The secret advantage that Michaela Bradshaw missed spotting on Survivor: Game Changers a few weeks ago came back to bite her in a big way this week. Eagle-eyed Sarah Lacina — who swooped in to grab the clue Michaela overlooked while she was stewing about not participating in a challenge — used the vote-steal to out-maneuver Michaela's closest ally, Cirie, and send Michaela to Ponderosa.

As has become par for the course this season, it was a Tribal Council of epic proportions, featuring yet another last-minute scramble by the castaways to decide whose torch would be snuffed. Fortunately, we were able to catch up with Michaela to break down all the drama for us. She also touched on her bonds with Cirie and Zeke, why she felt hurt by some of her tribemates' comments about her, and the hard lesson she learned after missing that secret advantage opportunity.

First, what was all the whispering at that Tribal Council last night? Break down what happened for me.
Michaela:
Basically what happened is, Cirie was trying to save Sarah by voting for Tai, but she came up with the most elaborate scheme to do so, and it freaked Sarah out, because it made Sarah feel like Cirie had turned on her and was trying to send her home. ... She rightly believed that Cirie and myself are a pair. So, the idea that Sarah had initially, she walked up to Tai and told him to vote for someone. In retrospect, I believe that name was me. And then, Tai did not want to vote for me. So then Sarah realized that she couldn't trust Tai in this vote.

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Then it became this all-out thing of, who's going to get Sarah's vote and this extra vote that she had? So you had Cirie trying to convince Sarah that she wasn't really trying to vote her out. You had me trying to keep Sarah from thinking that, if you're trying to get at Cirie, come for me. Then you had Brad and Troyzan, who see an opening for themselves in the game. So, they're trying to convince Sarah to go against myself and Cirie, because that puts them in a three with Sarah. And, it's just this whole back and forth thing, and most of the names get tossed up, but my name is the one that ends up getting landed on. So, I got sent home.

Were you surprised that it was you? Did you think Sarah would go after Cirie instead?
Michaela:
In the moment, if you would have [asked] me, when it was time to vote, did I think I was going to get votes? No. But if I was thinking, should I have known? Yes. So, hindsight is definitely 20/20. But no, at that moment, I was just like, this doesn't make sense. It's too much drama. Let's just get this over with. I want to go home. Not home, but I want to go back to camp. But, when I saw my name pop up the first time, I knew it was going to be me.

So why were you waving Troyzan away when you and Cirie were talking to Sarah? Just to keep him from complicating things further?
Michaela:
Yeah, trying to calm Sarah down, because now she's got two votes in a tricky game. Look, here's the thing. If Cirie is sitting here verbally telling Sarah, "I was trying to vote Tai," what that now means is Tai is not going to vote with Cirie. And, if I'm seen as a person that's in this game with Cirie, that means now Tai's not going to vote with me. I'm just out. So, the last thing I need is Troyzan coming over here and complicating this situation. [Laughs] We already had Brad over here. It was a mess.

Was Cirie definitely telling the truth about using the vote steal to save Sarah and vote out Tai? I can see why Sarah didn't believe her.
Michaela:
Yes. Yeah, it was 100 percent true. It was the dumbest way to go about that, but it was 100 percent true.

Tell me about your alliance with Cirie. It was really nice to see you guys form such a strong bond out there.
Michaela:
The bond that I had with Cirie was so real and so genuine. And it goes to show how important it is for people of similar backgrounds to be in this game. ... It's not just about having people of different races. The thing about me and Cirie is, deeper than our skin color, we have a shared life experience. I have relatives that are like Cirie. Cirie looks at me and can understand me because she was like me when she was my age. And that's a bond that I'm not able to have on a social level with other people in the game, unless they were raised in a neighborhood like I was raised in, around people like me. And that one bond of a shared background is what gave me the opportunity to stay in this game, particularly past that first vote at the merge. Because if it wasn't for Cirie, I would have been the first one on the jury.

It just goes to show, one, it was wonderful just to have someone who understood me and wasn't intimidated me or threatened by me, because she knew people like me. That was amazing to have. But two, it was also really great to be able to trust someone on a deeper than game level. So, I appreciate Cirie. I also really appreciate Sandra. You didn't get to see much of that, the first half of the game, but Sandra saw her daughters in me. And, I needed Sandra. I could have gone home when JT went home. But it was that background-based bond with Sandra that kept me in the game as well. So, that was where that alliance came from. It's literally the importance of that shared connection of a shared background.

During the loved ones episode, it was very obvious how close you are to your mom, so it must have been nice having those two women out there as mother figures.
Michaela: Yeah, they were my Survivor moms. [Laughs]

Another person you seemed close too was Zeke. You were really upset after he was voted out, and he said that you guys had really bonded after playing back-to-back seasons together.
Michaela:
Yeah, exactly. That's what made it so hard. That was the reason for the tears at the Zeke vote. I'm not a fake person at all. The last thing I could do was fabricate tears. But, again, there haven't been many people to have played back to back. And for me and Zeke, we spent nearly five months, almost half of a year, away from everything in life. For me, I didn't have a place to stay at that time. I was in a relationship, but I didn't know where the relationship was going. Like, how can you be with somebody but you're not with them for five months? Everything in your life is up in the air, and Zeke and I connected about that. Even when we weren't talking, sometimes we could just sit next to each other and we knew the feelings. So, that particular bond.

But then also, the thing I respected about Zeke so much is, when almost everybody in that game counted me out and talked down to me and just kind of treated me a strange way, Zeke and Cirie were two people who 100 percent did not do that, and they made me feel valued. They'd have open conversations with me. Even if they couldn't divulge an entire strategy with me, they spoke to me like I had intelligence and they recognized who I am, as a human with value. And I appreciated that, and so it was really hard for me to turn my back on Zeke for money. That is what hurt me. But, we're not out here for fun. We're out here for money.

I want to get to the other tribe members in a minute, but physically and mentally, how difficult was it to play back-to-back seasons?
Michaela:
It took a lot of toll on the mind. It was a lot of mental exhaustion. The benefit that I had was, I didn't make the Merge [in Millennials vs. Gen X]. So, the wonderful thing about the Merge is it was new and fresh to me. But at the same time, at a certain point, you just get tired of the lying and the backstabbing. That's foreign to me. That's not fun. So, it was a lot. It was very wearisome and tiring. And coming out of the game, it's a lot to piece yourself back together after that experience. But, I'm so grateful to have had the chance.

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You said after the vote last night that you'd be up for coming back a third time. Is that still true?
Michaela:
Yeah. Just when I'm older and wiser and a little more calm. [Laughs] Not right now.

In the edit, your other tribemates were very open about the fact that you were seen as difficult around camp. Were you surprised by some of their comments?
Michaela:
I think the producers did a marvelous job of showing my social experience in that game. People were harsh. It's funny — at the beginning, I was watching the little people's comments and stuff like that. Looking at Tony saying, "Oh, Michaela's scary," and Caleb saying, "Oh, Michaela's this." And J.T., "Oh, Michaela's lazy," blah blah blah. Even though no one's actually seen any evidence to justify all these things that people are saying. It's like, oh, well, certain people have the authority to say this is true. Then it's true. Then it's my job to be guilty until proven innocent and work on getting out of this hole that other people dig for me. But, that's an experience that a lot of people have in life. So, I thought it was a really wonderful thing that this show that's meant to be entertainment was able to highlight the actual experience of a lot of people. That's my experience in, like, trying to have a job. [Laughs] As a young professional, navigating that type of environment, and learning how to be just enough, but not too much.

Some episodes really did hurt. To hear Sierra talking about me, that really hurt for some reason. And I knew she didn't like me, but I didn't know why. Just to see it. Because in the game, you try to get in your own head and say, "No, it's not that she doesn't like me. I didn't do anything to her. Maybe I'm just reading her face wrong." Then it's like, naw. Nah. [Laughs]

Well, if it makes you feel better, she told me she thought you guys would probably get along in real life, just not on Survivor. So maybe that's true.
Michaela:
Maybe. I don't know.

Let's talk about the secret advantage you missed during that reward challenge? What was your reaction when you saw how that played out?
Michaela:
[Laughs] So, I've been waiting for that [episode]. I knew about the advantage, because it's how I got voted out. Sarah straight-up told me, "Hey, Michaela, you didn't see the advantage, and I went over there and got it, and this is what it said." So I knew, and I wasn't mad at Sarah about her having the advantage. I was just like, oh, Michaela. God smiled on you in this game. You had an opportunity, but because you had an attitude, you weren't able to capitalize on it. So I looked at that as a lesson learned the hard way for myself. But, I wanted to see that episode, so I could see how close that thing was to me. And, to know that I bent down to tie my shoe and it was, like, one inch from my pinkie finger?! Girl, I was like, ooh, Michaela, you can't be mad anymore. So now, every time I go to work, I've got a good attitude, just in case there's a secret advantage in the hallway.

And next time you play, I'm sure you'll be scouring any board you happen to be standing on for a secret advantage.
Michaela:
Yeah, and I'm going to get Lasik too. [Laughs]

Going into next week's finale, who do you think has the best argument for being Sole Survivor at this point?
Michaela:
I think there's a couple people with a couple different arguments, but I believe that in a season called Game Changers, the person who changed the game the most is the one who should win the game. The person who made the moves — whether they were smart or not - but they made the moves and found a way to stay in the game long enough to get to the end, that's the one I think should win a million dollars.

Who of the remaining contestants meets that criteria for you?
Michaela:
Ooh, girl. I can't tell you. I'm going to have to let you wait and see.

Any final thoughts on last night's episode or the season in general?
Michaela:
I enjoyed it. I think it was awesome. I had a great time, and I'm looking forward to seeing all the lovely faces at the finale next week.

Survivor: Game Changers' two-hour finale / reunion special airs next Wednesday at 8/7c on CBS. Who do you think will win?

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