We’re here! I’m fielding questions and moves from Survivor XVI players, though, so let’s dispense with the long opening and save it all for the winner announcement tomorrow night.

Christina Pepper

When you started this game, who were your final 5, 4, 3 and 2? Is that how the game turned out? If not, what happened along the way to change your plans?

I didn’t start the game with a plan quite that defined. What I did have from the very beginning was a strategy for how to get to the end. I didn’t want rigid plans; I wanted options. To make it to the merge, I needed an alliance that put me safely in the majority. I started talking with Erik early on, and Sarah W. and Erik were talking early on as well. The three of us added Sama to our alliance, which made us secure on our team of seven. I’d originally hoped Sarah W., Sama, Erik, and I would all make it to the merge and then be able to team up with a few others. I certainly didn’t anticipate BBB’s stumbles, given the writing talent we had.

As I saw how the game was unfolding, I tried to remain flexible and kept looking for options. Being on a team of two in some ways forced me to reach out to others before the merge, and that was a huge benefit. Annette and I had started talking at the time of Melissa’s elimination, and she and I put together a strategy for how we wanted things to play out once the merge happened. We first wanted to go for breaking up Beau-Colin-Brian; she’d been warned about them by Brooks before his eliminations, and since theirs was a quieter alliance than Rusty’s, we didn’t want to give them a chance to cause trouble. Then we switched tactics and went for the R’s, since it was easy to get a majority on board with those votes. Then we went for Brian and Margaret because they had very good chances of getting immunities. (But what Annette didn’t know is that Erik and I were talking strategy as well, and he was aware of and weighing in on everything along the way. He’d been a good teammate in the earlier part of the game, and we’d started talking about a final-two agreement around the time of the merge.)

Annette brought up going to the final two together, and had things not played out in quite the way they had, I might have gone with that. She and I had a final-four agreement with Jack and Erik, and that allowed us all get to the final five. However, we didn’t have a good plan for what would happen once we were down to four. I was intentionally not talking one-on-one with Jack so as not to make Annette feel threatened, but that meant that I didn’t know quite how close those two were. I could easily have seen her making a case for Erik at four, then turning on me at three and taking Jack to the final two. I suggested a final three of me-Erik-Annette, but she was noncommittal. Based on what she was telling me, I figured she either didn’t have a solid plan (which made me nervous and was also uncharacteristic, given her strength as a strategist) or she intended to turn on me.

Annette wasn’t aware that I wanted Bret to be the last player remaining with our group of four—because I thought that keeping him in the game would give me the most options for how to get to the end. I was able to get Annette on board with the order of eliminations without her suspecting Bret might be willing to team up with me and Erik.

When we got to five and Annette had immunity, Bret said Jack was voting for me. Meanwhile, Jack was saying he was voting Bret in a group conversation with me, Erik, and Annette. I didn’t trust it, and at that point Erik and I decided to vote for Jack with Bret. After that, I planned to stick with Erik and Bret, going to the final two with Erik, and that’s what I did—not because I was rigidly committed to the plan but because that’s what made the most sense given the circumstances.

What would you consider to be your pivotal move this season that got you to the finals?

Allying with Annette was key. Since we were both trying to make it to the merge while on teams of two, it was pretty natural for us to form a close connection, and since our respective teammates were willing to stick by us, we had a solid group of four. That meant we needed just three additional players to vote with us in the first vote after the merge to have a majority. And as I described in my answer to the first question, we talked strategy extensively and together came up with a plan for how eliminations should go to best keep ourselves (and Jack and Erik) in the game.

Can I have two pivotal moves? I think the other key move was voting out Jack when we were down to 5. One of the trickiest parts of this game is knowing when a close ally is going to turn on you. Trusting my intuition, trusting what Bret was telling me, and ensuring Erik and Bret both voted for Jack with me kept me in the game.

Were you loyal to Erik throughout the game, or did you consider (and/or act on) getting rid of him at any point?

Yes, I was loyal to Erik throughout the game. I want to emphasize, though, that because of the way the game played out, I didn’t ever have reason not to be. I could count on his vote 100 percent and always needed him for a majority, especially after he and I flipped on Jack and Annette.

Given that Erik and I started on the same team and were obviously working together to some extent (how could we not be, given that we were the only people left on BBB?), I expected some other players might try to break up our alliance after the merge. Had that situation come up, I was fully prepared to vote him out to keep myself in the game.

Why do you think you deserve to win more than Erik?

I have to start by saying that Erik was a rock-solid ally and wrote some fantastic stories. The run he and I had from the time our team was down to two until the merge was pretty amazing.

I’d say I played a slightly riskier game than he did after the merge. I was the one navigating the relationship with Annette, which was key to how everything played out. I also had 4 individual immunities, which ties with Rusty for the most, and every story of mine after the merge earned at least one medal. In terms of overall medal points I had 138, as compared to Erik’s 101.

What do you consider to be your greatest moment as far as your writing goes?

My story for The Future of Robotics. I wanted to create a very real, very human character to contrast with the decidedly un-human robot. I wove together elements of myself and people I know into an entirely imagined scenario. Of all the stories I’ve written at the CdL, that one might come closest to doing everything I aim for when I write.

Second place would have to go to 34 Notches. I’d put everything I had into the Robotics story and didn’t feel like I had anything left for the final one. But I gave it a go, and while I think the judges’ criticisms of that story are all entirely valid (and things I would have tried to address had there been more time), I did still manage to come out on top.

Final plea:

I signed up for this game first and foremost because I love to write, I love to read what others write here, and I want to become better at telling stories.

I’m the first to admit that my strength and my preference is for contemporary realism. But I didn’t want to spend the game doing only what I thought I could do well. I challenged myself to try new formats—to great success with the Omega Man pro/con chart, pretty well with the letter to the Tooth Fairy in Chicken Dance and the equations woven into Kumite, and less so with the scribbled-upon horror story for The Stinger (although that one was crazy fun all the same). I went for humor in Old Job, New Job. I wrote about the most awkward blow job I could possibly imagine in Last Meeting, not quite sure what three male judges would make of it. And all along, I took the judges’ feedback to heart and kept trying to make my stories better.

On the strategy front, I came into this game wanting to make it to the very end and knowing I’d need to work with others to make that happen. I took initiative to help put together a majority alliance within BBB very early on—even before we had to face a single vote. And I reached out to people who I knew might be key allies well before the merge. I tried to be as honest with I could with my allies along the way, while also doing what I needed to do to stay in the game.

The last four months have been a blast, and there have been a lot of great stories to read along the way. Thank you, jurors, for your time and consideration.

In closing:

We’re near the end—
It’s almost done.
The jury must
Decide who’s won!
Survivor!
Survivor!
Yayyyyyyyyyyyy Survivor!

Erik S

When you started this game, who were your final 5, 4, 3 and 2? Is that how the game turned out? If not, what happened along the way to change your plans?

My final 5 from the beginning of a game with 30 people, huh? Truthfully, I certainly wasn’t thinking that far ahead that early in the game. Maybe some of the master strategists have their end games figured out by that point, but that’s not really how I roll. This is a fluid game, and I prefer to work with that context. Shit happens, so why lock yourself down to anything that early?

The very first thing I did though is seek out a majority within my own group to make sure I could at least get to the merge, and I gotta say, that served me very well. So well that I was hoping to take that group deep into the game if possible, so I guess you could say that was my final 4 at the beginning. Of course things don’t work like that, and Pepper and I, the last of that group, barely made it to the merge.

Naturally, before the merge, I was keeping tabs with a few different folk, but they all got picked off relatively early, so I was left in a big group of people that I didn’t know that well. Again, things change, so you’ve got to roll with the character of the game.

What would you consider to be your pivotal strategic move this season that got you to the finals?

This might not sit well with the jury, but with the nature of this game, I don’t think of one big “stroke of genius” type move to propel me forward was ever really necessary. What helped was the slow burn. Thanks to Rusty, the big shining beacon of “We-Gotta-Get-This-Guy-The-Fuck-Out-Of-Here”, I spent the most of the mid-game fanning the flames of everyone from the periphery to consume each other. Him blinding everyone made it easy to work in the shadows and gently nudge everyone else to serve my own ends.

Given her immunity run, do you regret not eliminating Christina with five players left? Why do you think you deserve to win more than Christina?

This is a hard one to answer. Could I have turned on Pepper and dropped her into the abyss? Sure could’ve. However, we’d worked together quite amicably up until that point, and maybe I’m just not that big of an asshole. Perhaps some in jury may see that as a failing, but what can I say? It could be argued that if I’d eliminated her, then I would be next to go (an almost surety with how Annette was working), and then neither of us would be here right now.

I think that I was the stronger of the 2 of us in the first half of the game, and she was stronger in the second. I was getting a lot of the points for the Big Brass… Band (such a dumb name; none of the vivacious of, say, Freshy Ruptured Hymen), and it’s because of me that we got to and through the merge. Sure, it looks like Sama pulled a lot of weight (and she did, don’t get me wrong), but my score looks like a less than hers now because it was watered down by the end of the game. Up to the point where we voted her out, it was basically neck and neck between us, but I had been the one to push the group forward outside of the writing.

Throughout the middle chunk of the game, Pepper and I kept everything pretty compartmentalized with each other. She had her people she talked to, I had mine, and we’d meet in the middle to figure out who to push in what direction.

As it happened (or “As it was meant to happen”), it was Pepper’s people that pushed through the pack, so her relationships became more valuable in the end game.

Also, I’ve done pretty much zero writing outside of the Casa, and this is the furthest I’ve gotten in a game, and also a time in my life that I’ve been ridiculously busy. Because of that, my writing was definitely more sub-par in the last handful of challenges, so that isn’t going to help as that’s what the jury will remember. But, to that I say, while Pepper carried more water at the end of the game, we certainly wouldn’t have gotten there without me.

Were you loyal to Christina throughout the game, or did you consider (and/or act on) getting rid of her at any point?

During the team phase, we linked up early with Sarah and Sama, and that worked well for all of us. When it was between Sama and Pepper, I decided to go with the latter as, for all the work we did together, I still didn’t have a good sense of Sama and her motives. I thought I had a better grasp of Pepper’s, so I went with her.

After the merge, as I mentioned, we were working together, but still there was kind of a buffer between us, so I felt, if need be, I could split if the need arised. Arose. Whatever.

At the end of the game, I knew Annette was building up her own alliances, and keeping with Pepper was going to be my best chance to counter that, so I did just that. And here we all are.

In summation, sure, I considered it, but keeping our alliance going always seemed to be the best course of action, and going against that just seemed like making a move for making a move’s sake, if that makes any sense.

What do you consider to be your greatest moment as far as your writing goes?

What the fuck kind of question is that? Perhaps it was that love poem I wrote and recited to your mother which allow me to thoroughly plow her with reckless abandon.

(psst, dude, don’t antagonize the jury!)

Oh, right, yeah. Sorry about that.

I don’t know, I guess it was this game as a whole. Like I said, this is probably the significant writing I’ve undertaken. I hated pretty much all my stories in the last 3rd of the game because I know there was so much more I could have done with them and they could have been so much better had the ideas taken shape earlier and I had more time to play with them. That being said, I’d never really taken my writing that far before. It’s really the most writing I’ve done and more than I would have ever thought capable of before I joined up at the Casa (and even for a long stretch after that). My long game needs a looooot of work, but I’m still proud of what I accomplished.

It’s been great learning experience, and I hope to improve even more in the next game. You know, the one that I hope doesn’t start any time in the near future.

PLEA

Hey, it’s been a fun and maddening ride, but I’ve far exceeded my expectation for this game, so I’m happy in any case how things go down. I’m guessing this wasn’t the sexiest game in the history of Survivor, but it was still a great experience.

As I said above, I don’t let the view from this side of the game affect your perception of the whole. My contributions faded a bit towards the end, but they were still noteworthy, and I feel that I was the foundation that our progress was built off of.

Thanks for a great game, you guys.

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Jurors, have votes to me – for a winner – by 8pm Central tomorrow.

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