QUICK NOTE: The good folks at XFINITY sent me deep into the Fijian wilderness to bring you an exclusive look at “Survivor: Game Changers.” While I was there I conducted interviews with “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and the entire 20-person cast. I also captured exclusive photos and other behind-the-scenes tidbits. So, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.
Name: Ciera Eastin
Hometown: Salem, OR
Previously Played On:
“Survivor: Blood vs. Water” – Finished 5th and Jury Member
“Survivor: Second Chance” – Finished 10th and Jury Member
Best Known For: Voting out someone. I don’t remember who.
Gordon Holmes: We’ve been out here together three times in four years.
Ciera Eastin: That’s a lot.
Holmes: Is that an advantage or a disadvantage?
Eastin: The game is really fresh in my mind and coming off a season like “Second Chance” that was so fast paced…I think it gives me an advantage. I think I’m a little ahead of the curve. I’m ready for anything. “Second Chances” went from two tribes to three tribe to two tribes to voting blocs…I think I’m the most prepared.
Holmes: You have a reputation as someone who won’t just sit back and let things happen. You’re always swinging. Is that something you can play into or do you have to hold back?
Eastin: This time I have to switch it up a little bit. I really want to learn from both seasons. And I think one thing I’ve learned is if you’re on the bottom you have to fight and fight and fight. That Ciera will never change. I’ll create my own destiny. What will change is I want to cater more…I tend to get too emotionally invested in one character or one way of thinking, and then I close doors. So, when that way of thinking is gone, like Kass, I was close with Kass. When she was voted out I looked around and all of these doors were closed. I hadn’t been working on those relationships. So, this time I want to make sure I’m spread all over. So, Ciera is everywhere. You’ll still see the same Ciera, I’m here to win. I’d rather go home first then end up in third.
Holmes: Ciera, just win the thing.
Eastin: I know!
Holmes: Quit (expletive deleted) around.
Eastin: (Laughs) I’m really focused this time!
Holmes: What’s your take on this whole Game Changers thing?
Eastin: I feel like it’s a season for me. I look at some of these people and I don’t see how they fit in as a game changer. I kind of embody that. I adapt. And I feel like this season the game is going to be constantly changing. The pressure is on and everyone wants to live up to that title. Who’s the ultimate game changer?
Holmes: “Second Chance” was big move after big move. And I don’t think everyone who made it to “Second Chance” was an all-star. I don’t think everyone here is an all-star. There’s got to be something about, “I’m lucky to have this chance. If I don’t swing for the fences I’m not going to get another one.” Is that something you can play against? They’re zigging so I need to zag?
Eastin: I think one of my strengths is reading people. And you’re right, there are people here who have something to prove. I think it’s navigating through it. It’s knowing when you want someone close to you and when they’re a liability. I’m not threatened by anyone out here. I don’t think anyone is a bigger player than I am. I’m so confident.
Holmes: You seem very zen.
Eastin: It’s the calm before the storm. I know we’re getting close, so I’m really reeling it in and getting ready to explode. Day one I’m going zero to sixty and I’m staying at sixty the whole way through.
Holmes: What are your thoughts on this cast?
Eastin: Besides “Blood vs. Water” this is my favorite cast.
Holmes: Well, you’re biased because your favorite player was on that season.
Eastin: (Laughs) That’s right. My favorite player. But this cast is amazing. Such a variety…all the winners…people I’ve never seen play, the two random players we haven’t seen. I have no preconceived ideas of how they’re going to play. The legends like Ozzy and Sandra? And then people I’ve played with like Jeff Varner and Brad Culpepper. Last time I was looking around and Vytas was the only person. But now I’m looking around like, “Damn all these winners and Ozzy and Cirie!”
Holmes: Is there anyone you’re looking forward to working with?
Eastin: I really like Tai. He is…
Eastin: He is adorable. But I also think he’s malleable. I can use that to my advantage. I’d like to sit with him in the end because I can say, “Hey, I brought this guy here and he played a role for me. I was the caller of the shots.” When you’re aligned with an Ozzy or a Malcolm it’s hard for me to be like, “No, it was really me. Believe me.” With Tai it’s easier to believe. I love Andrea. But, I’m trying not to get too…girly. I got in with Kass and was linked with her and Katie Collins in my first season…I don’t want it to be like Ciera and Andrea. But, I do really like her.
Holmes: Any early targets?
Eastin: I would love to see someone like Tony go early. Maybe even Caleb. Somebody big. I want to start the season with a big message. Like, Tony won one season, but big deal. We’re all big players and you don’t have an advantage over all of us. Everyone is here to play so you’d better up your game. I don’t want to get rid of a Cirie or like an Aubry. Well, kind of…I don’t want to send a message of, “Let’s send the weaker people home,” because I fit into the weaker category. But, I’d like to see someone big go home first.
Holmes: You mentioned the new players. How do you deal with Michaela and Zeke?
Eastin: They need to go home really early. They say it’s better the devil you do know than the devil you don’t know. And I’m kind of going off of that. We saw on “Heroes vs. Villains” when Russell Hantz came in and nobody knew how he played. He was a great actor. He got to say, “I don’t know why I’m a villain.”
Holmes: That is a terrible Russell Hantz.
Holmes: It’s more like “I don’t know whyyyy I’m a villain.”
Eastin: That’s better. But they could pull the same thing. “I was America’s sweetheart, I was really true to my alliance.” So, I’d rather get rid of them.
Holmes: A fifth of this cast is from Kaoh Rong. How do you play that?
Eastin: I know Caleb and Tai are close. Aubry and Tai went to the end together. It’s not a relationship like me and Varner where we didn’t really meet until our finale. These are people who spent time together. The only reason it doesn’t scare me is I think people who play with first-time players are a little naïve to the game. I think they’re going to come in thinking they can fool us. No, we’re second and third time players. We know this is fast-paced, so buckle up. I think they’re at a disadvantage with those relationships. They’re going to be early targets.
Holmes: You and Brad Culpepper were on the same tribe in “Blood vs. Water.” What’s your relationship like now?
Eastin: I hope I can work with Brad. I really do. I’m so iffy on him. I’m not sure if he’s going to want to work with me.
Note: At this point, a CBS representative and Jeff Varner walk by.
Holmes: Let’s hold up.
Eastin: Yeah, I definitely don’t want him hearing what I have to say.
Holmes: He does have pretty eyes though.
Eastin: Oh…he’s just handsome in general.
Holmes: I interviewed him in Cambodia and didn’t notice. I never thought I’d be flirting with Jeff Varner.
Eastin: (Laughs) You end up doing the craziest things out here.
Holmes: OK, back to Culpepper.
Eastin: We worked really well together on our tribe. We got along fine. The only reason he went home was because of that Caleb vote. And that wasn’t by my means. I’d love to work with him. I think he’d be great to work with. Not only does he have (expletive deleted) tons of money, he’s also not the smartest guy and he can rub people the wrong way. But, I have to feel it out because I haven’t talked to him in a long time.
Holmes: Alright, let’s make sure you’re ready for this game. I’m going to give you a reason someone might use to get rid of you. I’d like you to counter it. I’d hate for you to get caught by surprise.
Eastin: I appreciate that.
Holmes: Can’t trust Ciera. She voted out the woman that brought her into this world. Let’s get rid of her ASAP.
Eastin: That was dedication to my alliance. At that time my mom was on Redemption Island and I was part of a five-person alliance. I wanted to show that alliance how loyal I really was. I don’t think that was me being disloyal. And my mom knew she was going home. And she loves me no matter what, so don’t worry about us.
Holmes: Ciera is fearless. She could’ve hung out for a few more days, but she chose to pull rocks rather than coast. I want someone that’s going to follow my lead.
Eastin: I love that argument. I am like that. But, I want to play that way with you. I want me and you…you’re my person. I’ll fight tooth and nail to get us to the end. We’ll be the final three. And you pick the third person.
Holmes: So generous.
Eastin: But, I’ll make sure we get there.
Holmes: I don’t want to go to Tribal early and Ciera is not the strongest challenge competitor.
Eastin: I love that one. And that’s the one that worries me. But, I want you to know that if you can help me out early on, you’re going to be a big target after the merge. Everybody is going to be looking at you and trying to get you out. I can protect you. You take care of me now, I’ll take care of you later.
Holmes: There’s always talk of pre-season alliances in returnee seasons. Are you talking to anyone?
Eastin: I’ve definitely talked to a bunch of people. I really tried to stay away from, “Me and you to the end,” or “I don’t like so-and-so.” It’s been very generic. “I’m excited to see you.” I think Andrea is the one I’ve talked to the most, and I think she thinks we’ll work together. But, I’m not tied to any one decision.
Holmes: Have you heard of anyone else?
Eastin: Just the obvious ones like Tai and Caleb. Tai was just at Caleb’s wedding. Tony and Sarah are close. But nothing I’m not used to. And honestly, pre-gaming doesn’t get you far. You could be on different tribes.
Holmes: Is anyone trying to communicate during this pre-game lockdown?
Eastin: Troyzan is a total talker. And Brad Culpepper, his first season, the guy couldn’t keep his mouth shut. But, this time he’s being really good. I can see improvement in his game in that aspect. He’s very self-aware. I’m impressed. I smile at people when they smile at me. I don’t want to give anyone a reason to think I’m with someone.
Eastin: Are we going to play “Align or Malign”?
Holmes: Kinda. I hold in my hand a deck of cards. In this deck are your seventeen opponents. Michaela and Zeke have been left out because we don’t know anything about them. I’ll hand you three cards at random. You tell me who you’ll vote out first, who you’ll align with and eventually eliminate, and who you’ll take to the end. It’s basically next-level “Align or Malign.”
Eastin: Sweet! I like it better. Way to step up your game.
Holmes: The game evolves and so do I…and my gimmicks.
Round One: Tai, JT, and Hali
Eastin: First out is JT. I don’t want to make a Stephen Fishbach mistake. I don’t want to take the good guy to the end. He can charm a jury. He’s a good old country guy. And he’s already won. But, I think the jury will give someone a million dollars twice. Look at Sandra. I’ll align with Hali. I don’t want to take her to the end. She’s a sweet, likable girl. We’re competing for the same spot. She has a lot to prove because nobody remembers her. I’ll take Tai to the end because I can manipulate him and call his shots. And I think I’m a better speaker than him. I’d kill him. Murder him.
Holmes: So violent.
Round Two: Brad, Caleb, and Ozzy
Eastin: Caleb early. I want him gone early. I played with a “Big Brother” guy and he actually won “Big Brother.” And, I want to make a big statement early. Ozzy I’ll work with. He doesn’t seem socially savvy. I think he plays an old-school loyalty game and I like that in someone I’m aligning with. And I’ll take Brad to the end. Nobody wants to give someone who’s rich a million dollars. And he’s cocky and rubs people the wrong way.
Round Three: Sandra, Sarah, and Troyzan
Eastin: Sandra early. She can win for a third time. She has a personality that people don’t think she’s playing. She’ll go wherever the tide is going, so I can’t rely on her. She’d throw me under the bus. I’ll align with Sarah. I don’t know much about her. I’ll take Troyzan to the end for the same reason as Brad. He plays the opposite role. He has a lot of money. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.
Round Four: Debbie, Jeff, and Sierra
Eastin: Debbie goes first. She reminds me of Monica Culpepper in the sense that she’s not very socially in it…if that makes sense. And, she’ll be someone that somebody wants to float to the end rather than myself. She needs to go. I’d align with Sierra…I love Sierra. I don’t want to sit next to her. And there can’t be two Sierras for too long. And then, I’ll take Varner to the end…out of these. But, he scares me. But, these are the cards I have.
Holmes: You have to play the cards you’re dealt, Ciera. In “Survivor” and in life.
Eastin: Thanks, Dad.
Round Five: Malcolm, Tony, and Aubry
Eastin: This is a hard one. Oh shoot…I’ll get rid of Tony first because I want to make an early statement and he’s kind of crazy and obnoxious. I’d align with Aubry, but coming off a season where she made it to the end says a lot for her. I don’t want to sit next to her. And I guess I’ll take Malcolm to the end…even though I wouldn’t want to. We play such opposite roles. So, I might have a shot in that regard.
Holmes: OK, we have two left so give me an old-school align or malign.
Round Six: Andrea and Cirie
Eastin: I malign Cirie. She’s too old-school for me. They don’t like the strategy talk. They like to shut it down. I don’t work that way. And I’ll align with Andrea because our brains work the same and we like the same people. And, I think I can trust her.
Don’t miss the two-hour season premiere of “Survivor: Game Changers,” Wednesday March 8, 2017 at 8 p.m. ET.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes