Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance premieres in just over 6 weeks, and you can feel the anticipation building within the Survivor community. The season, which filmed on Koh Rong island in Cambodia, will see 20 former players return for a second chance at the $1 million prize. Some of these people originally played the game 15 years ago, while some played as recently as last year. But whether old or new, it goes without saying that each one of these players will be trying their hardest to improve on their previous finishing position.
Eliza Orlins, who finished in fourth place on Survivor: Vanuatu back in 2004, knows all about what it’s like returning to Survivor for a second chance. After suffering a cruel blindside at the hands of eventual winner Chris Daugherty, Eliza felt in need of redemption, and she was given that opportunity in 2008 when she was offered a chance to return on Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites. Unfortunately, Eliza wasn’t able to improve on her previous placing; she finished in 10th place and became the first member of the jury.
Inside Survivor reached out to Eliza to discuss what it was like preparing for, and playing, a second time on Survivor.
When did you originally find out you were going back on the show? And what was the casting process like for Survivor: Micronesia?
I got a call from my mom right before I was about to begin my third year of law school saying there was a message on her home phone from Ellen Davis [casting agent]. I knew immediately what it was and was SO excited. Then the “casting process” began. There really wasn’t much of a process except for an updated psych evaluation. However, I was a law student at the time and I told them that I would gladly take a semester off of law school to go back on the show, but not once the semester had started (I would’ve lost all my tuition, etc). So I am lucky that the producers really wanted me back for Fans vs Favorites because I was the first one who was chosen. It was one week into the semester and the deadline for withdrawing for the semester without a penalty was approaching, and I got the call and I dropped all my classes and withdrew from law school for the semester!
Obviously with the voting twist for Second Chance it meant the entire cast knew about each other ahead of filming. How aware were you of the Micronesia cast before you flew out?
It’s hard to remember right now, but I certainly knew who was being considered. I don’t think I fully knew who the cast was until we got to LA. Then I saw a PA’s list (only with initials, but I knew full well who YMC and PS and JP were).
What about the theme? Did you know it would be Fans vs. Faves?
I was constantly scouring Survivor Sucks for speculation or knowledge about a possible theme. I think I knew it would be one tribe of returning contestants playing against one tribe of new contestants. I don’t think I knew it was “fans vs. faves” until the game started. We were kept at a separate Ponderosa pre-game from the fans, so some people speculated it was another tribe of returning contestants, but I knew that wasn’t the case. I knew they’d want us scoping each other out if it was all returners.
So how big of an advantage is it for the Second Chance cast that they know the theme and who they are playing against beforehand?
I think knowing who you’re going to be playing against is a HUGE advantage. Unlike everyone on Second Chance, I’ve seen every season of Survivor, so I knew no matter who I’d played against, I would’ve seen every episode of their season, but I know some people who went out without having seen all the past seasons. I think that’s insane. If you know who you’re playing against, you do whatever it takes (sacrificing social plans and sleep included) to make sure you’ve watched everyone you’ll be competing against.
What was your mentality going in the second time around, compared to the first time?
The second time around I intended to be more cutthroat. I had a “do whatever it takes” mentality going into the season. I really thought I could do better than my first season since I was older, more mature, and not a naïve 21-year-old anymore. I felt a lot more prepared the second time. I still had the excitement and nerves, but much less of the emotion than the first time. I was focused and ready for battle.
There were 6 seasons in between Vanuatu and Micronesia. Was it an advantage having that rest period? Or did you feel those who played more recently had a bigger advantage?
I think for some people going too long between seasons can be a disadvantage, but for me, I think it was an advantage. I needed that time off. I think playing too recently can be a huge disadvantage for certain people. Amanda is the primary example that comes to mind. She played the exact same game, and not knowing how badly she got decimated in final tribal on her first season before going out to play a second time led to her doing the exact same thing and making the same exact mistake the second time around.
I think others can benefit from having played recently, though. I think we’ll see that play out this season. On Second Chance, there are people who haven’t played in a decade and a half! The game has changed SO much since then. The entire production staff is different. There will be no familiar faces. Between the first and second time I played, Exile Island came into play, Hidden Immunity Idols became a thing – there is a lot to adjust to so I think it could go either way.
You’re a big part of the Survivor community, so I’m sure you heard lots of pre-game talk before Second Chance. How big of a factor were pre-game alliances in Micronesia?
I definitely heard there was a ton of pre-game talking going on before Second Chance. I think most of us back in the day were too scared to really talk much about anything before going out there. I remember Ami and I talked on the phone before going on Micronesia and she was like, so do you have any big plans this fall? And I was like, oh I’m hoping to travel a bit. She was like, yeah, me too. It would be great if we saw each other somewhere along the way. I was like, yeah. And that was the extent of it. But unofficially, I knew she had my back. I think the LA people all kind of knew each other peripherally, but I honestly don’t think anything was official pre-game.
How does the gameplay differ when playing against a bunch of second timers?
Everyone is playing hard the second time around. You wouldn’t go back out there to suffer and be that miserable if you didn’t truly want to do it. I think sometimes people who are out there as first-timers think it’s more of a vacation or it will be “fun” (in the classic sense of the word) and it’s not. So if you just got recruited and you hated it, there’s no way you’d go back. Everyone who goes back a second time is hardcore. They’re in it to win it. So it’s definitely a lot harder. Everyone is strategizing, it’s a lot more cutthroat, and everyone there wants to WIN.
You made jury on both your seasons. In Vanuatu, you were blindsided, and while you still voted for Chris in the end, you were rightfully angry watching the rest of the season play out. In Micronesia, you seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the spectacle from the jury box. Can you talk a little about the differences between your two jury experiences?
I was only on the jury very briefly in Vanuatu, whereas on Micronesia, I was the mayor of Ponderosa, so it was a very different experience. Also, in Vanuatu, I was so close to the end. I felt I had a legitimate shot and yes, I had been badly lied to which led to my getting voted out. In Micronesia, from the moment I pulled up to the merge beach on that outrigger and saw that Ami had been voted off the night before, I knew I was screwed. I actually sort of knew it even sooner than that when Jonathan Penner was medivaced out, but it was hopeless. I had acknowledged that I was going home before we left camp for tribal. I gave everyone hugs (and even cried, thankfully they didn’t show that!). It was a losing battle. I had zero options and I still had given it my all. So at that point, I figured I would embrace my role on the jury. From the time I got to Ponderosa, I was writing jury speeches for each person left! I was excited to see how the game played out and it was like I was watching it almost as a fan of Survivor, rather than a contestant. I had a BLAST on the Micronesia jury and for the record, anyone who knows me knows that those were all my legitimate, real reactions, not at all played up for television. Ha.
What was one major thing you learned the first time that came in really useful the second time?
Hmmm. That’s a tough question. I guess how to open a coconut with a machete? Haha. I did learn a lot of survival skills the first time around so I felt a lot more confident out there building shelter, making fire, etc.
Which season did you have the better experience on?
It’s hard to say. I think the first few days were a lot easier/better the second time around, but overall since I made it farther, won a car and a family visit from my mom, I’d say my experience was better the first time.
And lastly, would you go back for a third chance? And if so, what kind of theme would you like to play?
Of course, I would. I was pushing for Brains vs. Brawn for years (MANY years before they did Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty). So maybe Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty part two with returning contestants? I think being on a Brains tribe would be really fun for me. I’d also be thrilled to be East Coast vs. West Coast or NY vs. LA. #WineandCheese for life! (It’s a joke).