‘Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X’ exclusive: Mari Takahashi on surprise vote, crazy Tribal Council, and the Triforce

Mari Takahashi came into “Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X” as someone perceived to be a huge threat to make it far. She was physically capable as a ballerina, strategically sound as a professional video gamer, and she seemed to have the social game necessary to communicate with other people on the Millennial tribe.

Even watching the show last night, it was hard to necessarily gauge what went wrong for her as opposed to what Michelle and others did right in targeting her as a threat. We were hoping to have this chat a little bit later in the season, but we were glad to speak her about strategy, what really happened out there, and … the Triforce. You had to assume that was coming.

CarterMatt – I’m a video gamer, and I know you are. You had to at least appreciate the Triforce as an alliance name, right?

Mari Takahashi – No, because they didn’t make any references to Zelda! How do you have the Triforce without making any references to Zelda? And then, there were four people in your Triforce; do they not know what ‘tri’ means? And also, I was offended that I wasn’t in the Triforce if you’re going to call it the Triforce!

CarterMatt – Looking back at last night, is there anything that you feel you did to lead to getting voted out? It looked like you were in such a good spot in episode 1.

I think I was just really naive. The energy at tribal was really interesting, because there was this mixture of pure joy and excitement at being at a real tribal in front of Jeff Probst the legend, and then there was this fear and pure terror that we’re there. Nobody wanted to be there, but we wanted to be there. With that nervous energy buzzing around, I don’t know if I was off-kilter … I don’t know. I can’t say I was off my game, but I think that I was really naive and I was almost wanting to be polite at Tribal. It was this amazing place, and Jeff asked me ‘these people are having this conversation, does this worry you,’ and instead of being assertive and being like ‘yeah, what’s going on, tell it to me straight,’ I was like ‘it’s probably nothing.’ It came from a place of being polite. The spotlight was being shined on Hannah, who is already a neurotic mess … I felt like I was protecting her with acting like ‘don’t shine the light on her. She’s already not making sense, making words.’ I deflected when I really should have poked and prodded.

We saw you and Hannah bonding during the first episode, so did you think there was a chance that she was really talking about ‘puppies and butts’? Were you seriously concerned?

I look back, and there are so many signals. The spotlights were on a bunch of other people, with Figgy being at the center thanks to the love-couple happening and then Figgy and Michaela [fighting]; there were warning signs for the rest of us in the shadows … So I look back and I see that and I see the whispering on the side, and I have deep regrets about not looking into it further. It’s so different watching yourself on television and being able to tell yourself ‘don’t you see it,’ and then being in that seat and having almost this out-of-body experience where you’re watching a puppet of yourself act in a certain way, and you’re like ‘what are you DOING!?’.

I think in some ways we go through that in our daily lives. When it can be replayed over and over it just hurts that much more (laughs).

How much blame should we put on Zeke for the information that he passed down to Jay? Were you sending him messages last night waving your fist at him?

Honestly, what the cut didn’t show is that at certain times of the day, a bunch of other people’s names were being thrown out there, including — plot twist — Jay’s name by Figgy. I think that’s where that conversation came out of, because at some point Jay wanted Figgy out, as well, because he was upset that Figgy threw his name out there because she thought he was too much of a threat. I can see how the cut makes it seem like it went purely that way, but there was a lot of paranoia running around all day.

Did you anticipate any votes at all coming your way?

I did not. That is why I feel like I got sniped out of NOWHERE. I just did not see that happening. I’m my biggest critic, and I don’t think I saw that one coming for a while. It’s almost like I didn’t get a chance to play; I was just getting started, and I was excited to see how viewers were going to react to the rest of my game.

A lot of times we’re hypocritical as viewers watching this show in that we get frustrated when someone tries to hide part of their background. Yet, from what I could tell on TV, it seemed like you were pretty open. Did you ever consider not being so forthcoming about your background and your skill set? Was there any way for you to appear as less of a threat?

I do wonder what they thought in terms of the threat part — was it the video gaming? I kept it pretty cool early on, saying ‘oh, it’s like games online for a living.’ That was fine and nobody really questioned it. But, it was actually the fact that because we were on the Millennial tribe, we just happened to have the youngest ‘Survivor’ player ever [in Will] who just happens to live on the internet and actually know Smosh and Smosh Games, which is the group that I work for. He basically outed me in front of the tribe, saying that I had millions of subscribers, which I think put it in their heads that I’m more of a threat than they should have thought. I think right off the bat they thought ‘oh, she’s ready to play this game, she must be like a Ken Hoang, we need to get rid of her. She’s too strategic.’ What they didn’t know is that I’m basically a clown on the internet, I’m just an idiot that just so happens to play video games for a living, right? I think they got a different perspective of me that they thought was more threatening.

I don’t know, maybe it was the red hair, or the haircut, or the fact that I’m a god—n ninja. I don’t know.

You never know with these people. Who did you consider yourself to be the closest to out of the people out there?

I was closest to Adam. We actually went to the same high school at different times and we grew up in the same neighborhood. Instantly we had a connection, and so in that sense we got along in a way that was deeper than just like ‘I think I like you.’ I was really comfortable with him, and he was the first person to come up to me, and he told me that he was the only person he went up to that day saying ‘hey, let’s have a solid alliance.’


Thanks to Mari for being so forthcoming in her answers — and also for the Ken reference! We’ve made our Kenny appreciation pretty obvious over the years.

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