"The conversation of me being a professional athlete or me already having made some money was already being circulated," the former NBA player tells TVGuide.com. "So, to me, it makes the most sense to try to take me to the end with you. Because for the most part, nobody would vote for me."
Such self-awareness is a rarity on Survivor, but Cliff's conviction in his theory resulted in him getting blindsided on Wednesday's episode.
The tribes got rearranged this week, so no more Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty. How did you feel about your new group after the shake-up?
I felt pretty good going into the new Solana tribe, because we had five people from our original tribe going into the new tribe. So, five original Aparri, two Solana. We got the numbers. I'm feeling pretty comfortable. Even though I felt that Trish would jump over to Jefra and L.J. ... I still felt that we had a strong four.
Tony's decision to flip and vote you out, despite the numbers advantage, was a little surprising. Do you think that was a good move at this stage in the game?
You know, getting rid of me was never a good move, because I'm the person you want to take to the end of the game. The conversation of me being a professional athlete or me already having made some money was already being circulated. So, to me, it makes the most sense to try to take me to the end with you, because for the most part, nobody would vote for me.
Did you have any idea going into Tribal Council that you would be voted off?
I didn't think that I would be voted off, but right before leaving for Tribal Council, there was something brought to my attention that I wasn't able to address with Tony, so I didn't know where he was at. I thought he would stick with the core alliance, but I was obviously wrong.
What was brought to your attention?
A conversation that Trish had with Jefra about us trying to throw the previous challenge, which I wasn't a part of. Sarah and Trish were a part of it. ... Trish had that conversation with Jefra, and the only person that could have spilled that information to Trish was Tony. Woo wouldn't do it, and Lindsey definitely wouldn't do it because her and Trish were at odds. So, when that conversation was brought up, I talked to Tony about it but I couldn't talk to him in depth about it or really get a good feel for where he was at, because we were getting ready to go to Tribal.
Speaking of the thrown challenge, what was your reaction when you heard the tribe had tried to throw the challenge to throw you out?
Surprised. I was definitely surprised. I thought I had a pretty good feel for Sarah, but what I didn't know was that Tony pulled the Blue Bloods card on her. I was unaware of that, which kind of turned everything. They're in the same [professional] field. She started believing everything that he said without coming to me and confirming it.
As a former professional athlete, was their attempt to throw the challenge frustrating to you on several levels? Both because they were trying to get you out, and from a competitive standpoint?
It's always going to be a part of the game. It's always going to be something that's brought up in the game, because you want to try to make a move to get someone out. So, it's something that you can't avoid. But to see them trying to throw the challenge to get me out when I've done nothing but help in challenges, when I've done nothing to backstab any of them, it was kind of disappointing.
Why do you think your tribe mates saw you as such a threat?
Tony did a good job at pulling Sarah in. He confided in her about what he truly does as a job, and that was something that they both have in common. They're both police officers. So, the seed that was planted was planted by Tony. Sarah was just a pawn who fell for Tony's foolishness.
Do you regret making it clear to Trish that she was the odd woman out? She might not have tried to make a big move if she didn't realize she was in danger.
I do regret not trying to massage that relationship a little better. When you go out there on the beach to participate in the game, you go out there and your intentions are to not let people's little personal quirks bother you. And for some reason I just couldn't hide it with her. After a certain point it was like, you know what? I don't like her. I don't like her, and I don't care if she knows that I don't like her. I still feel pretty comfortable with the group once we made the switch, [but] I knew she was going to flip.
The preview for next week shows the tension between Lindsey and Trish really coming to a head. What was going on there behind the scenes?
What you see is what you get. There was tension with them right from the beginning. They tried to avoid it, and not let it bother them. But both of them, they couldn't do it. It was obvious that they didn't like each other, and that's just the way it was.
As far as Tony, he's made it clear that he's taking an "every man for himself" approach. Has that been surprising to you, to see his strategy in the edits that make it to broadcast?
No, it's not surprising to me, because there's always going to be someone who goes out there and are just going to go out there and not care about what they say and who they lie to. Some people can go out there and do that, and he's proven that he's one of those people.
Looking back on your time on Survivor, do you have any regrets?
It was a great experience. If I had the opportunity to play again, I definitely would because I see some areas where I probably could have tweaked my game a little bit more, and probably could have been beneficial to me. ... I think I had a good run. The relationship with Trish, I probably could have played that a little bit better. That's about it. Everything else, I'm pleased about how I played the game. I did well in the challenges, was able to maneuver through the game as long as I could. The fact that I'm 6'10", a former NBA player, didn't allow me to blend in or hide. I wish I could have made it a lot further. But it is what it is. It's the game, and you just have to take it and move on.
Who do you think is the biggest threat going forward?
Cliff: I like Woo. Woo has a calm demeanor. I think Woo does a really good job at being seen and not heard. And when he's heard, he's not seen. So he does a really good job of blending in and hiding. I'm Team Woo all the way now.
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on CBS.
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