'Survivor' Artis: 'Abi Was Abusive'

by LISA HIRSCH 1:21 PM PST, November 15, 2012
Photo: CBS

In another edge-of-your-seat episode of this roller coaster season of Survivor, a critical member of the Tandang tribe flipped, causing Louisiana native Artis Silvester to be sent packing. ETonline gets the scoop from the 53-year-old computer engineer on what he really thought of his alliance-mate Abi, his take on Lisa's big move, and how having survived cancer affected his approach to the game.

ETonline: So, were you surprised when your name was called last night?

Artis: No, not at all. Actually, it's the only thing, the smartest move that they could have made. And I knew that. I was disappointed that I wasn't able to keep a particular person in my corner. But as far as the votes, see the way that the votes came out, they came out exactly like I thought they did. Except for that [swing] vote. Once I saw that vote, I thought, "Oh, I couldn't do a good enough job to convince that person to stay with me." And that's when you saw me put my head down 'cause I knew I was going home.

ETonline: I thought it was very magnanimous of you in the closing credits when you were saying that you thought it was great the way that it ended. And that said a lot about your respect for the game, I think.

Artis: Yes! It is a game. I have no problems with anybody's game. ... You know 'cause it is a game. You can't control people, [they] are gonna do what they're gonna do, what they feel is best for them. And even if it's not, in their mind if they feel that it is the best move that they can make, then they're gonna do it. And the other situation is you have some people that play for the million dollars. And you have some people that take Survivor, and they actually believe that it's their stepping stone to fame and fortune and stardom. I wasn't like that. I came there for the money. The game is great, and if you play the game like that. Jeff's job is to edit; the host's job is to edit the game. He can give them the material. You can't go out there trying to help him with his material, because you have this ulterior motive. But, like I said, you can only do so much. And I had a blast.

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ETonline: Great. So when you went into that vote, did you know Skupin was going to go the other way?

Artis: Absolutely. Absolutely. There was no doubt in my mind. That was the one time that Mike had any power whatsoever. Mike could do what he wanted to do and not suffer any consequences. And that's what he was looking for. He was looking for an avenue where he could do something, and not suffer any consequences. That was the one time he could do it. 'Cause he had the immunity idol. You take that idol away, and I guarantee you he doesn't do what he does.

ETonline: I noticed in the episode last night, Skupin talked about how he and Lisa were going to be going together 'til the end, and always voted the same way. But Lisa ended up voting with Tandang last night. So I was wondering if you think that she, knowing that Skupin was gonna vote for you, that she felt like she could still vote with Tandang and appear to be loyal, even though she knew you were going home.

Artis: I think Lisa is loyal to Tandang, because Lisa is genuinely loyal to Tandang. She did things that people didn't agree with, myself included. But in her mind's eye, she did things for the betterment of the tribe. Again, she's also one, where she falls into that thing where you gotta make a big move, "Well, this is my big move. And my big move will also help my tribe." I can't fault her for that. Can't get mad at her for that. You know? For people to jump on her like that-- like, why? I mean, there was no need to jump on her like that. I mean, I was disappointed at her move. I told her I was disappointed at it. ... I said "I'm not disappointed in your game play, I know you're gonna make moves. I just wish you had told me you were gonna do it before you did it. Because your move directly affects, impacts, what happens to me in the rest of the game. Or anybody else as well. You know, I'm not mad at what you did, I'm just mad at how you did it." And I told her, "We're still good. We're still good. I have no bias, you're still my girl! Don't worry about it."

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ETonline: And going along those lines. Abi was very direct with everyone in the game. And kind of maybe was a little too honest. Do you think that her outbursts ended up putting a target on your back, because you were in an alliance with her?

Artis: First of all, let's call it what it is. Abi was not honest. Abi was abusive. There's a big difference. There's a huge difference between being honest, and being abusive. Abi was abusive. Alright? Again, I don't know if after getting cast, that she decided that was the character she was gonna portray. ... If so, I would like to say well done, but I'm not. On the other side of the coin, if that is who she is, then there's a lot to be said there as well.

ETonline: Yeah.

Artis: So I guess she figured that you know, "If nobody likes me, they'll take me to the end." And for the most part, that's right. But I'm just not a fan of that philosophy. Because, you don't know what goes in the minds of other people, alright. And at that point in time, you are actually really competing for the million dollars. And you're probably sitting there with your chest stuck out, all big and proud, thinking that because you brought Abi to the end, and nobody likes her, that you're automatically gonna get that gold. But you don't know what goes on in the psyche of a human being's mind. They could flip around and say nobody likes her, but they refuse to get rid of her, and she's still there. Now they give her the million dollars, and then you're gonna feel like an ass. Now if you pressed me, I would never take Abi to the end. I wouldn't even give her the opportunity to have a shot at the million dollars in a situation like that. I believe you need to earn that shot.

ETonline: If you could go back, and do anything over again, would you do anything differently?

Artis: Yes. Probably two things. One of two things, depending on how they played out. First is I would've went to Jeff, before Jeff got voted out, and let him know that he was on the block. And see if he could get his people together, and we get rid of Mike. Alright. Tandang still would've been up in the numbers. I like Jeff. Jeff would've still been in the game. Jeff's own tribe [member], Penner, got rid of Jeff. He did, Penner literally got rid of Jeff. I would've went to Jeff. Other than that, I might-- you know, looking back at it now, I'm thinking that I might have sided with Penner. But I really don't think that I would take that route. I think that the move I would've made would've been to go with Jeff and get Jeff to get rid of Mike. Penner's an excellent player. But he better be. You play this game this game three times, and you still haven't learned nothing? You should stay your ass at home. You know? Again, you play it three times-- you play it two times you're supposed to win. The third time, if you don't get that check, you really do need to stop playing. Regardless of what everybody thinks about you.

ETonline: Why do you think that Penner was able to break the Tandang alliance ultimately? And do you think it was him that was ultimately responsible for swaying Skupin?

Artis: No, Mike was gonna leave regardless. He didn't even have to say anything. All Penner would have to do is say [was], "Hello, Mike?" and Mike would've been like, "I'm there." He was gone. He was gone so fast. All he needed was somebody just to say hello to him.

ETonline: So I saw in your profile, I don't think this really came out much in the show, but you have beaten cancer in the past. Congratulations on that.

Artis: Thank you.

ETonline: How did that affect how you approached playing Survivor?

Artis: Before I got cancer, as I would watch the show, I thought I would play one way. 'Cause before cancer I was this monster of a man. I mean I literally was huge. I'm not even half the size of what I was before I got cancer. I was literally a rock solid monster. So I'm just thinking of all these things that I would've done. But after going through it, and being given a whole new outlook on life, you know -- before playing the game I didn't care. I wouldn't have cared about hurting your feelings. Nothing like that, I wouldn't have cared anything. I just would've squashed you on my way to the end. But now, when I play this time, understanding that it is a game, I'm gonna play hard. I don't care if you like me. Liking me is irrelevant. But I never want to see anyone hurt. You know, because it is a game. And you should not be hurt by a game. So, a softer side of me played this game. Until we started competing, because I always compete hard and heavy.

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ETonline: Cool. So one last question. Who do you think is going to be victorious in the end?

Artis: I don't know. Because who I thought was gonna be victorious is not there. I thought it was gonna be me! Without a doubt, I hands down was like, "I got this!" But now, it's just a wild card, I just have to look. I have to watch and see what I wanna do. You know, where I want to give my vote. Who I want to give the money to. I have to watch and see who's left. And then evaluate, of the people left, who I wanna give this money to. I have no frontrunner. My frontrunner was me. And if anybody who plays the game says anything other than that, they shouldn't have played the game.

ETonline: Great. This season to me, having watched many seasons of Survivor, seems to be one of the most up-in-the-air that I've ever seen. So it's really anyone's guess.

Artis: It sure is. I'm interested to see who's still left and who comes home next.

Survivor: Philippines airs on CBS on Wednesday nights at 8/7 c.

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