Sami Layadi didn't look like a teenager. And he didn't play like one either. Sami had an uncanny ability to make his Survivor 43 tribemates believe he was their ally when he really was stabbing them in the back. Never wanting to be on the bottom of an alliance, Sami would move votes around to put targets on those he deemed more powerful or in control of the game than he was. He was so good at it that he was on the right side of the vote time and time again… until he wasn't.
Sami ended up putting a vote on Karla Cruz Godoy in last week's episode when it was Noelle Lambert who got sent to the jury, and that one misstep put the 19-year-old on his heels, from which he never recovered. Even through Sami seemingly convinced Karla once again to take out her biggest ally — this time in Cassidy Clark — Jesse Lopez had other ideas and flipped the vote unanimously back onto the teenager. And when Sami's Shot in the Dark came up Not Safe, neither was he.
We spoke to the fifth member of the jury to get his reaction to everything that went down on the island, and why his mother hates electric cars so much. You can watch the entire interview above, or read it below. (Also make sure to check out our episode recap as well as Jeff Probst providing behind-the-scenes intel on that historic challenge.)
Robert Voets/CBS Sami Layadi on 'Survivor 43'
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What went wrong, my man?
SAMI LAYADI: The snake got chopped up, bro. And you know, I thought that snakes, like, regenerated organisms, but it didn't work out like I tried. I got way too caught up in my own lies and in my own way that I was playing the game. And you know, I got bit, and the Cassidy Curse came true. You say Cassidy's name so far, it doesn't work out for you. So was my undoing.
So they were telling you it was Cassidy heading into Tribal Council. How much of you believed them?
So it's hard to believe that, right? It's hard to believe that that's what's actually gonna happen, especially after last Tribal when I got blindsided. That was by the same people that are telling me "This is what's gonna happen." And so I had this thing in my head like, "I gotta play my Shot, or trust these people and then get voted off without getting my last chance at safety." And so I didn't really believe for too long that it was Cassidy. I did have an inkling, just a small little bit of hope that it was, but I didn't really trust them very much at all.
Why do you think they got so touchy when you said you were going to play your Shot in the Dark? Just because they didn't want you to use it?
Well, yeah, they didn't want me to it use it. And, at the same time, you see the look on Jesse's face. That ruined Jesse's plan of Karla writing down Cassidy's name. There's a lot of speculation about what happened there. And for me, at the end of the day, it was that I ruined this foolproof plan. And, you know, if I could do anything to Jesse in this game, at least I ruined one of his master plans, and I was not a part of his list last night.
Although, I guess I kinda was, but you know, I think they got squirmish because when somebody that's on the bottom knows they're on the bottom, it's trouble for the rest of the people because you could cause a little bit of chaos. And that's what I tried to do last night.
Take me through that moment where you get back from the Noelle Tribal and lie right to Karla's face about putting a vote on her, and then have to make a decision to stand by that lie or come clean.
So we got back, right? And this really felt like a girlfriend situation. Like, your girlfriend sees you dance with another girl and you gotta come back and you gotta explain it. You gotta decide: Should I lie? She knew I was. And at the end of the day, it was that all my trust was broken. I felt like at this point, I couldn't trust Jesse and I felt like Jesse probably told Karla, and in that moment right there, I saw in my head this feeble old man in Gabler, this sweet guy talking to Cas and being like, "No, no, no, it wasn't!" And I was like, I can't do that, bro. I can't do that to Gabler. I was the one that lied."
So I was like, "Come back. Listen, it was me, guys. I did it." And you could see Jesse and Cody just trying so hard not to laugh. And Jesse did tell Karla throughout the day when Noelle gets voted out that I was gunning for her. So I was glad I did that because I was trying to salvage what little relationship I might have had left with Karla. And it almost worked.
Robert Voets/CBS Sami Layadi on 'Survivor 43'
You kept bouncing back and forth. Did you care who you sat next to at the end or was it just, get there and then figure it out? Or were you mapping out a specific strategy with specific people?
I was definitely mapping out specific strategy. I know it looks very much like I was trying to go to the end with Jesse or Cody because why are we not saying their names? But at that point in the game, I wanted to sit next to the people I started the game with — Owen and Gabler — because I felt that I had the best chance at beating them at the end of this game, considering I felt like I played a lot more out loud than they were.
And I feel like when you can get to the end of this game playing kind of out loud and being vocal — I'm not gonna say flashy, but being vocal — I think it's a lot more helpful than when you can fly under the radar. However, obviously that's not true because it's what got me voted out of the game, and I have nothing but respect for the games that everybody else left is playing right now.
But the reason I didn't wanna sit next to people like Cassidy or Karla is like, "Yo, these are really strong and very articulate people." I know that sounds like I'm saying Gabler and Owen are not. It's not what I'm saying. I think that when you look at the way that we started this game, I knew what Owen and Gabler did from day one to that point. I didn't know what Cassidy and Karla had done. This was all up to hearsay. And I could explain what Owen and Gabler did because I was there from the first day. Cassidy, Karla, Jesse, Cody — I couldn't do that. With that being said, I was also blinded by Jesse and Cody. Let me just point it out. I'm not the mastermind that knew they were [running the show]. I was definitely blinded.
Our perspective watching was that you were playing a great game, but then this week we started hearing you were seen as a flip-flopper, which is not always a term of endearment in this game. So in terms of how people perceived you out on the island while you were playing, how do you think you were seen and how do you think you would have done with the jury had you made it to the end?
I think that everything about me being a flipper came after the vote with James. Obviously, hindsight 20/20, everybody's gonna say, "Oh, we knew Sami was doing that." But in my opinion, if everybody knew that that's the way that I was playing, I think I would've been gone a lot earlier.
I truly felt like I had a relationship with every single person in that game. And that's something that I thought I did really well out there. I think that there was some confusion when Noelle gets voted off, but when you look at the reactions of the jury, especially from last night…. Obviously in sitting next to somebody like Jesse, I don't think I have a chance at the end of the game, but I think with the right path to the end of the game, I definitely think I win this game.
And you see it in a way that the jury reacted to the Tribal that I was having. Because that's what the jury wants to see. If somebody's on the bottom, you might as well fight to save yourself. And that's what I thought I did. And so yes, it kind of took a little bit of a tumble after the Noelle vote out onward, but I do think that the consensus around me was "I like this guy. Let's keep this guy around. I don't know what he's doing out here."
But that was part of my strategy too, was I kind of wanted to pull off like "Oh this 22-year-old kid, what is he doing out here? He's a cool guy, so let's just keep him around." And I was able to kind of use that a little bit.
Robert Voets/CBS Sami Layadi on 'Survivor 43'
Yeah, when I was watching the jury reactions last night, I was like, "All right, this guy's either winning or going home tonight. It's one or the other." So you struggled in the individual challenges a little bit. You're obviously a young and fit dude, so what was going on there?
Yeah, let me just say, bro, Cody is so wrong. I was totally not the first one out of them. I was actually second or third in most of them, but second and third only counts to horseshoes. Or maybe it doesn't even in horseshoes. Listen, man, I tried. I had somebody say to me the other day "Dude, your strategy's really good throwing these challenges. They don't think you're a threat." And I was just like, "Listen, bro, let's set the record straight: I'm not throwing these challenges. I just totally suck at them.." Like, I guess I don't curl enough at the gym. I don't stack cards for fun.
And it gives me that much more respect for those people who have won these challenges. And at this point in the game that is everybody, with the exception of myself and Jesse, I believe. All six people are just beasts in their own way right now. It's crazy.
At what point did you decide to stop hiding how good you were at making fire, because that definitely became a point against you in the final decision-making process?
I don't know what I was thinking about that one. Oh, I'll tell you what I was thinking. I was like, "Yo, these fools are about to vote me out and I'm not even gonna get no rice. I'm eating their rice. I'm not gonna dump it out in the fire. I'm not gonna go that route, but I'm totally eating their rice."
And so I knew I was good at fire. I probably should have hid it a little bit more, especially towards the end stage of the game. But the truth is, it didn't become a topic of contention until I kind of threw myself under the bus by voting for Karla at the last Tribal Council. I don't think anybody cared about it until that point. And to that point, it's a compliment to me almost because it's like, "Well, if I was somebody that was a goat that you could drag to the end, well then why wouldn't you just want to take me to the end and let me beat you in fire?" So I think that was a compliment. I'll take it as a compliment.
You alluded to the age thing earlier. What was the reaction when you got to Ponderosa and told everyone your real age?
So the whole age thing is funny. I know it looks like I cared so much about it, but it really wasn't a topic of discussion for very long at all. But I will say many people were actually surprised when I got back and told them I was 19. And then Noelle told me she's a Paralympian and then I kinda felt like, "Wow, my lie sucked. My lie was stupid. What was the point of that?"
CBS Sami Layadi on 'Survivor 43'
What's something that happened out there that didn't make it to TV that you wish we could have seen?
So there's a lot of controversy with my move with Karla, right? We're telling Karla about the thing and eople are like, "Oh my gosh, why? What is he doing?" Well, I knew what I was doing, and I knew that that plan was going to 100% work because I actually lied to Karla and told her James was gonna use his Knowledge is Power to take her idol and that she had to pull him out or he was gonna take her idol.
And you kind of see that storyline when I come back and talk to Karla in this episode about "I kind of thought you had the idol." And so I thought that was a smart move on my part to plant myself in between the two camps and flush both the Knowledge is Power and Noelle's vote steel advantage. Obviously, it kind of lost me a little bit of trust with Noelle and Owen so say what you will about what if it worked or not, but I thought it was a little bit slick on my part to come up with that.
Why does your mom hate electric cars so much?
Because I'd be zooming in them, dude. And I could sit on my phone and it freaking takes me from here back to Vegas, dude. Like, I could just double tap the thing. I could go buy this magnet thing on Amazon — 'cause you're supposed to your hands on it, but we don't do that. You buy this magnet thing that acts as hands, put it on the thing, and it drives you by itself. That's why she hates them, because she wants me to be driving. But I'm gonna be honest, I don't know that I'm that much of a better driver than the actual Tesla.
Last thing. What is happening on the whiteboard behind you? I see the word "Damage" and there's some sort of flow chart happening. What is going on back there?
I dunno what that is. I'm in a study room right now. I just watched Breaking Bad, so this could be a formula for that. You know, that blue stuff. But other than that, I really don't know what the heck is going on back there. That's a question that you have to ask one of these smarter people. I am not one of those smarter people.
Wait, are you cooking meth in there?
Listen, I gotta find some way to make money, man. I didn't make a million on Survivor so…