Maddy Pomilla reacts to getting voted out first on Survivor 44

Maddy Pomilla had only a single vote cast against her on Survivor 44's season premiere, but one vote is all it took. That's because only three people on her Ratu tribe ended up voting, and when Brandon Cottom negated two of them with an immunity idol his single vote on Maddy was enough to take her out of the game.

How does Maddy feel about being the first person voted off this season? Would she have worked with Brandon instead of against him had he not told everyone about his birdcage key? And what happened out there that we didn't see? We asked the 28-year-old charity projects manager all that and more. You can either watch the entire interview above or read it below. Also make sure to check out our Q&A with the medically evacuated Bruce Perreault.

Survivor 44
Survivor 44

Robert Voets/CBS Maddy Pomilla of 'Survivor 44'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let's start with the obvious question: How tough is it to go all the way out there and then get voted out first on day 3?

MADDY POMILLA: It's so crazy, Dalton, because I've been watching the show for 22 years and I've been applying since I was 18. I remember being stressed out at 12 years old watching Cook Islands and being like, "This show's gonna get canceled," with all the news about Cook Islands and dividing everyone up by race. And then I get there, and I just had this feeling like, Well, I'm here. I'm not going to not play the way that I wanna play. I have a different Survivor philosophy than anyone I've ever met. So at the end of the day, I left feeling like, okay, I did what I wanted to do. But holy crap, the waste of potential. It hurts. I'm not too proud to say that. It really hurts.

Is it better or worse for your mental psyche that it was just by one single vote?

I knew however I went, it was gonna be something crazy because if I wanted to just go far and that was my goal, then I wouldn't have done what I did. I'm not dumb. My name was never brought up. I was working with Kane to deflect my name anytime it did come up. So I knew I was good, but I also wanted to play the game a certain way. I felt at that point that it was critical to do what I did, and I knew that it was a 50-50 shot.

The way I play Survivor, it's the difference of rock climbing versus free solo rock climbing. That's how I wanted to play the whole game. I was going to get up the wall with no ropes, and the exposure is gnarly. You can make it up the wall with a rope and get there and be like, "Oh, I did it," or you can do it and look really f---ing cool and do it with no rope. If you get up, then you get up, and if you don't, then you die. And that's exactly what happened. So going out with one vote, it's like I knew that if I was gonna go, it was gonna be something gnarly like that. I'm kind of at peace with it in a weird way.

Yeah, I like that you picked the rock-climbing motif considering what happened to Matthew in this episode. He needed the rope! So sometimes you can't tell from the editing what actually happened in terms of the way things went. So did you or did you not see Brandon put that key into his pocket when you all were searching together?

I did. I would say one thing about me is that I understand nuance about other people, but I myself don't have a lot of nuance. And I know that. So Brandon asked me later, he's like, "Did you see me find the idol?" I was like, "The second time? Like when you hid it under leaves?" When in Survivor has an idol ever been found under leaves? But I was like, "Yeah, of course, Brandon."

I'm just candid. I was sneaky, but I did play with honesty [and] I told people what I thought and that's just how I am. There's no way around it. So yeah, I think that that could've hurt me a little bit that I didn't have that nuance to be like, "Brandon, I didn't see," and just let him have that. Brandon and I were going head-to-head the whole time.

Survivor 44
Survivor 44

Robert Voets/CBS The Rotu tribe of 'Survivor 44'

Even before then?

Before then. Oh my God, we were like two alphas. I think it's just such a funny picture because he is like this ex-NFL player, 6-foot-4, I'm 5-foot-2, but our bravado matches. He's an alpha, I'm an alpha, and we were just at it all the time. That's why I wanted to work with him, because I was like, Keep your friends close, your enemies closer. I gotta keep him close.

I actually [originally] wanted to go for Matthew. Matthew's a wild card. And this comes back to how I got out. Matthew's a wild card. I'm a wild card. Real recognize real. I saw that dude. I was like, he is messy. I don't know how to play with him. Brandon is an old-school player. I knew how he was thinking even though our personalities clashed. I knew what he was thinking. I knew how he was gonna play.

Matthew? I didn't know how he was gonna play. I knew when Brandon wouldn't work with me, that I had to pivot my obsession of getting Matthew out to my new obsession of getting Brandon out. Because the way I am — again, for better or for worse — there's not a lot of nuance. [Laughs] Like, if you're not with me, you're against me. I was gonna get one of them out at the first Tribal first chance I had.

So then tell me about the Shot in the Darks. Does that help explain why Matthew played his? Or was he worried Brandon was gonna play his idol and there might be a vote going to him as the backup? Is that what was going on with him? And then what the hell was going on with Jaime?

Okay, so this is the breakdown. There was a presumed male alliance, and a presumed female alliance. And then there was a secret alliance between Kane and I where we watched out for each other. Kane's different, I'm different. We're gonna work from the outside inwards and we'll take care of each other. We just thought about the game very similarly, even though we're present as very different energies in a space.

So, Jaime was sort of the outlier. For whatever reason, she's the person on day one where everyone's looking around and rolling their eyes a bit. Love Jaime, but that's just how it was. Matthew is very much like, "I wanna play with the guys," and I was just letting him have that. But I was sleeping next to Matthew every night because once he hurt his arm, I was like, he's very fragile. And again, I thought this guy was a wild card. So as a human, I wanted to take care of him and help him, but I also was like, he is all over the place. I need to know what's going on with him. So I was clocking him all the time.

When it comes to the vote, it was a clear vote for Jaime. I don't know why it looked like it was for Lauren. It was a clear vote for Jaime, but come hell or high water, I was not gonna let a girl go home. I just couldn't do it. Even though Kane was my alliance, I was like, "I don't want this." And what really set me off was when I called Brandon the Godfather, that is pure projection because I was the Godfather. I wasn't scared of Brandon, I wanted other people to be scared of Brandon.

So I figured, okay, let me try to get Kane to vote with the girls. I had to flip Lauren because she was working with Brandon on the side. And then I would be the only person that had a connection with every single person there. So it's one of those things where it's like if you have a crazy plan and it doesn't work, then you're crazy. If you have a crazy plan and it does work, then you're a genius. And I knew going in I was walking a tightrope and it just happened the way it did.

Survivor season 44
Survivor season 44

Robert Voets/CBS The 'Survivor 44' cast

So Kane was your closest ally?

Yeah, it was Kane. I first started with Lauren, because I knew Lauren was working with Brandon. If she won't bite, then I'm not doing this. So I go to Lauren and you see that I try to freak her out. I'm like, "He is messing with you. He's lying to you." But it's like, No, I'm messing with you. I'm lying to you. She was paranoid and she told two people about her advantage. She told me and she told Brandon. So I was like, Well she's either gonna work with Brandon or she's gonna work with me, so let me get him out. And once I flipped her, I was like, Okay, now let me flip Jaime. And they had been saying Jaime's name, they had been saying Lauren's name.

So I was like, "Okay, Jaime, they are lying to you. We have to be tight right now or this is not gonna work." And then I was like, "Let me get Kane." I knew he was gonna do whatever I wanted to do. I respect Kane so much. He would tell me if it was crazy and he'd be like, "Maddy, no, we're not doing that." Well, guess what happens? I get to camp from the water well [and] Kane's not there, so I'm like, "What do I do?"

This is where the impulsiveness comes in and I can remember it in my mind, the only person standing there is Matthew — the one person since day one where I'm telling the producers when we're doing our interviews, I'm like, "I don't trust that guy. He's gotta go first." And now I'm walking up to him with this plan. He was the one person I didn't want to tell. I only needed Jaime, I only needed Lauren, and I only needed Kane. But Kane was gone doing an interview. So this all happened. It was a clear vote for Jaime and then I flipped all of these people in 45 minutes.

So what's going through your mind when Brandon stands up and starts walking over to Jeff Probst at Tribal Council?

So it's even crazier. What seemed so insane to everyone watching was even more insane in person because there was a live Tribal. Matthew got up and whispered in Brandon's ear something and I threw my hands up. I was like, "See Jeff, the male and female alliances." Like all this BS, cause I'm working with Kane and Kane's sitting right next to Brandon. So I'm like, If he heard what Matthew said, it won't be an issue. Kane will tell me if we need to do something. I couldn't hear. I was sitting far away. When Kane didn't say anything, Brandon turned to Kane and said, "Do I need to play my idol?" And they didn't show that. That's crazy that they didn't show that. Kane says no. And then we went and voted.

So I knew again it was just Brandon and I facing off. I was calling his bluff. I knew he's an old-school player. I thought that he was gonna be too afraid to play his idol, while also an old-school player might say, "What the heck do I care? I'm gonna play my idol." Like, he's not too precious about it. So I miscalculated. But I was thinking, This dude's certain that Jaime's going home. This guy is an old-school player. He's not gonna play his idol at the first Tribal. It's never happened in Survivor history. It won't happen tonight. Whatever Matthew has said to Brandon is probably about Jaime and not about me. So I'm probably fine.

Now I'm also a huge nerd about Survivor and I've racked my brain about this a million times. What I should have done is split the vote. One for Matthew, one for Brandon. Brandon plays his idol, then it's a tie vote — one for Matthew, one for me, and then we all vote for Matthew. Matthew goes home.

Well, that's the thing about Survivor. Any time anyone gets voted out, there's like 10 steps where it's like, "If I'd done this or done that it would've all been different."

I would've blown that place to smithereens. I mean, I was like "Down with Ratu! I want out of this tribe!" [Laughs] So they were good to get rid of me and it was a good play by Matthew and good for Brandon for trusting his instincts and listening to Matthew.

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