The blindsided castaway also gets into finding the idol she thought was real, and her relief upon finding out it was fake.
Survivor 44 is here! Every week, Parade.com's Mike Bloom will bring you interviews with the castaway most recently voted off of the island.
"I join a special club of sad, sad people." Sarah Wade didn't even know the half of it when she said this during her final words after an intense Tribal Council stunningly sent her home. Indeed, she is the latest of many in Survivor who have been voted out with an idol in her pocket. But the management consultant became part of an even more exclusive club, being the first person voted out with a fake idol in her pocket that she believed was actually real.
But a week ago of in-game time, Sarah was actually in a great spot. She immediately clicked with Carson Garrett and Helen Li, and the three quickly formed a majority in their ever-shrinking Tika tribe. But the beginning of the end had already arrived when Sarah was randomly picked to go to a summit. She was forced into a random draw, and lost her vote in the process. But as a hefty consolation prize, she got the new "Inheritance Advantage," which allowed her to accumulate any advantages that were played at a particular Tribal Council. While the excitement of her new power shone through, it was the no vote that mattered the most. Facing tight numbers, Carson flipped to prevent a tie, sending Helen home and leaving Sarah stunned.
Officially on the bottom now, Sarah was hoping to find new power in the game to avoid the inevitable. And she thought she had done just that, following a set of mysterious red X's to an idol in a log. But, unfortunately, it was yet another rug pull, a fake idol hidden by Carolyn Wiger. Even so, the game shifted when a new twist replaced Carson at their camp with Josh Wilder. Between him being the last one into the tribe and the shadiness from lying about his job, Sarah was part of the plan with Carolyn and Yam Yam Arocho to blindside the former Soka by pretending there were fractures within the remaining Tikas. It was an acting job that felt so authentic it actually became real. Carolyn had gotten tired of being the fake target and got some critical information when Josh told her he got an idol at the summit. And after Sarah targeted Carolyn days ago for being too emotional and unpredictable, she proved just that. A fight between Carolyn and Yam Yam at Tribal Council proved to be just the beginning of their conflict. Josh played the idol on himself and Sarah sat on her idol, thinking his vote would be for Carolyn. And she was stunned at Tribal once more when Josh and Carolyn came together to get rid of her.
Now out of the game, Sarah talks with Parade.com about how close she came to playing that fake idol at Tribal Council, her reaction to the argument between Yam Yam and Carolyn, how she handled navigating from the bottom, and her reaction to the first four boots of the season all being young women.
Related: Read our Survivor 44 pre-game interview with Sarah Wade
We have to start with your final words, where you said you joined a "club of sad, sad people" in being voted out with an idol in your pocket. At what point did you find out that the idol was actually fake?
So I found out as soon as the postmergers got back. It was the best news I had ever received. Immediately after it happened, I was like, "I just hope it's fake. I have no idea if it is, but that would really help me sleep better at night if this is a fake idol." So it was a couple of weeks later, and quite possibly the best news I've ever received. (Laughs.)
So you say in those final words that you didn't play your idol because, even though Josh played his, you didn't think he'd vote for you. How close were you to playing that idol at Tribal Council?
I for sure was thinking about it. First, if I was gonna play the idol, I would play the Inheritance advantage with it, right? Because then it's just a boomerang; the idol comes right back to you. But I was considering it pretty seriously. But then in the Felicia moment between Yam Yam and Carolyn, those two like were really going at it. And then after that, Carolyn immediately whispers [to Josh], so it goes kind of live. She and Josh start conferencing, whispering to each other. So in that moment, I was like, if those two were coming for me, hopefully they just switched it to Yam Yam, because they just had a giant fight. And then they start whispering. So in that moment, I was like, "Even if those two actually are together, hopefully, they're not going for Yam Yam." So that's why I didn't play it.
Why do you think Josh and Carolyn decided to target you over Yam Yam?
Two reasons. One, with Josh, I probably questioned a little too much on the different details of his life that he was lying about. So I came at him with the surgeon thing. I also approached him and I was like, "You have to have an idol. There's no way they would send you here alone, with no idol. That would be the most unfair thing." And he was like, No, "I don't have it." He stuck to this personal trainer thing. So I think that I'd probably shown too much of my awareness to him.
He also was like, "You've got to be a D1 swimmer." And I was like, "If you see me in these water challenges, I'm not a D1 swimmer." (Laughs.) But I think there were different things where I was probably too transparent with him with what I knew. And I think he might have thought I was lying to him. But with Carolyn, I do think just the whole time, she wasn't a fan of me. So it wasn't surprising to me that she wanted me out.
Did that dynamic with Carolyn stem from one particular incident, or you two just had totally different ways of looking at things that you could never get on the same page?
There were certainly a lot of moments throughout those nine days. Me, Carolyn and Helen had a chat about a girls alliance. When it was me, Yam Yam, Carson, and Carolyn, both of us were clearly trying to win over Carson and Yam Yam. And there was a moment where she and I were talking, and I was like, "Well, we could switch this and you and I could be the middle and we can pick which one of them could be out." So like, we certainly, tried to connect at different times. But I think we're so different in the way we like to express ourselves. And Carolyn just doesn't like me.
Speaking of Carolyn, let's talk about the fight she had with Yam Yam at Tribal Council. There was a plan set up by the Tikas to pretend there was dissension so Josh doesn't play an idol if he has one. How much of that performance at Tribal was staged?
Yeah, so we had talked that we needed to go in looking like we're really all considering working with Josh. Because we all had basically assumed Josh probably had an idol, or at least some advantage, to make this swap fair. And so we needed him to feel comfortable. So then, when those two started going at it, they went at it all the time. It was like, "Okay, this is like an average day." And then it kind of seemed to escalate. So in that moment, then I was like, "This might be real." And then immediately after those two go at it, then she stopped and talks to Josh again. So in which case, I assumed she had to be changing a plan to do it in front of us.
Let's go back to the beginning or your game. Things started on a strong note when you join up with Carson and Helen. What made you three gravitate to each other so early on?
So I think I saw in them two people that felt very controlled to me, people that could roll through a lie, sit calmly through a stressful moment. And that felt good. Also, I mean, on Day 1 or Day 2, if you're with three people, you're going to be talking about an alliance. And that's just a fact. And I love them both. And I think we have very similar energy the way we thought about things. But yeah, it was also, if you're getting wood with three people, you're probably gonna make an alliance.
You then go on a summit, where you lose your vote but get the Inheritance Advantage. Helen told me that you told her and Carson about not having your vote. What was your intention behind that, and withholding the Inheritance Advantage from everyone?
So when I was on the boat back from the journey, I was like, "I need to tell them something that's reasonable-ish." I don't want anyone to be shocked when I don't have a vote, but I can't tell people I do have it. And I thought in telling them I might have it and I might not means that your allies won't assume you have it. But also the people against you can't assume. So I thought it at least left enough up in the air. And with the idea of the next person going will obviously find out this is a lie, I just figured, with the next person that goes, it can be something for us to bond over. To be like, "Oh, we're both in on the secret now."
So when I came back, everyone was pretty cool with the lie. And it did leave it up in the air on whether or not I had a vote. And I was, of course, not going to tell anyone about the Inheritance Advantage. Just because the entire mechanism didn't exist. And the fact that it's a secret. If I had played an idol and then immediately got it back, no one would have known about it. It just shows up in your bag back at camp. So that would be insane to tell anyone about.
Considering that, as you mentioned, everyone assumed you didn't have a vote, how surprised were you by Helen's boot, considering that Carson wouldn't want to cause a 2-2 tie?
So I think they showed it as a 2-2 with Carson in the middle. But with me, Helen and Carson knew I didn't have a vote, but everyone knew I might not have a vote. So that couldn't have been the possible split that we thought it was, because no one would plan for a 2-2 tie. So we'd also thought we had Yam. Yam was similarly in the middle. And we thought we were all working with Yam Yam. Otherwise, no one would commit to hoping for it to tie. So it was both of them that wound up flipping. And I think to me, it's just so gamey that I wasn't that shocked by it. Let me be clear: I did not know it was happening. I was surprised. But in terms of like a game move, I think it's totally fair and made sense. And then when we got back to camp, it was like, "Well, we just need to figure out what's next."
Talk to me about your relationship with Yam Yam, because we didn't see a lot of it. But Yam Yam does say that he wanted to get rid of Helen over you because you had a better chance of working with him, and you do vote together against Josh here. What was your dynamic like?
Oh, yeah, I absolutely love Yam. We got along really well out there. It was little things. We always would go get the big pieces of wood together. I totally get his humor. We had a total blast together. And one thing he kept telling me, which was so funny, he'd always say, "Sarah, if I was watching the show, I would be cheering for you. So I want to work with you." And he's probably saying that to everyone. But Yam was the best. We had an absolute blast out there. And just having him around, when everyone's pretty in their heads about everything, for Yam Yam, cracking jokes left and right is the best thing to have around. So we certainly got along. And I think from a strategic standpoint, if the swap hadn't happened, I do think Yam and Carson would have come with me. I think things were really moving in a positive direction with the three of us.
On that note, talk me through how you were navigating your way out of the bottom after the Helen vote. I know you and Carson had declared each other "number ones." But what work were you putting in during those days before the swap?
So I think the big thing was me just trying to show that I would a steady reliable vote. The difference between me and Carolyn is gigantic and how we live our day to day on the island. Like, she expresses so much more emotion and gets mad at some jokes. Even if we're like, "Should we eat the ripe papaya?" She's like, "We just should eat the papaya!" I just think that was the biggest area I can differentiate us, was just showing that she is far more volatile than I am. I'm a reliable person that you're gonna have fun with, and we can work together. I wasn't freaking out about anything.
It's interesting that, with all of these things with Carolyn, you end up finding the fake idol that she planted. With all this birdcage drama, how much discussion was there as to whether she had the idol?
Yeah, so we had no idea who had it. And the way it was shown, with us walking out and Carolyn being the only one back, that wasn't exactly how that went down. So it was far more ambiguous who could have taken it. But I think it was really such a crapshoot to us. But Carson was so convinced he'd seen Helen put it in the back of her pants. So then when she goes out and that X comes up, we're like, "Maybe it's just a re-hidden idol and they're like not putting it back in the bag. They're like using this X as the way they're hiding the second one." But I would say we didn't suspect Carolyn more than anyone else. But I think all of us were like, "We don't know, it also might have left with Helen."
So then when I found it, Carolyn put it where I always slept. I slept probably three feet away from there. So she certainly wanted me to find the fake idol, which she planted beautifully. And I think in finding it, it's as if you're playing poker. Someone hands you a two of clubs, and it looks like a two of clubs. I don't know if they showed this, but I was like, "There's a glass bead. That's not on any of our stuff. This is not available to us anywhere else." So I knew it like had to be a thing that was planted in the game as an idol. Because we didn't have the material to make that as a fake idol. But again, if you're playing poker, and you have the two of clubs, and it looks like a two of clubs, and then you play it, and then they're like, "It's not a two of clubs," itt makes for phenomenal TV, but is confusing as a game player.
While it was devastating to see you go out the way you did, you did get greeted by a lot of kindred spirits at Ponderosa. You are the fourth young woman booted from the season in a row. Were you noticing this trend out there on the island, and what's your take on it?
Well, one, I clap because I love the girls. I think that was a giant blessing coming out of Survivor is the time we got to spend together at Ponderosa. In general, obviously, it's horrible to see that trend. It happened last season. It happened this season. First four votes, all women. And of course, it makes you think about maybe it is just that luck by all eight of us. But also, it's what aspects of the game might contribute to a trend like that. And Claire brought this up; there is like the design of six people per tribe and no swaps in terms of what we've seen in recent history which favors strength.
Also, in challenges, I think in previous seasons, let's say like for the ring toss, if someone can't toss the ring, a lot of times, in past seasons, you can swap out. And a huge thing on this season is you can't swap out of anything. So it puts even more pressure on each individual being strong in physical challenges. And I think another thing is in designing anything, or in any leadership, if there's not many women represented, it's hard to think about how women might be impacted by certain design decisions or strategic decisions. And it's absolutely nothing against them. I think production has all of the best intentions to build the most fair game. And I know that's a giant priority. But I think it's also hard to consider all the implications of women when it's largely men driving those decisions, building challenges, things like that.
Next, check out our interview with Claire Rafson, who was voted out in Survivor 44 Episode 3.