After the Survivor Gabon finale, the final five visited the red carpet in a tent outside the studio to talk to the press. It was a bit disconcerting, since some journalists needed CBS-provided cheat sheets with the casts’ photographs and names on them (really?), and others showed up to reality starfuck. Because we were crammed in (the people on either side were eavesdropping and in some cases writing down quotes based on my questions) and had just a few minutes with each person, it wasn’t the best environment for a conversation.
Still, the final four (after doing TV interviews and a fast group interview with some blogs, Bob was whisked away to take a red eye to New York for Monday media appearances) did have some interesting season-end insight.
Jessica “Sugar” Kiper
Although Sugar received zero votes, she was in a fantastic mood, and seemed thrilled with the whole experience. That may be because she’ll be back to work as an actor soon, if SAG doesn’t strike. “I got the best contract that they’ve given anybody in 17 seasons,” she told me, as she’s allowed to go back on TV and start auditioning for film and TV roles again in January.
Sugar said that during her final speech, she actually told the jury, “I’ve been an actor for 10 years; thanks for playing.” That was edited out, which she said she understands even though anyone can Google her and find out she’s an actor.
So why did everyone shun her and give her zero votes? “I think it was that the few people that would have voted for me were the last people that I blindsided and was there best friend for a minute, and they’re like, what the fuck, that was Sugar? Why’d she do that? Somebody had to go, that’s why, and you yelled at Matty for no reason, and dammit, that made me mad,” she laughed.
Sugar disputed other cast members’ claims that she’s friendless: “I’m very close with Ace,” she said; they took a road trip and went skydiving together. She also said she’s friends with “Jacquie and Kenny and Crystal and Matty and Bob and Susie,” and gets along with everyone except “for Corinne and Randy and maybe Marcus.” Sugar added, “I really don’t have a problem with anybody; I only had a problem with Randy being a jerk to everybody else. And now he can’t get over that someone else gave him his own medicine. I mean, come on, if you’re going to dish it out, take it, Jesus.”
“I have no idea what Randy’s problem was, but he had a problem with everybody and I was just the only one who wasn’t going to take it. He was always calling Charlie a fag and Corinne a bitch, and it’s funny to them, and they can take it, but me and my friends don’t do that,” Sugar told me. “I have no idea why anybody’s mean to anybody, but it’s just ridiculous. The amount, the extreme measures, Jesus.”
During the live reunion, Sugar mentioned someone blogging about seeing her in traffic, and that just happened to be TVgasm founder B-Side. “What a psycho,” she said. “I wanted to write him and say, ‘What if I just stopped you and told everybody your license plate number and said, oh, he had a bland expression on his face because he wasn’t talking to anybody because nobody was in the car, so I guess he was just driving. How exciting!”
Finally, at the start of our brief conversation, Sugar told me, “hey, you got some things wrong, mister,” saying that in my initial interview with her, I misidentified the “enlightened rich guy” as Matty when she meant Ace. And referring to my skepticism about her crying, she said, “you didn’t buy it. You weren’t buying it, but look, it worked, didn’t it?”
Susie Smith’s near-victory may have been the most surprising part of of the finale. She earned three of the seven jury votes, and would have won had Randy not voted for Bob, which he said he did solely because Susie irritated him by discussing the reward challenge cookie incident. Susie told me, “What I do regret about the game, the one thing, is that I didn’t really understand Randy as well as I thought I did. I hope I didn’t hurt him. I know that, clearly, that’s what lost me the vote.”
But she says she’s not bitter that the bitter man cost her $1 million. She said that backstage, “he’s trying to explain it to me, and I’m like, Randy, it’s okay, don’t worry about it; I’m not going to hate you. I brought him a Christmas ornament, for pete’s sake.”
She said her edit was accurate in that she didn’t do much more than what we saw, which was very little. Susie won two immunity challenges, and her swing vote got rid of Marcus and changed the game but otherwise didn’t do a lot. “As much as I flew under the radar, I was always trying, even though I was so pathetic at it,” Susie said. Regarding her key strategic move, Susie said, “I think Marcus was hurt that I had to cut him when I did,” but they’ve since exchanged e.mail and apologized to one another.
Susie’s strategy was to “take everything in increments” and “work your tail off, work like a workhorse,” she said, plus she “never wanted to be disrespectful to anybody, I didn’t really want to ever hurt anybody. You can play Survivor without hurting someone. You don’t have to be nasty.”
While she had a fun potty mouth during our initial conversation, Susie didn’t swear much on TV. “I did swear sometimes, but it was never in the strategic moments,” she said. “I did tell Bob that he fuckin’ stunk once. I did; I’m like, ‘Bob, you fucking stink.’ But that was just talk. But it was never in a strategic, hateful move. I’m kind of glad the way they edited it,” she said, so her young students wouldn’t see that.
I asked her if there was anything no one knew about her time on the show, and she said, “This experience has helped my relationship with my husband. … My husband has a renewed respect for me. And I love that; I’ve been wanting that for years. And I feel like he’s more respectful but he has an appreciation for me. That’s so cool. I can’t believe it took coming to Gabon, Africa, to make him understand that.”
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