"Ozzy" Oscar Lusth: I just crumbled under the 'Survivor' pressure
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/22/2011
"Ozzy" Oscar Lusth made it to the Final 4 on Survivor: South Pacific after returning from a Redemption Island duel winning streak and then beating the remaining castaways in the first Immunity Challenge upon his return to the Te Tuna camp.
His immunity win forced the strong four-member Upolu alliance to betray one of their own and vote Rick Nelson out, leaving Ozzy, "Coach" Benjamin Wade, Sophie Clarke, and Albert Destrade to duke it out for a spot in the Final 3. It all came down to the final Immunity Challenge that Ozzy felt it was absolutely necessary to win in order to secure his seat in the finale and ultimately claim the $1 million grand prize.
However, the pressure of the competition got to Ozzy, and he lost the challenge to Sophie -- who as a result, was guaranteed a position in the Final 3. Ozzy was then voted out at Tribal Council, although he thought Coach was going to go out on a limb for him and carry him to the end -- resulting in his permanent elimination from the game, becoming the eighth and final member of the Survivor: South Pacific jury.
During a Monday conference call with reporters, Ozzy, a 30-year-old former Survivor: Cook Islands and Survivor: Micronesia -- Fans vs. Favorites castaway currently residing in Venice, CA, talked to Reality TV World about his Survivor: South Pacific experience -- including why he believed he lost the final Immunity Challenge, what his explanation was for repeatedly calling Sophie a "spoiled brat," and how he viewed his relationship with John Cochran -- whom he called a big liability.
Reality TV World: You were doing well in that final Immunity Challenge, but you failed to solve the puzzle before Sophie. Why do you think you ultimately lost? Do you think the pressure of the competition just got to you and weighed heavily upon you because you knew you were so close to the end but basically had to win to remain in the game and maybe even claim the million?
"Ozzy" Oscar Lusth: Yeah, I mean honestly, it was because I knew it was a million-buck challenge. The irony of the whole thing was the fact that I was playing to win the game and when I started thinking about possibly having a million dollars, a million dollar check wrote to me, that's what really ruined it. I couldn't get past it. My mind just went completely blank. It turned inside out.
I was just -- I was absolutely useless. And if it had been another point in the game that that challenge came up -- that puzzle had come up -- I would have owned that puzzle and I know it. And Sophie knows it. I was so far ahead that there's really no reason why I shouldn't have walked away winning that challenge.
The fact is I couldn't get past -- I couldn't shut down my mind. I really couldn't tell my mind to stop chattering and the million dollars was just -- it was just too much. It really was too much. It was too much pressure and all the people and all the things I had done up to that point, I mean, I had a great run on Redemption Island and I was eating really well, but physically and emotionally, I was absolutely exhausted.
The amount of pressure that I went through going duel after duel after duel, knowing that if I didn't win that I'd be out of the game, definitely, it finally added up. I couldn't make it happen, you know? It was like a basketball game where you get down and I had to make a three-point shot at the buzzer, and I just missed.
Reality TV World: You called Sophie a "spoiled brat" a couple of different times during the finale episode. Could you give some specifics on why you felt that way? You repeated the comment, but viewers didn't get much of an explanation as to where you were coming from.
"Ozzy" Oscar Lusth: Actually, when we were out there, we didn't have much of a chance to interact with each other, and so, the impression that I got from her was the fact that she didn't want to hear anything that I had to say about any sort of strategy and seemed fairly disinterested in the things that I had to say about my personal life, and that made me think that.
She did sleep a lot and she did -- she went through a rough time and I did judge her on that. I judged her on the things that other people told me while I was at Redemption Island as they would come through. They would say, "Sophie this, Sophie that, Sophie this, Sophie that." So yeah, I made a judgment about her that was inaccurate.
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It was a superficial judgment and it was a judgment based on a few people saying something very, very similar in a lot of ways. And we get along great. I think that she's a friend of mine now. And the fact is when you're out there and you're playing the game, and [Brandon Hantz] can attest to this, something changes.
You become a different person. Some people become different people and people that you would normally get along great with and most likely be great friends with, if you don't meet them outside the game or if you meet them in the game, you don't get along. You actually sometimes -- you despise that person.
And then when the cameras stop rolling and the pressure for that million dollars is all of a sudden taken away and there's no more -- you're not fighting for that sort of precious resource, then you become a person again and you can see them for the people that they are. You're not looking at them as a competitor. When you're a competitor, it changes things.
And Brandon, he was such a different person in the game and my only advice to him if he does go back -- and I've told Brandon this -- that you should try to be more yourself. Try and be the guy that we all have come to love during the game. In the game, [he] was really playing in a way -- [he] was playing with the idea of who you should be, and all you have to do is be yourself because we love the way [he] is.
Reality TV World: Your relationship with Cochran seemed to be key throughout the season where from Cochran's perspective, it wasn't that great of a relationship and it seemed to have a big influence on his decision to turn on your Savaii tribe after the merge. What can you tell me about that? Did you have any awareness at the time that Cochran felt that way? Did you have any concerns about Cochran at the time, and looking back, would you have done anything differently?
"Ozzy" Oscar Lusth: Yeah, I mean, I think actually, yes. I think the relationship between Cochran and I was a determining factor in his end decision to flip to the other side. But more so, I think it was the relationship with the people that were supposedly in his alliance.
I never had an alliance with Cochran because I knew that he was a liability from the very beginning. I tried to vote him out -- purely strategic. I have nothing against the guy. I never had anything against the guy and you can ask Cochran, and Cochran will be the first one to tell you. I never treated him poorly.
I wanted to vote him out because I felt like he was a physically weak player. It says nothing about his character or who he is as a person. That's truly a strategic move, you know? In the beginning of the game when you're playing as a tribe, you want to have the strongest tribe possible and I felt like Cochran was a liability. That's the only reason why I wanted to vote him out.
That's the only thing that kept us from having a good relationship. In hindsight, yeah, I probably should have taken him under my wing and lied to him and told him that I wanted to take him to the very end, but I still felt like he was a liability that would have been a detriment to the game.
Reality TV World: So did you think he was the biggest liability in your tribe or just a liability?
"Ozzy" Oscar Lusth: Oh, both. Both. I think he was a liability on the tribe and also a liability in the game. I mean, he said it himself. He is a student of the game. He knows the game better than anyone else who's played. He knows the game better than anyone I've played with. He can tell you what the fourth challenge in Season 5 ofSurvivor is.
Reality TV World: That's not exactly what I meant... weren't there other people on your tribe who you also didn't consider to be strong physical asset such as maybe Dawn Meehan or Elyse Umemoto or some of the other women?
"Ozzy" Oscar Lusth: Dawn is very strong. Dawn is incredibly strong. Let me break it down to you. The fact is that Cochran, he is a very, very, very smart person. His mind gets in the way of what he does. It's just like my problem with the very last challenge. He thinks way too much and he can't react. He can't act upon things he wants to do.
Elyse, although she might have been a weak -- a physically weak player -- she didn't hesitate. She was good in challenges. She could move; She could move in the right way. It comes from playing sports and Cochran was never a sports -- he never played sports. So, he was a liability in that way. He was just physically inept in that way.
I don't want to say physically inept. I just want to say he thought things -- he thought a little too much. Actually, he thought a lot too much. And the fact is, he was new at the game, so he was looking for an opportunity to not only make a big move but be a double agent or flip when he needed to. And I knew that would probably happen.
Also during the call, Ozzy told reporters why he finally decided to vote for Sophie over Coach or Albert, whether he would play Survivor again, and why he felt Survivor: South Pacific's castaways have set the bar for future players on the show.
You didn't win the show but you won "Fan Favorite," so do you think the reaction you've received this time around has been more positive than your prior Survivorseasons?
"Ozzy" Oscar Lusth: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it was palpable. I felt it like -- it was a pretty incredible experience, really. I mean, yeah, I didn't win the show, I didn't win the monetary rewards that the show offers, but I won something even better in my opinion. It's just the pure love. I felt so much love from the audience and just from all the people that supported me with the vote.
The money would have been really nice, but honestly, the money is the reason why I lost the game. It was too much. It's just been truly another challenge and it wasn't actually for that million dollars. That's exactly what that challenge was. That was a million dollar puzzle and that was too much.
That money got into my mind and it corrupted my resolve. It got to me, you know? And if it hadn't been for that million dollar challenge, I would have won that challenge. I'm truly -- I'm totally 100% percent confident in that, and I'm sure you could ask Sophie and she would agree with me, because I'm good at puzzles. I really am.
I've done some of the hardest puzzles in Survivor history and that puzzle was not really that difficult, but I totally blanked out because I knew that it was a million dollars at stake. So, it's such a weird irony that you play so hard for the million dollars or to win, and then that's what was my actual undoing.
But you know, I had such a good time out there and I had so much fun. It was just an amazing gift and the first couple of times I played the game, I was amazed at the talent that I didn't even really know that I had.
And this third time around, it really solidified that feeling to me -- just being out there and knowing that I can depend on myself when the -- whatever hits the fan. (Laughs) If we were going into an Apocalyptic situation, I know I'm going to be alright at least for a little while.
What factored into your decision to vote for Sophie? You entered the game as a strong physical threat, so did the fact she beat you in the final Immunity Challenge play any role?
"Ozzy" Oscar Lusth: Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, I had to give respect to that. I had to give respect to the fact that she beat me in that puzzle, that she beat me in that last challenge. It was a difficult challenge and she gave it all she had and she rightly won that challenge and she should win the game for it.
I thought that she played a great strategic game as well. I honestly -- my mind was not made up going into the jury vote. I really wanted to give it to Coach, because I know how hard it was for us to make it as far as we did. But you know, Coach let me down in that final jury -- or that final Tribal.
I tried to lob him softballs and you can ask anyone on the jury, I really tried to give it to him. As you can see, I beat Albert up and I beat Sophie up. I wanted to give him the money, but I wanted Coach to really be honest with himself and honest with all of us in the fact that he didn't play an honest game.
He didn't play an honest game and even though he tried, he should have just owned up the fact that he played a great game and he didn't play honestly. That's all I really wanted to hear from him. And Sophie and Albert were smart and sort of used Coach as a facade, as a shield.
They were hiding behind him and you can call it riding on coattails, but I think Sophie made a lot of really strategic decisions and she kept things together. She kept things from falling apart, more so, and she was a physical force in the challenges. Maybe if Coach had been more of a physical force, maybe if he had been more of a provider, maybe if he had been more of a survival -- I don't know.
I don't know if I would have changed my mind, but I had to give Sophie the props. I had to give her the respect that she deserved, because I really do feel like that's what won her the game in the end. She was the only one at that point that was standing between me and the million dollars and I had to give her that.
When you get backstabbed in the game, how do you differentiate whether it's a personal attack on you or just what has to be done to get further in the game?
"Ozzy" Oscar Lusth: Just practice. (Laughs) You gotta get stabbed in the back and go home a couple times for it to really get easier. Yeah, that's part of it. I mean really, it's just the practice of being betrayed and I've been betrayed numerous times in this game, and it always feels really bad.
But at the same time, you gotta leave it at the door. You gotta leave it at the door. It's not a personal thing. It really is never a personal thing. It's just people playing the way that they think is necessary and I think that one thing that -- one of the values that Brandon added to this game, as well as myself, was that we tried to play a way that was a little more up-front and I think actions do speak louder than words.
Although Coach couldn't talk anymore about being honest and using integrity, his actions didn't follow that. If he had been a little more aware of that, he would have won the game and I was willing to give him my vote.
Just like Brandon, I just wanted to hear him say at the end, "Yeah, I'm sorry guys, but you know what? I had to manipulate you to get to where I am. The honesty and the integrity only went so far, and I'm sorry that that's the way it came out, but you know what? I played a better game."
That's all that I wanted him to say. At the same time, I think I played one of the most honest games that anyone's ever played. I didn't screw anyone over. I didn't stab anyone in the back. I was totally up-front and honest. The slowest -- the only thing that could be said is that I tried to get Cochran voted out. But he knew that, and I wasn't dishonest about that.
He knew that, so I think that you can play the game of Survivor in an honest way. It's really, really, really difficult to win that way, but you can do it, and I think that we've sort of set the bar a little bit higher for other people to go in and play the game and to really show them that there is another way to play this game.
And as far as I can see, Survivoris going to still be around the next couple years here and there's still a lot of opportunities for people to make the game really cool. So, I think that people need to build ontop of the things that we did in this last season, because I think that we had a pretty amazing season. Hopefully it doesn't fall short next season.
Having played Survivor before, you came into this season with a reputation of being a very strong physical presence. Did you feel any pressure to live up to that image coming into the game?
"Ozzy" Oscar Lusth: Oh, of course. That goes without saying. I don't think that that pressure is what contributed to the final -- my failure at the very end. Really, the fact is that the money that was on the line was just -- that was too much pressure for me. I mean, that would have been a life-changing amount of money for me. It would have changed my life, and maybe even for the worse.
I hope in some grand design that maybe my mind knows what my spirit hasn't figured out yet, but I think that subconsciously, I didn't want to win for whatever reason, because I really could have done that puzzle. It was not such a difficult puzzle. It was actually fairly easy and I just went totally blank. I couldn't get past the fact that it was a million dollars on the line.
It actually hasn't haunted me as much as I thought it would. I've really come to peace with the way I played and I had a freakin spectacular time out there and really enjoyed every last moment. I really feel proud of what I did and what I accomplished.
I feel really happy with things and the people that I've met and the relationships that I've built being out there. The million dollars would have been nice, but you know, it's just money. Money comes and money goes and I'm going to make my million dollars the old fashioned way, I think.
Early in the game after Elyse got voted out, you declared yourself a "free agent," and then obviously because of the numbers, you were aligned with Savaii going into the merge. Had Cochran stayed loyal to you, do you think you would have kept a free agent mentality or would you have stayed with Savaii until the end?
"Ozzy" Oscar Lusth: I would have stayed with Savaii until we had taken all of Upolu out. I mean, that's just the way that -- that's the smart way to play Survivor, especially when there's no redemption. But that is the smart way to playSurvivor and that's something that Cochran should have known when he flipped -- that the chances are, you would still be seven out.
And that's exactly how it happened, you know? Coach could have made a very, very strong case in the jury if he had taken [Edna Ma] and Cochran to the end. I think it would have been really hard for people to vote for Edna or Cochran. Cochran might of had a chance, you know, but if Coach had done that, I know he would have won the game.
So, what Coach did is a perfect example of what undid him. He promised something to Cochran and Cochran didn't hold it against him, but he promised something to Cochran and didn't live up to it. Honesty and integrity is the way he wanted to play the game, but it's not the way that he actually played the game. He just needed to be honest with himself about it, and that would have won my vote.
"Ozzy" Oscar Lusth: You know, I'd have to have a really good reason to go back. I'm not saying I wouldn't, but there would have to be a really good reason for me. There would have to be some sort of an incentive -- something to prove again. I know I didn't win the game, but I put a damn good effort forward and I felt like I played a really great game.
You know, I feel kind of bad if I pulled like a Michael Jordan and I tried to come out of retirement and then I'd just look mediocre. So, I would play if it was right, but I wouldn't just jump back in for no reason just to go back. There would have to be a really good reason to go back.