We’ve really enjoyed watching Shirin Oskooi on “Survivor: Worlds Apart,” mostly because it is not often that we see someone with as developed of a story arc over the course of a season as her. At first, we though she was going to be relatively doomed after being deemed “annoying” by some tribe members, and she and Max Dawson seemingly isolated themselves after the tribe swap. However, she turned that around for herself in the game, and eventually became a massive underdog and fan favorite to many. It’s always easy to root for a major fan of the show, especially someone with her back against the wall.
At the same time, we cannot ignore the horrid treatment of her in the game by players like Dan Foley and Will Sims, who seemed to take things at times to a personal level that had nothing to do with the game. They were a part of her story, as well, and were a big part of our conversation with her today. We could have easily talked with her for much longer than the time allotted.
CarterMatt – This is a good place to start. As someone who has seen so much of the show, what did you think of the story of you that was presented over the course of the season?
Shirin Oskooi – It was accurate. I did start out as the over-the-top, annoying superfan who talked about ‘Survivor’ too much. Then I had a wake-up call, and I was able to build new relationships and found myself at the bottom again, and [then] build new relationships and then found myself at the bottom again. I had amazing moments and I had terrible moments where people were cruel to me. Some of it was uncomfortable to watch but all of it was accurate. It was at times entertaining, and at times I was really proud of myself, seeing myself in a new light from this angle of television. Overall, that was me! That was my story.
What has the reaction been like for you the past couple of weeks from fans? I’ve been trying think of a comparable underdog from another season, and Spencer Bledsoe in some ways comes to light.
I love Spencer! That’s very kind. The reaction has been so amazing. People get me, and even people who didn’t like me are showing their live and support, and their support for what is right and good in this world, and turning this into an opportunity to make positive change.
I’ve talked about this with both Jenn and Hali, and while losing Max from the game had to be hard because he was such a close friend out there and probably still a great friend to you in real life, do you feel like it was actually good for you in getting further in the game?
Yeah. Max and I have talked about it a lot. We’re so glad that we got to play together and he’s one of my best friends now, but we also both agreed that we were terrible for each other in the game of ‘Survivor.’ His going home was new life for me in the game.
Is it a weird thing to go on ‘Survivor,’ a show you’ve loved for so long, and then be singled out for loving ‘Survivor’ so much? I know if I was playing, it is something I would love to talk about.
It is a personality thing. Max and I were talking about ‘Survivor’ a lot, but nobody else did. It’s just about being able to contain it. I really should’ve just contained it.
But it’s hard right? This sort of game strips you down to who you are, and it is something that is clearly on your mind.
What makes it hard also is that there isn’t that much to talk about! I can be like ‘yeah, I have a boyfriend, his name is Andrew, and this is my life, this is where I live…’ Twelve more hours of nothing!
Were you surprised by how much free time and boredom there is out there in the game?
There is a ton of downtime, but I always managed to find things to keep myself busy. I always managed to never be bored. I would go hang out with the monkeys, I would go snorkeling and looking at fish to collect creatures to eat. Other people were bored a lot; I always tried to make do.
When did your relationship with Mike in the game start to blossom? It appeared almost out of nowhere on the show that he was on the bottom working with you.
It was almost as suddenly as it appeared, but actually at the merge nobody would talk to me. Joaquin had painted such a terrible picture of me to everybody that everybody was just scared of me. They thought I was a horrible person. Rodney and Dan had negative respect for me; they didn’t even see me as human, and they never even gave me a chance. Mike gave everybody a chance. Mike really valued hard work, and I was a hard worker.
Mike and I also took a walk and chatted one time, and we were both very open about our history of domestic violence and [the history] with our mothers, and that was kind of an instant bond. It was the beginnings of a friendship, and it opened the door for later on so that when Will assaulted me and when Mike came in and saved me, he really stuck his neck out for me. From that moment on, we were blood. He’s now my family. You don’t go through something like that and not have an instant bond and instant connection. In addition to him getting me out of there, we were then sitting in a cave with Jenn, rehashing what went down, having a really emotional moment. At that moment Mike also told us about the idol. That was his gesture showing me and Jenn showing us that he was with us, that [what Will did] was wrong and not about the game. It is so much more than a game. These are real lives and these are real people.
Everyone is like ‘why didn’t we get to see the story of Mike being ousted and suddenly being an outcast,’ but it is exactly how you saw it! People called his actions wrong and evil for almost not buying his loved one’s letter, and then juxtapose that with those same people allowing me to me attacked while he is the one person who did the right thing and the good thing. It’s funny because he was ousted for being ‘evil’ when he is the one person who showed goodness in his heart in a really dark moment.
I know from talking with Jenn that Will has not apologized for anything that happened, but have you heard or spoken with some of the other people who were there [during that moment] who did not stand up for you?
Yeah. Sierra even in the game felt really badly about it, and she and I worked through it the next day. She’s a lovely person and we’re still close and we’ve grown closer because we went through that together. Tyler has apologized for not standing up for me. He admits that I was clearly in need of a friend, and he didn’t do what he should have done in the moment in the game.
I think what I am missing from a lot of these people, though, is that a lot of people have this attitude of ‘oh it’s between them, it has nothing to do with me’ or ‘it was all in the game.’ It wasn’t a game thing; it was personal, and it was wrong. Absolutely wrong. I think I need to hear that stance from people more clearly for me to forgive everybody else.
You obviously heard much of what Will said, but did you have any forewarning or indication that Dan was going to spew such venom towards you in some of the confessionals?
Oh, I had no idea that Dan was saying those things. Dan did a lot of terrible things around camp, like going around and calling Sierra a ‘beaten housewife,’ claiming that she just did what she was told and was a nobody in the game. Dan said horrible things, but we just thought he was the lovable or not-so-lovable buffoon. Nobody took him seriously.
It was only now after this stuff is airing and seeing his stuff on social media that it is dawning on me that there is something worse there. There’s some malice there. (Note: For more of what Shirin is talking about her with social media, check out this piece over on Reality Blurred.)
We still have time for a couple more quick things. How close was it between you and Carolyn for immunity?
Well, it did come down to me and Carolyn, and we battled it out for a long time, but ultimately she started the game almost 30 pounds lighter than me. She was carrying seven pounds less than me, and in that particular position seven pounds for two women who are roughly the same size is a LOT. I think that made all the difference in the world; I don’t think I could have beaten her.
I know there are a lot of people who are really sad about you being voted out right now. Is there anything that you can tell them to make them maybe feel a little better today?
I would remind all of my fans that I am on the jury … Dot dot dot.
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