Much like Survivor: Fiji 's previous eviction (of Erica), Sylvia Kwan's torch-snuffing last Thursday was pretty much caused by one false move. Whereas Erica freaked out in a challenge, Sylvia made the mistake of coming on too strong, too fast. But an ousting from this reality show didn't dampen the spunky 52-year-old architect's spirits for long. She was a bundle of entertaining energy when TVGuide.com caught up with her.
TVGuide.com: You came out of the gate as one of the strongest players.
Sylvia Kwan: Yeah, but then I went plbbbbbtt. Really fast.
TVGuide.com: Was your strategy going in to be a leader?
Sylvia: No!!! You learn in Survivor 101 that you never do that! [Laughs] My son and husband said, "Do the women chores, like get the firewood and get the water, and then just stay low." But then the first thing that happens is these plans [to build a shelter] show up, and I couldn't deny that I was an architect. I'd already told at least one person on the beach when we first landed. But I could, like, bang my head against the wall now. What I could have done was said, "Yes, I'm an architect, but is there a builder here?" And then Gary would raise his hand, and I'd say, "Great. I just draw these things, but you build them, so here's the whole set of plans and I'll help you in any way that I can." I should have stuck it to him. If he had finished that job as a leader, what would they have called him?
Sylvia: They would have called him a leader. And what did they call me?
TVGuide.com: Not such favorable things.
Sylvia: "Bossy." What was the difference there between him and me?
TVGuide.com: You're a girl.
Sylvia: Thank you! That's all I need to say about that. It is a man's world out there in Survivorland.
TVGuide.com: Plus, you had some bad luck. You were picked to split up the teams and then got sent to Exile Island, and then worst of all had to come back to the losing tribe.
Sylvia: Who hated me because I picked them as a losing tribe. Even now, they still think that I picked them [to be] the losing tribe on purpose, and that I wanted to be on a winning tribe. That doesn't make any sense. I divided them the way I did because of what Dreamz had told me. He said, "There are two leaders, Liliana and Rocky, and they've got an alliance of 10 people, but I'll come over to your side if you tell the nine about this. Oh, and by the way, they want to vote all you old people off." When he told me that, the only thing I could do the next day was to do it his way [and separate them] because no one had told me anything else. It was all about Dreamz, man.
TVGuide.com: I can't believe they called you old! I had to look up your age, because you do not look 52.
Sylvia: On the show I thought I kind of looked yucky, with no makeup.
TVGuide.com: Just like everybody else.
Sylvia: That's true, although some of the cute young ones still looked good. But what is interesting was that the young people didn't know how old I was. They just knew that I was older. For example, Cassandra is 10 years younger than me, but they of course said she was old. The rest of us [older people] are in our fifties, but somebody like Rita, who is 38 but looks 26, the dudes just immediately started trying to hit on her. There was this huge divide between the young people and the old people. The young people wanted to have a huge beach party, and we old folks were just getting in their way. I actually wanted to follow the plans and build the stupid shelter so the game could get started.
TVGuide.com: You didn't even get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Sylvia: Yeah. It wasn't done on the second night. Then I got booted off unceremoniously. It was just not pleasant for me.
TVGuide.com: Last week we saw you digging in the dirt looking for the immunity idol. Did anyone ask you what you were doing?
Sylvia: Well, they were looking at me and wondering what I was doing, but I have a feeling they must have known. Why else would I be sitting there playing in the dirt so long? I was there for two hours. I dug about 16 feet in one direction, by about 3 feet wide. It is supposed to be hidden under the threshold to the cave.
TVGuide.com: The clue said, "Dig deep," right?
Sylvia: Yeah, but I couldn't dig deep in the short time that I had. What I did was, whenever I got to native wild root — since there was a lot of wild ginger there — I'd just stop, because I knew they couldn't have dug below the native root. Every once in a while as a cover I'd throw out a bit of ginger and say, "Look, more wild ginger!"
TVGuide.com: Nice plan! You seemed surprised that the Ravu tribe lied about voting you out, but they did that last week to Erica. Isn't that just par for the course?
Sylvia: I know. In the deep, deep part of me I had a feeling it could go down the way it did. But on the surface they had told me that it was Anthony. If you saw the dig that Michelle and Mookie did at the end... I've got to replay that. Michelle didn't like me for some reason, but Mookie and I had a nice little friendship, so I want to see his face. Did he look sheepish?
TVGuide.com: I don't remember. I was too busy trying to figure out why Rita voted for Earl.
Sylvia: I have a theory on that. Rita said to me, "I am never voting for you," and in my mind I turned that into, "I'm voting for Anthony." But then she didn't vote for Anthony. So my thought is that she must have had an alliance with Anthony that I didn't know about and she didn't want to tell me about, clearly. She and Earl had some problems. Very quiet, though. Go back to Episode 1 and you'll see Earl kind of dissing her. If you put that together with her vote, you begin to see a pattern.
TVGuide.com: You're very good at all this Survivor analysis. I'm surprised you didn't make it further. Do you have a past contestant whom you really admire?
Sylvia: Believe it or not, I was modeling myself after Cerie [Survivor: Panama — Exile Island]. She was quiet, I wasn't as much of a couch potato as her, but I was definitely not strong and able to do a lot of things these young ones could do. Like that slip and slide for example. I figured if I could blend in, I would last longer, but that never had a chance to happen because of my own personality.
TVGuide.com: What did your sons say?
Sylvia: They were so mad at me. "Mom, we told you what to do, why didn't you listen?" And my husband said, "That's because she's being herself." I think to succeed you have to put your personality aside initially and play a role that you need to play. Maybe Earl really is a quiet leader and people listen. I don't know what he's like in real life. But Rita, who I got to know quite well, she was playing what I guess you would call a social game —except for with Earl. She wasn't getting mad at anybody and nobody was getting mad at her. She massaged everybody's egos.
TVGuide.com: I read that you learned to swim right before the show started. Were you able to keep up with everybody?
Sylvia: Before we landed on the island we were in the double-hulled canoe and all 19 of us were on it. Our side of the raft filled up with water and we capsized. This was the first time I had been in the ocean — the open ocean, not just at the beach. We had everything we owned for the next 39 days on us — canteens, shoes and everything. I fell in and immediately bobbed up because the salt water makes you so buoyant. I did not panic. I was very scared, but when you panic, that's when you drown. I just tried to kick a little bit. I didn't know how to tread water, and I still don't, but I was able to swim to the boat and was rescued by Earl who pushed my butt up into the boat. From that moment on I became exhilarated.
TVGuide.com: You took a potentially bad situation and turned it into a positive.
Sylvia: [Laughs] Well, on that front, anyway.
TVGuide.com: What's next for you? Aside from learning how to tread water?
Sylvia: Getting my diving certificate. I got about a third of the way through my scuba-diving certificate in Fiji afterwards. Can you believe that, [coming] from not being able to swim and being afraid of the water? But all of my clients are happy and want to talk to me, and I'm getting new clients and great projects. If other things come up, I'd love to do it. You know, my own talk show or something. "The Asian Oprah" is what all my friends call me!
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