Survivor: Samoa, John Fincher

In the world of Survivor, it's not about intelligence, strength or good looks, it's about how well you play the game. He may be a rocket scientist, but 25-year-old John Fincher's intelligence and complex strategy still wasn't enough to protect him from his decision to vote out fellow Galu, Laura, and lose his tribe's trust. John talked with TVGuide.com about his decision to turn against Laura and Galu, the Foa Foa member he almost convinced to flip and the many things he would have done differently on the island.

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TVGuide.com: Were you surprised your name was up for discussion or did you predict a backlash from your fellow Galu teammates after you switched your vote to Laura?
John Fincher: The answer to both of those questions is yes. Certainly there's an element of surprise and if there isn't surprise, then you didn't do enough to stop it. It seemed like it was written in stone that Dave was going home. Was I anticipating hard feelings from Monica, Dave and Brett? Absolutely, but I had a good conversation with each of them after that. In hindsight, maybe I could have done more effective damage control with Monica. I went up to Monica [after the vote for Laura] and said, "If you think Dave and Brett are going to work with you, you're dead wrong ... Defend me and I will help defend you, let's work together." But I guess there's the answer for you.

TVGuide.com: Do you think it was because Russell suggested your name or your teammates' distrust that your name was thrown into the mix?
John: When Russell was talking to Dave, Russell was having a conversation with dead man. If this conversation doesn't happen, Dave is going home. The only thing Dave can do is say, "Russell, sir, anything you want. I will give you anything you want ... Please help me, Russell. What can I do to help you?" Dave, at that point, was going to do anything to save his own hide.

TVGuide.com: Why do you think you gravitated towards making an alliance with Russell? He's obviously a good player, but he's also one of the most manipulative.
John: I think you have to be able to work with everyone. If you shut your door for business, that makes you less useful to other people and it really isn't a good thing as far as strategy is concerned. So I opened up John's store for business from day one at the merger. I said, "Hey, let's talk." When I had that conversation with Russell, it's not a huge sigh of relief like, "Oh my God, I'm so glad I have Russell on my team." I'm thinking, "OK, what is he going to do with that information?" It wasn't an alliance.

Survivor's Laura: I was never the mean girl

TVGuide.com: Do you think Russell will be able to last long in this game with his aggressive moves we've seen the last couple of weeks?
John: I tip my hat to him. We'll see. The current situation is that there are eight players left and if you think Shambo has totally flipped [to Foa Foa], then it's a five-on-three situation. Russell is buried pretty deep in alliances on the side that has the majority of the numbers, so if I had to make a prediction, he's going to be around a little longer.

TVGuide.com: When the tribes first merged, Galu had a huge advantage. What do you think was Galu's weakness or Foa Foa's strength that allowed them to get so many Galus out of the game after the merge?
John: Several things contributed to Foa Foa's success post-merge. Most importantly, they understand where in the game they were. Some people on Galu had no idea it was Day 19 when we merged. "Who do you want to vote off? Jaison because he's lazy." No! You do not vote based on who's lazy, it's no longer Day 3. Because [Foa Foa] had been to so many tribal councils, they knew how it worked, how it operates. They had more experience and experience is worth something in this world ... The more games you play with your team, the stronger bond you have with your team. They trusted each other and they were almost forced to because they had nothing to lose. They came into the merge very, very prepared ... It's no surprise, no mistake that they are where they are in the game now.

TVGuide.com: If you could go back knowing what you know, would you still switch your vote to Laura? Would you change anything else?
John: I would have done a lot of things differently, it's not just would I have put Laura's name down or not. There are a lot of things I would have changed because it is really complex.