they thought I was the weakest of the three because I wasn't. I certainly couldn't run like the others but as you saw, I didn't do as badly on the hill as I thought I did.
Reality TV World: At that first Tribal Council you initially seemed to be against the idea of trying to pick a leader while right at the Tribal Council session. Why was that?
Gillian: Because the tribe couldn't be led. There was absolutely no way anyone could even try to be a leader of that group without causing even more dissension or more behind-the-back grumbling and snickering and pulling people apart. Absolutely no way that tribe could be led.
Reality TV World: So do you think G.C. was sincere when he was offering to be a leader or do you think he was just trying to make himself look good and got caught in the act basically?
Gillian: I think he was sincere in the fact that he thought we all thought he could be a leader [but] I certainly didn't.
Reality TV World: He seemed very hesitant to...
Gillian: Well that's because he didn't want the leader target on his back. He was smart enough to know that. But I do think that he maybe felt somewhat flattered that we all agreed it could be him because he's got a very good heart. He's a nice guy behind all of his everything. And I think he was a little sapped by it and could do something great on Survivor with his new role.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised by how quickly he decided that he didn't want to be leader anymore?
Gillian: (laughs) He wasn't the leader! The silly thing was he still wasn't really leading. He wasn't the leader. What he does is that he's a great worker but he has no qualities of a leader.
He knew it and we all knew it and we all kind of continued with some.. Randy and I had good outdoor-type suggestions -- because we're both kind of used to it -- and it went over like a lead balloon with everybody, even if it went through G.C., which was dead how it worked.
Reality TV World: There was a part where it seemed like your positive attitude really began to wear on some people after a while. Do you think that played any role in your eviction or do you think it was strictly [based on what] they felt [were your] physical issues?
Gillian: No, I think that the positive attitude obviously rubbed some people the wrong way. And although it looked like that was my entire performance [on the show] it was actually somewhat scattered performance.
The rest of the time I was pretty quiet just doing my own thing and working around camp and doing things like that. But that was obviously the part that became an annoyance.
I just thought [I'd] try to pump people up and not let them get more morose and disjointed and disgruntled than they were might work but it obviously was exactly what they didn't want and something of an annoyance so I'm sorry that the cheerleading attitude was defintely a huge part of what people didn't like.
But it wasn't that much. I was surprised to see that's what was focused on in the episode. There was a lot of positive attitude that I did come up with, but it certainly wasn't as frequent as it sounded.