Katie Collins sure had some bad luck in the game of "Survivor: Blood vs. Water." Like everyone else, she found out on Day One that she would not be competing with her mother and former Survivor winner, Tina, but against her instead. Unlike many others out there though, Katie was quickly in the minority early on in her tribe and along with Ciera, was never really able to get solid footing in the game. Her streak of ultimate bad luck came when she was finally eliminated in a random tie-breaking rock draw, where she came up with the sole white rock that ended her time in the game. On Wednesday night's episode, Katie then had to face off against her mom on Redemption Island, where she was finally eliminated for good. Today I had a chance to speak with her in this exclusive interview (in case you missed her elimination episode, here is the full Episode 13 recap).
Katie endured early on and eventually made it to the merge where she was able to play with her mom, if only for a short time. After Tina was voted out, she really had no other option than to enter into the tie-breaking rock draw in hopes that her fortune would finally change. The gamble did not pay off for Katie.
During her final Duel against her mother, Tina reluctantly eliminated Katie after asking her permission to do so. There was a tearful exchange and with that, Katie was the last player eliminated from the game leading into the two-hour Season Finale this coming Sunday.
Note: The game may be the furthest thing from Katie's mind however, as an unthinkable tragedy struck her family during this season. Just a few weeks back, Katie's brother - Tina's only son - Taylor Lee Collins, 25, was killed in a car accident in Chattanooga. One can only imagine the pain this has caused and the challenge of having to discuss a game like Survivor so intensely when your family has just been struck with such real-life devastation.
Here is my full interview with Katie Collins, as we discuss her time in the game, the pulling of the white rock, her in-game regrets and the recent passing of her brother Taylor.
Katie Collins: Hi Tom!
Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: Hi Katie! How are you?
Katie: I'm great how are you doing?
Tom Santilli: I'm doing good. I wanted to start off though, by giving you my deepest condolences for what you and your family have been going through recently.
Katie: I appreciate that.
Tom Santilli: How are you and your mom holding up? And can you talk about what the response has been like from the Survivor community?
Katie: It has not been an easy road, as you can imagine. Taylor being a young guy and being so loved by our whole family. It's been hard. But, the bright side is we have had, from fans, the Survivor family, CBS, you guys, just an unbelievable flood of support. And I'm not even talking about a half-ass "sorry to hear about your loss" kind of response. I'm talking about people who are really invested and who have watched you and feel like they know you. Everyone has really been deeply saddened about my brother. It's just really hit home. And it's helped us. We've received lots of prayers and hugs and thoughts and that's been a really nice, loving force that has really helped us get through it. It's really been amazing.
Tom Santilli: Well I could only imagine what you've all been going through. Lots of love and support coming from me and my fanbase.
Katie: Thank you.
Tom Santilli: Knowing that this pales in comparison of importance, let's talk about Survivor. So in an interview with EW's Dalton Ross today, Jeff Probst described you as having played the game "for your mom and the shared experience" and "not because you loved the competition." An accurate assessment?
Katie: That's 100% true. Actually I don't like the idea of competing (laughs). I don't know what it is. I was on the swim team in high school and I could do that because my head was always down and I couldn't see my teammates. I didn't have to like, steal a ball from them or pin them down. I just don't really like the idea of it. Even at home with my mom when we would play games, she would win and I'd be just like "congratulations." She would get so mad at me because I wouldn't boast or get in her face, because that's what she does! She just couldn't believe that I'm always so cool and collected, but that's just my personality. Going through this Survivor experience, the majority of it was for my mom and for us to do this together. Not because I would love to be this competitive force that kicks ass and takes names. But that was also something that I wanted to prove to myself, that I could go out and there and compete on a level that was above and beyond anything I've ever challenged myself with. I feel like I did that and I was able to do it with my mom. But Jeff was definitely accurate on that front.
Tom Santilli: Now earlier this season, you watched as Ciera voted out her mother, but when everyone voted for your mom, you instead threw a vote towards Monica. So first off, were you shocked at all to see that Ciera was capable of voting out her own mother? Was there any scenario in the game that you think you would have voted against your mom?
Katie: Hmm. I was shocked that she actually did go through with it. However I didn't think it was out of her character to make a vote like that. But I didn't actually think she would execute it. I wouldn't say that I was taken aback, but I was like, wow, well, you are definitely proving yourself, that's for sure! As far as me having to do that, I wouldn't willingly throw a vote my mom's way just to prove how serious I was. I wouldn't do it in that context. If me and mom were on the same tribe and I was the swing vote and my mom said I want you to put my name down because I want you to be able to further yourself? Maybe. But that would be a hard decision for me, for sure. For me, the game is something that we can share together. I wouldn't want it to be about our individual experiences. So I'm glad I was never in a situation where I had to do that and there are very few scenarios where I would actually do that.
Tom Santilli: Now, you pulled the white rock and you go to Redemption. At that point, there is no chance that both you and your mom can make it to the end of the game, since only one player is returning from Redemption Island. In your mind on your way to Redemption Island, are you thinking I need to fight my way into the game? Or are you saying, man, it's all over for me? Was there any part of you that wanted to convince your mom to allow you to stay in the game over her?
Katie: That's an interesting question, because knowing what the dynamic was like back in the game on the island, regardless of who gets back in the game they are going to have a really difficult time breaking that triage alliance of Monica, Gervase and Tyson. So I noticed it was going to be a very tall order to be able to get back in the game and do any real damage. Me and mom didn't really talk about who was the best person or who had the best shot at winning the game. I think we just decided to talk about the here and the now. You saw, she said she would let me win. There was a part of me that said, aw thanks that's sweet of you mom, maybe I'll take you up on that. But then I kept thinking, I don't want to ever win something just because mommy let little Katie go forward. And that's definitely not what I want if I'm trying to prove myself to others in this game. So we made a mutual agreement to try our damnedest and if we get back into the game, then good freakin' luck! It's not going to be easy.
Tom Santilli: Now about the rock draw. I had heard something like you and Ciera had thought that Gervase (who had the Immunity Necklace) would also be drawing rocks, which would have increased your odds to one in four instead of one in three. Any truth to that and if so, would you have done anything differently knowing the odds were not in your favor?
Katie: There is obviously the Survivor Rulebook and I know that drawing rocks would leave it up to chance. I'm not sure about the whole Gervase thing, when it was explained to us I did think that it was just me, Ciera and Tyson drawing rocks. I know a lot of people on Twitter are saying that the process itself isn't fair, that Hayden and Monica should have to draw rocks since they were the ones who had been voted for. There is a lot of hooplah about the whole process. But I definitely think that we understood the rules and for us, it was still going to be worth it. If Tyson were to have drawn that rock, it would have been our very best option. We were a little surprised that Tyson was willing to draw rocks as well. We were all frightened, that's for sure.
Tom Santilli: From early on in the game, you always seemed to be in the minority alliance. Originally though, it was you and Ciera. It struck me as odd that the two of you never really were shown developing a super-strong alliance, since after the merge you both just seemed to go your separate ways. Through it all, it also looked like the two of you were really good friends. So what prevented you and Ciera from really aligning?
Katie: Here's what happened. So me and Ciera made an alliance very early on in the game, especially with the whole "bro" thing that was happening on our tribe. We wanted to stick together until the merge at least. Then tribe swap happened. She's actually able to get in with Tyson and Gervase, while we keep losing challenges and keep having to pick off people one by one. Then the merge happened and we sort of realized that we are on different alliances. I'm thinking that it's me, Vytas, Aras, Gervase, my mom and Monica. Ciera though, was tighter with the other side. I think we all had an idea of what our alliances were and she was very intrical in getting Aras out. That was pretty much the sign that the Tina and Katie alliance had crumbled. I think that the tribe swap really shook our relationship a bit. I had even gone to Laura Morett when she was following me as I looked for the Idol. I said to her, let's form an alliance, me, you, Ciera and my mom. Laura Morett wasn't having it. I do really love Ciera, she's a great friend of mine. We just ended up sort of playing different games and we knew that if we needed to ever go back to each other, we could (laughs). What a rocky relationship.
Tom Santilli: Well it was great watching you this season and again, the best of luck to you and your family. Stay strong and I'm sure you'll get through this.
Katie: Oh yes, we will. Thanks again for all of the wonderful support and it was great talking to you as well.
The two-hour Finale is on CBS this Sunday at 8 p.m. followed by the one-hour Live Reunion Show. Check back on Sunday for an episode preview, a full recap and a look forward to Season 28 of Survivor set to begin in Winter of 2014.
For even more, be sure to watch Katie's arrival at Ponderosa video to the upper left of this column. Also be sure to subscribe to this column (above by my name) to receive email alerts of new postings and you'll want to follow me on Twitter too, @tomsantilli, and at tomsantilli.com as well!
Also, make sure you check out one of my favorite Survivor sites, Survivor Fever.