After spending many challenges on the bench, Courtney Yates joined Benjamin "Coach" Wade on the jury bench after getting voted out of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains on Thursday. After narrowly avoiding elimination last week, when ally Sandra Diaz-Twine persuaded Russell Hantz to go another way, Courtney says her ouster came as no surprise, even though it stings right before the merger between the two tribes. The 29-year-old Yates spoke with TVGuide.com about Sandra's underestimated strength as a player, her feelings about Russell and why Jeff Probst was picking on her.
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TVGuide.com: Why do you think Parvati's attempts to convince her allies you should stay didn't work?
Courtney Yates: I think that Russell and Danielle were in a hot panic that I knew too many people on other side and they knew that I didn't like them. You can't be mad at them! And they were right! I didn't like them! What I wanted was for me to stay with Parv, and then have me, her and Sandra stay together, and then maybe get Amanda or Candice or one of the other girls and work it out after the merge. I explained to Parv that it was better for her personally for me to stay because I would be loyal to her and not to her alliance. She's a power player and she's not really being presented as such, I feel, but she really was. I wanted her to break away from Russell and start something else. So I'm not surprised it didn't work because they knew I got along with her and not them ...
I was really surprised that they decided to pick Sandra over me [to stay] because I am much more easygoing and loyal player, and Sandra's a lot more aggressive in her own way. I was stunned that they were underestimating her so much. I thought, they have no idea what they're messing with! She's a funny girl ... but she's fierce. I was like, they have no idea what they're doing. I am a puppy dog compared to this woman. She's like wolverine, she's ridiculous.
TVGuide.com: What was your take on Russell? Did you not get along for any specific reason?
Courtney: Russell and I got along perfectly fine. We didn't talk that much because he just was not social with a lot of people. He clung to Parvati and Danielle was also attached to him and then he aggressively wooed Jerri. Besides that, if he didn't need to talk to you, he didn't talk to you and that's fine. I got along with Tyson, Rod and Sandra so well. We were always laughing together and having a good time and he was scampering about in the woods looking for his lucky charms. Its not that I didn't get along with him, its just that I feel like he found out pretty early that I wasn't going to be useful to him in any way. There was never any bad blood. I love Russell. When I watched him last night [when Russell received a hidden idol from the Heroes tribe], I was proud of him. I was like, "You go, Russell Hantz! I'm proud to be on your team!"
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TVGuide.com: Why do you think you and Sandra were able to forge a strong alliance early on?
Courtney: I knew going in that if she was there, I wanted to play with her. She was like my idol going in. Her season, Pearl Islands, was the season I watched just before I left [for Survivor: China). I was like this girl is awesome. Look at her go. They don't even see her coming. I'm really impressed by how she handled herself. She's funny and honest and if that woman is on your side, she's on your side. If she's not on your side, you better watch your back! She can go toe-to-toe with Russell and everyone loves her. Everyone hates on Russell all the time because of the way he is and everyone loves Sandra because of the way she is. To a certain degree, that element of the game is sort of lost in the shuffle these days ... but there is a social element to the game and Sandra is amazing at it. Russell is a new player everyone loves and he's really not great at it. He sort of has become a prodigy in one section of the game while completely forgetting about the rest of it. And I think Sandra is good in all of the elements.
TVGuide.com: Was it harder to see Tyson or Boston Rob get eliminated?
Courtney: Tyson was hard for me because he was my little ray of sunshine out there. He was so funny and he kept me happy. I really, really like Tyson. It was harder to see Rob go because I feel like he was so good and so amazing. Tyson kind of slit his own throat. But Rob, it was really hard to see him go. I wanted to him do so well. I don't know why, he just has this charisma. Everyone loves Rob.
TVGuide.com: Are you disappointed about being eliminated right before the merger?
Courtney: I was really bummed out. I was hoping to make it to the merger and I figured if I did, I would be great. I would be home free because I'm the perfect post-merge player to keep around. I thought I did as much as I could to get there. I had a great, dominant alliance on my team ... we had this solid group where everyone was connected and then, unfortunately, everything unraveled after [Tyson] left. ... I feel bad because Tyson was totally footnoted in this season, but he really was integral in the beginning stages of the Villains camp. He really brought a lot of people together and once he went, it was all downhill.
TVGuide.com: How is your ankle following your injury during the challenge? Was it a big injury?
Courtney: It never really was. But Jeff Probst loves to point out that me and Sandra aren't good in challenges. Nobody cares but Jeff Probst [laughs].
TVGuide.com: Do you think Jeff focused on that too much in the various tribal councils?
Courtney: I feel like last night it was so redundant to point out that Sandra and I sat out. I think that they maybe didn't know what to do because the Villains voted off all of their man and the Heroes voted off all of their women so it turned into this two-on-two game. Challenges that were clearly supposed to be male vs. male and women vs. women were anyone versus anyone because there's not enough people to make it even ... I'm not completely stupid, I know that I suck. Obviously, put Danielle in something where you're supposed to be strong instead of me. It's ridiculous when you know you're bad and you insist on playing. That's worse ... I think I hold the record on Survivor for playing the most days and playing the least challenges. I think I should get some sort of tinfoil crown for that [laughs].