Exclusive: Marisa Calihan talks about her 'Survivor: Samoa' ouster
By Christopher Rocchio, 09/18/2009
Marisa Calihan's ouster is proof that first impressions can often be wrong.
The 26-year-old student from Cincinnati, OH, became the first castaway eliminated from Survivor: Samoa during last night's broadcast of the CBS reality series.
On Friday, Marisa talked to Reality TV World about why Russell Hantz lives up to his "biggest villain ever" billing; how his antics took the spotlight off fellow "misogynist" Ben Browning; why nobody on Foa Foa suspected Russell of emptying canteens and burning socks; and why she hopes he gets eliminated from the game before some real damage is done.
Reality TV World: Russell is being billed as Survivor's "biggest villain ever." Based on what you saw during the first three days, do agree with that?
Marisa: He's definitely the biggest villain I've ever known. Anybody who doesn't need the money but just goes onto a show to play with people's weaknesses and torment them, and then to claim that he's a victim of one of our nation's greatest tragedies -- just to do that to mess with people's minds, I think that's top villain qualities personally.
Reality TV World: After your elimination, you stated that you initially trusted Russell -- which seemed kind of surprising since you were the one who also commented at the beginning of the episode that he looked like someone you didn't want to mess with. Why did you decide to trust Russell at first?
Marisa: I really didn't have much to base it on except for our canoe trip. You canoe onto the island and the only interaction that you have is in that canoe. So it's like, "Okay, choose a chief." Well, I'm going to choose the person that I think did the best job in the only scenario that we've had, which was Russell. He also chose me [to be the tribal leader].
He also worked really hard in the [Reward Challenge]. So initially, I was like, "Yeah, maybe he does like me in particular because he chose me to be chief." So that was my initial trust Russell situation. But as soon as that first day went on, I was already starting to have light shed onto his ways.
Reality TV World: How did your alliance with him form?
Marisa: He ran up to me and was like, "I want to make an alliance with you right off the bat." He said that honesty's the most important thing to him in this game and that we just have to stay honest with each other and we're going to have a secret alliance that no one's going to know and that if I stay with him I'll last the whole game. Same spiel he gave everyone basically.
Reality TV World: So you guys would have been an alliance of two, right? He didn't mention any of the other castaways names when he was talking to you?
Reality TV World: Did you have alliance discussions with anyone else besides Russell while you were out there?
Marisa: Yes. I was in an actual alliance with [Mick Trimming] and I was in an actual alliance with [Betsy Bolan].
Reality TV World: Okay, how did that come about? Did you guys have conversations about Russell?
Marisa: There were some conversations between us about Russell, yeah. Many of them. Mick I think was still on the fence about Russell. But Betsy was onto him. Betsy was like me. She saw through him and she didn't trust him.
Reality TV World: Was it difficult to hear him say you were part of Russell's "dumb-ass girls" alliance during last night's episode?
Marisa: I had heard it on the commercials. But he said the "dumb blonde, an even dumber long-haired blonde and the brunette girl as part of my dumb-ass girls alliance." That initially... I might have been like, "You asshole. I'm not dumb." But I think I was vindicated because it's pretty clear I'm not stupid.
Reality TV World: You already talked about how you quickly started to distrust Russell. Did his Hurricane Katrina lie on Night 1 play into that at all?
Marisa: I wasn't about to start putting myself on national television and saying, "He's lying! He was not in Hurricane Katrina and I don't feel bad for him!" I've never been in a natural disaster and I would never say something like that.
The thing that really got me was that I do have dogs, and when he said that he lost his dog, he was going around telling everybody this horrible story about how his dog drowned. If that happened to my dog, I wouldn't be going around telling people about that. That would be something that would kill me to talk about. He was just waving it around like a flag. I thought, "This guy is full of it."
Reality TV World: So you found it suspicious.
Marisa: Very suspicious.
Reality TV World: Last night's episode failed to explain what the tribe thought happened to Jaison Robinson's socks and the water in the canteens on the morning of Day 2. You guys must have suspected that somebody dumped the water out, right? What did you think happened to the socks?
Marisa: The thing with the canteens is that at that time... Okay, one pot of boiled water only filled five canteens. You had to boil two pots of water [to fill all 10 castaway canteens]. You had to boil a pot of water over an open fire in this big cast-iron pot, it takes a very long time. We were really -- as a tribe -- wanting to stay hydrated and ready for the challenge the next day. So we were sort of sharing canteens.
When we woke-up in the morning, we just assumed that everyone had drank their fill of water and because it was night nobody replenished the source. I mean this is just the first three days. I'm sure if he continued to do that, people would catch onto it. But we were all totally unfamiliar with our surroundings.
As far as Jaison's socks, I didn't even know that Jaison's socks were missing. He didn't mention that to any of us. But I do know my socks were missing and I couldn't find them. Nobody knew where they were. It's kind of like when somebody's complaining about not being able to find something, you just think they're annoying because they misplaced it themselves.
Reality TV World: Based on last night's show, it was pretty obvious that Ben really disliked you by the time Tribal Council happened. Why do you think you two clashed so badly? Did it begin with that Day 2 argument over the water boiling?
Marisa: No. It happened before that. You really don't see a lot of Ben in this episode because they really wanted to introduce Russell but Ben is horrible. He's bossy. He bosses everyone around. He is a total misogynist. I think he's afraid of women because he treats women horribly. I'm just not the kind of woman who's going to let some pipsqueak boss me around. Period. I don't think that he deals with that very well. I don't think he deals with strong women at all.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised by the way Russell reacted when you told him you were starting to get "weary" of his actions? His explanation for talking to everybody seemed pretty lame.
Marisa: You know, I actually was expecting Russell to try to smooth things over with me. That's what I was expecting. Because I was thinking if I'm coming to him and -- keep in mind now, he's the one telling me that honesty's the most important thing to him -- so I was kind of using his line to figure out what exactly was going on with this guy.
So I tried the honesty approach, and -- to tell you the truth -- by that point a lot of things went on behind the scenes with Russell that I can't discuss. I didn't even want to see Russell, I didn't want to look at him. He approached me and wanted to say, "We're still tight right? We're still okay." I'm just kind of like, "No. I'm really weary of all the things you're doing on this island. Why do you need to go talk to everybody quietly? If we're in an alliance, why do you need to?" Then he tried to tell me, "Oh, we're just talking about the good times we're having on the island." I just wasn't buying it and that freaked him out.
I really didn't realize how much I scared him until last night's episode.
Reality TV World: In hindsight, do you regret the way that conversation went? You obviously would have played that differently now since it preceded your elimination, right?
Marisa: You say obviously because you kind of think that I would.
Reality TV World: Yeah.
Marisa: But I don't think so. Honestly, I would rather leave in this first episode and have been the only person who called him out than to leave in three more episodes and had to have catered to him.
Reality TV World: That leads well into my next question. During Tribal Council, you seemed to stop just short of basically calling out Russell and telling everyone about your secret alliance with him. Do you wish you would have done that to kind of show that he was making deals with lots of people?
Marisa: I tried to allude to those sort of things without outright saying them. I was in an alliance with someone else, and at this point I wasn't completely sure about whether I was going off the show or not. So I didn't want to set myself up to have a target on my back the next Tribal Council if I didn't get [voted] off. So I was trying to be careful about what I said.
That was a really long Tribal Council condensed down into almost nothing. So there's a lot of stuff there again that you didn't see, and I did defend myself.
Reality TV World: Just to back up a second, that alliance you mentioned is the one with Betsy and Mick, right?
Reality TV World: Your face seemed to get more and more expressive as host Jeff Probst revealed each Tribal Council vote. What was going through your mind when that was happening, were you surprised you were the target?
Marisa: I was wondering... It was kind of like, okay, I knew Russell was going to vote for me. I knew that Ben was going to vote for me. And I knew that [Ashley Trainer] was probably going to vote for me. I knew those things.
But it was kind of painful to hear the other people right down my name and to have that called because there were some people that I felt genuinely would not have written down my name until that Tribal Council happened. Russell and Ben caused such a commotion around me that it swayed them into doing that. It hurt me because I knew that they knew better.
Reality TV World: I know you were only out there for three days, but did you pick up on any other alliances that anyone else was seemed to be forming while you were out there?
Marisa: I knew that Ashley was connected in some way with Ben and Russell. I knew that. That was part of the reason why Ashley was a target [for Betsy, Mick and myself], because we were trying to weaken that alliance.
Reality TV World: Do you think Mick was still considered your tribe's leader by Day 3...
Marisa: He disappointed me in his leadership role. He did. But I understand he didn't know what to do with that and he didn't ask for it. He didn't want a target on his back.
Reality TV World: Who do you think assumed the tribe's leadership role if Mick wasn't fulfilling it?
Marisa: As far as around camp, it was less of a leadership role and more of a dictator role because Ben was telling everybody what to do and how to do it at all times. I took to calling him "The Machete Man" because anytime anybody needed the machete to work on building a shelter or whatever, we'd be like "Where's the machete? Oh, Ben's got it and he's off in the woods somewhere with the machete."
I'll be interested to see how his character plays out because he really was not a good guy.
Reality TV World: I just want to be clear on this. You think your elimination was a combination of Russell and Ben together working against you?
Marisa: I think that it was mostly Russell. I think he used my conflict with Ben to his own advantage.
Reality TV World: How long do you think it will take before your former tribemates start to realize that Russell is untrustworthy?
Marisa: God, I hope it's not too long because that guy is diabolical. He's actually kind of scary. I would hate to see what happens the further he gets in this game to see what he'd do to somebody. I think he would stop at nothing.
Reality TV World: What was your strategy heading into the competition?
Marisa: My first couple days there I really wanted to work my hardest, pull my weight around camp, try not to ruffle too many feathers and really assess the people that I was on my tribe with so that I would know how... You know, it's hard to say what you're going to dodge when evil jumps out at you.
I didn't have an umbrella strategy that I was going to use. That may have been to my detriment because I'm out first.
Reality TV World: I know you were only there for a few days, but who would you like to see win the $1 million?
Marisa: I would love to see Betsy win. I would love to see her win because she has a very difficult life and she's a strong woman and I think she's intuitive and she's just a class act. I'd really like to see her win.
Reality TV World: How were you cast for Survivor: Samoa? Was it your first time applying for the show?
Marisa: It was my first time applying. I met a casting producer about four years ago in a FedEx Kinko's in L.A. -- it was four or five years ago, I can't remember exactly. But about six months ago she emailed me and asked me if I would still be interested and I said, "Absolutely!" I went through the application process and the rest is history. http://www.realitytvworld.com/news/exclusive-marisa-calihan-talks-about-her-survivor-samoa-ouster-9570.php