Is it possible to win an immunity challenge and then get voted out of Survivor? It is if your name is Morriah Young. The glass-half-full teacher from Philadelphia was on the losing side of the first immunity competition, but insisted that they actually were winners because they tried their best. Unfortunately, that's not exactly how the game of Survivor works, so when the Baka tribe was sent to Tribal Council, it was Morriah who was cut loose as the first person voted out of Survivor 43.
In typical fashion, the relentlessly positive Morriah harbored no ill will towards the tribe members that just unanimously sent her packing, telling them, "I love you guys. It's okay." With Morriah's early exit, viewers were robbed of seeing a refreshingly upbeat personality who said before the season that she was "fantastic at kicking people with color, punching them with joy, and making them fall in love with our authentic connection."
We made a connection — over Zoom, that is — with Morriah the morning after her televised ouster, and here's what she had to say about why she was voted out and what we didn't see on TV. (You can watch the entire interview above, or read it below. Also make sure to check out our Survivor 43 premiere recap and exclusive interview with Jeff Probst.)
Robert Voets/CBS Morriah Young on 'Survivor 43'
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why are you here talking to me right now? Why do you think your tribe voted you out?
MORRIAH YOUNG: I think they voted me out for their perception of me being the weakest person on the tribe. I think that they found value in everyone else in different areas than me. And so I think that when they put me up against Sami, the strength of our tribe, and Owen, who's this incredible genius, and Elie and Jeanine... I just didn't measure up. Or their perception of me was I didn't measure up to be that strong of a player in comparison to the rest of the tribe.
Did you have a feeling that it was you when you walked into Tribal Council?
I did. I started to feel it in my gut. There was kind of a shift that happened in Tribal Council where I started to feel it. I had kind of like this weird gut feeling all day in the pit of my stomach, but I was trying to ignore it because I didn't want to be a paranoid player. And I'm like, "Let me just trust my alliance." I really wanted to work with the women. I really wanted to work with Sami. But once we got to Tribal Council and everyone was kind of like anti-kumbaya, I was like, "Oh no!" [Laughs] Definitely as soon as Jeff said, "I'll go grab the votes," I started thinking about what I was gonna say in my final confessional.
Do you still feel like you all were winners at the challenge?
I do. And I think that's just my general outlook on life. I'm not gonna label us as a failing tribe or loser tribe. We lost the challenge, of course. I mean, that's something that is a fact. We did lose the challenge, but I think that we won in so many other ways. And so I definitely want to continue to acknowledge that.
CBS Morriah Young on 'Survivor 43'
You said you were out there to make friends and then use that to your advantage in the game. Do you feel you were able to do that?
I do. I definitely feel like I made a lot of genuine and authentic connections, but I think that it boiled down to people having a different mindset than me. And I think that going into the game, you have to have an aligning vision with the people who you're aligned with. And so my alliance, I wanted it to be based on genuine, authentic connections, but I think other people wanted it to be more strategic and less of a feeling or a vibe. And that might have been a downfall for me in a way.
Why were you targeting Owen?
I was targeting Owen because I had already made an alliance with Elie and Jeanine. I really wanted to stick it out with the women. I wanted to pull Sami in as our fourth because he was just really strong in our challenges and I felt like we needed him to continue to be really, really powerful in future challenges. And Gabler went on that journey and got the idol. So Owen was the only person left who was either not in my alliance or didn't have a guaranteed safety.
Even though Gabler gave this speech of like, "I'm not gonna play my idol," I can't take your word for that. You can say you're not gonna play your idol all you want and still play it. If I had an idol, I would've played it. So I didn't wanna take the risk of taking Gabler's word for it that he wasn't gonna play the idol voting for him, and then he pops up and says, "Jeff, my idol!" And now all of the votes that we cast against him are null and then whoever gets their votes goes home.
I didn't wanna give up that control and that power. I didn't wanna flip on my girls because I really wanted it to be a strong women's alliance — not just for game purposes, but I believe that when women work together, it's a beautiful thing. And then I really wanted to work with Sami because he was someone that I really vibed with.
What was going through your mind when Gabler calls this whole tribe meeting and says he's going to use the Shot in the Dark?
The first thing that went through my head — and I wanted to say it out loud — was, "Gabler, what are you talking about?" I wanted to step outside of the game Morriah and hop into Morriah on the couch and say, "Gabler, if you don't play that idol…." [Laughs] That's what I wanted to say as a person watching the game. But as a player, I'm not gonna convince this man to play his idol, but in my head, this doesn't make any sense. So I'm gonna assume that you're trying to do me because it doesn't make sense. So the whole time when he is telling this story, I didn't buy it for a second. So if I was blindsided in any way, it was definitely blindsided by the fact that he didn't play it. [Laughs]
Robert Voets/CBS Morriah Young and Jeff Probst on 'Survivor 43'
I've been covering the show for a long time, and I've spoken to a lot of people that have been voted out first. A lot of folks have been pretty devastated by being the first one to go. How have you handled that, Mariah?
It was definitely devastating. Like, the amount of emotions that I felt. First of all, it took me a long time to accept it. I was on the boat leaving the island and I'm like, "I'm going to Exile! I'm going to Redemption!" I swore I was still in the game. So my initial coping mechanism was just believing that there was like a second part. And then suddenly I'm really out the game and I'm like, "Oh, okay, so I'm done. Got it."
So my initial coping mechanism was denial and then I started realizing the reason why I came out to play in the first place, and the reason I played the game, was to really commemorate my mom. It was the last thing on my bucket list that I wanted to do to commemorate her and to honor her. And I got a chance to do that. And so I kind of really just held onto that, in addition to thinking about all the amazing people that I got to meet on my tribe.
I truly believe I was put on the right tribe. I was with the right people. It just wasn't in the cards for me. And so the fact that I got to meet amazing people, the fact that I got to even step on the sands and play this game that I've been watching since I was a kid and still be able to commemorate my mom, that's a beautiful thing. And then holding onto high hopes that I'm gonna play again. I'm gonna have a conversation with Jeff about that.
Hey, it's happened before. They brought Francesca back. It didn't go so well the second time either, but they did bring her back after she got voted out first. But Survivor is so weird because you have to deal with all those emotions months ago, and now it airs and you have got to deal with some of them again watching it all play back. How was that last night watching it all unfold on TV?
The support of family and friends definitely helped. And the support of my fiancé, Michael. I was curling up in a ball when it got to Tribal Council and I think my initial reaction was like, "Oh my God, this is so embarrassing. I'm getting ready to be the first boot and everyone's here to celebrate me. And it's gonna be such a pity party."
But I got voted out, and everyone was cheering and clapping. So it was just having the support of people that I love and being surrounded by people who believed in this journey that I took was definitely motivating and uplifting.
Robert Voets/CBS The Baka tribe on 'Survivor 43'
What's something that happened out there that we did not see that you wish would have made the episode?
I have two. The first thing is that when we first got back from losing the challenge, we put together the fire and there was a moment when Elie said, "Let's put a pin in the game and work on this fire." We worked on that fire for maybe an hour. When I say the fire was gone, it was gone. There was no strategizing, there was no scrambling. There was no freaking out for the first hour and a half when we got back from losing that first [immunity] challenge, because we just wanted to make sure that whoever was coming back from Tribal Council had a fire.
And I really felt like if that didn't say who the Baka tribe was, then it was that moment — all five of us around the camp fire, literally breathing life into it, putting tiny sticks into it, blowing on embers because it was completely out, and bringing the fire back to life. I felt like that kind of really encapsulated the spirit of our tribe. We knew somebody was going home, but every single last one of us still wanted to make sure that the fire was set. And so that's something that I wish had a little bit more airtime.
And then I talked about my mom — a lot. [Laughs] I felt like I talked about her a lot, but the amount that I talked about her wasn't aired that much. That was my reason for coming onto the show that I wish was shared a little bit more because it was so much more than just a game that I love. It's a game that I love, but something I'm doing to commemorate my mom.
Morriah, you are a very colorful personality. You have very colorful clothes. You have a colorful backdrop on your Zoom right now. Clowns are also very colorful, yet somehow you are deathly afraid of clowns.
I am terrified of clowns. I do not think they're funny. Like, they are terrifying. I don't think that they should be something to bring to kids' birthday parties, because I remember being approached by clown when I was a child and I would run away screaming and crying. The main thing that bothers me is how they draw their smile. And then they make different facial expressions and it's really distorted to me. So when they have a painted red smile on them and they frown, that freaks me out. I don't know if it's some type of cognitive disorder that I have or what, but that's so freaky to me. The painted face? It's… no.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.