Exclusive: Paloma Soto-Castillo dishes about 'Survivor: Gabon'
By John Bracchitta, 10/03/2008
Paloma Soto-Castillo, a 24-year-old student from Downey, CA, had hoped to remain quiet in the initial rounds of Survivor: Gabon before sneaking up in the competition in the later rounds to win the competition.
However, after spending nine days as a member of the Kota tribe, she became the tribe's first member to be voted out due to her weak appearance and inability to get along with the tribe's more powerful members.
On Friday, Paloma talked to Reality TV World about how she felt about her tribemates, why she failed to get along with Ace Gordon, why she didn't suspect Jessica "Sugar" Kiper had secured the hidden Immunity Idol, and why she was chosen to participate in the week's Reward Challenge but not the Immunity Challenge.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised about how the pick' em played out at the beginning of the show?
Paloma: Um, yeah I was really surprised. I was surprised how the tribes ended up because it seemed like all of the physically strong and younger people were on one tribe and it seemed like the older people and the ones who seemed like they weren't as much in shape comprised the other tribe so it was definitely weird. I thought it was weird that, the way they picked it was like a mom after mom after mom.
Reality TV World: What were your initial impressions of your tribe after they had been chosen?
Paloma: I liked my tribe, but right off the bat I knew that I was in trouble. I could just tell that the tribe was comprised of very physically strong people. They're just all triathlon athletes and just very all about being athletic and I'm not. So that means that I was a minority in my group in that case and they were all about having a strong tribe so I knew that I was in trouble right off the bat.
Reality TV World: Your dislike for Ace was referenced in the first episode but only briefly. Did your dislike for him grow as the days went on or were you just instantly turned off by him?
Paloma: I believe it started, maybe five minutes into the show (laughs). Then it just progressed and progressed until the end. So yeah it just kept growing.
Reality TV World: What were some of the specific reasons you didn't like him?
Paloma: I just (pauses) He was just very arrogant and cocky. he always had something to say. He was very bossy, but he'd try not to be bossy. He was very condescending in the way that he talked to people. It almost seemed like he would put people down, but in the nicest way possible. There were so many things.
His personality was just not my type and we just clashed a lot. We were like night and day and I just... his accent his everything...
Reality TV World: ...I think some people have even questioned whether or not his accent was real.
Paloma: Yeah, I mean that was the talk... I mean it's kinda hard to say whether it was real or not. I don't really know much about accents and I don't want to be one to call him out on it. I don't really know. But, you know, it did surface a lot at times and it did not surface so much at other times so that was kinda weird. But other than that I don't really know it if was fake or not. It could be!! (laughs)
Reality TV World: How did your tribe come to the decision that Sugar and yourself would be the two girls to participate in the Reward Challenge last night? Even [Marcus Lehman] seemed confused about how that happened.
Paloma: Yeah, well we knew that we were going to have the Immunity Challenge right after the Reward Challenge and because we had won both of the Immunity Challenges already we would have to sit two people out for the Immunity Challenge. So we wanted to be able to have the strongest, physical players in the Immunity Challenge [because] that was more important than winning the Reward Challenge.
So in that case Sugar and I were seen as the weaker people in the tribe so the plan was for us to participate in the Reward Challenge so therefore we would have to sit out the next [Immunity Challenge] and that way the other girls who were in shape were able to participate in the Immunity Challenge.
(Laughs) That [explanation] was really confusing!
Reality TV World: In the same conversation when Marcus said that [he seemed confused] he also said he was frustrated because your tribe had been "stuck" with you. Do you know what he was talking about? Did you not get along with him alright?
Paloma: Um, I'm not really sure what you're referring to. What part was it?
Reality TV World: It [was when he was] talking out on the dock with [Charlie Herschel], [Corinne Kaplan], [Jacque Berg], and Ace. Marcus said something about being "stuck" with you in the tribe. Just what was your relationship with Marcus?
Paloma: I was pretty cool with Marcus. Marcus played nice. He said a lot of nice things to me and I thought that we had a good relationship but if on the side he felt differently than that's on him. I was never under the impression that that is how he felt.
And, in a sense, watching the show was a little bit of an eye opener in knowing what was going on behind the scenes and how he really felt, which is nice to know but he never gave me the slightest, slightest clue that that's how he felt.
Reality TV World: Did you know that he was in an alliance with Corrine, Charlie, and Jacque?
Paloma: No, I didn't know. I knew that they got along. Up until the last challenge that we just lost [on] last night['s broadcast] there wasn't really a solidified alliance because no one really knew who had an alliance with who because we were on fire [and] winning all of the challenges.
We just felt like we didn't really need to think about making alliances yet. [Well] at least that's what everybody else thought while we were all making alliances on the side. So nobody really knew who was in an alliance with who, other than the people who were in an alliance.
Reality TV World: On the show last night, Charlie was [shown] kind of saying who he thought were becoming close. Was that less clear than it was shown on the show?
Paloma: Um what do you mean? That Charlie was thinking about...
Reality TV World: He kind of said who he thought he saw as [the] potential alliances [in the tribe.]
Paloma: Well I totally thought that I had an alliance with Charlie. And I knew that I had an alliance with [Kelly Czarnecki] and [Robert "Bob" Crowley] for that matter. But the thing is, Charlie had an alliance also with Marcus and Corrine and Jacque and for them they wanted a really strong tribe and Ace was part of that.
[Ace] was the best athlete that they had and they needed him for the challenges. So if that meant that [I had to leave] then they were willing to do that just to not make him mad and keep him happy and motivated to help the team win.
Reality TV World: Actually, going off of Charlie one more time... he said in one of his confessional interviews that he couldn't understand why all of your tribe's women weren't drooling over Marcus. Do you have any explanation for that?
Paloma: Well (pauses) Charlie had a big crush on Marcus (laughs). So of course because he had a crush on [Marcus] he felt that all women in the world should have a crush on him too. So that's how that went. But a lot of the girls in the tribe did like Marcus. He's a well liked guy, he's very smart. He's just a very genuine person.
Reality TV World: Last night you said you knew that Ace had put you into that pole challenge against Crystal because he wanted you to fail. If that was true, why didn't you suggest another option or try to call him out on it?
Paloma: I mean we... there was a lot more to the episode than, obviously, that we watch [on TV]. When [Jeff asks] who wants to sit this challenge out and someone raises their hand and says "me," there obviously is a good ten minutes [in between there] when we talk about it [and discuss other options]. So when Ace said that I should go on [the pole], it was either going to be me or Sugar and the plan was that Sugar would be stronger to help get [Susie Smith] off of the pole faster and that maybe me of Bob could for it.
I mean, there was just a lot to it, and at that point I knew that a lot of people felt that I didn't belong on the pole but they had just come off of a 20-minute battle in Round One that [had] lasted a really long time and we were all exhausted. I just don't feel like they would have talked about it even if they wanted to because we were just so tired and ready to get to Round Two.
Reality TV World: Did you realize what Corinne was saying when she told you Ace wasn't the one making your tribe's decisions when you talked to her before Tribal Council?
Paloma: Well I would talk to a lot of people about Ace and we all had the same projection and the same idea of how Ace was. So when I was telling Corrine about Ace and what I heard he had planned through other people -- and her saying that Ace was not the one in control and "Don't worry Paloma, Ace isn't the one in control of this game" -- I thought it was her saying "Don't worry, we all feel this way. He thinks he's the head honcho but he's not."
I didn't really think much into it in thinking that she was saying "Well maybe Ace isn't in control of the game because someone else is."
That's the way I was thinking about it at the time. Obviously now that I watched it I'm like "Oh that's what she was talking about. She was talking about [how] her alliance was in control and not Ace."
Reality TV World: Did you believe Sugar's story that she hadn't found the [Immunity Idol]?
Paloma: Um, you know, I did actually. She was a very emotional person. She cried a lot while she was there. And she's going through a bunch of things in her life right now and now her dad just recently passed away so she's very emotional.
And because she's emotional we thought that she was just playing an emotional game and not thinking with her brain. So when we thought of her on Exile we never once thought "Oh she must be out looking for the Idol, she almost has it, she must be doing so well."
We all thought that she would be freaking out [and] sitting on a rock crying her eyes out. So when she came back, she came back crying so it just solidified the idea for all of us that she just had a horrible time while she was out there and wasn't able to do anything.
But we were wrong.
Reality TV World: Last night, it almost looked like after spending nine days together, some of your tribe members weren't that upset to be going to Tribal Council. Did you notice a big [downward] change in your tribe's morale after the two [challenge] losses or did some of the people seem kind of happy to be getting the chance to get rid of you?
Paloma: I don't know. I mean, leading up to Tribal Council that day it was bad. I think the only [tribe member] that was happy was Sugar. And that totally makes sense now because she had the [Immunity Idol] and had nothing to worry about. Her and Ace were the only ones who were happy.
Everybody else, like, Kelly was clearly upset she did not want to be gone. Bob was sad, Charlie was sad, Corinne was even sad. I mean, it was a sad time but, you know, you're going to lose eventually so you're going to eventually get thrown out.
Reality TV World: Going into Tribal Council, were you expecting to go home or did you think Corinne had managed to save you?
Paloma: I knew 100% going into Tribal Council that I was going home. There wasn't a doubt in my mind. So a part of me was like "Okay, you're going home. you're sitting here in [Tribal Council], this is the last chance to voice your opinion and what I feel and to call out people for how they were acting" and that's what I attempted to do.
Reality TV World: Ok so once you got to Tribal Council and you were talking about Ace, you were really just [focused on] getting everything out on the table before leaving?
Paloma: Yeah, I was just laying it all out there. I figured "I'm going home, I might as well lay everything out just so you know that the Kota tribe was perceived as being this, like, unified tribe and it really wasn't because a lot of people were really annoyed with each other and there were a lot of clashes and stuff." I just wanted to lay it out there in front of [Survivor host Jeff Probst] and be like "Hey this is what's going on and I'm not a part of it. I'm not gonna sit down and, like, pretend that Ace is cool when he's not."
Reality TV World: Were you surprised that you went home before an older person like Bob -- especially given he was the one who failed to solve the Immunity Challenge puzzle [and lost your tribe immunity]?
Paloma: No, not at all! Bob is an amazing person. He was the provider of our tribe and Bob probably would have been the stupidest person to get rid of at that point. He provided everything for us and was a hard worker. He was [and] is the biggest asset in the Kota tribe.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on Survivor? Had you applied previously?
Paloma: No I hadn't applied previously. I was recruited.
Reality TV World: Oh, ok. So had you seen a lot of the show before [being recruited] then?
Paloma: Yeah, I have. I've seen a lot of [previous] seasons.
Reality TV World: Was there anything you expected to see during last night's broadcast that CBS didn't show?
Paloma: I mean, there's a lot of things you wish you would've seen, or stories you wish would have been told. But you can only fit so much into a 45-minute episode. So no, there wasn't anything specific where I was like "I can't believe that the didn't show that!"
But at the same time there are little things here and there that you wish would have been shown. But they weren't.
Reality TV World: Last night Ace and Sugar seemed especially close. Did you see any possible romance [between them]?
Paloma: Um... they are, well, Ace is a big flirt. And Sugar is, well, really a guy! (laughs) So Ace is her guy and Sugar is his chick and, maybe... I mean you never know what happens at night. Maybe they need to start showing what happens at night.
Reality TV World: Last night, there was a clip were Corinne admitted she didn't like a lot of her tribemates. Besides Ace, who else do you think was on her list?
Paloma: Corrine didn't like Sugar. I'm pretty sure, you know, Corrine probably had something against Kelly [too]. Other than that I really don't know. From watching the show it felt like Corrine didn't like me as well But watching the tribal vote she said "I really, really, really like you and I don't want this to happen" so I was actually surprised that she actually liked me!
Reality TV World: What was your strategy going into the competition?
Paloma: It was generally just to lay low and hang out and to be as active for the team as possible around camp. I'm really good at puzzles and the mental aspect [of the game] so I felt like I could help the tribe by doing that. I'm just a nice person and can get along with everybody, so I thought just to lay low and let the big "honchos" kick each other out and then just slowly make my way [in] and start playing the game more aggressively.
Of course that always changes in the came because there are so many elements that play in and, just drive you crazy.
Reality TV World: As you said on the show, you were already pretty tiny before Survivor began -- how much weight did you end up losing on the show?
Paloma: I actually lost 14 pounds in nine days. I was just, I was depleting away (laughs)
Reality TV World: Kelly was the only Kota tribe member not to vote for you at Tribal Council. Do you think that will hurt her?
Paloma: I mean, she definitely put a huge target on her back. She stayed loyal to me to the end, and she was like my best friend out there and she kept her word. She put a huge target on her back, but you never know what can happen in the game. It could work in her favor, or it could work totally against her.
Reality TV World: What's next for you? Are you back at school?
Paloma: Yeah. I graduated, but I'm working on my teaching credentials now. I'm a full-time student and waitressing to make money on the side.