As Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains' smallest castaway, Courtney Yates was an unlikely choice to survive the all-star competition's initial tribe-versus-tribe phase in which physical strength is usually highly valued.

However an early alliance with Rob "Boston Rob" Mariano allowed her to survive her Villains tribe's initial bootings until Russell Hantz took control of the tribe and voted off Rob and later came after her.

On Friday, the former Survivor: China castaway talked to Reality TV World about her Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains experience -- including whether she was surprised that Russell's alliance considered her bigger threat than Survivor: Pearl Islands winner Sandra Diaz-Twine, what she thought of James "JT" Thomas' decision to give Russell a hidden Immunity Idol, and what she had planned to do if she had survived until the game's tribal merge.

Reality TV World: Sandra and yourself seemed kind of resigned to the fact that one of you was going home.  Had you guys had any plan for what you were going to do next if you were able to convince Russell to vote Coach off like he did, or were was the entire plan to basically pray that the merge was coming next after that?

Courtney Yates: Well, we sort of knew it was going to be downhill, as Rob went we went like, "Oh crap!"   And then I think that we didn't realize that [Jerri Manthey] was so under Russell's spell. 

I mean at least I thought, "Well, there's at least three of us that they can pick from."  We tried to sell it as "keep me and Sandra and then [it will be] you three and us two and then we're happy as long as we're together, so we'll be with you guys" instead of Jerri and then one of us being angry and "going rogue." 

But it didn't work out that way because Jerri was like already entranced by Russell and his magic ways.  (laughs)

You know, that's the thing about the show -- there's only so much scrambling you can do when you have like four people looking at you blinking... so I did what I could, and [Parvati Shallow] was my best shot.  She and I got along fine, we never had a problem.

We both sort of wanted each other around for sort of an "Option B" alliance, I guess.  I tried to sell it to her -- "Okay girl, this is good for you to have me because I'm on your side.  I'm not with Russell and [Danielle DiLorenzo], but I'll be on your side.  So bring me in and then I'm your pocket vote, whatever you want to do let's do it.  We can get [Amanda Kimmel], like we'll just take it over." 

But at that point, it was still too early for her to break away from Russell, I guess, so it didn't work out. 

I thought it was really shortsighted of the three of them to keep Sandra over me though! (laughs)  I was, to be honest, really surprised!  I thought they were keeping me!

Reality TV World: I was too.

Courtney Yates: Danielle, Russell, and Parvati, I thought they were for sure going to keep me instead of Sandra because Sandra, you know, she won her first season.  She's a winner! (laughs)
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She's a great player and I think that they were really underestimating her, and I was almost like laughing about it when it was happening.  I was like, "You can't be serious, right?" 

You want everyone's sidekick gone instead of this girl who is a dominant player in her own right?  You're retarded.

Reality TV World: So it sounds like you guys did try and get Jerri back at one point.  What were you trying to do, convince her to force a 3-3 tie?

Courtney Yates: No, we were trying to convince the other three to get rid of Jerri and keep both of us together.  Like, "she's not attached to you guys, and we'll be, we're together and you know that we're a solid two-person vote -- we'll be together and we'll vote with you guys."

But Russell already had Jerri pulled in and tight to him.  And his writing down my name instead of Coach's [at the prior Tribal Council] was sort of to iron-lock Jerri into his thinking. 

Because he was like, "Oh, I know, those evil girls voted off Coach, your boyfriend!  But I went against it, I was against all of those mean girls!"

And so she was like (Courtney assumes mocking voice) "Yay!  They're mean!  Russell, you're my hero!  I love you Russell!"

So there was no way he was letting her [turn] down to me and Sandra.  And, you know, we both voted against Russell and Parvati -- like we sort of didn't have a leg to stand on.  It was like, "Okay, well..." (laughs)

Reality TV World: So when I talked to Coach last week, he had said that the producers had told him that the [post re-vote] tiebreaker for this season was drawing for the purple rock.  Was everybody else aware of that and is that why nobody has seemed to be willing to do ties?

Courtney Yates: I think it was a re-vote and then a re-vote and then a purple rock.  This is the problem when you get into an all-star season in Season 20.  Because it turns into freaking "Survivor calculus," and it's so convoluted and complicated.  People at home can't follow it [and] people in the game can barely follow what's happening.

I mean we were scrambling so much on the Villains team that they had to like run around and keep, you know, like figure out what the hell we were doing, we were so far ahead.  I mean nobody was wanting to do ties at that point because what's in it for you? 

I mean if you're solidly in -- if you're Jerri, what's in it for you to force a tie?

Reality TV World: Well, they were the people who sent Coach home.  So "revenge" at least, for sending Coach home.

Courtney Yates: But she didn't know that he sent Coach home.  And she wouldn't have believed us anyway.  I mean she was fully -- everyone is underestimating Russell Hantz, man!   He's not to be trifled with, he had that girl LOCKED DOWN! 

There was nothing you could have said to her.  She already didn't like us and Russell was her protector and her hero.  (Courtney assumes mocking voice again) She just wanted somebody to protect her and make her feel safe.

Reality TV World: So if the merge had happened, what was your plan then -- to just flip as fast as you could basically?

Courtney Yates: Well, Sandra and I were optimistic that we could maybe get something together with Amanda or [Candice Woodcock] and pull Parvati in.  I mean that's what I kind of wanted to do.  It was (unintelligible) you can do about it, but that was sort of our long-term thing, like "Okay, we need to get rid of these dudes, we need to get rid of these strong people and be with the people that you can trust."

And obviously I would have loved to have seen what Amanda was up to and what position she was in on her team to see if we could help each other. 

Reality TV World: So did you guys have a pre-game alliance on that, to get back together?

Courtney Yates: No, Amanda and I are on great terms but, I mean, my life doesn't revolve around making Survivor plans for fictitious games in the future. 

But in the circumstance, if we were actually playing Survivor, I would go ahead and assume we would play together.  you know, that's what everyone was (unintelligible) anyways. (laughs)

I mean I'm not saying it was for sure, but you know, who knows?  I wouldn't have teamed up with any of the boys from the Heroes team but I definitely would have been open to talking with the girls.

Reality TV World: What was your reaction when you got to the Reward Challenge and heard the Heroes boasting about how obvious it was that there was a women's alliance over at the Villains?

Courtney Yates: Oh, it was just funny.  I mean in a certain way I thought it was really cute, because I knew that as soon as they heard that Russell was like, "Excellent!" (laughs)  And Parvati thought it was really funny too. 

I mean you have to chuckle.  There was a little bit of Villain pride and I went, "Ah, they're so stupid."  (laughs)

Reality TV World: Did you know that they had given the hidden Immunity Idol to Russell while you were in the game or did you only find that out afterwards?

Courtney Yates: I found out afterwards!  I was like, "Oh no, that's not going to go over well because it's like Russell is the magic hidden Immunity Idol knower."  They just jump into his path no matter what he does!

So I was like, "Oh, that's not only humiliating because it (unintelligible) it was like, oh, does it have to be Russell?  Russell?"  (laughs)

Poor JT.  But in his defense, he's doing what he can, you know?

Reality TV World: Were you kicking yourself that you didn't have your own chance to ridicule his letter?

Courtney Yates: No, I would never ridicule him.  He doesn't have really the option to be the sort of player that sneaks through the cracks.  He's right out front and center.   He's a strong guy.  He's very good in challenges.  He's fast, he's charming, he's a winner. 

He knows that he is a total target so he has to make big moves to try and keep himself in a power position, and if he's on the losing end of something it's not going to be easy for him.  So he was just trying to keep a step ahead... and so from his perspective, I can see that he thought this was like shooting fish in a barrel.

Like, "I'm going to get this poor lonely dude over to our side and I'm going to help him by letting him be a hero!" 

And that was my favorite part about the whole thing, actually.  These Heroes men assuming that everyone on the Villains team wanted to be a hero.  No one wants to be on your stupid team, Heroes!  You guys are dumb!  (laughs)

Reality TV World: Did you know that Parvati had gotten the note about the other hidden Immunity Idol while you were on the reward trip and then found it?

Courtney Yates: I mean I knew someone got it.  I mean that's what they were doing with these rewards -- somebody was getting a clue for something.  So I didn't know that she had it, I didn't know that she found it or whatever, but everyone kept getting up and leaving and coming back.  Like "Oh, I have to go pee!"  "Oh, I have to go too!"  "I have to go again!"  "Oh gee, look at this, I have to pee!"

And you're like, "Okay, whatever, someone found it."

Reality TV World: Do you guys really waste time eating salad during that reward?

Courtney Yates: Yeah, they wouldn't give [the steak and shrimp] to us!  They made it like if it was an Outback restaurant -- which I love Outback Steakhouse, by the way.  I used to live above one, I know the entire menu backwards and forwards. 

They wanted to do it [that way].  They were like "Here are your cocktails, and here's your salad course."  And we were like, "Give us the meat, we're all hungry!" (laughs) 

So we were mad, we wanted all the meat at once, but for product [placement] or whatever we had to do it that way.

Reality TV World: You were obviously the season's second jury member.  What criteria did you consider important for your vote?

Courtney Yates: I would like to say that I'm going to use attractiveness and humor to be my judges.  I'm going to pick the most attractive and the most humorous.