Exclusive: 'Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X' castaway Mari Takahashi talks (Part 2)
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 10/05/2016
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 go instead.
During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World, Mari talked about her short-lived Survivor experience. Below is the concluding portion. Click here to read the first half.
Mari Takahashi: No, I mean, Jay wasn't the vote. He wasn't the vote that we wanted because he's one of our strongest players, and before the merge, it wouldn't have been good of us to get rid of a strong player like Jay or [Taylor Stocker]. And so, you know, honestly, his name was never really on the chopping block. Figgy, at some point, just got paranoid and wanted him off.
Reality TV World: Well, I wanted to talk about the Michaela aspect of that. Zeke told Jay that Michaela was probably going to be next after Figgy. Was that accurate, with Michaela being next? And why would that be the case instead of targeting someone like Michelle Schubert, who's directly in their alliance?
Mari Takahashi: Right. So, the episode didn't show a lot of the animosity that was going on around camp, mostly because, I don't know. It just didn't make the cut. But Michaela is a very honest person and she says what's on her mind, and if she doesn't want to talk about it, she's not going to talk about it.
If she wants her own space, she wants her own space. And I think that's really actually kind of like nice and comforting in real life because you have a very real person around you.
But on the island, when everyone is a little sleep-deprived and a little hungry and a little dehydrated, people can get awfully sensitive. And I think that's what was going on. People were getting sensitive that Michaela wasn't included in conversations or she was going off on her own or, you know, she just wouldn't kid around with us.
And so, I think in that sense, we were like, "Oh, Michaela would be an easy vote." And that conversation was all over the place. It really wasn't -- that conversation went on at camp a lot.
Reality TV World: Why do you think Michelle told Hannah Shapiro at Tribal she was going to vote for you? Do you think she wasn't sure how Will Wahl and Michaela were voting, so she needed to secure another vote? Or did Michelle have the votes she needed but wanted to build an alliance with Hannah for down the road?
Mari Takahashi: I think it could be both ways. I honestly don't have a good answer for you. I think it could be both, and strategically, I think they're both smart. If she had any doubt in her mind that Will and Michaela would flip, then she could just [add] another vote to vote me out.
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So in a sense, yeah, it was smart. And if she was just going to, you know, build a trust with Hannah at Tribal, saying, "You're with us now," then that ensures for the next vote that they'd have another person with them. It makes it that much easier to take people out.
Reality TV World: The show featured Zeke saying he thought he had somehow emerged as the leader of your tribe. Do you agree with him and did you feel that way while you were out there?
Mari Takahashi: I mean, it's interesting. I think the millennials have a really great work ethic. I think we work less like a corporate machine and more like a start-up. And for somebody to take leadership, it was almost difficult for somebody to be like, "I'm going to do this, and you're going to do that!"
And you see a lot of that on Survivor in the past, and even with Gen X, you very much see it on their tribe. Ours was just more like, "I'm going to work on this, and if it doesn't work out, I'm going to work on something else."
What you don't see is that a lot of the boys were braiding those palm fronds, and a lot of the girls were trying to make fire. We kind of flip-flopped jobs, and for Zeke to stand up and say that he was the leader -- and that he became the leader -- we really celebrated it, you know?
We celebrated his achievements of making fire out of just the materials that we had, and without even flint. And so, yeah, we celebrated it. It didn't come across as something that was over-bearing or too confident.
Reality TV World: Going into Tribal, besides the Figgy/Taylor/Jay/Michelle alliance, what other alliances or sub-alliances or loyalties do you think had formed on your millennials tribe?
Mari Takahashi: From the very beginning, [Adam Klein] and I shared a connection, and that's growing up in the same neighborhood. We went to the same high school at different times of our lives, and so, we kind of shared a deeper connection from the very beginning.
And so, I know that I was safe with Adam and we had a really good, solid alliance going. And from there on, we built on. Hannah and I, we talked about being the "Freaks and Geeks" and kind of building that alliance, and Adam and I were perfectly aligned in that.
So, yeah. We were trying to build our numbers. And Zeke fell straight into that, and you know, we thought we had Michaela and we thought we had Will. So, it's interesting what you perceive than what actually happened.
Reality TV World: Can you talk a little bit about what the cyclone storm was like and the evacuation and sequester you went through? When we talked to Rachel Ako last week, she said the sequester was "purgatory hell."
Mari Takahashi: (Laughs) The storm was so insane that it almost -- I almost believed that it had to be fake. I remember just being in hysterics at one point, and like, asking the universe, "Is this The Truman Show?" Like, "Are we on a soundstage and you guys have Jeff Probst in a window and he's controlling the weather?" He's like, "More rain! More scary thunder! And lightning less than a mile away from [them]."
I was convinced that [Jeff] was some kind of DC Comics villain like "The Weather Wizard" or something and he's just controlling the weather. It got to a point where it was unreal, and you know, I've never been so reliant on other people's body heat.
We were shivering for hours, and these are perfect strangers! We had met, what? We had been together a few hours on the island? And we gathered together in desperation, and that's one way, I think, both the tribes got closer exponentially faster than other seasons.
As far as the sequester goes, we had an okay time! The ground was more comfortable on the island than a cold, cement floor. But I didn't think it was purgatory hell at all.
Reality TV World: Do you think the sequester had an impact on people's strategy or alliances? Rachel had told us that her Gen X tribe did follow the rules and didn't talk to one another or try to communicate non-verbally. But this season does keep pounding us over the head with the narrative millennials aren't rule followers, so how did your tribe behave?
Mari Takahashi: I honestly don't think that anybody was trying to advance the game. We had a babysitter the whole time, so we couldn't advance the game. But I will say, you know, the sequester was interesting because we got to see people relaxed and see their true personalities. Michaela is a great example.
Michaela on the island, she's really forward and honest and forthcoming with everything. And during the sequester, she kind of relaxed and was hilarious and jokey Michaela, the way you see her in her testimonials.
You see her just kind of, like, she's hilarious! But we didn't get to see that part of her in the few that we had experienced with her. She was just really quiet and didn't really let anybody in.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on Survivor? How did you end up on the show?
Mari Takahashi: I had two work colleagues who were on The Amazing Race on the last season and I was found by casting through them.
To read the first half of Reality TV World's exclusive Survivor interview with Mari, click here.