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Interview: Carter Williams talks 'Survivor: Philippines'
The latest booted contestant discusses playing with heart versus head
We've reached a "Survivor" Final 5 full of big personalities, including likable perpetual target Malcolm, analytical Denise, conscience-driven former child star Lisa, accident-prone returning favorite Skupin and hissable villain Abi.
And then there was Carter Williams. To be polite, we'll call Carter "enigmatic." On one hand virtually incapable of stringing together enough sentences for talking head segments and rarely at the center of strategic negotiations, Carter began to emerge as a threat in recent weeks due to his strong challenge play and his apparent friendship with all remaining contestants.
On Wednesday (December 5) night's "Survivor: Philippines," the rest of the Top 5 decided that Carter was such a threat that getting rid of him was worth spending additional days in the wilderness with Abi. This came despite Carter's attempts to convince his competition that they should want to go to the end against the best players, not Abi.
In his exit interview, Carter discusses his regrets in the game, his decision to lay back and not take a leadership role and his hypothetical path to victory had he remained in the game.
HitFix: In your exit on Wednesday, you referred to being voted out by players who were playing with their heads, rather than their hearts. What would you say that you were playing with out there?
Carter Williams: I would say that, like probably Skupin and Lisa, I would like to say that I was playing with a hybrid of both my head and my heart. From a "Survivor" fan point of view, it might be better to play with just your head, kinda that stone-cold, emotionless game.
HitFix: In the first half of the episode, it looked like things were building up to a plan to blindside Malcolm. Were you OK with that plan?
Carter: Yeah, I would have been great with that plan. I would have absolutely loved that plan. I had an opportunity to get rid of Malcolm earlier in the game and kinda let that slip by. Peter was kinda making his case like, "Why wouldn't you guys do this? If there's six of you, clearly someone's on the bottom." And I thought I was in a four within that six, so that didn't really freak me out, but then it turned out that that wasn't the case.
HitFix: What was the Four that you thought you were in?
Carter: Skupin, Lisa and Penner.
HitFix: Why did you have that impression and when did you realize you didn't have that?
Carter: Well, me and Penner had talked with Skupin several times, actually, and it seemed like that was... To my knowledge, that was where I was at and that was the alliance that I was in, that was how I was going forward and then, you know, when the opportunity came that we needed to vote someone out besides Abi and we found out Lisa wasn't with us and Skupin was with Lisa, that was kinda our wake-up call.
HitFix: Going back to being willing to vote out Malcolm, how would that have reconciled with the "You want to go to the end with the best people" argument that you made for yourself at Tribal Council?
Carter: Yeah, here's the thing, I was making that argument, but I was well aware of where they were standing. I'm very well aware of this game. I'm well aware that they didn't want to go to the end with me, they didn't want to take me over Abi, because of fear of losing challenges, fear of being with someone and knowing that they're liked. So yeah, I was making that argument, but I'm smart enough in this game to realize that that's not what they were going to do and, tables be reversed, I probably would have been in their shoes doing something similar.
HitFix: So that was just you bluffing or making a play?
Carter: That was me playing off of what had been said all season. The thing is, they were making a very big group decision. If I had been taken in from the outside and they said, "This what we're gonna do" and I say, "Oh, no no now, I don't want to do that. I want to do this." That would have been so dumb. But if I had been in a more powerful position, who know what I would have done, but I think I would have made a decision similar to theirs.
HitFix: Is it at least somewhat flattering that you were seen as a big enough threat out there that the other castaways were willing to put up with spending more time with Abi [Carter laughs] rather keeping you around?
Carter: Yeah, it's a bummer, but I guess in a way it's flattering. That's what's interesting about this game. You can't get to the end without pissing some people off and you can't get the million without getting people's votes, so it's an extremely interesting game. Malcolm and Denise are kinda playing an emotionless game. They're kinda saying. "Yeah. We voted you off. Big deal," where Lisa and Skupin are kinda playing a little more with their heart, a little more wishy-washy, so when someone looks at you and they're like, "I don't wanna vote you out, I don't wanna vote you out, I don't wanna vote you out," but then they do, that whiplashes on them.
HitFix: Were you surprised to find that? As somebody who watched the show regularly, did it feel completely different once you were in the middle and seeing that play out around you?
Carter: Oh, 100 percent. Sitting at home, you don't realize how close you become with these people. Sitting at home, you don't see the one-hour conversations you have about life. I had some great conversations with Lisa. I obviously bonded really well with Skupin. I remember having just great times with Denise. We would climb up and get coconuts together and split 'em open and drink 'em. I told Lisa in that Tribal Council, and it didn't get shown, and I said, "Lisa, if you were at home watching this game, you would want to vote Abi out and keep me" and she goes, "You're exactly right, but I'm not at home watching this game. I'm in it." That was kinda the point in the Tribal Council where I was like, "OK. I'm gone."
HitFix: Can you think of examples of things that, watching at home, you've been yelling at yourself to do or not do, even if you know why you did them out there?
Carter: Yeah, you know, there were two plans that fell short: That was obviously the plan of an alliance with me, Penner, Skupin and Lisa. That fell short and then this other plan kinda was presented to me of, "Hey, we're gonna get rid of Malcolm, so you need to win Immunity." Obviously winning Immunity was also a plan. And all three of those things started falling short and by the time I was trying to make something happen -- Talking with Skupin, talking with Lisa -- you could just see in their eyes that they were sticking with their four.
HitFix: How much of a threat do you actually think you were, either physically or strategically?
Carter: I think that the way I was a threat the biggest wasn't completely shown and I think that's that I'd become friends with those people. Jeff Kent, me and him were tighter than anyone out there. Me and Penner were obviously tight. I was really good friends with Peter. There's a scene on CBS.com and it's me telling them why I deserved to go to the Final 5 and when I walk away, Lisa turns to them and goes, "That's the speech he'll give at the Final Tribal Council and who wouldn't vote for that?" So they were frightened and Penner mentioned a few times in his exit interviews like, "Yeah. This kid didn't piss anyone off. He was friends with everyone out there." So ultimately that's what they were afraid of.
HitFix: I know that you're a track coach out in the real world. Is there a side to your personality that you specifically decided you didn't want to show in the "Survivor" world? I'm thinking of the "leader" side or the "motivator" side that you turned off for the show?
Carter: So I'm... What? 25 or 26 years younger than Penner and Jeff Kent and we get there and there's obviously a clear struggle for who's the leader and I'm the youngest guy out there, the youngest male in the game. We get there and Penner's kinda saying, "This is how you do things" and Jeff's kinda saying, "This is how you do things." So honestly, I just sorta sat back. You're asking me why I wasn't more of a leader?
HitFix: Just if that was a decision that you made actively out there?
Carter: I think I was put in this crazy, new environment next to somebody who's played this game for his third time. You kinda see a lot of times when people want to step up and have things done their way. Russell was doing that right away and it got on people's nerves. RC was kinda playing an overly strategic game very early on and it kinda freaked people. So yeah, it was a completely new environment. If we had been in a gym or something, then it would have been slightly different. But in that situation, I was letting Penner and Jeff Kent take control.
HitFix: As a last question, I guess: If they had decided to keep you at that Tribal Council and had sent you home, talk me through what your plan was from there and how you were actually going to win this season of "Survivor"...
Carter: It would have been to... Well... That would be interesting, because it would be interesting what Malcolm would do with his Idol, but uh... I would definitely have tried to align with Skupin and Lisa and try to make the argument against Denise and Malcolm. Like, "Look, Denise has been to every single Tribal Council." Pre-Merge, she lost every single challenge and if she goes to the Finals, who wouldn't vote for that? And with Malcolm, clearly people see him as this person who has been kinda under-the-gun a few times and has dodged bullets. So I would have definitely wanted to team up with them and probably kinda said to them, like, "Look. Those two will end up beating us all. Let's find out... I wanna work with you guys" and then whatever situation would have been, trying to team up with Skupin. Because, we really did... I was connected with a lot of those people out there. Or, you know... Well... I don't know if I would have gone with Denise and Malcolm. It's interesting. It's a crazy game. It's tough to think about.