Last night on the premiere of Survivor: Samoa, Marisa Calihan, the college student from Cincinnati, Ohio competed with a rare combination of fiery passion and icy poise. But she made a critical mistake when she questioned why her supposed ally, Russell Hantz, was running around talking privately with each member of the tribe.  

Marisa had become my preseason favorite based on her eclectic bio and interviews and I was galled to see Ben, who had called her an offensive name earlier in the show, gain some sense of satisfaction from voting her off. I was fortunate enough to talk with Marisa earlier today, and she told me whether she saw a strategy to Ben’s cruelty, why no one heard Russell emptying the canteens, whether she thought Natalie or Ashley had more going for them and where she got her signature hair piece.   

Hi Marisa! The important stuff first. You’ve described yourself several times as a proud first generation Appalachian. What do you love most about the local culture?  

What I love the most about Appalachian culture is its deep roots in music and storytelling. Bluegrass is so moving and comes directly from the Settlers in the Appalachian mountains.

I know it led to your downfall, but I was impressed byhow composed you were in contradicting Russell. Where did you learn to cross-examine a giant man twice your age like that?

Well, I’m 27 and he’s 36… not quite “twice my age,” but I’ll take it as a compliment. We are all equals. I treat everyone I meet with the same amount of respect. Conversely, I will question you should you deserve it. No matter who you are. It’s pretty hard to play the “tough guy card with me.”

Is one of the two blondes, either Ashley or Natalie, a savvier game player than the other? How are they different?  

I feel that Natalie has more life experience than Ashley. I think that Ashley has a great head on her shoulders, but is a little more naive. I could be wrong though because… they BOTH outlasted me!

I was disturbed by Ben’s behavior towards you.  How do you think your other tribemates reacted to his vicious tone? And in hindsight, do you think he was a strategic bully or emotionally out of control?   

I believe that Ben has the emotional maturity of a 4 year old. I don’t think his bullying is in anyway strategic, I think it is involuntary. I believe he is a misogynist and completely out of control. I am disappointed that there were less of his antics displayed in this first episode. I found his tone and overall demeanor to be way out of line. I know that it bothered others, but for anyone to “step up” would be to have the negative spotlight now shining on them. I understand why no one said anything, but it doesn’t make it right. He and Russell together just make my skin crawl.

Russell appeared to have emptied the canteens just feet from your shelter. Didn’t anyone hear the splashing sounds and put two and two together when they found the canteens empty?  

As far as the “splashing sounds” they drowned out pretty easily by the Ocean directly beside him. When we found the empty canteens, we assumed all the water was consumed by our tribe. 1 large pot of water only filled five canteens, so during the boil/fill cycle we were sharing water. No one was fully aware of how much water was in any of the canteens at any given time.

How did you feel when you received a vote for tribal chief?  

Honored and nervous.

You mentioned in an interview that you design and sell hair accessories. The one you wore on the show was beautiful. Was it one of your designs?  

As a matter of fact, It was! I made it just before I started the show!

-Interview conducted by Henry Jenkins
(Image courtesy of CBS)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.