Stephanie Gonzalez was voted out of Survivor: Ghost Island during the first half of Wednesday night's special two-hour premiere episode on CBS.
The 26-year-old in graphic sales from Ocala, FL, was the first castaway eliminated from the game. She was voted out of her Malolo Tribe on Night 3 through a 5-1 vote at Survivor: Ghost Island's first Tribal Council session of the season.
A couple of votes were not shown, but they presumably went to Gonzalez as well. As for Gonzalez, she voted for Donathan Hurley, a 26-year-old caretaker from Phelps, KY.
During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Thursday, Gonzalez talked to Reality TV World about her short-lived experience on the show. Below is the first half of her Survivor: Ghost Island interview.
Reality TV World: Were you blindsided? Walking into Tribal Council, whom did you think was voting for Donathan with you?
Stephanie Gonzalez: I was not blindsided. I actually knew all eight votes were going my way, and I knew I would be the only person voting for Donathan so I might as well stir some sh-t up!
Reality TV World: How did you come to that conclusion? Did anyone flat out tell you that you were going home? How did it become so obvious to you?
Stephanie Gonzalez: I had conversations with different people and they didn't coordinate the lie very well, and I could just feel, my intuition, just the way they would look at me and treat me and talk to me, and everyone is super friendly.
And then we're going into Tribal, and right before Tribal, I spoke to a couple of people and they didn't coordinate the lie very good. And I already knew that I was not a part of one conversation and the target was on my back. So I went into Tribal and confirmed it with a couple of whispers.
Reality TV World: Do you remember what their lie actually was? I'm assuming they said, "We're voting Donathan," but was there anything else to it? What didn't add up for you?
Stephanie Gonzalez: Yeah, one person said they were voting Donathan and then another person said they were voting [Jenna Bowman], and those two people were pretty tight-knit, so I was like, "Of course," and I already had my suspicion.
Reality TV World: We saw Brendan Shapiro flat out tell you during all those whispers he was voting for Donathan, but what did the others say?
Stephanie Gonzalez: So Michael Yerger said he was voting for Jenna, which was one of the people -- it was either Donathan or Jenna -- and Brendan was just a sucker for Donathan! Donathan had a moment on the beach where me and Brendan were talking and he came up to us and he had tears in his eyes.
He said, "I don't want to go! This is once in a lifetime and I'll never get to do this again. I've never had this type of experience or been out of the country. I don't want to be that kid. Please, please, please!"
He was just bawling his eyes out. And Brendan, I knew he was going to be a sucker for that. He's a teacher, he's got kids. He knows how to be protective and he took [Donathan] under his wing.
He made [Donathan] a promise: "We're not voting for you. Don't worry, man. You did alright. You did alright."
Donathan was like, "I know you need to keep this tribe strong and I'm the weakest one out there -- but please!"
And so, Michael told me that we were going to vote for Jenna, and Michael and I actually agreed, you know, Donathan should probably go. And I had a conversation with Michael about it, and Michael's like, "Why does it sound like you're pleading your case? You're not going!" That was before the votes were on me.
So, yeah, it was between those two and I confirmed it. At Tribal, I already knew it was me going home with a couple of whispers, like I said, so I was going to stir up as much sh-t as I could to see if something could happen.
But I realized quickly, like, "Once I sit down from whispering or talking to anybody, they could talk amongst themselves." So, I'm like, "This is pointless. I've done everything I can and I'm still being voted out."
Reality TV World: It was pretty gutsy to stand up in the middle of Tribal Council and walk around to talk to everyone. It even seemed to surprise Jeff Probst. Did you realize how unusual and aggressive of a move that was at the time? It sounds like you didn't think it affected the vote?
Stephanie Gonzalez: It didn't change the vote, but at that point, I knew I was going home regardless. So was I going to go home and regret that I didn't do anything to fight? Hell no! It is not in my spirit. I'm going to play with my whole heart.
If I'm going to be voted out, I'm going to do whatever it takes to stir something up and see if something better can happen.
I didn't process it as, "Oh, this is going to be a bold move!" How I saw it was, "Either I stand up and do something or I just go out like a dead fish in the water." And I'm never going to go out like a dead fish in the water.
Reality TV World: I was going to ask if you felt particularly betrayed by anyone in your tribe based on bonds or early alliances you were starting to form. But it sounds like Michael might be the only one? Is that right?
Stephanie Gonzalez: No, I'm not too angry with Michael. All I know is he was just trying to go with whatever Brendan said and just not piss off any people. That's really what it boiled down to, was like, "We want to keep the peace at camp, and we don't want to piss off [Stephanie Johnson] by voting off Jenna."
And he had a really big heart for Donathan because of his story. So it boiled down to being me, and I'm not angry with anybody specifically. I'm angry -- I would say if I were to be pissed off or betrayed, it would be, like, the group as a whole... We owed it to ourselves to make our tribe stronger by letting go of our weakest link.
You're only as strong as your weakest person, right? So I feel like that really came into play for us, and that was my angry moment. It was like, "Dude, if you guys get rid of me, you're going to come back to Tribal," and sure enough [they did]!
Reality TV World: So you don't think you were playing to aggressively or anything like that? Did anything else play a role in your exit.
Reality TV World: You were heard saying "sad" on your way out. Were you just expressing sadness just over the fact you were leaving the game, or were you trying to make a statement that your tribe was pathetic for getting rid of you over Donathan?
Stephanie Gonzalez: It was both! There were tons of emotions that came over me, because I already knew. I was already mentally preparing myself to go grab my torch and bring it to Jeff so he could snuff it.
It was funny because once Jeff snuffed my torch, I literally stood there forever, and Jeff was like, "Let go," and I was like, "You don't understand; this is really painful for me!" So, I was extremely devastated.
I had already known, like I already knew, "This is it. I'm not going to be here tomorrow. I'm not going to be in the game anymore."
So I was really sad, but what they didn't show was, there was more to just the "sad." "Sad" was the last word of my sentence. I actually said, "One lion. Seven lambs. This is sad." That's what I actually said.
Reality TV World: Why do you think the choice was made to send Jacob Derwin to Ghost Island?
Stephanie Gonzalez: Jacob was an awkward one, and I think everyone on the opposite tribe could see that he was a little bit more of a quirky one, and he didn't do well in the puzzle, which cost us! The puzzle is what cost us the whole challenge.
So they wanted to keep the weak one around and force us to get rid of somebody that's strong. And Jordan was just the person that people assumed was on the outs just visually looking at him or maybe judging how he spoke or whatever.
And because he spoke, he put a target on his back. He was like, "We are the best tribe ever," and yaddy yadda! And they were like, "Well, look at him. He's a quirky guy," and him saying we were the best tribe ever, he didn't do well in challenges. And so it was like, "Let's send someone else home and make them weaker."
Reality TV World: A couple of your tribemates were shown agreeing that Donathan worked harder than you around camp. Would admit that was true or would you argue that point?
Stephanie Gonzalez: I would definitely argue that point. At that point, I think the girls were a little intimidated and I didn't commit to their alliance, so they were [bothered by] that.
So, it was kind of like Mean Girls, you had Stephanie and Jenna, who were off on their own, and then me and [Libby Vincek] were hanging out around each other quite a bit.
But I feel like Libby didn't quite know the game very, very well, which probably worked in her favor, maybe. And I wasn't sure I wanted to be in an alliance with Libby. I knew I wanted to work with Michael and Brendan, just because they kind of saw the big picture, so that's how it all kind of panned out.
Be sure to check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion of our exclusive Survivor: Ghost Island interview with Stephanie Gonzalez.