After CBS' Survivor: Panama Exile Island (Thursdays at 8 pm/ET) condensed four tribes to two last week in an old-fashioned schoolyard pick, Tennessee native Melinda Hyder was the second player to be sent packing, allowing Bruce to take her place on the Casaya tribe. TVGuide.com chatted with Hyder about Shane's "master plan," her idea of a perfect reality-show pairing, and, despite her ability to start a fire from scratch, why she'll never allow a real fireplace in her home.
TVGuide.com: That schoolyard pick would have given me terrible flashbacks of being chosen last for grade-school dodgeball!
Melinda Hyder: It honestly didn't bother me that I was picked last. I was happy to be on Cirie's tribe because Cirie and I had made an alliance from Day 1. It was only after my tribe started talking and I could tell the way they were that I knew Cirie and I were in trouble.
TVGuide.com: Is there anyone from the La Mina tribe you wish you could have teamed up with?
Melinda: Actually, I just wish I had ended up on La Mina. [Laughs] It was either the "Kumbaya" tribe or the "crazy" tribe!
TVGuide.com: Speaking of twists, it must have been quite something when Jeff Probst revealed the specifics of Exile Island. What were the feelings at camp after you found out that Bruce was the only person who'd have immunity at tribal council?
Melinda: It's definitely a situation where you have your pros and cons. Who wants to stay on Exile Island by themselves for three days? Bruce may get immunity, but he's also going to be out of the loop for three days.
TVGuide.com: What do you think of his chances, having taken your place on Casaya?
Melinda: With that tribe? Good luck! I would have rather been on Exile [lsland] by myself than be with them.
TVGuide.com: Once the two teams were assembled, did strategy meetings take place?
Melinda: The moment Cirie and I got back to the island, we approached Bobby to try to form an alliance with him and Aras. Bobby was all for it, but Aras basically said he didn't want to form any alliances yet which we later found out was a lie, because he had already formed an alliance with Shane, Courtney and Danielle. Aras said he wanted to play the game with integrity, which I appreciate, but don't tell me that and then lie to me.
TVGuide.com: In the first episode, you said that you thought Cirie was the weaker link. What changed your mind?
Melinda: In a lot of those questions, I was asked "Who do you think is the strongest person on your tribe?" and "Who do you think is the weakest?" I obviously wasn't going to say that either Ruth Marie or Tina [Scheer] were weak, and I'm not going to say I'm weak. Cirie was the only person left, but the way it was edited made it seem like I was singling her out.
TVGuide.com: Did any other editing surprise you?
Melinda: Not really. It was surprising how much you don't see, but that's understandable because there are so many hours of footage [to be condensed].The only thing I wish they had shown more of was all of us working at our first camp. They kind of portrayed it as if Tina did all the work. She did do a lot, but we were all working, 24/7.
TVGuide.com: It was easy to see how both you and Cirie felt like outcasts, especially once Shane voiced his "master plan" to eliminate the two of you, one by one.
Melinda: Shane is someone who quit smoking on the first day of Survivor, cold turkey. How intelligent is that? He said that he missed his son, that he missed his cigarettes.... He told us that he made enough money and was like "Why am I even here?" He said those things all day long and made us promise that we would vote for him, and then he changed his mind 10 minutes before tribal [council].
TVGuide.com: Was he the one who whined a lot on your tribe?
Melinda: Courtney was equally whiney.
TVGuide.com: Was she the one who said "like" too many times?
Melinda: Yes! Cirie and I [eavesdropped on her] and counted them for three minutes: I stopped at 30. We had to walk away because we were going to start laughing.
TVGuide.com: What kept you occupied when you weren't setting up camp?
Melinda: Collecting wood for the fire is epic. I never realized how much wood it takes to keep a fire going 24/7. I never want a real fireplace in my house. It has to be gas.
TVGuide.com: What made you try out for Survivor?
Melinda: I liked the whole competition aspect of it that it wasn't a subjective competition. A lot of competitions and auditions I do are subjective, [based on] somebody's opinion. With Survivor, whoever crosses the finish line first wins. My friends were like, "You can't do Survivor. What are you talking about?!" But that just made me more determined.
TVGuide.com: As a singer, if you had to audition for American Idol, what would you sing for Simon?
Melinda: I don't know if I would sing for Simon, even if I had the chance, because he always has something negative to say. I'm sure I would pick a jazz-Broadway tune.
TVGuide.com: I understand you've performed with Dolly Parton in the past?
Melinda: I [performed] at Dollywood for about six years, and there were times when she'd come in and do shows with us. She's very cool.
TVGuide.com: Having tried Survivor, has the reality-television bug bitten you at all?
Melinda: [Without missing a beat] No. [Laughs] But I think Cirie and I should do The Amazing Race talk about hilarious!
TVGuide.com: Who would be the driver and who would give directions?
Melinda: I'm definitely the directions girl. Cirie's even said she's direction-challenged. I mean, she didn't even find the water! I can't even tell you how funny it would be.
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