Michael Yerger found himself in danger of being voted out on Survivor: Ghost Island plenty of times throughout the season, and during the May 2 episode, his fate was finally sealed. The tribe of ten was split into two groups of five, and Michael found himself against Laurel Johnson, Wendell Holland, Domenick Abbate and Kellyn Bechtold. This left him on the bottom of the totem pole once again, as Wendell, Dom and Kellyn were all aligned from the original Naviti tribe, while Laurel had a secret alliance with Dom and Wendell.
To try and keep the votes off himself, Michael told Kellyn and Laurel that he had a hidden immunity idol that he’d be playing at tribal that night. It scared them enough to vote for each other, instead of for him, and since Kellyn had an extra vote advantage, she threw two votes Laurel’s way. With Dom and Wendell keeping their votes on Michael, that meant a 2-2 tie between the 18-year-old and Laurel at tribal. Dom, Wendell and Kellyn got to re-vote, sending Michael home on Day 29. We caught up with him EXCLUSIVELY after the elimination.
Aside from pretending to have an idol, was there anything else you were doing to scramble at camp that last day? That’s the thing — obviously, one of my major plays that tribal was bluffing that I had an idol, so I was really trying to do the opposite…I didn’t want to scramble. I wanted to have the physicality of a confident person and I wanted to not really have people perceive me any differently. They even mentioned at tribal — I think it was Wendell — that they were watching my every move. I was the target. They didn’t want anything to go wrong. So the majority of the time, I was trying to maintain that whole persona, and then, obviously, having conversations with people I needed to. Dom andWendell were really closed off, they weren’t really willing to talk much game with me because they had decided what they were doing. So the majority [of my conversations] were with Laurel and Kellyn, and I felt pretty good going into tribal that we did have the three to blindside Wendell.
I was going to ask where that Wendell vote stemmed from — that was a plan you made with Kellyn and Laurel? Yeah, it kind of might have come off as a throwaway vote on the show, but it most certainly had intention behind it. I did have those conversations, and we collectively agreed that it was time to get Wendell out of this game — that [he and Dom] had too much power and too many idols. I thought they were fully on board for it, so I had nothing to lose. I had already voted for Wendell a couple of times. So that was the reason my vote went that way. It definitely sucks to know that if I just voted for Laurel, I wouldn’t have gone home.
You said you wanted to lay low at camp and act confident, so did that stop you from looking for an immunity idol before tribal? It definitely prevented me from going and looking — who’s going to think I had one if I’m looking? But honestly, I didn’t think there would be an idol out there. I thought there’d be one idol to regenerate, which is the one Donathan found, so I was not under the impression that there was something out there to find. I was just trying to come to terms with Kellyn and Laurel. It sucks to know that there was something out there, but that’s just how the game goes — there’s so much unknown and mystery, and that’s what makes it so big and complex and fun!
It seemed like Wendell and Laurel’s relationship was very DL, were aware of how close they were? It definitely was [on the DL]. I think Laurel did a great job o playing herself down. I think she was very much being controlled, but that being said, she did a good job of talking to me, Jenna, Donathan, or whoever it was, being like — oh, we’re still Malolo, we’re on the bottom, we’re hopeless. So kudos to her for that. Because she did kind of take the target off her back as Wendell’s sidekick or apprentice, or whatever you want to call it. So they were definitely behind the scenes and under the radar. Any conversations they had in plain sight were friendly, just two people getting along as humans, but not really in the game.
You were on the bottom so often, but who WERE you closely aligned with? Me and Jenna, from the getgo, clicked instantly. We had always been allies, but it never really came through on the show because it never was important. We never pulled out a big move together. Our votes never really went anywhere. She was my biggest ally, though. Kellyn, I played most of the game with and was very close to her. Dom and Wendell, I got along with them great, I built a great relationship with them out there, but from a game standpoint, there wasn’t a whole lot there. Jenna and Kellyn were my best bets. Chelsea, Sebastian, and Angela to a certain extent, were Dom and Wendell’s pawns. I’m not trying to be rude, but they were very controlled.
Do you think there was anything you could’ve done differently, or was it just bad ‘Survivor’ luck? I’m definitely not one of those people to blame things on luck and ate. I totally played a part in my lack of success. I definitely played those idols wrong — I was able to save myself once and all that, but an idol is such a big piece of this game. There are so many possibilities. So for me to have two and not really pull off a big blindside like I wanted to was hard. I can beat myself up about it all day and think about different conversations and lies and whatever I could’ve done to have a different turnout, but it’s just so hard to make those calls. I would’ve definitely thought things through differently, but again, hindsight is 20/20 and it’s so hard.
Did ANYONE know your real age and how did people react when they found out? Nobody on the show knew my age! The first time anyone found out my real age was at Ponderosa when I told Libby and Jenna. I was pleased that the lie made it through without falling out and blowing up in my face. Obviously, it would be a hard decision to know what decision to make if I made it further in the game — whether or not to tell people to try and buy respect. That’s a hard call and all based on the jury and feeling of the group.
The responses and reactions were hilarious. It was a very good response. I was proud of myself for the game I played. For me, it was never about age. I was out there playing and, of course, I want to prove myself, but I don’t want my game to be associated with my age. I don’t want people to say, ‘You played a great game for an 18-year-old.’ I want to play a great game and not have age be a factor in it. That’s why I wanted to pluck that initially and have there be no pre-conceived notions about it.
Would you play again? I would love to get back out there! From a fan standpoint, I love seeing new players. I think new faces are fantastic and it just adds a new dimension to the game. But if they are looking to do a returning thing at some point, I would be honored and pleased.