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.
Reality TV World: Why did you vote for Gavin to win instead of Chris? Did you really believe Gavin had played the best game? And if so, were you surprised Gavin didn't receive more than four votes?
Lauren O'Connell: So, I think our season is super special in that people experienced the game very differently. There were people on Edge that experienced that situation, and I personally never went to Edge, so I didn't know what was going on and I didn't see what game they were playing over there.
I really saw Gavin's game, and so, from my perspective, those who were on the Edge were out of the game -- they weren't having to deal with social hierarchies, the paranoia, the going to sleep and running scenarios through your head.
It was just a different type of game they were playing, and so, I think Gavin said it best in that [Edge players] didn't have to deal with the stressors of actually playing Survivor.
You don't have to deal with [trying to avoid] getting voted out, you don't have to deal with the challenges, you don't have to deal with winning immunities or trying to make alliances.
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And so, I thought that was the most compelling argument, and that's why I gave him my vote.
Reality TV World: So do you think Chris still would have won the game had he not given up his immunity necklace and taken Rick on man-to-man in the firestarting challenge? In thinking his time on the Edge was a liability, that final move seemed to propel him to victory.
Lauren O'Connell: Yeah, that's an interesting question. I don't know! I don't know. I think it definitely helped. I think that at that point in the game, Rick was maybe the favorite to win.
And so if you personally do everything you can with the cards you are dealt -- and Chris was dealt a really great hand at a really great time -- then you're going to win.
And so, I think he handled the situation great. I don't know what would have happened if he didn't do that. He might have still won or he might not have.
Reality TV World: Do you think you would have won the game had you made it to the Final 3 with any combination of players from the Final 6? Whom do you think you could have beaten in the end?
Lauren O'Connell: I mean, my endgame was always to sit with Gavin and Julie just because I felt like my game was different enough from their games and maybe I could have given a more compelling argument.
However, when the Edge of Extinction player came back, knowing that Chris only played a short amount of days and not knowing what was going on at the Edge, I felt like I'd like to sit with him as well.
And so, you see it in why I played my idol for Chris. I didn't want to sit by Victoria and I didn't want to sit by Rick, so I thought both of them had to go and I had an idol to do it. And since Rick had immunity, Victoria had to go.
So I don't know. If I'm sitting at Final Tribal, everyone likes to think they would win. But those are would've, should've, could'ves -- and what ifs. That's a hard game to play once you're out of Survivor, (laughs) because you can just run those scenarios through your head.
So, I'm not sure. You never know what the jury is feeling. You never know the questions that are going to be asked, and you saw everybody at Tribal Council give a great argument as to why they should win the game.
And maybe that swayed a couple of votes, and maybe if I'm sitting there, I think I could win, or Gavin and Julie would give just as compelling arguments as they did and they'd take the votes. So, I don't know... I thought Julie was incredible at Final Tribal! I really did.
Reality TV World: When Chris suggested Gavin was a goat at the Final Tribal Council, Kelley and yourself seemed pretty offended by his behavior. Did you two enter Final Tribal already knowing you were going to vote for Gavin to win or did the Chris incident impact your decision?
Lauren O'Connell: I didn't enter Tribal knowing whom I was going to vote for. It was a very, very difficult decision for me. However, that Tribal was very long. It was so long! (Laughs)
You see small snippets of it, and you see the important parts, and honestly, I remember there was a lot that led up to me and Kelley feeling like maybe Chris was trying to put Gavin down instead of raising himself up.
And I felt like... I had the role of being able to defend Gavin because there were a lot of people there that were defending Chris, because there were a lot of people there that played on the Edge.
And I played very closely with Gavin, and I feel like maybe in this situation, there are people who feel like they need to validate their experience by allowing Chris to talk so much about the Edge.
And so I was just trying to say, "Gavin, give us your experience. Don't allow Chris to kind of tear you down and make your experience not as valid as his own."
And so I think that's kind of what Kelley and I were doing, and yeah, I don't know how it came across honestly, but that's how I felt my role was on the jury once we were going.
And even when I said that, I wasn't for sure going to vote for Gavin yet. I just felt like, "Let's give everyone an even playing field and just speak about yourself. You don't need to put anybody else down in this situation. Just tell me what you personally did."
Be sure to check back with Reality TV World soon for more from our exclusive Survivor interview with Lauren. Also, check our Survivor: Edge of Extinction show page for more interviews with the rest of the Final 6 castaways from this season.