Erinn Lobdell: “I don’t get annoyed easily, and if I do, I’m really good at not showing it”

Erinn Lobdell was actually the second person I spoke with in Brazil, at a river-side camp that served as Survivor Tocantins‘ comparatively miserable Ponderosa. (The first person was pulled from the game for medical reasons one day before it began, we were told.)

Erinn struck me immediately as a less arrogant and more fun version of Marcus: attractive, smart, charismatic, and engaging. We talked for 42 minutes, by far the most of anyone. “I feel like I’m just going to open my mouth and not stop. Please don’t let me be the girl who talks too much,” she said at one point, and while she does talk a lot, it’s not uninteresting or irrelevant babble–quite the opposite, actually.

Erinn, who is coincidentally from the same small town where I was born (Waukesha, Wisc.), immediately recognized me–”I read all of your write-ups from Gabon. Is that the one where you ranked everyone in order of how much you liked them? I loved that; that was very funny”–which I point that out not to be self-congratulatory, but because it’s illustrative of her preparation, and I suppose could have influenced how much I like her. She found my interviews with Gabon cast members when she researched what happens to contestants “just an idea of what was coming at me. … I like preparation, I like knowing what I’m walking into,” Erinn said.

Still, she knows she has to be “prepare to be unprepared” in the game, and her strategy is to “be really flexible” and to align herself with a big group of people, although she didn’t use the word alliance, and instead told me that she wants to find “six, seven, eight people that I feel like, just right from the start, I should be okay no matter what grouping I’m in.” She cited both Tyson and Coach as possible allies among the other 15 cast members.

Although Erinn is aware of it, I fear that her preoccupation with preparation could still be a problem for her, because she admitted that even knowledge of the show’s location could throw her off it was incorrect. Her mom discovered the location online, and wanted to give packing advice, but Erinn told her mom, “I don’t want to know, because I don’t want to be prepared if anything changes or if it’s not right or if it’s some sort of speculation. I don’t want to expect the Amazon and get the desert.”

As to getting along with others, she said her job as a stylist has prepared her well. “I definitely am in an industry where I deal with a lot of people one on one all the time, and the biggest challenge I have there is getting them to trust me and getting them to trust me right away. So, I think if I can use that to my advantage, I should be okay.”

Erinn will probably be one of the stronger women, in part because she trained for the show and “went into very serious overdrive, and was like, ‘I’m going to be as tough as I can possibly be.’ I’m going to put on as much muscle I can, I’m working out a couple times a day,” she told me. “I’m not going to just lift weights, I’m going to see how long I can hold them over my head,” she said, adding that her training included “playing football with the boys and being thrown around a little bit.”

But running four or five miles a day, she was still losing weight, so she gained weight at her doctor’s request. “Now I’m here and I’m the fat girl. I was a size 2; I’m maybe now a two and a half. If I’m the fat girl, I’m not worried about it,” she laughed. She knows others judge her based upon her appearance, and “come[s] off as really girly, really princessy.” But she said, “I’m not in the hot girl uniform of, like, short shorts, Uggs, wife-beater tank top, big glasses, baseball hat.”

Erinn may even be more physically prepared than the men. “A lot of the guys here look a little wimpy to me. And the girls are so little. Little, little tiny girls,” she told me. “Most of these girls I could take in a fight.” She’d laugh when she said things like that, as if she recognized that it could seem mean or bitchy but really was just an amusing observation.

Erinn was recruited in Louisville the day after the Kentucky Derby when hanging out with friends and initially said no, but changed her mind after a few hours had passed, in part because her mom convinced her to at least give casting a shot. She’d only watched a few episodes with her parents, who are fans, and said, “I knew what I was getting into enough that when they found me and asked me, I said no. I was like, ‘There’s no way, not a chance. It’s not going to happen.’ … I thought about it for about an hour or so–no, gross, I’m girly and princessy, no. I don’t eat bugs, I don’t live in dirt.”

But she quickly realized, “If I can go away where no one can talk to me for two months, that might be exactly what I need in life to try to figure things out,” and observed, “I don’t know what made me say no in the first place if not for some lost confidence from everything that had happened previously.”

That “lost confidence” came from “the worst breakup of my life” where Erinn was “not so much heartbroken as heart ripped into pieces, smashed on the floor, and stomped on.” During that time, a friend told her, “I have seen you cry every day for the last 47 days.”

After initially moving with her boyfriend to Louisville, she’s now moved back to Wisconsin to live with her parents, but “I didn’t tell anybody I moved home because I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I didn’t want say, like, ‘Oh yeah, I went out there and you guys told me not to and I screwed up and now I’m back.’” Talking about her relationship, she said, “I’m not a revenge-seeker, I don’t get angry. If that girl [a friend of her's who dated her boyfriend] walked in here right now, I’d be civil. … I’m very even-keeled all the time; it takes me a lot to make me angry. I don’t get annoyed easily, and if I do, I’m really good at not showing it,” Erinn said. And that could be a fantastic asset in the game.

Erinn is content with her job and life. “I love what I do; I can’t imagine doing something else,” she told me, but said that she’s open to possibility. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m not going to sit here and tell you, ‘You tell people not to call me and offer me things because I’m going to say no to all of them,’ because I’m not. It’ll be interesting to see.” However, she promises she won’t get naked: “My dad would have a heart-attack if I did Playboy; that’s not going to happen.”

Describing her personality and attitude is difficult, and isn’t really captured in quotations (listen to her talk below), but she’s got an edgy but upbeat, cheerful vibe to her. “More than anything, this is awesome and I’m so excited for the opportunity to do it. I can’t even tell you how cool it is to be here. More than anything, if the worst thing that happens is that last year can kind of be smoothed over and moved past, I will be a very happy girl,” she said.

Here, she talks about not being able to talk, one of her weaknesses, and tells a story from casting about Ben/Coach, who she nicknamed “Samurai Steve”:

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.