May 25, 2009 09:00 AM by Ryan Haidet
She was a target early in the game, yet Erinn Lobdell was the last Timbira tribe member standing when she made it all the way to third place on Survivor: Tocantins — The Brazilian Highlands. This chatty 26-year-old hairstylist from Waukesha, Wisconsin, spent a few quick minutes with RealityTVMagazine.com on the red carpet following the live finale in New York City. She discusses (at length) her decision to vote for JT as the winner, the spider puzzle challenge and what it was like to have her dad visit camp in Brazil.
Choosing The Winner
Erinn, like all other members of the jury, voted for JT to take the title and $1 million prize. But she said it took quite a bit of thought to determine who she wanted to cast her ballot for — especially after JT won the final Immunity Challenge. “Stephen and I had lengthy conversation about, ‘JT’s gotta make a decision — it’s one of us (to be eliminated). Neither one of us is gonna beat him.’ We know this. This is clear. It is like sliced and diced, clear-cut as can be.”
So that’s why she says they made a deal. “‘I’m going to vote for you. I don’t want you to sit up there and be embarrassed when you have no votes. It might matter, it might not matter. But, of course I’m going to vote for you.’ We promised, we pinkie swore. My mom’s life. My life. Whatever. Up and down and hallelujah.
“Then I’m talking to JT and I ask him what he’s going to do with the money. He tells me this great story about how he’s paying for the youngin’s college. He might buy a truck and really there’s just no money left after that, but at least he’s doing something good.”
JT Vs. Stephen
This is when Erinn unexpectedly broke out in her best slang-and-twang JT impression. “I’m just a typical man. I don’t have much in life. I really think I worked hard. My mom told me I could do it. I told my mama I was gonna come out here and win a million dollars.” Then Erinn returned to her normal self. “It’s cute and it’s nice, but he’s such a good guy and he means it all. I can look at that and I can look at Stephen, who is a brilliant guy. He’s brilliant. He’s planning on writing a novel and has Suvivor: Tocantins as the tagline on that novel. He’s going to make that $1 million. If it comes down to just those things, now it’s a decision to wrestle over a little bit. And then that last Tribal Council, I literally said to Stephen, ‘Should I just vote for JT?’ He couldn’t give me a reason not to. All I wanted was for him to say was, ‘No, here’s why. This is why.’ Stephen was the only person in this game who never said, ‘Let’s get rid of Erinn.’ Ever. He was the only person that was really kind of always looking out for me. It would’ve been an easy for me to do. He shot himself in the foot answering my question, answering everybody else’s question.”
She says that the fact JT won by a unanimous vote doesn’t surprise her. “I would have been easy money for JT. I would have been sitting duck. He could have walked away with a million dollars in Tocantins — there wouldn’t even of had to been a vote. The fact that he didn’t choose me spoke volumes. And I think that was what got everybody’s vote.” JT’s landslide victory is only the second time in 18 seasons the winner got every votes. Earl Cole was the first to accomplish that feat when he won season 14 — Survivor: Fiji.
When it was down to four contestants, Erinn thought her Survivor life was in jeopardy and needed to win the spider Immunity Challenge. It was awfully close, too, literally coming down to a split second. “I underestimated JT a little bit. In this challenge, I thought I had two options. I can race through the spider, which is hellish. It cuts you up like crazy. Rope burns everywhere. You can race and race and race and race and race and not have super-acute mental capacity to do this insane puzzle. Or, yeah, we know JT’s going to win, but I can beat him in a puzzle. I’m the puzzle master, it’s what I do. I do puzzles. I’m good at it, I’m fast. I’ll let them go, I’ll let them race, I’ll let them run into each other and fall on top of each other. And I’ll get there maybe a minute behind, but I’m going to catch up on the puzzle. I literally had the last piece in my hand and was flipping it and trying to fit it into the puzzle. Had just seen, ‘Oh my God, these are the two pieces I have to switch and this is how it’s going to do it’ when Jeff said, ‘JT.’”
Erinn says that moment was very frustrating because “it was as close, if not closer than what it looked like on television.”
Taj Out Before Her
But even though she lost that challenge, Erinn was spared from elimination when alliances flipped and Taj was ousted. “It was down to four at that point and I was pretty sure I was going to be there for three. I was pretty sure, but you can’t trust them. And those three were so tight. I had no idea if it was me or Taj when it came down to it. I thank goodness that I didn’t go home at four — I would still be sitting, kicking myself for not getting through that spider faster.”
Bringing Dad To Brazil
I’m still holding firm that this season’s family visit episode was the best in Survivor history. Erinn’s dad was given the opportunity to see what camp life was like, which Erinn says was a terrific experience. “Seeing my dad out there was such a cool experience. Just because of the fact that you can live this and you can do this and you can tell people about it. And you can say like, ‘I am awesome,’ but it doesn’t really translate. And then they can watch it. And they can go, ‘Oh yeah that is really cool. You did do that.’ But unless you’re there, you’re not gonna know.’ I think I can talk to you about it until I’m blue in the face and you’re sick of hearing me talk. You’re still not going to get it. Just to have somebody there and go, ‘No really. I’m proud of me and this is why you should be proud of me,’ is really just a cool feeling.”
Red carpet images taken by Ryan Haidet. All other images courtesy of Monty Brinton/CBS.
Read an exclusive interview with the winner ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â¬” JT.
Read an exclusive interview with second-place finisher — Stephen.
Stay tuned for our final exclusive red carpet interview with Taj and her husband, Eddie George.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to sit in the audience during a live Survivor finale? Stay tuned for a special report, which will discuss exactly what the in-studio audience experiences from start to finish.
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