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: Oscar “Ozzy” Lusth
Hometown: Venice, CA
Previously Played On:
“Survivor: Cook Islands” – Runner-up
“Survivor: Micronesia” – Finished 9th and Jury Member
“Survivor: South Pacific” – Finished 4th and Jury Member
Best Known For: Being one of the most dominant challenge competitors ever.
Gordon Holmes: Are those tattoos new?
Ozzy Lusth: This one I got right the day after the game ended in Samoa. So, those were done on the island and this one I got in Thailand a few years after. That’s all done by hand, no machine. I designed it with one of the tattoo artists. It’s all symbolism…it’s how the show went and then my family and stuff like that.
Holmes: Which part of that represents Coach?
Lusth: (Laughs) None of it.
Holmes: Your bio mentions that you lost a member of your family this year?
Lusth: Yeah, my father died this past year.
Holmes: I’m sorry to hear that.
Lusth: Yeah, it’s a bummer. But he was ready to go.
Holmes: Did he watch the show?
Lusth: He was proud of me. He lived in Mexico, so he had to watch it on the Internet. He was definitely proud.
Holmes: As he should be. Grandiose terms get tossed around this show frequently, but I don’t think anyone debates that you’re one of the greatest challenge performers of all time.
Lusth: Yeah, thank you.
Holmes: This is your fourth time out here. What’s the approach?
Lusth: You just learn from your mistakes. I’m going to play a stronger game, but I’m going to structure it differently. I’m going to come out from day one and try to make the strongest bonds I possibly can with everybody I can. Even the people who seem like the weakest players, there’s nothing you can do in this game that’s worse than burning bridges too early. I haven’t had the strongest social game in my past seasons because I’ve relied on my physicality to keep me going. I can’t make that same mistake this time.
Holmes: Asking to be voted out of South Pacific so you can go to Redemption Island is one of the gutsiest moves I’ve ever seen. It’s been five years, do you still have that level of confidence in your challenge abilities?
Lusth: I feel good. I’ve packed on some pounds so that I don’t appear to be the biggest physical threat. I want to play that up as much as possible. I think there are some other very strong individuals out here. I hope they take the target off of my back. My abilities to fish, who knows? I haven’t been spearfishing since Samoa.
Holmes: You don’t do a lot of that in Los Angeles?
Lusth: Well, tropical spear fishing is a little different. And I haven’t climbed a coconut tree since Samoa. I’m hoping I can still do all of these things. But most importantly is the human aspect of the game. I’ve got to make sure that I’m friends with everybody.
Holmes: How have you changed the game of “Survivor”?
Lusth: I think I changed the game just based on the fact that I’m the most able survivalist. I’ve proven that I’m the best fisherman. That I can climb a 50-foot coconut tree. That I can dominate at challenges when I need to. And I’ve made some ballsy moves. I’m the first person to create a fake idol and have it be found and played at Tribal Council. The first person to volunteer to be voted out. Every single time I’ve played this game I’ve been an underdog. And I’ve always tried to change the way that I play. I try to take huge risks. I think that’s the hallmark of a great player, someone who’s willing to risk it all just to get to the next stage and show that they have what it takes to be at that final Tribal.
Holmes: Alright, I want to make sure you’re prepped for this.
Lusth: (Laughs) I need that.
Holmes: So, I’m going to give you some arguments people might use to get rid of you. I’d like you to defend against them.
Holmes: Ozzy is the original challenge king. I don’t want him to get to the merge and go on a long run of wins.
Lusth: Unless you missed the last season that I played, I didn’t win every challenge. I missed the last challenge and Sophie beat me. And, if you don’t have someone like me on your side in the beginning, there’s a very strong possibility that you’re not going to make it to the merge. I’ve been a loyal player and if you’re on my side, I’ll be loyal to you and take you to the end. And I’ll keep you fed, strong, and healthy until the end of the game.
Holmes: Ozzy asked to be sent to Redemption Island. That’s a big move. I don’t want to go to the end with someone capable of making those kind of crazy moves. I want someone I can predict.
Lusth: What I can promise is that I’ll be predictable in my loyalty. I’ll be one of those people that you can count on to not backstab you. To always vote the way you want me to vote. To give you a security in this game.
Holmes: Ozzy seems like a nice guy, but he’s had his chance. It’s his fourth time.
Lusth: There are winners here!
Lusth: And those winners have not only had their chance, but they’ve made their money and they’ve made their mark.
Holmes: What do you think of this cast?
Lusth: I think it’s great. There are so many different personalities and just trying to see how those puzzle pieces are going to fit together and what the group dynamics are going to be…I think it’s going to be a balls-to-the-walls competitive season. You’ve got someone like Malcolm who could possibly give me a run for my money when it comes to challenges and providing and strategic gameplay. He has all of the right tools at his disposal. He’s someone I’d like to work with. But, I have a feeling we’re going to be on opposite sides at the start. We have too many similar talents and skills.
Holmes: Anyone else you’re looking forward to working with?
Lusth: I want to work with some of these newer players. What they have going for them is that we don’t know anything about them. They can prove to us that they’ve got what it takes to be here. We don’t know why they’re Game Changers, but they did something to make their mark. It’ll be fun to play with them. It’ll be fun to play with Aubry and Tai. She’s been holding her cards really close at Ponderosa. I haven’t been able to get a feeling for her. But she was a conniving one on her season. And Tai is just funny, he’s seems like a cool guy. Caleb is another one, I think he’ll be a very loyal person. I’m also interested in working with the big egos. The strong dudes who are really competitive. They’ll think that they can beat me in individual immunity challenges. I was beat by a girl. People will look at that and say, “He choked in the end. He wasn’t able to perform under pressure.” And that’s the best thing I have going for me right now. But more than that, my loyalty is something I’ve kept strong the whole, entire time I’ve played. It’s something I can use now and if need be I can be disloyal. I can backstab. And done correctly, it can be a powerful tool. And I can find immunity idols.
Holmes: Is there anyone you’re going to target?
Lusth: Early targets…I can see Sandra and Cirie being early targets because they’re very strong strategic players. They’re people who may not be as necessary in the beginning of the game at challenges. Puzzles are always a place where you can put someone who isn’t as physically capable and they can shine in those moments. But, Sandra and Cirie and even Aubry are people I’m going to be wary of. Even Andrea, Andrea has got amazing physicality to her. She’s done well in challenges. I’ve just got to keep the alliances from being too cut-and dry, weak-vs.-strong in the beginning. I can’t have all-female alliances. I can’t have them thinking it’s going to be males vs. females. I think that’d be a mistake because that’s proven to be a lot of male players’ downfalls.
Holmes: You’ve played with Cirie before. What’s your relationship with her like these days?
Lusth: There’s a relationship there, sure. She had a hand in my downfall. But, she wasn’t the architect of that. Parvati and Amanda created that. Cirie just went along. I’m going to say it’s water under the bridge. If I’m playing with her, I’m going to approach her right away and try to make a strong bond with her. I don’t want her to feel like I have a target on her because I don’t want a target on me. I want to play with her until there’s an opportunity to blindside her. I don’t trust her later in the game. Cochran is a great person to learn from. He made strategic moves right before people started gunning for him. And that’s something you’ve got to take into account. I might have to sacrifice a stronger player first just to make an example that it’s not going to be strong vs. weak in the very beginning. Somebody like Tony who is strong and could be a valuable asset might be a great first sacrificial lamb. Or maybe someone like Troyzan. I have a feeling that Fiji is going to be full of water challenges, so maybe people who can’t swim will be easy targets. But, I think it’s a mistake to go after the weakest player first. It might set up a pattern that I don’t want people to catch on to.
Holmes: Whenever you have returnees, there’s a chance to pre-season alliances. Are you a part of any?
Lusth: No. I think there’s a strong likelihood that the players from Kaoh Rong have done that. There are four of them. The last season’s returning players too. I think Troyzan played with Andrea.
Holmes: Andrea played with Malcolm.
Lusth: That’s right. Malcolm and Andrea are possibly an alliance. Those all need to be broken up or at least scrutinized.
Holmes: You’re in lockdown now. Have you noticed people sitting next to each other, winking at each other?
Lusth: There seems to be something between some of the ladies. I think it’s natural that they feel comfortable with each other. The same thing goes for the stronger guys. We can’t let that get out of hand because if it seems like weak vs. strong, then it’ll be bad for me. I’ve noticed there are some people who make no eye contact or have any interactions. That’s Aubry and Ciera. They’re iffy. Debbie looks like someone who could be worked with. Cirie seems very blank. Barely acknowledges anyone.
Holmes: If there is a twist, any guesses as to what it could be?
Lusth: I don’t even want to try to guess. The producers are good at throwing curveballs. The trick is to be observant. Keep your eyes open not only at camp, but at challenges. There could be clues anywhere. There could be an idol at any possible turn.
Holmes: Alright, I’ll give you a twist, you tell me if it’s awesome or awful. Starting with hidden immunity idols.
Holmes: Redemption Island?
Holmes: Knew you’d say that. Exile Island?
Holmes: Medallion of Power?
Holmes: Extra vote?
Holmes: Steal a vote?
Holmes: Eliminate a juror?
Holmes: Alright, in this deck of cards I have all seventeen of your opponents except for Michaela and Zeke, who we don’t know yet. I’ll hand you three at random. You tell me who you’ll vote out first, who you’ll work with but eventually eliminate, and who you’ll take to the end.
Round One: Cirie, Sarah, and Malcolm
Lusth: I like this. Oh (expletive deleted). I forgot about her. Who is she?
Holmes: She was in “Survivor: Cagayan.”
Lusth: I don’t know her at all. So, Cirie will be the first out. She’s a strong strategic player and she won’t take me to the end. I’d love to work with Malcolm. He’s a force to be reckoned with. He’s a good player and a good provider. He’ll take the heat off of me. And I’ll take Sarah to the end.
Holmes: How would you beat her?
Lusth: I’ll feed people, kill it at challenges, and be everybody’s friend.
Round Two: Caleb, Sandra, and Tony
Lusth: Tony is the first out, it’ll show that it’s not about weak or strong. He’s won, he’s strong, but he’s gotta go. I’d work with Sandra. If I can gain her trust, she can help me develop strong strategy. And I’ll take Caleb to the end. I think I can beat him. He’s going to make mistakes and burn bridges.
Round Three: JT, Debbie, and Brad
Lusth: Debbie is the first out purely for a challenge advantage. JT…I’d work with. I think he’s a really funny, fun guy to have around camp. He’s the kind of person that makes camp life go by faster and keeping morale up is important for the game. And I’d take Brad to the end because he’s a (expletive deleted) NFL star. He doesn’t need the money.
Round Four: Ciera, Jeff, and Andrea
Lusth: Ciera will be the first one out. Mostly because I don’t know anything about her. I want to work with Andrea if it’s possible. She’s a strong strategic player. And I’d take Jeff to the end. I think I could beat him in front of the jury. I could prove that I’ve done more in the game than he has.
Round Five: Aubry, Tai, and Sierra
Lusth: Aubry is out first. I don’t trust her at all. I think she’s a sneaky player and she can get out of sticky situations. She’s proven that she can make it to the end, even when she’s on the bottom. I’d work with Tai. He has an ability to prove himself in challenges. He’s a funny guy. But, I wouldn’t go to the end with him. I think he’s learned his lesson on how to talk to a jury. I’d take Sierra, she’s always seemed stuck up. When she played on “Worlds Apart,” she seemed like a downer. I don’t think she’ll get votes.
Holmes: We’ve got two left. Work with one and boot the other.
Round Six: Troyzan and Hali
Lusth: I’d work with Troyzan because I think he wants to work with strong players and people that will take him to the end. I’ll vote out Hali…there’s something about her that I don’t quite trust.
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