The 26-year-old bartender from Los Angeles prepared for her time on Survivor: Tocantins by working out, putting on weight and readying herself for a long stay in the Brazilian highlands that served as the location for the CBS reality competition series' 18th season. However, after irking some of her tribemates with what was regarded as a bossy nature, Carolina became the first castaway to be eliminated from the show during Thursday's premiere on CBS.
On Friday, Carolina spoke to Reality TV World about why she pushed her tribemates so adamently to build shelter at their camp, which castaways allied quickly, what she was immediately "stoked" to learn, and who she thinks really should have been eliminated instead of her (and it's not Sandy Burgin).
Reality TV World: So, judging from your exit statement you were definitely surprised by your elimination. You really didn't any inkling that you may be up on the chopping block for elimination as well?
Carolina: Well, no. I actually kind of got, I got a feeling something was going down. What you don't see on the show is that I actually went up to [Stephen Fishbach] and [James "JT" Thomas Jr] and said "I feel like you guys are voting me out tonight, which is ridiculous," and both of them, I thought, I was creating alliances with.
[They] basically totally BS-ed me and was like "Why would we vote you out? You're a strong girl. (Unintelligible). Why would we vote you out, blah, blah, blah."
They convinced me to believe in them, but then part of me was like "You know what, I might be going home. I don't know why, but whatever." And so part of me had a feeling and then on the way to Tribal Council JT was making a big deal that I had nothing to worry about so I relaxed a little bit, and then in Tribal Council I was so shocked because nothing really negative was said towards me, it was about [Sandy Burgin] so I was like "Okay, they really are gonna vote her out, I'm okay."
So then when I started to see my name I was just like "Oh God." And I worked so hard for Survivor. I trained, I mean I gained weight for Survivor, I went to a nutritionist. I trained so hard for it [and] I wanted it so bad and for it to be taken away from me so fast, I was devastated. I was embarrassed, you know? It was very humbling, but I wouldn't change it for the world.
Reality TV World: Going back to the beginning, was there any type of coordination going on when you guys were grabbing stuff from the truck at the beginning [of the game] or was everyone just grabbing whatever they could on their own?
Carolina: Everyone was kinda getting whatever they could, and then [the Timbira tribe] stole some of our stuff, which was really funny. But, yeah it was just grab whatever you needed to grab. The truck was really high off the ground so we were leaping off of the truck. But yeah, it was crazy.
Reality TV World: Your tribe didn't grab any the water or any or bags of food when you guys were unloading the truck. Did you guys not think that was pretty important or is there some other explanation?
Carolina: No, no, no, no, no. [Spencer Duhm] did grab... I think he grabbed the water and he grabbed it off the truck and he went to jump down. He had to put it down first to jump down. He did something and [Tyson Apostol] or someone stole it.
So we actually did grab things and they were stolen (Laughs). So what you don't see is people stealing things from each other. So yeah, we did think of [getting the water] and it did get taken, but you know, it is what it is.
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Reality TV World: [Given the extremely hot conditions,] do you think not having as much water or food ended up playing any role in why your tribe lost the challenge on Day 3?
Carolina: (Pauses) No. I mean, what you don't see is we were five minutes ahead of Timbira. What you don't see is we were doing the puzzle when they were still doing the stairs. We had a good five-minute lead on them and [Sydney Wheeler] and Spencer just couldn't get the hang of that maze. When Timbira got up they killed it! I mean, [Erinn Lobdell] and [Brendan Synnott] went so fast on that maze. But yeah, we had a five-minute lead on them, so yeah it definitely affected us, it knocked the wind out of my sails.
What you don't see either is I was one of the first girls to hit the water [in the challenge]. Like, they do a shot of everyone running from above, so you can see JT's in the water and I'm right behind him. When you hear [Survivor host Jeff Probst] saying "Carolina's falling behind" what you don't see is Sydney actually fell and I picked her up, and Sydney and I held hands walking out of the water.
But I think it really didn't affect our tribe that much because we were in the lead by five minutes and we lost it at the maze.
Reality TV World: Kinda going off of that, do you think it was odd that neither Sydney or Spencer's names came up as a potential vote [target] after you guys lost that challenge because you had that lead [and they blew it?]
Carolina: Um, (Pauses) Looking back on it, yeah it was odd, it was very odd. Spencer should've been the one to go home, I mean he complained about not having an iPod! Hi, you're on Survivor, you're not gonna have a iPod.
But yeah it was a little odd, but it's shoulda, coulda, woulda but didn't. Unfortunately looking back on it we could've done so many things different but that's not how it happened.
Reality TV World: Yeah, because Jeff even pointed out that Sydney was struggling during the earlier part of the challenge when you had to transport the step boards, yet she seemed to get zero vote attention. Was she part of some early alliance, or was there some different reasoning there for why you think that happened?
Carolina: [Joe Dowdle] and Sydney and Spencer had an alliance from the get-go. Joe was gonna do anything to save Sydney, and [for] the first vote I think a lot of it had to do with Spencer, and you don't see that. I think Spencer pretty much put my head on the chopping block, but you don't see that on TV.
But they had an alliance going on. All of us didn't really know for sure if they did or not until later on. But the game was played how it was played and God gives you what you need at that point in time in your life, and we don't always know why he gives us the things that he does, but if you just take the time and absorb and you pay attention and you let your ego go than you'll know the message that he's trying to deliver. God was giving me a message by being voted out first and I took the time to really absorb it and really learn from this experience. It was the best gift I was ever given.
Reality TV World: Going back to the beginning again, given the fact that there were only 16 people in this season of Survivor, it would have been extremely odd for the show to vote off two people in the first few minutes -- did any of you suspect that the vote may not be an elimination vote?
Carolina: Oh I knew it wasn't an elimination vote. I thought, I was like "Okay we're voting someone out right away," but I thought that they were gonna switch [tribes]. I thought it was one of those things. I thought it was "We work together as a tribe to get all of our food, and now we're switching a person from our tribe." I had no clue [Sandy] was gonna get a little helicopter to ride and be pampered while we walked for four hours through excruciating heat. I knew no one was going home, we had a small cast, there was no way.
Reality TV World: Besides "Sandy versus everyone else," because she seemed very alone [in your tribe], were you aware of any quick alliances while you were out there?
Carolina: Um, yeah, JT and Stephan, that's very obvious. um, you know I... From my tribe I can say JT and Stephan right way. I thought I was a part of that, obviously I wasn't. I also knew about Spencer and Sydney and Joe. But yeah, I'm sorry, I'm not giving you enough information.
Reality TV World: That's alright. Based on last night's show, your focus seemed to be more on getting your tribe's shelter situation straightened out. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Carolina: Yeah! Okay first of all, did you see what I was wearing?! I did not have a say in that little outfit, I did not wanna wear the red dress, I don't care if I get in trouble for saying that, I was not happy about that.
I was freezing cold at night. Like, none of us were sleeping because we were sleeping out on the beach, we slept on [palm leaves] the next, right out in the open with nothing covering us, and in my mind I'm going "Okay we need to stay out of the heat, we need to be in the shade, and we need to stay out of the cold. So if we actually build shelter, after [that] we can relax. So why don't we stop dilly-dallying around, get the shelter built, get the stuff built so we can relax, so we can be prepared for our challenges. Let's not just sit around and do nothing and then complain [when it's only half-way done].
Someone from another interview said "Oh, but you weren't helping with the shelter." Actually what you don't see is [Tamara "Taj" Johnson-George] and I built the roof. The boys built the outer structure and we put the palm leaves on the roof. I was out there for two hours tying palms on and trying to figure things out. I mean, shelter is so important in the game of Survivor. You're an idiot to think that you don't need shelter in this game.
Reality TV World: Taj seemed to chew you out for being too demanding, did anyone else confront you about your attitude or was it just her?
Carolina: No it was just her, and what's funny is that Taj is very demanding as well. And I wouldn't say I was demanding, I wouldn't use that word, I would say that I just spoke the obvious. Even other people, looking back, they were like "You kinda spoke the truth."
I said what needed to be said. Taj is very much the same way, and she calling me out on it, I thought I took it pretty well. In my mind I was thinking [that] I could call her out on stuff too, but I'm not even gonna make it into an argument and I have to respect what she says. I might not agree with her but I have to respect it, just like how I might not agree with some things that you say, but I have to respect what you say as a human being.
So I just kinda took what she said in stride. Like, fine I'll agree with her, but if she thinks I'm being demanding because we need shelter I'm sorry, it's Survivor.
Reality TV World: Did she reveal anything about her former pop star and football wife background while you were out there or did you only learn about it afterwards?
Carolina: No, I knew right away who she was. I was a huge SWV fan. The moment I saw her on my tribe I was like "Oh my god, I know who you are! I bought your CD when I was in middle school" I was super excited but it wasn't my place to call her out on it. I didn't wanna go to her and be like "Oh my God, you were in SWV," I didn't want to call her out on something that it wasn't my business to say, it was her business to say.
But I think eventually Spencer caught on. And Spencer, as we all know, is gay -- and we all know that he claims he doesn't want to be the stereotypical gay man, but he is -- and he knows SWV like the back of his hand and I think eventually he put two-and-two together.
But yeah, I knew who she was right away. I was stoked to have her on my tribe.
Reality TV World: Did you guys have any idea or suspicions about what was going on when Sandy kept taking off to look for the hidden Idol?
Carolina: To be quite honest with you, I didn't (unintelligible). I didn't even think about that. I was so concerned about getting the camp built and getting fire and finding food, because we weren't allowed to kill anything we were in a protected environment, so we had to look for berries and fruit. I was just so focused on getting berries and fruit and the shelter, and I wasn't really focusing on Sandy. All of us just thought she was anti-social from the beginning.
Reality TV World: Given this season's theme, can you tell me what your own "first impressions" about the other seven people in your tribe were?
Carolina: Okay well let's go down the list...
Taj [was] amazing, I loved her from the get-go.
Steven, I thought he was gonna be weak.
JT, [he was] just a complete.... I didn't think he... I didn't know what to think of him.
Sydney, the first time I saw her I thought "Wow, she's beautiful," but I wasn't really impressed by her.
Joe [was] a complete southern boy, a southern gentleman.
And Spencer, right I knew he was a fan and fan of Jeff, and Spencer, I think, was just so excited to be there, but he complained a lot so I thought he was kind of whiny.
But then doing the trek with them and walking with them I realized that JT is extremely strong, he's definitely the leader of Jalapao. Steven doesn't look strong, but is very strong mentally, and physically he is okay. Taj was just amazing, she was definitely my favorite. I hope she goes really far in this game.
And I was just really impressed at my tribe. Like all the things I thought just by looking at them were completely wrong.
Reality TV World: What surprised you most about the competition?
Carolina: Um, that we lost! (Laughs) I realized when it came to endurance (unintelligible) our tribe had it (Unintelligible). When it came to strategizing, we didn't have it, [the other tribe] had it. I mean Timbira was a lot stronger on puzzles, and we were a lot stronger on raw endurance.
I also noticed right away that they kinda had issues with each other from the get-go. There was some drama going on from Day 1 over there.
Reality TV World: How were you cast for the show?
Carolina: I was recruited. I thought it was a joke at first, I thought it was really funny, and I started laughing, (unintelligible) and I didn't believe it. Then the more that it was in my face and they were like "No, this isn't a joke, this is for real," I was like "Okay, okay, I need [something different] in my life, I need to get on it and jump on it, and I did.
And I'm gonna tell you man... Survivor was the best thing I've ever done in my entire life. I have no regrets, even thought I was the first voted out I have no regrets. I don't take anything back and it was the best gift I was ever given.