There are a lot of different ways to look at Scot Pollard coming out of “Survivor: Kaoh Rong.” There’s no questioning that he was a polarizing player, and we’ve certainly heard from people who loved or hated him and his alliance-mate Kyle Jason this season. Yet, at the same exact time, he also performed much better than many other high-profile players on the show, or at least the ones who came into this game publicly acknowledging who they were. He made some very good moves, but in the end he fell victim to Tai making his own big play after being convinced by Aubry to go against his allies.
Below, we had a chance to talk more with the former NBA player about his strategy, if he thought there was one point in the game where things went wrong, and how he’s handled some of the negativity that has come his way while the show has been airing. Hot take: This is probably one of our favorite exit interviews of the season, both in terms of the answers and the way in which Scot describes his game.
CarterMatt – Was it easy for you to just own what you do for a living given your size?
Scot Pollard – I figured they’d be like ‘he’s a former wrestler or a football player or a basketball player.’ I just embraced it and went with it.
Did that make it easier for you to mitigate people wondering about your success, or why you were there? Did those questions come out while you were in the game?
There was talk about my career. I don’t think anyone flat-out asked me ‘why would you even do this,’ but if they did my answer would’ve been, and it still is, ‘it’s Survivor.’ It’s cool, man! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and very, very few people get to be on it once, let alone those select few who get to be back on it once or twice. It was an honor to be a part of the show and it was a huge challenge and experience.
My answer still is ‘why wouldn’t you.’ It’s Survivor; aside from the money, it’s a good experience. And a million dollars is still a lot of money. I don’t care how much you have.
Okay Scot, I’ve wondered this for a long time: Did you and Jason throw the immunity challenge to get rid of Alecia?
Okay, here’s what Cydney and Jason and I talked about. We were losing challenges, and we were getting tired and running out of steam. We knew that a swap was going to come soon, since our numbers were going down and nobody else’s [were]. What happens if we have a swap and Alecia is on a different tribe, and she starts telling other people Jason has got an idol? In order to keep that secret safe, yeah we probably didn’t do our best to win that challenge.
I think one of your biggest moves of the game, even if it didn’t really work out for you in the end, was getting Tai on your side after the swap. How were you able to effectively bring him in?
Since I had literally just learned a lesson in trying to keep the secret of an idol safe by eliminating Alecia, it was fresh in my mind. Tai had just shown Anna and myself the idol. She’s gotta go, because I wanted to keep that secret between Tai and me! So I went to Tai and said ‘it’s one of you two. Here’s what we do. We gotta keep the secret safe.’ So I think we just [redid] what I had just done at Brawn. Tai was on board because it kept him in the game and kept his idol with him, and it was just a matter of convincing everyone else that it was Anna and not Tai. Tai even went a little overboard at tribal talking about all the things he does and kind of annoying people, and I was like ‘yeah we get it, you’re a provider. You don’t have to keep talking about it. Let’s stop.’
It was a pretty easy decision; because he did do so much, everyone wanted Tai around, and it wasn’t really hard to convince everyone else; but, it was pretty hard to convince Tai not to use his idol to save himself.
I talked to Neal a few weeks ago, and he said that he would’ve probably made it through the first tribal council after the merge had he stayed. Do you think that is really the case?
If Neal hadn’t used the idol, he would’ve gone home that night. We were going to split the vote between Neal and someone else, most likely Aubry. He was one of the people who was going to be targeted, so either he uses his idol that night and was voted out the next one, or he was voted out that night if he didn’t use his idol.
We talk quite often, and he swears up and down that he was in control of the game and he was going to win, but that’s a lot of ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda.’ It’s the same thing on the other end, because everybody was saying the same thing in ‘[Neal’s] gotta go.’ He was a threat, and I really think he would’ve been gone that night or the night one. But then again this is ‘Survivor,’ and there are always a lot of twists and turns.
Was there ever a turning point for you where you thought that things weren’t going your way? Was it after the Nick vote, or some other time?
You know, Jason betrayed me when we got Jenny out, and that was my tightest alliance at that point. It was a trial by fire, and there were people like Nick and Michele who didn’t go to tribal council until day 22 or something like that. They didn’t go through that experience; you watch it and you think you know the game, but then going through it and experiencing it and living through a betrayal or blindside, you get a quick education on your reality of it. You have your long-term plan and then your short-term plan, and your short-term plan constantly has to change when your own alliance betrays you and there are difficult things within your own tribe. We did have a lot of difficulties at Brawn.
I learned early that you had to be like running water in a river and just kind of go around the rocks, make sure that people don’t write your name down, and I still had my long-term plan; but my short-term plan seemed to be working, whether it was going Jason’s way or going Tai’s way. I was still flowing, and had Tai not betrayed me I would’ve still been alive and the strategy that I’d used so far would still be working. I can’t pinpoint a time when I thought ‘it’s all going wrong,’ because it was going wrong the whole freakin’ time. (Laughs.)
Speaking of ‘going wrong,’ there was obviously everything that happened with Tai. Going into Tribal Council, did you have a sense that he was talking to other people? Did you have any reason at all to be worried?
I had no reason to be nervous, but of course he was talking to people. Everybody was talking to people. I was talking to people, too! You watch people, you try to read them, but deep down inside I felt like Tai and I had enough conversations and I knew him well enough that he was going to stay loyal, even though I know he had misgivings about being devious and being a villain. We did too, but we didn’t display the misgivings as much as Tai did on the edit.
I still had no reason to believe that he was going to blindside me, and I was looking for a reason strategically as I was riding back to Ponderosa. ‘What advantage is Tai going to get by getting me out?’ I could’ve think of a good strategic reason that ‘Scot must go.’ I was watching the episode last night, hoping I could see something that Tai said strategically or something that makes sense, and I still didn’t. Maybe I’m blind to it, but I don’t see a reason for Tai to blindside me other than ‘get the big guy out, and I get to keep my idol.’
We got time for a few more quick things. What did the game do to you in terms of wrecking your body? It’s always rough on the big guys.
(Laughs) Well my body’s already pretty wrecked from basketball. The challenges were really hard. I didn’t win one immunity challenge. I got second in one, and that’s the only reason I didn’t go to every tribal council. The Brains got last in one. We never won an immunity challenge, and with the last couple you look at them. The crucifixion one where everybody’s standing on the same-size board, well I’ve got size 18 feet and I weigh 100 pounds more than the next person. That’s not really a challenge that I got a good chance of winning, especially when you got Tai who has size 5 feet and weights 98 pounds. It’s good to be big in some situations and it’s good to be small in others; we just had a particular set of challenges like the one where we were stepping through and stacking blocks. I’m stacking the same set, but I’ve got bigger feet to put through those boxes.
I’m not crying a river, but it’s just the facts. With some of these challenges, they just benefited someone with smaller feet and someone who weighed less. I didn’t win one challenge, and yet I still made it to final eight, and was apparently viewed as a big enough threat that people wanted me out of the game. Apparently the audience didn’t see everything, because why would they want to get rid of someone who they’d want to sit next to for a for-sure win? I still felt like I was a sure win; not that I would win, but whoever I sat next to would win. You would think they want to keep me around.
What was it like for you dealing with the online reaction? Were you more prepared for it thanks to a career where you had people who did cheer for you, but then also other teams who would boo you when you were fouling one of their guys?
NBA fans in my experience, it was easier to deal with them because I always felt I owed them my living. They were the ones buying the tickets, and they were the ones making me able to live the way I lived. Even when fans were rude, it was always easy to be like ‘thanks for watching, thanks for paying for me to be here and making sure my kids are living a good life. You provide my income.’
With ‘Survivor’ fans, it’s first of all much more cold-blooded. Especially on Instagram, where these kids are brutal! There are death threats and people saying horrible things to my wife about my unborn child. I’m not asking for sympathy because I’m a grown-up, but I feel badly for my children. They may see these things about their father from kids who are just keyboard bullies and probably, I would hope, not say these things in real life; [instead, they] say horrible things to someone they don’t know and somebody they see an edit of.
On top of that, I don’t owe them my living. I went out on ‘Survivor’; they didn’t make me go on ‘Survivor.’ Every contestant on ‘Survivor’ is not a product of the fans; they’re a product of CBS choosing them to be on the show. It has not much to do with the life obsession and the hard work as it does with being a professional athlete, where I worked really hard and I owed my income to the fans.
It’s been different, and I’m thankful that I have the thick shell that I have when dealing with social media and the public. For someone with a weaker constitution it’d be more difficult to deal with, and some of my cast-mates have called me or texted me and asked ‘how do I deal with this,’ and you just have to take a break from it sometimes.
So yes or no Scot: Would you play the game again if asked?
Yes, but I’d be the first pro athlete they’d have back, so I’m not holding my breath.
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