Amanda Kimmel: “a lot of people thought that I just got lucky twice, which is not the case”

This is the third in a series of interviews with Survivor Heroes vs. Villains cast members.

Amanda Kimmel Amanda is one of the third-timers, and she has a record no one else does: She made it to the finals and was a runner-up twice. Can she do it again? “I will be distraught if that happens,” Amanda told me. “That would be awful.”

Despite her record, Amanda isn’t exactly thought of as one of the best Survivor players. While I’m definitely a fan of her game play, I realize that a lot of people think she doesn’t deserve any credit, and asked her about that. “Everyone thinks that. Even though I made it to the end twice in a row, people think, ‘That girl has no game. It was lucky that she made it that far.’ And I’m like, seriously? I just played a really good game; no one knew what I was doing.”

Later, she said, “I don’t think you can get lucky Survivor twice and make it to the end. No one’s every been that lucky,” adding, “I’m very, very strategic. Just because it hasn’t been in your face doesn’t mean I haven’t been strategic, and that’s definitely something I want to show this time.”

However, she does plan to use that to her advantage, because Amanda doesn’t think she’ll be an immediate target like the winners. “Like you said when I first sat down, I don’t think a lot of people will see me as a threat, even though I’ve made it that far twice. I know what I’m capable of, and I know there are some people here who know what I’m capable of, but I hope not many.” Therefore, “I don’t think I will really be seen as a threat, because a lot of people thought that I just got lucky twice, which is not the case,” Amanda said.

Amanda didn’t watch the finale of her first season before going to Micronesia, and realized later that “I did the same thing both times.” What was that? “I wasn’t assertive enough, and that’s just the person I am, but that’s definitely something I want to improve.” Specifically, Amanda said, “I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I got confused between the reality and the game, which is an easy line to be blurred. It was much harder than I expected emotionally for me.”

This season, that will change, she promised. “I’m going to be a very aggressive player.” She said, “I’m much more assertive now. … I definitely think that’s going to help me this time. For sure,” she added.

While Amanda is “starting a swimsuit line,” she’s also acting, which began after Survivor. However, she noted, “I wasn’t trying to be an actress.” Instead, she found acting because “I was an emotional wreck doing this twice in a row,” and a friend invited her to acting class, and she said “it was “the best thing ever, because acting’s all about figuring out your own stuff.” (More on that in the clip below.)

Although she’s had very tight bonds with some of the people who are on the show again, Amanda’s strategy doesn’t involve any pre-season alliances. “I don’t believe in that. It doesn’t work. You get in the game, you’re split up differently, it’s just a stupid idea,” Amanda said. “It’s impossible to have a pre-alliance and expect that to hold you through the game. It’s ridiculous, completely.” (I believed her, but listening to that a few months later, she did seem to be protesting a bit too much, although perhaps that’s just a reaction to people assuming she’ll again ride Parvati’s coattails.)

She has no pre-season strategy, either, and said, “Part of the reason I do so well in the game” is because “I’m really good at putting myself in the best situation possible. … I know how to finagle things my way.” Her biggest threats are “probably not the people you’re thinking,” she said, before identifying only Cirie, who Amanda said “is a huge threat: she’s a good player, she’s smart.” As to her pre-conceived notions of the other cast members, Amanda said, “I’m up to giving everyone a fair shot until [they] prove otherwise.”

Amanda reiterated that she will play hard but make sure we understand who she is and what’s she’s doing.. “I’m in it for the game, for sure. Because I want to win this so badly, I’ve come so close twice, and my ego’s like, ‘Amanda, win this game.’ I’m determined.” She said that during her first two appearances, “My personality didn’t come out because I was playing this game so hard. It’s hard to be yourself and play this game, for me. This time I’m going to try to be more myself and have fun with it.”

I asked her if she felt like her edit was fair, and she said that it was, and that what she saw has helped her grow. “Any contestant that tells you they were edited wrongly has a lot of denial,” Amanda told me. “Maybe that’s not how you are outside of the game, but in the game, it’s portrayed very accurately. … A lot of people are in denial about who they are; instead, I’m trying to improve the things I don’t like.”

Hear Amanda talk about why she’s nervous, what she thinks about her fellow competitors, and why she loves acting class:

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.