Sally Schumann, <EM>Survivor: Panama — Exile Island</EM> Sally Schumann, Survivor: Panama — Exile Island
Sally Schumann tried out for four prior editions of Survivor before earning a spot on CBS'

Survivor: Panama Exile Island (Thursdays at 8pm/ET). Sure enough, her study of the series worked to her advantage. Having outlasted all of the La Mina women and leaving Terry to fend for himself against the six remaining Casayas, Schumann now serves as the second member of the jury that will crown the ultimate champ. TVGuide.com sat down with "Survivor Sal" the day after her elimination to get her take on her 24-day stay.

TVGuide.com: What's the reaction been like from your family since your elimination aired?
Sally Schumann:
Everyone has called or texted to say I did an awesome job and they're all proud of me. I went out of it OK with how I played it. It was really great to watch the show, because I came home with my interpretation of what happened, and when I saw it, it was a confirmation that I did everything I could.

TVGuide.com: What was it like being the last La Mina woman?
Sally:
It was great! I was very proud of that. I could have been the first to go, and I ended up outlasting all of the La Mina women and all of the men, except for Terry. One of the things I was happy about was that I never really had an alliance. Looking at all of the people who went out ahead of me, some of those people had an alliance and it was broken.

TVGuide.com: As the La Mina ladies left, did you find it difficult to keep your spirits up?
Sally:
Yes and no. I felt proud I surpassed those women. Misty and Ruth Marie were amazing, strong, charismatic women, and [when they left] I missed that, but I was still there, which was always my focus. I got annoyed and frustrated, sick of listening to all the sports talk and military talk [from the guys], but I still was OK.

TVGuide.com: The immunity idol has been so central to the last few episodes. What was it like when Terry first revealed it was in his possession?
Sally:
Gosh, I think they edited me out, because I was like, "You little s--t!" [Laughs] I kind of had an idea he had it, but I never fully believed he did. I had just gotten back from Exile Island, having dug holes for hours, and thought, "You couldn't have told me this yesterday?" He didn't have an alliance and was planning on voting me out before Dan, so he had no reason to tell me. And I dug a lot of holes!

TVGuide.com: In Episode 4, when Misty was voted out, you expressed your feelings of isolation. Did you feel the need to prove your worth to the men on your tribe at that time?
Sally:
I felt like if they wanted to accept me, they could. I wanted to prove myself by contributing to competitions, which I feel I did, and that's why they kept me over Ruth Marie. After that point, it was just a matter of winning the challenges, and I was going to do everything I could to do that, because I was the woman of the tribe, but also because that was going to save me. Once I went to exile and the merge, it was a whole new ball game. I really enjoyed the new personalities they were crazy and fun!

TVGuide.com: Was the Casaya camp similar to what we saw on TV?
Sally:
I felt more interest from some of those Casaya members to get to know me than the people with whom I spent the last 15 days. Shane and Cirie were very real, not forced. Danielle and Courtney were just like, "Oh, we missed you!" I was like, "Uh-huh." Aras didn't ever really talk to me. He was very isolated, but once we competed together, we started talking. I think Aras is awesome. But Shane and Cirie were the two people who embraced me. And Bruce was more excited to see me than my own tribe was!

TVGuide.com: When the tribes were first selected, you were the first person Terry picked. Did you have any idea you'd make it as far as you did?
Sally:
It was always a series of little goals "I don't want to get voted off first." "I want to be the last girl standing in La Mina." "I want to make it to the merge." The tribal council when Nick went home was the first tribal council I attended in which I wasn't just as positive that I was going home as I was about staying. Even when we'd win the challenges, [my tribe] would be like, "You know it would have been you tonight." Mentally, I had a very different game experience than some of the other people out there, which I enjoyed. It motivated the hell out of me.

TVGuide.com: Thinking back to last week's immunity challenge, how did you manage to hold your breath underwater long enough to memorize that puzzle?
Sally:
When I saw that challenge, I thought I was totally screwed, because they're all better swimmers than I am. I can swim, but I'm not as fast or as strong. But memorizing is one of my fortes. I told myself not to panic, even though they would come back [to the beach] first. I did stay out there for a while I should have stayed there for another 10 or 15 seconds but it wouldn't have mattered. I still could have won, because the other people didn't get it right away.

TVGuide.com: After last week's reward challenge, you earned the chance to see a video your family prepared for you. That must have been quite special.
Sally:
I never thought in a million years my mom and dad would be on it they don't like having their pictures taken  so that was unexpected and really nice. They didn't show my comments, but I was really excited to see them. I hadn't talked to them in a really long time.

TVGuide.com: You're the second member of the jury that will select this season's winner. Are there any particular conversations or interactions, positive or negative, that you'll keep in mind when casting your vote?
Sally:
All of them every single thing that I saw and experienced. Jeff Probst does such a great job at tribal of bringing stuff out, so I'm not going in blind. I really want to see Casaya unravel, and it has to happen at some point, but I'm going to get to hear about it at tribal council. Right now, I'm rooting for Terry, just because I have to send some props to my La Mina member. He's finally becoming the underdog.

TVGuide.com: Having tried out for a total of five seasons, how fun is it to actually make the show?
Sally:
It's so unbelievable. One of the first episodes I missed was one of the Guatemala ones, when I was flying to Panama. I would get goose bumps watching the show before I was on it and just hearing the theme song. They all started calling me "Survivor Sal," because I told them about that. They would ask, "Survivor Sal, is this the episode where we merge?" and I'd say, "Well, in Seasons 2 and 4...." That's where I got that nickname. [My experience] was everything I thought it could have been. How much would it suck if you tried out for five years, got on the show and were disappointed? I was blown away.

TVGuide.com: Being such a Survivor aficionado, what advice can you offer future contestants?
Sally:
The whole coming-up-with-your-strategy thing is great, but [you need to] come up with multiple strategies. Be yourself. That's what I did, and it was a great experience. I had a strategy, but I just went and enjoyed myself.

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