Survivor exit interview: Ashley Nolan on Ben’s idol, alliances, playing again

Ashley NolanAshley Nolan at one point in Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers felt like a surefire final three candidate. She had a strong alliance around her and a good social game. So what went wrong? To us, it started with Lauren Rimmer getting voted out after Ben played his first hidden immunity idol; then, he decided to play another second immunity idol Wednesday night before the vote just as a means of ensuring his safety. Ashley suddenly became a threat to everyone else remaining and even Devon, her longtime ally, voted against her.

So what did she think about that move after the fact, and the rest of her game in general? We touched on that and many other things in a new exit interview with her today.

CarterMatt – Was it rough having to sit back and watch Tribal Council play out last night? Did it bring back some of how you were feeling?

Ashley Nolan – Basically, I remember a heat wave surged right through me — everything came right back. They didn’t show this, but as the votes were being counted my body language said it all. I was curled up in a little ball in the fetal position, me knees were at my chest and I was like ‘oh my god’ because I was so sad.

I was just as sad watching it all over again. I obviously knew it was coming this time, but nobody else in my family and friends knew and I watched it with a pretty big group. I felt that pressure of everyone turning around and staring at me all at once (laughs). I was just like ‘sorry, guys.’

CarterMatt – If you had been voted out and Devon still voted to keep you, would you have felt any better?

I think so, because at least the one person that I chose to trust in this game stuck with me. That definitely would’ve been better — when your main alliance decides to flip on you, you’re just like ‘screw this game.’ I really couldn’t trust any of them. It’s a part of the game.

Just for clarification, was the plan at the Tribal Council to get rid of Ben going in?

Yeah, 100%. He was public enemy #1 and there was no way that anyone was going to trust Ben. But … it’s Ben. There was a good chance that he was going to have an idol. We realized that he did and nobody really flinched on what their game plan was –  I didn’t realize what the plan was so the plan must be me. That really hit me.

So you knew before Jeff even read the votes that it was going to be you leaving.

Oh yeah. It was discussed. I remember leaning into Mike at one point and being like ‘am I going home?’ because it all added up. He basically looked at me and said ‘sorry Ash.’ I’m surprised that wasn’t shown.

As soon as Ben pulled the idol everyone was just like ‘okay, let’s stick with the plan.’ I was like ‘what does that mean?’ and I knew something was up.

What made you decide to vote for Mike? Was it just what Ben said during Tribal Council?

Earlier before Tribal it was thrown out there that the vote was between Ben and Mike, which it turns out was just what they were telling me. Then, when Ben said the thing about Mike, as well, that was my last-ditch effort and my Hail Mary pass to see if someone else would jump on that. I tried with Devon. I also said ‘you guys are crazy’ and ‘Mike is going to beat you in final three.’ That may not be true but I was trying (laughs).

I had to vote for somebody. I just hoped that someone would change their vote.

Early on in the game, did Alan effectively kill any hopes of an alliance with JP? Was anything ever the same?

Yeah, he killed any hope of JP and I having an alliance from then on out. Me and JP, from that moment on, we couldn’t get water together. He made sure we were not left alone at camp for more than two seconds together. That taught me really quickly in this game that perception is reality. It doesn’t matter what you know or what happened or didn’t happen. If one person with a loud-enough mouth wants to go around and say that you have an idol or that you’re in a power couple, then [in the minds of others] you have an idol and you’re in a power couple. It doesn’t matter if it is true or not.

For the rest of the game, even post-merge, it was almost unspoken that we were not going to work together anymore.

After the swap and after Alan was gone at Levu, were you and Devon willing to go to rocks against Joe and Desi?

That was a really good way to prove our loyalty to each other, but I do think that Desi would’ve been easy to flip. She wasn’t a game-player; she didn’t have too much loyalty to Joe. She just wanted to be around a little bit longer.

They didn’t show it, but I had a brief conversation with Desi where I was like ‘do you really trust Joe?’. She said ‘only to an extent,’ and I think we would have been able to convince her that in the long run he’s not worth keeping around. He’s a wild card and he’ll do anything. I think we could have been able to convince her that we’re better people to go far with.

Did things start to go south for you at the Lauren vote? Was that a big blow?

Yeah, I think so. Unlucky for me, Chrissy tried to reach out to me and get me to flip alliances before the Lauren vote. At that point, I was still super-confident in my alliance — I still had my alliance with Devon and Lauren plus Lauren’s extra vote. There was no reason to entertain the thought, so I didn’t. Fast-forward to Lauren’s vote, there goes our power alliance. Fast-forward to the next reward challenge, Ryan and Chrissy get to work on Devon and he didn’t have much of an alliance other than with [me].

Timing just didn’t work out for me because of the Lauren vote. If she had stuck around I think Devon would’ve stayed true and stuck with us.

Who was your desired final three at the end of the game?

Lauren would’ve been a good person had she stuck around, but honestly I can’t say I would’ve gone with her because she was starting to show some big moves with the advantages and trying to get out Ben.

Ideally, the final three for me would’ve been Devon and Mike, hands-down. They would have given me the best chance of winning.

Do you want to play again? I feel like I know the answer, but I’m going to ask anyway.

It’s the same answer that any person with a right mind would give — yes (laughs).

What do you think is the one part of your game you’d change if you had a chance to go back?

I do think I need to be more confident in making connections with people. If I had an alliance I wouldn’t really reach out to anyone else in fear of saying something wrong or blowing up [a plan]. Take, for example, me and Chrissy. We got along great as people, but I never really played the game with her. Same with Ryan. I felt so comfortable in my alliance that I didn’t go out of my way to make backup relationships.

If I was to play again, I think I would come on more aggressively from the beginning.

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