Warning: This post contains spoilers from Wednesday’s season finale of Survivor 42.
He rocked the Final 5 challenge and slayed Goliath in fire-making, but despite coming close to winning it all, Mike Turner couldn’t conquer the small, but mighty Maryanne Oketch when it came to the final jury vote.
In the season finale of Survivor 42 (read a full recap here), Mike, Maryanne and Romeo Escobar landed in the final three seats after a hellacious 26-day game that offered them little food, lots of rain and a cast full of tough competitors. But even though Mike’s social game impressed many, he ultimately lost the grand prize in a 7-1 vote.
Here, Mike talks to TVLine about his clutch challenge wins and why he’s OK with losing, plus shares his innermost thoughts on Fijian pizza.
TVLINE | First of all, congratulations on making the Final 3! That’s a huge accomplishment.
MIKE TURNER | Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
TVLINE | You won what was arguably one of the most important challenges of the season. How did it feel winning that Final 5 challenge?
Listen, I wish I could sit here and say that I was sandbagging all the other challenges, so that way I could be ready to take that challenge by storm. Not the case. Going into that challenge, I just said to myself, “It’s such a big challenge. Let me just be steady throughout the whole challenge.” And once I got to the puzzle and I started seeing it, it just started coming together in my head. I saw where the puzzle parts went very easily. Once I won, it was a little overwhelming because you try to accomplish the bucket list things on Survivor, and at that point, I didn’t win an immunity challenge. To go into the top five, and to beat Lindsay and Jonathan, who are undoubtedly the challenge beasts of the season, in a puzzle and the physical portion, it was overwhelming. I thought about my wife and my kids and how they would feel. Even now, I get a little emotional about it because it means so much to me.
TVLINE | Then you go on to win the fire-making challenge! How confident were you in that? Did you think you had it in the bag?
No. One thing you learn, you never have anything in the bag. Quite frankly, I wasn’t the favorite. Jonathan was the favorite. He was making fire every single day at camp. He was the guy that everybody went to, and as you saw, everybody wanted Jonathan to go in because they thought he could beat me. Was I confident in myself? Yes. But I never thought 100 percent that I would win. But once I saw the makeup of the fire and I saw the kind of wood, I started knowing that I could make the fire fast, I just didn’t know how fast Jonathan could make it. But once I got the flame going, I knew that I can build and create enough height that it would burn through the rope quickly.
TVLINE | Had you lost the fire-making challenge and Jonathan was in your place, who would you have voted for and why?
It would have been a hard decision. Do I go with loyalty for Jonathan for being my man since the merge and giving me the information that helped me get to the end, or look at Marianne who I was also very close to. However, we didn’t play the game together. We had a relationship out there, but we didn’t play the game. But if push came to shove, I would have voted for Jonathan.
TVLINE | At the final Tribal, it seemed like some jurors had taken issue with your claims of integrity. As that Tribal was unraveling, did you feel like the game was slipping out of your hands?
You know what it felt like? It felt like I fell off the edge of a cliff, and I saw one vine and grabbed it. It’s not a really strong vine, and I feel it. And as Tribal was going on, somebody put grease on the vine, and I felt myself slipping off. And I’m trying to hold on and reach for things, and before you know it, you fall off the cliff and you’re looking up and that vine’s laughing at you. That’s what it kind of felt like.
You know, it happens! You get caught up as to what you think you did out there. And then when you hear it played back to you, the reality of what happened out there is not the same. Our perception is our reality until somebody puts it in your face and makes you understand what maybe the reality was. I’m thinking I’m playing Survivor, which to me is like a game of poker. If I’m playing poker with all my best friends in the world, and I have a pair of deuces and they have a full house and I bluff them and they go out with a full house, it’s lying, but it’s also a game. They can be mad for a second that they got caught and believed me. But when the game is over, it’s like, “That was one heck of a friggin’ move!” That’s how I played the game and I assumed that’s how [the jury] would’ve. Obviously, I was wrong.
TVLINE | Do you have any regrets in how you handled it?
I’m not sure I would have handled it much differently because I base my life and who I am on trying to be honorable. There was no way in the world that I was going to sit out there and say the social bonds I made with those people were not real and that it was a game play. I thought if I admitted that out there it would diminish the relationships I made. I would never have done that no matter what. It wasn’t worth a million dollars for me. I’d rather go down with my sinking ship than to sit there and say something that I felt wasn’t true to myself.
TVLINE | Maryanne pulled out an idol, a secret that she kept from everyone. What was your reaction to that? It seemed to get a big reaction from the jurors.
I can’t help but be honest. It was like, “Alright, so you had an idol? What’s the big deal with that?” I really didn’t think much of it at the time. Obviously, it made a big play with the jury. I still felt in my heart, as good as Maryanne played, I played the game for 26 days. But Maryanne had a tremendous final Tribal. She articulated herself much better than I did. I got caught up in the “Is he honorable, is he not honorable.” I think I did a lot of things that were right, but I also thought I did a lot of things that were wrong, and I don’t think anybody plays a perfect game. I still thought I played the best game, but sometimes that doesn’t matter. Marianne had the best final Tribal. She’s a great winner, she deserves the win. And at the end of the day, she won, and I’m good with it.
TVLINE | Now, you guys hadn’t seen 41, so when Jeff announces that he’s reading the votes right there at that moment, what was going through your head?
“F–k, they’re gonna read the votes now? What the hell? I’m gonna find out right now what’s going to happen?” I didn’t have a good feeling. So I’m saying to myself, as things were going downhill, “OK, I’ve got six months probably to recover until we come back to the reunion show and I find out what the votes are,” and then he punches me in the face with that! I was like, “What the heck!” Quite frankly, I didn’t feel that I was going to win at that point. So I thought, “You know what? Let’s get it over with. Let me give Maryanne a hug.” I love her. And quite frankly, if I had to lose to anybody in the game, I’m so glad it was Maryanne. She’s such a beautiful person. She played hard. She’s gonna do great things with that money, I’m very sure.
TVLINE | Omar lied to you and said that Hai called you his puppet. When did you learn that and what was your reaction?
So here’s this deal. My brother said, “Hey Mike. Can we have a little watch party at my house with my friends and family?” So I’m at my brother’s house. I’ve got my wife, my kids, his kids, his friends. We’re sitting here, and we’re watching and we have the family visit, and it was so beautiful. We’re all hugging. Oh my god, it’s so beautiful, tears are coming down my eyes. And then Omar goes, “Now that we’re in this moment, I need to tell you: Hai told me you were his puppet,” and I was like, “Was that a great move that I got him to tell him that?” Then all of a sudden, Omar goes, “That was just a lie.” And like, time stood still, everybody stood still. We all look at each other and I go, “I had no idea.”
That’s when I realized Omar was playing a masterful game. He deserved the credit. The greatest thing that Omar did was nobody knew he was doing it. There’s not a person in the game that thought he was playing that type of game. To me, he played the best game out there. So that knocked me off my feet. I was like, “What the hell? How did he do that?” I wasn’t mad. I was happy that he was able to pull it off. I admired the move. However, he didn’t have to do that because I’m the one that brought up the blindside on Hai. He was so strong in the game, I couldn’t let him get any more steam. I felt that was the time. And quite frankly, I was a little shocked and surprised how easy it was. It was unanimous. Everybody was on board. They want to take him out. Done.
TVLINE | Now Mike, I’m from Connecticut and you’re from Jersey, so we both know a thing or two about pizza. I’ve got to ask: How was the pizza on the island of Fiji?
First of all, in normal life, the pizza on the island of Fiji sucks. However, when you don’t eat for 26 days and they give you pizza, it was like Sally’s in Connecticut. And I know you know where Sally’s is! It tasted as good as Sally’s and as good as Benny’s in Hoboken! It was amazing. Listen, being from Connecticut and Hoboken, we don’t believe in pineapple pizza. But I’ll tell you right now: pineapple pizza was a hit out there for me. I ate as much and as often as I could.
TVLINE | Lastly, what bit of advice do you have for the Survivor hopefuls out there?
Be yourself. Be true to who you are. And damn! Jury management is as important as they say it is! But I’m proud of my game. I’m proud to be a part of the Survivor family. It’s amazing.