There’s nothing harder on “Survivor” than making it to the very end and coming up short of the grand prize, but when it comes to Michael Skupin from this season in the Philippines, the man seems to be taking it all in stride rather well. After all, this is a man who waited a whole 12 years to get back in the game after his first time around in Australia, and to this day he can still say that he has went nearly sixty days without his name ever being written down once. Even if he did lose to Denise, this is not a bad accomplishment to take with you.
We had a chance to talk briefly with Skupin on Monday about the feeling of coming back to the game a few days later, and we also had some fun with him over the fact that according to his castmate and friend Carter Williams, his last name is apparently spelled “Skoopin.”
Cartermatt.com – I know from talking you in the past that you were so close to getting on some other seasons in the past. How rewarding was it for you now to not only get a chance to play it again, but to make it as far as you did?
Mike Skupin – I had suppressed how badly I wanted to play again until my toes hit that beach, then it all came back to me. Day by day, the longer I was there, it just got inside your soul. I had a strategy of making the jury and winning individual immunities and making the food auction, the family visit, winning the final immunity challenge where Probst says you have guaranteed a spot in the final three. Every single thing I wanted to accomplish out there that I did that I had control over.
I can’t control what people say, how people act, and how people vote. All I can do is play as hard as I can, and I thought that hard play would be respected more. Denise had a very under-the-radar type strategy, which is a great strategy and it’s worked before. It’s not any worse or any better, but when I asked my [Tandang team] if they would have given the million bucks to Russell Hantz [at the end of Samoa] on day one, they all said yes. At that point, I chose to play a game that I thought would be respected in the end.
But, it turns out that the sting of having your torch snuffed [has an impact on jurors]. It’s an experience that I never had out there; I’ve played 56 days and I’ve never had a vote cast against me. So I don’t know that feeling, but I imagine that it has to be the worst feeling in the entire game, worse than hunger and starvation. It’s one part of the game I’m glad that I never got to experience.
What was the one time during this game that you had to scramble the most to save yourself? Was it when RC was voted off and you were down an ally?
It’s interesting to listen to a fan of the show versus having been there. Although it looked like RC was my closest alliance and she potentially was although Lisa was an alliance from day 1 also, I needed to get rid of RC. I know that it doesn’t make sense to a viewer, but the problem was that she played so hard, so often that she made people uneasy. She asked Jeff Kent who he was going to vote off before she even introduced herself. So every time someone would say ‘ that girl’s got to go,’ it came up that me and her were aligned.
So my name kept getting thrown in with her, and it wasn’t until RC left that my name stopped coming up … sometimes, you have to eliminate your closest ally just to make it further in the game.
All right, so the final question: have you taught Carter how to spell your name yet?
(Laughs.) I love it. My name is spelled so many different ways. I had a deal with Carter that if he was in the final three, that I would vote for him, and he would vote for me. I had that same deal with RC, I had that same deal with Lisa. Some people stick to it, some people don’t. Many things happen at Ponderosa that you don’t have any control over. I had a really tight relationship with Carter and I would have loved to take him to the end. But he won that darn immunity challenge at the final seven, and he became the target, and I couldn’t get the numbers to save him.