On Friday, Peih-Gee talked to Reality TV World about why she took Zhan Hu's leadership role; what the motivation was behind throwing an Immunity Challenge; how it almost worked; and why she's not really as "bossy and bitchy" as she may have come across.
Reality TV World: How did you end up being cast for Survivor: China?
Peih-Gee: It's actually kind of an interesting story. There was somebody I knew in casting looking specifically for an Asian female, so he go a hold of me there... But right before he called me I was actually planning on taking some crazy adventure. I was getting a little bored -- you know, stuck in a rut -- so I was like, "I think I'm going to take-off to India for a month. Go camp out in India." Then suddenly I get this call saying, "Hey! Do you want to go camp out on Survivor?" It's funny how life works out. It was the best adventure I've ever had in my life.
Reality TV World: Had you watched a lot of Survivor prior to appearing on the show?
Peih-Gee: I'll be honest (laughing), I was one of those people who never watched it before I applied for it. But the minute I applied, I started doing everything: working out like crazy; reading strategy books; I watched about like seven or eight seasons of Survivor. Once I started watching it I was hooked. I couldn't believe I had never seen it before. It's so interesting, the dynamics between people, all the crazy personalities...
Reality TV World: What was it like during those early days at Zhan Hu when the tribe was having a tough time winning and seemed to be constantly bickering?
Peih-Gee: It was really hard. It was kind of strange, because we had "Crazy Dave" [Dave Cruser] as our leader and he was just really being such a dictator about stuff. People say maybe we're stupid for voting him out, but at the same time he wasn't doing that great at the challenges because he was falling over...
It wasn't just because we didn't get along. Partly we were voting out people who just weren't really contributing in other ways. Like [Ashley Massaro] was sick. That was really demoralizing, and seeing [original Fei Long member James Clement] -- who was like freakin' Hercules on the other side -- it was just hard. But we all really tried our hardest constantly, every day. The camp got flooded, so dealing with that was really bad.
But we all got along. The people that were there, we did get along pretty well and just try to encourage each other the best we could.
Reality TV World: What made you decide to nominate yourself for a leadership position during Zhan Hu's first Tribal Council?
Peih- Gee: I think partly just because I was doing some of that already. I mean, I probably didn't come-off as the nicest person in the world (laughing). But I just got so frustrated the first couple days we were out there -- especially the first night -- because I was like, "I don't want to sleep in the mud! And you guys want to sit around and talk?" I just really wanted to get something built, and I was really excited to try and live in the jungle and survive. I was like, "I'd rather be looked at as bossy and have stuff get done than sit around and be too afraid to say anything for putting a target on my back."
So I figured if I'm going to do it anyway, I might as well get recognition for it. Although I guess in Survivor that's not always good (laughing)...
Peih-Gee: Yeah, I mean we had mentioned it -- really pretty briefly -- before Frosti and Sherea left us, and then I actually talked to... And then after the switch I talked to Jaime and Erik about throwing both [of the next Immunity] challenges.
There was some back and forth about the thing because we were just so sick of losing and it was so hard to throw the challenge even though I just strategically really thought it would be a good way to ensure that we had numbers at the merge. But finally we decided to settle for half-and-half, which was to try to win one and then we'll try to throw the second challenge.
But what happened was right before the challenge, I kind of thought I saw some communication going on between James and [Todd Herzog], which freaked me and Jaime out! So at the last minute we decided to just [throw] this challenge. I just wished things had worked out a little differently (laughing)...
Reality TV World: In hindsight what's your view of how all that played out? If you could go back, would you have not thrown any of them?
Peih-Gee: It's such a tough call because the thing is when talking to Aaron -- they didn't show this -- but Aaron was being really sketchy about a lot of things. Like we were asking him about the alliances he had, and he was like, "Oh well, I can't tell you guys all my secrets." And I was like, "Well this guy's not on my side."
Where as James, like later on, we were talking to James, and James told us about ALL the alliances. He was like, "Todd's aligned with this and this, and these are the people that I'm aligned with." That really made us feel like we could trust him and that he wanted to work with us. That was really the difference between James and Aaron.
I know a lot of people were really upset that I threw the challenge, but I knew how important it was to try and go into the merge with numbers. As far as I knew, Aaron wasn't going to be aligned with me so he wasn't one of my teammates. It's not like I threw it to get rid of someone who was loyal to me.
Reality TV World: The original Zhan Hu members were outnumbered by original Fei Long members when the merge happened. Were you confident that you'd be able to sway some of the former Fei Long members to your side? Did you try to switch to Fei Long's side?
Peih-Gee: You guys are going to laugh at me, but at that point I still didn't know that James had the Hidden Immunity Idols. James actually did a really good job of convincing me that he was actually going to align with me after the merge, and that's part of the reason why we didn't throw the second [Immunity] challenge was because after talking to him, we talked about even possibly going to the Top 3 together... This might have been before he got the immunity idols from Todd.
James had told us that he would vote with us after the merge and try to bring Denise over. I mean he said it a lot, and he just comes off as one of those people who's brutally honest. When he said it, I thought, "Okay... This guy's telling the truth."
I thought that we were going to be okay with me, Erik and Jaime and James and Denise. But obviously he pulled a fast one on us. Kudos to him for it!
Reality TV World: Were you surprised how willing the original Fei Long members were to eliminate Jean-Robert Bellande, seeing as how they could have easily picked you off since Courtney Yates had Immunity that week?
Peih-Gee: Yeah, I was a little bit surprised. But ultimately I heard a lot of grumbling. A lot of people didn't like having him around camp. So [Fei Long] thought since they would have the numbers no matter what, they had the luxury of getting rid of somebody that they didn't really want around.
Peih-Gee: No. I really had no idea. I still thought they were going to do me right up until the very last minute.I had known about the idols and had been wondering how to use that information to try to help me. Then when I saw the [idols] hidden up in the roof [of the shelter, above where James slept], it just kind of reminded me, "Hey, you know what? Maybe there's one last-ditch effort I could do to try to get them to maybe blind-side James since it's been so set along that it's going to be me."
I didn't realize they had already had the plan in motion (laughing). I really thought they were just going to boot me off.
Reality TV World: I remember you talked to Amanda a little bit about that, and while she played a little coy, she basically led you to believe they were going to blind-side James. How confident were you that they'd follow through with their plan?
Peih-Gee: You'd be a fool to be confident about anything in Survivor (laughing). That's why I'm standing there going, "Amanda, I just can't believe you." I'm going around talking to everybody that day and I thought she was just trying to keep me from stirring up more trouble. I thought maybe she was telling me she was doing James just so I wouldn't scramble... You know what I mean?
It was really hard to know what to do. But I kind of realized that they were going to do James, that's why I ended up changing my vote to Todd at the last minute. It was really tough because earlier in the day James had picked a huge fight with Erik and a huge fight with me, and at that point, I think Erik was SO mad at James that he was like, "I'm just going to vote for him no matter what because I'm so upset right now."
Reality TV World: I see... So that's why Erik ended up voting for James.
Peih-Gee: Yeah... I think so. Honestly in retrospect, I should have told James to play that damn idol (laughing)!
Reality TV World: Yeah, so maybe you could have rekindled that alliance you had discussed after the swap?
Peih-Gee: Yeah... It was just so tough. Watching the show now, I didn't realize it probably wouldn't have been very likely. I mean, I don't know how likely it would have been that [James] would have believed me. He could have gone to Todd, and they still could have changed the vote back to me [at] any second.
Then the other thing was too, people were watching me so suspiciously the whole time I was there. I just felt like if they even saw me talking to James all alone, they would instantly change their vote back to me. So it was a really hard decision to make at that time....
Reality TV World: Were you surprised James decided not to play either of the Hidden Immunity Idols?
Peih-Gee: (laughing) I was really shocked, and I think everybody did a really good job of leading him to believe that it was going to be me. Also I think around that time, James had said that his head started not being in the game so much. I think not having food was hitting him really hard. I remember talking to him later, he was like, "Yeah, I dropped the ball... I really wasn't focused at that time." It's hard when you have so many time to contend with...
Reality TV World: Was the first time you learned about the existence of the Hidden Immunity Idols really when you saw them above where James slept? Jaime never mentioned the idols to you?
Peih-Gee: Well, Erik told me about the idols right after Jaime got booted off.
Reality TV World: Okay, so you just didn't know who had them?
Peih-Gee: No, [Erik] told me he was pretty sure James had both idols.
Reality TV World: So you did know about them before you saw them above where James slept?
Peih-Gee: Oh yeah. I was just surprised to see them hidden up there. I was like, "Oh look! It's hidden!" Like I found where it is... So I thought maybe -- like later on we were talking -- maybe we can check and see if he takes them or not. You know?
Reality TV World: Okay. So once James' elimination was in the books, did you sense a divide in the former Fei Long members' alliance and try to exploit it?
Peih-Gee: Oh I tried everything under the moon and stars to exploit anything I could (laughing). I went from , "Hey girls! Let's have an all-girls Final 4!" to, "Denise... Come on. You know you're at the bottom of the totem pole. We can all see it. You can see it."
That was the thing. It's risky, but if she had joined up with me and Erik... The problem was, that even if she had joined up with us, the best we could hope for was a tie. I know it was really hard, but it's kind of that gamble where do you want to gamble and try to get in the Final 3 where you could possibly be No. 1; or if you stay where you are, you're going to definitely be No. 4. But if she gambled and lost, maybe they would have taken her out fifth. So it was kind of a toss-up for her...
Reality TV World: Did Denise explain that to you as why she decided against forming an alliance with you and Erik?
Peih-Gee: (laughing) No... I don't know if she thought it out all that much. I think she just kind of felt scared to go against her alliance and kind of hoping that they would take her to Final 3.
Reality TV World: How upset were you that Denise didn't return the favor and take you on that Great Wall reward? Do you buy her claim that it was because Courtney wasn't eating -- because when we've talked to anyone about Courtney's weight, they've said she'd been eating just as much as anyone else out there.
Peih-Gee: (laughing) Man, I got really upset, huh? I think I just had a lot of frustration bottled up. Knowing that... Like I said, I knew that [Denise] was going to be kind of at the bottom of the whole totem pole -- and she even admits it -- and she still takes these people with her on the reward.
There's a part of me that really wants to shake her and say, "Denise stop kissing butt! Why don't you just take the game into your own hands and you can join-up with me, and we could grab somebody else and try to do something." But I mean I understand the position. She felt like it was kind of risky and so she picked [Courtney and Todd].
I was really disappointed. I won't lie. I've been pretty open with myself -- and with the audience -- just about how I feel. But I think she probably made the right choice for herself.
Reality TV World: I know Courtney passed the show's physical, but were you ever concerned about her well-being out there? Was she eating just as much as everyone else?
Peih-Gee: Courtney eats more than I do. I know there's rumors out there, "Oh, she's anorexic or whatever." But she's really not. That girl can put it away (laughing). She's just one of those people that happens to be naturally skinny.
She actually seemed to hold up pretty well under the circumstances. I think she actually faired better going without food than say somebody like Erik or James who are used to eating large amounts and they have a lot of muscle. So they need a lot of food to sustain them -- whereas because Courtney already has a small frame -- she didn't really need as much food to get around on. Does that make sense?
Reality TV World: Yeah, that's a good point. Did you believe Todd's story about his younger sister having a miscarriage or do you think it was some sort of strategy on his part?
Peih-Gee: I didn't think about until Erik brought it up, and I was like, "Oh my gosh! I could totally see Todd doing that!" I mean if only because we all knew Todd is a huge fan of the game... I spent a lot of time talking to Todd about strategy and stuff, and it really seems like every single thing that's been done on every single Survivor episode, Todd was determined to do (laughing). So I think that's part of why you kind of wouldn't put it past him. I think if he had done it and it was a lie, he had done it just -- I don't know -- because it was a Survivor thing. I actually... I think it turned out to be true.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised that you were able to form a good relationship with Amanda your last few days out there?
Peih-Gee: It totally came out of left field. It was really a happy surprise even though it was unexpected. It was amazing that for what cramped quarters we had and so few people, I had really never had time to have a one-on-one with her. I don't know if she was purposely keeping distance from me because she didn't want people to think she was strategizing with me? Who knows what? But she was really the only person I hadn't gotten to know on a personal level. It turns out, we got along really well.
I know people on the jury laughed when I said I was a "positive" person, and even the audience, because so much of what you see is me being upset or whining or crying or whatever. But I think it was really just the circumstances. I had to stay positive, and I think that's one of the reasons I got as far as I did, because if I wasn't a positive person, I would have been like, "Screw this!" and thrown in the towel a long time ago when I knew the odds were against me.
But Amanda's actually a pretty happy person, so being with her, we could both sit and look out and be like, "Oh my gosh! This is so beautiful! This is amazing! I'm so happy we're out here." As opposed to when we're sitting in the rain -- and I'm trying to stay positive -- and I'm saying, "You guys, well it's not so bad. We're in China and it's still amazing." And Courtney would be like, "Shut-up! No talking in the cave!" (laughing) It kind of got to the point where I stopped letting that out because people are being annoyed if I'm being positive, people are being annoyed if I'm being negative -- and I find it really hard to just sit down and shut-up -- I don't really know what to do (laughing).
Reality TV World: Did Amanda ever lead you to believe that she'd be voting with you to eliminate Todd, or was she always noncommittal about it? Did you pretty much know you were going home?
Peih-Gee: When we were talking, she had told me that she would definitely consider it. She never told me for sure, but she said, "I'll really think about it." I mean I knew it was a long-shot anyway, but I'd hoped it would work out.
Ultimately in the end, everybody pretty much told me they were going to vote for me. So I wasn't surprised...
Reality TV World: Following your elimination, you commented "everybody was scared to death to go against [you] in the Final 3." What did you mean by that comment?
Peih-Gee: Okay, so the first thing Jean-Robert says to me after I'm voted off is, "Peih-Gee, if you had made it to the Final 3, you'd be a millionaire right now." He said pretty much every single person here in this room agreed that we would have voted for you.
Reality TV World: So that's where it came from, you had a lot of jury support?
Peih-Gee: Yeah, I've been reading the blogs online, and a lot of people are like, "Oh man, she'd be great goat to take [to the Final 3] because nobody likes her." I mean most of the people who didn't like me -- or who were annoyed by me -- were the people that were still in the game.
But the thing is, I had a lot of friends and former allies on the jury -- Jaime, Erik and Frosti -- I'm almost sure that I would have had their votes if I'd made it. At that point, I could win with just those votes alone if the other two votes got split, or I just needed one more.
Reality TV World: In a recent TV Guide interview, host Jeff Probst described you as being "kind of toxic" at the beginning of the competition. What do you think he meant by that?
Peih-Gee: You know, I still have no idea (laughing) what the heck he meant by toxic! I mean I could tell that Jeff didn't really like me from the beginning. I wasn't really sure why. Obviously, on the show I know I came off as kind of bossy and bitchy, so maybe that's it. I think it more has to do with the fact that I have a tendency to speak my mind, whether it's good or bad. So if I have something good to say I'll say it, but then if I'm upset, I'm the kind of person that will let you know I'm upset. But then after that we can move on. I think at least -- hopefully -- the people around me feel better knowing that I got it off my chest and that I didn't vent about it behind their backs... Like some other people on the show did.
Reality TV World: What was your strategy going into the game and do you think it worked?
Peih-Gee: Going into the game I really thought I was going to be doing some crazy stuff out there. I really didn't. I ended up trying to stick to the people that I had made alliances with, and I got so close to them... Like I thought Frosti and I were really close. That's part of why we threw the challenge, to try to save him and hopefully keep the numbers around.
I think just my biggest asset was trying to stay fluid. When we did get that [swap] twist, I did try to make use of it to give us the numbers advantage. Or I would talk to people about possibly voting out someone else and giving them reasons why. The made thing I tried to realize is people aren't going to vote with you necessarily because they like you, but they're going to do things that benefit them. That's the approach that I tried to take with everybody...
Reality TV World: Is there anyone you would really like to see win? Anybody you don't want to see win?
Peih-Gee: I'd want Todd or Amanda to win, just because they both really love the game and they gave it their all. They tried so hard. So the flip side of that would be -- honestly -- I love Courtney but I'd have to say I'd throw myself over a bridge if she won (laughing). I really felt passionately about playing the game and she really just came in and acted like she didn't care about it and just complained about it a lot of the things. I want to see somebody win who really fought for it and deserves it.
Reality TV World: So what's next for you?
Peih-Gee: I'm working on putting out my own jewelry line. It's going to be really fun -- really colorful -- and it's really exciting that now I'm going to be bale to have the opportunity to launch my own line. So watch out for that coming out in the next year!