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Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt wants one big change to the Survivor after-show

Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt etched her name into the reality TV record book during the finale of Survivor 44, but maybe not in the way she ultimately wanted.

Heidi made a strong push during the endgame, winning the final immunity challenge. She then gave up that immunity and put herself into the final four fire-making competition against Carson Garrett. She not only bested the NASA engineering student, but she set a Survivor record by snapping her rope in three minutes and two seconds.

But it wasn't enough. Even with those late-game heroics, Heidi couldn't get enough jury votes to win the million dollars and title of Sole Survivor that goes along with it, coming up short against eventual winner Yam Yam Arocho. Why does Heidi think the jury didn't give her the win? Which jury votes surprised her? And when did she come up with the plan to go to fire even if she won the final challenge? We spoke to Heidi the morning after the finale to get her take on everything that went down. You can watch the entire interview above or read it below.

Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt on 'Survivor 44'
Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt on 'Survivor 44'

CBS Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt on 'Survivor 44'


ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You won the final challenge. You gave up your immunity. You set a Survivor record in fire-making. So why didn't the jury give you the million dollars?

HEIDI LAGARES-GREENBLATT: Great question. I don't know if I could answer that. Maybe ask them. But no, I mean, Yam Yam is a fantastic winner. I would never take that away from him. He had a fantastic social game, and I really tried my best. Now, I will tell you, I know that my game wasn't flashy because I think in the new era of Survivor, the flashy players go home. I did not want to go home because I was in it to win it.

So it was like, how do I play a strategic game and have shields in place that could protect me? And it actually worked for me. There's a reason why I got there. But then you question: Could I have said anything better? Could I have done more? I have no regrets. I'm super proud of the game I played, and maybe it wasn't meant to be, but I'm so happy I got there and I have so many friends. The jury, they are all my friends and I love them.

You told me before the season you were a bit worried about speaking at final Tribal because English is not your first language and maybe others would feel a bit more comfortable with their words. Was that something you worried about as you sat down to face the jury?

100% yes, of course. I'm very comfortable with who I am, and I talk in many different scenarios for my job, right? So it wasn't so much about not being comfortable talking, but there's always a little bit of that, right? Like, oh my God, it's my second language — the accent and all of that. How are they going to perceive me? It's such a big moment. Of course, it's in the back of my head, but I hope I made people proud by the things I said. I still stand by what I said in the jury and I hope it was entertaining for you all. Because I loved everything they showed, so I'm proud of that.

Which votes at that final Tribal Council surprised you?

Of course, from the Soka perspective — because they were with me from day one — I questioned, like, what happened, you know? But I dealt with it the best way I could. And so many people have disagreed with the decisions I made. I still stand by them because if you make the math, I was not going to let it go to a tie or rocks or anything like that because that could have put a target on my back even bigger. But no regrets. I love them all. It's so interesting to see the numbers because I made the math and I was like, I know I have a chance, but this is not going to be easy. I never underestimated Yam Yam or Caroline ever because they were fantastic.

Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt on 'Survivor 44'
Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt on 'Survivor 44'

CBS Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt on 'Survivor 44'

At what point in the game did you think to yourself: If I win the final four immunity, I'm going to give it up and go to fire?

Before the challenge. I wanted to win the previous one. Well, actually you want to win all of them towards the end. But I knew that I had to give it everything, and some of that was actually giving up the immunity necklace. Oh, by the way, that was the hardest thing to do there. It sounds so easy. No, it was not. I never told anybody — not the producers, not the cast members — that I was going to do that, because in all honesty, I wasn't sure if I [had] the guts to do it. So I was like, we'll see what happens. I knew I wanted to do it, I just didn't know if I had to do it on the spot. And I did, and I'm proud I did because that was big for me.

It's interesting 'cause I was thinking about it after you sort of blurted it out right after the challenge. I was like, "Well she has to do it now because now that you've put it out there, if you don't do it, everyone's going to be like, 'Well, that was lame.'" So maybe that was a way of you sort of convincing yourself and putting yourself in a spot where you had to do it because you'd already put it out there.

Maybe you're right. It's interesting because Jeff is saying, "You're guaranteed the top three." And in my head I'm like, No, I did not, but I'm going to use the opportunity to hopefully get there. So it was more like on the spot when he was talking to me and just came out. I didn't intend to actually say it, but maybe there's a little unconsciousness there that I better say it so I do it at the end of the day.

Had you not won at fire and Carson had beaten you, who would you have voted for to win?

I went against Carson because I really thought Carson had the best relationships and the strongest game at this time. If I was going to go against someone, I was going to go against whoever I thought had the strongest game. So Carson or maybe Yam Yam, because at the end of the day, we're both Puerto Rican. In all honesty, it was never shown because we just couldn't look like a duo so we never made it look like we were a duo. But there's a little something there between him and I that is hard to explain. Maybe I was a little biased because of the Puerto Rican part. But Carson at the time I thought had the strongest game.

How did you get so good at fire anyway?

I'm so obsessed. The first time I watched the first season, my husband gave me a flint for a birthday or something along those lines. Ever since, I have never let someone make fire without a flint. And every time there's something to make fires, it's like, "Wait, let me get my flint." So it just became an obsession. I was comfortable to make fire. I didn't make 3D puzzles, but I made fire all the time. So it worked out for me.

Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt on 'Survivor 44'
Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt on 'Survivor 44'

CBS Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt on 'Survivor 44'

What was your reaction when Jeff told you it was a Survivor record and the fastest in history?

I couldn't believe it. I was so in the zone with what I was doing at the moment. I didn't look at the jury jumping. I had no idea they did that. And when he was like, "This is the fastest one," it blew my mind.

What was Danny's reaction when he finally found out you had put that vote on him?

Listen, there's a lot of intention behind putting his name out there because I needed to show everyone that I could play my own game and separate. It was really to show everyone else that I could vote for him and [say], "Hey, I am not just Danny's puppet." It was a bit of a hint to everyone else. It was very intentional. I just had to lie. I didn't think I was going to be the only one, so I had to lie my way around it.

I was told that apparently he went to Ponderosa and he still didn't believe the people there that I voted for him. He didn't believe it until I talked to him about it. But I gained respect from him, because at the end of the day I was playing the game too. I love him so much because he was able to play a stoic game, not really let his emotions get to him, and he respected me for the decisions I made. He knew I was making my own decisions, so I think he understands why I did it.

Carolyn Wiger, Lauren Harpe, Yam Yam Arocho, Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt, and Carson Garrett on 'Survivor 44'
Carolyn Wiger, Lauren Harpe, Yam Yam Arocho, Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt, and Carson Garrett on 'Survivor 44'

CBS Carolyn Wiger, Lauren Harpe, Yam Yam Arocho, Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt, and Carson Garrett on 'Survivor 44'

How hard was it transitioning from that emotional Tribal Council, and watching someone else win the million dollars, and then having to shift into the after-show?

That was the hardest, I'm not going to lie. That was the hardest thing. If there's anything that we can change for future generations is give us a little break in between the votes and then the pizza party or whatever. Because that was seriously… I didn't show it, but my head was like [drops heads down]. I tried everything I could, and I was exhausted at the time. It's hard to kind of go back to reunion mode. That was very, very hard. We still had a good time and it's fun to talk on the spot, but I wish I had just a little bit of time of processing behind that.

What's something that happened out there on the island that never made it to TV that you wish we had gotten a chance to see?

There's so much that happened that didn't get shown. We actually had a reward [where] we won some fish and Jaime was at Soka at the time so her and I got to bond [over] cleaning the fish. That was a moment that we can actually be such good friends now after the game. By the way, she never was playing the game with me. We were on different sides. She voted for me multiple times. So those little moments are what connect us on a personal level. I love that.

I will never forget [being] like, "Hey, I have to pee," and Carolyn and I are peeing, and strategizing by peeing, things like that. It's just the silliest things, those fun memories. Just watching the sunsets together. Those little moments that go beyond the game. Those are the things I take with me because the friendships are built with those moments. That's why we have the friendships we have now outside the game.

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