The tenth episode of Australian Survivor saw yet another immunity loss for the Contenders tribe and the elimination of Paige Kerin. The 24-year-old marketing coordinator had suffered an early setback in the game when she was left out of the Steve K vote, but she managed to slink back under the radar as the tribe set their sights on bigger targets. However, with Tegan’s return to the game and the elimination of Zach, Paige became the odd person out among three strong pairs who decided to come together to boot the outsider.
Inside Survivor’s Austin Smith caught up with Paige to talk about her time on the island, why she was considered so untrustworthy by her tribemates, what her thinking was behind giving info to the enemy and what she considered her best move in the game.
1. Paige, I am gutted that we’re speaking so early in the season, but thank you for taking some time to give us some insight into your time on the Island! First of all, what were your strategies coming into the season, and did you feel like the theme or general tone of the cast forced you to change up your approach?
Tell me about it! Gone too soon. A lot of people have messaged me saying how disappointed they are I’m an early boot, so it’s nice to know everyone had high hopes for me!
My strategy was always to use my social game and my professional communication skills to my advantage. I’m a very good communicator and know how to talk to a wide range of people. Unfortunately, the theme of this season really meant that physical strength was so highly valued in those early stages of the game. The challenges featured a lot of one-on-one match ups, and when it comes down to me and an Olympian, I think we all know who’s going to win. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to really play my game because the whole tribe’s mentality was focused on keeping the stronger players to win some challenges.
The cast was also not amazingly suited to my game. In past seasons there have been a lot more people that would have been keen to align with me – like the AK’s, Ziggy’s, Jared’s and Tessa’s of the world – but I was quite different to most of the Contenders and therefore seen as an outsider early on.
2. What was going on with the Contenders tribe in the early days, and how was it that you ended up on the outside looking in and dubbed as untrustworthy by the second vote?
I’m still struggling to figure out exactly why I ended up on the outer so early! I swear I’m really nice and have friends in real life…
A lot of rumours flew around in the first week or so, and somehow it fell back on me that I was apparently telling Heath that Benji was out to get him! That absolutely wasn’t the case, but once people felt like they had a reason to distrust me, I seemed like an easy vote. Once I had been blindsided in front of the whole tribe, no one could really tell who was telling the truth, and the damage to my game was done. I also think that Benji and Rob were both threatened by me… They saw me as this young impressionable girl, but once it was clear that I wasn’t going to sit there complimenting them all day and doing whatever they say, they wanted to get rid of me before I could do anything to them.
3. After you were left out of both plans at the Steve boot, why did you feel like you had a better shot going back to the boys who had just tried to blindside you, rather than teaming up with the girls or with the ‘parents alliance’?
A lot of people have commented on this whole dilemma, but to those, I have to say this: if I had been called out as untrustworthy and blindsided, and then gone running to one of the other alliances, how would that have looked? I would have seemed so dodgy, so it was actually a better option to try and keep working with the boys after they’d been essentially embarrassed by being lied to by Heath, Tegan and Jenna. Additionally, Benji and Rob both knew they needed me as a number because they clearly weren’t in power. If I’d gone to another alliance, I would have been the first to go! Heath and Tegan were so tight that I didn’t really see a way in, especially considering I’m not a parent! The girls were also really tight and seemed quite closed off to me, so, unfortunately, I was left out in the cold with very few options!
4. You copped a lot of flak for speaking to the enemy in the aftermath of that Tribal. Was it a conscious decision to spill the beans to the Champions, and was it as big of a deal as the tribe made it out to be?
It was definitely a conscious decision to give Mat information at our breakfast; I didn’t accidentally spill the beans (plus I would never spill beans, they are so delicious and valuable out there)! To be given an opportunity so early in the game to spend time with someone on the other tribe presented an amazing opportunity to create relationships for later down the track, and I know any of the other Contenders would have done exactly the same thing – they were all just maybe a little bit jealous!
I don’t know why it was made to be such a big deal, ESPECIALLY since some people were annoyed that I would tell Mat our tribe information, but somehow I was meant to come back with information about the Champions and that was okay? It was quite irrational, and I think anyone in that position would have copped the same flak!
5. To this point, you were the only Contender to have had any opportunity to connect with the Champions when you shared your breakfast with Mat. What did you take away from your unique opportunity? Did you have any intention to flip to work with Mat, or any of the other Champions, if you made it to a swap or the merge?
It was great to have that breakfast with Mat because I was the only Contender to really build a relationship on the other side, other than a bit of banter at Challenges. Mat and I actually agreed to work together come merge, and even if he didn’t have intentions to take me to the end, at least I would have had options come swap or merge! He and Rob had quite a bit of banter at challenges, so I wanted him to know that Rob wasn’t the hero that he was making himself out to be.
I wouldn’t have necessarily completely ‘flipped’, but certainly I believed that once we mixed, it would be silly to play as Contenders and Champions still. If I had allies from the Contenders at that stage, I would have brought them into the alliance with Mat also. It was also just special to have that experience! When else in your life are you going to be sitting on the edge of a hill with a postcard view of Fiji, eating a glorious spread of breakfast foods, talking to an incredibly interesting guy who does amazing work with his platform!
6. After Jenna’s elimination, it seemed as though you completely ducked back under the radar to the point where your name didn’t even appear to be in the conversation at the Tegan, Anita and Zach votes. What kind of wizardry was this? How did you manage to dodge the target?
I really did hey! I think the fact that I flew under the radar proves that I wasn’t this dangerous untrustworthy person that everyone made me out to be! If I was then I would have continued to be a target, but I wasn’t. It just seems that everyone had bigger fish to fry, and saw me as an advantage for numbers. I certainly never felt safe, but when Benji started mounting his ‘Heath and Tegan are the King and Queen’ campaign, I knew that I wasn’t likely to be enemy number one for a while. Then again maybe I’m just a magical wizard Survivor God descendant and knew how to change my fate, but also I got voted out on Day 24 so maybe not.
7. With the contenders down to three pairs and yourself, how did you feel about your position in the tribe as the only player without a clear “special someone”? What would have been your ideal path moving forward?
I’m a little bit of a Survivor purist, so I didn’t really believe in going out there and finding a buddy to stick myself to. Traditionally it’s fairly dangerous to be in a power couple, but somehow all of the Contenders got themselves in couples and therefore neutralized the threat element. We had a really unique season in that regard, but if I was in that position I would have been stoked to have someone I could trust!
I felt pretty shaky about the fact that I was surrounded by couples, especially at my Tribal Council, but the worst thing I could have done was to give up and let myself feel excluded. I had to stay strong, find people to work with and power through, which I did! It’s just that for my vote they decided to work together on that occasion. My ideal path would have been to be in a stronger alliance right from the outset, probably with Shonee and Fenella. They had no attention on them whatsoever my whole time out there, and I was more than happy to do the same and fly through to merge not making any waves.
8. It seemed like your blindside was brutal – did you suspect that any votes were coming your way? Do you think that there was anything you could have done differently to get the numbers on side for voting out Benji?
It was super brutal, especially since I felt like I had such genuine conversations with Shonee, Fenella and Tegan about taking all of us girls through to the merge, and not letting this tribe become about guys and strength. I really tried to communicate to the girls that guys like Rob and Benji thought WAY too much of themselves in terms of their value for the tribe, and we needed to separate them. The girls were harder game players than I realized though, so Benji clearly got to them. After my first blindside, I never felt truly safe, but I really didn’t think it was my night to go, which is why I was so shocked and disappointed. But even knowing what they knew about Benji, the girls still voted me out and that was a clear move by them. It was even more devastating because we all knew that a swap was so likely to happen soon, and merge wouldn’t have been too far away, so to get that close was really devastating.
I really don’t think there’s anything I could have done that day to change my fate; I would need to go back to Day 1 and not align myself with Rob and Benji! However, hindsight is a beautiful thing in life and especially in Survivor.
9. You were eager to play the game but were fighting an uphill battle the whole time. What do you consider your best plays or moves in the game?
I really wanted to play the game, and I was disappointed that there was quite a lack of strategy throughout my whole time out there. All people ever talked about was challenges, and I think that’s a small part of the game that shouldn’t have got so much attention!
The fact that I got blindsided so early on, and then flew completely under the radar, I think is an incredible move. If I got blindsided and let that get to me, I might have gone on a tirade of attacks, calling people out, and definitely got myself sent home next Tribal. But, I kept my cool and thought logically about what I could do to rebuild, and that isn’t an easy thing to do!
Also having that chat with Mat was also a good move by me, as much as everyone likes to think that I shouldn’t have told him anything! I wanted Mat to feel like he had power and information because if it comes time to merge, he would know that if he keeps me onside, I’m going to give him information, so that secures me for a little while!
My final play which could have gone either way was mounting a vote against Benji. After Tegan came back, I knew she was out for blood, and what’s really annoying is that she was 100% on board to get him out instead of Zach on his night! I thought she still had those feelings and agreed he needed to go. Same with Shonee and Fenella, I did a lot of groundwork to sew the seeds that we needed to keep the girls strong and show that Survivor isn’t about biceps and abs, and they are both strong, powerful women, so I thought they agreed! Unfortunately, everyone was too scared to lose another challenge, so I was easier to lose than Benji, but if it pulled off I think that would have been the play of the season so far!
10. Finally, what didn’t we see about your Survivor experience that you wish had made it to TV?
On TV it really seemed like I was this naive lap dog doing whatever Benji and Rob said, especially going back to them after they blindsided me at the Stevie vote. Unfortunately what everyone didn’t get to see is that I didn’t take any of Rob and Benji’s s**t, and stood my ground when I disagreed with them or when they were getting too big for their boots. I’m a very strong, confident woman, and aligning with Rob and Benji both at the start and after my blindside was intentional, and I stood up to them a lot. I guess that was probably part of my undoing because they’re both hustlers and used to getting their way!
Then there are all of the other relationships I built, like my friendship with Tegan, me and Anita getting really close, and having really great times with Shon and Fen. It really looks like I was on the outer, but I definitely had friends out there, just not allies in the game!