Exclusive: Jason Siska discusses his 'Survivor: Micronesia' experience
By Christopher Rocchio, 04/25/2008
Jason Siska decided against playing his Hidden Immunity Idol as a gesture to show his fellow tribemates he could be trusted.
In reality he should have been the one not to trust them, as the 23-year-old student teacher from Fox River Grove, IL was blindsided and became the thirteenth castaway eliminated from Survivor: Micronesia -- Fans vs. Favorites during last night's broadcast of the long-running CBS reality show's sixteenth season.
On Friday, Jason talked to Reality TV World about why he ultimately decided against playing his idol; how he thought it would have been in the remaining Fans' best interest to align; how he thought about an all-male alliance that never came to fruition; why he had a big problem with the Fans tribe from Day 1; and why reliving his blindside when watching last night was more painful than he expected.
Reality TV World: Did you ever consider playing your Hidden Immunity Idol at Tribal Council?
Jason: I definitely did. That was the thought that was on my mind all afternoon before we left.
But I felt that if I would have played the idol and they would have not voted for me, I would have lost trust with some of the people out there. I wanted to show them that I could be a team player and we could go far in the game together. I really wish it would have turned out differently.
If I would have played the idol, [James Clement] would have been eliminated and it would have left [Erik Reichenbach, Alexis Jones, Natalie Bolton] and myself -- the four remaining Fans against the three Favorites. It could have been a sure thing for us to make it to the finals.
Reality TV World: Interesting. So you're confident the remaining Fans would have allied together if you would have stayed and James was booted instead?
Jason: I would hope so. That was the name of the game this season, Survivor: Micronesia -- Fans vs. Favorites. It should have stayed that way.
Reality TV World: Did you even bring the Hidden Immunity Idol with you to Tribal Council?
Jason: Yeah. It was in my bag. I've still got it. It sits on my desk at home. It's to remind me of my blunder.
Reality TV World: Why were you so trusting in Natalie and the rest of the tribe? Didn't you realize that their move to boot Ozzy Lusth was more about wanting him out of the game than wanting to keep you in it?
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Jason: Yeah, totally. I just thought it was going to be in the best interest of Natalie if I stuck around because I really don't think that any of the Fans -- at this point -- have a chance. I thought Natalie was smarter, but you know [Parvati Shallow] could turn around and stab Natalie right in the back. That could be a possibility.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction when Jeff started to read the votes and you realized that several were against you?
Jason: I assumed that there would be a couple of votes against me. But when they kept coming, it was just like, "Man. That was a mistake [not playing the idol]."
Reality TV World: Who did you suspect was responsible for blindsiding you besides Natalie? Did you think it was a tribal decision or were you convinced it was only the work of a few?
Jason: I assumed it was probably everybody.
Reality TV World: Why were you initially so against going back to Exile Island? I'd have thought that, given your precarious tribal standing and the fact that host Jeff Probst had confirmed the idol had been re-hidden, you would have been jumping at the chance to go to Exile Island.
Jason: Definitely. At first, I was just kind of like, "Oh man! That's going to be a bummer." Of course I knew they were going to send me... But after I thought about it for a second, I'm like, "Hey, it's not so bad. I'll go there, find the idol with little difficulty."
Reality TV World: After Natalie decided to send you to Exile Island, do you think you overanalyzed her reasoning behind it? I'm just asking because it seems like you fell perfectly into her trap.
Jason: Definitely overanalyzed Natalie's reasoning. I think... Ugh! Yeah. I thought that might have been the case. They probably started talking about how they were going to get rid of me as soon as they got back [from the Reward Challenge]. That's what it looked like.
I should have suspected it at the [Individual Immunity Challenge] when Natalie pulled me aside and was like, "You've got to win," trying to make me all comfortable that James is going.
Reality TV World: That leads well into my next question. Once you got back from Exile, you did have the feeling that Natalie was coming off as too trustworthy and might be attempting to set you up.
Jason: Yeah. They brought me like a hard-boiled egg and a cooked crab. (laughing) It was too good to be true. I should have seen right through it. But I really thought at that point in the game it would have really been in the best interest of Erik, Alexis, Natalie and myself to stick together and make it to the Final 4.
You know, the alliance with [Cirie Fields, Amanda Kimmel] and Parvati is just... They did a good job of getting [Natalie and Alexis] to think that they would take them to the end. But I just can't see it happening.
Reality TV World: How did it feel to see Natalie go through your bag during last night's episode? When you were still in the game, did you ever notice that it looked like your bag had been gone through? Why did you hide the first fake idol but decide to leave this new real one in your bag?
Jason: No. I had no idea. I came back [from Exile Island], set my bag down and Cirie was like, "Do you want to go get some salt water for the stew for the clams that we're making?" I was like, "Yeah, no problem." I ran down to the beach real quick -- I was gone a couple of minutes, came back and didn't notice a thing.
Then I actually ended up hiding the idol after that. Obviously it was too late. But that was... It shows her character for doing something like that.
Reality TV World: Before Tribal Council, did you ever approach anybody other than Natalie about what the plan was? Did you have any conversations with James and Erik?
Jason: I think [the episode] showed in the last couple minutes before we went to Tribal we were all hanging out on the boat. I climbed up a coconut tree and we were sharing a whole bunch of coconuts. I was like, "Yeah, this is good." But they were playing me that whole time as well.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction to seeing last night's footage in which the women were openly bragging about they were setting you up? Did it make what happened to you sting a little worse?
Jason: Yeah. Last night was a lot more painful than I anticipated. I was really voted out months ago, and I did not think it was going to be that painful for me to watch it on television because it had already happened.
But for the past couple days I knew my demise was coming. I've just been really bummed out. But now that the episode's over, it's just, "Ah."
Reality TV World: Do you regret your decision to step down during that Individual Immunity Challenge seeing as how it totally gave you a false sense of security?
Jason: It did. It did [give me a false sense of security].
Reality TV World: So do you regret it?
Jason: I don't know if I regret it because it turned out to be such an amazing episode with how everything played out. I couldn't say that I'd want to change that. Obviously I could have won the challenge. I was not not going to come down and lose. I stepped down for strategy. But it definitely gave me a false sense of security.
But again, I can't reiterate enough how much I thought it would have been in Natalie's benefit to keep me around.
Reality TV World: Do you think your eagerness to blindside Ozzy clouded your overall strategy in the game?
Jason: Yeah, I'd say so. A bit.
But really, I would have loved to align with Ozzy and Erik and James. They just were not going to have any of that. They had their thing going on -- or so they thought. When we went to Yap together, I felt like we all connected real well outside of the game. We got to get away from that.
I hope that would have made a difference, but they just -- especially James -- did not like me. He just thought I was some little, white boy punk. He just didn't respect me really. So he wasn't going to sway towards my direction. Erik was just the pawn of Ozzy, [he] didn't really think for himself the whole game. I would have liked for that to happen, but I really just thought it should have been the Fans to the end.
Jason: Of course in hindsight and everybody watching it on TV, like, "What were you thinking? It was a dumb stick." But honestly, when you watch the footage you see me first hold it and the kind of look at it and twirl it in my hand like, "Well, I guess this is it."
I had a lot of thoughts going through my head, like maybe this season of Survivor the producers are going with an idol that could be hidden more discreetly around camp -- so it's not like this big overt thing [like] in China or in some of the past seasons.
Then you have the hope that you did find something and it's real. You're out there for days and you're hungry and tired. The elements are getting to you. You're not thinking straight. You're not thinking clearly all the time.
Reality TV World: Were you really that surprised when Eliza Orlins told you that it was a fake? Did you not really care at that point since you had Individual Immunity anyway? The "that's unfortunate" or something like that reply you gave Eliza came across like you really weren't too concerned about her fate.
Jason: Honestly, I was not concerned. Of course I felt terrible for Eliza. But you saw me being like, "Well, that's a bummer." I was kind of casual about it. But yeah, I felt good that night. I knew sure as hell I was not going to give away the Immunity necklace. I mean who does that?
Reality TV World: You might have touched upon this a bit already, but what was your plan heading into the merge? Was your best-case scenario aligning with the remaining Fans? Where did Eliza fit into all this?
Jason: Well Eliza and I had been talking about working together with the Fans. It's just Parvati did a really good job of getting Natalie and Alexis to think that they were really close. So we'll see how it turns out, if Natalie and Alexis are right in making that decision to work with those girls or not.
Reality TV World: The Fans tribe booted several of its strongest members at the beginning of the game. Seeing as how you were one of the stronger members, why do you think they never targeted you?
Jason: I think a lot of people underestimated me throughout the whole game. They didn't really see me as a threat. I'm not the biggest guy out there. They had all these other so-called "powerhouses" like Ozzy and James that everybody was just in awe of. They kind of just didn't look at me as a competitive player.
About having some of the stronger competitors go home in the beginning, that really threw off my game. [Joel Anderson]? What a doofus! He went from when he was with us in Airai, he went from saying to me, "Yeah, we've got to get rid of the weak." When actually, he voted off some of the better players and some of the nicer people to be around and people who ACTUALLY WANTED TO BE THERE!
Then to watch the footage of Joel get over to Malakal and be like, "Oh, we've got to get rid of the weak players now." It was just like, "Come on! Get your head on straight." It's just poetic justice in the way things turned out for him.
Of course I would have loved to have [Michael Bortone and Mary Sartain] stick around, vote out [Chet Welch and Kathleen Sleckmen] -- who ended up quitting the game anyway! They should have not even been there in the first place I feel.
Reality TV World: How were you cast for Survivor: Micronesia? Had you previously applied to the show before?
Jason: I applied for the first time. I went to an open casting call at Brookfield Zoo near Chicago. I was one of those crazy fans -- I woke-up at like 4AM. I was the second person in line. They had the camera set-up and they were like, "You have three minutes to make an impression." I guess they liked what they saw.
Reality TV World: Given you were on the Fans tribe, how much Survivorhad you watched before the show? Had you seen every season?
Jason: Yeah. It's actually one of the only television shows that I watch. It's been a family tradition of ours to always watch the show. It was truly a dream come true to make it on the show. If I would have lasted three days or 30 days like I did, I would have been happy.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction when you learned you'd be competing against the Favorites?
Jason: Mixed emotions.
The Favorites are definitely going to have an advantage coming into the game having played before. They were working on alliances even before the game started. Ozzy and Parvati were like "BFF's" outside of the game. They had these alliances started even before the game began. That's something that -- as Fans -- we didn't have the luxury to have the inside scoop. So of course that's a huge disadvantage.
But, to be able to compete against Ozzy and James and some of these so-called "best players ion history?" It was a blast. To hold my own against them was a great feeling.
Reality TV World: What was your strategy heading into the game and do you think it worked?
Jason: Yeah, it kind of went out the window right away. I consider myself an easygoing guy, but Chet and Kathy really rubbed me the wrong way. The first night, Chet was like, "Hey, are you sure you're not gay? You want to sleep next to me?" I was like, "Dude?" Right off the bat, I was just blown away at how they didn't do anything around camp, and I'm a motivated, non-stop kind of guy. I just couldn't deal with it.
Reality TV World: Personally, which castaway would you like to see win? Anybody you don't want to see win?
Jason: I would love to see Alexis win. We got real close throughout the show. They may not have shown our relationship as much, but she's a really sweet girl and I love her to death. I would love to see her. I don't really want to see any of the other people win.
Reality TV World: So what's next for you? Are you finishing your student teaching?
Jason: Yeah, I'm just finishing up student teaching. Next week is my last week at Barrington Middle School. I really want a job at the school I'm student teaching at right now in Barrington. That would be another dream come true for me.
If not, I think it would be a sign for me to do some self-exploration. I'd love to do some traveling. My uncle's got a sailboat down in the Caribbean. I'd love to head down there and do some island hopping for a little while. Just see where life takes me.