No hard feelings! Omar Zaheer is at “peace” with the epic blindside that took him out of Survivor 42.
The veterinarian, 31, was playing a super strategic game with allies left and right, but it was only a matter of time before things caught up to him.
“I feel like there were so many warning signs, in hindsight,” he exclusively tells Us Weekly of his ousting. “And hindsight’s 20/20, but there were so many things that were red flags that I ignored because I didn’t wanna be paranoid. And, you know, it’s a life lesson. Face your problems. Don’t run away from them. And it is what it is. But, I think I would’ve rather known, so I could fight right to the end, but also, it’s epic to go in a blindside too.”
As he went to get his torch snuffed, Omar acknowledged his ally (and ultimate winner) Maryanne Oketch had worked to get him out. “They all played their own role, but Maryanne was very crucial in the execution of the plan,” he says. “But Jonathan [Young], Mike [Tuner] and Maryanne all independently wanted me out, and they all kind of came together. Maryanne executed the plan brilliantly. I think they all needed each other to do it and they all played different roles. But I was impressed with all of their roles in what happened. I think they did the right thing for them and there are no hard feelings there.”
Speaking of, Omar reveals that he actually found an idol nullifier with Jonathan that went unaired on the show but played a big role in why they wanted him out.
“He told me not to tell Lindsay [Dolashewich]. And when he found out I did tell Lindsay, that’s when he lost trust in me,” the Canadian explains to Us. “He told Mike about it. And then he told Mike that I was gonna use it on his idol, which was true. And so that’s when Mike turned on me, and then Maryanne, I think was affected by the tribal, seeing me give the idol back to Mike, really set her against me as well. So, it was like the perfect storm for a blindside.”
Survivor airs on CBS Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.
Scroll down to read our full interview with Omar Zaheer from Survivor 42.
Us: Hi Omar, how are you doing today?
Omar Zaheer: It was surreal. It wasn’t a funeral, It was a celebration of life. So, I feel great. I had a great time. I’m so lucky to have been able to do this experience, and experience my favorite show. So, it is a bit sad, but you know, I think it’s [more being] overwhelmed with happiness for the experience.
Us: For sure. And obviously, it was a blindside. So does that make it easier for you or harder?
OZ: It’s a little bit harder in that sense because I feel like there were so many warning signs, in hindsight. And hindsight’s 20/20, but there were so many things that were red flags that I ignored because I didn’t wanna be paranoid. And, you know, it’s a life lesson. Face your problems. Don’t run away from them. And it is what it is. But, I think I would’ve rather known, so I could fight right to the end, but also, it’s epic to go in a blindside too.
Us: So tell me about that day leading up to tribal. Were there vibes? What were you picking up on or missed?
OZ: Yeah, so, kind of the pattern at the merge was there would be a crazy vote followed by a quiet vote. So, you know, the crazy Lydia vote followed by the quiet Chanelle vote. You had the crazy Tori vote and the calm Rocksroy vote. You had the calm Hai vote followed by the crazy Drea vote. So this was very calm and I thought that it was just continuation of our pattern of, like, the status quo. Maybe they wanted to just do an easy plan this time. And, you know, before tribal council, Jonathan and Mike would always check in with me, like, six, seven, whatever times. Like, they would check in all the time, and they weren’t doing that this time. And I thought maybe it was because they were listening to me about being too obvious, but really it was because they were doing it with each other against me. And Maryanne came up to me and was like, “What are we gonna enjoy together on the final day at Ponderosa when we leave the game together?” And I was like, “That’s a weird thing to say now.” But she was trying to make me feel comfortable. In hindsight, those were red flags.
Us: Definitely. Did you get a feeling at tribal at all or was it business as usual?
OZ: At tribal I didn’t really get a vibe, other than that Jonathan wasn’t really looking at me as much as he normally does. He had passed out that day from exhaustion, so I was like, “Maybe he’s just not feeling great.” He actually physically fainted. So I was like, “Maybe he just doesn’t feel good or maybe he finally gets the message that I’m in because I always would tell him we’re fine. And he would listen to me. So maybe he finally did.” But it was just because he was voting me out.
Us: You had an exchange with Maryanne on your way out. When the votes came in, did you credit her with the master plan to vote you out?
OZ: I thought when I left it was Maryanne, for sure. Obviously watching it back, they all played their own role, but Maryanne was very crucial in the execution of the plan. But Jonathan, Mike and Maryanne all independently wanted me out, and they all kind of came together. Maryanne executed the plan brilliantly. I think they all needed each other to do it and they all played different roles. But I was impressed with all of their roles in what happened. I think they did the right thing for them and there are no hard feelings there.
Us: Tell me about when Drea called you out at the tribal she went home. Did you think about how that might affect your game going forward?
OZ: When I made a big move against Drea, I have to take responsibility for that in a sense that I knew something like that could happen. Actually, my bigger worry was that she would realize that and put her votes on me instead, which she didn’t. She put them on Mike. But, I was actually a little bit relieved that she didn’t vote for me. And then what she said didn’t seem that bad. So I was like, “OK, whatever,” because most of the people there already knew that she told me that because I told them. So, I didn’t think it was gonna hurt me that much. And I think that Jonathan and Mike turned on me independent from that because I had an advantage that they didn’t show on the show, which was a hidden immunity idol nullifier that Jonathan and I had found together. He told me not to tell Lindsay. And when he found out I did tell Lindsay, that’s when he lost trust in me. He told Mike about it. And then he told Mike that I was gonna use it on his idol, which was true. And so that’s when Mike turned on me, and then Maryanne, I think was affected by the tribal, seeing me give the idol back to Mike, really set her against me as well. So, it was like the perfect storm for a blindside.
Us: So this idol nullifier that we never saw definitely affected your game.
OZ: I would say the idol nullifier was like the ring to my Gollum. I really got obsessed with using it correctly and using it at final five. I should have been more flexible as I had been for the rest of the game and not really tried to pigeonhole a move later, when you might not even get to later, clearly.
Us: I wonder why we didn’t see it.
OZ: I mean, I think it was very important to the story line, but the story could be told without it. So maybe it was just an easier story to tell without it being in place. And now it’s just something fun to bring up in exit press because it played a big role. But yeah, I guess the story can be told without it.
Us: Talk to me about your end game plans. Who did you want with you?
OZ: I think, at this point, my plan was not necessarily for final three, but for final four, and I wanted Lindsay, Romeo and Maryanne to be in it. I thought that however things shaped out at that point, I would be OK. Whoever went out at four, I felt at least we all got to four, kind of thing. Because I did feel a sense of a tremendous loyalty to Maryanne and Lindsay both, individually. And then Romeo, I kind of wanted to take to the end with me. So I was like, “Well, if Maryanne or Lindsay go out at four, at least it’s not a vote. They can go out in fire. Or if they make it to the end with me, great.” So I was kind of setting up for a final four where I was well positioned as opposed to a final three.
Us: Did you and Lindsay discuss her using her idol on you?
OZ: We did. We did. So, I had asked her to use it on me when we got back from the immunity challenge because she won. So I was like, “Well, this is the last time to use it. You should just use it on me.” But because the idol was non transferable … I told her she should give it to me, so then I’ll play it. She said she wasn’t allowed to transfer it, so she could use it on me, but she couldn’t give it to me. And she thought that by using it on me in front of everybody, it would put a bigger target on our back as a duo, which we were trying to hide. And ultimately, that was the wrong decision because we didn’t know that people already saw us as a duo at that point.
Us: So frustrating! Were you at peace about it when you got back to Ponderosa or were you thinking things over in your head?
OZ: I was very much at peace with my blindside. I said that afternoon that they should vote me out, but they’re not and I don’t get why. And then they did. So, you know, I was proud of them for what they did. I think that it was the right move for them. I can’t be mad at it because I did it to other people. So it would be hypocritical for me to be mad at them when I did it to other people. So for me, I was very much at peace with that part of the game.
Us: I think I know the answer here, but sometimes people can get sour if they’re not picked for reward challenges. Do you think your choices had any impact?
OZ: No, I think that was the right decision. We kind of got into a culture of picking people who hadn’t been on rewards. And so, for me, to give to more people and to make it the people that were probably the most surprised, made the most sense. And I don’t think I got any backlash for that. And Lindsay was very clear, like, “Don’t pick me.” We don’t need to pick each other. And so, I don’t think that had anything to do with why I got voted out because the plan was already in place before then. So it was just a fun time eating some cake and feeling a bit sick after.
Us: Are you interested in playing Survivor again?
OZ: I would play again. I think right after the experience, I was like, “No, I couldn’t ever do it again.” But you know, time goes by, you forget the pain and you just remember the fun. So I would do it again.
Us: It was really fun to watch you play and I was bummed to see you go out! Who are some of your favorite past players? Anyone you wanted to play like?
OZ: Well, thank you for the compliment. There are so many players that I loved watching. I think going into the game, the people that I wanted to play like were going to be Rob Cesternino, Kim Spradlin, Cirie Fields, Tyson Apostol and Natalie Anderson. And I think I said that in my pregame and everyone’s like, “You’re crazy for saying all of that.” And then, throughout the season, I was compared to all them at different points in time, which was, like, the highest honor and compliment. There are so many more that I love, of course, like Sandra [Diaz-Twine], the queen. Jeremy [Collins]. There are so many, like Kelley Wentworth. So many great players. But yeah, those were probably the players that I felt I was most similar to.
Us: Love that. What did you think of the accelerated version of the game, as a fan and as a player?
OZ: I think it’s hard for me to compare because I haven’t played 39 days. So it’s very different. I don’t know what that’s like physically. In the moment, it didn’t really feel like we were getting gipped or anything like that. It was still very tough. And, you know, you still saw a brutal blindside. You saw gameplay at a fast pace. And I think that it probably is roughly equivalent because you’re watching it on screen and it’s very similar. But I would be curious to play a 39-day game to see how that would be. I think it’s a fine change for the show, personally.
Us: Especially with the food situation, it seems like they’re starving you guys out there.
OZ: Exactly. I lost, like, 24 pounds, so it wasn’t light.
Us: And I always wrap up by asking: Do you think there was anything you could have done at tribal council to stay or was your fate sealed when you walked in? Other than Lindsay playing her idol…
OZ: That’s a good question because in the moment, obviously there’s these considerations that go through your mind and some of them gain traction and some of them don’t. This was the last night to use a Shot in the Dark. And I actually did think about using it because I was like, “My vote doesn’t matter because Jonathan and Mike are voting for each other. And so if I don’t vote for Jonathan, then it’s still four to two instead of five to two.” So I could just play my thing because I don’t wanna go home with something in my pocket. But, I wanted to put Jonathan’s name down to be like, “Yes, I did it.” You know, like, I made that move (laughs). Obviously stupid in hindsight. And then the other thing I thought about doing was when Jeff said, “Does anyone have an advantage to play?” You know, a very small part of me was like, “Should I stand up right now and say to Lindsay, ‘I think you should use it just in case.’ But I’m just not that type of player per se, ‘cause I was trying to be more subtle. So against better judgment, I didn’t. But you know, hindsight’s also 20/20, if I didn’t need it and I’d made a big display like that, then people would be looking at me. So I don’t know. It’s hard to regret a lot when you go with information you have at the time.