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Exclusive: Monica Padilla talks about 'Survivor: Samoa'


By Christopher Rocchio, 12/15/2009 

Monica Padilla claims she underestimated the importance of winning Individual Immunity, however she's not sure she ever had a chance at winning it in the challenge that preceded her ouster.

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The 25-year-old law student from San Diego, CA became the fourteenth castaway eliminated from Survivor: Samoa during Thursday night's broadcast of the CBS reality competition series.

On Monday, Monica talked to Reality TV World about if she thinks the chaos she caused before being cut was too little too late; why she thinks some former Foa Foa members aren't making the best strategic moves; what she's basing her jury vote on; and which castaway is playing with pure emotions.


Reality TV World: You did a good job of causing some chaos before you were eliminated, but don't you agree with Russell Hantz's comment that it was basically too little too late? 

Monica: It might have been a little late in the game, but I definitely kind of underestimated the power of the Immunity Challenge and whether or not [Brett Clouser] would win. So I had to get my gameplay together a little more quickly than I thought.

I think that I played aggressively throughout the game and I think it definitely shows in how far I made it in the game. Whether or not I did it to make good TV like certain people or whether or not they showed it, I definitely had a lot of game play and a lot of strategy going into it that got me as far as I did. There was a little bit more there in my last moments, but in the end there was a lot of people who weren't ready to make bold moves and were wanting to kind of ride coattails a little bit.

Reality TV World: I know you told Russell that being more aggressive earlier in the game might have gotten you booted sooner, but based on what you just told me you think you did play aggressively earlier?

Monica: I do. There were times when my head was definitely on the chopping block. People saw me as a threat socially in the social game. That comes to play in the fact that they were trying to get [Laura Morett] and I out from the very beginning. I did a lot to stay in the game at that point and it shows in how far I did make it in the game.

Reality TV World: You took a lot of credit for causing some conflict within Foa Foa before your elimination but it seemed like that was likely to begin happening any ways given there's only six people left and they can't go much longer as a five-person alliance.  Do you really think they wouldn't have been talking about turning on each other if you hadn't tried to stir things up?

Monica: You know what, they were playing a very [politically-correct] game at that point -- the person playing most aggressively was Russell. I don't know that they would have gotten there themselves had I not started a lot of that conflict.

Reality TV World: When did you learn that Russell was a multi-millionaire -- was it actually when you were lying on the beach talking with Brett and Jaison Robinson like the editing of last night's episode showed?

Monica: That's exactly when I found out. I was shocked, you can tell by the look on my face. I was just like, "Oh my god!" Yes, I knew he was lying about being a firefighter -- I had a very strong gut feeling that he was lying about being a firefighter and all these lies about being in Hurricane Katrina.

But I didn't really know exactly what it was that he did. I think everybody has a lot of cliches when they think of who works where and who has a lot of money or whatever. I was definitely shocked to see that Russell was one of those people.

Reality TV World: Do you think it was the right decision on your part to confront Russell about it, or do you think you should have tried to use that information to try and get some of the other Foa Foa members to blindside him instead?

Monica: Looking back, hindsight is 20/20. I think that the people who were definitely wavering most were [Mick Trimming] and Jaison. Looking back now, maybe I should have pushed those two a little bit further. I think I still would have threatened Russell or gone there and tried to strategize and tried to really push Russell to go in the direction that I wanted him to.

But I think I would have played even more angles up and really worked it harder than I did. I don't know that I made any clear mistakes at that point.

Reality TV World: When Russell asked you who told you he was rich, you initially said it was Natalie White before changing to Jaison.  Why was that -- was that just an honest mistake or was there more to it?

Monica: I can't really remember to be honest with you. (laughing) It all seems so far away at this point. But once I realized I put those names out there I definitely worked both aspects to create more conflict there. I did feel bad for Natalie when Russell was yelling at her, but I made it very clear who told me.

At one point -- once he already yelled at Natalie and Jaison -- I went back and said, "Hey Russ, just so you know it was Jaison." So I think that'll be a big game-changing point as well -- or I hope that it will be in the fact that it might help Natalie and hurt Jaison.

Reality TV World: What was your goal in telling Russell you could "make or break" him on the jury?  It seemed like you'd been around him long enough at that point to know that threatening him was likely to make him more adamant about voting you off, so were you really thinking that might cause him to keep you or were you just trying to get some digs in before you left?

Monica: When you say "been around long enough" you mean watched the show and have seen that he doesn't take kindly to threats. Actually, I wasn't aware of his little, "You threaten me, you're out of the game" threats. I think had I known that maybe I would have danced around that issue a little bit more eloquently.

Looking back and after watching [Marisa Calihan] threaten him and get voted off and watching me threaten him and get voted off and watching [Betsy Bolan] lose trust in him and her as a result get voted off. Yeah, watching it I realized he doesn't take kindly to threats. But out there in the game I didn't know that.

Reality TV World: You didn't seem to have a lot of influence over your alliance's decisions during the game, so did you really feel you would have that much sway over their jury votes or were you just bluffing?

Monica: No... At least two of the people are strong members of my alliance. So, I knew that I definitely had an impact when it came to the jury.

Reality TV World: Who are the two strong members you're talking about?

Monica: The people that were there at this point, it would have been Laura and [Kelly Sharbaugh].

Reality TV World: Thursday night's episode didn't show it, so did you ever mention knowing about Russell being a multi-millionaire during the Tribal Council?

Monica: I'm pretty sure I did. Again, the Tribal Councils are a lot longer than what they show obviously. I'm pretty sure I did.

Reality TV World: Do you remember what reaction it got?

Monica: I know I definitely got a big grin from Laura and a nod of the head. Overall, it was a shift of the heads of most of the jury, but that was the strongest reaction I got. That's all.

Reality TV World: You've already mentioned Mick and Jaison maybe being a little leery of Russell, and you and Brett had that conversation with Mick in the shelter. Was there any point where you really thought you could successfully convince Foa Foa to turn on Russell or did you consider it a longshot all along?

Monica: You're sitting there and you're starving and you're hungry -- you've been out there for 33 days -- you really think, "I can play this up. I can work these people. I can do this." I think definitely you have hope in what you can do. But there's only so much you can do when you have people who are sticking around just to make it to the next move and really aren't playing aggressively to win the $1 million.

They're just happy that they were able to sway the numbers in their favor and at that point they're like, "Well, I made it a lot farther than I would of. Let's just keep going with our same initial plan." I don't know if that plan will get you to the $1 million. I doubt that a plan like that will get you to the $1 million.

Reality TV World: Why did you and Brett cast your votes to eliminate David Ball? How did you know that the plan to instead eliminate Shannon "Shambo" Waters wasn't going to happen?

Monica: It seemed pretty obvious. They had come back and said they wanted to vote Dave out, so that was kind of like an olive branch to try and get Mick and Jaison in our court. It's like, "Okay fine. We're going to show you that we're your friend by voting one of our own out." But in the end we wanted to try and really push to get our way, but...

Reality TV World: Seeing as how you were much smaller than the other remaining castaways, do you think the Immunity Challenge that preceded your elimination was fair? It seemed like you had a lot of trouble mustering enough strength to launch your bags into your basket.

Monica: For me, no, I don't think it was fair. At that point, a challenge based on strength just really sucks for me at that point -- especially something like that catapult which definitely needed a lot of oomph to get those bags in. (laughing)

Had it been more of a swim challenge I think that I would have done a lot better. At first when I saw that it was a swimming challenge I was like, "Okay, cool. This is one of my major strong points." I don't know if you saw some of the earlier swimming challenges with Laura, but we definitely dominated that challenge and did a great job.

So I was really happy it was a swim challenge, but then when I heard about the catapult I was like, "Oh my god. This is terrible." I think had it been a little more swimming-based, I don't think I would have lost. Yeah. That sucked. (laughing)

Reality TV World: When you were trying to save Dave you told Russell that you felt Shambo was a big threat to win jury votes. Did you really believe that, because based on the relationship she had with the rest of Galu during the game, it's kind of hard to believe that she would get a lot of votes, especially compared to Dave, Brett or yourself.

Monica: No, I didn't believe that. (laughing)

Reality TV World: I figured you didn't. So it was just strategy? You were trying to scramble a little bit?

Monica: Absolutely. I didn't believe for a second that Shambo would get a lot of jury votes. She had all those Galu members on the jury, but she also pissed off a lot of those Galu members I think more than the Foa Foas.

Reality TV World: During your conversation with Russell, you also told him you were going to base your jury vote on "who needs the money." Were you telling him the truth and if not, what criteria did you think was important deciding who deserved the $1 million?

Monica:  I was telling a version of the truth. When you're sitting there and you're about to vote to give someone $1 million, I think financial need is a consideration. Personally, for me it is. For some people it wouldn't be, they'd be basing it completely on game play. But for me, I would consider financial need.

Do I think it would be my sole consideration? Absolutely not. I think there's a lot of varieties that go into who you vote for when you're on the jury. It goes into financial need, it goes into game play, it goes into how you treated other people, what kind of game you played -- a lot of aspects go into deciding who wins that $1 million.

Reality TV World: Russell also made a comment in which he seemed to suggest he believed he could win a jury vote against Dave but was less confident he could win against Shambo.  Was that just the editing or do you think he really felt that way, because that seemed kind of odd given that unlike Shambo, Dave seemed to get along with all the Galu folks.

Monica: I think it was somewhat of a pipe dream on Russell's part. However I think that Russell definitely played a more strategic game than Dave did. I don't think that people would basically disrespect the strategy and not really care how far it got him in the end. But he would have to make a very strong argument to the jury in order to beat Dave. Dave had a lot of friends on the jury at that point.

Reality TV World: When we talked to John Fincher, he claimed that he would have been able to turn Shambo against the Foa Foa and save all the remaining Galu folks if you guys had let him know that Russell had decided to vote him off instead of voting Dave off like Shambo wanted.  Do you believe that?

Monica: I think John -- as he usually does -- is giving himself a little bit more... Well no, A LOT more credit than he actually deserves.

Reality TV World: That's how I assumed you would answer.

Monica: No, no, no. John is not going to sway Shambo. If John is going to sway Shambo, then why didn't he have Shambo not vote against Laura? Why didn't he sway Shambo at that point? I think John thought he had a lot more control at that point than he actually did. John didn't really know the game to begin with. (laughing)

Reality TV World: Last week's episode seemed to show Jaison thinking along the same lines as John and expressing his concern that voting John off instead of Dave would have given Dave, Brett and yourself a chance to re-align with Shambo and force a 4-4 tie Tribal Council vote but Thursday night's show didn't show you guys trying that.  Did you guys ever approach her about possibly turning on Foa Foa?

Monica: We didn't want to go up to them in threes and just really overwhelm them. We tried to really go in and plant seeds one or two people at a time. That was the way we went about it. What else are we doing with the 24 hours of our day when we're sitting around camp? We're fighting to stay in that game every second we're out there.

Reality TV World: What about Shambo? Did you guys ever approach her about possibly turning on Foa Foa?

Monica: I know I tried. You saw me trying when they showed the deleted scenes in the episode on Thanksgiving -- I tried to talk to Shambo at that point. Shambo was just in this world of anti-purple (Galu) and pro-yellow (Foa Foa). I think she had this little fantasy world of Foa Foa making all of her dreams come true.

It was especially hard at that point, not to mention the fact that she was basing her vote on emotion. You have to seek moves with people in this game -- even if you don't like them -- and I think the fact that she went and voted Dave off based on the fact that she just didn't like him, and what she did with Laura as well, I think they were poor moves.

Reality TV World: Thursday night viewers finally saw some of Brett -- who has basically been non-existent this season. What's your take on Brett as a player?

Monica: Brett isn't there to make huge and enlightening TV moments -- he's there to get himself further in the game and win $1 million. I think that's awesome. It's gotten him very far at this point.

Unfortunately, you have people who make for "better TV" or make stronger moves -- people like Shambo, people like Russell, or even my little performance on Thursday (laughing). At that point, the producers want to make good TV. Can you blame them? It's a TV show.

So I think it's harder to show Brett, who sits back a little bit and waits to make his moves. I think he definitely analyzes his enemies and where his place is in the game, which I think is really strong strategic game play.

Reality TV World: How were you cast for Survivor: Samoa? Was it your first time applying to the show?

Monica: It was my first time applying to the show and I was found in San Diego.

(Photo credit CBS)


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