Exclusive: Michael Yerger talks 'Survivor: Ghost Island' -- Jeff Probst was right, the tribe is like a cult and it baffles me!
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/07/2018
Michael Yerger was voted out of Survivor: Ghost Island's Lavita tribe at Tribal Council during the latest 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 concluding portion of what he had to say.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction when you found out Laurel had this secret alliance with Domenick Abbate and Wendell? Did you feel betrayed by her?
Michael Yerger: No, I wouldn't say betrayed. I knew she was getting pulled in different directions. I didn't know, obviously, where her real loyalty lied. So I wouldn't say I felt betrayed by any means. I think of course she's got to do what's best for her game and what she thinks is best.
But at the same time, you know, from a game stance and point of view -- not just being selfish, saying, you know, "She should have worked with me" -- I don't know why she hasn't seized one of the opportunities to build her Survivorresume, take out one of the big players, and really increase her power in the game.
So that definitely beats me, but you know, she's just doing what she thinks is best.
Reality TV World: Kellyn Bechtold had tears in her eyes at the end of Tribal Council. Do you have any insight as to what might have been going through her mind at the time?
Michael Yerger: I think it was a culmination of things. I think obviously having to turn on me since me and her were so close, on a personal level, was hard. I think her saying that Dom and Wendell weren't as close with her as she thought was hard. I think she knows that she's now in a bad position.
She has lost leverage, so I think it was just all those things combined. And now knowing that she wasted her extra vote, I think it was just a really hard place for her to be in. And yeah, it obviously brought that emotion out.
Reality TV World: Wendell and Dom are obviously huge threats, not only strategically and physically, but also as a power pair. From your perspective, are you shocked they made it this far in the game? And could you talk more about Laurel's choice to work with them and take out players like Desiree Afuye instead?
Michael Yerger: Ugh, it's so foolish. I mean, it baffles me that people have not waken up and realized and said, "I'm not going to win this game until I take one of these bigger players out."
Everyone knows how much power they have. They know the trickery they have used with fake idols. They know the lies they've told. They know the backstabs and blindsides they've already pulled off.
It's all out in the open! It's not like, you know, there's so much unknown where they are still being fooled. It's like, they are completely honed in on what's going on, and they're just unwilling to make a move, and almost afraid!
It was mentioned before by [Jeff Probst] that it's almost like a cult, and Wendell was like, "Yeah, you know, now that you say that, Jeff, it kind of is!" I couldn't agree more.
I think they really [instilled] fear in the players and they made them feel comfortable and safe and all that. So [Wendell and Dom] are both doing a fantastic job.
It's so smart of them to be working together and to kind of shake hands and say, "Listen, we'll fight when we get to the end, but right now, we need each other." I totally respect it; it's just frustrating to know there were so many times when people could have acted on it to change it.
Of course I'm so thankful for people like [Chris Noble] and Des, who, you know, they realized it and were willing to take those risks and make big moves and really change the game and build their resumes.
So, it's hard seeing people kind of throw themselves out there and then just get screwed by the loudmouths. It's hard to watch!
Reality TV World: When did you actually make the decision to lie about your age? Was it when you applied forSurvivor or did you make a spontaneous decision when filming began? And could you elaborate on why you felt the need to lie about your age?
Michael Yerger: Sure, of course. So that was obviously one of my biggest things going into the game. I watched the show since I was so young. I never imagined in a million years I'd get to play so young. I had been waiting until I could legally apply, and it was a dream come true to get to play at that age.
But, you know, I knew from watching players like [Julia Sokolowski] and [Will Wahl], where age really did hinder them and put them in a box. People saw them as weak or naive or malleable, and those were all just the last things I wanted to have happen.
So I wanted to maintain credibility. I wanted to not even have age as a factor going into it, so yeah, from the very moment I applied, that was my strategy going into it. I just knew that I needed to kind of pull that away, and yeah, it all went very smoothly.
I think obviously getting out at an early age and maintaining that lie essentially in my day-to-day life, just in business, I think it really kind of translated well to the game and I was able to pull it off effectively.
And it worked! Nobody ever knew for my entire game that I was ever younger than I said I was. So I was pleased that it all worked out.
Reality TV World: Do you think the plan backfired at all though? The reason I'm asking is because the castaways viewed you as a huge threat and ended up targeting you because of that. I wonder if they would have felt the same way about you as a player had they known you were only 18.
Michael Yerger: I think of course it could have worked out differently, but at the same time, if that did kill my credibility and they did see me as a kid and wanted to keep me around because of it, then at the end -- if I make it to the end -- obviously I don't stand a great chance of winning.
So, I'd rather not be in the game than be in the game and have no shot at winning at all. So, that's the last thing I'd want to have happen. So if that's how it would be, then I'm proud that I maintained a big target on my back as a strong player being 23 or whatever.
Reality TV World: Do you feel the deck was stacked against you the entire game as an original Malolo and you had to crawl your way out of every unlucky situation, or looking back, do you think you made any mistakes or wish you had done anything differently to advance yourself in the game?
Michael Yerger: Oh, I 100 percent made mistakes. The beautiful thing about this game is that it is so large and so complex, and there's just hundreds or thousands of things every day that could go differently and change the game as a whole. So of course I have my regrets.
I wish I had a better read on the first idol play where [Brendan Shapiro] got blindsided. I wish I was able to rally a group with my second idol to really get out Wendell. But there's just so much room for risk that it just wasn't worth it to me. I tried to gauge it well.
I wish I took better charge of some of the challenges, and I was trying not to be a controlling leader.
I wanted people to really capitalize on their strengths as they saw them, but yeah, of course I have my regrets and wish I had done things differently. I definitely have unfinished business out there. So, you know, I hope that one day I might get another shot at it.