She's also no longer angry Mike Gabler won 'Survivor 43'.
That decision by Hannah gave Emily 18 more days on the island, and in that time, Emily Flippen flipped the script as the Lulu outcast gradually became a strategic — and, dare I say, social — threat in the game. Heck, she even won a challenge! But Emily’s magical second act came to a close after Dee Valladares tipped off Julie Alley that she needed to use her immunity idol. And when Julie did and cast her vote for Emily, that was enough to send the financial analyst to the jury.
Did Emily’s big move on Bruce last week lead to her downfall on this one? What was her endgame plan anyway? Does she regret not risking her vote to go for immunity on her journey? We asked Emily all that and more, and got her to clue us in as to what happened after the torch got snuffed. Read on for answers!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, Emily. First question: Who built the pyramids?
EMILY FLIPPEN: [Laughs] Well, I feel pretty confident it's not aliens. Although I will say, there are very few things I'm proud of myself for, but my ability to adjust to the quantity of alien conversation that happened in the game of Survivor — which I was really unprepared for going in — I pat myself on the back for that.
Let's get into what happened last night. When Julie played her idol, did you know it was you, or were you hoping maybe she might take a shot at Austin?
Yeah, I felt pretty confident that it was me. I remember the moment Julie stood up. Initially I thought she was going to play her Shot in the Dark, and I knew that if that Shot in the Dark hit that I would be the person going home. And then when I realized it was an idol, I felt pretty confident that she wrote my name down. Julie and I, we were lying to each other's faces. We knew it was one or the other. So she definitely got the better of me.
Take us through what happened after getting your torch snuffed and then heading to Ponderosa. What was that like?
It was absolutely crazy. I mean, I was not obviously blacked out, but that all just happened so quickly. I really wish that I went out in some more epic fashion, but you're just kind of on autopilot — hugged people, grabbed the torch, put it down ... But it was really nice to eat some real food, and luckily the people on the jury that I got to go back to are just some of the kindest, most fun people. So while I was disappointed, they kind of made the experience way more palatable.
Had you thought of an epic way you wanted to go out?
I wish I could say yes. I was really unprepared for the game of Survivor. It happened so quickly from when I applied to when I ended up being on the show, and so much was happening in that time period. I was buying a house. I was trying to get five weeks of work done before I left, to me trying to learn how to make fire. So I really did not put as much thought into a lot of the elements of my gameplay, including what I would say when I was sent home as I think other people may have.
Walk me through your decision to not play for immunity on your journey and if you have any regrets now about that decision?
Absolutely no regrets. I have a lot of regrets in other aspects of my gameplay, but they could have left me out there all day and I would've never solved that puzzle. I think there was an expectation that people would've had talked about the Savvy puzzle, which we did talk about at camp, but none of us could piece together how to solve it. So when I walk out there on that journey and I see the Savvy puzzle standing right there, it wasn't a question in my mind. I knew how important my vote was, especially because I was competing with Julie, so I didn't want to lose my vote, and I felt pretty confident that I wouldn't be able to solve the puzzle. I still can’t to this day.
You said you do have other regrets. What are your other regrets?
I don't even know where to begin. I can start from day one all the way to not splitting the vote at the last Tribal Council, but I think maybe my biggest regret and where my game really went wrong was making Kaleb such an easy target when the merge happens.
I really downplayed our relationship because I wanted to be perceived as a free agent, and that inadvertently made Kaleb a really easy target. Nobody was willing to go to bat for him. If I had realized that I was in a little bit more of a powerful position than I gave myself credit for, I could have acted faster to protect him, and I let my number one ally get voted out of the game. I think that's really where a lot of my leverage left.
You need a ride or die in this game, no doubt. Do you think your big move on Bruce and beefing up that résumé is what put you in the crosshairs at the very next vote?
I think yes, to answer that question shortly. I do think that my time was limited regardless. Hindsight being 20/20, do I wish I had acted differently? Of course. At the time, I felt like the jury would not have respect for me if I was playing under the thumb of Drew and Austin and Reba the entire time. They were really confident. They said “Flush Bruce’s idol. Don't even try to trick him.” And I was like, “Let me try to make a move for myself here,” even though obviously I'm acting in the interest of what was perceived to be everybody on the tribe at that point.
And that was kind of what I thought was a big move for me. In actuality, I think I was just really kind of insecure about my game and I felt like I needed something. And as much as ego plays into that, coming back and being like, “Well, I did that, look at that” — I also think it comes from a place of deep-seated insecurity about the fact that I didn't feel like I had autonomy in the game.
What was your endgame plan? Whom did you want to sit next to at the end?
I was actually really willing to sit next to Drew and Austin if they would've taken me there. Now, I wasn't sure if they would. I felt a little bit more confident in my relationship with Drew versus Austin, because obviously Austin and Dee were so close. I felt confident that I would potentially lose against one of the Reba women. But my only kind of perception at the time was thinking Drew and Austin were playing similar games. So my thought process was, if I'm sitting next to them, maybe they kind of split votes amongst themselves. And if we do have a jury that is kind of more bitter towards the Reba dominance, maybe I get some votes thrown my way.
You've said you were sort very insecure about your game. What do you mean by that?
I think other people's perceptions of me in the game were different than my own. I never really felt like I had power. Even in positions where I did and I was making decisions that were kind of game-changing decisions, I kind of felt like I was playing other people's games. The experience was kind of, “You do this. Emily, you do that,” and much less of “I want to do this and let me make a decision.”
And that's kind of the reality. When you come into the merge without numbers, you don't get the chance to tell people what to do. You don't have the numbers, so you do have to kind of fall into that role. But I think I was insecure about the fact that I wasn't playing the upfront controlling game that I had expected myself to play. I didn't think that the jury had respect for me, and I think that perception was wrong. The edit is obviously being very generous to me, but also when I got voted off and I went back to the jury and I realized that they were kind of rooting for me, that really shocked me. It really did.
It's interesting when you say the edit was generous to you because I was wondering about that. We see at the beginning how you're calling out Bruce and you're stirring up stuff at Lulu and then it's like all of a sudden this kindler, gentler Emily. Was that the case, or was there other stuff happening where you still did have a little spice that they just weren't showing?
I think the edit is accurate right now. Obviously, editing plays into that. I didn't barge in on the marooning. Jeff asked me that question about Bruce and I responded to it. So obviously there's little editing tricks that I think are great for creating that narrative of like, “Wow, look how much Emily's changed.” But also, you can't create a narrative that doesn't exist. I did behave like that. I was extremely upfront, aggressive, outspoken in a very negative way for the first few days at Lulu.
So in that sense, I think the edit has been incredibly accurate. I do think there were elements and times during my game that I let the harsher qualities of myself slip through. But I think really what happened was I let people see different aspects of my personality, and when everybody freaked out and reacted when I danced a little bit for cheese, that's when it occurred to me. I was like: This is a very normal thing for me to do. I kind of act like that on my everyday life, and it made me realize that people didn't know me as much as I thought that they did. I didn't give them the chance to get to know me. So just being more open with myself and all my qualities was the change that you really see.
Let's just say Hannah does not quit this game, right? She's just like, “I'm in it to win it!” and she just wants to stay around, and you get voted out, which from every account I've heard is what would've happened. What do you think your take is then on your Survivor experience?
I think prior to the episode airing, I would've been more positive. I think everybody in my life expected me to be on the first flight home, which is to say they expected me to be the first boot. They knew that that was my likely scenario with how I was going to act. So everybody was just surprised when I wasn't the first boot.
The reaction from the public after that first episode though, I did not expect that. So I think I would've been fine with my Survivor experience if I was the first boot up until when the episode aired. I didn't realize that so many people cared! It sounds bad to say it. I didn't realize so many people cared until after that episode aired, and I learned the hard way that a lot of people still watch Survivor. Who knew?
I felt like I was on an island after that first episode because I loved you in that episode. I'm like, “This is so refreshing. Someone's speaking their mind!” And everyone else was just like… no. But what was it like getting to watch that fan reaction turn over the past few months?
Honestly, kind of jarring. And as much as I want to say, “Oh, it's great,” I feel like this what is perceived to be this new Emily. And I definitely think I changed and I grew through my Survivor experience. I never thought I'd say that I have friends now that I never thought I'd have — everybody is incredible. But, at the same time, those qualities are still there in myself. So it's weird to have somebody come in and praise you for certain aspects and then also hate you for certain aspects at the same time. And that's humans! We all have these qualities, but the whole experience in the complete 180, I would not say it's been positive. It's been really, really freaking weird.
Are you still mad about Mike Gabler winning season 43?
[Laughs] Mike is the kindest guy, because he could have been way more angry at me than he was. He messaged me and we had a good laugh about it. I get it now. I mean, obviously talking to Gabler, it's impossible not to like the guy. So I understand it in a way more personal level now than I ever did previously. I can just say I learned something. Don't make offhanded comments to press.
I learned that the hard way.
We have an exclusive secret scene this week on EW where you talk about how you always told your boyfriend you would never ever get married, but being on the island you were maybe starting to rethink your drink a little bit. What’s the update there?
Man, when I got out there, I'll tell you what, it strips you of everything and all the things that I was proud of myself for in my life. When I was talking to the other contestants, I never talked about my career, my school, my adventures, my travels, all these things that I thought were qualities that made me me. I spent the entire time talking about my boyfriend. It's honestly embarrassing, but everybody kind of knew him as a result of that. And so when I got back from Survivor and I told him I had this change of heart, he's like, “I was just waiting for you to come around”. So it's happening.
It's happening? You're getting married?
Well, my mom's not listening to this, right? At some point, we'll get our act together. I think organizationally, that's the challenge for us. But directionally, that's where we're headed.
What’s something that happened out there that never made it to TV?
Honestly, there are so many funny stories, and within 90-minutes we got to see so many of them. So I could call any of those out. But the thing that stands with me is Kendra and my relationship wasn't really shown. Obviously, it wasn't super relevant to either of our situations, but we actually had a really great functioning alliance after all of the craziness and after all of our differences in our personalities. We were actually probably more similar than we are dissimilar. We had a really great friendship and an alliance and that was never part of the narrative this season. So I was kind of sad that didn't make it.
Would you do it again if they asked you to come back to play on another season? What do you say?
Probably not. I apologize. This whole experience, I am happy I did it, and if I could go back in time, I would do it again. But I cannot recommend reality TV as a generally positive experience for people. I think I've been very fortunate, but this whole experience has just been so crazy. I am not clamoring to go back right now. Now, is there an amount of money that I would compete for? Probably there could be a check big enough, but right now my answer is probably no.
Sounds like you should go on Squid Game then.
I mean, four and a half million dollars? I'll do a lot for that.
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