The former Zhan Hu players are being picked off one by one in the merged tribe, and on last week's Survivor: China (Thursdays at 8 pm/ET, CBS), it was Michael "Frosti" Zernow's turn. The impressively mature 20-year-old college student from Chicago talked about his relationship with Courtney, what went wrong for Zhan Hu and how he made the most of the experience.
TVGuide.com: It always looked like you were having such a good time out there; I was bummed to see you go.
Michael "Frosti" Zernow:
Me, too! I know that after you get back from any experience, you realize you haven't made as much of it as you could have. I mean, every night there was a beautiful sunset on the water. I tried to get the most out of every moment. I could have just sat there thinking that I didn't have any hot dogs with mustard, but I didn't want to regret not appreciating the experience I was having.
TVGuide.com: It seemed like you had really managed to integrate with the former Fei Long people. Why do you think they decided to vote you out instead of Erik?
They saw that I was doing a lot better in the challenges, which were starting to fit more with my abilities in terms of being agile and quick and having good endurance and balance, as opposed to just brute strength. Whereas Erik was starting to whither away. And I was getting very close with the tribe, and that could be threatening to them.
TVGuide.com: Did your relationship with Courtney pose a threat to them?
It wasn't threatening on purpose — yes, we were close, and we had a bond in that we felt comfortable with each other and we trusted each other. So not only did it seem like I was in, but it seemed like she was more out, so they thought they couldn't trust her as much. Courtney was known to vote in a way that was different from her tribe, and if she had done that at a time when it interfered with their game play, it could have been a huge problem for them.
TVGuide.com: So just how close did the two of you get? Was there any smooching involved?
[Laughs] When you're out there, you don't even think of that. It's kind of an awkward situation — you're in the jungle, starving, dirty, surrounded by crazy people who dig graves [James] and serve lunch [Denise]. Nothing that's going to happen out there is going to be that romantic, but it was nice to have someone I was comfortable with, and usually things like that don't happen so easily. When I was with her, I didn't feel like I was playing the game.
TVGuide.com: Did you think there was any chance Todd and Amanda would stick with you over their original tribe mates?
They were always planning to get rid of me — nobody wants to go to the end with someone who's playing a straight-up good game; my game was pretty clean and people liked me. Every chance they got, they made it clear that I was in a very bad spot. Jean-Robert blatantly said, "Yeah, we're probably going to vote you out. That's just how it is."
TVGuide.com: What did you think of Zhan Hu's plan to throw immunity challenge?
My strategy from the get-go was always to take the idea that this was basically a journey and things were going to happen that I wasn't expecting, and I was going to have to change and overcome those obstacles. Before I left, we had talked about throwing the challenge. I told them, "You guys are in control of the two biggest, most powerful, strongest players in the game right now." I didn't know for certain they were going to throw them; it would have been great for me if they had thrown both of them.
TVGuide.com: But then they didn't follow through because they didn't get the right vibe from you during the challenges.
The problem was that it put a lot of negative light on Sherea and I. As soon as they threw the first challenge, everyone at Fei Long was talking about throwing the next challenge. I was working really hard to gain their trust. When they told me that if they did lose, it would be either Sherea or me to go home and most likely me, I had to prove that I was more trustworthy than Sherea. And it just so happened that Sherea and Peih-Gee were communicating, and I was not going to look at anybody [on Zhan Hu].
TVGuide.com: Looking back on your original tribe, what went wrong at Zhan Hu?
Not having James and Aaron. Physically, we were getting dominated. But also, the way that we interacted as a tribe, our first goal was to function well. With Dave as our leader, his main goal was to make sure the survival part of Survivor was working. We had a great shelter, a great fire pit. I slept so well. But at the same time, we spent a lot of our time and energy on that kind of stuff, whereas Fei Long already had the stronger players and they were saving themselves and readying themselves for the challenges. If you look at the teams, just body mass, their team was probably double ours — James, Aaron, Jean-Robert — so they definitely were able to take over.
TVGuide.com: Did you have any favorite moments from being out there?
I remember the first time we won a challenge [the wood-chopping one] at Zhan Hu; we'd been getting whooped all over the place. For some reason, we could not get it together. Just winning was so important to us; we were finally safe for one week. Knowing that, we couldn't have the worst time ever. [Laughs] We couldn't be the most-losing team ever. And later, at the feast [after the merge], there was an amazing moment when we stopped worrying about the game, we thought about it as something good that happened. We were enjoying time with friends; we had food, we had drinks, everybody was talking, we were watching this great entertainment.
TVGuide.com: You were the youngest person out there — was your age ever a factor?
I was the youngest player ever — it starts out that you've got a focus on you; someone's pointing a finger at you, saying, "Oh, you're young. You're the youngest ever." There were times when people would be like, "Oh, yeah, my friends all went to this bar once and got really smashed, it was totally awesome." You've just got to be like, "Please don't look at me." Because anything can be a reason to vote you out — they think you're too young or too immature. I tried to use it to my advantage, being young and small. I wanted it to be hard to see me as a physical threat, but people still notice, especially when there are only a few people left.
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