Things just never seemed to go quite right for self-confessed Survivor ultra-fan Andy Meldrum. While the original Contender was an impressive closer in challenges, his gameplay on the beach left a lot to be desired. Whether it was plotting blindsides, or trying to throw challenges, Andy just couldn’t get his plans to stick. The lack of trust for the “golf blogger” eventually saw him voted out unanimously at the first merge vote.
Inside Survivor’s Austin Smith caught up with Andy to chat about his time on the island, his attempted challenge throw, that dreaded Sammie blindside, and why he decided to throw David under the bus as he exited Tribal Council.
1) Andy, thanks for stopping in by our non-golf blog and chatting about your game! First off the ranks, as the self-confessed Survivor ultra-fan, how did your experiences stack up against the dream? It’s a shame to have just missed the milestone of the Jury, but what bucket list items were you most excited to tick during your 30 days on the Island?
Well, it’s obviously exciting to be featured on a real blog for a change! I definitely can’t complain about having survived 30 days or so and making it to the merge. I thought there was every chance I could be first out, and my family pretty much assumed that I would be medi-vaced within a week. Competing in the Tribal Immunity Challenges was a real highlight. It’s difficult to explain the adrenaline and then euphoria involved in being part of the winning team in some of those huge obstacle courses. It’s also fascinating to experience being on both the right side and the wrong side of votes. Being completely blindsided at the Sammie vote was definitely a moment I won’t forget.
2) Congratulations on making it to merge (and thus, officially being dateable), but how did you feel about your position in the game when the buffs were dropped? How did you see your path forward strategically, and who were you hoping to work with to get there?
Merge is obviously a big milestone in the game, and it was great to get there, but by that stage, I was already feeling like my options to move forward were fairly limited. Since fairly early in the game, I’d been concerned that the Champions alliance would be extremely difficult to break. This was partially a function of the theme which I think lends itself to somewhat greater tribe loyalty, but also the fact that the new Champions alliance that eventually emerged from those first five Tribal Councils had been forged in fire—real relationships had been formed in taking down the original ‘Sporting 7’ alliance and then confirmed via multiple votes. This was why I was willing to push so hard for the pivotal coin toss vote following the tribe swap, and why I was pushing for us to throw challenges in order to save the outnumbered original Contenders on the other beach.
I was fairly obsessed with trying to get to the merge with our numbers advantage intact because I genuinely thought it was the only way a Contender could win. Once we got to merge with numbers back to even though, I knew it was going to be tough. Don’t forget, since the tribe swap, not one single original Champion had cast a vote for another original Champion! Whereas almost every original Contender had cast votes for other original Contenders. That was a fairly clear sign to me of what was to come. Once the merge arrived, I did feel like Shaun and Daisy would probably be targeted before me, potentially giving me a few days to perhaps find some sort of path forward, but once the perfect storm hit of Shaun winning Individual Immunity and Daisy being suspected of having an idol, I was always going to be next on the list.
3) Did you suspect that the Champions could be targeting you or that the Contenders would throw you under the bus at the merge vote? How much faith did you put in your conversation with David, where he told you to vote for Daisy?
Yep, once Shaun won Individual Immunity and then rumours started to circulate that Daisy had an idol I knew that I would be going home that night. I was just the next logical choice. The Daisy vote was really just a throwaway on the off chance that the Champions decided to split the vote between Daisy and me, but it was highly unlikely to matter.
4) If you had your time again, what do think you could have done to avoid becoming the dreaded merge boot?
Honestly, there are so many sliding door moments in the game that it’s really difficult to point to any one thing. Perhaps picking a different buff at the tribe swap might have seen things play out differently?! The glaring weakness in my game overall, though, was the social element. I spent way too much time thinking about optimal “chess moves” rather than thinking about how people were feeling at different stages of the game, and that was what ultimately cost me.
5) At what point did you decide to throw out the lie about David having an Idol as your last word, and why take the pot shot on your way out? Looking back, did you have any suspicion that he had found another Idol or was it truly a shot in the dark?
During that Tribal Council, I was initially a bit puzzled as to why Dave and Luke were going so hard at me, given that it was already clear that I was going home anyway. At the time I found it hard to believe that Daisy had an idol because it seemed unlikely to me that one Reward could include all of the food items, a phone call home, an advantage in the next Immunity Challenge, PLUS an idol! We might have to call it the Tyler Perry reward!! (Keep in mind, my main experience with Rewards out there had been the small bottle of moisturiser!!).
But when Daisy did play the idol, it became clear that they had been trying to flush it and to ensure that Daisy didn’t play it for me. So with my original tribe of Contenders now in dire trouble, the parting line about Dave having an idol was a last ditch attempt to sow some seeds of division in that Champions alliance in the hope that it might create an opportunity for someone like Shaun or Harry. I definitely didn’t know for sure that he had an idol, but after what happened at the popcorn/cinema reward I obviously knew that it was a possibility.
6) Going back to the post-swap Champions beach and the explosive Hannah vote, why do you think your plan to team up with Luke & David to blindside Daisy didn’t work out? Do you think you could have done anything differently to pull off that big move successfully?
Great question. I’m really not sure. It’s probably worth noting that this vote was still only the 4th time that I had been to Tribal Council, and there’s definitely a bit of a learning curve out there in terms of managing conversations in the lead-up to Tribal. For a few different reasons, I ended up having the conversation with Dave and Luke only minutes before we left for Tribal. Firstly, I needed to catch them both together at a time when Daisy and Shaun were not around, and that was really the first opportunity I had. Secondly, I didn’t want to give them too long to discuss it amongst themselves because they may have decided that their best approach in response was to take the information back to Shaun and Daisy (keeping in mind that they believed that they were voting with Shaun and Daisy for Hannah that night).
I did genuinely feel that the move was in their best interests (as well as mine obviously), and I think that both Dave and Luke even acknowledged that later. At Tribal though, Dave hit on the idea of trying to get me to change my vote from Daisy to Shaun (something that I was never going to do). In the episode, we briefly saw him motioning to me in Shaun’s direction. What we didn’t see was that there was actually a back and forth for what seemed like an eternity where I was making it clear that I wasn’t going to vote for Shaun and that they should vote Daisy. In the end, I felt like I could call their bluff because the way the seating was laid out at Tribal that night, I knew that I would be voting first, so by committing my vote to paper first I felt like I was in the stronger position in the silent poker hand that was playing out.
7) Can you elaborate on the botched challenge throw? Was Baden left out of the plan to throw it, or was there more to the story that we didn’t see? And did you truly believe it had gone unnoticed by Luke and David?
Once the numbers fell the way they did following the tribe swap, and based on my belief about how strong the Champions alliance was likely to be, I was always going to be in favour of throwing whichever challenges we needed to in order to vote out Dave and Luke and protect the original Contenders on the other tribe. (It was essentially the mirror image of what Janine and Pia were doing on the other beach). The issue, of course, was that after Daisy, John and Baden flipped at the Sammie vote, there was already a fracture in the original Contenders and therefore less desire to maintain Contender numbers. When Shaun came over though, he also recognised the threat that we faced if we let the Champions alliance make it through to the merge intact, and for a while, it looked like he had Daisy on side. We saw [in a recent episode] that John was still very anti-throwing challenges, and we’ve also seen that Baden was getting closer to Luke, reducing his incentive to throw challenges also. Shaun ended up a little stuck in the middle where I think he knew it was something that we had to do, but to be seen doing so would risk the very alliances that he was trying to maintain.
Haha no I definitely didn’t think it had gone unnoticed by Dave and Luke! JLP’s challenge commentary alone at the time made sure of that! (I think that the quote from me that we saw in the episode about that was actually made in relation to something else).
8) After the Sam blindside, you attempted to buddy up to David. Why did you try to align with him? At the time, did you have any inclination that he wasn’t as invested in the partnership as you?
After the Sammie blindside, I had little choice but to at least try to build relationships with, what was at that time, the new majority in the tribe. If nothing else it provided wonderful fodder for my dodo edit! I think in that episode I even had trouble breaking a stick which is, of course, an all-time classic of the genre thanks to Stephen Fishbach!
9) A lot of what we saw of your game amounted to foiled plans, but what do you consider your most successful move in the game?
It was definitely a game of two halves. My priorities on the original Contenders beach were to lay low strategically, be connected into any significant alliances that were being formed, and help the tribe win challenges so that we would have a numbers advantage going into the inevitable tribe swap. And on all three fronts, I was in reasonably good shape. Everything changed though following the tribe swap. Once the initial flip happened at the Sammie vote, I found myself on the back foot and simply never managed to recover. I think basically everything that could have gone wrong from that point did! Although I did manage to name the merge tribe… I guess that’s something!?
10) Based on your experience, what lessons or advice would you leave to other ultra-fans who will hit the beach in future seasons?
Acting lessons!! That seems to be paying off for David and Pia.