Hindsight is always 20-20. Ashley Nolan knows that now after she was blindsided on the latest episode of Survivor season 35, “Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers.”
The lifeguard, 26, was thrown for a loop when Ben Driebergen pulled out yet another idol during tribal council and the vibe seemed … off.
Her ally Devon Pinto turned on her, seemingly at the insistence of his new alliance mate Chrissy Hofbeck. So where did the Florida native go wrong?
Here, Nolan breaks down her game:
Us Weekly: How did you feel going into tribal council? Where did you think the votes were at that point?
Ashley Nolan: As far as I was concerned, the plan was to just vote Ben out. I had honestly — ever since Chrissy and Devon had picked Ryan [Ulrich] to go on the reward with them — I felt a change in the atmosphere. I felt like that last day before tribal. There was an eerie silence to it. It might have been in my own head because I wasn’t having conversations like I normally would have. I kind of just went into that tribal knowing something was up. They say, “If you don’t know the Plan B, you probably are the Plan B.” When Ben played his idol before the votes were even cast and no one even flinched — I mean, they were surprised he did it, but no one seemed surprised he had it, or it didn’t throw anyone’s game plan off, except mine — I knew then that I was probably the Plan B. Everything made sense at that moment. That’s why people were so quiet. That was a rookie move. I should have known better, but I had a feeling it was coming.
Us: What else tipped you off? What was going on when you thought the votes were switching to Mike [Zahalsky]?
AN: They don’t really show, but there was more conversation at that tribal. They show the eye movement of me looking at Devon and looking at Mike. Like, “come on.” But I did say out loud, “Devon, what are you doing? Vote for Mike with me.” He was like, “I’m sorry, Ash.” That’s when I knew. Ouch. That was a moment where I was like, “There goes my entire game. There goes the one person I thought I trusted.” That was a weird feeling.
Us: So I’m guessing that’s why you didn’t really want to give him a hug when you left…
AN: Oh, absolutely. With Ben, I felt like it was him against all of us at that point. He can do whatever. He has an idol. He’s just going to vote however it’s going to keep himself in. No hard feelings there. I denied him the day before when he was trying to work with anyone. Hindsight … I should have been like, “Yeah Ben, let’s work together.” I was so foolishly confident in the alliance I no longer had that I blew him off. No harm, no foul there. OK Ben, good job. You got me. But with Devon, down to the last minute — even though he betrayed everything we had the whole time — it was just way too soon. You just ruined everything for me. You’re not getting a hug.
Us: Why was no one following Ben around while he blatantly looked for the immunity idol?
AN: To me, the last one was a total shock. I had no idea where he got that last one. We had conversations like, “Everyone needs to be on him.” And we were, I thought. I don’t know when he got that. I do know that the night after the last tribal council, he said he went to go get water and I followed him. Everyone sat around and talked. And I did go follow him because I was trying to mend some stuff between us because we got heated at that tribal. But somehow, he’s being his marine, stealth mode self, getting up in the middle of the night. Who knew that was happening? When you want it that bad, you’re going to make it happen.
Us: Let’s talk about Chrissy. Why was she gunning for you all of a sudden?
AN: That is a great question. I will give her some credit, as far as I could see why she wanted to vote for me. Me and Chrissy are still … we talk often. We laugh about that. I don’t know why we didn’t work together because we genuinely liked each other a lot. We had a lot of good conversations and memories. We hit it off really well as people. But as soon as we came back from the merge, she had Ryan and I had Devon. The plan was for the four of us to get together. But when Ryan and Devon had a falling out over some lost trust, I think Chrissy chose her side and I chose mine. We never confronted each other about it. We just stuck with our alliances. Fast-forward to the loved ones’ visit and she tried to get me to come over with them. But I had no reason to — I had Lauren with her second vote, I had Devon, I had a good alliance. I put that wall up there between us. I see why she was a little like, “Let’s get her out.” Because when Devon and Chrissy got together and they picked Ryan, there is no Lauren and a second vote. It was perfect timing for Devon to be like, “Now I’ll go with you guys because my alliance is kind of crap.” Where I had blown her off, Devon was more receptive. I get it. Whether or not it was because she wanted to be the last woman standing — there are a lot of people saying that. I never felt that personally. But I might be more naive than I thought. I’m seeing and hearing different things people are saying about Chrissy in their exit interviews and whatnot. I’m like, “Man, I just didn’t see that.” But I think that’s just me when it comes to a lot of people. I just don’t see a lot of bad traits in people like others do. To me, Chrissy was just a cool woman. We just didn’t work together for one reason or another. I think that’s just me being naive.
Us: Joe called you a goat. What do you say about people who may think you were riding coattails or flying under the radar?
AN: People can think that all they want, but I lasted longer than Joe did. When it came down to it, from the couch, it’s easy to say, “You should have done this, you should have done that.” They don’t show every conversation you have. I felt like, at that point, that I was more a part of these game decisions than I got credit for. I think if you’re playing as loud and in-your-face as Joe was, it was easy to get under my skin and call me a goat. But that’s what Joe did. You saw him picking on Ben and saying he swore on the marines. Because he knew that’s what would get Ben. He did the same thing with Chrissy. He said she swore on her children and she was a bad mother. She must not love her children. In that same scene he called me a goat. So he picks on the thing he thinks will bother you the most. And that was Joe’s way of getting a rise out of people to catch them at their worst. So if calling me a goat was the worst thing he had on me to upset me, I’m OK with that. I don’t think he saw everyone’s gameplay just because it wasn’t the same as his. And I said that at one tribal council. I just say that not everything needs to be so upfront and out loud. Maybe my moves weren’t so easy to track or follow because they weren’t so huge or in-your-face or dramatic, but for playing an honest-ish game, I felt like I was doing a good job. At least I was building trust and winning challenges. Joe doesn’t have an athletic bone in his body so he has to pick something else. I was OK with being me and confidently winning challenges and making good relationships. When I got to the end, it may or may not win me a million dollars. But people are going to like me and give it more consideration than just pissing everyone off.
Us: Lastly, do you think there was anything you could have done at tribal to change your fate?
AN: I’ve talked about this with people who were there and I’ve gone over it in my head, I felt like at tribal, I did talk a little more than was shown. But it seemed like everyone’s decision was set. Even Devon’s. And if Devon’s was set, I feel like it would have taken a lot to change his mind again. Because then he would have pissed everyone off if he had switched again. Mike tells me now, “If you said Ryan, I would have voted with you.” I guess that’s one way of looking at it. I was like, “You guys are idiots. Take me to final three! I thought I was such a non-threat?” I thought they were idiots not to take me. At least, that was what I was pitching. At that point, I think everyone was just happy it wasn’t them.
Survivor airs on CBS Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.
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