That turned out to be a mistake, as the 25-year-old hairstylist from Wilmington, DE who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA was blindsided after Russell played the idol and thus became the tenth castaway eliminated from Survivor: Samoa during last night's broadcast of the CBS reality series.
On Friday, Kelly talked to Reality TV World about how she paid the price for the former Galu tribe getting too comfortable; which under-the-radar castaway she would have ideally gone to the Final 3 with; why she erred in her decision to vote against Erik Cardona; and how one castaway's medical evacuation opened the door for another to stay in the game.
Reality TV World: When Russell stood up to play the Hidden Immunity Idol what was going through your head? Did you think that the former Foa Foa members would have targeted you or someone else?
Kelly: No, I never saw myself as being targeted. It was a total shock. I know [Monica Padilla's] name had come up a bunch and I know [Shannon "Shambo" Waters] had issues with her, so I thought her name would maybe be thrown in there -- plus she was Laura's biggest ally.
Even some of the guys -- like [John Fincher] had won the previous Immunity Challenge. Get out one of the strong guys right away, you have a blindside, you can do anybody. I definitely didn't see it was me at all. I was really shocked.
Reality TV World: It looked like you weren't there when [David Ball], [Laura Morett], John and Monica were on the beach talking about the possibility of Russell having another Hidden Immunity Idol, but Dave basically said Galu couldn't worry about that. Why do you think Dave was so quick to dismiss the idea that Russell might have had an idol -- especially since he found the first one without a clue?
Kelly: I don't know. I think that John is a type of person that analyzes everything over and over and over and runs through things -- like all the different possibilities. I think Dave is much more of a quick decision maker -- him and I were kind of two of the people that came to decision so quickly to send Erik home last minute. He's just a very spontaneous person so I feel maybe that's what it was.
Honestly, the thought never crossed my mind. I didn't think Russell would have it again so quickly.
Reality TV World: What about Laura? She also seemed to quickly dismiss the idea. What's you take on that?
Kelly: To be totally honest, the day that I got sent home -- that Tribal Council day -- we just thought Russell was going home. We had all planned to send him home. So we all kind of used it as a vacation day. We were sunbathing, we were lounging, we were napping.
We weren't really strategizing too much. We also got really comfortable. Unfortunately, it led to me going home. Maybe had we sat around and strategized a little bit more -- looked at all the options -- then I would still be there.
Reality TV World: So you were never part of any conversations with Galu to target anyone else?
Kelly: Exactly. But even if we had, I think that Shambo wasn't on our side and I think she probably would have told Russell. So then we wouldn't have had numbers to split the vote -- whoever voted, it still would have been 4 and 3, so...
Reality TV World: Your relationship with Laura was obviously a big reason why you were targeted. How did that alliance with her form?
Kelly: Here's the thing, I definitely think there was a female alliance -- but I think Laura and Monica were the forerunners of it. I definitely aligned with them, but it was evident from several episodes ago that one of the two of them was going to go home. They were spending too much time together and making people nervous.
Laura and myself, we just naturally gravitated towards each other. She and I are very much nurturing people, so we were kind of there for each other, taking care of each other, making sure that we had food and that we could sleep and all these things. So it was just more of like a supportive relationship. She has a daughter that is similar to me she says. We just got along -- we just clicked -- and like I said just taking care of each other.
Reality TV World: You just mentioned how Laura and Monica put a target on themselves by all the time they were spending together. But had you three been able to stick around, what was your plan? Did you think you would make it to the Final 3 together? Wouldn't you of had to grab somebody else to [add to] that three-person alliance?
Kelly: For sure. There were several different options. My No. 1 alliance was with [Brett Clouser] so I think that for me, my Final 3 probably would have been Brett, myself and Laura if Laura would have made it. So that would have been that. I was in pretty good with everyone and so was Brett, so I mean we kind of had options where we could have gone with that.
Reality TV World: In hindsight, do you think Monica and Laura could have been a bit more open to aligning with Shambo, or was she just on such a different planet that there was no way it would happen?
Kelly: I'll say that -- especially from observing everything that happened there -- I think that Shambo ostracized herself. She secluded herself, she never slept in the shelter with us. Her and Laura and Monica had a little tiff and then she just picked on it almost like a child. She just held a grudge and said, "Nope, I don't like her," and that was it.
Her votes were completely based off emotion. It was a shame. I know there were several times when Laura went and was like, "Hey, can we squash this? Can we get over this?" And Shambo maybe said, "Yes" -- but then she turned around and was like, "Laura's a bitch. That's why she has to go."
I think Shambo made everyone uncomfortable at camp and it was hard to try to include her for things. We all tried really hard, but at some point...
Reality TV World: It really seemed like Shambo felt ostracized by pretty much all the Galu members but she specifically seemed to target Laura. So that was based on that spat viewers saw a couple of weeks ago?
Kelly: I think that was the culmination of everything was that argument when we were all just kind of standing around watching. That definitely put more of a target on Laura's back, especially with Shambo being on the outs and having been to Foa Foa twice already. But Shambo put herself on the outs, I'll say that. It wasn't anything that we did. She did it to herself.
Reality TV World: Last night viewers saw Shambo vote to eliminate Russell despite the fact that she was part of the plan to blindside you. Do you think that Shambo's a smarter player than some of the Galu members are giving her credit for?
Kelly: Umm... I actually didn't see that. That's like the only video that won't come up on my computer. I didn't see that. She voted for Russell?
Reality TV World: Yeah.
Kelly: That's interesting. Hmm... I'll give credit where credit's due. I think that she was smart to let us think that she was still with us. Obviously [Foa Foa] didn't need her vote, so she was smart to play that way.
But I don't necessarily understand her strategy behind sending me home if her plan was she didn't like Laura and that's who she's attacking -- she should have gone for Monica. But who knows, I guess she thought I was a stronger player than Monica.
Reality TV World: During the reward trip to the rock slide in last night's episode, Shambo defended Russell when you mentioned him as Galu's next target. Did you guys ever consider getting rid of Shambo before someone like Natalie White?
Kelly: Absolutely. There was talk of throwing a challenge before the merge to get rid of Shambo. She was our No. 1 liability going into that merge and I think had we had one more challenge before we merged, Shambo definitely wouldn't have made it.
Reality TV World: So Galu had discussed that Shambo would have been eliminated if Russell hadn't been evacuated?
Kelly: Yeah. Shambo would have been the one to go.
Reality TV World: You and Dave both really bashed Erik during last night's Tribal Council, with you going as far as to say he was "almost like a snake kind of starting a lot of trouble" and that you hadn't trusted him. Was that just based on the fact that he had gotten the blame for John's idea to try and vote Monica off or was there more to it?
Kelly: It was very hectic before [the Tribal Council when Erik was eliminated], as you know there's not that much time to try and talk to everyone.
I finally found Erik and I was like, "Hey, I need to talk to you. I hear this is going on and this is going on and you said this, blah, blah, blah." His response was something along the lines of, "Well how much do you know?" I'm like, "Well just tell me." He's like, "You only need to know however much you need to know right now. I'll tell you about it later."
I was like, "Whoa. That was sneaky. You need to tell me what's going on." Then unfortunately we got interrupted -- I think by Monica. (laughing) It's hard to talk about him wanting to send Monica home when Monica was there.
So we ran out of time to talk, and I really wish we would have gotten the time to talk. I spent a lot of time at Ponderosa with Erik and he's one of my favorite people from the show. Unfortunately I was involved in sending him home, but luckily we got to know each other in Ponderosa.
Reality TV World: Did you ever find out that John was actually the one who had seemed to initially be pushing to get rid of Monica...
Kelly: Oh yeah. We all knew that night after we sent Erik home. We realized -- we all actually got to talk a little bit more -- and we realized what was going on. We were like, "Aw shit. It should have been John." But like, "Okay, stay cool. Don't let John know we know because we need to keep him on our side to get rid of a few Foa Foa."
Reality TV World: During your Ponderosa video, you said Russell was "a sneaky little rat" who "didn't deserve to be there" because he wasn't a "genuine" player like you. Can you explain what you meant by that and elaborate on it a little bit more?
Kelly: Sure. It's such a blur -- I don't remember that at all. But watching the video now -- and watching the show -- Russell is one of the most strategic players. I think when I was there, I didn't really get to see what he was doing at his camp, I didn't get to see what he was doing at our camp, I didn't see how he was playing everyone -- I just saw him as being conniving and trying to pawn everybody against each other. I didn't really grasp what he was doing.
I think Russell is the most strategic player in the game, if not in all of Survivor history. I think if he continues to find these idols then he will make it far. He definitely has a target on his back.
I think the one thing that Russell is forgetting is that he's treating all of us like game pieces on a board. Not once has he connected with anyone on an emotional level. So I think that could catch up to him and bite him in the ass in the long run.
Reality TV World: The Ponderosa video also seemed to suggest there was a little bit of a romance brewing between Erik and yourself...
Reality TV World: Did anything ever come of that?
Kelly: No that was interesting for me to watch last night too. Erik's a great guy and it was great having him there after coming out of the game. You have to figure you've been sleeping with 10 people huddled around you for the last 24 days, so it's kind of nice to have someone to sleep with. But no, no funny business going on. We're just really good friends.
Reality TV World: When the merge happened and Galu had an overwhelming lead in the numbers, did you ever think there was a possibility that you would have been eliminated when you were?
Kelly: No, not at all. I honestly saw myself going to the end. I really did. I thought we'd keep winning and Individual Immunity was coming and Laura was doing really well and I knew Brett could do it -- everyone I was aligned with was just like a really strong physical competitor. I was counting on us winning challenges and immunities. I was totally shocked.
Reality TV World: How were you cast for Survivor: Samoa? Was it your first time applying for the show?
Kelly: It was my first time applying. I actually met a casting director out and about at Whole Foods one day. He kind of brought up the idea and I was like, "Huh, I wonder if I could really do this?" So I started watching a bunch of seasons, kind of studying the game.
I'm super competitive so I came to really love the show and understand the strategy behind it and then I really wanted to do it. So it was a great opportunity and I'm thankful for it.