As Sarah Wade learned during her 9 days on the island, Survivor is a game of constant adaptation. She had to adapt when her strongest tribemate, Bruce Perreault, was medically evacuated on day one of Survivor 44. She had to adapt when her biggest ally, Helen Li, was blindsided, sending Sarah from the majority alliance to the only one on the outs of the vote.
Sarah appeared to adapt once again, working her way back to the point where it seemed on TV that she'd become strategically tight with Yam Yam Arocho. What she did not know, however, was that new Tika member Josh Wilder had an immunity idol. Not only that, but he had aligned with Carolyn Wiger to shift the power dynamics in the tribe. When Josh played his idol at Tribal Council and Carolyn flipped her vote, Sarah's game was done.
Sarah's pockets were not empty upon her ouster. Not only did she have the unused Inheritance Advantage from Journey Island, but she also was in possession of what she thought was a real immunity idol, but was actually the birdcage fake planted by Carolyn.
What was Sarah's reaction when she found out about Carolyn's hijinks? Where is the fake idol now? And why didn't she play what she thought was the real idol after Josh played his? We asked the fifth eliminated contestant all that and more. You can watch the entire interview above or read it below.
Robert Voets/CBS Sarah Wade from 'Survivor 44'
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me your reaction when you found out your immunity idol was fake.
SARAH WADE: I could not have been more happy. As soon as I'd gotten voted out, I was like, "Please, Survivor gods, tell me this is a fake idol. I will be able to sleep at night if I know this is fake." So I was incredibly thankful. It was just like, you go from thinking, I'm maybe the dumbest person on the planet, to being like, Maybe we dodged some embarrassment out there by not playing it. So, extreme relief, I would say, is what I felt.
We've been watching this show and at first were like, "Oh my God, Carolyn's this kooky character and she makes great TV. Probably not going to be playing the game that well, but she'll be fun to watch." And then we see her doing all this stuff. What was your take when you found out about this elaborate plan and planting the fake idol and everything she's been doing out there?
One thing that they haven't shown as much is, Carolyn knows the game. In terms of how she communicated with us, we knew she really knew the game. She plays in the online groups and she is a bigger fan than anyone. So we were certainly in tune with the fact that she knew the game. But I think even [with] that [knowledge] we got [so] distracted by how much personality she brings that we probably didn't view her threat level [to be] as high as it was, because so far Carolyn has been absolutely killing it.
You said if Josh played an idol that you would play yours, but then you didn't. Why not?
So, at the Tribal Council, you see it start to happen in the Felicia moment where Carolyn and Yam Yam really start going at it. And we had talked — Carolyn, Yam Yam, and I — in an effort to deceive Josh; we were like, we kind of have to push out some disagreement and make Josh believe that we're coming for him. That would make sense from what Yam Yam and I thought was going to happen. When it first started, I was like, Oh, this is good. The plan's going right. And then they started to seem like there was some real beef there Carolyn was feeling towards Yam Yam in this moment where he said, "I wouldn't wanna play with her," that made Carolyn think he was talking about her.
So then Carolyn and Josh start conferencing. It turns into a live Tribal moment. Those two are whispering. I'm like, If anything, maybe they are coming for me, because I knew Carolyn doesn't like me as a human. But I thought in this moment where she was freaked out [by] Yam Yam, [that] if she was coming for me [that] she [had] changed it to him. I didn't want to play scared and overplay the idol. I think it's far better to play Survivor scared than it is to play not scared. That's probably where I went wrong.
Robert Voets/CBS The Tika tribe and Jeff Probst on 'Survivor 44'
Why do you say that Carolyn doesn't like you as a human?
I mean… as a human, it's probably dramatic, but we are just very, very different. I admire Carolyn. I think the way that she was expressive is so admirable and, honestly, brave. There were signs out there that she didn't like me that much. We had Bruce's sweatshirt and we would rotate it at night, and she would do anything rather than have me sleep in the sweatshirt. It was little stuff like that where she'd give it to Carson a hundred nights in a row rather than let me have it. It was little things like that where I knew I'm just not her type of gal.
Where's the fake idol now?
The fake idol? I wish I knew. When you get voted out, you don't get to keep your things. I might get it sometime down the road, which would be fun. But the fake idols are a fun twist. As a player in the game, if you were playing poker with your friends, there would never be a two of clubs that looks like a two of clubs, reads like a two of clubs, feels like a two of clubs… and then you play it and they're like, "That's not a full house, that wasn't a two of clubs."
But that makes for phenomenal TV. I think it's understandable that they're out there and fun that they all exist. At this point you'd probably know better than me, but I think there's, like, nine idols in the game when I went out, either real or fake. So there's chaos going on right now.
Do they at least let you keep the Inheritance advantage parchment or do they take that too?
Again, I think we get it back, but I don't have that right now.
Any consideration of playing the Inheritance Advantage at that Tribal?
So, a hundred percent if I was going to play my idol. You play both, right? Because that's basically a boomerang idol because you just get it right back. When I'd found the idol, there's a moment in an interview where it hits me that I have two idols now because you just play both at the same time and you're automatically back in. I think it became like, Well, if I don't play it now, then that's two Tribals in the future that I'm safe on. And so it almost made me be like, let's save it.
But also, with Josh's idol, I pulled Josh aside and, again, I think I was way too transparent with what I knew, like calling him out on being a surgeon. I called it out and was like, "What's going on with the scar on your stomach?" Stuff like that I was too forward with. And I pulled him aside and I was like, "There's no way they sent you here alone without an idol. I know you have an idol." And he's like, "No, it's so unfair. They didn't give me one."
Robert Voets/CBS Sarah Wade and Jeff Probst on 'Survivor 44'
We saw that scene where he just does some just absolutely terrible lying, saying he's not a surgeon. So when he's telling you, "I don't have an idol," are you seeing right through that?
Oh yeah, we were like, a hundred percent he has an idol. That's why we needed him to believe in such depth that he's fine. And I think he really did believe that me and Yam Yam were voting for Carolyn. We just really wanted him to feel super safe and if Carolyn had wanted to work with me and Yam Yam, I think that would've panned out because it would've given Carolyn the idol.
What happened on the manta ray puzzle?
[Laughs] I mean, it didn't go well! It was funny, because, with Josh coming in, we were so skeptical of like, He's lying to us about everything. The career thing felt absolutely nuts. Stuff like that we were like, we don't trust Josh. And, you know, you've lived together for eight days, so you're kind of like, these are my people and he's not one of them.
During the puzzle, I think he was just shifting stuff around, but I was like, I swear he's taking pieces out. So then I'm watching him and trying to put the puzzle together and I'm like, Is he taking pieces out of this puzzle? So then I was scared he was trying to throw it, and clearly we just sucked at the puzzle.
You put yourself out there, not just on that puzzle, but the snake maze as well. Any trepidation about doing that?
With the snake puzzle, in particular, our whole tribe was like, "I absolutely cannot do that." I was like, "Well, I don't think I'm gonna be good at it, but I'm down to try." I was kind of default put into it and I wasn't worried about that. I think our tribe was across the board so bad at challenges that there wasn't blame coming out of challenges of like, "You sucked," because we all sucked at different things. [Laughs]
So I really wasn't worried about that in that way. I think Josh and I wound up going on the puzzle for that last challenge because we were both most confident with swimming and balancing on the proceeding portion of the challenge that we were like, "We'll probably be the least-winded and best to go for this."
Robert Voets/CBS Sarah Wade on 'Survivor 44'
You had this early alliance with Helen and Carson, and then Carson lied to you and voted Helen out. What was your reaction to that?
Yeah, so the no vote thing I was like, we can get through this. I think, one Tribal, no vote, not ideal, right? But we can get through it. I had told Helen and Carson that I didn't have a vote. So the big thing — I think Helen probably told you this — is everyone thought Helen had an idol, which is why they wanted to target her. Carson even came to me pre-Tribal and was like, "I think Helen has an idol." So while it was not ideal, and I didn't know about it — to be clear, I did not know Helen was going home — but I knew I had to make Carson feel bad about it.
Carson's the sweetest sweetie in the world, so I knew if I came to him and was like, "Your word means less," or whatever, I knew that would get him, honestly. I wasn't offended by it. It's a game, and as a fan you're like, That's a sick move. So it was just very much like, we need to get back together. I knew Carson and Yam Yam really did like me as a person, so I was pretty confident that I could wiggle back in with those two. I was just hoping that over time Carolyn would show herself as being less reliable than I was. I was so steady out there that my thought was that I could try to win both of them over by just showing how reliable and steady and rational I was going to be.
How have you emotionally handled being voted out early in the game? Some people really struggle with that.
Yeah, I mean, it totally sucks. It sucks to feel like you're bad at something. There's no other game I've played where you get to be playing 24 hours a day and be on this beautiful island and have crazy challenges and be playing this social game where you're making real friends and lying nonstop. It's such a funny, unique experience. It sucks to lose, but even more, it just sucks that you don't get more days of the joy of it. But honestly, once I found out the idol was fake, then I was far more at peace with the whole thing before that I was like, "Oh my gosh, I'm the biggest dummy and I've ruined my dream." [Laughs]
Robert Voets/CBS The Tika tribe on 'Survivor 44'
What's something that happened out there that didn't make it to TV that you wish we had seen?
In the time after the Helen vote, before we lost Carson, Carson and I were honestly having such a blast together. We were doing little pranks and had many good laughs. It was in those moments where I'm like, We just need to have fun. I need to win them over just as people. There are so many important game things to show, but it's those little moments that are such a blast and I wish more people could see.
Finally, why do you only hug your brother once every five years?
It's actually so funny. I actually did hug him when I came back from Survivor. But, I don't know, Adam and I are probably tighter than any sibling duo, but we're just not like that. It was so funny, Yam Yam and Carolyn — you can see at the end of that scene [that] we hug, and they're like, "We're going to put you on a hugging regimen. We're going to teach you how to hug people." I was like, "I hug other people." And actually, in that moment, Yam Yam cried for me. He was like, "That's so sad. I love my brother so much." I was like, "It's okay."
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