Exclusive: Amanda Kimmel talks about 'Survivor,' losing twice in a row
By Christopher Rocchio, 05/12/2008
Amanda Kimmel admits she's not very good at choosing castaways to take with her to Survivor's final Tribal Council.
Unfortunately she learned that lesson the hard way for the second season in a row, as the Survivor: China third-place finisher was defeated by Parvati Shallow via a 5-3 jury vote margin during last night's Survivor: Micronesia -- Fans vs. Favorites finale broadcast on CBS.
On Monday morning, Amanda talked to Reality TV World about why she decided to take Parvati to the final Tribal Council instead of Cirie Fields; why playing a "loyal game" was something that was important to her; how participating in back-to-back Survivor installments has caused her to have "trust issues;" why the quick turnaround between China and Micronesia mostly put her at a disadvantage; and how her current relationship with Ozzy Lusth might have been a $1 million mistake.
Reality TV World: When we talked to you after December's China finale, you seemed pretty melancholy and a little indifferent about how the season had turned out. Is it safe to say that knowing you'd already managed to get to a Survivor final jury vote a second time was a big part of the reason why?
Amanda: It was kind of because I knew I didn't win China. (laughing)
Reality TV World: What was your reaction to James Clement's final Tribal Council comment that you had the $1 million "in the bag?" Did you spend the last few months thinking he was right or did you consider it the kiss of death?
Amanda: I knew it was very close. It's so hard because all you can do is get yourself to the end and then you really don't know what's going to happen. What sucks about Survivor is that you can work as hard as you want and you can do as much as you want and you can build as many relationships as you think you need and it still might not be enough. You never know.
Reality TV World: Did Survivorhost Jeff Probst ever explain what would have happened if there'd been a 4-4 jury vote tie? If so, what was the answer?
Amanda: No, he didn't ever tell us. There was a white envelope. I don't know what was in it, but that was supposed to be the tie-breaker if there was one. But I have no idea. I know as much about it as you do.
Reality TV World: When we talked back in December, you mentioned that you felt you'd "messed up" the final Tribal Council and that's what cost you the $1 million check. Based on what CBS showed last night, it honestly looks that's what happened again this time -- would you agree with that?
Amanda: I have no idea. Honestly, I don't know. Maybe I said the wrong thing with Cirie's question to me [at the final Tribal Council], but it was definitely geared towards Parvati. And all the girls [on the jury] were pro-Parvati. So you do what you have to in the game. I made an observation [about Cirie] and she was obviously upset about it. Cirie had a lot of power, the girls are good at manipulating this game and I'm sure they manipulated.
Reality TV World: Parvati seemed to play a game that was very similar to what Todd Herzog did last season and when we talked in December, you said that you'd left China's final Tribal Council feeling like you hadn't won, so why did you take Parvati this time?
Amanda: Honestly, because I thought I had a better chance against her than Cirie. Maybe I'm horrible at deciding who I take to the finals -- obviously. But I just went with my gut and I decided to take Parvati and I did and I don't know.
Reality TV World: So even when Parvati actually came right out and told you that she didn't think there was any way Cirie would beat you if you took Cirie to the Final 2, that didn't really change your thinking at all?
Amanda: No.I really honestly knew I couldn't beat Cirie. A lot of the girls on the jury hated me -- [Natalie Bolton and Alexis Jones] -- they pretty much tore me down at Tribal. I knew that taking Cirie, she was a shoe-in for a lot of votes just because she played good the whole time and she was good at speaking.
Reality TV World: When you were going through the process, did you recognize the similarities between what you'd gone through with last season's decision to keep Todd over Denise Martin and the decision to keep Parvati over Cirie this season?
Amanda: Yeah, I can see similarities. Although I think Cirie would have been more dangerous in the finals than Denise. (laughing)
Reality TV World: In both seasons, you basically seemed to expect the jury to reward your loyalty and physical competitiveness and were worried about the jury falling for an "I have kids and a family" story. However if you look back at the show's prior seasons, no jury has ever fallen for a "sob story" -- in fact, they've traditionally rewarded "the schemer." Didn't you know that from watching past seasons and did you take that into account as you were approaching the jury?
Amanda: I did, but... I don't know what to say. I just did a lot of things wrong and I really don't know what else to say.
Reality TV World: Like you mentioned earlier, when we talked in December you said you'd left China thinking that you were pretty sure you hadn't won. Given that, can you explain why you used the same jury strategy this time around? Did you think about changing your jury strategy at all?
Amanda: Yeah. I guess I like the game I played. I think I played a loyal game because in life I like to be loyal too and that was important to me. Early in the game, I had to decide if I was going to be loyal or not to Ozzy -- whether I wanted a relationship with him later or if it was just a game and I was going to use him and abuse him to the end. I decided to have a relationship with him, and maybe that was a $1 million mistake. I don't know.
Reality TV World: Are you still happy you made that decision?
Reality TV World: Why did you go out of your way to tell the jury you didn't want any sympathy votes and didn't want anything given to you?
Amanda: I'm like a genuinely nice person, and I don't think a nice person can win this game, honestly. Everybody thought when I was crying about voting out Cirie was fake and it wasn't. It was genuine. I'm genuinely a nice person and I don't like to hurt people's feelings. Maybe you just can't have those qualities for this game. I don't know.
Reality TV World: So that genuinely was an emotional decision for you to choose between Parvati and Cirie in the Final 2?
Amanda: Yeah, it was really hard. That's probably the hardest part of the game for me -- the emotional aspect. This is a game, but it ruins people's lives. Your messing with people's heads and real feelings and it's not a bunch of BS. It's a game at the end of the day, but when you're out there it's very real and they're real people in real situations, and I don't like to hurt people's feelings. I don't do that. I'm from Montana! (laughing)
Reality TV World: After winning the Final 4 Immunity Challenge, you said you'd played this season "so different" than China and felt "so much better about it." Can you explain what you meant by that?
Amanda: I made bold moves and I'm proud of the moves I made. I felt really bad about voting James out last time, and it's a game -- but it's not in me to do stuff like that. So at the end I felt better about my game in Micronesia than I did in China, for sure.
Reality TV World: This is the second Survivor edition where you seem to have broken down in the final days and teed off on one of your allies after the Final 4 Tribal Council -- last season it was Todd and this time it was with Cirie. Why do you think that's the case?
Amanda: The whole thing is so fake! You're living a game where you have to hurt people's feelings and manipulate and deceive -- and you're doing it day after day. You develop trust issues and it's hard. It's hard to deal with. I'm a positive person and I never put myself in that kind of atmosphere. To live that for 70 days straight? At the end, I just couldn't take it anymore. Honestly, I was just at my ends.
Reality TV World: Can you explain why you were all so surprised that there wasn't a Final 3? Weren't the facts that the Final 4 Immunity Challenge took place a day early, wasn't a classic endurance challenge, and wasn't proceeded by the usual "Fallen Comrades" march some pretty big hints that there was going to be another Immunity Challenge?
Amanda: You never know what's going to happen. Seriously, Jeff asks questions... He asks you a lot more questions than what is just shown on TV. So he can hide it easily. It's not as noticeable out there as it is as they portray it.
Reality TV World: Last night, there was a confessional were Parvati mentioned that -- although Micronesia taped before China's finale aired in December -- she already knew you'd also made it to the end of the China edition. When did you tell her that? Did you tell anyone else?
Amanda: I told a couple of people, just because it seemed like everyone there made it to the end of their seasons pretty much. At the beginning, me and James kind of felt like outcasts because we didn't know anybody from previous seasons. We kind of needed anything to save face with as many of these people as we could. So me and James said we made it really far. I don't know, it just helped us out because we could tell them anything we wanted really.
Reality TV World: Telling anyone you'd made it to China's Final 3 and might already have won $1 million would seem to be the type of thing that would have painted a huge target on your back. Do you regret that decision?
Amanda: I don't think it hurt me. Honestly, I don't know right now.
Amanda: Actually, the truth about that is I really wanted Natalie gone because I knew Alexis wasn't a shoe-in for challenges and stuff. But Parvati made it clear she wanted to vote for Alexis. I even told Parvati to vote for me so I could vote for Natalie. I don't know what was going on but she was very determined to either make it a tie [between Natalie and Alexis] or vote for Alexis.
Reality TV World: Did you ever get a sense that Ozzy might be blindsided before the Tribal Council when it occurred?
Amanda: No, I didn't.
Reality TV World: So did you have a hard time trusting Parvati after that?
Amanda: I had a hard time trusting everyone. That's a hard part about this game, it forces you to deceive and lie. I seriously developed trust issues after this game.
Reality TV World: When we talked to Ozzy and James, they both said they never really considered Cirie to be part of your alliance. Would you agree with that?
Amanda: Yeah, kind of. Cirie was back and forth in the beginning a lot. I would consider her a part of my alliance after everyone was gone.
Reality TV World: Earlier in the competition, was there ever a situation where you guys discussed possibly getting rid of Cirie?
Amanda: No, not really.
Reality TV World: How difficult was it to lose James to injury? Had that not happened, did you have any sort of strategy to keep him around?
Amanda: Oh yeah, definitely. We would have come up with something for sure.
Reality TV World: So was it personally tough to lose him?
Amanda: Of course. He's like my brother. We're really, really close and I love the guy to death. I think he's amazing. It was really hard.
Reality TV World: Once you were cast, were you aware that James would be joining you or did you not find out until you got to Micronesia?
Amanda: I didn't find out until I saw him in the hotel. (laughing) Then I looked across the room and I was trying to get a sense if he was still mad at me from China or if he was okay. He smiled at me like he was happy to see me, so that was definitely a good thing.
Reality TV World: Exactly how quickly did the turn around from China to Micronesia happen?
Amanda: It was three weeks.
Reality TV World: So do you think that was an advantage or disadvantage -- that Micronesia happened so quickly after China?
Amanda: Both. I think it was an advantage because the game was fresh in my head. But it was kind of a disadvantage because maybe getting away from the game, you can think about it longer and think about the mistakes you made so you don't make them again. Honestly, when I got back I didn't really analyze China because I was just completely over it. (laughing) Maybe that was a fault. I don't know.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction when you discovered it wasn't going to be a full All-Stars edition? Were you disappointed or happy?
Amanda: I was happy. I think the game is easier to play with people who haven't played it before. They're easier to manipulate, and it's definitely an advantage knowing what you're doing. So I was glad.
Reality TV World: We already touched upon your relationship with Ozzy. How's it currently going?
Amanda: We're dating and everything's good. I think he's adorable. We're just taking it day by day.
Reality TV World: Okay, so was that a friendship that became an alliance or an alliance that became a friendship and then became romantic?
Amanda: Both. I don't really know how to explain it. It just kind of happened.
Reality TV World: During the reunion show you mentioned that the back-to-back editions have basically made Survivoryour "job" for the last year. Now that it's over, what's next?
Amanda: I have a swimsuit poster -- a bunch of them actually -- on my website theamandakimmel.com. I'm actually doing a movie. I found out from Micronesia that I'm a pretty good actress, so I got this film. It's called The Reef by Charles Winkler. It's filming in Hawaii in a couple of days actually.