Exclusive: Denise Stapley talks about her 'Survivor: Philippines' victory (Part 2)
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/19/2012
Denise Stapley won Survivor: Philippines' $1 million grand prize during the live portion of Sunday night's finale broadcast on CBS from Los Angeles.
Denise, a 41-year-old sex therapist from Cedar Rapids, IA, beat Lisa Whelchel, a 49-year-old former actress from Dallas, TX, and former Survivor: Australia castaway Michael Skupin in the season's final jury voting results, which Survivor host Jeff Probst revealed live during the broadcast.
Denise received all but two of the six votes which were revealed by Jeff, and Skupin and Lisa each received one vote. "RC" Roberta Saint-Amour voted for Lisa, while Carter Williams voted for Skupin to win. Malcolm Freberg, a 25-year-old bartender from Hermosa Beach, CA, finished the reality competition in fourth place.
In an exclusive interview on Monday, Denise talked to Reality TV World about her Survivor: Philippines experience.
Below is the concluding portion of Denise's interview. Click here to read the first half. To begin reading our interview with Skupin, click here. For the initial portion of Lisa's interview, click here. Start reading our interview with Malcolm here.
Reality TV World: There was obviously that unusual situation when Malcolm had two immunity idols and you actually approached him for one of them and he turned you down.
Denise Stapley: Isn't that great? What a good guy!
Reality TV World: So I guess there's a few questions there. Was that your first hint that maybe your alliance with Malcolm wasn't as tight as you thought it was, did you read anything into that? And also, do you think the fact Lisa and Skupin thought Malcolm might've given you his idol played any role in why they voted out Abi instead of you?
Denise Stapley: Yup. I read everything into that, because it's like, "Hey, what are the chances of that?" The fact that he didn't just say, "Absolutely" -- again, he did that noncommittal thing like, "If you need it."
And you know, I was pretty sure that we were all onboard to vote Abi out, and that likely could've played into Michael and Lisa's thoughts. I'm not sure how strongly that fear of, "Would Malcolm pass that or give that to me to play?"
But for me, him not being able to, again, just say, "You bet, we're going to make sure that this alliance stays strong," that was my first cue. Yup, that was my first cue when I knew, "Okay, just be aware. Just be aware."
Reality TV World: But it wasn't like Abi. You weren't going around camp trying to tell them that Malcolm was going to give you the idol and you were going to be all set. (Laughs)
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Denise Stapley: No, and if he had said he would -- I mean, I didn't even tell anybody that he had the idol until we got to the island and Lisa had found Malcolm's idol. I never told anybody.
My story was always, even when he whips it out at final Tribal Council, I had never told anybody that I knew he had it. Because that was kind of my leverage with him, like, "I know you've got it and Lisa knows. So we need to stay tight."
Reality TV World: I just talked to Skupin, and based upon what he said during our interview and what was shown on TV last night, it seems like him and Lisa really underestimated how much support you'd get from the jury and what he termed "the bitterness factor." Did that surprise you?
Denise Stapley: It surprised me. I really thought, you know, one, because of Tandang. I was really concerned myself that that tension between Abi and I would just infect the whole jury. But it infected it in a very different way that played out for me. And apparently, it went towards Lisa and Skupin, you know? So that -- and just in terms of the story that we gave.
I think my going to the final Tribal Council was quite helpful, but yeah, the bitterness on the jury, lucky for me, it played in my favor and you're right. They completely, I think, did not think that it was going to be as big of a factor as it was for either of them.
Reality TV World: Skupin said he felt you had played a really under the radar game and that basically all you told him was to go talk to Malcolm when he asked you anything.
Denise Stapley: Uh-huh.
Reality TV World: And that was another factor apparently in why he was so surprised how receptive the jury seemed to be to you. Would you say that's an accurate description of your game or do you have another perspective on your game?
Denise Stapley: You know, it's interesting. I never would have thought of it as under the radar. I think it was smart. I'm just not like a bull in a china shop, and so again, it was more important for me to look at where the bombs were. So if Michael would say something, I'd say, "Yup, just touch base with Malcolm" even though I would know how I wanted to vote.
As long as the vote was going in a direction I already wanted it to go, the smartest thing for me to say was, "Absolutely. I am onboard. I'll do that," because it played to my favor until I had to make the decision that I was going to go against my alliance with Malcolm.
But yeah, some people will see it as under the radar, and maybe to some extent it is, but it's kind of hard to stay under the radar when you keep changing tribes and you have to keep scrambling. It's like you have to figure out a way, and you can't come in there breaking down doors. You have to come in like a guest in somebody's home and be very gracious and kind of maneuver your way through.
Reality TV World: Jonathan Penner, Abi and Malcolm had all made comments that you were going to beat Lisa and Skupin before they were voted off, but Skupin basically told me he just felt that was strategy and they were trying to save themselves. What are your thoughts on that -- do you think it was just strategy, or do you think it's more illustrative of maybe how Skupin seemed to misread some things out there?
Denise Stapley: You know, I think it's a combination of things. I think, you know, hearing from Penner, I know definitely that was 100% percent on the one hand -- I guess it's not 100% percent -- but it was him trying to make a case for why they should've kept him. But on the other hand, he very much did know.
Up against them, we were a threat on a different level. With Abi, I think Abi also did see me as a threat, as a true threat. But then again, it's a combination of yes, they were seeing things accurately and they were trying to save their own -- hide from getting voted off.
Reality TV World: Unless I missed it, Jeff Probst actually didn't reveal the last two votes were for you. But everyone's been assuming that's the case. Do you know whether that actually was?
Denise Stapley: I don't. You know what? I have heard some confirmation, but I don't know for sure. And obviously, we won't know because unless you see it just like going into last night's show -- unless I actually see that those votes were for me, there's no way I can say, "I got all votes [except for] the one that Lisa got and the one that Michael got."
Reality TV World: When you were pleading your case to Skupin before the Final 4 Tribal Council, you began tearing up a little and had insisted that wasn't just an act and was sincere. Is that true or was that a little bit strategic?
Denise Stapley: No, it was 100% percent genuine. This had just come on the heels of, you know, I had been bitten. I can't remember if that's the same day or the day before, but whatever had bit me out there, they had just been so caring. And Michael and I especially had had so many conversations just about our families and life and the game.
And I slept next to him and Malcolm every night out there on the beach, and we would talk before we would go to sleep. So it was just this very genuine relationship, and I was. I was genuinely saying, "I have this alliance" -- and it's also a friendship with Malcolm, but just being a similar age and [having similar] life experience with Michael, it was just very genuine.
Reality TV World: What are your thoughts on Lisa? There's been some criticism that she was in a situation where she kind of seemed to remain loyal to her alliances in name only at some points. For example, the situation where she told Penner he was going to be going home and should work his magic to change someone's mind in his favor, she personally could've changed her vote -- which would've resulted in him staying. So what are your general thoughts about her and her gameplay?
Denise Stapley: I think in a nutshell, I think she definitely grew in how she played the game. Definitely after the family visit, she was thinking much more clearly.
Emotionally, the first half of the game was really a rollercoaster for Lisa. But in the end, I respect how she played the game. She played it the best way that she could, and in the end, my gosh. I mean, she was sitting in the Final 3, and so, you can't say anything too bad about that.
Above is the concluding portion of Denise's interview. Click here to read the first half. To begin reading our interview with Skupin, click here. For the initial portion of Lisa's interview, click here. Start reading our interview with Malcolm here.