I’ve done quite a few “Survivor” exit interviews in my day. Most of them have been pleasant, a few have been contentious, and one was a complete disaster. But with all of them I had a pretty good idea of what to expect before they started.
With Greg “Tarzan” Smith I was flying blind.
Fortunately I found “Survivor: One World’s” cross-dressing enigma to be a delight. When I was able to get a word in I asked him about his hidden strategies, his feud with Chelsea, and the shocks on his now-famous jeep…
Gordon Holmes: You’ve been tough to get a handle on this season. It seems like your social game was very abrasive toward the women at times. Was that part of your game or was that Tarzan being Tarzan?
Greg “Tarzan” Smith: Actually, I’m a plastic surgeon, and 98% of my practice is women, so I understand women very well. However, I didn’t want to ingratiate myself to the females out of respect for my wife. In the beginning I felt that my best game would be to do nothing to cause any camaraderie with the women and just let the young boys do that. But my primary strategy, because it was men vs. women, was to organize the men. And I did that in a subliminal way because I realized that the smart way for the average person to advance in the game is to stay under the current so people don’t see you as a threat. And I think I deserve an Academy Award (laughs).
Holmes: You were very defensive of Colton early on. How did that work into your strategy?
Smith: The smart thing for me to do in the beginning was to coalesce all the men against the women. Which I did, and I allowed Colton to take credit for it. And in his immaturity and narcissism he was more than happy to seem to be the leader. And ironically, if it hadn’t been for me, Colton would have been one of the first people to go. I did the math, and I needed a coterie of five men to whip the girls and beat any straggling boys.
Holmes: You tried to warn Troyzan about Kim being in charge. Why didn’t you stick with him when he realized you were right?
Smith: You saw that Troyzan and I were the nucleus and we mostly stayed bonded. However, midway when I was betrayed by Troyzan he lost his compass, he thought he was part of Salani and that was his fatal error. It’s like in chess if you lose the queen early in the game you have to save as many pawns as possible, but in reality you’re probably going to lose. When I lost Troyzan, I’d been around long enough and portrayed myself well enough at that point I thought I could ingratiate myself with the women. I was able to ingratiate myself through my relationship with Alicia. And as you saw last night, Alicia ultimately betrayed me.
Holmes: Part of your strategy last night was to bow out at four and become a jury advocate. Was that something you were at all considering or was that just a way to move forward?
Smith: I’m an old guy, I’ve been successful in life, and I don’t need the money. But, I need the adventure. And, it’d been an adventure. But even with the guys I said, “When we get down to five, I’m willing to step down. But let me help you get to the five.” And I kept my word with everything, unlike Michael, if he’d kept his word he could have lasted longer.
Holmes: Why did Michael give you the middle finger after your farewell last night?
Smith: Toward the end the girls were worried that they had betrayed all the guys, but the guys didn’t know that they had done that with my help. I had kept that secret. So, the girls were worried that if I’d made it to the final three (that I’d have received votes). So, during Tribal Council I told them that I helped get rid of them. I told the guys that I helped get them eliminated. I told the Tribal Council that I’m a millionaire. And that’s the worst thing you can say in something like that because they’ll think I don’t need it. I did that on purpose. I denigrated myself in front of the Tribal Council.
Holmes: With the way the show was edited, sometimes it seemed like you were just there. Like you weren’t playing the game. What moves were you making that we didn’t see?
Smith: I told them I was a medic; I told them I was 52. But I got tired of that game, so I said, ”Even if you vote me out; I’m really a plastic surgeon and I’m really 64.” And everyone told me if I reveal I’m a plastic surgeon that I’d be the first one to be kicked out. But after 15 days, I felt like I’d been there long enough. And the Tarzan thing throws off that I’m a doctor. I’m Tarzan in the operating room.
Holmes: (Laughs) Oh really?
Smith: When a surgery goes fantastically I’ll call out the Tarzan yell in the operating room.
Holmes: Let’s do some word association. How about we start with…
Smith: Maybe I shouldn’t. I tend to be pretty frank. (Laughs)
Holmes: That’s the point of this exercise, Tarzan. Let’s start with Kat.
Smith: Young, naïve.
Smith: The full complement of sexual dimorphism.
Holmes: Oh man, you’re going to make me bust out a dictionary. Chelsea?
Smith: Man hater.
Smith: Creative, intelligent, friend.
Smith: Intelligent, needs better syntax as a teacher.
Smith: Likable, persuasive, beautiful. First thing that came to mind is her eyes.
Holmes: Let’s finish this with Christina.
Smith: (Laughs) Sycophant.
Holmes: You and Chelsea didn’t seem to get along very well out there. What was your relationship like?
Smith: Every time the cameras were rolling I was made to look obnoxious. Admittedly for frivolity to lighten the mood, I’d done a few things that might be considered that, but she took every advantage to make me look bad. And you didn’t see what the real situation was. There were many snippets she took at me that weren’t shown…out of nowhere. And I couldn’t understand it. I hadn’t treated her bad. There are men that don’t like women and there are women that don’t like men. And my conclusion was she doesn’t like men. She needs men, and she needs them for certain things. But I think she’s a girl who’s probably abusive toward men, and she was certainly abusive toward me.
Holmes: It was touching getting to see you and your wife together at the reward challenge. Is it accurate to say that one of your main goals was lasting long enough in the game so she could visit?
Smith: Yeah. I wanted that so much. We’re a romantic couple. We have a map, and we want to set foot on the same soil wherever we are as a testimony to our soulmatedness. And we put a little pin wherever we are in the places we’ve been all over the world. And I wanted so much for her to get to set foot with me on that island. (Laughs) So we got to put our little pin on the map. I did not know how hurtful I felt not being near her, because we’ve never been separated. We’re together day and night, 24/7 for some thirty years. So, it was a poignant moment to realize that I’m addicted to her more than I realized.
Holmes: That’s amazing. Probably less important…did you ever get the shocks for your jeep?
Smith: (Laughs) The irony of this is that my wife knew I needed shocks and I was being so frugal that I hadn’t bought them for six or eight months hoping it would last. And while I was on the island she bought shocks for my car.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes