By John Powell – GlobalTV.com
Forget about Russell Hantz. Forget about Susan Hawk. Forget about Jonny Fairplay too. This season’s Survivor winner might go down as the most controversial ever.
Chris Underwood was voted out on Day 8, won his way back in on Day 35 and went on to win Survivor: Edge of Extinction.
Some fans are still stunned by the outcome. Underwood, who in all fairness played the hand he was dealt by the producers and the game, defends his victory as the Sole-Survivor.
“Survivor is always changing. It is not predictable any more. There might not be any tribe swaps. There might not be a two-person endgame with an eight-person jury. We have come a long way from that. The reason why the show is such a hit is because it continues to reinvent itself. The rules of the game morph and evolve. Being adaptable to those changes is what makes it a great game and a great Survivor player. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you know about everything because as soon as you do you will realize you know nothing at all. It is an upside down game. The key is the more you know, the less you know,” he explained.
It has been a crazy time for the sales manager from South Carolina. Not only is he Survivor’s 38th winner but he also just got married.
“I was in the shadows for a while this season. The time with my wife though was pretty important. We had a feeling this was going to happen and we wanted to enjoy our wedding so we scheduled it before all of this. It has been a pretty surreal month for me,” said an ecstatic Chris as he talked more how his lengthy stay on Extinction Island gave him a distinct advantage over the other finalists, Gavin Whitson and Julie Rosenberg.
John Powell: You said during the final Tribal Council that you used your time at the Edge of Extinction to continue playing the game. You provided for people as best that you could. Tell us more about your Edge of Extinction strategy.
Chris Underwood: “The culture at the Edge of Extinction was a real thing. You had two options. You could be a jerk to people, get them mad so they would leave and you would have less competition or you create a hospitable environment where people can come to terms with their vote out, give them the space to have that self-reflection knowing vulnerabilities will open up again. That was all intentional. Using the social aspect of it wasn’t whoever got back in the game we would give them our votes. It wasn’t that way at all. It was using information. Everyone’s endgame was going to be different. We had a really aggressive cast. We had strong personalities who were looking for gameplay, being a pilot rather than a passenger. Using that information that came out was more important than weeding out the competition.”
John Powell: While on Extinction Island what did you learn about yourself and did you ever consider raising that flag?
Chris Underwood: “The Edge of Extinction was really, really hard. I could never bring myself to raise the mast because I came out looking for the Survivor experience and part of that is fending for yourself and surviving. In the “outlast” part of the game, your body is wasting away. That was very hard. Getting voted out early was devastating. I came in with a lot of pressure on myself and a lot of expectations from myself and others. To be blindsided on Day Eight was really hard to accept. It took me time to really heal from that, to come full circle from that. As more people showed up on the Edge of Extinction my odds of winning my way back in dwindled. I had to come to terms with that as well. I had to let everything go and realize on that final day I was either going to be sitting at Ponderosa with a beer and a cheeseburger or I would be back in the game. In the end, I was okay with either outcome so I took all the pressure off myself and that allowed my nerves to settle and sink the ball when I needed to.”
John Powell: Looking back at the jury vote what do you think made the difference in your favour?
Chris Underwood: “Going into the final tribal, I was very uncertain. When everyone raised their hands saying they were undecided that was a real moment! I knew that I had a long way to go and that I had to exactly articulate how I did it and why the moves I made were bigger than anything Julie or Gavin had done throughout their game. I felt the momentum began to shift near the end of that Tribal Council. I was about 60 percent confident. I was not 100 percent but more than 50 percent. It was funny that right around the end it was near the 65 percent mark.”
John Powell: Watching the episodes all season long is there anything you wish the fans would have seen? A moment? A move you made?
Chris Underwood: “I had some pretty special times on the Edge of Extinction. We actually did kill a chicken on the day I got voted out. I think the big thing for me was I was a lot closer to Rick than the edit made it seem. I was closer to Rick [Devens] than Wardog [Dan DaSilva]. It really was Rick and me who were final four in the beginning and then they decided to go with the Wardog plan over staying loyal to me. It was interesting to me that Rick and David played from the bottom for the rest of the game based on that one vote. I had a much closer alliance with Rick and David [Wright] and the plan was Rick to cozy up to David and me to cozy up with Lauren [O’Connell], Kelley [Wentworth] and Wardog. We would then strategize about which side we would vote with but I got the short end of the stick on that.”
John Powell: Do you have any plans for the money and would you ever play again?
Chris Underwood: “I just got married three weeks ago so I am not just making my own financial decisions any more. (Laughs) I have a wife who is very good with finances so the decisions will be mutual going forward. We have talked about travelling. I have things to tie up with work this year but I think 2020 will be a year where we get to really experience the world with each other and I am pretty excited about that! It has been a big dream of ours. As far as playing again, I am going to enjoy the win. I am going to enjoy honeymoon phase of my marriage. Maybe a few years from now but right now, I am pretty content.”