This is the ninth in a series of interviews with Survivor Heroes vs. Villains cast members.
Perhaps my favorite moment on Surviving Survivor tonight was Cirie saying that she had no idea why she was on the heroes tribe. That’s the kind of amusing honestly that I love from Cirie, and when we talked last August, she said she has no plans to change that. “I think that’s what keeps me in the game, the fact that this is who I am. I laugh and joke and play a lot, and some people need that,” she said.
I’m worried, though, because so many of her fellow competitors cited Cirie as a threat they want to get rid of early. Even though I didn’t mention this to her (of course, I never tell any contestants what the others have said), we did talk about her being a threat, and Cirie told me, “I expect that. People know how I play. They know I could be smiling and you’re going home. They understand that. Yes, I do that, and yes that could be threatening, but there are much larger targets here than myself.”
She’s relying on that to keep her in the game. Citing those people who’ve won or made it to the final Tribal Council, Cirie said, “I’ve never done any of that. I’m not going to beat you in a challenge. There are bigger targets out there than little ol’ me.” Later, she said, “if any of these people are smart,” they’ll realize that. “You’re more threatened by my smile by Stephenie? Come on!”
Cirie said she’s “grown as a person” because of the suffering she experienced during the first two seasons. But the real impact the show has on her every day life is that Cirie’s primary motivation here is to show her kids that she kept trying, regardless of how she does on her third attempt. “I will never give up, and they better not give up at anything,” she said.
For season 20, Cirie plans only a few changes to her game. “For me, I tried to improve on what I had. I already play a pretty good strategic game, so I got some swimming lessons to try to help me in that area, a little bit of training to help me maybe be more physically threatening. If I could be; how I could I be physically threatening?” She said while she can swim, doing challenges “always freaked me out, because I never had formal lessons, and this time I have. So being more comfortable in the water, I hope that helps me.”
Besides taking swimming lessons, Cirie prepared by doing some research. “I looked up Samoa to see what I was going to be up against,” she said, adding, “not that it’s going to help me any.” She’s slightly worried about the lack of comfort the location will provide. “I might be spoiled from the cave in Micronesia, because we did get to stay dry. The difference from Panama to Micronesia, we were wet all the time. … We had to share with the rats and the bats, but we were dry, and that was an element of comfort I’ll miss deeply.”
Strategically, there is one big change Cirie will make, and it amounts to turning on whoever she’s aligned with. “There’s always someone that I feel like I could trust to the end, and that someone always ends up winning,” Cirie laughed, citing both Aras and Parvati. “I just have to learn when to cut it off, when to separate myself from that trusting alliance,” she said. “I was safe for a long time, but when I get to the end, the person that I’m aligned with and I’m looking out for always wins. I’m looking out for me.”
Still, Cirie recognizes that it’s difficult to plan. “The problem with this particular game is, anything that you learned from the other two times…throw it out the window, because this is a whole different group of people,” she said. “This time, it’s like Survivor royalty, so you can’t use anything you had before.” She talked about her fellow cast members and said, “The lineup that is out there, there’s no preparation. … It’s slightly intimidating. There’s a few who’s like, aw shucks. Like Boston Rob, Tom Westman, Stephenie LaGrossa.”
Speaking of her fellow cast members, Cirie said, “I was kinda surprised to see–you hear speculation, but there’s no way I would have thought there would be so many people from Fans versus Favorites. James, Amanda, Parvati and myself? That [season] just happened.” Again, this is why I love Cirie: She can criticize the show with a smile on her face.
As to pre-season alliances, she said, “I never plan; you can’t plan. Because whenever you plan, you go home.” When the game starts, Cirie will “see who looks tasty, and you know, go from there.” There’s another reason for not having pre-season alliances: “Life goes on. I have a job, I have children, I have a family,” Cirie said. “The whole Survivor life circle thing? I don’t have time for that; I have so many other things to do.”
Hear Cirie talk about not being aware of rumors about season 20, and how the experience has changed her: