(45) Being On Survivor with Eliza

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Join me as I ask past Survivor contestant turned social justice warrior, Eliza Orlins, hard-hitting questions. So basically, all about bathroom logistics while on the show. But we also discuss why she doesn’t hold grudges from the game, why you can’t get an untrue edit, what trauma many contestants now live with, who her favorite Survivor player is, what is Jeff Probst really like, and more.

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Brandy:            Hello, Adult Conversation Podcast listeners. In this episode, I talk with past Survivor contestant turned social justice warrior, Eliza Orlins, and I ask the hard-hitting questions — you know, a lot about bathroom logistics while on the show — but we also discuss why she doesn’t hold grudges from the game, why you can’t get an untrue edit, what trauma many contestants now live with, who her favorite survivor player is, what Jeff Probst is really like, and more. It was such a satisfying interview as I got my decade’s worth of Survivor questions answered, and I can’t wait to share it with you. On to the show —

Brandy:            Today on the podcast, I am giddy yet again, like I was for Ashley Spivey’s podcast where she gave me the inside scoop on being on The Bachelor, but today, I am talking to Eliza Orlins, two-time survivor contestant. I’m hoping she will give me all the dirt on my other favorite reality show, Survivor. So welcome, Eliza. Thank you so much for coming today.

Eliza:                Oh, thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be having this conversation. It’s always fun to meet Survivor fans. It’s like 20 years later, we still have our favorite show on the air. Although, sadly, it’s not airing this fall because of COVID.

Brandy:            Right out of the gate, I wondered if you had inside scoop on that. I heard that they were testing everybody, and they were still going to have a season. Is that not true?

Eliza:                Unfortunately, no. I heard that it’s delayed until April 2021 because they film in Fiji, and people are in and out. It’s just too big of a risk, so they are not able to do that. It’s not like Big Brother where you’re just really able to keep people in this bubble.

Brandy:            Ah, darn it. Well, shit.

Eliza:                I know.

Brandy:            Thank you, though. Thank for the intel. Me and my husband, we have watched Survivor since the beginning, and now our kids watch it. They mostly just troll me about how I wouldn’t last a day with the snakes and the cold and the lack of food. We laugh about how I would be complaining the entire time, and everyone would vote me off as quickly as possible. Let’s just say that I am not hardy like you, but the show is fascinating. I have so many questions for you that are my own, and I also polled my listeners as well. Interestingly enough, so many of the questions are about logistics, namely bathroom related logistics, which we’ll get to. First, what is something that you think the listeners need to know about you that they might not know?

Eliza:                That’s such a good question. I mean, they’ll know that I’m running for office. I’m currently running for Manhattan district attorney, career public defender, but this is not the path that I anticipated. However, something they wouldn’t know is that I have always been a huge political nerd, like just obsessed with politics, since I was a really little kid. In fact, when I was nine years old, I used to wear a button to school every day. It was a black rectangular button with white writing, and it said “POTATOE.” I don’t know if that rings a bell with you. I don’t know if you —

Brandy:            Yeah, is that the Bush faux pas?

Eliza:                It was Dan Quayle actually. It was his Vice President who misspelled the word “potato,” which now, giving what we’re living through, it’s ridiculous to think that it was a big scandal that the Vice President didn’t know how to spell potato.

Brandy:            Right. {laughter}

Eliza:                But I wore it to school. Needless to say, other kids my age, other nine-year-olds, didn’t get it and did not appreciate it. They were like, “Why is potato misspelled on your button?” And I was like, “It’s because I am supporting Bill Clinton for president. This is because Dan Quayle, Bush’s Vice President, is an idiot.” People just didn’t get it. Needless to say, it did not make me super popular, but I’ve been into politics. My dad was running for Congress that same year. I was out canvassing and campaigning and talking about “my dad’s pro-choice, and his opponent is anti-choice” when I was nine.

Brandy:            Oh, my goodness.

Eliza:                I’ve been into politics for a very, very long time.

Brandy:            Wow. This is unexpected, but maybe natural. I’m not surprised now hearing you say that, but I bet the other kids in your class were like, “Dude, will you just hit the tetherball? Come on.” {laughter}

Eliza:                “Yeah, let’s just go play spud.” {laughter}

Brandy:            {laughter} Yeah, seriously. It’s funny that you bring up the potato misspelling because right now, that seems like, “Oh, wasn’t that quaint? How quaint. Potato is a hard word.” Because now we literally have a potato as the president. What the glory days are, I just think none of us could have ever imagined that it would get this bad. Anyway, that’s a whole other podcast.

Eliza:                Too true. Too true.

Brandy:            Remind us of which seasons of Survivor you were on. And were you also on Amazing Race?

Eliza:                I was.

Brandy:            Oh, my God.

Eliza:                I was on Survivor: Vanuatu back in 2004. That was Season 9. Then, I was on Season 16 which was Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites. I was on the Favorites Tribe.

Brandy:            Awesome.

Eliza:                And then, I was on Season 31 of The Amazing Race.

Brandy:            Okay, you’re so hardy. I mean, it’s probably because you were so political so early, and you had to have a shield up and a wall up or something. I’m just amazed that you went on it once, and then were like, “I could do that again.” Not only, “I could I do it again,” but, “I could go on The Amazing Race,” which to me is terrifying because of all of the — {laughter} my stuff is always bathroom related. Whenever I watch The Amazing Race, I’m like, “What if you had to go to the bathroom? You would lose your spot.” I want to get to that in a second. How far did you get on Survivors? Were you in the Final Four on that first one?

Eliza:                I was. I got fourth place. I lasted 37 out of 39 days, made it all the way to the Final Four, and then got stabbed in the back and voted out, unfortunately.

Brandy:            Oh. Who stabbed you in the back? I can’t remember.

Eliza:                This guy by the name of Chris who ended up winning my season.

Brandy:            Do you still have like a vendetta against him, or have you guys made amends?

Eliza:                No. We made amends like the moment filming wrapped. Harboring grudges based on a television game shows is not necessary.

Brandy:            When my husband and I are watching that and we’re seeing people get actually upset, I’m always thinking like, “They know they signed up for a game, right? This has nothing to do with anything personal.” But then, I think, “Well, when you’re in a situation like that, where you are in a certain kind of survival mode with people and you bond with them, those seem like real relationships.” But then, I feel like you get pulled into that being personal. What is your take on that? How did it actually feel?

Eliza:                Listen, the emotions that you are experiencing that you’re exhibiting when you’re on these shows are real. Truly. First of all, on Survivor especially you are deprived of food. I lost 20 pounds on my first season. You’re deprived of sleep. We were sleeping on these bamboo shelters. It would get really cold at night because Vanuatu is near Australia. We filmed in the summer, so it was winter there. It got down to really cold temperatures. I just had a tank top off. You’re just like shivering all night. Your hips are killing you because you’re lying on bamboo. You’re spooning with people for warmth, but then your whole side of your body falls asleep. You tap the people next to you, and you’re like, “We have to turn over. Let’s turn over.” Everybody turns the other direction. It’s miserable, and then while you’re thinking about food and lack of sleep and everything else, you’re trying to keep yourself from getting voted out. You’re massively paranoid. You can’t trust anyone. There’s no one you can go to for emotional support. Given everything, the lack of food, the lack of sleep, the paranoia, and all of that stuff, it really does heighten emotional responses. You’re having these real emotional responses, whether they be sadness or anger or even joy. I think it’s all heightened. I think it’s what makes for good TV, but also even if the emotions are real in that moment, at least for me, subsequently, people who I maybe lashed out at or said things about or had arguments with on the shows, I said afterwards, “By the way, I hope this is all water under the bridge. Obviously, emotions are heightened when you’re on a show. I said these things, but I didn’t mean them. It was in the heat of the moment.” I’m an extremely competitive person, as anyone who has ever played Scrabble or recreational softball with me knows, so certainly when I’m competing for a million dollars, it’s very, very competitive. People have all recognized that I’m friends with everyone who I competed with and against, and we’re able to put it behind us. I do think that some of the emotional stuff that that takes place on shows is beyond that, especially when it comes to racism or homophobia or gender-based discrimination.

Brandy:            Yes. Was it fun? I’m imagining it like there are maybe these moments of fun like you said, the extreme joy. But then, it sounds pretty much torturous and miserable the rest of the time. What is the ratio of, “I’m so stoked. I’m here playing survivor,” and like, “This is awful”?

Eliza:                It’s hard to put percentages on it, but I will say that it is not fun in the classic sense of the word “fun.”

Brandy:            Okay. {laughter}

Eliza:                It’s fun because, at least for me, I was a massive fan of the show starting Season 1. I remember the summer that the first season of Survivor aired, and I watched my family. I said to them, “I’m going to be on that show.” I was like, “Mom, I’m going on that show,” and she said, “Okay, sweetheart. Of course, you are. That’s so great.” She now says to people, “Be careful what you tell your kids because they believe you.”

Brandy:            Right. {laughter}

Eliza:                She was very supportive until she saw the contract that she had to sign away my life, and then she was very hesitant. She signed it anyhow because, obviously, I never would have forgiven her. I waited until I was 21 years old. They were doing two seasons a year, and I calculated that I would be eligible to apply for Season 9. I had on my AOL Instant Messenger bio: Future Survivor 9 Contestant.  I knew that that was the first season I’d be able to apply for, and I was manifesting before it was cool to put that out there. I was like, “I’m gonna be on that show. I’m gonna be on that show.” I told everyone, “I’m gonna be on Survivor one day,” and everyone was like, “Okay, cool. Cool.” Part of me was like, “Yeah, I am out here.” Even the miserable moments, I’m like, “I’m out here kind of living out this dream.” Like, “I’m out here playing Survivor.” Even in the tough moments, I tried to remember how cool it was and what a unique opportunity it was in the fact that so few people get chosen to do this incredible thing, and I got to be one of them.

Brandy:            Gosh, yeah. It seems like afterwards is almost better when it’s over, and you’re like, “I did that.” You get to remember and feel, but you’re in your own bed and you’re eating actual food. It just sounds like it’s so torturous on so many different levels. I can imagine, and I want to talk to you about this a little bit later, the personal growth that comes from it. Obviously, personal growth does not come from everything being comfortable. I would imagine that’s part of it too, and what makes for great TV. One of the things that I have been waiting over a decade to get the answer to is: how do you guys poop out there? Are there toilets? Are their porta potties? Do you just have to go in the woods? If so, when people are looking for idols, isn’t that like a landmine? Is there toilet paper? Then, I promise I’ll stop talking about going to the bathroom and Survivor.

Eliza:                Listen, you’re welcome to talk about it. Funny enough, that happens to be one of the biggest questions that I get regarding Survivor. It’s all bathroom related. Everyone wants to know.

Brandy:            {laughter}

Eliza:                We are not provided with any toilet paper. I mean, we don’t even have a toothbrush or a razor or deodorant. We have nothing. Nothing. You are provided with feminine sanitary products. We had tampons and pads and whatever in a med box with medication that you take that’s off camera, but everything else is just whatever you can find. But yes, you don’t want people just leaving human excrement everywhere around camp, so there were usually designated areas that the tribe would agree upon to all go use the bathroom so that it was not disgusting.

Brandy:            Wow. So, were you squatting, or did you guys build something out of a log or something? Did you get very resourceful, or was it just straight up like camping and shitting in the woods for days?

Eliza:                Yes. Squatting. Just squatting.

Brandy:            Wow. What did you guys use? Were there certain leaves that were softer than others? How did you know this, and how did you figure it out?

Eliza:                Yes, some people used leaves or smooth stones. {laughter}

Brandy:            Ah, okay.

Eliza:                Yeah, whatever you could find. Whatever you could find.

Brandy:            Hey, I’ve been desperate before at a house party in college, and that reminds me of the toilet paper roll, like the cardboard. Am I the only woman that’s been in that place where that’s it?

Eliza:                I’m sure every woman has been in that situation.

Brandy:            Yea. I was like, “Oh, this is interesting.” Like, “Joke’s on the next person because I just took the roll.” But, stones. Okay. I will put that in my back pocket. Follow up question here is when you haven’t eaten for days, and then you win a feast of like pizza and beer, just how annihilated is your stomach and bowels? Is it really worth it? I watch the people having that huge feast, and I’m like, “Oh, my God. Aren’t you guys dying after this?”

Eliza:                Violently ill. Like violently, violently ill. Even if you know that that’s what’s going to happen and you’re like, “Oh, it’s not worth it. I should just spare my stomach and just continue to eat this coconut or whatever it is that you have on the beach.” You’re never going to abstain, so that’s just what you do. Everyone just gets so sick. I mean, we won a coffee reward on one of my seasons. Can you imagine?

Brandy:            {laughter}

Eliza:                Just so, so sick. And then yeah, you get sick every time. Plus, we all got parasites, and I was sick for a good year, probably more than that, afterwards.

Brandy:            Oh, my God.

Eliza:                My parasite went undiagnosed. I was so, so sick. Really, really sick.

Brandy:            Oh, my gosh. See, this is why I’m like, “Is the million dollars worth it?” The parasite thing. I would imagine everybody gets that, but maybe now because there’s been so many seasons, do they now just take you and put you into like, “We’re going to do the stool samples because 90% of you are going to have parasites.” Is that something they now check for?

Eliza:                They actually changed rules. They changed the way they did things after my first season. They had a well where they would put water, and you still needed to boil the water because it was outdoors. There were bugs getting into it. You still had to boil it, but we were using water from a stream from a creek.

Brandy:            Oh.

Eliza:                Even when you boiled that water, I guess it was just contaminated. It had feces in it, and that’s how you get Giardia – like, animal feces, most likely, not human.

Brandy:            Good times.

Eliza:                Horrible. Really disgusting when you think about it.

Brandy:            Does everybody just pee in the ocean? Is that just like the bathroom, and everybody knows it?

Eliza:                Oh, yeah. Some people call it an aqua dump, and some people use the bathroom in the ocean always.

Brandy:            Oh.

Eliza:                I was not one of those people, but some people are.

Brandy:            You answered my question about periods. Are there people – or did you consider taking a pill of some kind so that you didn’t have your period? What was it like having your period while on Survivor? The whole thing sounds pretty mostly miserable, and then you throw a period on top. That just seems like, “Why would anybody do that?” What was a period on Survivor like?

Eliza:                It’s miserable. I mean, some people didn’t get their periods because you’re not eating, and then you did get it and had it for longer. I mean, it was just unpredictable. It’s really unpleasant, and it just adds to the overall misery of everything.

Brandy:            That sounds fun, again. What about shaving? You mentioned that you guys don’t have razors, but to me everybody’s nether regions look pretty darn clean shaven. I feel like the guys are shaven, so what about shaving that am I missing?

Eliza:                Nope. There’s no shaving. I got fully lasered: underarms and bikini line. I think I even lasered my legs that before my second season, but I think I have this ability to pluck hairs with my fingernails. I would pull people’s eyebrow hair. I would be doing people’s eyebrows. They would lay on my lap, and I would sit there with my fingernails pulling out eyebrow hairs.

Brandy:            Whoa.

Eliza:                I know.

Brandy:            Oh, my gosh. What are your fingers like that allow you to do that? I’m visualizing. Do you tweezer fingers? Are they like super thin? {laughter} Are they like Mr. Burns fingers?

Eliza:                No, I mean, I think it’s more your nails than your fingers. You just put them together and pull.

Brandy:            Nice. That’s a great skill. Good work on that. {laughter}

Eliza:                {laughter} Exactly.

Brandy:            Let’s see. Oh, my husband’s burning question (no pun intended): do you guys put on sunscreen? No one ever looks super burned. Do you guys lather up every morning, or what is the sunscreen story?

Eliza:                They have this big jug of — I can’t remember what it was called. It was like sunscreen mixed with bug repellent supposedly. I felt like it didn’t work particularly well as either. There have definitely been storylines where people have gotten very bad sunburns, and that has created situations where they’ve had to remain in the shelter. I think John Cochran had very bad sunburned feet.

Brandy:            I was just gonna say that I feel like Cochran was the guy that got burned. What about everybody’s bad breath? Is it that because you’re not eating food as much that the people’s breath doesn’t stink, or is it awful since people aren’t brushing their teeth?

Eliza:                Gosh, it’s hard to remember. I think some people’s breath smells pretty bad and other people’s not as much, and the same goes for body odor.

Brandy:            {laughter}

Eliza:                I don’t know. I think in the beginning, once you sweat out all of the — we’re eating nothing. No toxins. And nothing that has preservatives. Weirdly, some people just don’t smell anymore, but some of the men like really smelled.

Brandy:            Was that ever an incentive to vote somebody off because of their stank whether it be mouth or body? Does that ever factor in? {laughter}

Eliza:                I don’t think so.

Brandy:            See, this is why I would not last because I would be voting people out for totally the wrong reasons. That’s why I would get voted out. Do you get to choose an outfit — one outfit for the entire time, or two? What about losing weight and then fitting into the clothes that you brought? Why would somebody wear a suit jacket? I never understood that. Why would that be somebody’s choice?

Eliza:                It’s so interesting that it’s the thing that people always ask that. Thankfully, in my seasons, we were able to wear the clothes that we chose that were outdoorsy clothes, but a lot of seasons, they say, “Oh, we want you to wear something. This is for press day, and just wear your outfit that you would wear to a normal day of work.” That’s why people get stranded out there in suit jackets and stuff. That’s just the theme of the season and what they decide to do. I think that sucks. What happens with the way they choose our clothes is we all have to send in our clothing choices. They don’t want it to have logos or anything else, so then they make choices. They’re like, “Okay, this is what you’re allowed to have,” and the clothes are very carefully chosen.

Brandy:            You lost 20 pounds that first time. Do you account for that and bring a couple things so that you know you can fit into it so that it’s not falling off? You can tell, especially with the bikini tops, how they get so gapey as people start to lose weight. Are there two outfits for the beginning and later?

Eliza:                No, one outfit. You literally only have one thing: one tank top, one bathing suit, one pair of shorts, one pair of pants, one pair of shoes, and one pair of socks the whole time.

Brandy:            Wow.

Eliza:                For me, I did think about that, so I wore a bathing suit top that you could tie because when you can tie something, you can tie it tighter and tighter as the season goes on.

Brandy:            Smart. Do they let you bring anything else at all aside from, like you said, medication on the side?

Eliza:                No.

Brandy:            Literally, nothing else?

Eliza:                Nothing.

Brandy:            Wow. How accurate is the show post editing to what really went down? Do people get certain edits like in The Bachelor? Are you guys aware that you want a certain kind of edit or who the villain is? How does that play out?

Eliza:                It’s funny because you sometimes can tell whether someone is going to be a villain or what their persona is depending on how they act at camp and what they’re saying. But then, there are other times when someone really comes across one way and then all of a sudden you see the behind the scenes and you see their confessionals after the fact, and you’re like, “Woah, I never would have anticipated that someone was like that.”

Brandy:            Oh, yeah.

Eliza:                I don’t think, at least for Survivor, that there’s really any way to game what kind of edit you’re going to get. I mean, there are plenty of people who’ve gone out being like, “I’m going to be the biggest this,” and then they end up like just getting no edit because I think when you’re not being authentic, it just doesn’t come off that well. Especially, on a show like Survivor where you really are so stripped down. I also think that it’s much harder to play a certain character which is why they cast the people that they do so that people just can be authentically themselves and have it be that they’re filling a certain role. I mean, I couldn’t have shied away from the role that I ended up playing, even if I’d wanted to, because I just am who I am, and they knew who I was going to be based on the extensive interview process, the meetings with producers, the meetings with CBS executives, the psychological testing, IQ testing, meeting with doctors, and all of the things that you go through before you get cast. They kind of know who you’re going to be regardless, and yeah, some people reacted a different way. They’ve had people end up out there who had these huge personalities when they met them throughout casting and everything, and then all of a sudden, being deprived of food and other things, they just become blank stare zombies and uninteresting because they’re just not coping well with the elements and with the other things that exist. I think that people have been disappointments, but I think it’s hard to say, “Oh, I’m going to try and get this certain edit. I want to be the ‘this,’” and then actually be able to pull that off given everything about Survivor. Also, you can’t really control how you get voted out. Plot plays a role. I went from being, at the beginning of my first season, the girl who talks too much, kind of over the top, annoying New Yorker, whatever, because to be fair, that’s who I am. This is always gonna be who I was. I’ve always been a person who probably talks too much and who annoys people. {laughter}

Brandy:            I love you for it. {laughter}

Eliza:                Listen, I don’t shy away from it, but I think at the beginning, it was something that people had to get used to because a lot of the people who I was out there with were people who had never met someone like me. I remember we were sitting down to eat a meal, like our little like coconut and stew and whatever, and the woman was like, “Wait, wait, wait. Everyone, before we eat this meal, we have to thank the Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ.” I was like, “Oh, okay. Cool, cool.” She’s like, “Eliza, do you believe in Jesus Christ? Is he your Savior?”

Brandy:            {laughter} Oh, jeez.

Eliza:                And I’m like, “Well, I’m Jewish. Jesus doesn’t necessarily play such a big role in my life.” It’s like you’re trying to be diplomatic about these things, but she’s like, “Oh, my gosh. I met a Jew once. She was real nice.” I’m like, “Okay.”

Brandy:            Oh, wow. Right.

Eliza:                Yeah. It was really interesting to coexist and survive and do all these things with people who I otherwise would never have met, not in a million years. It was tough, but also as I said, I started out as the over-the-top whatever. And then, as the season went on and everyone was out to get me and trying to vote me out, trying to vote me out, trying to vote me out, I kept surviving. I really became the scrappy underdog, and even people who didn’t like me at the beginning, really came around and were rooting for me to take down these people who are all twice and three times my age and who were such bullies to me throughout the show.

Brandy:            Yes, I remember that. Gosh, what you’re saying, it just makes so much sense that especially with the circumstances and the conditions out there and being put in the survival mode and sleep deprived and food deprived, you can’t really not be who you are. In fact, I would almost think that you become this boiled down version of yourself, this really basic version of yourself, too. I don’t think you can run from yourself in a situation like that, so that makes sense to me that the edit is probably like the most real maybe some of these people have ever been themselves.

Eliza:                Exactly. I think it exposes a lot of things. It really brings out the rawest version of you because of the fact that you are so broken down in so many ways. I mean, when I think about the challenge where it’s this family visit reward challenge where they bring your family member out. I mean, I have gone 30 days without seeing my mom more times than I can count in my life, and typically, when I see her, I don’t start hysterically sobbing.

Brandy:            {laughter} Right.

Eliza:                That is not my usual reaction, but somehow on Survivor because of just how deprived you are, as I was saying before, you don’t have anyone who you can really rely on and trust. To have this person who means more to you than anyone in the world show up and be able to have their hug and like their love and support, I just lost it when my mom showed up.

Brandy:            Oh, of course. Those are always so brutal to watch. My kids are always like, “Mom’s about to cry.” I think it’s that boiled down essence of people – it’s so pure watching those. I would imagine watching it is one thing, but then the experiencing of it and being surprised at how much it affects you being in that situation — I mean, that’s what I love about it is it’s so authentic. It’s pushing people to their limits without killing them for the most part, so it feels like it’s not just totally amoral. I’m always so fascinated about what makes people tick, so that’s part of the reason why that show and those circumstances really, really are entertaining to me. I thank you for signing up for it because I’m sure it’s not easy to go on there and to be absolutely vulnerable. I mean, were there other things that surprised you about yourself when you were out there that you thought, “Oh, shit. I didn’t think I was going to do that, or I didn’t think that that part of me was going to come out?”

Eliza:                I went through some really hard stuff out there. Both of my seasons, in fact, I got very, very sick. My second season, I had some sort of infection that led to my tonsils being like the size of golf balls. I could barely even swallow a sip of water, and I had like 104 fever for four consecutive days. I was sitting on the beach in the blazing hot sun just teeth chattering like just shaking and shivering on the beach in the sun. Everybody was looking at me like, “Oh, my God. You’re dying.” But you don’t want to show vulnerability because you don’t want people to vote you out. My closest ally in the game, one of my best friends in my life, she pulled me aside and said, “Eliza, pull it together. They’re gonna vote you out. You have to pull it together. Don’t show weakness.” I was so, so, so sick, and I didn’t even know this until afterwards, but they were preparing to pull me out of the game. They were going to force me to quit the game to go get medical attention because, apparently, it’s like really unsafe to have a fever that high for that many days in a row.

Brandy:            Yeah.

Eliza:                They thought I needed a medical intervention which means that you have to leave the show. That was really scary. Finally, my fever broke, and I was okay. Most people wouldn’t be able to handle — I want to say most people because I don’t want to target anyone, but I was gonna say most men because they’re such babies when they get sick. I think some people are just, you know, some women as well.

Brandy:            Yeah.

Eliza:                Most people can’t handle being that sick when they have the comforts of their own home.

Brandy:            Right.

Eliza:                All of the Gatorade and soup and loving care and a comfortable bed and cold wash cloths and whatever they need and changes of clothes. Most people can’t handle being that sick, even with all of the best of circumstances. I suffered through that in the worst circumstances you could possibly imagine. For me, it was such a personal accomplishment because I was like, “Oh, I just showed what toughness I have. Physical toughness, mental toughness, the fortitude, and strength required to really get through something like this.” Not for one second, by the way, did I think about quitting. Not for one second did I think like, “Oh, yeah, get me out of here. I’m done. I’m out. Forget it. Bye.” I mean, I basically said to them, “You will have to carry me off this island in a body bag.”

Brandy:            Oh, my God. You turned into Charlton Heston. “From my cold dead hands, you will take me from this game.” {laughter}

Eliza:                Exactly.  

Brandy:            See, this is why you’re scrappy, and this is why you’re amazing, and this is why I would leave hour one. {laughter} How are you like this? What happened? I want to say like, “Who hurt you,” but not really that because obviously grit can come from being confident. It doesn’t always have to come from trauma, but how are you like this? It’s amazing.

Eliza:                {laughter} I mean, I don’t know exactly. I have parents who are both super tough. Both have really instilled in me like a real sense of adventure. They got married, and like a month later, my dad said to my mom (and this is like in the 70’s), “Do you wanna move to China?” She was like, “Okay.” They packed up all their stuff, got on a plane, and moved to China. This sense of adventure that I have and this desire to just challenge myself and push myself and do all these things, I’m sure comes from my parents. My grandmother was probably the biggest survivor of them all. Her story of escaping from France during World War II when the Nazis were trying to kill her and the rest of our family and what they went through to escape and the years it took them to get from their home, in Paris, all the way to right here in New York City was like the most incredible display of fortitude and strength and nothing that I have ever experienced in my life has ever will ever even come close.

Brandy:            Wow. Gosh, but that’s when they talk about passing down this generational thing. Whether it’s trauma or whether it’s strength or grit, it’s almost like it’s in your bones to be this kind of person when you come from that.

Eliza:                Yeah, I think that’s true. I think that’s true.

Brandy:            Changing gears, is there more hooking up or sex than the show depicts?

Eliza:                Not really. As I mentioned, we’re pretty gross. No toilet paper. No toothpaste. No showers. No soap. No nothing. I don’t know. I can’t even believe anybody ever makes out or has sex because it’s disgusting.

Brandy:            How would anybody have the energy, also, to do that? {laughter} I don’t know. I just imagine just being fatigued, like basically flatlining the whole time. What is it like to be so famished, and then to return to abundance? What is that transition when you are just so depleted, and then you come back to the land of plenty? Does it take a little bit to kind of come back to that, or do you gorge yourself immediately? What’s the transition like?

Eliza:                {laughter} I got voted out after 37 days on Survivor, and I was met to head back to Ponderosa where everyone is. I was like, “What food do you have on you? What do you have? What do you have to eat?” That was my first thought. They had a king-sized Snickers bar and maybe a couple other things, and I am like shoving a Snickers bar — I mean, I don’t know. I don’t even really like chocolate that much. I know it’s weird, but I just shoved my face with a Snickers bar. Then, got back there, and my friend was holding a jar of peanut butter. I sat down and ate the entire jar with a spoon. Then, we had huge meals and pasta and ice cream. I just ate and ate and ate. In the first 24 hours after getting voted out, I gained seven pounds.

Brandy:            Oh, my God. What?!

Eliza:                I’m not kidding. We had a scale because it was so fascinating to see your weight loss and everything. I gained seven pounds in 24 hours. But also, I was retaining water in a way that was unhealthy because obviously I hadn’t been eating any salt or any preservatives or anything. My fingers were trying to break out of their skin. They were little sausages. My ankles, really my feet, everything was so swollen because I was retaining water because I was shoving my face with everything you can imagine. Then, I was really so scared to be hungry. I think I’m still scared to be hungry. In every purse that I own, in every shoulder bag, and every everything, I have snacks. I always have snacks on me because I’m like, “I don’t want to be hungry. What if I get stranded somewhere? I’m gonna be hungry.”

Brandy:            Wow.

Eliza:                Yeah, I know. Yes, you gorge yourself, but then I was still sick. You have a weird relationship with food after Survivor for sure.

Brandy:            Oh, that’s so interesting. I think it’s dangerous almost that the show would allow you to eat that much. Although, you could also say, “Well, the show shouldn’t tell you what to do.” But that seems like a little bit negligent that they’re like, “Oh, my gosh. How fun. Let’s see you gain seven pounds.” I guess I just imagine that there’s somebody there who’s like very caring and thoughtful about how your body is transitioning during the process, but it sounds like that’s not true. {laughter}

Eliza:                Yeah, right. {laughter}

Brandy:            That’s so interesting. I hadn’t even thought about how when you come back after living like that, you may eat differently, that people’s eating may be disordered, or they may have snacks with them all the time. That fear of going back to what that felt like, like that really deep hunger, is fascinating. Have you talked to other Survivor friends about that? Is that something other people have to?

Eliza:                Oh, yeah. I’ve had friends say they would keep food under their pillow or something. I mean, people have had really weird habits and whatnot afterwards. Yeah.

Brandy:            Who is your best friend from Survivor? Who’s your best friend that you came out of the experience with?

Eliza:                My friend, Amy, and I were on both seasons of Survivor together. She’s like a sister to me. We are super, super close. She’s amazing. I have a whole group of friends who I forget that they’re even my friends from Survivor because they’ve become such a huge part of my life. One of my best friends, Brian, was on two seasons after me, so we met the year of his show. Now, that’s been over a decade and a half, and we’ve been dear, dear, dear friends ever since. He’s just a huge part of my life, and we have all the New York City Survivors who are all people who are out there crushing it in life. It’s really fun. We know each other through this shared experience of having done this really weird thing, but we support each other in incredible ways. They’ve really all turned out for me in the most amazing way for the campaign and especially during these COVID times of not really being able to do events in person and not knowing how I was going to get the message out about the campaign and reach people. All of my like Survivor family truly showed up for me, came to these Zoom events, spread the word on social media, and we’ve now been able to reach so many people who maybe heard about my campaign because of Survivor, but who then hear the message that I’m talking about and why I so desperately want to reform our cruel, unjust criminal legal system. Now, they’re completely bought into that. They came for the one thing, and then I’m raging about injustice. They’re like, “Yes, sign me up. I’ve never even been to New York, and I’m donating to your campaign. I’m so excited. Let’s do this.” It’s really been amazing to have my Survivor family, and they’ve been so supportive.

Brandy:            I can imagine that going through something like that with a group of people that you just have this shared language that so few people have that it’s like you’re immediately just bonded with them kind of no matter what. That’s amazing that they have shown up for you in such a huge way.

Eliza:                Yeah, truly.

Brandy:            Speaking of the Survivor family, I want to talk about Jeff Probst for a minute. How many times do people put Jeff Probst’s name on the vote card as a joke, and then they have to do a retake? I would do that every single time. My husband and I always just imagine every single time them being like, “God dammit, who put Jeff’s name in here again? You guys, this is not funny.” Does anybody ever do that? Are there any jokers that put a different name on there?

Eliza:                I don’t think so.

Brandy:            What?! {laughter}

Eliza:                I mean, we tend to take Tribal Council pretty seriously. It may seem funny at home, but someone’s about to lose their opportunity to continue to compete for a million dollars. We’re not messing around. What if you lose your vote?

Brandy:            But you get the laugh. You’d get the laugh, right?! This is Reason #530 why I would not be ideal for Survivor. {laughter} I just always thought Jeff would just really love that, but I hear you that when you’re there and you’re committed and you’re taking time out of your life, you’re probably not being such a jackhole about things, and you’re taking it seriously. {laughter} I can appreciate that.

Eliza:                Exactly. {laughter}

Brandy:            So, what is Jeff Probst like? Is he shady? Is he as engaged and caring as he seems to be? Is he really yelling out the play by plays at you guys – what is it like to have him be like, “Eliza is really shitting the bed on this challenge. She has zero balls in the hoop and just really blowing the entire thing?” The way that he sometimes does the commentary on the physical challenges, I’m like, “Jeff, you are getting in people’s heads. Shut the fuck up.” What are the answers to all of these things?

Eliza:                I think that he has gotten worse about it over the years.

Brandy:            {laughter} Okay.

Eliza:                Because I don’t remember noticing it quite as much on my first season. Although now honestly, it’s been so long that I just can’t really remember. But I remember being extremely annoyed at him because he was talking about something I was doing which was my strategy, and he called it out. Then, someone else started doing it and ended up beating me at the challenge. I was furious about that. I was furious.

Brandy:            Yeah. There’s some times at Tribal Council where he asks you guys questions, and I know, maybe you can validate this for me, the producers, and I believe he’s probably one as well, they tell him kind of what’s going on at camp. They tell him what to ask, but sometimes it seems like he blows up things that he’s not supposed to blow up. It’s like, “Dude, shut up.”

Eliza:                I know. I know. I think that that can be tough, but it’s just another element of the game I think that you have to deal with.

Brandy:            Yeah, the Probst challenge. Jesus. Is he a super nice guy, and does he seem like he has you guy’s best interest at heart? Or is he kind of an asshole? Where do you stand on the Probst scale?

Eliza:                On my first season, Jeff was falling in love with one of my co-contestants.

Brandy:            Oh, right.

Eliza:                The two of them ended up dating for years afterwards, so he was very sweet to all of us, very playful. He had just come off of another season that was I think pretty tough filming wise, and we were a breath of fresh air. It was really a fun, great time. I think that that’s just reflective of what was going on in his life at the time, and it was less fun the second time around.

Brandy:            Okay, so he wasn’t the fun, jokey, or just playful guy that second time around?

Eliza:                Right.

Brandy:            Did you know, at the time, that he was falling in love with this cast mate?

Eliza:                Oh, yeah. Absolutely. When we first got there, we had our tribe merge. We got these paints to paint the tribe flag and everything. We all like decided to paint stuff on our urns. I was like, “Mom. Dad.” I wanted my family to see, and I was writing stuff on my body. Julie wrote a heart on her chest and wrote “Jeff” in it. It was like a joke to show him at Tribal Council, but it was just this whole kind of storyline. It was this whole fun thing.

Brandy:            So, you guys weren’t weirded out by it? It was actually kind of cool.

Eliza:                Yeah, it was cute. They ended up dating for a very long time.

Brandy:            Right. It wasn’t just like a one time.

Eliza:                Right. Right. Right.

Brandy:            Would you go on Survivor again? Is that anything you’d ever do again?

Eliza:                Umm. I won’t be able to because I’m going to be an elected official soon, so that question will be moot.

Brandy:            Okay. I guess my question for you is having been on the show twice, is that something that, if the circumstances were that you could go on it again, would you ever choose to go on it again, or are you like, “I think I never want to feel that way again”?

Eliza:                I don’t say no to CBS. If they call me and they’re like, “Eliza, will you go back on Survivor?” — I knew how miserable it was the first time when I said “yes” to go back on the second time, and I did not hesitate. I was like, “Yep, of course. Yep.” They called me, and they’re like, “You want to go on Amazing Race?” I was like, “Yep.” If they called me to go on The Bachelor or Real World/Road Rules Challenge, I wouldn’t do something like that.

Brandy:            {laughter} But, Survivor you would do again?

Eliza:                Yes, in theory.

Brandy:            Yes. What is the biggest difference that you felt between Amazing Race and Survivor? How did it challenge you differently, or what was harder about Amazing Race?

Eliza:                Survivor is really like sustained misery.

Brandy:            {laughter} That sounds accurate.

Eliza:                They’re like, “Alright, Survivors, ready go,” on day one, and that’s it. You’re on until — unless you get voted out or the show wraps, that is the entire time. That’s that. For me, it was 37 days of like, “You don’t have any breaks.” There are no breaks. Cameras are on you 24/7, and it’s sustained misery. Even if there are stressful days or days that you have Tribal Council, you have to do this and strategize and whatever. You have tough challenges, but it’s all day, every day, even overnight, even when you sleep. You’re just on all the time.

Brandy:             Right.

Eliza:                Whereas Amazing Race is like peaks and valleys of misery. So, it’s like a particular leg starts, and it’s like, “Go.” Then, it’s like, “Misery. Misery. Misery. Misery. Misery.” And then, you get on a 12-hour flight from LAX to Narita in Japan, and you’re like, “Wait, so what now?” The cameras are off, and everybody’s sleeping and eating and chilling. I’m like, “I don’t understand.” We’re just off. Everyone’s like, “Yeah, you’ve got 12 hours. Go sleep.” I’m like, “How am I supposed to sleep? We’re in the middle of The Amazing Race.” They’re like, “No, you have to sleep when you can. Go to sleep, Eliza.” For me, The Amazing Race was super challenging in that when you had these breaks, it was hard to —

Brandy:            Turn off.

Eliza:                Yeah, to turn off, but then also, the miserable parts were so miserable and felt like super out of control, out of your control.

Brandy:            Yes.

Eliza:                Like you get a bad driver. We had a really bad driver. We could have won this one leg, and we got a bad driver. We landed in like fifth place or whatever it was. That was so super frustrating because it was just a bad driver. We had another bad driver that costs us time. That’s the kind of thing that it just feels like you don’t control your destiny, and so I found that aspect of The Amazing Race to be incredibly frustrating.

Brandy:            Yeah, that’s interesting you say that because watching it, I’m always like, “This would make me so mad.” The entire race, I would just be a nervous wreck because, exactly what you said, you get a driver who doesn’t know where they’re going or gets lost or whatever. It would be enraging. Then on top of it, I think again, “What if you have to go to the bathroom?” Do your bowels just shut down when you’re in race mode, or was that ever a thing?

Eliza:                No, no. You don’t stop when you’re racing. You don’t stop.

Brandy:            That’s so wild. What lessons did you learn on the show, and how do you think that they’ve served you in the real world? I’m talking about Survivor specifically, but maybe there’s something from Amazing Race too.

Eliza:                I think I learned how to face extremely challenging times and really, really tough things. It was not just on the show, but it’s also in the aftermath of the show. I think, really, it prepared me so well for so many things in my life especially because I went on the show when I was 21 years old. As a relatively young person, people were saying horrible things about me on the internet. It was the days pre-Twitter, but all these message boards existed, and Facebook was coming of age. People would post incredibly nasty things about me, and I really developed quite a thick skin. I realized that from all that I went through on the show and subsequently that I’m really very tough. I’m a lot tougher than I look. I can take a lot of a lot of things. Survivor is contrived in that they stick us on an island and make us survive and find our own food and do all these things and compete against each other and vote people out, but it’s also a microcosm of society in some ways which is that you need to coexist with people with whom you disagree. You need to create a society that operates and that functions even if someone is not your ally. I think there are a lot of interesting ways in which that’s applied to my life.

Brandy:            Yes. As you’re saying this, I was just thinking that moving forward and getting into politics seems like such a natural next step from all the lessons that you get. Like you’re talking about, you have this little society and you have to learn how to work within it and not piss people off and listen to people and figure out what’s the greater good and how to take care of everybody and all of those sorts of things. I can totally see how you could use those skills moving forward into what you’re doing. Will you talk to us a little bit about what you’re doing now and what inspired you to get into politics, specifically running for DA in Manhattan?

Eliza:                Absolutely. This is not the direction I saw my life going. I mean, as I mentioned, at the very top of the show, I have loved politics and been very politically engaged since I was a kid, but this is not the direction I ever saw my life going. When I was 21 years old and made the decision to go on Survivor, I thought that I was precluding myself from ever having a career in politics and that that just meant that I would never get to run for office. In my childhood, it wasn’t something that I knew was an option. My dad ran for Congress, and I just thought I was closing that door for myself. It wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to do as well. All I wanted to do was be a public defender, and I have spent over a decade fighting on behalf of human beings who couldn’t afford to hire an attorney, people charged with crimes, people in whom I’ve seen so much humanity, and I recognize each and every person as a as a human being, as someone’s mother or father or child or parent or sibling or spouse. I’ve treated people as people, and yet, the Manhattan District Attorney has really perpetuated this with “lock them up, throw away the key” mentality which doesn’t keep us safe. The reality is if someone’s locked up for whether it be three years, three months, three weeks, or even three days, that person becomes exponentially more likely to reoffend or get rearrested. I mean, it makes sense because if you think about it, if someone gets locked up, even just for a matter of days, they lose their job. Then, they can’t pay their rent, and they lose their home.

Brandy:            Yep.

Eliza:                If they’re a single parent, they lose their kids to foster care. Then, they get released. These are not people that are going away for the rest of their lives, but I’ve just seen how this system of injustice, this criminal punishment bureaucracy, operates in this way that just continues to marginalize folks from marginalized backgrounds and that continues to be rigged against the people who are my clients: low income folks, people of color, LGBTQIA folks, folks with disabilities. Meanwhile, rigged in favor of those who are wealthy, well-connected, powerful, and typically white. I realize that we can’t change the system unless we change the DA, and it propelled me to make the decision to run for District Attorney.

Brandy:            Yes. You know because you know my husband’s background and the listeners may know some of it if they’ve listened to the podcast where I interview him, but these are conversations we have in my house all the time. In fact, last night, we were having a really long one about this exact thing, and it’s interesting because we always talk about how a lot of people’s responses are like, “Well, if people wouldn’t do crime, they wouldn’t be in that position.” It’s such a close-minded take on the whole thing and such a really inhumane take. I think that that’s what is so needed with the criminal justice reform. I only know such a tip of the iceberg just with the people that I’m around, but this humane piece, making this humane, and looking at it from that angle I feel like this is where we need to go. I’m definitely on board and on your team.

Eliza:                It’s so true. It’s so true that the dehumanization happens on every level. The DA’s office, even in the way that they refer to the people who are my clients — these are human beings, but they call them “felons,” “criminals,” “inmates,” “prisoners,” “bodies,” or just refer to them by case number. It’s dehumanizing on every level, and it also doesn’t take into account the fact that we have criminalized poverty. We’ve criminalized mental health issues.

Brandy:            Yes.

Eliza:                We’ve criminalized substance use disorder, and we’re doing nothing to address those things. Locking people up is not addressing them.

Brandy:            Where did this specific – the criminal justice system – when did this enter into your life and become a passion of yours? What was the entry point for you? Was there something that happened? Has it always been there? How did you get interested in this specific section of politics?

Eliza:                The piece of it that has been around forever is standing up for folks who don’t have a voice and recognizing the systemic discrimination that exists against so many people and knowing about my grandmother’s journey and rampant anti-Semitism that kind of led to me even being a New Yorker. I guess I mentioned China briefly, but China’s always been a huge part of my life. My parents lived there before I was born. I lived there when I was young, and then my parents adopted my younger sister from Beijing. I have a Chinese sister. Growing up in a biracial family and seeing and understanding very much so that my white skin protected me from things that my sister’s skin did not protect her from — I would go pick her up from elementary school to take her home from school, and she’d be crying because kids would be bullying her, making fun of her, using racist slurs against her in the playground. Standing up for her and recognizing and also just having that ingrained in me from my parents from a young age that it is our obligation to stand up for others. It is our obligation to leave the world better than we found it. That was always something that was within me from a young age. I knew that my advocacy was going to take some form of standing up for people, but I spent a summer in college interning as a public defender in my office in the Criminal Defense Practice at Legal Aid in Manhattan. I knew within the first week that I had found my calling. I was like, “This is it. This is what I’m going to do with my life.”

Brandy:            How did you know?

Eliza:                I was in court standing beside the attorneys who were my mentors that summer and watching them fight for people and watching how the people who were paraded through in handcuffs were people who were black and brown, people who were from low income backgrounds, people who were just being locked up and bullied for things like laying down on a park bench or taking up two seats on the subway or possessing marijuana and realizing how unjust the system was and knowing that I needed to fight back.

Brandy:            Yeah. It’s like when you really delve into all this stuff, and I think maybe just the lay person doesn’t totally see it or understand it unless they have reason to, whether somebody that you’re friends with works in the system or something, but the stories that I hear from my husband, having been a reporter, about all this stuff, but then now him and advocacy work, I’m just blown away. He goes to some of the prisons and meets with some of the people there. He comes home just in tears.

Eliza:                I’m so grateful for the work that your husband has done. It’s such important work, and we, as Americans, have been sold this false choice between public safety and a punitive criminal legal system. It’s not true. It’s not keeping us safe. We’re not talking about locking people up because those are the people who are perpetrating harms on communities. We are locking people up because they can’t afford to buy their freedom. We’re locking people up because they’re suffering from mental health issues or substance use disorder, and that is not what’s keeping us safe. In fact, I think it is making us less safe.

Brandy:            Absolutely, and it’s making us sick as a country, too, where we just don’t have these mental health safety nets. Again, we’re using this blunt tool for everything, and there’s so much more nuance and we could be doing it in such a better way that I really appreciate and hope that your role can change that. I’m hoping that my kids, when they inherit this country, that we will have made some big changes. I know that that’s maybe too hopeful.

Eliza:                No, I think it’s good to be hopeful. When people ask me how I’m doing, because this is something I’m fighting for day in and day out, I say, “Listen, I’m angry, and I’m frustrated. I’m filled with rage, and I’m exhausted. But I am also hopeful. I’m also optimistic.” That is because we are seeing more people activated than ever who are recognizing that these issues exist. We can’t break down structural racism and systemic oppression without having a massive reckoning in our country about the fact that they exist. That is what is happening. We’ve seen so many times in history that protest leads to and sparks and catalyzes real change. I am hopeful. Despite how dark things are, I am hopeful that we are seeing changes across the country, especially when it comes to criminal justice, and the fact that I’m even running shows how far we’ve come. When I became a public defender in 2009, if someone had said, “Oh, I’m a public defender, and I’m going to run from Manhattan District Attorney,” people would’ve laughed in their faces. I would have laughed in someone’s face if they said, “Oh, Eliza, you’re going to run for DA.” I would have been like, “Yeah, right.” It really just shows how far we’ve come in wanting and needing this real change and having people be ready for it.

Brandy:            Yeah, I agree with you. I feel that, sometimes little, sometimes bigger, twinge of hope that there really is change. When you really look at the political races across the country, just the change in the demographics and the change in more people of color being involved and more women and more LGBTQ people, I feel like that is where the hope comes from. Yes, we are in such a shit show right now, but there has to be something better on the horizon if these people are being activated.

Eliza:                For sure. For sure. There’s never been a woman elected to be Manhattan District Attorney. I will be the first.

Brandy:            Wow. Are you running unopposed?

Eliza:                No, I’m just confident that I’m going to win. {laughter}

Brandy:            {laughter} This is amazing.

Eliza:                This is how you manifest things. You’ve got to have the mindset that you’re gonna win.

Brandy:            Because I’m thinking there’s somebody running against you, but dude, that’s some that’s some ballsy, I love it, confidence. That’s the kind of confidence that you have to have to get through shit, like Survivor.

Eliza:                I was gonna say, I don’t think that you can do these things unless you truly believe that you can win.

Brandy:            Yes.

Eliza:                Unless you truly believe that this is what you’re going to do and this is the role that you’re going to play and this is how you’re going to change not just the city you live in but the country and the world.

Brandy:            Right. If I was there, I would vote for you, but I give you tons of support. I wish you the best. Where can people find you to learn more about you or donate to your campaign?

Eliza:                They can go to http://www.elizaorlins.com and learn about the campaign, donate, sign up to volunteer. Given that things are happening remotely, we need volunteers from all over the place.

Brandy:            Yeah.

Eliza:                I’m @elizaorlins on Twitter, @eorlins on Instagram, and Eliza Orlins For NY on Facebook.

Brandy:            Okay, awesome. Man, I’m just so thrilled to think about and so much more hopeful to think about the possibility of all these amazing people who are being called to do this work, possibly winning. I’m sure you’re in the same boat where we’re like, “What the hell are we looking at this November?” Everything seems out of our control even though we have the power to vote.

Eliza:                I know.

Brandy:            It’s just wild times. I can’t imagine being somebody involved in the race. It’s hard enough as a spectator, but if there’s anybody who’s practiced for it, it’s you. It’s like being on Survivor versus being one of the people watching at home. You definitely have the fucking grit for it.

Eliza:                I’ll just keep maintaining my scrappy underdog status and take it all the way home. Running this insurgent campaign as a public defender, running for DA, it’s really pretty revolutionary and really, really exciting. Anyhow, I’m just so grateful to you for bringing attention to such important issues and speaking out and using your platform for things like this.

Brandy:            And of course, the bathroom issues on Survivor.

Eliza:                Obviously. {laughter}

Brandy:            {laughter} These are the most obvious things I’ve always committed to. My listeners always know I will ask the hard-hitting questions. Before we go, two final quick questions. Do Survivor contestants get paid at all, or is the chance of winning the money the payment?

Eliza:                Everyone gets compensated. It dramatically drops off after — first place is a million dollars, then it dramatically drops off. It drops off based on the place in which you finish.

Brandy:            Ah. Does everybody get paid or just like top 4 or 10?

Eliza:                Every single person gets some amount of money.

Brandy:            This is fascinating because Bachelor people get paid nothing. Did you know that?

Eliza:                Yes.

Brandy:            I was like appalled.

Eliza:                But they get tens of thousands of Instagram followers.

Brandy:            Oh, my gosh. Is that worth money? Maybe? I mean, I guess it is.

Eliza:                Are you kidding? Half these people have created careers and written books and published things and get paid to do everything — not all of them, but certainly a good portion of them have given up their other pre-existing careers in order to be this public figure after they go on The Bachelor.

Brandy:            But I’m curious, what’s the difference between Bachelor and Survivor in terms of that because these days, a Survivor contest —

Eliza:                Nobody cares about Survivor.

Brandy:            Really?

Eliza:                It’s a different demographic that care.

Brandy:            Okay.

Eliza:                The people who are very online, I think, don’t care as much about Survivor, let alone The Amazing Race. People care very little about The Amazing Race.

Brandy:            Yeah, I get that. Last question: who is your favorite all-time Survivor player aside from yourself?

Eliza:                Oh, my God. That’s a hard one.

Brandy:            Who do you just love?

Eliza:                I think probably Cirie Fields.

Brandy:            Why do I not know… I’m gonna have to Google.

Eliza:                Oh, my God. Cirie’s played four times. She’s like the greatest person never to win. She deserved to win multiple of her seasons. She’s absolutely amazing. She’s an incredible human as well and a dear, dear, dear friend.

Brandy:            Oh, yes, her! Oh, my God. I love her.

Eliza:                Of course, you love her. Everybody loves her. She’s the best.

Brandy:            Oh, my gosh. It’s so funny, but you know what happens is every season I watch, I’m so invested in the people, and I know them, and we talk about them in my family, and then once the season is over, like they’re dead to me. Except for you. You stuck with me because you remind me of one of my roommates I college.

Eliza:                Aww.

Brandy:            I always liked you. You stuck with me, and Cochran stuck with me. There are a couple people who have stuck with me, but normally, it’s like everybody’s just dead. I love Cirie though.

Eliza:                My brain doesn’t have the space to remember anything, so things happen, and I can’t remember things that happened yesterday. Like, I just forget.

Brandy:            Yes.

Eliza:                But Cirie is an amazing human.

Brandy:            What is the thing that you love most about her? What makes her such a great player to you?

Eliza:                She has like the greatest social game of anyone. She is just like — if you meet her in person, she just has this magnetism, this charisma, this smile, and laugh that just draws you in and makes you both love her and trust her even when you should not. She’s just incredible. She’s incredible.

Brandy:            Do you have a strategy that you think is like, “This is the way you win Survivor?” Is it easy enough to boil down to something like that, or is it everything’s a crapshoot?

Eliza:                It’s hard to say — well obviously, I don’t know because I’ve played twice and lost both times. I think that it does vary, and there’s so many factors that play in, and even if you have the best strategy imaginable, there’s still a possibility of just getting unlucky. Honestly, there are elements of luck involved.

Brandy:            Yes.

Eliza:                I think there are things that play into every winner’s strategy in terms of having a good social game and a good bond with people and whatever, but also, I don’t think there is some perfect formula. I think even if you played Survivor again with the same 20 people and you played it 100 times, a different person might win each time.

Brandy:            Yeah, exactly. Right. The circumstances of everything would change it. Eliza, I so appreciate you coming here and finally answering all of my hot, important questions.

Eliza:                Oh, my God. It’s so much fun to chat, and I’m glad to be of service in that way. Thank you again for having me.

Brandy:            Okay, so was I the only one thinking, “Being on Survivor sounds a lot like parenting,” when Eliza was talking about how you’re exhausted, pushed beyond your limit, but you’re living your dream. Then in hindsight, it’s really cool. And her being so tough with 104-degree fever, I swear, if she decides to have kids someday, these skills are going to come in handy. I remember the first time I got sick as a parent, like really sick, and I had an infant. I was like, “Wait, you still have to nurse someone while you have the chills and you’re hallucinating?” Yeah, that was one of the moments I realized motherhood stops for no one. I would love to ask a past Survivor contestant who’s also a parent, “How are the coping mechanisms from the show and from parenting the same?” Because there has to be some overlap there.

Brandy:            If you are enjoying this podcast, you can support me in making future episodes by pledging just a few bucks. Seriously, it’s less than $10 on http://www.patreon.com/adultconversation, and/or you can take a quick second right now to leave me a rating or review in your podcast app. Thanks for the love. As always, thanks for listening.

** As always, thank you to Scott Weigel and his band, Seahorse Moon, for providing me with that jaunty intro and outro music. You guy are awesome. Check ’em out on iTunes.