When "Survivor: Samoa" kicked off last night, the players were thrown into a Reward Challenge before they even got to know each other. Then it was off to their respective camps. For some reason, Marisa Calihan angered fellow teammate Russell Hantz to such a degree that the oil company owner lobbied to get her voted off the island when their team lost the Immunity Challenge. Now the 26-year-old college student tells ET it was because she wasn't stupid enough to fall for his lies!
ET: How hard was it to be the first to go?
MARISA: You don't want to be the first to go because you want to be a part of everything you have been preparing for, for as long as possible. However, there are some huge benefits for me being the first to go: One) I didn't have to spend any more time with Russell. Two) I left with my dignity intact. I left looking like one of the only people who saw through Russell. To have him described as the biggest villain in "Survivor" history and me being the person who saw through him outside of Betsy -- that is an honor.
ET: Russell seemed to me to be a bit of a misogynist. Did you pick up on that when you were talking to him?
MARISA: Huge. So was Ben Browning. Absolutely. Both of them had huge issues with strong women. Russell wanted me to be stupid. He really wanted me to be. I just wasn't. I didn't fit into his plan, so I had to go. "She is going to threaten me?" Who does he think he is?
ET: I couldn't believe that in such a short time he could rally the troops.
MARISA: He made a very good decision when he was telling people they were in a secret alliance with him, so they were not going to talk to each other about their alliances. I would go to them and say, "You have to be careful of Russell. Don't trust him." They wouldn't trust me because they wanted to protect their alliance.
ET: Were you a fan of the show? Did you have a strategy in place?
MARISA: It was very difficult of me to formulate something when I didn't know the people I would be working with. For me, it was dependent on who I was with [as to] how I was going to play it. An overall blanket strategy like [Russell's]: "I am just going to torment everyone and mess with their heads," that can work for anyone. I wanted to really play a more intellectual game. I guess it was a bad choice because I am out and [Russell] is in.
ET: In reading your bio, it seemed as if you had the experience to be successful on the show. You had been in third-world countries. Can you talk about that?
MARISA: I think that living in El Salvador for the period of time that I did gave me an insight of what it is really like to go without: Knowing that you just have to keep going, moving forward and you will get through it eventually. We are very spoiled. We have a lot of luxuries in this country. A lot of people don't know what it is like to have nothing. When I worked with the street children in El Salvador, they literally lived in the sewers. Because there is such civil unrest, they were displaced. They lived in the park and then they were forced to move to the sewers. To see an 11-year-old with a gunshot wound to the neck with a scratchy voice, sniffing shoe glue and living in a sewer, I knew I could do this. All I had to do was think of those children.
ET: Do you have a favorite to win it?
MARISA: From my tribe, I would love to see Betsy Bolan win it.
ET: What was it like to watch it with family and friends?
MARISA: I saw it with my family and a lot of friends from my hometown who have been very supportive. No one knew in what order I got out. I didn't tell a living soul. I wanted to do that because I wanted them to feel the joy of that. I let it ride out to the end. I turned around, and went, "Surprise!" My brothers, my uncles and my dad, they hated Russell and were thinking how they could get back at him.
ET: Once you are voted off so early, they can't send you home, right? Then people would know you didn't win. So when you were done, did you get to have a vacation there? Check into a hotel and get three meals a day?
MARISA: I did not get to stay in a nice hotel, but I did get to stay in Samoa. It was very interesting. I can't really talk a lot about it because everybody has to go back after they are voted off. I can tell you, the landscape in Samoa is incredible. It is a great place to reconnect with your spirit after going through something that hard.
ET: But you did get to eat?
MARISA: I did get to eat -- and boy, did I ever!
ET: What is next?
MARISA: I am back in school. I plan on finishing up this year with a bang. I have my headbands that I do. I am selling them at an art show coming up. I am looking to the future.
"Survivor: Samoa" airs Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on CBS.
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