Survivor's blond-haired, blue-eyed Kat Edorsson, a 22-year-old from Orlando, was quickly typecast as this season's fun-loving, ditzy, girl next door. But while she seemed like a carefree goofball to her tribe members, Kat was actually hiding a major secret: a traumatic history of heart-related health issues, including two open-heart surgeries.
"I've been in and out of hospitals my entire life," she says. "Everyone just assumed something was wrong with me, but I went out there and said 'I fell off a motorcycle and I got hit.' ... I didn't want anyone to think I wanted a sympathy vote."
The college student opened up to TVGuide.com about her decision to lie about her past, her shocking blindside and the strange habit she developed for the three months following the game.
TVGuide.com: You seemed completely caught off-guard by your elimination? Were you actually that surprised, or was it edited to look that way?
Kat Edorsson: That was the biggest blindside I've ever seen on Survivor. It was such a huge shock, and I was completely destroyed when that happened. I had no idea. Even Kim said, "This would be my best option." It was so much more beneficial during the entire show for Kim to bring me and Alicia [to the final three]. Because I wasn't going to win against Kim!
Was there any sense of relief about it being over?
Kat: I was devastated. Right when I arrived at Ponderosa and got out of the car, I completely collapsed into Troy's arms. That was my weakest moment. I was very upset. I was very bitter. I couldn't see past the fact that I protected these women and they still hurt me.
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How long did it take you to get over it?
Kat: I was so delusional for so long. I didn't sleep in my bed until three months later! I wanted to be back in the game so badly. I was like take me back! I want to go back right now!
Wait... you actually didn't sleep in a bed for three months?
Kat: When I got home I didn't sleep in my bed for three months! I slept on the floor. My mom spent so much money on this beautiful bed and down comforter and I wouldn't even touch it.
Was it hard for you to relive that when you watched the episode?
Kat: It's really hard for me to see. ... It was so painful. But I'm not angry now. Ultimately, I think they made the right decision by taking me out as soon as possible, because let me tell you, if I was in there I'd be kicking their ass.
A lot of people wrote you off as naïve and weak.
I'm not naïve. I just trusted and loved people that I thought were going to be there for me all the time. That's not naïve. I have more heart than anyone else in that damn game. In the next year, I'm going to be having another heart surgery. I've been very sick ever since I was born and I've had frequent open-heart surgeries... I've been in and out of the hospital my entire life.
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Were you surprised you were able to get cleared medically to go on the show?
Kat: Oh, of course! I was not even allowed to play Survivor because I'm not even allowed to go on a roller coaster. [Editor's note: A rep for CBS confirms that all contestants must be cleared medically before participating on the show]
I can't believe you managed to keep your medical past from everyone. Not one person knew?
Kat: Tarzan knew. Me and Tarzan had a lot of conversations on a father-daughter level. Tarzan knows how strong I am. I didn't disclose anything that had to do with my personal life to anyone else. I didn't want them to think I wanted a sympathy vote. That's the thing that I was really battling with. Everyone just assumed something was wrong with me, but I went out there and said, "I fell off a motorcycle and I got hit." I denied the entire time and the only person that knew I was lying was Tarzan.
Were you particularly close with Tarzan?
Kat: He's very deep. We had a special bond. Don't get me wrong, he's an old man and he gets really cranky. He did really know me and saw my true colors.
If given the chance, would you play the game again?
Kat: If Probst were standing in front of me, I would throw my phone and have him put me on a plane right now. That's not even a question.