Michelle Schubert started off with a bang and went out with a whimper on Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X. After orchestrating Mari's blindside in Week 2, Michelle saw her own torch snuffed on Wednesday's episode, making her the first member of this season's jury.
Michelle adopted a strategy of "don't openly strategize" after the Merge, which she credits to sleep deprivation and poor advice from her ally Jay.
"My gut said, 'No, keep playing. I don't want to entrust my game to someone else for even one vote,'" Michelle tells TVGuide.com. "But my brain said, OK, that actually kind of sounds logical. I'll do that. And that was my downfall."
Read our full Q&A with Michelle to find out what exactly Jay told her, how the Millennials passed the time at their initial camp, and why none of the castaways confronted Taylor about stealing food.
TVGuide.com: How would you describe the dynamic after the Merge?
Michelle: At first, food. That was kind of the first priority of everybody, immediately. We're all very hungry. This is over three weeks in now and you haven't had much to eat at all. So, food was the biggest priority. But while you're sitting around, you're starting to talk to people and size people up, who's sitting closer to people than you are, where there's lines, if there are lines, and where there's rifts. And, I immediately found some good rifts that I could play off of.
What happened next was, my closest [ally], Jay, came to me and said said, "Hey, when I was on Ikabula, Michaela was telling the Gen Xers, Bret and Sunday, that you're a strategic threat, that you are controlling everything and can strategize with everybody. So, they're watching you. So maybe you should just chill and kind of relax for the first vote or two, prove her wrong, and then come out swinging." And in my sleep-deprived mind, I thought, "That sounds good, I'll do that." Really against my gut. My gut said, "No, keep playing. I don't want to entrust my game to someone else for even one vote." But my brain said, "OK, that actually kind of sounds logical. I'll do that." And that was my downfall, as soon as I stopped talking to people. And I really did. I kind of just went silent. I would talk about the weather or about whatever's going on, but I wouldn't strategize.
What that tells other people — and I should have known this from just my own experience in the game earlier - was, if somebody's not strategizing with you, they're strategizing with someone else. So, I think a lot of the people that I actually had friendships and actually had some trust with started losing it, because I wasn't strategizing with them. The only thought that they had - instead of seeing that I wasn't strategizing with anyone, they thought, uh oh, she's not strategizing with me.
Do you think Jay told you that in order to manipulate you, or was he giving you advice genuinely to try and help you out?
Michelle: No, I don't [think he was trying to manipulate me]. Jay was really, I think, the only one in the game that I could completely trust and that I knew wouldn't write my name down, at least until final five or four. Me and him were playing a good game. ... The only people that voted with me were Jay, Taylor and Will. So, yeah, he was really thinking that this would be the best idea.
You made some big moves early on but then said later that you felt like you got too comfortable. Is this what you were referring to?
Michelle: I don't know if it was being too comfortable. It was just unfortunately taking bad advice. I think I had laid back too much - not to say that I was too comfortable, but laid back on purpose, feeling uncomfortable about it. That's what I didn't feel good about. I didn't feel good about the fact that I wasn't the one seeing people's faces when I was strategizing with them, and I wasn't the one seeing people's faces and their eyes when they said, "Yeah, let's vote out Adam." That was the first and only vote that I trusted other people to do my relationship strategy. And that was the one that I had to just sit back and hope that it went my way, and it didn't.
So would you say that was your biggest regret about playing the game?
Michelle: Yeah, for sure. Really my biggest regret, or maybe even only regret, would be going silent at the merge. I think the more you talk in this game, the better you do.
Do you regret your decision to advocate for Adam when they were talking about targeting him?
Michelle: No. I honestly think if we didn't go for Adam, if we would have gone for Chris, for instance, I think the vote would have gone our direction. And I almost pressed for that, but again, I was trying to sit back and look like a docile, little innocent doe, and look like I wasn't a threat. I voiced it at first. I couldn't help but say, "You guys, that's stupid. Come on. This is an emotional move, not a strategic one. Let's see what we can do other than this." And then, there was pushback from them and at that point I said, "OK, you guys do what you want."
Let's talk about Taylor stealing food. You guys didn't seem that upset about it at Tribal Council, but was that a bigger issue among the tribe than we saw?
Michelle: Everybody was upset about it, and the weird thing is, when you're in this situation, nobody wants to be the one to stand up and say something negative. Nobody does. And unfortunately, that's what happened. Everybody saw what he was doing. I didn't see that he was stealing food, but we all saw him eating food in the middle of the night multiple times. In fact, I might have yelled to him at one point, "Taylor, stop eating, go to bed." I think I said something like that. But nobody wanted to, in a sense, be the bad guy. Because the second you stand up, either people are going to side with you or him. And everybody's a little too nervous to draw that line so openly.
Was there any talk about voting Taylor out purely for revenge?
Michelle: Not to me. Like I said, I didn't do any strategy talk after Day 1 of the Merge because I was thinking that was the best strategy. And because of that, I didn't hear what was going on. I wish I would have. I wish I would have had more open ears and an open mouth about that, because it would have been easy to go one of two ways, either rally a Chris vote or jump on a Taylor vote and pull myself through.
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You mentioned sleep deprivation playing a role. I think one of the hardest aspects for people who watch Survivor at home to appreciate is the physical, mental and emotional toll that the game takes on you. As a result, how different was your game between Week 1 and last night's episode?
Michelle: The hardest thing for me was being cold at night, and not because I don't like being cold - I don't - but because I couldn't sleep. I would get about three hours of sleep a night, and the other parts of the night I was up getting firewood to put on the fire to try and stay warm enough to sleep another hour or whatever. It was awful. I don't know how other people are, but sleep deprivation for me, especially ongoing, really messes with my mind, my ability to think and talk and process. And so, it wasn't even the food. Yeah, your body is kind of aching when you do stuff, simply because of starvation. But your body surprisingly has more fuel in the tank, some reserves somewhere. But the sleep for me...
I remember that final day, I was sitting on the beach, and I remember trying to add simple math in my had. I had two single-digit numbers I was trying to add up. I was trying to add seven plus four and, how close to that is 13? Trying to just see, if the vote doesn't go my way, which way is it going to go? And I couldn't do it. I couldn't add seven plus four. And so I stopped and I said, OK, well, what about four plus seven? OK, well, what about if I count my fingers? And I would lose track. I just simply could not think.
And of course, I think that led to my incorrect thinking that being silent about strategy is going to help. How is that going to help your strategy game? It's not. And that's clear to me now, and it would have been clear to me in Week 1. But at that point, I was not thinking straight. I think a changer in the game would have been just simply if I had had a long sleeve shirt or a light jacket or something ... I think I could have actually slept and actually continued with a clear mind.
Would you play again, if given the chance?
Michelle: I think I would, yes. There's no hesitation within myself. I think it would be great. It would be fun. It would be interesting. Well, not fun. That's not exactly the word. The experience as a whole is fun, but the experience itself is not. But it's so interesting. There's nothing like it. So, yes.
Was there anything that got cut from the show that you wish viewers would have seen? Michelle: I wish that you could have seen the dynamic at the Millennials camp a little more, a little clearer. We would have our own fake Tribal Councils around the campfire at night. We would make huge bonfires down on the beach and play charades. It was really like a group of friends hanging out. So, yeah. That's just a fun memory in my head. Whether or not it'd be helpful to the show, I don't know, but it was definitely fun and a fond memory I have that I wish I could have relived.
Who do you think is the biggest threat going forward?
Michelle: I think the biggest threat is clearly Jay. He's shown himself as a strategic threat. He showed, with me, how he's able to flip votes, even in the Michaela vote too. He showed how he can strategize. He can pull people together. And he has an idol now. He's good at challenges. And he's a great liar.
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on CBS.
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