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​Survivor's Rachel Discusses Being in "Survivor Purgatory" During the Cyclone

And why she'd hesitate to play again

Liz Raftery

Wednesday's premiere of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen Xincluded something never before seen in 32 previous seasons: a complete evacuation of the cast.

Yep, that's right: within 24 hours of the castaways' arrival, a cyclone was spotted heading straight for Fiji, which prompted Jeff Probst to evacuate both tribes for their own safety. It turned out it was a smart move, as one of the shelters was completely destroyed when a tree fell on it.

After that little hiccup, the rest of the premiere proceeded as planned, with the Generation X tribe going to Tribal Council after losing the immunity challenge, and voting out Rachel Ako. chatted with Rachel to get her take on the evacuation and what she wishes she would have done differently. What's your biggest regret about the game?
My biggest regret is, in hindsight, it would have been best to just not volunteer or not step up. Pretty much not say anything, and just fly under the radar and kind of be a ghost for all of the first episode, actually.

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Are you talking specifically about volunteering for the puzzle?
Yeah. There was a couple days of conversation before, leading up to that point, on who wanted to do puzzles. And it was only David, because he said he does puzzles and he's been practicing them, etc. But no one really wanted to do puzzles. ... It was smart to just sit back and not step up.

So if you could go back and do one thing differently, would it be not stepping up for the puzzle?
If I could have done one thing differently, it would have been to climb onto the Millennials' mat. (Laughs)

Were you surprised that you were voted out so quickly?
I thought the vote was going to me the whole time. ... I think they were trying to blindside me, actually. However, I saw it coming.

Rachel Ako, Jeff Probst, Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X
Monty Brinton, CBS

Assuming you watched the episode, what struck you most about the different strategies between the Millennials and the Gen Xers?
Yeah I did [watch the episode]. My friends threw me a watch party. It was fun. When we were building a shelter and working hard, we knew the Millennials weren't building a shelter and they weren't gonna sleep well that night. We were like, they're not gonna have any roof on their head. It's probably just Jay doing everything by himself while the girls are walking around. Which ... was pretty close to true. However, I liked the mentality of, when we came back from the cyclone, Gen X was just devastated in thinking about how much work we had to do, whereas the Millennials were more celebrating, 'Yeah! This is unprecedented! This is great!' So I think having more of that positive mindset is a good thing.

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Was it frustrating that you guys put in all that hard work and they didn't, but after the evacuation you both pretty much had to start from scratch?
No, I don't have regrets on that, because coming back, we had such a head start. We just needed to get our roof back up in place. All that weaving just takes hours upon hours, and we already had so much more of a head start.

We didn't get to see too much of the evacuation in the episode. How did that go down?
We didn't find out we were being evacuated until Jeff walked up to the island. And it was a little surreal. I feel like we were evacuated very late. As soon as Jeff took off in his boat to safety, the weather just changed. I was like, does CBS have control of the weather right now? It just amped up tenfold and the wind started blowing. I was totally getting rocked by the wind trying to do that interview, and the sand felt like bullets. So it just really changed immediately after Jeff left. I literally thought CBS had divine power.

We saw everyone being evacuated and then we saw you coming back. What happened in the interim?
We went into a room where we weren't allowed to talk. There was a producer monitoring us the whole time. We slept on a concrete floor, no pillows, anything like that. Literally I was like, should I stay here and die on the concrete in this Survivor purgatory of hell, or should I go die out in the cyclone, where at least I'm on the beach in Fiji? So I was kind of weighing out my options at that point.

Were you literally not allowed to talk to each other, or just not allowed to strategize?
It was very limited conversation. I don't even remember much at all. I think it was more us just talking to the producers, not so much each other, because there was always a producer in the room. So, yeah, it's like a silent hell. ... We didn't get to see the Millennials at all. But knowing them, they probably got to go to their parents' house for the night.

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Given that the game got off to such a strange start, were you worried at all about that having an impact on your strategy? Did you rethink your strategy at all after you were evacuated?
When I was thinking when I walked into a room, I was like, a room with a roof?! I thought I was going to get a bed with a pillow. I don't even care what size this cot or bed is. I got excited, and then when I saw this gutted room with concrete I'm like, you've got to be kidding. This is like from one nightmare to another. But yeah, it's constantly strategy. Even when you're not talking, it's still, you're in this room together - separated by tribes, of course, but, who sits next to who? Even in silence, bodies can say so much if you really pay attention.

Based on what you saw on your tribe, who's going to be the biggest threat?
I'm going for the Millennials because Gen X voted me out. (Laughs) So I don't have an answer for you on that one.

Was there anything we didn't see in the episode that you'd like fans to know?
I'm actually a very positive person. I know Sunday said I have a lot of negativity. I don't agree at all. I'm positive, and I love life. I love people. It is what it is. I think I probably would have benefited by having some younger people on my tribe. ... You guys didn't see, it was edited, but when we got our buffs and separated ourselves and Jeff announced Gen X vs. Millennials, he interviewed each of us on the mats. And every single Gen X had a very, very hard opinion about the Millennials. They were just shooting at each other back and forth with comments. It was a war. And I was the only one that said, 'You know, I don't know. It's like I'm going through an identity crisis right now. I actually appreciate what both generations bring to the table.' That probably put a target on my back right then ... because I wasn't like "Die, Millennials, die!"

If given the opportunity, would you play Survivor again?
I'd have to ask a lot more questions next time and think about it, and ask Jeff, 'Are you going to put me on a tribe with Gen X again?' Yeah, I'd have to think about it.

Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on CBS.

(Full disclosure: is owned by CBS.)