Survivor: Kaoh Rong -- Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty revealed Michele Fitzgerald as the winner of its $1 million grand prize during the live portion of Wednesday night's finale broadcast on CBS.
Michele, a 24-year-old bartender from Freehold, NJ, defeated runner-up Aubry Bracco, a 29-year-old social media marketer from Cambridge, MA, and third-place finisher Tai Trang, a 51-year-old gardener from San Francisco, CA, in Season 32's final jury voting results, which Survivor host Jeff Probst revealed during the live reunion show.
Jeff revealed six of the seven jury votes -- two for Aubry and four for Michele to win. Although she didn't make the Final 3, Cydney Gillon, a 23-year-old body builder from Douglasville, GA, was a prominent figure in Survivor's two-hour finale and finished in fourth place.
During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Thursday, Michele talked about her Survivor: Kaoh Rong experience and victory. Below is the concluding portion of what she had to say. Click here to read the first half.
Reality TV World: Not to put down your game at all, do you think luck played a role in your win at all? If Joe Del Campo hadn't been medically evacuated, do you think you'd definitely go home?
Michele Fitzgerald: I think that if Joe hadn't gone, I probably would've had to win immunity. I don't know, it seemed that Cyd was a threat at that point as well. I think Aubry was realizing at that point that Cydney was a huge threat, and we saw that in Joe's episode.
So, there was a chance that I could have swayed things and worked my way through. You just never really know. So, I like to think that I could've gotten myself out of the situation no matter what.
But of course there is a little luck involved in any win, in any Survivor. I mean, look at buff draws. There's always luck involved, always. But I think there is also a lot of skill that is maybe underplayed.
Reality TV World: You got emotional after Scot Pollard built you up and congratulated you on a well-played game. Was that because it was finally nice to hear someone acknowledge your hard work or were you just taken aback that he was nice to you rather than out to destroy you?
Michele Fitzgerald: I think I was overwhelmed at that point with -- I wanted for so long to prove all of the things he said, and I kept trying to make people see that I was more than this Beauty girl. And to hear him finally say it and somebody acknowledge the things I had felt, it was just really, really nice to hear and overwhelming to know I had somebody so strongly on my side.
When somebody says you "outwitted, outplayed and outlasted" everybody, those are the three words you want to hear the most in the game, especially coming from a juror! So that was really powerful for me, and I was moved and touched. Yeah, Scot's amazing. (Laughs)
Reality TV World: You acknowledged at the Final Tribal Council you did not know Aubry and Tai were going to vote for Cydney, because Aubry didn't seem to like the fact Cydney was giving you credit for allowing her to make fire. What did you think was going to happen heading into that Tribal? Did you firmly believe Tai was on your side to get out Aubry?
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Michele Fitzgerald: I definitely hoped that Tai was on my side. I thought that, in the game, Aubry was the biggest threat, and I had hoped that he would see that. But there was a lot of fire talk. Me and Tai had made an agreement that if we get, you know, if one of us wins and the other is on the chopping block, we'd give each other enough respect where we'd let the other one fight it out with fire.
So, fire talk was on the table already, but I thought it had been a smarter move for Tai to vote Aubry at the time I was there. I mean, who knows what really would've happened either way, but yeah.
He played with his heart a lot of the game, and so when he did that, I was shocked initially, but then I was like, "Okay, it makes sense. Tai loves Aubry and he plays with his heart." I wasn't that surprised then, I guess, at the end.
Reality TV World: If Cydney had won the fire-making challenge hypothetically, how do you think things would've been different? Do you think you still would've won if you were against her in the end? You clearly wanted to take Cydney to the end, so I'm assuming you thought you could beat her.
Michele Fitzgerald: Yeah, I was kind of thinking that possibly Scot and Jason would have some bitterness towards her, and I was hoping that maybe that would help me. I know that Cydney and [Julia Sokolowski] didn't really have a connection out there.
So, the hope was that I would still get majority of the votes. But Cydney was just my ally from the beginning -- super loyal, and you want to sit next to somebody that you've been playing with, I think.
At least I wanted to sit next to somebody whom I had been playing with, and so that was really my motive there. I think it probably would have played out the same way, but I really don't know. Cydney is a fierce competitor.
Somebody like Scot and Jason might be able to look at her and say, "Wow, that was a really smart move. That was a great compliment, so thank you for taking us out and seeing us as huge threats. We totally respect your game." You just never know where they would've lied. I don't know if they would've been bitter or said, "Great job, Cyd," and patted her on the back. So, I'm not sure!
Reality TV World: Cydney was obviously your closest ally towards the end of the game, but you also had a lot of respect for Aubry's game as you have said. If Cydney, Tai and Aubry had gone to the end together, whom do you think you would have voted for?
Michele Fitzgerald: Cyd for sure! I love Aubry's game. Looking at it, I'm like, "Wow!" It's amazing the way she was able to create those relationships and bond with people and get herself in and out of situations. I think she did an amazing job and she's super bright. Tai's super lovable and so caring.
But Cyd was my ally. She's just badass, like that girl comes in and she's tough as nails. She knows when to shut up and she knows when to talk. I totally love that girl and I would have written the check out myself if she was up there, so yeah, definitely Cyd.
Reality TV World: It seemed like everyone appreciated the second half of your game, and I think it was clear voting out Julia was your biggest move. What would you say was your next biggest move? Was it winning a particular challenge or something like that?
Michele Fitzgerald: I think getting back in [Aubry's] alliance when me and Julia were on the outs kind of goes hand-in-hand with Julia vote-off, just because, you know, I had suggested Julia's vote just because I knew that the reason I was shielded from them was because I was in an alliance with Julia.
They didn't trust Julia and I needed to get back in. So, I think those two moves kind of go hand-in-hand. At the end, I think I was on the outs and I was playing a total individual game.
I had to rely on myself, and I think that my own strength, and winning those challenges, and speaking up at Tribal when Tai was kind of putting me down, and making my own voice known, and playing with my back against the wall, I think that was a huge move for me -- being my own biggest fan and just cheering on myself when nobody else is doing it. I think that that really helped the jury look at me like I was a competitor.
Reality TV World: What will you do with the money? Any plans?
Michele Fitzgerald: Well, we are headed to Napa later today, so we are going to drink some wine. I think that's a nice start on how to spend the money. But I'll probably pay off my car and all that kind of stuff, you know, the logistics. But I'll probably save most of it! I'm young and I want to live a long life comfortably, so yeah, I'm just going to continue working and not change too much.
Reality TV World: How were you cast onSurvivor? Did you actually apply to compete on the show?
Michele Fitzgerald: I went to an open casting call and totally bombed it. Then I made a video and eventually got accepted. It was, like, a three or four-year process for me. I've wanted to be on the show forever, so.
To read the first half of Michele's exclusive Survivor interview with Reality TV World, click here.