Sara Wilson on why she didn't use her Shot in the Dark on Survivor 41

·11 min read

The "Live Tribal" struck again on the season premiere of Survivor 41, and it meant one player's death in the game. That player was Sara Wilson. Just moments after Eric Abraham was ousted by the Yase tribe, Sara became the first victim of the Ua tribe, voted out after seemingly being betrayed by the person who at least appeared to be her biggest ally: Shantel Smith.

Why was Sara the first one to go from her tribe? What really happened at that Tribal Council? And why didn't she use her Shot in the Dark Die, which would have given her a 1-in-6 shot at staying? We asked the 24-year-old health-care consultant all that and more the day after her first and last Survivor episode. (Also, be sure to read our exit interview with Eric Abraham.)

Sara Wilson competes on SURVIVOR
Sara Wilson competes on SURVIVOR

Robert Voets/CBS Sara Wilson on 'Survivor 41'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Look, we could see it all over your face. How tough was it to be the first person voted out of your tribe?

SARA WILSON: Honestly, it was pretty tough. I think I went in pretty much expecting to be at least a merge person. 'Cause I'm strong. I wasn't trying to overplay and stuff, and going out first is just heartbreaking. Literally, I was just so crushed because I felt like there was nothing I could do in that moment.

What was it like watching your demise in the game play out all over again on TV?

It was kind of looming. It was an exciting time waiting for it to happen, and it was very cathartic to see what happened because there's s--- I said out there and I was like, "I don't remember saying that!" I was like, "Oh my gosh! I'm sorry I said that!" But no, it was really exciting, really cool watching it back. And honestly, as a fan, I've been waiting for Survivor to come back too, so I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I get my Wednesday night content back now!"

What was happening during that live Tribal? I'm sure there's a bunch more that went down that they could not fit into the episode. Set the scene for me and tell me what we didn't see.

It was exciting to be a part of it. And, as a fan, I was very excited because it was a very live Tribal and really felt like it was up in the air. Basically, what had happened was at camp, I had been told by multiple people that my name was on the block. And so I kind of had an inkling. Obviously, I knew it wasn't right. I really felt that it was me or Brad. Right before we went to Tribal, before we got on the boats, I actually turned to JD and Shan and I was like, "Let's do Brad," because I felt like it was on me. And I felt like Brad was the only person I had ammunition against because he literally put Shan's name out to her. And I felt like Shan had the most power and kinda was calling the shots. So it was like, if we're going to get anyone but me, it has to be someone that she wants. And the only person who she might want is someone who's put her name out.

So then I'm sitting there at Tribal and, honestly, I didn't want to be rude, but people were talking and I was just waiting for my moment to turn to Shan and Ricard because I think if I just sat there, the vote would have been me and I would have gone home, but I was just waiting for that moment to try to turn to them and talk. And then once I turned to them, JD flipped out and that kind of set off a chain reaction. But yeah, it was very exciting and it's interesting too, 'cause I really thought about playing my Shot in the Dark, but I didn't want to send myself home by losing my vote. So I said in my confessional that was like a big regret of mine [not using the Shot in the Dark], but I actually don't regret not playing it because I think it would have been way worse to have played it and then end up one vote short and that be the reason I went home.

When Shan asked you to step aside so she could chat privately with JD, did that set off some alarm bells?

So that definitely was alarming to me, but I also didn't want to be the person who was just inserting myself into a conversation, and I felt like if I was bossing them around more, it would give me less of a chance. I did watch that and was like, "That was an interesting choice." But in the moment it felt right. And I felt like, "Let's just give them the time to talk about it and maybe they'd be more willing to work with me later on." 'Cause I didn't want to seem, like, too assertive. So that Tribal was definitely hard because I had a lot of thoughts about if I play my Shot in the Dark and then it's not there later in the game, so I really was trying to balance the need to fight for my life but also not screw myself over later on.

So do you think the vote changed during that Tribal, or was it always you?

I genuinely think it was me back at camp. Also, they didn't show this, but I literally was walking on the trail and I saw the five of them talking and I was not included in it. So I knew it was me going into Tribal, but I genuinely thought Shan wanted to change it to Brad in that moment. It was very evident to me, and that's why I hesitated to play the shot — because it really felt like it was close. And I think it genuinely was really close.

The three tribes get ready to compete on SURVIVOR
The three tribes get ready to compete on SURVIVOR

Robert Voets/CBS The three tribes get ready to compete on 'Survivor 41.'

Did you view Shan as your biggest ally in the game? Or did you not really have an ally?

I definitely didn't. And actually, Shan was the one person who everyone really gravitated towards because she was a smooth talker, and I was always really wary of that because I was like, "I don't know how people can't see that she's working everyone!" And I saw that and it made me feel like an outsider, because had it been my choice and I put a name out there, I would've 100 percent wanted to vote her out. But I did feel like she was a Mafia boss and like the Godfather and that if I said her name, it would literally be a nail in the coffin for me. There was nowhere to go with that. So I didn't even try to go there. But on day one, me, her, and Ricard had a lot of conversations about it being us three. But it was very clear to me that they were kind of working with the other people as well. So I definitely wish I wasn't as loyal to them as I was.

The second Brad said at camp right in front of you and Shan that he thought you or Shan should go home, were you like, "What is this guy doing?!"

Yeah, but as a player I knew I was on the bottom. I knew I was being lied to, to my face. I knew it 100 percent, regardless of people telling me, "I'm not writing your name down." I was like, "I don't believe you for a second." People were really trying to make me feel comfortable. But when Brad came to me and Shan and said that, I was like, "This is ammunition and I'm going to use the s--- out of it." So I was a little bit upset about it, but honestly, I think it benefited me more than it harmed me, especially 'cause they put Shan's name out there too. It just gave me a better chance and something to work with.

Ultimately, if he put her name out, why didn't she get rid of him? That's what I sort of don't understand. If her name comes out of his mouth and you have not shown any intention of wanting to get rid of her that she can tell, then why does she stick with voting you out?

I have different interpretations of it. I really tried to downplay how smart I was. I went to MIT, and I'm a very strategic person and wanted to play strategically, and I think she kind of saw through that and got that sense. And ultimately, I feel like she just felt like she couldn't trust me as much as she could trust him, which is kind of ironic because I wasn't the one saying her name out there. But that is kind of what I think it came down to. And it is threatening when you have a young woman who is smart and very athletic, so I don't blame them for getting rid of me.

Well, Miss MIT, then what happened with the puzzle and the missing piece in the bag? Tell me about your reaction when you realized what had happened.

I was furious because, honestly, we had a really good lead on the puzzle. I was putting the puzzle pieces in and Shan was emptying the bag. So, it was really frustrating. And I did say, "There's a piece missing," and people are like, "No, there's not." And then I pick up the bag and what do you know? There's a piece missing!

I think I did really well on the puzzle and, honestly, if we had that piece, it would have come together a lot easier. So it is a little bit triggering to watch the puzzle back. I'm like, "Holy, s---. This is terrible. I don't want to ever see a puzzle that looks like that. I don't ever want to see the numbers 41 again in my life!" But I'm the one who eventually found it in the bag, so I'm not too hard on myself about it.

What's something that happened during your time out there that you wish we could have seen but never made it on air?

I remember on night one, we were laying in the shelter, and our shelter was terrible. They didn't even show it, which is good because honestly I think it's one of the worst shelters in Survivor history. So we're all laying in the shelter. It's night one, and half of the shelter has already collapsed and I'm laying on the bamboo slats and JD's next to me. We're fast asleep, and we just hear this massive crack and a boom.

JD was laying face down on the bamboo ,and the bamboos split, and he just fell face flat onto the ground. And it's so funny 'cause he didn't even have a reaction. He was just quiet for like 30 seconds. And we're like, "Are you good, bro?" And he's just like, "No, I'm not good." And honestly, I think the first night was hard. You're sleeping out in the wilderness, and it was such a comedic-relief moment where it was just like, "Oh my God, we're sleeping on a bamboo shelter. What are we doing here?"

If you could go back and change one thing about how you played in the hopes of getting a better result, what would it be?

I'm very proud of the way I played because I'm a fighter in my real life, and I really feel like I fought for it until the literal end in my short time there. But I was very focused on trying to blend in and not make big moves, so when Shan and Ricard approached me on day one and were like, "Oh, let's be a tight three," I was like, "Sick! We have numbers." The one thing I wish is that I branched out a bit more because I wasn't loyal to them and I didn't trust them. So I feel a little frustrated with myself in that I had that inkling that I couldn't trust them, but I was still like, "You don't want to be the person who's trying to look scheme-y and getting to know everyone," because I saw Shan doing that and I was like, "That's a bad look."

So if I were to play differently, I would have just kept more options open and really felt it out a bit more. But that's the thing with the 26 days: The pace is relentless and you don't have a moment to breathe or anywhere to hide. So I would have gotten to know people better and felt out my options.

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