Interview: Pete Yurkowski talks 'Survivor: Philippines'
Was his strategy of 'creating chaos' worthwhile in the end?
I wasn't around to recap last Wednesday night's eventful episode of "Survivor: Philippines," but due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I was still able to have my weekly exit interview and chat with Pete Yurkowski about his torch-snuffing.
In one of those reversals of fortune that happen three or four times every "Survivor" season, Pete went from atop a seemingly powerful majority alliance to out-of-the-game over a two-episode span. First he helped minimize the Tandang domination by voting against long-time rival RC, then he lost a tenuous ally when Mike Skupin flipped on Artis. And finally Pete was forced to beg for Skupin's support when it became clear that primary target Abi's Immunity Idol made him the next player on the block.
Pete's attempts to convince other players that Malcolm, holding an Idol himself, would be better blindside fodder amounted to nothing when host Jeff Probst spent a full Tribal Council dwelling on the collective antipathy towards Abi.
In a conversation marked by long pauses and frequent dodges, Pete discussed his relationship with Abi, his dislike of Skupin and whether or not his own attempts to generate random chaos ended up doing more harm than good.
Click through for the full Q&A...
HitFix: The editing on Wednesday's episode suggested that Skupin was taking your plan at least somewhat seriously. At the time, what did you think your chances were that he was going to flip to your side?
Pete Yurkowski: I dunno. It was probably about 20 percent with Skupin and then Lisa probably 10 percent? I thought I had Carter. I really thought we had Carter. There's that scene where we were talking and he's like, "I don't know, man, I'm in a pretty good spot." But I definitely worked on Carter a lot longer and I really thought I had him.
HitFix: And why do you think, ultimately, you just weren't able to break any of those three?
Pete: I don't know. It felt like that "Six strong, let's put the game on pause, let's put the game on pause and vote Pete and Abi out and then start playing again," that doesn't make sense. People obviously are not gonna really put the game on pause.
HitFix: So I guess it's... Do you credit Penner with pushing that idea?
Pete: Yeah, he definitely gets the credit for that. But is it really believable? Definitely not. It's a game for a million dollars. People aren't just going to sit on the beach for six days and not talk about anything.
HitFix: Obviously we know that we see of Tribal Council is trimmed from something vastly longer, but did the concentration on Abi at that Tribal Council, did it eliminate any chance that you had of swaying people last-minute?
Pete: Yeah. I was kinda angry. Jeff kept asking and kept grilling Abi and it totally got everyone's mind off the fact that, "Hey, we could make this big move" and Abi was in tears. And that Abi thing was the majority of Tribal Council, which I don't think helped me at all.
HitFix: Was there a feeling when you were there when you could feel that slipping away? It seemed like things were initially going in your favor when Jeff was grilling Malcolm for a while and then it just became all Abi?
Pete: Yeah, all Abi. It really happened that way. I had to then reignite the fact that, "Hey, we're playing 'Survivor' and it's time to vote somebody" at the end and they didn't include it. I was like, "Obviously, this picnic of six isn't going to work. It's not real. It's a mirage. So why doesn't somebody make a big move and vote someone else out. Why not Malcolm?"
HitFix: And it just wasn't gonna work.
Pete: It was such a small chance, but I had to keep gunning for it.
HitFix: It was hard to tell from what we saw on TV, but could you give me some insight into the almost apparent hostility that you and Artis had for Skupin?
Pete: Artis and Mike kinda had their little fall-out. They didn't agree on a lot of things. I don't know. It's kinda like when there's so much negativity, you just kinda pick up on it. I have no problem with Mike now. It was kinda annoying watching him eat all the rice, though. We'd all munch on it, but there was a definite change in... volume. He definitely had a lot more volume than we did.
HitFix: Is that just one of those things where we can't know, sitting at home, how a little thing or a little thing or two can just become a bigger and bigger thing when you're out there in the game?
Pete: Yes. Small things turn into big things. Are they well-deserved and do people deserve the stuff that happens and the repercussions to that? No. But you're in a different mentality there. It's kinda fight-or-flight mode and it rubs people the wrong way.
HitFix: It looked like you started out feeling like Abi was a potentially valuable ally and then she became a necessary evil and then, by the end, she was something worse. How did that alliance shift in your mind out there?
Pete: At the point where it became worse, it was just too late. You didn't know what to do. Lisa was flipping and then once Lisa flipped, that's another number, so we need someone else to replace Lisa. Skupin obviously flipped to get voted out for Artis. So yeah, she was a necessary evil that we just had to deal with.
HitFix: Did you have a different read on her initially? Was your first impression of her correct?
Pete: I feel like I did a pretty good judge of character on her. I knew when her and RC would go at it every once in a while that I'd have to pick one. They were never gonna be in an alliance together despite what anybody else says. It was never gonna happen, never gonna work. And then I finally cut the ties between both of them with that little clue thing, but it was just never gonna work, so I had to pick one and the volatile girl who's gonna do whatever I tell her to do was a lot better than the alternate.
HitFix: Which was what? What would have happened if you'd gone with RC?
Pete: I feel like she would have eventually just stabbed me in the back. Did she see me as any kind of like social threat, that I was gonna be doing anything? I don't think so. I don't think she saw it coming at all. I don't know. I feel like she would always want to make big moves, flip things all the time, that was just really her strategy, just to look like a good player.
HitFix: It looked like your "creating chaos" plan out there was initially amusing, but was ultimately fairly detrimental. How did that feel from your end?
Pete: I don't think it was detrimental at all. When I did it, it was a little strategy, but mostly just cuz it was funny. Did it help me? Uh... I don't know. It was definitely amusing. I didn't think it was gonna be that big of a deal and it only rid of RC. Skupin, he wasn't really bothered by the whole thing.
HitFix: But I guess what I'm saying is that your tinkering sorta played a major role in creating the toxic situation with Abi and with RC. Do you think that would have happened one way or the other?
Pete: Yeah. It was bound to happen. It was a ticking time bomb. They would do their little feuds and then there'd be an awkward silence at camp and then it would happen again, but this was just sorta the nail in the coffin. There would be no more of that, "What if... Who am I gonna choose?" I just picked one and went with it.
HitFix: Why do you think that had to be? You were doing so well as a tribe in all of the challenges, but why was tension going to happen inevitably?
Pete: I don't know. It started probably on like Day 2 or 3 where Abi and RC were just... Apparently it was about that whole clue thing that I didn't really know about yet, but they just didn't trust each other and you could tell. You just got a weird vibe when they were with each other.
HitFix: In your initial "Survivor" bio, you talked about admiring Russell Hantz and I guess that was evident in the creating chaos thing. Did this make you appreciate what he was able to do even more? Do you think you could have done different things within the same strategy frame?
Pete: I liked the way he plays the game, but it's definitely not a way to win the game. Some of the stuff he does from a strategic standpoint is really cool and if that social element wasn't there, obviously things would be a lot different for him. But no... As far as chaos goes, there's necessary chaos and there's chaos that isn't necessary. So it kinda changed my mind a little about about a couple of things.
HitFix: How, looking back, would you define the difference between "necessary chaos" and "unnecessary chaos" and your role in either of them?
Pete: The unnecessary chaos would definitely be the thing with Malcolm where I didn't have to tell him about that stuff about him having the Idol or not having the Idol. That definitely caused a whole, for lack of a better word, s***-show at camp that didn't need to happen. The RC thing, though, I'll still stand by that one.
HitFix: Do you think the game plays out dramatically and totally differently if you don't have that conversation with Malcolm?
Pete: Yes. He'd go on Reward Challenges and he'd always tell me everything, so like it was full disclosure. Is that why I told him? No. But I really wanted someone else to play. I had Artis, who was just going to vote how I wanted him to vote. I needed another think-tank and I thought that maybe we could do some damage together?
HitFix: And in retrospect?
Pete: I'd have just voted him off.
HitFix: Because of the annihilation of Matsing and then the couple of Kalabaw eliminations, we didn't see very much of Tandang in the early going outside of challenges. Are there things you wish we'd seen play out in your camp, particular with the tensions between your alliance and RC and Skupin?
Pete: I feel like our tribe could have had its own TV show. I feel like we could have filled all 60 minutes and it could have been all about Tandang. There was so much going on and if the Matsing decimation didn't happen, that's probably what it would have all been about.
HitFix: And what would that show have consisted of?
Pete: Just arguments and stuff and people not trusting other people. I think RC wanted to give Artis a swim test. That's why Artis got all pissed off. What else? Just a bump of stuff. RC looking for the clue in my shorts, sneaking under the Tandang flag, in pouring rain while we're all sleeping, with a frying pan. Just stuff like that.