Emily Flippen Reacts to Her Fan Favorite Reception on 'Survivor 45'

Emily Flippen

Survivor 45 is here! Every week, Parade.com's Mike Bloom will bring you interviews with the castaway most recently voted off of the island.

One vote.

In a perfect world, that's how long Emily Flippen would have lasted on Survivor 45. The financial analyst nearly immediately crashed her stock with her social miscues in the first few days. And, after having a near-death Survivor experience, she was living the next 18 days. What followed was Emily transforming her game, becoming more social, making key eyes, and executing blindsides. The market was bullish on Emily's chances of winning, which drew the eye of Julie Alley, who was seeing red. And so, in the end, it was one vote that took her out, as Julie's idol play nullified a unanimous vote against her, sending Emily out single-handedly.

Emily's first words of the season were about how she would rather be voted off first if she knew she couldn't win. And the Survivor gods nearly granted that wish. Her first three days were a series of unforced errors, from calling out Bruce Perreault on the mat in the opening minutes of the game to immediately targeting Kaleb Gebrewold and Sabiyah Broderick. Emily seemed destined to be the first boot, until Hannah Rose offered herself up instead. Emily was spared, and formed a key bond with her initial target in Kaleb. The suave salesman showed her the ropes of the social game, and she adapted quickly. She was even able to pull off a huge move early on when she saved Kaleb from Sabiyah, sending the latter out with an idol in her pocket. That momentum continued at the swap, where she was put in a power position between two pairs. There, she formed a trio with Austin Li Coon and Drew Basile, one that would keep her safe as the Rebas dismantled the opposition in the postmerge.

Unbelievably, Emily ended up being the last person standing from her original tribe as the jury phase began. She hitched her wagon to Drew and Austin while also making a name for herself individually. She won the biggest reward of the season and seemed to single-handedly convince the man she called out on Day 1 in Bruce not to play his idol. With the Rebas now officially in the majority, Julie and Dee Valladares turned their gaze onto Emily, fearful of her as a threat. Austin and Drew, though, diverted the target, and started the Reba civil war when they went after Julie. Ultimately, Emily was done in by matters of the heart. A guilty Austin told Dee about the plan, and she immediately went to her number one in Julie to warn her. As a result, Julie played her idol, and made her vote the only one that mattered. Despite her anger at Austin, she ultimately went with her original target in Emily. And though her journey did not end with a Day 26 victory, it was one of the most memorable we've seen on the show.

Now out of the game, Emily talks with Parade.com about why she didn't throw a vote onto someone else in fear of an idol play, her recovery from the disastrous days of Lulu, and her reaction to both her emotional journey and the overwhelming fan support.

Related: Read our Survivor 45 pre-game interview with Emily Flippen

So we have so much to get into. I know you said that people aren't numbers, but let's do some number crunching. You're talking with me today because everyone piled onto Julie, and her lone vote sent you home. Now, you were aware of the possibility of an idol with the amulets. Did you think at all Julie had an idol? And did you think about throwing a vote onto somebody else in case of an idol or Shot in the Dark play?
Yeah, hindsight being 20/20, I obviously should have done that. If my brain was half functioning, if I had given it more than two seconds of thought, I would have. I do wish I had done that, clearly. In terms of my perception, I mean, Julie and I had a pretty good understanding that it was between us. And so she's pointing at me, I'm pointing at her. That was the relationship. And so at some point, I realized that this plan that was supposed to be for a small group of people had kind of leaked out. Austin letting it leak to Dee, Drew letting it leak a little bit more to Julie with his behaviors and mannerisms. The plan actually was not to tell Jake either. And then Jake was told during the guys' "brunch," if you want to call it a brunch.

So when the plan leaked out, I figured Julie knew. What I did not figure obviously was that she had an idol, I assumed that the idol got flushed with Sifu. Because everybody was so convinced, for whatever reason, that Sifu had an idol. So I thought he left with it, because he didn't have his bag at the Tribal Council he went home at. My thought was she could play her Shot in the Dark. And I was a little bit nervous about that. But I remember thinking the odds are so low of it. And my kind of operating alliance at that point, being Drew and Austin, we're so focused on loyalty. The moment you say anything bad, your throat is getting slit next. So I was scared. I was scared to go away from what the group was doing and paint my even bigger target on myself. But, obviously, if I could go back, I would. 

Going from the end of your boot episode to the beginning, you come back to camp after the Bruce vote, where everyone is as high as a kite. And you're basically like, "You're welcome!" [Laughs.] Talk me through deciding to take credit for that move, especially since it led to your threat level increasing.
Yeah, lots of lots of boneheaded moves for me. And that's definitely one of them. I want to say that it came from a place of ego. I was proud of myself for pulling off what I thought was a move that other people didn't think was really possible. It was the first time that I felt like I had autonomy in the sense that it was something I was directing. I didn't have that in the postmerge world, because I never had the numbers really to do what I wanted. So I was proud of myself. And as much as I want to say, "Oh, it was ego. I want to come back and brag," I actually think it was kind of insecurity. I remember being kind of insecure. I didn't feel like the jury respected me. I didn't feel like I had autonomy in the game. I was insecure about just how my game was going. And I think that led to me to kind of overcompensate by having that conversation, talking about Bruce.

Let's talk about that move. Because, again, people aren't numbers. But when Bruce approaches you about a plan for the non-Rebas to come over the top on a plurality vote to take out Julie, were you ever thinking about going through with that? Or were you just so dedicated to the Rebas?
Yes, but I do wish I had given it more consideration than I did. I remember thinking that I didn't really have what I perceived to be a functional alliance in the old Belo members. And I thought that if I did vote with them, and I betrayed my operating alliance with the Reba members, that I would then payintmyself as a big target. I knew if I take that opportunity and let's say we sent home Julie, then I am target number one from both sides. Belo is not willing to go to bat for me. And then Reba, I just betrayed them, so they're not willing to go to bat for me. I didn't really consider the fact that having Bruce around, [even without] that idol, still would make him target number one. But he also was sweeping the individual Immunity Challenges. So there was a fear that he could not be targeted as well. So I think what I did was take what I perceived to be the safer route that got me a little bit further, but didn't actually further my ability to obviously make it to final Tribal.

Speaking of that safer route, talk to me about your relationships with Austin and Drew. Were you intending to go to the Final Three with them had you survived this vote?
I definitely wanted to go to the end with Austin and Drew. I mean, if I'm actually sitting there and I can choose who goes to fire, maybe I would choose differently and go with different people. But I remember thinking I would be fine if that was the Final Three that I ended up with. I thought that they played very similar games. So maybe I can make an argument for myself as a little bit more of an underdog. Nobody was really there for the Lulu story. Kaleb was, and that was really the only person who saw it. So I remember thinking I can try to explain how I was never safe. I never had immunity. I was always in the losing group. I didn't know if that argument wouldn't land with the jury. But I remember thinking that could be a more compelling argument against two people who have been part of the majority alliance their entire game.

Let's get into that Lulu story. After the first few days, you had admitted you tried to "brute force" your way through the game. And Kaleb told you, in so many words, you couldn't help yourself, and that got you in trouble. Talk me through your intentions in that premiere episode.
Yeah, I really wish that I could explain my behavior better than I can. I will say it was not as calculated. There are some people who are like, "Well, this was a choice by Emily." It really wasn't. Kaleb was right to say I couldn't help myself. And you see it, I have very loose lips. And I kind of say whatever's on my mind without really thinking first, especially in a stressful scenario. And going out there, this whole experience was so extreme. I really wasn't doing a good job of curbing some of my harsher qualities. And Kaleb helped me just put my head back on my shoulders. Because I was out of my element. I was just so in my head for those first few days. And Kaleb kind of brought me back down to earth. And I will be forever incredibly grateful for that. Because my Survivor experience is so different without him.

I imagine you walked into that first Tribal Council feeling pretty dead to rights. And it seemed like you made a last-ditch effort to target Kaleb and save yourself. But you're granted this new life in the game thanks to Hannah. How did you try to approach the immediate aftermath, knowing there was a good chance it could still be you next time?
Yeah, I'll provide some context. So that first vote, my logic was, I have eyes. I can see Lulu versus Reba and Belo. We're going to keep losing. And so I went to Brandon, and my argument was kind of like, "If we lose, one of us is going. I'm weird and aggressive. And you had the issue with with the barge. So we're the easy targets. And if you're not first, then you're second. And if I'm not first, then I'm second. "And then I also went to Hannah, and I kind of made that same argument, because she was obviously just struggling as well in it. And it was kind of like, "What we should do is just accept the fact that we're going to lose, and just pray for swap or merge or something, and get the stronger threats out now and try to float." Because I thought my days were numbered.

Kaleb, look, his social game was incredible. Because you say it was like a last-ditch effort to come in and kind of target him. I had like five or six pages in my Ponderosa pre-journal dedicated to how much I hated Kaleb. Socially, he's bopping around trying to break all the rules. And I'm a very strict rule follower. And I was like, "Who is this guy? It's too much." So the fact that he was able to put aside what was my immediate negativity, and say, "Okay, I know, she said my name, but I'm logical. I see the opportunity that exists with this relationship and take that." I mean, so much props to him. But yeah, I never thought I was going back from that first Tribal Council. I realized that I had to live with these people for more days, and I was like, "Oh, I'm so screwed." [Laughs.]

Well you end up coming into this position of power, starting as early as the Sabiyah vote. And we see at both new Belo and the merge, you get to make these new relationships. But at the same time, you have to kind of make a new first impression, as everyone had preconceived notions from you due to the marooning. Talk to me about what it was like to do that and become more social.
It was actually really interesting. I will say I learned a lot. So Kaleb obviously helped m. But one of the big things [was] my immediate reaction on Lulu. Everybody kind of clicked on Lulu except for me. And I felt the feeling of just being, not that everybody hated me, but like being the least liked in the group. So when I made that swap to Belo, the vibes were totally different. I clicked with people. Everybody was talking about anxiety and all this stuff that I really understood a bit more. So it was a lot easier for me to immediately get along with some of the new Belo members than it was on Lulu. But also taken from the fact that I knew the more harsh qualities of myself, I had to just keep my mouth shut a bit more, let other people be open. Lulu was so open. Everybody was just so communicative and genuine and sharing all these stories. And I was reserved, and, and scared to like come out of my shell. So when I had the opportunity to go to New Belo, I was like, "Okay, well, let's tell stories." Talking about my life a little bit more, talking about my boyfriend, do all that stuff so they can actually get to know me.

So let's get into your overall journey, because it's certainly one for the ages. The very first thing we hear you say this season is that you'd rather go home first if you knew you weren't going to win. But it seemed like you had learned so much about the qualities that you already had over 21 days that I would imagine that tune has changed a bit.
Yeah, my logic was I really don't need to starve on an island for a month. I don't need to leave work. I don't need to do any of this. I want a million dollars. And if I can't get a million dollars, I'd really just rather go back to my everyday life. And to a certain extent, I still feel that way. But I never expected to have the relationships, the journey. It doesn't feel that long, and it really isn't. But the experience is so extreme that it does change you, and I will be forever grateful that I had this opportunity. Again, if I could go back now knowing that I was not the winner of Survivor, if I could go back and do it all again, knowing I would still lose, I would do it.

Well, I know it's tough to lose. But as you pointed out in your Final Words, if there's a way to go out, it's being considered a huge threat as a ricochet vote from an idol play. And between that and things like winning that Reward Challenge last episode, it seemed like you were able to go out a very different way than you thought initially.
I love to set expectations low. And I inadvertently put the bar on the floor. [Laughs.] So anything I did in the game of Survivor, I was like, "Wow, that's incredible. Look at her. She's great." And I think the editing was very generous in that regard. But yeah, my Survivor experience was so different than I expected. And I made a lot of mistakes. I won't lie. But one of the things that I'm most proud of, which is so silly, but winning that Reward Challenge. I never thought I would win anything. I felt really incompetent compared to everybody else who was playing. So that was a great moment, even though I was then booted at the next episode. [Laughs.]

Last episode, and in a deleted scene this episode, we see you open up about your decade-long relationship with your boyfriend, and how this experience had you reconsider whether you would ever get married. What was it like to come home to a brand new house and brand new approach to your relationship?
Yeah, it's silly, but I'm crying about it while I'm drinking my sangria.

To be fair, lots of people have cried while drinking sangria!
[Laughs.] The women went through four or five bottles of wine that night. We should have gotten a woman's montage, because we had way more fun than the guys did. SThat's what they should have aired. But I had that realization. And it was really just like what matters to me in life. Because all these things that I thought were really important that defined to me, I wasn't talking about them to other people. I wasn't talking about my travels, my school, my career, whatever. I was hanging on my boyfriend the entire time. And I was really afraid that Eric, my boyfriend, would have resentment towards me for taking this. He doesn't watch Survivor; he's not a fan of the show. So I was taking time away from us just for myself in a really selfish move that would leave him alone to do something really momentous, our first home together. And, obviously, he was not as resentful as I was afraid he was going to be. He's been incredibly kind. But when I came back, and I told him, "Hey, so I went on Survivor and I didn't win the million dollars, but I may have a new outlook on our relationship," he got a good chuckle from it. [Laughs.]

Finally, I want to ask about your reaction to the fan reaction. Because you got to not only rewatch your journey from a third-person perspective, but also watch all these people react in real time to you. And I know in talking with you that you did not realize how deep this community is. And you're not the most online, but I'm sure you've heard about the "Financial Analyst Emily Flippen" memes and how much love has been garnered for you. What's been your response to the way the community has reacted over the past eleven weeks?
Honestly, it's it's weird, and it's kind of jarring. As you mentioned, I did not really know the Survivor community existed when I applied to went on the show. Pregame press, didn't know that was a thing. This, didn't know this was a thing. Didn't know Reddit existed. Didn't know any of this, that anybody was still really watching Survivor. So I guess part of the reason why I came out there and was willing to be so aggressive initially was because I didn't realize the scale of what I was doing. And that change in reaction from the first episode to today, it's, I appreciate the support. I don't want to take it for granted. Because I think everybody kind of deserves it. And obviously, with my airtime, in my edit, my little growth arc, I got way more of it than some people did. But it is just two levels of extreme right. I don't know how to process it, if I'm honest. I want to say I'm flattered. But in reality, it's weird as hell, and nobody really knows how to handle it.

"Weird as hell" is an incredible way to describe Survivor in general. Well, for what it's worth, I just want to say I am so happy that you were so aggressive and allowed yourself to be yourself without worrying about outside factors. Because I think what people glommed onto so much, honestly, is that openness and subsequent vulnerability. You were yourself out there in full from beginning to end. And people found that incredibly relatable, and I'm sure that also allows the sting to lessen a bit knowing that you put your full self into every minute on the beach. So sincerely, I say thank you for everything you brought to this season. It was an absolute pleasure!
That is so kind of you to say, thank you! I mean, again, this whole experience has been crazy. And I appreciate the support. And I have the best 17 castmates a girl could ask for. Genuinely, they have made this experience. They have just made the experience for me.

Next, check out our interview with Bruce Perreault, who was voted out in Survivor 45 Episode 10.