No one can argue that Ciera Eastin plays the game hard. The former “Blood vs. Water” loved one of former “Survivor: Samoa” contestant Laura Morett (her mom), Ciera was a firecracker her first time around. She is short and meek in stature, but she is one of the toughest cookies out there. And while it took her a while to grow and nurture that assertiveness in the game her first time out, she ended her run being known as the girl who voted out her own mother. Talk about cutthroat!
In case you haven’t read the full recap, you can get caught up on Episode 10 and 11 here.
Ciera seemed like a shoe-in (to me anyways) as an eventual returnee and when she was among the finalists for this fan-vote season, it was fairly clear she was going to get another shot. She began the game right where anyone would have wanted, on the dominant Bayon tribe, and formed an unlikely close friendship with the larger target, “Chaos” Kass.
But despite their tight alliance, Ciera seemed on the outside of the “alpha” male alliance formed by Jeremy. When Savage threw her name out there as a possible pawn vote without her opinion on the matter, it formed an even deeper divide, since Savage was quite close to the other guys. But Ciera made it through a series of tribe swaps and merges, all the while bluntly reminding the other players that they needed to make big moves, and go big or go home.
One player, Jeremy, seemed to get the message. He shocked everyone when he decided to use one of his two hidden Idols on Stephen Fishbach, keeping his closest ally safe (if but for only a few more days). Ciera was on the receiving end of that move, even though she had the votes in her favor to blindside Fishbach had Jeremy not used his Idol. Ciera was sent home, fighting to the very end.
I had a chance to chat with Ciera today about her time in the game, the evolution of Survivor strategy, and a possible scenario that she came up with that may have ended up saving her game, at least through her last Tribal.
Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: Hi Ciera!
Ciera Eastin: Hi Tom!
Tom Santilli: So let’s start at the beginning. You begin the game on the Bayon tribe, which thus far has been the dominant tribe. Yet, you ended up being in the minority on that tribe. Why do you think you weren’t able to get in tighter with your “Bayon Strong” alliance, or is there a specific moment you can point to that might have led to you ending up on the outside?
Ciera: They were so like, “man strong,” I guess. I think the fact that I was a woman already put me slightly on the outs. And then I think Tasha fit in a bit better with them because she is much better at challenges, which made her more of an asset to them. I was playing a bit of a different game than that, so that already divided us a little bit. And then I don’t think that it helped with all of the tribe swaps that took place. It was just extremely difficult to follow relationships and who got along with who, so that’s why I think that there was all of this talk about voting blocks and not alliances, because alliances weren’t really given time to form.
Tom Santilli: What’s your thoughts on the “evolution” of Survivor, with the voting blocks? It seems to me to be something that might be a one-time thing. I’m not sure newer players can do it and it requires savvy players who aren’t easily offended when they aren’t included in a vote, because they will need to recover and stay cool for the next vote. What are your thoughts?
Ciera: I totally agree with what you just said. I think it had a ton to do with the fact that we were second-time players, and people were able to see the bigger picture and knew they couldn’t get mad about a vote. I think it also had to do with all the swapping. I think that had this been a season where there weren’t a lot of swaps, I think we would have seen alliances. Nobody was able to really create strong bonds because of all the swaps. The really strong bonds you saw out there were between me and Kass, because we were together out there from Day One, Joe and Keith, who had been together from Day One, and Stephen and Jeremy. So it’s like it just kind of shows that because we were together for so long, there were those pairs. But because of all the swaps more of that just wasn’t happening. I think on a first-timer season, people might play a little bit more emotionally, or might just obviously be a bit more naive about the game.
Tom Santilli: This season there was a lot of talk about pre-game alliances, and one player that everybody seemed to want to vote out first was Kass. And yet, she became your closest ally in the game. Was that strategy on your part to align with Kass or was it something else?
Ciera: Well I obviously had some strategy involved with aligning with Kass, but it was a genuine friendship that we had. We just got each other, we laughed together and we were just together the longest. We had a longer time to bond and stories to tell. But Kass is extremely smart and she did come in to a season where she probably was one of the biggest threats to go home early on. From my perspective of her at Bayon, she handled that very well and formed a lot of good relationships with other people early on.
Tom Santilli: You were very blunt and direct with people about talking strategy, and you were often shown urging other players to make big moves and play the game hard. Watching the season unfold on TV, were there any players that at the time you thought might not be playing very hard, but upon watching it back on TV, now say, wow, that person was really playing all out!
Ciera: Hmm. Yes. One person. And I would say Spencer. I definitely felt like Spencer was one of those people who was more on the outs, but in watching things back it definitely looks like he had way closer bonds with Jeremy in particular, that I wasn’t aware of. But that’s it. Everyone else knew that they were not in that tight group and they were apparently OK with that.
Tom Santilli: Fans of course love the big moves, but to put that out there as a player, were you worried that would make you a bigger threat? Or I guess at the point you started talking about that, you didn’t really have all that much to lose.
Ciera: Oh yeah, I didn’t care. I literally had nothing to lose. I knew that I was on the bottom, and I wasn’t going to make my way to the top by being quiet, just floating around. And Jeremy, Tasha, Stephen and Savage were so floats. And I had already ticked off Savage when we voted out Woo, I already knew Savage didn’t like me, he was already like telling Jeremy, Sasha and Stephen that I needed to go. So I knew that was already done, you know? So it was more about me telling people who weren’t in their group, that they weren’t in their group (laughs). You have to make this move to break this up before it goes too far. Are you satisfied with fifth, sixth, seventh place? If you are, just keep playing the way you’re playing because that’s where you’re headed. If you’re not, I’m going to make the move. And that was my point. Obviously I didn’t mean it like there wasn’t anybody out there that was playing the game. Jeremy was playing a very strong game, I think that Stephen was as well. But a lot of people were just very OK with their spot in the game.
Tom Santilli: Talk to me about Savage. Clearly everyone understood your reaction when he threw your name out there, as nobody would want their name being thrown around. But did you feel like you handled things after that in the right way? Any regrets there? Also Savage was quite the jerk to you when you arrived at Ponderosa…
Ciera: So Savage…I loved the way that all played out, I wouldn’t change anything about any of that. Savage should know better, first off, then to, first off say my name, but he was supposedly “Bayon Strong.” And then for him to throw out my name instead of a Ta Keo member like Woo, Abi or Wigles? That to me was just a huge red flag showing me where his loyalties lied. Not only did it show me where his loyalties lie, but he also said that no one should be caught talking to Ciera. Now I know he didn’t mean that in a mean way, it was more for strategy reasons, but it seemed like he was trying to control everything. And then thirdly, Spencer is an amazing player. And the chances of him having an Idol were very high in my mind. So I was like, there’s no way. I’m not taking the chance of Spencer having a hidden Immunity Idol and then I’m going to be the one to go home. So I had to do that. But that obviously created a lot of tension between me and Savage. He started targeting me, then I created that lie about him, and then by Ponderosa time, I come in and he is really upset with me, he did not want to talk with me. He was very rude. But you know, I’ve learned that people handle the game differently, and it was just learning for me. I had to let him get over it in his own time. Eventually he did. We talked it out and we’re friends now, but yeah, that was super-awkward.
Tom Santilli: In your day-after interview on CBS.com, you brought up an interesting scenario that you entertained before your last Tribal Council, where you might have been able to draw a tie-vote where you would have been able to stay in the game. Tell me more about that.
Ciera: So! This is how that happened. So I did not think Jeremy had a problem voting Stephen out. I knew he didn’t want to do it, but the conversation I had with him, he was like, well if you all are going to vote that way, I’m not going to go against you guys. As far as I was concerned I thought Jeremy was with us, and I would not have known that I would have needed three votes to tie the vote. Me and Wentworth were voting Kimmi and that would have tied the vote had Stephen and Kimmi voted for me or Wentworth. So I didn’t know I needed a third vote, but I knew that I didn’t want to piss Abi off. The way that Abi works is, we wouldn’t tell her who to vote for until the very last second. We didn’t want to complicate it or have her switch her vote. So I felt like once Abi would have found out me and Wentworth would have voted for Kimmi and she would have voted for Stephen, therefore voting differently than us, I felt like she might have gotten mad at me and Wentworth. But I almost went to her and told her, hey, just vote with us for Kimmi so that she knew that us three were still really tight. So that’s the reason I almost told her to vote for Kimmi, and if I would have, it would have tied the vote, but at the time, I had absolutely no idea that three votes would have tied it.
Tom Santilli: Why do you think they targeted you when they did and not Wentworth?
Ciera: I think that they started to realize that I was controlling the votes a little bit more than they thought I was. At the time I really didn’t know why it was me. I mean, Wentworth has played her hidden Idol so I kind of thought that she would always be a little bit bigger of a target than me. Or she would go before me. But obviously watching it back on TV, it looks like they thought I was just a little bit more in control than her and Abi, I guess.
Tom Santilli: I know you played the game with your mom last time, and I know that your mom is running for office. Are you involved at all in her campaign?
Ciera: Um no (laughs). My mom is running for [Oregon] State Representative and she’s been super-busy, but it’s not anything that really involves me, or anything like that. I’m just supporting her.
Tom Santilli: Very cool. So everybody went out to get redemption this time around. Do you feel like you figured anything out for yourself this time out, or does this make you ache for a third chance, a fourth chance, etc.?
Ciera: I’m definitely aching to play again. In some ways, I feel like I took advantage of my second chance, I did a lot of the things I set out to do and I’m extremely happy, and the way I went out I’m extremely proud of. But I obviously still did not win. And I absolutely would just love to get to play again.
Be sure to join me this Wednesday for another episode preview, full recap and instant analysis, and of course, the next exit interview this Thursday.
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