It didn't end up getting much better from there as the 28-year-old World Wrestling Entertainment diva became the second castaway eliminated from Survivor: China during last night's broadcast of the long-running CBS reality competition series.
On Friday, the East Northport, NY-native talked to Reality TV World about what turned out to be useless preparation before leaving for the competition; how she still managed to form an alliance despite being sick; and why that alliance wasn't enough to save her in the end.
Reality TV World: How did you end up being cast for Survivor: China?
Ashley: It was basically a joint decision because I work for WWE. I needed to do some arm-wrenching to go because that meant I was going to be off the air with them for a long time. But it all worked out great and they let me go.
Reality TV World: What was the reaction of some of your fellow wrestlers?
Ashley: Well they didn't know I was going to be on Survivor until I got back (laughing). They were surprised. I got lots of phone calls and everybody was excited. They were like, "How's your ankle going to be?" This and that... asking all these questions. Worried.
Reality TV World: Had you watched a lot of Survivorbefore going on the show?
Ashley: Yeah, I watched Season 1 of course. I mean everyone and their friend watched Season 1 (laughing). I watched Pearl Islands. That's the one with Jonny Fairplay right?
Reality TV World: Yup.
Ashley: I like that one... a couple of other ones. I definitely brushed up on it before I left.
Reality TV World: That leads well into my next question. How did you prepare yourself both physically and mentally prior to leaving for the competition?
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Ashley: Well... I definitely tried to do some training outside. You know what was funny? I went outside and I sat in the rain. I'm not even joking you. Just one day for like 10 minutes to see what it felt like. And I'm like, "This is probably not going to be the case. But I just wanted to feel like every element. It might rain a few times."
I had no idea it was going to be monsooning. That showed me a second perspective. There's nothing in the world that can prepare you as much unless you've actually slept in monsoons for six days. For the entire time. In the rain. You can sit in the rain all you want but you have to sleep overnight in it one night. It's unbelievable. If it's pouring rain, you can't really get a lot done. It really threw a wrench in everybody's plan.
Reality TV World: Did you do anything mentally to prepare yourself for the game?
Ashley: I bought every single survival book under the sun. I'm not even joking. My mom laughed at me when I came home from Barnes & Nobles with 20 books. She goes, "You're never going to finish that."
Some of them were books on China. Some of them were books on how to speak Chinese on a basic level. I was trying to basically go through everything with survival skills. What do you do when you're trying to build a shelter. I kind of wanted to build a lean-to. Fei Long had a lean-to and it worked for them in the beginning because they were a little bit more covered than we were. Our structure was always a mess.
Reality TV World: During your first few days in the competition you said you were really sick. What was wrong and do you think you ever really fully recovered?
Ashley: I think I was in the rain that night. I woke-up with fever, vomiting and chills. I don't know what the heck it was, but it literally just passed right through me. I couldn't stop throwing up.
Once challenge time came I got it together. I was dying. I'm like, "I've got to get through this because it's the most annoying thing. How am I supposed to do anything?" So I'm like, "I've got to get it together. I know I'm going to get through this. So I've got to make sure it happens today and not tomorrow." Because if it goes in two days, I'm afraid I'm going to be more of a target. That would sort of question peoples' opinions about me.
But it only lasted one day. I came back and did the challenge perfectly fine.
Reality TV World: Do you think Steve "Chicken" Morris and Dave Cruser voting for your elimination at Zhan Hu's first Tribal Council was simply because you had been sick and were weak or do you think they viewed you as a threat?
Ashley: That's what I said to [fellow Zhan Hu members Jaime Dugan and Sherea Lloyd]. I said, "You know what? You know why Dave's doing this? Because it's the perfect opportunity for him to get rid of me quickly. He can use this as an excuse." He's threatened by me because he knows I'm an athlete, and he's going to use this -- one day of me getting sick -- to get me out of it. He'd use anything he can to get rid of me quickly.
Reality TV World: Why did you vote for Peih-Gee Law instead of Chicken at your first Tribal Council? You were the only one to vote for her.
Ashley: Jaime and Sherea came-up to me to form an alliance while I was sick, which I thought was awesome. I didn't even care who wanted to have an alliance with me at that point. If I was sick, and they were asking, then they obviously wanted me around.
So I said, "Yeah. Heck yeah." Then I said, "Well we'll start talking about who we want to vote off." Peih-Gee, I think she noticed a little bit that we were palling around a lot, like me and Jaime and Sherea just hanging out non-stop. And Peih-Gee kind of felt like, "Ooh! I wonder if they're making sort of a team." She kind of wanted in. Peih-Gee cries whenever every time we lose a challenge. She cries at a bunch of stuff. Then she's saying she wants to be a leader. I didn't feel like that was leadership skills, but anyway to get back to the beginning, she was not good at challenges. She's small. Not athletic at all. Can't really lift heavy rocks or do work with bamboo or anything. I need manpower to build a structure...
Chicken going first... I understand he's really annoying people, but voting off somebody when you already have a weaker team. We don't even have a structure built. Hey, you want to vote him off next week when our structure's built and we've already used him to build the roof? You know what I mean? Have him do some heavy-lifting and some challenges that require physicality...
I just thought it was a bad choice. And they were like, "No! Come on! Chicken's done this and Chicken's done that! Please, please please!" And I'm like, "No, let's just go." I knew they were going to vote for Chicken, but I was just like, "Honestly?" I wanted them to change their minds. I mean I understand, I'm sick of him too.
Then the next day I'm like, "Hey! This is why. Now do you see where we are?" They're like, "Yeah." Only to find out, once the end of the show came for me, I was in the same boat with Dave.
Reality TV World: You didn't seem to happy when Dave and Peih-Gee nominated themselves for a leadership role. Was that the case?
Ashley: I shook my head because Dave was already the leader and he's sitting there like a moron trying to pretend like, "Well, if I have to be the leader than I will." Are you kidding? From the moment we got out there you started this leadership position.
Reality TV World: So you think Dave was already Zhan Hu's leader before that Tribal Council?
Ashley: Yeah! He's trying to be like, "If you guys really need me to be, I will." Bull crap. You did whatever you wanted... He's working everybody. He's messing with them, and I think that's going to come through in the next episode.
Reality TV World: You and some of the other Zhan Hu tribe members were adamant about eating before Dave's fire pit was completely built. What was the food and water situation like while you were at camp?
Ashley: We were all basically dehydrated. I mean I hadn't eaten anything in six days now. Six days is a long time. [Fellow Zhan Hu member Erik Huffman] was tired. Erik was a work horse... like he's exhausted. Everybody was laying around. You could see what it was like for us on Day 6. Everyone was just standing under that little shelter thing that sometimes protected us from the rain. Everyone just had defeat in their eyes. Everyone just lost a lot of heart.
Reality TV World: Did you guys ever finally eat a hot meal?
Ashley: No, when we had the opportunity to because it actually stopped raining for five minutes. It's sunny out, for the first time we have the potential ability to build a fire. Right now. And we're sitting here building the mega-BBQ pit of the century. You could roast a pig on it.
Reality TV World: Why didn't you, Jaime, or any of the other castaways that wanted to start a fire just pick up the flint and go start a fire? Did Dave have the flint?
Ashley: That's what I said. Dave had the flint, but he didn't want us to use it. As he was trying [to use the flint], he was chunking pieces off of it. We hadn't even started one fire yet and there's only half of the flint left. And he's worried we're not going to have any flint again if we use it all, and he doesn't want anybody else trying it until he's don't building his BBQ. And we're going, "Oh my God..."
Reality TV World: Seeing as how Zhan Hu has gone winless in challenges against Fei Long and you already touched upon this a little bit, but do you think the tribes were divided fairly?
Ashley: I don't think that I was on the weaker tribe. I like my tribe. I like Erik. I like Jaime. I like Sherea. I like [Michael "Frosti" Zernow]. Even Peih-Gee was cool sometimes. She just didn't belong there with us.
I liked my tribe. But I would have rather had [Fei Long tribe member James Clement, a gravedigger who could probably wrestle in the WWE]. I was like, "Oh no! I want James! Give me James!"
Reality TV World: Yeah, that's understandable. Do you think the fact that you're already a celebrity of sorts hurt or helped your chances in the game?
Ashley: I wasn't sure how it was going to play out. I was waiting to see. I was a little worried about it, because I didn't know how they were going to react. I was just going to say nothing if they didn't recognize me. But that didn't happen, they recognized me as soon as we were allowed to talk. I just made it no big deal and we went on talking about other stuff. Roll right through it.
I think when everybody's... There's a lot of things that don't matter when you're not eating, drinking or sleeping. I mean there's so many things that you can't even think about when that's going on. Lots of stiff was just like out of our heads. Pain... You know, you don't see those things.
Reality TV World: What was your tribe's reaction when Jeff revealed Survivor: China's "kidnapping" twist?
Ashley: I was so bummed out because I knew they were going to pick Jaime because they were thinking she's probably the one who will say the most. They were dead wrong. Jaime's smart as a whip.
Reality TV World: So Jaime didn't tell Fei Long anything about Zhan Hu, but when she returned from being "kidnapped" did she air any of their dirty laundry? What did she say?
Ashley: Totally. She told everybody about the other tribe, but she pulled Sherea and I aside and told us about the Hidden Immunity Idol. I was pretty interested in that (laughing).
Reality TV World: Were you surprised at the difficulties Dave had during last night's Immunity Challenge?
Ashley: Are you kidding? That's why he should've eaten the rice and not built a BBQ pit.
Reality TV World: And you think his poor performance in the challenge was a direct result of that?
Ashley: Absolutely. There you go. I don't know? Maybe he even tried to throw the challenge to get rid of me faster. I wouldn't be surprised. It's one or the other, I can't pick.
Reality TV World: You already touched on this a bit but you commented how you thought Dave was going to "shoot himself in the foot." What did you mean by that?
Ashley: He already has. I honestly think that... It was a close call for him whether he realizes it or not. He thinks just because he got our tribe to vote me out that he's safe. Are you kidding?! They were debating whether the vote that they cast should be you. He doesn't realize that. Of course he doesn't because they're not saying that to him.
They were torn. They didn't know what to do and they ended up getting rid of me because I think they were scared to get back to camp without Dave because of his proclamation that he's the only one who can build fire now.
Reality TV World: So you think they fell for what he's been feeding them?
Ashley: Again... He's just being manipulative. I don't think it's going to last much longer. They're not that stupid.
Reality TV World: So last night's Reward Challenge was a physical one. During that second round, there was one point were it looked like Fei Long member Jean-Robert Bellande gave you a pretty rough-looking slam of some kind. How did you like the challenge? It seemed like you were in your element.
Ashley: I was pumped for the challenge. Once I got there I was like, "This is something I can do." Then I was like, "Wait a minute. You're allowed to pull people's clothing off or something?" Not cool. I'll clothesline her, but I'm not going to take my time taking off her top. She won't care.
So I went straight for [Fei Long member Leslie Nease] and dumped her to the ground pretty hard. And then I was like, "Oh. That's a Christian radio show host." I feel terrible (laughing).
I went after Jean-Robert. I was actually holding him back for a couple minutes, which was shocking because he outweighs me by like 200 pounds. For a minute I'm holding him back, and he's not able to push the [ball], and he gets frustrated and he finally catches his footing. He tried to throw me under the water and hold my head down. I'm like [takes a deep breath]... I'm screwed.
Reality TV World: You were voted off in a "unanimous" 6-1 vote. Why did you decide to wait until Tribal Council to discuss the problems you had with Dave? Did you do any campaigning before leaving camp?
Ashley: I did. Of course I did... I told Sherea. I told Erik. I asked Frosti what he was doing. I talked to Jaime a million times. Like I told you, that was what we were talking about. We were like, "Should we vote Dave off or should we vote Ashley off." There was a lot of talk about that.
Reality TV World: Dave said he was confident he wouldn't be going home. Were you confident he'd be eliminated instead of you??
Ashley: I mean Tribal Council had to happen because everybody was so torn. They were crazy to speak freely in-front of Dave. I heard all their gripes about Dave. That's why I'm saying I believe Dave ain't gonna make it much longer because I know what they said. You guys will see...
Reality TV World: You seemed to form a pretty close relationship with Jamie. Why do you think you two hit it off so well?
Ashley: I never was surprised I liked her. She really brightened up the tribe. I liked her. Just being around her, she's funny, she's smart... I'd be friends with her out in real life. I am. Sherea too, I really liked Sherea. Erik's a great guy, I liked him too.
Reality TV World: Is there anyone you would really like to see win?
Ashley: I would like to see Jaime, Erik... even Sherea. I have a feeling [Fei Long member Todd Herzog] is going to do well.
Reality TV World: I think I already know the answer to this, but anybody you don't want to see win?
Ashley: Of course. It's Dave.
Reality TV World: What was the story behind that flood at your camp? Did you build your camp in the low ground? Did you move anything after that?
Ashley: There was like so much flooding. It was really bad.
Reality TV World: Was it still flooded when you left for Tribal Council?
Ashley: Yeah. It lasted forever. It was not going away. We were building trenches trying to drain the water out. Not working.
Reality TV World: Was there anything you expected to see on the broadcasts that CBS didn't show?
Ashley: Yeah, a ton of stuff. But you realize that there's a very short period of time that they have to cram three whole days into. Not a lot of time. I mean there's a lot of stuff that happened.
Reality TV World: Like strategy stuff? You guys having fun?
Ashley: Yeah. It didn't show that me and Sherea knew about Jaime's Immunity Idol [clue]. Thy didn't show a lot of stuff. I understand TV though. Three days, they have to cram it into an hour-long show, everything's not going to be in it. They make executive decisions on what has to be in it.
Reality TV World: So what's next? What are you doing now? Back to the WWE?
Ashley: Absolutely. The WWE is my home. I can't wait to get back and get back in the ring.