Marty Piombo was my guy.
In the pre-game interviews I’d pegged Marty as someone who was smart, strategic, and a student of the game. And for once, I’d called it correctly. He was all of those things. Unfortunately his admitted arrogance, a feud with Jane, and a poorly timed tribe swap combined to earn him an eleventh-place finish.
I spoke with Marty the morning after his elimination and touched on important topics such as what set Jane off, the origins of his clash with NaOnka, and the real reasons he went after Jimmy Johnson.
Quick Note: Have you voted for the “Survivor” Hall of Fame yet? If you don’t, the players you hate are probably going to win. Vote early, vote often.
Marty Piombo: Gordon, good morning!
Gordon Holmes: Good morning, Marty. How are you?
Marty: It’s the day after, what do you think?
Gordon: You probably feel the same way I do. I’m in a bad mood because you were my pick.
Marty: Ah…man. As you can imagine my head’s been spinning, but I still hold strong on everything. I played a bold game and a game that may have made me not well liked and on the chopping block. But I played a fun game and I wanted to be memorable and I wanted to win. And I didn’t play a game that jeopardizes that. It was an amazing experience.
Gordon: I don’t know if you remember this, but there was a point before the game where you were being interviewed by the side of a swimming pool. When you were sitting there, a couple of pasty reporters were splashing around and debating the upcoming season. It was then and there that I said, “Marty is my guy. I think he’s going to go all the way.”
Marty: Well, I appreciate that. I know every contestant has their fair share of people that want them to go far, but I hoped that when the season was over no matter how far I went, that at the reunion when I came out that nobody would say, “Hey, who’s that guy?” I doubt that’ll happen with me.
Gordon: Let’s talk about your feud with Jane. I talked to Jill about this and she said that she couldn’t think of an inciting incident that turned Jane against you two. What do you think set her off?
Marty: You know, I really have thought about this long and hard, and I don’t really get it. If you go back and look at the game, I never really said anything nasty about anybody. She doesn’t understand the definition of “slander” because it means false or defamatory. And, none of that was what I was doing. I exposed her as a legitimate threat in the game, and I will tell you this, within five minutes of starting the game, Jane’s statement to me was, “My husband just died, I need the money. Please don’t vote me off.” And that really turned me off personally. I’ve had more tragedy and loss in my life than Jane and Chase combined, and I chose not to bring that into the game. And combined with that statement and that she combined with Wendy Jo and Jimmy T. right away, they were just red flags that this is someone who was erratic and was making bad decisions. I didn’t think that she was someone that I’d want to have along with me. She probably sensed that and took it very, very personally and turned it around that way. It’s kind of inexplicable to me that it turned into that kind of hatred, and then she made the tasteless remarks regarding my children last night on national TV. That just goes to show you who she is.
Gordon: I wanted to run a strategy by you. When you end up in a heated feud like the one we saw with you and Jane, would it ever be possible to say, “This is crazy. It’s putting a target on both of our backs. Let’s work together and get our respective alliances to work for us.”?
Marty: We were very aware from the beginning that Jane was having issues. And I went and tried to make good with Jane on a number of occasions, tried to give her props, went into the jungle with her, helped her fish one day, helped her orchestrate one of her little fish dances in front of everybody. I really tried to make some inroads with her. But there were deep, deep issues with her. I really don’t know what it was. I would say that in retrospect it was much less about doing something with her, if I could do something else in the game, I’d try to come back to Holly and really work with her. I think I could have possibly made a wedge there.
Gordon: All that fish choreography didn’t help.
Marty: This is on the lighter side, but the toughest part of “Survivor,” worse than the lack of food, the lack of sleep, the conditions there, but it was frankly having to listen to Jane’s cackling laughter. I’ve got to tell you, this woman…the flatulence? Twenty four, seven….I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. That drove me crazier than all of the other things I mentioned to you. But you’ve got to give credit where credit’s due, she got farther than I did. I’m not bitter, my hat’s off to her.
Gordon: I spoke with Alina last week, and she seemed to think there was an air of arrogance about you. Is that something you were aware of during your time out there?
Marty: I think in the game I probably did have an air of arrogance. I think it’s kind of funny because if you go back before the game started, Alina in particular, I must have a very strong presence or something, because the game had not started and we had not opened our mouths once, and one of the first clips she says, “There’s that guy with the gray hair, I hate him, I hope he gets voted off first.” And that’s Alina speaking and I’ve never opened my mouth. (Laughs) I don’t know how you get there, but that’s part of the game. But yes, arrogant? Probably in the game. I don’t know how I can say no to that.
Gordon: Now, you were instrumental in booting Jimmy Johnson out of the game. This was a strategy I disagreed with. If I were in the game I’d be happy to keep him around as a figurehead while I played the good follower. Could you take me through your thought process on why you decided that Jimmy had to go?
Marty: Absolutely. And first off, and this isn’t kissing anybody’s butt, Jimmy Johnson is a class act. He’s a great guy and I had a great time with him. If Jimmy had ever come up to me and said, “Marty, I want to align with you,” or “Let’s work on something together,” I would have been all over it. We could have gone pretty far together. But the two things that made Jimmy dangerous were that he said, “I will not have alliances in this game.” And that to me, strategically, was extremely dangerous. Theoretically that means you’re not in my alliance, and if you’re not in my alliance you could be cooking up something with someone else. So, from a very practical perspective I couldn’t count on him to be riding with me. And I’d already begun to see Jane and Holly making strong connections with him, and I could see him roping Tyrone in too. If he was open to playing with me I would have loved to have played in his shadow. I wasn’t into being the top dog or the leader. I wanted to have control, but control in the sense of having numbers only. Leadership is a silly thing in this game, not something you want to necessarily have at all. What you want to have is control and those numbers.
Gordon: Last night at Tribal, you and NaOnka really got into it…which was awesome. But, it was a little out of the blue as we hadn’t seen you two butt heads before. Was that the first time, or were there moments we missed?
Marty: I was very vocal, as was Danny, because we’re a little more old school, in regards to her stealing. And then her kind of B.S. confession to us, it started off with a lie by saying that she’d stolen all of these things to help us. I wasn’t ready to sit back and listen to that crap. So, I was pretty vocal about that.
Gordon: What do you think set her off at Tribal Council?
Marty: I really, truly think that the thing you’re seeing there is that they told NaOnka that we were trying to bluff and that we were voting her off and she was, as Jeff Probst had said in his blog, that she’s more or less a child. And that’s how she reacted, “Hey, this guy tried to vote me out and get me to play my idol,” so she just took a bunch of shots. I never really had any conversations with her. I had one conversation with NaOnka and that was about her stealing the food and it wasn’t so much the act of doing it, it was that she did it with no strategy and no purpose and that it achieved nothing in the game. And in the end when it was edited it’d be something she wasn’t proud of when her family and friends were watching it, that they wouldn’t think highly of it.
Gordon: Did you know that Sash and Brenda were going to be voting for you heading into Tribal?
Marty: When I came off that Tribal, in my mind I was convinced that it was Brenda. And after watching it last night, I realized that the plan I had with taking Sash wasn’t as good as the plan he had with taking different people to the end. He looked at the situations, and my situation involved Sash and Brenda having to say goodbye to some pretty strong alliances and then throw in their lot with me, Benry, Danny, and Fabio. I’m sure that made them nervous and it was less predictable than riding with this motley crew that’s left now.
Gordon: We’re currently in the process of electing members into the “Survivor” Hall of Fame. I know you and your wife have been fans for a while. Who would you pick as the five best players of all time?
Marty: I get a lot of heat for this, but I really like Boston Rob. And there are elements of the following guy that I don’t like, but I don’t see how you can’t have Russell Hantz in there. I really like Tom Westman, Ozzy (Lusth)…and Richard Hatch.
Gordon: I like to keep things light here, and I hate to end this on a tough question, but we have to wrap it up so…what was going on with your hair out there?
Marty: (Laughs) My hair has been my trademark. It’s defined my game. It’s kind of crazy, kind of bold, kind of out there. And I think it was a distinguishing mark that came to me on its own.
Follow Gordon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute “Survivor” scoop: @gordonholmes