Lauren, a 21-year-old student at Baylor University from Bakersfield, CA, who currently resides in Waco, TX, was voted out not long after Chris Underwood returned from the Edge of Extinction and rejoined the game.
Lauren was voted out of the game with just two votes at Tribal Council on Night 37 because Chris, who had received the majority of votes, played an immunity idol for himself.
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Reality TV World: In talking to the jury members after you got voted out of the game, did you get a vibe they were rooting for "one of their own" to win the game? Some people feel Chris had an advantage by being on the Edge for so long because he was able to develop many friendships and relationships.
Lauren O'Connell: So since I never went to the Edge of Extinction... This isn't first-hand knowledge, it's just what people were telling me.
So I don't know if it's true or not and if I can really speak to what happened in a completely accurate description since I wasn't there, but from what people have told me, they were rooting for whoever came back in.
Reality TV World: Why were you so certain that whomever came back from the Edge of Extinction towards the end of the game would know you had an idol because Kelley would've told him or her? Did you assume all the Extinction folks had been very open and honest with each other?
Lauren O'Connell: Yes I did! And also, I think I got the vibe from the jury that they knew. I don't know why; I was just sitting there and every time [Jeff Probst] would say, "If you have an idol, play it now," the jury would just look at me.
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You know? You just get that vibe from them that they know! They know something. And I had assumed Kelley had told them, and there wasn't any sort of animosity there.
There have been so many questions about whether I am angry with Kelley for saying that, and it's like, "Absolutely not!" First of all, it didn't really affect my personal game. I would've played my idol for Chris whether Chris knew I had an idol or not.
Because that's how I felt like I could get to the end and have a better resume -- I had made a big move with the information I had.
But with knowing what I know now, you need to know Kelley has played two times before. She walked off from getting her torch snuffed and went straight to Ponderosa, where she was able to share her information freely.
And she's in a very emotional state right after she gets voted out. She's never been in this situation before, and she's not sharing information maliciously.
She said, "I have an idol. I can't believe I got voted out with it." And then they asked, "Was it from Manu?" And she said, "No, Lauren had the Manu idol." And so, it wasn't like she was being like, "Hey guys, let me give you this information." It just kind of came out.
So, there was no sort of -- I never second guessed why she would have told them I guess, and maybe I should have. But it just seemed like, yeah, she went to the Edge and she was sharing information with them, because I got the vibe they knew.
Reality TV World: The first night Chris came back from the Edge, you seemed to promise him right away you'd play your idol for him. Were you already certain of your decision and being sincere at that point or were you just telling him what he wanted to hear so he'd work with you? And did you have any conditions for Chris attached to that promise that we didn't see on TV?
Lauren O'Connell: No, because I wasn't playing -- well, first of all, that conversation happened after my conversations with lots of other people. But I had an idea, kind of the information he was sharing then.
And I knew that I wanted to sit by Chris at the end vs. sitting at the end with Rick or Victoria. So to your point, yes, I was being sincere and was going to play it for Chris, but it wasn't for Chris -- it was for me.
It was to try and build my resume, and it was to try and take either Rick or Victoria out. I wanted to try to sit next to the people whom I thought I had the best chance of beating. And so, yeah, I was being sincere.
I just didn't have all the information and I made a mistake, you know? But I was gambling the entire season. I was gambling with my idol every single Tribal, and you know, people praised me at the beginning.
They were like, "Hey, I can't believe she didn't play it. That's so smart!" And then people are like, "You're so dumb for playing it for Chris!" But you know what? That's Survivor! You play with the information you have, and that's what I was doing.
Reality TV World: Why do you think the jury held Victoria in such high regard, and listening to you talk now about her, why did you consider her such a big threat? Because from a viewer's perspective, she was sly but sort of coasted along.
Lauren O'Connell: Right, right. It's been super interesting watching it back from a viewer's perspective and getting everybody's two cents on it, because how you experience the game and whom you think is a threat is maybe not how they're perceived on TV.
And so, for me, I felt like she had the support of the jury, and I don't know why. It was before Chris even came into the game! I felt like, "I don't want to sit by her because we had similar games."
You know, I had maybe a little bit better of a story, coming into the merge with only a three-person alliance vs. nine people, but Victoria can articulate her arguments very well. People liked her on the jury.
And so there was just this feeling of, "I think I have a better chance of sitting by Gavin and Julie." And that's really all there was to it.
Reality TV World: What did you think of the Edge of Extinction twist in general and the idea someone who spent so little time in the actual game could come back and win? It's been pretty controversial among viewers, and Wardog even had to mention at Final Tribal the theme was not on trial but the Final 3 castaways were.
Lauren O'Connell: Right! I thought that was a great line. I think I completely agree with Wardog. It's not my place to have an opinion on what the theme is, you know? If you want an unbiased opinion on the theme, do not ask me!
Because the theme screwed me! You know?! (Laughs) But I think that's what is so special about Survivor. You go out there, thinking you are going to play this game that you've been planning or thinking over, and that's not the game you are going to play because you have to be adaptable.
You have to adapt to the people you are with and the theme you are in. At the end of the day, that was the theme. The theme was that the people you vote out have a chance to get back into the game and you just have to deal with it!
So I think I'm really glad I got to play on a season, whether people like it or not, they're going to remember. And I think that's really special.
To read the first half of Lauren's exclusive Survivor interview with Reality TV World, click here. And be sure to check out our Edge of Extinction show page for more interviews with the Final 6 castaways.