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Exclusive: Kelly Czarnecki talks about her 'Survivor: Gabon' experience


By John Bracchitta, 10/24/2008 

The eighteen days that Kelly Czarnecki, a 22-year-old retail salesperson from Buffalo Grove, IL, spent in Gabon were hardly the stuff that dreams are made of. In fact, after losing her ally early in the competition, being voted the least useful in her tribe, and then being switched to the "cursed" Fang tribe along with tribemates she did not like, her stay was downright tough. 

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However, after barely staving off elimination in the earlier rounds, circumstances finally caught up with Kelly as she became the fifth member of to be eliminated during the competition during Thursday's broadcast of Survivor: Gabon on CBS.

On Friday, Kelly talked with Reality TV World about how why she never secured a solid alliance in either tribe, what is really wrong with the Fang tribe, and what was said at Tribal Council that didn't make it on the air.

Reality TV World: At the Tribal Council last night you seemed to not hold much back when speaking about your tribemates. Did you go into that Tribal Council already knowing you were going home?

Kelly: I definitely had an idea that I was going home, and I was being myself and speaking my mind. I always speak my mind.

Reality TV World: What had led you to think that you were going home? Did someone tell you? Or had no one talked to you?

Kelly: It was that day. Nobody talks to you, they're all just staring at you. It's like "You guys it's so obvious!" Somebody get some confidence and just walk up to me just say "Hey what's going on?" and just let me know that I'm going home because I kinda know!

Reality TV World: Why did you vote for [Crystal Cox] -- was that just a throw-away vote out of frustration about her Tribal Council comments or had something led you to believe she might be the one going home?

Kelly: I knew I was going home and I knew she was gonna vote for me. And just [how she acted in Tribal Council] it's like... You're a grown woman! You know that you can come up to me and talk to me, don't make assumptions. Don't think that I called you weak when I didn't, I'm in your alliance I'm here to further you. Don't listen to [Ace Gordon], who's just trying to get further in the game.

Reality TV World: Ok, and going off of that, When Ace denied he'd been critical of Crystal you said that he was talking in "doublespeak" but didn't really seem to push him too much [based on what was shown on last night's broadcast]. Was there more to your response?

Kelly: Yeah there was definitely more to that because I called him out on it and Crystal had something to say to that, so everyone was like "Oh what is this?"

So I left with saying the truth and I left with [letting] out a secret about Ace and what he really said about Crystal and [that] I wasn't the one that said it! He was the one that said everything.

He was just lying about me because he knew that I wanted to vote him out next, and he knew that I had a good alliance with all of them. So he did whatever he could to save his own self.

Reality TV World: Were you aware that Crystal had been campaigning to send Ace home instead of you before you went to Tribal Council?

Kelly: Yeah, we were trying to get Ace off in the beginning, like before [Jacque Berg].

Reality TV World: In your post elimination interview you said that Crystal "doesn't even have the power to push a team when she's the one quitting half the challenges." I guess that leads to the question of what is your opinion of her?

Kelly: It was just interesting to learn after the show that she was an Olympic gold medalist. In the game she didn't -- and maybe it's because she wasn't eating enough or whatever -- she didn't really show much athletic ability. [Also] as an athlete you want to be stable, you need to know that you're going to lose sometimes and you're going to win sometimes. [You also] need to build your stamina. I don't know you just need to be a better athlete and it didn't really show in anything, especially the canoe challenge [when] she was just going around in circles!

Reality TV World: Did nobody [on the show] know she was an Olympic athlete? Or maybe anything else besides an school teacher?

Kelly: (Laughs) Nobody knew she was an Olympic gold medalist besides [Gillian Larson], who might have known. She did tell us that she played basketball.

Reality TV World: Personality wise it didn't seem like you two got along too well either. Is that accurate?

Kelly: Well no because we did get along pretty well. It just happened to be at the end of the episode we didn't get along.

Reality TV World: After the Reward Challenge, you went for a walk with Ace where he said Crystal was going down the same route as [Danny "G.C." Brown] -- did you agree with that or were you just nodding along with him?

Kelly: I didn't really agree with him (pauses) Actually I was nodding along with him and just going with what he was saying. I wasn't even really listening to what he was saying, I was kind of just like "What is Ace doing? Why is he walking with me? Why does he want to go to the jungle with me?"

And that's how I knew he was playing a trick because he wanted to talk about Crystal and as soon as you know it, Crystal is right behind me in the jungle! I was like "Yeah, here we go."

Reality TV World: Yeah, that was my next question. Did she tell you anything else other than what was shown on the show?

Kelly: All she said was "Don't take my tears as a sign of weakness." I was like "Please... Like, why do you cry otherwise?" and she's like "When I'm depressed it comes out of my eyes." Like, Okay what does that even mean.

So everything was said just like that. She's more about being quiet about everything and not up front.

Reality TV World: Going back to the Tribal Council, after Ace denied he had said anything, were you able to really make it clear and hammer down the point that he had been saying those things about Crystal?

Kelly: Yeah I definitely hammered it down and people definitely took charge of that and listened to it because Ace is conniving. He's lying. He's just trying to further himself in the game, and good for him because it's working in a sense.

But after I left, and I said the things I needed to say, I think people really listened and knew that I was being honest and had been honest the entire game.

Reality TV World: Right after that, Ace kind of called you stupid and made a little snide comment.  What was your reaction to that? Had that been some type of stereotype against you?

Kelly: Ace just always tries to make everybody feel stupid in any which way because it's his way or no way. He's a condescending and arrogant person, and I'm sorry I have to say that but in the game that was Ace! That was furthering him because it makes people think "Maybe she is stupid. Blah, blah, blah."

I know I'm not stupid so it doesn't really matter. I definitely said a lot more things to him to make him feel dumb because he didn't know what to say after I would say something. And of course I don't know what he's saying half of the time because his accent is so foolish!

Reality TV World: Did you think his accent was put on or not?

Kelly: (Laughs) It was funny because Ace said that he only lived in the UK for about a few years and that his sister had an American accent. Sometimes it would sound like it would go on and off and it would be more intense sometimes. It was like "What is this guy doing!?"

Reality TV World: On both Kota and Fang it seemed that people didn't seem to get along with you at points and had a low opinion of you. Why do you think that was the case?

Kelly: On Kota I didn't think that they didn't like me, I just kept to myself and was watching everybody and do their own thing. They were all so uptight and had no sense of humor! I wanna smile and laugh and enjoy Africa at the same time and I wanna have a good time with you guys while playing this game but (pauses) I don't know.

Reality TV World: When you were going into the Tribal Council when you were eliminated, were you aware that [Matty Whitmore] had formed an alliance with Ace?

Kelly: No, I had no idea that Matty had formed an alliance with Ace but I did see [Matty] with Ace a few times. But I would never swear on my mother's life and his girlfriend's life. Like, this is a game for $1 million and they're not being serious. So that was dumb of Matty, but Matty's a cool guy.

Reality TV World: Modesty doesn't seem to be a big part of Ace's personality.  Were you surprised to see him admit that deserved much of the blame for Fang's Immunity Challenge loss?

Kelly: Yeah, but it took him like five minutes to realize that in Tribal Council. He was going back and forth defending himself and then realizing that he really was the one that made us lose that Immunity Challenge.

Reality TV World: On last week's episode, even though G.C. was talking about feeling he was done, Crystal, Matty, [Ken "Kenny" Hoang] and yourself seemed to have decided to try and blindside [Jessica "Sugar" Kiper] at Tribal Council.  However you guys ended up voting for G.C. -- what led to you guys making that decision?

Kelly: We talked about the Sugar and G.C. thing for so long too... The thing is, G.C. (pauses) he didn't have his head in the game. He would just get angry for no reason. Someone wouldn't call him his name and he'd be like "'C'mon that's not my name" and "Shut up, you don't tell me what to do!"

It's like, please we're playing a game. But he was bringing the team down and he really just wanted to lose every game! Right when we woke up before we were going to a challenge he would be like "Okay so who are we gonna vote out?" and trying to say "Kelly you know you wanna go home." It's like, "No I don't!"

He was just bringing down the team and we really didn't need that. We needed to win those challenges, so peace out G.C.

Reality TV World: With Crystal, Kenny, Matty and yourself had enough votes to boot Sugar without G.C.  Why didn't you guys just vote for her anyways and then just let G.C. quit the game on his own if he wanted?

Kelly: (pauses) I'm so mad that G.C. quit too! (pauses again) Well my guess is... and I really wanted to vote Sugar out because it would have been the perfect time to blindside her. She knew G.C. wanted to quit. (pauses) If G.C. quit before we had gone to Tribal Council than I for sure would have voted for Sugar.

Reality TV World: But that wasn't something any of you really had in mind going into Tribal Council?

Kelly: No, I don't think so.

Reality TV World: What was your overall opinion of Sugar?

Kelly: Um, Sugar... (laughs) She's a character. In the game I don't know what she was trying to do. She was just like kind of all over the place and always trying to be like "Kelly don't do that" and I'd be like "Don't tell me what to do" and [she'd be] like "Yeah. I wouldn't want someone telling me what to do!"

So, Sugar was... (pause) Sugar. A crybaby. (whisper)

Reality TV World: Had Kenny told you that he'd approached her about voting Ace off and she'd told him she'd given Ace the idol?

Kelly: No, Kenny didn't tell us that at all.

Reality TV World:  Before the tribes got re-picked, you guys had that ranking where you ended up being ranked the least important member of Kota. How did you feel about that?

Kelly: You know what, that was interesting! I knew that I was going to either be voted off or something was gonna happen so it wasn't a surprise to me. I lost [Paloma Soto-Castillo] and I bashed Ace in that Tribal Council.

It was definitely weird being picked last because I'm never usually picked last and I'm usually liked by everybody, so it was interesting. But I got over it.

Reality TV World: Did you think someone else deserved the spot more?

Kelly: Oh, for sure. Sugar. She wasn't good at any of the challenges.

Reality TV World: Once you got to Fang, you admitted you'd felt like the outsider at Kota. Why do you think you failed to be able to form any lasting alliances at either tribe?

Kelly: I don't know. Maybe because I was quiet and didn't really approach anybody. Ace approached me in the beginning, but I just saw right through it.

I was with Paloma and our whole thing was that we would take it as we go, and [our tribe] was on our honeymoon for so long and we were winning every challenge so we didn't even really think about it until that day. I didn't even know that Jacque, [Marcus Lehman], [Corrine Kaplan], and [Charlie Herschel] were in an alliance.

Reality TV World: Because you came from Kota, do you have any theories as to why the Fang tribe was in such disarray?

Kelly: (laughs) I have no idea! (pauses) You know what, actually I take that back. They just had no teamwork and something was missing there, like the positive vibe. Nobody was positive. I felt like when I went in there I was like "Okay here comes a burst of sunshine. Let's get this team going. Let's be happy, we're gonna win these challenges." [But then] in the morning they would just wait for the challenges to come and no one would talk about anything. I was like "Great..."

Reality TV World:  Is the depiction of Fang on the show accurate? Are they really that unorganized?

Kelly: Yeah, the Fang tribe is definitely cursed and it's definitely a mess. Like, get those original Fang members out of there! They obviously are the ones who are making it bad.

Reality TV World: At one point last night you said you were "withering away." How much weight did you lose on the show?

Kelly: I lost 15 pounds

Reality TV World: Wow.

Kelly: Yeah. It was because we only started eating one meal a day. So yeah I definitely lost a lot of weight. It was gross.

Reality TV World: What surprised you the most about Survivor?

Kelly: What surprised me most was actually everything that it does to you emotionally, physically and mentally. The things that you go through definitely surprised me. It's definitely tougher than you think [when you are] just watching it on TV.

Reality TV World: Once you were eliminated, who did you want to see win?

Kelly: Um... I wanna see Kenny win!

Reality TV World: Any reason?

Kelly: Because his whole heart is in the game and he's trying really hard. He's playing a good game.

(Photo credit CBS)


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