Exclusive: 'Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X' castaway Mari Takahashi talks (Part 1)
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 10/03/2016
Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X castaway Mari Takahashi was voted off her Vanua (Millennials) Tribe during the latest episode on CBS.
Mari, a 31-year-old professional gamer from Los Angeles, CA, became the second castaway voted out of Season 33 of Survivor on Night 7 at the game's second Tribal Council session.
The Millennials tribe had to vote one of their members off after they lost the game's second Immunity Challenge to the opposing Takali (Gen-X) tribe, resulting in the younger tribe's first trip to Tribal Council. Mari appeared blindsided by her vote-off because she expected Jessica "Figgy" Figueroa to be voted out instead.
During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World, Mari talked about her short-lived Survivor experience. Below is the first half. Check back with us soon for more.
Reality TV World: In your final words, you said you "never saw it coming," so is it safe to say you were completely blindsided and didn't suspect something was going on?
Mari Takahashi: You know, no one walks into Tribal completely comfortable, and by no means was I cocky going into Tribal that evening. But I look back at the playback and I have to say, "Mari, you are so naive!" I look back and there were signs! You know?
At Tribal, there was a side conversation happening, and really it's all "should've, would've, could've." But I do wonder what would've happened if I was like, straight up to [Hannah Shapiro] like, "Hannah, what are you talking about right now?"
I wonder if she would've revealed what she was talking about or would've deflected. And, you know, the friendship that we shared in those few days leading up to it, I wonder if she would've been, like, [true to our] friendship and said, "Oh, your name is being written down tonight."
And I wonder how things would've gone down. I would've gotten a rebuttal at Tribal and things would've gotten really interesting. So, in a sense, yeah, there were signs that I could've looked at and really, really wondered.
When there's a spotlight on other people at Tribal, that's usually a good sign that there's something lurking in the shadows and there's some danger ahead. Of course the spotlights were on [Jessica "Figgy" Figueroa] and [Michaela Bradshaw], who you know, had their arguments and their discourse on the tribe.
And on the same vein, Figgy and [Taylor Lee Stocker] were in this new love connection that had a little bit of drama within our tribe as well. Everyone was uncertain about [keeping around] a power couple.
Reality TV World: Jeff Probst pointed out that side conversation multiple times and your tribemates were curious about what Hannah, Michelle Schubert and Jay were discussing. But you nipped the conversation in the bud by saying Hannah was probably "just being Hannah" and talking about "puppies or butts." Did you avoid confrontation in fear the Figgy vote might change or what happened there?
Mari Takahashi: The place that [my comment] came out of was not fear. It was absolutely not. I was not trying to dismiss it for that reason. Really, Hannah is kind of already a nervous wreck as is, you know... her psyche is just all over the place.
When we were at Tribal, the iconic Jeff Probst -- Hannah, her brain was on overdrive, more than usual, and so we already knew how excitable she was.
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And so, honestly, when she was talking, I thought that -- my first instincts were like, "Oh, she's nervous. She's trying to confide in people around her just to calm her nerves down," because that is who she is. At least that's the person that I got to know on the island thus far.
So it wasn't [my intention] to brush off a conversation that could've happened. It was more, I think it was me almost protecting Hannah and getting the spotlight turned away from her for acting like a nervous wreck.
I really kind of like that about her, and I think that's maybe the thing that made me connect with her. Because I'm like, "I would be friends with you back at home! You're the type of person that would be in my friend group. Your neuroses are a little off and you're kind of kooky and I love that."
And so, I feel like it was almost a way for me to be like, "You guys! Jeff! Don't make fun of Hannah. She's just talking and she's probably talking about nothing." And, you know, my should've, would've, could've. Looking back at it, I'm like, "Mari, you should've jumped in and questioned it!"
Reality TV World: So did you think Figgy's alliance was just Taylor and herself, or did you also realize that Michelle and Jay were part of it?
Mari Takahashi: Well, you know, I knew from the very beginning that they had a tight foursome, even though they call it a "triforce." I don't think they knew what the prefix "tri" means. (Laughs)
I knew that they were in a tight alliance, but a lot of names were being thrown out that day prior to Tribal, including Figgy, actually, throwing out Jay's name! So there was a little bit of that alliance looking like it was crumbling as well, so there was a lot of uncertainty on the island.
There were alliances you saw that obviously weren't. My alliance, the "Freaks and Geeks" was quickly torn apart, unfortunately leaving me, [Adam Klein] and [Zeke Smith] out of the rest of the group. So, the uncertainty came from a lot of places, you know?
At some point, Adam's name was thrown in and Zeke's name was thrown in, kind of at random times. And then Jay's name was thrown in. So, it was all over the map in a sense.
Reality TV World: If your group was aware Jay was aligned with Taylor and Figgy, why did we see Zeke approaching Jay about the plan to vote out Figgy? Because it seemed like you had plenty of votes floating around without having to rope Jay into it and take the chance he could communicate that information back to Figgy.
Mari Takahashi: Right. That was during the point of day when Jay was very upset at Figgy because she had put Jay's name out there, because Figgy was saying that Jay was the biggest threat. And she feels that Jay is using everybody like a puppet, which coincidentally enough, was actually Michelle -- of all people, who was doing it! She was kind of the mastermind behind the vote.
Reality TV World: We didn't really see you participate in pre-Tribal conversations in which everyone seemed to be onboard with the Figgy vote. Last night's episode showed Zeke talking to Hannah and yourself, but then Zeke and Hannah seemed to take the lead on the plan. Was that accurate or how big of a role did you play in that?
Mari Takahashi: Interestingly enough, the edit doesn't show me in conversation throughout the day, talking to other people about the Figgy vote and ensuring that was the way it was going to go, but you know, that's how the edit goes.
I think they have to create a story around what's going to be the most interesting. From a producing perspective, I think if [more was shown], it wouldn't have seemed so much like a blindside. But, you know, that's not under my control. I don't look into it too much.
Reality TV World: So how did the vote come down to you when Zeke was the one telling Jay the tribe should vote out Figgy?
Mari Takahashi: Right. So, it's interesting because a lot of things are cut out. A lot of the conversations are cut out. At one point, there was a scare that Zeke might have an idol, and so, I think the rumor that Zeke might have an idol took the target off of him. So that happened.