Exclusive: Michael Yerger talks 'Survivor: Ghost Island' -- I tried to orchestrate a Wendell Holland blindside that wasn't shown
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/03/2018
Michael Yerger was voted out of Survivor: Ghost Island's Lavita tribe at Tribal Council during Wednesday night's broadcast on CBS.
Michael, an 18-year-old real estate agent from Knoxville, TN, was voted out of Lavita on Night 29 of the game -- after Jenna Bowman was voted out at the previous Tribal Council session -- through a unanimous re-vote.
During the first vote at Michael's Tribal, he tied with Laurel Johnson after receiving two votes apiece. Kellyn Bechtold had an extra-vote advantage, and she used it on Laurel in case Michael played a hidden Immunity Idol and was deemed safe. Kellyn and Wendell Holland also each received one vote.
"Even though I came up short, I can look back and really be proud of the game I played... At 18-years-old, I feel like my life is just beginning and I watched the show for so long, to have an experience like this is priceless," Michael said following his ouster.
During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Thursday, Michael talked about his Survivor: Ghost Island experience. Below is the first half of what he had to say.
Domenick liked to wait until Tribal to stir up some of that and really get to the bottom of things. He didn't do a whole lot of talking to his enemies before Tribal, which, actually, I really respect that and I think it was a very brilliant thing to do.
But going in, I did feel confident to a certain extent that me, Laurel and Kellyn could pull off a blindside against Wendell. Laurel was great at playing the, "Oh poor me, I'm on the bottom with you, Michael," you know, "these Naviti just keep on giving it to us."
So I was definitely tricked by her, kudos to her for that. But obviously I still knew I was in the hotseat and that there could be trouble at Tribal.
Reality TV World: I was wondering if you were just taking a shot in the dark with that Wendell vote, but clearly there was some strategy behind it.
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Michael Yerger: Yeah, they didn't quite show that plan arise, which obviously I was hoping they would, because obviously [the editing] makes it look like it was just a throw vote, which it definitely wasn't.
But that whole Tribal was chaotic and I'm pleased to go out in that regard. I'm glad I could stir up that Tribal off of essentially nothing. So that was fun, but yeah, hindsight is 20/20, and it sucks to know I was one vote away from making it another week if I had voted Laurel.
Reality TV World: Are you surprised Kellyn believed you had a hidden Immunity Idol even when you refused to show it to your tribemates at Tribal Council?
Michael Yerger: Yeah! I was very surprised, honestly, because Kellyn had believed the whole thing with [James Lim's] idol previously, so the fact she didn't even question my lie about this one was shocking to me.
But I will say I knew everything about the idol. I knew what season it was from and the backstory behind it, because [Donathan Hurley] had obviously found it right in front of us.
So, I was really able to sell Donathan's idol as my own to Kellyn, so I think the story just was so articulate and complete that she really didn't even need to question it.
Reality TV World: When you approached Donathan about "borrowing" his idol, did you think he'd actually give it to you -- or did you think it was going to be a long shot?
Michael Yerger: You know, I really thought that he would! And then reason I say it is I helped him find that second half of the idol and I was very kind and helpful to him, and I was stoked for him to have that power.
He told us Malolo that he wanted to make a big move with it and not just use it to stay another couple of days. He wanted to be the hero and really leverage it, so I didn't think it would be a long shot.
I thought he'd be willing, especially just to let me bluff it. Because if I was able to show Dom something, you know, obviously they would have had to have turned on Kellyn or Laurel.
So he definitely could have saved me, and he could have saved Jenna with it, clearly. But again, I understand him wanting to keep it safe and not let it blow up in his face. So, it's hard, but I definitely thought that it could be a possibility to leverage.
Reality TV World: If Donathan actually gave you his idol, would you really have just used it to bluff, or do you think you would have played it to save yourself and screwed him over? (Laughs)
Michael Yerger: I really, you know, I didn't want to play like that. That's not really me. It's not my style. I wouldn't have been proud of that move, but I definitely would've bluffed it. I definitely think I could have pulled it off and saved myself as if I had played it anyways.
So, I'm so confident that if he had let me bluff it, I would be there for another week without even needing to play it. But yeah, obviously I could have screwed him in that regard too.
Reality TV World: Did you consider or maybe even attempt making a fake idol with materials around camp so you would have something to show at Tribal since Donathan said no?
Michael Yerger: Of course it crossed my mind, but knowing about how all the idols in the game were relics from previous seasons, it's a long shot to try to make an idol congruent with the previous stories and also having notes to go along with it.
People knew at that point in the game what it was, and they knew what a real idol was. So I didn't have a whole lot of options there. But I had even made a fake stick back when I had that idol, and I was going to bluff the fake-stick idol I had made and keep the real one.
So, I was all about finding unique ways to stretch idols' power and really maximize and capitalize on them, but at that moment, I really didn't think I had much room besides trying to work with Donathan and use his idol.
Reality TV World: Domenick won the Individual Immunity Challenge and so your team got to attend the second Tribal Council, which Jeff Probst suggested was an advantage. Do you think anything that unfolded at the first Tribal, like Jenna Bowman getting the boot for example, affected your Tribal and your elimination?
Michael Yerger: Definitely. Me and Jenna were really close in the game, and they didn't really show that. Our last conversation before Tribal Council, we were both almost cheerful and confident going into Tribal.
So, she was definitely sure that Donathan would play the idol for her, and I was feeling good about the blindside me, Laurel and Kellyn had in the works. So, we were feeling good, and to walk in and see her sitting there [on the jury] all sad and somber was definitely not a great feeling.
And of course with the Naviti I was with, seeing that Naviti stayed strong on the other tribe, of course that encourages the vote to go a certain direction -- not mine. And so, yeah, it was a snowball that was just going downhill.
Reality TV World: There was a lot of whispering that broke out between Dom and Wendell at Tribal. Do you have any idea what was going on there? Was that a significant exchange between them?
Michael Yerger: I didn't hear a word that they were saying. I can only imagine what was going through their mind. I think they were deciding whether they should go ahead and pull off a blindside on Kellyn, because I know their immediate alliance is the two of them, with Laurel and Donathan.
And I'm assuming they both want to take Laurel and Donathan to the end and duke it out at that moment. So, of course I don't know exactly what was said, but I'd imagine it was deciding whether or not they should make moves against Kellyn.
Reality TV World: Since Kellyn voted for Laurel and Laurel voted for Kellyn on the first vote, once it became time for the re-vote, what was going through your mind? Were you certain you were going to be the one to go?
Michael Yerger: Oh yeah, I knew I was done at that point. I'm glad it came to a re-vote, I'm glad it was a suspenseful Tribal, I'm glad there was more to it than just a clean sweep, but yeah, when I knew that me and Laurel were out and it was all Naviti, there was no way in the world that they'd turn on Laurel over me. So I had a little time to get the mourning out and prepare myself to get the torch snuffed.
Be sure to check back with Reality TV World soon for more from our exclusive Survivor: Ghost Island interview with Michael Yerger.