He played the game with true honesty and integrity, but North Carolinian author Austin Carty found his Survivor: Panama Exile Island (Thursdays at 8 pm/ET on CBS) tribe mates eager to turn the page after his island stay reached the three week mark. TVGuide.com chatted with Austin who earned the first seat on this season's jury the day after his snuffing to find out how he managed to survive Exile Island, his voting strategy for the finale and his reality-star crush.
TVGuide.com: What has been the reaction at home to your elimination?
Austin Carty: Everyone's incredibly disappointed. The way things started out, people thought I had a chance to win. I thought so, too.
TVGuide.com: You recently admitted to throwing a challenge by not performing to your true ability, in order to hide your athleticism from the tribe. Did you regret revealing your strategy?
Austin: Once I realized I had not been voted out, I knew it was probably not the brightest idea to have outed my plan. At the same time, it got that feeling of conviction off my chest. Dishonesty doesn't sit well with me, and although it's not the most duplicitous thing, I wasn't proud of it at all.
TVGuide.com: During Episode 7, which resulted in Nick's exit, you firmly believed you would be the one to go in his place. So it's almost as if you had "bonus time" in Panama.
Austin: It was, like, three extra days... to spend on Exile Island. After I didn't win immunity, I thought for certain I was a goner, but there was a twist when I found out Terry had the immunity idol. For a brief period I thought maybe we'd be able to sway Danielle, or perhaps Terry would have given me the immunity idol, but I realized neither of those contingencies was going to happen.
TVGuide.com: Did you ask Terry to use the idol to save you if the vote came down to it?
Austin: I asked him right when we realized Danielle most likely was not going to flop. He politely said no.
TVGuide.com: Tell me about the immunity challenge with the obstacle course. That looked rather fun, but terribly difficult and tiring!
Austin: It was tailor-made for me. Had I not been on Exile Island and drained of so much energy, I'd like to think I would have come away victorious.
TVGuide.com: What was the hardest part of that challenge?
Austin: The lack of food bred exhaustion. If we were able to have food out there, we wouldn't have realized how miserable we were. You get acclimated to the situation very quickly but you never get acclimated to being hungry.
TVGuide.com: And the hunger pangs persisted when you and Danielle were sent to Exile Island to deal with some of the soggiest days you survivors had seen so far.
Austin: [Laughs] It was Noah's flood reincarnate. It never stopped. Every moment of it was miserable, but it did lend me a lot of perspective on life and the blessings we have and realizing the small things you take for granted every day, such as shelter and water. We weren't even able to drink because we weren't able to sustain fire for water-boiling purposes.
TVGuide.com: Did you realize those things introspectively, or through conversations with Danielle?
Austin: Introspectively mostly. It was very nice to have someone to commiserate with over there. We both got to pout about how miserable it was and to fortify each other through the situation.
TVGuide.com: Alas, once you returned for tribal council, your island buddy put your name into the ballot box.
Austin: It's every person for themselves out there. They're equipped with whatever knowledge they have of what's best to get them furthest in the game. Danielle used those tools and she thought staying with Casaya was her best bet. Honestly, I do, too.
TVGuide.com: Prior to that vote, Terry revealed to Danielle that he in fact had the immunity idol and would be willing to offer it to her as long as she voted according to his wishes.
Austin: He told her that he had it and if it came down to it, he'd be able to use it to his advantage. Strategically, he could have done a lot of smarter things with it, but it was his decision.
TVGuide.com: Terry touts himself as an honest Naval Academy man who would never "lie, cheat or steal." Did he play up his background any other times?
Austin: Not too much, because it wasn't really an issue with La Mina. Right off the bat, Nick and I both bonded with Dan and Terry. I wanted to be with other men I could hide behind going into the merge, because at every Survivor merge, the athletic guys are picked off one by one. There was an immediate sense of honor and integrity in both Dan and Terry because of their background and training and because they're such accomplished people. Not to say that Misty and Sally weren't honest, too, but when you're young, the million dollars means a lot more to you.
TVGuide.com: One of your biggest concerns in Panama was striking a balance between maintaining your integrity and playing the game. What surprised you most about the game play?
Austin: How quickly misery sets in. After fewer than 24 hours, you're wondering what you got yourself into. It hits you quickly and it hits you hard.
TVGuide.com: Did your time on the island feel like 21 days?
Austin: It felt like 121 days!
TVGuide.com: When it came time for the merge, what excited you and what really bothered you about having to leave La Mina beach?
Austin: I was excited to break the monotony of the situation we had going on at La Mina. What scared me and this would scare any competent, coherent individual was that we didn't have the numbers, the worry that [the Casaya members] weren't going to crack. I'm sitting here now they didn't crack!
TVGuide.com: As the first member of the jury, are there any specific comments or interactions that you'll take into consideration at the final vote?
Austin: Obviously, if Terry or Sally are one of the final two, they've got my vote without my asking a question. If it's two Casaya members, it's going to come down to the wire. I'm going to to sit in on all the tribal councils and weigh everything they say that entire time. When all is said and done, I'm going to give it to the person I feel is most deserving, not necessarily the person I like the most.
TVGuide.com: Were you OK with your on-screen portrayal?
Austin: I was certainly happy with my portrayal. It only really had me make reference to my Christian faith once. I do not consider myself a "Christian salesman," but it's how I filter a lot of my decisions. I'm surprised more of that didn't show, but I'm not offended or upset at all.
TVGuide.com: Fans may not be aware of the fact that you're an accomplished author with a novel under your belt.
Austin: I wrote [Somewhere Beyond Here] when I was 20, and it was definitely a first effort in terms of grammar and plot strategy. Before my sister was born, my mom set aside a day to take just me to see the movie An American Tail. She explained that while my sister was new and needed lots of love, it didn't mean she loved me any less. The movie's theme song was "Somewhere Out There," and my mom made me promise at the end of the movie that that would always be our song and that whenever she passed away, I could look to heaven and see her somewhere out there. As a 5-year-old kid, that was the first time I ever pondered the fact that my mom might die. When I sat down to write my first book, I wanted it to be based on that relationship. I've written two new full-length novels, and I've got an agent who I'm hoping will secure me a book deal come finale time. In a perfect world, I'd like for the books to be published and to be able to use my Survivor experience and my writing as a platform to do motivational speaking.
TVGuide.com: And we've also seen you as "Young Dan" in the third One Tree Hill episode of 2003.
Austin: It was an Emmy-winning turn, let me tell you! "Young Dan" definitely catapulted that show to success. It was a very small bit part where I said two words. I was very excited to do that it made me SAG eligible. If a television opportunity presented itself in the future, it's definitely something I'd enjoy doing.
TVGuide.com: Are any other reality shows in your future?
Austin: American Idol winner Fantasia [Barrino] is from my hometown. I watch Idol all the time my family knows Kellie Pickler a little bit. You know what I've started watching? 8th and Ocean. I've developed a slight crush on little Britt.
TVGuide.com: It must bring back memories of your time as a model.
Austin: [Pauses] I really don't talk about that too much because it's never been a full career and it breeds a stereotype I don't like to be associated with, but yeah. Our dad was a Wilhelmina model for years and my mom was a casting agent, so we kind of got thrown into it. My freshman year in college I was contracted to go down and work with Irene Marie, the woman from 8th and Ocean, but I was playing soccer in college and it didn't work out. Now I wish it had, so I could get Britt's phone number. She's right up my alley cute, Christian.... I'm all about it!
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