Monica, a returning Survivor: One World castaway and 42-year-old former NFL wife and homemaker from Tampa, FL, received only one vote in the season's final jury voting results, which Survivor host Jeff Probst revealed during the broadcast.
Veteran player Tyson, a 34-year-old former pro cyclist and shop manager from Provo, UT, seemed to receive all seven of the other jury votes, winning the $1 million grand prize. Returnee Gervase Peterson, a 43-year-old cigar lounge owner from Philadelphia, PA, also made it to the Final 3 but failed to receive any jury votes.
During a Monday conference call with reporters, Monica talked to Reality TV World about her Survivor: Blood vs. Water experience. Below is the first half of Monica's interview. Check back with us later this week for the concluding portion, as well as additional interviews with the rest of the season's finale castaways.
Reality TV World: Did you ever really come close to turning on Tyson and Gervase, and if so when?
Monica Culpepper: No I didn't and here's why. I think it would've been the dumbest move in Survivorhistory to flip on Tyson and Gervase, because I know what was happening out there and it was this: If I break them up and go with [Hayden Moss] and [Ciera Eastin], I'm not Final 3 with them.
Most likely, Ciera's mom [Laura Morett] is tearing it up on Redemption Island and she's coming in and those three are going to be Final 3, or, I now just made the biggest move in the game in breaking up Tyson and Gervase.
I've won three individual immunity, I'm the most selfless player out there -- that's what Hayden had told me -- and I'm thinking now, "I've become the biggest target and I'm out fifth!" And so, in my mind, I'm thinking, "You've got to be in it to win it and my best shot is to drag the gangsters to the end and hope that the jury sees the merit and the social maneuvering that I played."
Hayden's busy saying, "You're a lap dog!" And at Tribal, it's really like, "Hey buddy, who's zooming who here?!" I think, "You're the lap dog! You need me right now!"
And I hoped that the jury would find that playing an honest game, not breaking promises, putting myself in a position socially that it came [down] to me in the last Tribal Council, I mean, whoever is given that reward and plays so hard socially, they're going to the Final 3 whichever way they put it.
I fell short of that, but at least I took people to the end that I felt like, "If I don't win, I'm genuinely happy for Tyson or Gervase to cash the million-dollar check." And I still feel that way now. They didn't personally attack me, they didn't do things that hurt me to the core, and for that, I'm so proud that I was with them.
Reality TV World: How much of an impact do you think Tyson's hidden Immunity Idols had on the season and gameplay? Obviously we saw at the Final 5 Tribal Council he had individual immunity and gave his hidden idol to Gervase, and it sounds like that didn't really have any impact on why you decided against teaming up with [Tina Wesson] and Ciera. But do you think his idols had any earlier impact?
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Monica Culpepper: Okay, the first idol he played was the only time I considered dumping Tyson. He and Gervase and I had made a pact where we were saying, "Final 3, let's not be seen by the light of day, three votes are hard to beat."
I sort of said, "I can kind of find out what the under-links are voting and doing, and we'll decide the night before what we want to do, and as long as the two things match, we're going to Tribal and we've got a good shot." Tyson played that idol and Gervase knew he had it, and they had not told me.
I was very upset, and I said, "Wait a minute. If we're a threesome here, why do I feel like a misfit? And that's not fair." And that was the first inkling I got. You know, Tyson's a snarky guy, and people say, "Oh, I can't believe she looked at him and said, 'Are you sure? Are you sure?'" Well, play the game with Tyson if possible, and you're not sure! As an audience, you're not sure.
So he played that idol and I thought about voting him out then and saying, "Let me get Ciera, let me get [Katie Collins]." And then I thought, "Let me go see more rounds." And the second idol he had, we had discussed it. He was giving it to Gervase to guarantee that the three of us made it to the Final 3.
So it wasn't even an option of going with Ciera and Katie. I knew he was playing the idol for Gervase. Ciera and Katie weren't voting me, and he was wearing the necklace. It was just my opportunity to get to spend some time with Ciera and Katie and tell them why, perhaps -- drop more seeds as to why I would've wanted their votes.
Reality TV World: During the jury questioning, Hayden said he felt the jury really didn't know much about you, which was kind of strange given obviously many of them had spent a significant amount of time with you at that point. Did that surprise you, or looking back, did you agree with that?
Monica Culpepper: It was shocking to me! It was shocking to me, and as viewers, you had to see, "You know what? There's some underlining tone with this woman that these people are jealous of or don't like or don't get." I did talk and they said, "She talks too much." So I quit talking and then they said they don't know me. So it was really -- I couldn't win with anything.
What you didn't see is, I mean, what you did see, no matter what I did -- and they did know me -- you know what it was? They never met anyone like me. And I think that's what bothered them, that the position that [Brad Culpepper] has worked so hard to put us in and that I've worked so hard to put us in, I'm one of those people that played the game and was really not motivated by the million dollars.
It really wasn't worth jeopardizing my integrity, the kids that I mentor in town, my own kids, the principal, the teachers, you know, we're so philanthropic and we're out there in Tampa. And so, it wasn't worth it to me to trample over people to get to it?
So I think they hadn't ever seen anyone like me, and maybe that came across as disingenuous then, but I had Hayden and [Kat Edorsson] on two different occasions. They stayed for about eight days and they get it, and Vytas Baskauskas too, and it's like, you know what? She is really nice! And who wouldn't be if they're married to Brad?!
We're having fun, we're really enjoying ourselves, andSurvivor was an awesome experience. Maybe I'm one of those people that just didn't go out there saying, "Hell or high water, I got to get to the million dollars and whatever it takes, whatever I need to do, I'm getting it!"
Reality TV World: But do you think you can't be as competitive if you're not interested in the $1 million? You can't just go all out for the title, and the pure competition of the show?
Monica Culpepper: Well, I mean, I don't know that there was a bigger competitor out there. I showed up to every single challenge. I won the food challenge. I'm the only woman in history to do it. I ate more cow eyeballs, pig intestines, grub worms, as this little old scrappy 43-year-old mom from Tampa.
I had more stones thrown at me than any player in the history of Survivor. They were throwing the "F-you Brad Culpeppers" from Day 3 on Redemption Island to the final Tribal that you saw. Have you ever seen somebody be such a battering ram and still hold in there and fight tooth, ears, eyes, and elbows to get to the end?
Reality TV World: I agree with that, which is why I was asking what the financial distinction was. What is the distinction then?
Monica Culpepper: I think it must've resonated in their minds too. And then, let's not discount this. Tyson played a good game! He did. He played a good game, and you never know with the jury.
It depends. If I'm on a jury like One World with all new players, I think I'd probably -- and I played the type of game I played -- I got a better shot at winning a game there, like that one perhaps, than a game with returning players. Returning players want to see big moves, they want to see big stomps.
I mean, for example, you listen to Jeff Probst at the final Tribal say this, "Ciera, arguably, you're here and made the biggest moves in the game. You were willing to draw rocks and you voted out your mother." Okay, those are big, huge moves, but if I'm playing Survivoragain, I'm voting her out first because she's totally unpredictable. You don't know what she's going to do.
You didn't. I mean, she flipped, she flopped and she flipped again. How do you trust somebody like that when you play Survivor? Yeah, that's epic gameplay and that's great TV ratings, but is that good Survivorstrategy? I don't know.
Above is the first half of Monica's interview. Check back with us later this week for the concluding portion, as well as additional interviews with the rest of the season's finale castaways.