Unarguably, nobody had a tougher path to the Final Four than Spencer. On the outs from the very beginning of the game, Spencer somehow, someway, managed to continue to survive in the game. This super-fan of the game made it all the way to the Finale Episode of "Survivor: Cagayan," but on Wednesday night, he lost the first Immunity Challenge and was sent to the jury. I spoke to Spencer today, less than 24 hours since the airing of the Finale episode.
Spencer began the game on the Brains Tribe, a tribe that will go down as one of the most dysfunctional tribes in Survivor history. His life in the game seemed to always be hanging in the balance, often times out of his control, but he did what he had to do to convince others to keep him around.
After the tribe swap, Spencer found himself in a position of power for the very first time, but his roller coaster ride of ups and downs would continue on, when Kass flipped on him to vote out Sarah. Spencer would spend the rest of the game on the bottom, but he had several chances to flip the game back in his favor. With an Immunity Idol, he incorrectly chose to play it on himself instead of on Jeremiah, a move that went against him. While drawing rocks for a game advantage at the Survivor Auction, he chose the wrong rock.
But Spencer continued on, never giving into his circumstances and knowing - as a super-fan - that the game can change drastically in a moment's notice. With has back against the wall and out of options, Spencer was able to win two consecutive Immunity Challenges to reach the Final Four. The Final Two twist perhaps hurt him more than anyone, because instead of needing just one more Immunity win, he would have needed to win two more to reach the end. But he lost, after Kass mounted a crazy-miraculous comeback. Finally exposed, he tried one last time to convince Tony to keep him, but was unsuccessful. He was voted out by Tony, Kass and Woo finally on Day 37.
He was one of this year's biggest under-dogs and therefore, one of the biggest fan-favorites. Probst gave him "zero chance" of winning the game prior to the season starting and his own mother even announced at the Live Reunion Show that she thought he would be voted out first. Against all odds, Spencer not only defied expectations, he became one of this season's All-Star players. Being a physical, social and strategic threat, Spencer would have won the million bucks had he just made it to the end.
Here is my exclusive interview with Spencer:
Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: Hey Spencer! So great to talk with you. Everybody knows that you were a super-fan of Survivor, so how does it feel to only have played the game now, but to have made it to Final Four and to be considered one of this season's future All-Star players?
Spencer Bledsoe: It feels unbelievable. Yeah, I mean, just going to casting alone. Meeting Probst and Burnett, that was surreal. Showing up Day One and having to slap myself, like wow, I'm on Survivor. That was surreal. And then my first experience with a challenge or Tribal, it was all just mind-blowing. So to sort of process things beyond that, my reception being so warm with fans, that I had a mark on the season, it's all been pretty cool for me.
Tom Santilli: It's one thing to have Jeff Probst say you have zero chance of winning, it's another thing altogether win your mom not only doesn't think you'll win, but predicts you'll be the first one voted out!
Spencer: Yeah! No faith in me from anyone!
Tom Santilli: What do you think they saw in you that made them think you had no shot?
Spencer: I think it's a couple things. A lack of life experience. I'm a pretty young guy, I haven't met too many from too many walks of life. If I'm stranded with moms or dads, there's not as much common ground. I think it's partly my youth. I think it's partially that I can be over-confident. I definitely think that I came across as over-confident going through casting. That probably made Jeff think that I was going to have problems being likeable. From my mom's perspective, she knows that I can come on a little strong, so she probably just thought that combined with my youth, things were going to be a bit shaky (laughs).
Tom Santilli: So what did Jeff Probst write to you in that sealed envelope he gave you last night?
Spencer: I haven't read it yet. I've been doing interviews and I've been all over the place, so yeah, I've been bad.
Tom Santilli: You mentioned somewhere that you feel like you were going to be haunted for a long time by all of the little things that went wrong for you throughout the game...and there were a lot of them. If you had to pick one, what moment do you look back on as the one moment you wish something had gone differently for you?
Spencer: If we're talking purely bad breaks, things that were out of my control? The rock draw was purely bad luck. I mean, it's easy to overlook, but if that goes differently, I probably get an Idol. Tony found the Idol with the clue he got, so I'd like to think I'd have been able to find it. That could have easily changed the game around. Other bad breaks, like Kass flipping, or other things that didn't work out, I could have done better to prevent that. But the rocks was a better representation of pretty bad luck.
Tom Santilli: You mentioned Kass flipping. You also have said that you didn't think her decision made any sense, but being a fan of the show, you have to know that people who are on the bottom - even if they aren't on the bottom but think that they are - are going to make moves in order to better their position in the game. So as much as you blame Kass, do you look back on that as a flaw in your game?
Spencer: Absolutely, absolutely. I should have been way more in tune with the way people were feeling. You have to just assume the worst and say, OK, let me just make sure that Kass is on board. Instead, I was trying to be a chess player and say, OK, this is my Final Three and I'm going to flip at this point. I was getting way too in my head instead of focusing on what was right in front of me.
Tom Santilli: Now everybody really likes Woo and many seem to be praising his "honorable" decision to take Tony to the end. But that's a horrible Survivor move, was it not?
Spencer: Yes. I think he made a decision that was extremely bad as a player, but was extremely good for him as a person. He is a really good guy. I told him I really respected him and the way he played, moreso than you might think from watching. I'm happy to have gotten to meet him. But I think he was playing way too nice and loyal for a game where you can't do that.
Tom Santilli: Very few people have experienced such a roller coaster ride in the game of Survivor. What kept you going?
Spencer: I was trying to play in a way I could be proud of looking back on it. As long as I was in the game I felt that there was a chance I could win in the end. There was always some kind of hope.
Tom Santilli: The Final Two twist comes at a point in the game where you really needed to win Immunity in order to stay in the game. Having just won two in a row, you thought you were only one win away from the Finals, but then you realize its Final Two and not Final Three. Did that realization deal you a mental blow, knowing you now had to win two more challenges instead of just one?
Spencer: It was a little bit. I was going vicious at that challenge and it wasn't really until after that challenge that I put it all together. There was never really a moment where I was like, OK, I have to win two more. It was more of taking one thing at a time. So I didn't necessarily have the attitude that I had to win out. And I don't really think that's a good attitude to have. If you need to win Immunity, take it one Immunity at a time. Don't go in saying you need to win out.
Tom Santilli: Your jury speech was frickin' awesome to me, as a long-time fan of the show and someone who hates bitter jury syndrome. How much of an affect do you think your speech had on the jury ultimately?
Spencer: I think from talking to people, they might have seemed bitter, but they really just wanted to say their peace and then they were probably going to vote for Tony. So I don't think it influenced a large number of people, but it may have influenced one or two. Do I think it changed the result? Probably not.
Tom Santilli: If Woo takes Kass to the end, it was confirmed last night that Woo would have won the game. But with your vote specifically, being a fan and also honoring the game, did Kass play a better game than Woo?
Spencer: Honestly, I raised my hand firmly for Woo at the live show because I knew where it was going and that Woo would have won. At the time, if I had to guess, I think I would have voted for Woo. But in retrospect, it would have been tough. Pretty much any other combination of people, it was a no-brainer for me. Tony against anyone, I'm voting for Tony. But it would have been tough because on one hand, I think Kass winning would have been a better story than Woo. Kass winning would be better for the show. She did play, I think she played poorly, but she did play, and I think Woo kind of didn't. So I would have had to really consider what my criteria was. Because if I'm voting for who was a better player, I think it's Woo, easily. If I'm voting for what would make a better story, it's probably Kass.
Tom Santilli: Where do you feel Tony ranks in terms of the game's Best Winners?
Spencer: I think Tony is a really good winner. He played the game like nobody else really has, so it's a little hard to evaluate. I would definitely put him in the top half of winners, I probably wouldn't put him in the top five. I would have to get a little bit more specific to know exactly where, but probably in that five to fourteen range.
Tom Santilli: What criteria are you using that keeps him from being an upper echelon winner?
Spencer: If I'm going to compare Tony to a player like Kim Spradlin, who I think is the best player to ever play Survivor...Kim didn't need a Trish to put out her fires. She was able to have such strong relationships and connections with people, that they trusted her to the extent that they were basically lining up to be slaughtered and they didn't even know it. I don't think Tony is quite capable of that. I think Tony needs to be in the right circumstances and he definitely was this time. He was very lucky to have Woo by his side who was very loyal as was demonstrated last night, and then he had Trish by his side who put out all his fires. She got Kass to flip and Tony would be nowhere without that. She nurtured relationships and got other people to trust Tony. So by himself, he's not necessarily a trustworthy guy. So I think the fact that he was more reliant on other people to achieve his success, is a strike against him, when you're talking about putting him up against the upper, upper echelon of winners.
Tom Santilli: There's a lot of talk in social media, people comparing Tony's game to that of Russell Hantz. Explain to us why they're different.
Spencer: I think likeability is the biggest thing. Russell, at least as I perceived him watching him, came off as unlikeable and mean-spirited and kind of a bully. Tony is a really likeable guy. Maybe it doesn't come across on TV, but Tony was very well-liked. He has certain social skills that I think set him above Russell Hantz, as a player.