There are good things and bad things about being part of a Survivor jury. Leading the bad would be the fact that merely by being on the jury, it means you were voted out of the game and have no shot at the $1 million prize. Bummer.
But all is not lost. First off, you get to shower! Showers are nice. And you can also properly brush your teeth instead of constantly jamming a bamboo stick in your mouth as the best island oral hygiene available. Not only that, but while you can’t win the $1 million, you at least get to help decide where it goes. That, of course, is the most important function of the jury — asking questions of the final three and then determining who deserves the title of Sole Survivor. (Especially after the finalists have spent so much time strategizing on what they want to say.)
Ah-ha! But we here at EW have turned the tables! We are going to once again question the questioners! We gathered up the first six members of the Survivor 44 jury — Matt Blankinship, Brandon Cottom, Kane Fritzler, Frannie Marin, Danny Massa, and Jaime Lynn Ruiz (two more will join them on finale night, May 24) — and peppered them with a few queries of our own. Queries like: Which person voted out pre-jury do you wish had been with you all at Ponderosa? And: Who among the jury played the best game, and why? How did they answer? Read on and find out!
Robert Voets/CBS The ‘Survivor 44’ jury
What was the best thing about being at Ponderosa?
MATT BLANKINSHIP: Steamed veggies. I’m not kidding. More than that though, I really bonded with my fellow Ponderosees. Karaoke night was a highlight; you might be surprised at the pipes on these boys. And that was some of the best damn seltzer water I’ve ever consumed.
BRANDON COTTOM: The best part about Ponderosa was definitely the food and the Ponderosa staff! They would cook us their specialty dishes all day, every day. It was also great getting to know fellow castaways outside of the game. It’s so great to be able to let your guard down and really get to be your genuine self around all these amazing people.
KANE FRITZLER: In Fiji, when you ask someone for an iced mocha, they bring you this glorious drink. I don’t know what it was — it wasn’t like any iced mocha I had ever had — but I probably put back four to five iced mochas a day.
FRANNIE MARIN: Everything! I had so much fun every day. Highlights include karaoke, eating tons of Indian food, ping-pong competition, Danny teaching me boxing, Kane teaching me D&D, Brandon teaching me how to make pizza sauce, and having our sacred time every morning when we would drink coffee milkshakes and talk about Survivor for hours. I also shaved Danny’s back once, but I think that was a lowlight.
DANNY MASSA: Clowning with the staff and jury.
JAIME LYNN RUIZ: I loved our morning coffee talks! We sipped our delicious frozen coffee drinks, enjoyed the ocean views, ate breakfast, and discussed all things Survivor. It was beautiful! OMG I just thought about those breakfast potatoes… those were bomb! I was so grateful to bond with the other jurors outside of the game. And grateful to finally eat!
cbs The ‘Survivor 44’ jury
Which person voted out pre-jury do you wish had been with you all at Ponderosa?
MATT BLANKINSHIP: Me and Helen are SF besties now, so it would have been amazing to have her around for the jury. She’s fun to talk to and would help to balance out the boys’ club energy that Frannie brought to the table.
BRANDON COTTOM: I wish Bruce was with us at Ponderosa. He had made such an impact on so many of us in one day. I would have loved to really been able to meet him and learn more about his story.
KANE FRITZLER: Maddy! She was a hoot on the island, I imagine she would have been an absolute electric addition to the Pond.
FRANNIE MARIN: Can I invite all the robbed goddesses? I would have loved to run around with Maddy, Helen, Claire, and Sarah all day long.
DANNY MASSA: Josh, really admire and like him.
JAIME LYNN RUIZ: Maddy, because she is the robbed queen, a goddess if you will. She is so fun, smart, funny, creative and thoughtful — a beautiful and mighty force to be reckoned with in the best way possible. I would have loved to have spent more time with her in Fiji!
Robert Voets/CBS Jeff Probst and the cast of ‘Survivor 44’
If you had to live at Ponderosa permanently with one of your fellow jurors, who would it be, and why?
MATT BLANKINSHIP: C’mon, the answer to this one’s obvious. I couldn’t be happier to see Frannie running up that dock. It was literally a slo-mo, rom-com moment.
BRANDON COTTOM: I feel like Danny is the only acceptable answer. Danny and I clearly hit it off pretty well in the game, so we definitely had a good time at Ponderosa. I know that Danny is always down for whatever, so the adventure would never stop.
KANE FRITZLER: Matt… for probably not the same reason as Frannie is choosing Matt.
FRANNIE MARIN: Oof, this is a hard one… Matt! We went on several sweet “dates” at Ponderosa that made my heart so full. I could sit overlooking the ocean and eat ice cream with Matt every day.
DANNY MASSA: Brandon, because bro…
JAIME LYNN RUIZ: Kane. My original ride-or-die. Our Triple R Alliance working the angles always and forever. Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies #RRR. Also, because Ratu > Everything. RATU FOREVER. I love Kane. From the moment he made me laugh during the middle of our first immunity challenge, I knew we would be friends forever. He’s so thoughtful, smart, and hilarious!
CBS Jaime Lynn Ruiz and Jeff Probst on ‘Survivor 44’
Who among the jury played the best game, and why?
MATT BLANKINSHIP: I might say Kane here. He had the unfortunate honor of having his closest allies removed somewhat uncontrollably (Maddy, Matthew, Brandon) at every step of the game and still made some strong bonds across tribe/alliance lines. He may not have been on the right side of the vote very often, but I think a lot of that has to do with circumstances outside his control. Run this game 1,000 times and see where Kane stacks up, I’d guess he does quite well.
BRANDON COTTOM: I think that Frannie played the best game, in my opinion. Frannie was loved and feared by everyone out there. She was a challenge beast, but also very strategic in the way she created relationships on the island. I think she had a very good grasp on what was going on between all of the tribes as well.
KANE FRITZLER: Me, by a mile.
FRANNIE MARIN: Despite not actually voting anyone out (oops), I think that Kane played a great game. He put in a ton of work to rebuild a difficult relationship with Brandon after the first vote, and he very effectively shifted the decoy from his name to Yam Yam’s during Josh’s exit. He also had a high awareness of what was going on in the game around him, and he was gearing up to make some great strategic moves — I wish we could’ve seen more!
DANNY MASSA: Honestly, it’s a jury of absolute savages! So much respect for everyone.
JAIME LYNN RUIZ: Kane, because he wasn’t in a showmance or bromance. No, but really, Kane. He is brilliant. I loved talking game with him at Ratu. We ran every scenario during the game and after the game. I love the way he understands and dissects the game. One of the greatest strategists, and I am so grateful we played the greatest game ever together! I am his biggest fan always and forever!
Robert Voets/CBS Kane Fritzler on ‘Survivor 44’
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