'Survivor' runner-up Cassidy Clark responds to criticism she should've given up immunity and battled Jesse Lopez to make fire
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/19/2022
Survivor 43 runner-up Cassidy Clark has addressed criticism she needed to give up immunity and compete in the final fire-making challenge in order to win the game.
Cassidy had won the Final Immunity Challenge ofSurvivor's 43rd season and opted to bring Owen Knight to the Final 3 with her, which forced Mike "Gabler" Gabler and Jesse Lopez to compete in the fire-making challenge.
Gabler defeated Jesse in fire and ended up winning Survivor in a 7-1-0 jury vote, with Cassidy receiving only a single vote and Owen receiving zero votes during the finale that aired last week on CBS.
According to Cassidy, she "100 percent" believes that the jury held the fact she chose not to compete in fire against her, Entertainment Weekly reported.
"That was definitely held against me, which it was just offensive honestly, because I earned that last challenge," Cassidy told EW.
"That was a crazy amount of pressure to work under and the biggest immunity of the season. And I was so proud of myself, and I didn't feel like it was fair to basically say, 'You have to give this up or you're not getting my vote. You have to risk it.'"
During the final jury questioning, Noelle Lambert even asked Cassidy why she had decided against competing in fire when it could have boosted her Survivor resume.
Had Cassidy taken Jesse out herself in fire -- rather than allowing Gabler to have the power and glory in doing so -- it naturally would have given her an edge.
"I think they were just upset that Jesse got out and that I was a part of a big reason why he got out because I made that decision," Cassidy explained of her choice to have Gabler and Jesse compete in the fire-making challenge.
Jesse was arguably the best player of the season, who made some historic moves and said he really needed to win the money for his wife and children.
"Because I think they all had their minds made up for Jesse to win, which I don't blame them," she told EW.
"He was playing an incredible game. But once he was gone, I think they were looking at me like, 'You're the reason, and you should have done this and that.'"
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Cassidy felt the jury -- other than James Jones, who cast the single vote for her to win -- was trying to "undermine" her Immunity-Challenge victory and the fact she got to make the decision to put Gabler in the fire faceoff.
"Obviously, Gabler made the fire, but I was a huge part in getting the biggest threat out of the game. And it hurt that they really felt like I had played such a bad game that I needed to Chris Underwood it, who wasn't even playing. He wasn't even in the game!" Cassidy said.
Cassidy was referring to how Chris won Survivor: Edge of Extinction in Spring 2019 after defeating Rick Devens in the final fire-making challenge.
Chris had won the Final Immunity Challenge but chose to give up immunity and compete in fire in order to prove he deserved the $1 million given he had spent the majority of Season 38 on the Edge of Extinction, meaning he was technically out of the game and waiting for a chance to re-enter it.
"So I just felt like that was unfair to hold that against me and to expect that of me, because if I had done that, how many people would be like, 'This idiot!' Especially if I went out and I lost, because I wasn't that confident in my fire-making ability," Cassidy explained.
"And if I had lost that, I would've never lived that down."
Cassidy also acknowledged that going into the final jury questioning, she "felt very confident" in her ability to win the game based on her overall gameplay -- including her strategy, social skills, and several Immunity Challenge wins.
But Cassidy admitted that something in the air shifted and she could feel the game slipping through her fingers as the jury interrogated the Final 3 castaways.
"I think that I felt like people were really open to Gabler's answers and really supportive of what he was saying and just smiling. And, with me, it felt like they had already closed themselves off and it almost felt like it didn't matter what I said -- they had already made up their minds in a way," Cassidy recalled.
Cassidy believed the jury had already made their minds up at Ponderosa that Gabler should win the game, possibly because her former ally Karla Cruz Godoy had poisoned the jury.
"I don't know if that's true, but that was how it felt," Cassidy noted. "And so it was discouraging. And as you keep going on, and then people are jumping to Gabler's defense and then people are attacking me for things I'm saying, you start to lose confidence."
And Cassidy pointed out how the jury was smiling and seemingly eating up everything Gabler was putting on the table.
"I was just surprised," Cassidy told EW.
"I feel like they had already made up their decision before they even came in the Final Tribal is what I felt like. I don't know if that's true or not, but it was like fighting against this tide that was already turning."
Cassidy told EW that it was very challenging to put on a happy face and act like everything was fine after such a devastating loss against Gabler.
But Cassidy suggested time heals all wounds and she's doing better now.
"It's something that I've gone through cycles with in my head. I think I've come to terms with it, and I've healed from it, and then I get upset all over again," Cassidy confessed.
"I know people are like, 'But you got to the end. You should be so proud.' And I am. I really am, and I'm proud of the game I played. But to be that close and to really think you had it and then for it to slip away like that, you start questioning every little thing that you did."
Cassidy said it's "hard" to be proud of her wins when she was so close to the $1 million but "missed out."
"Because going into it, I wasn't sure that I was actually capable of what I did," Cassidy elaborated.
"And so to be that close, you want to be proud of yourself. At the same time, you're like, 'Damn when am I ever going to get this chance again.' And I've been watching it since I was a kid, so to be that close to being the winner... ugh!"
Cassidy told EW she can't help but "doubt" herself "a lot" and replay scenarios in her mind.
"You go back and look at all the things you could have done differently and it's a game that you'll never win in your head. But I'm still really proud of the game that I played no matter what," Cassidy concluded.