Too often, butting heads with a stronger player spells doom for reality show contestants. Such was the case for Survivor: Gabon's Paloma Soto-Castillo, who was very vocal about her dislike of fellow tribesman Ace. Even though her torch has been snuffed, Paloma chatted with us to tell us about her regrets, the experience and why she's "excited about the future." I was rooting for you and hoping your plan to vote out Ace would work. Why did your tribe mates decide to vote for you instead?
Paloma Soto-Castillo: They were all about the physical aspect of the game. They wanted to have a strong, physical tribe. I know Ace is one of the strongest members of the Kota tribe. They wanted to win as many challenges as they could, and the challenges had been very physical up to that point, so they knew they needed him. As much as they wanted him off because he was annoying, they wanted to keep him around for challenges. And they wanted to keep him happy so that he wasn't even more annoying. Going into tribal council, did you think you had a chance to stay?
Paloma: I 100 percent knew that I was going home, just from having conversations during the day, the whole eye-contact thing, people not looking at you. You can tell when you're going home because of the way your tribe members act toward you. Did Ace set you up by putting you in the brutal pole-hugging challenge?
Paloma: Ace was setting me up from the beginning when we did the ball challenge, and we needed someone to sit out after Michelle was voted off. I wanted to participate in the ball challenge because I didn't want to be that person who is perceived as the weak one who sits out challenges. When Jeff asked someone to volunteer, it looks like I just say "me," but it was actually a conversation we had as a tribe. I told them I wanted to participate and Ace was the first one to say, "You're the shortest person here. We need tall people because it's a big ball." Since the beginning, it was always "make Paloma look as weak as she can be." You said if Ace wins, you will never watch Survivor again. What is it exactly about him that you don't like?
Paloma: He's a very arrogant person. Ace is always trying to impress everyone with as many things as he can. He even admits to it, so it's not like I'm calling him out. There's just something about his accent, his aura, his persona. I just couldn't stand him. The pole challenge was one of the most brutal I've ever seen on Survivor.
When Ace decided I should be the one on the pole, I knew right off the bat that I was screwed. Were Crystal and Randy too rough?
Paloma: Crystal is probably the biggest woman I have ever seen in my life. Crystal alone could have dragged me across the sand in a second. When Jeff said "Go," there was a part of me that just wanted to run away. I was thinking, "I'm just going to get slaughtered. I'm going to get taken out of the game with a broken bone or a dislocated shoulder." It was really scary, but I did my best. I thought it was funny that my tribe had a little conversation about how I gave up so easily. But I don't remember giving up one single time. I struggled all the way to the finish line. Kota has now lost two challenges in a row and its first tribe member. What does Kota need to do to regain the momentum?
Paloma: As far as they're concerned, they probably feel like since they got rid of one of their physically weakest people, they're OK. But as much as Kota wants to pretend that everything is fine and dandy, within the tribe there are a lot of cliques and people that are just pretending to get along. Who is pretending to get along?
Paloma: I know Marcus, Charlie and Corinne really can't stand Ace whatsoever. Kelly and Sugar don't get along. Their personalities clash. Bob is probably the only one who gets along with everyone. He's chillin'. It's going to be interesting to see what happens with Kota. I wish them the best. Did anyone think to see if Sugar actually had the hidden immunity idol?
Paloma: Sugar was really a hard person to read. She was very emotionally unstable, and she had a legitimate reason to be. Her father had just passed away, but she would just cry about anything and everything. So when she was sent to Exile Island, it was never a topic of conversation among the tribe that "Oh, Sugar is on her way to finding the idol." It was just like, "Sugar is sitting there crying her eyes out." No one thought she got the idol. But it would have been smart for me to try and push the idea that she might have it and that we should flush it out. Knowing what you now know, how would you have played the game differently?
Paloma: In retrospect, I should have downplayed the fact that I didn't like Ace. I sort of separated myself from the tribe because, in the beginning, everybody seemed to like him. I should have tried being nicer to him and not made it so obvious that I didn't get along with him. It hurt me in the game, and it put a target on my head for sure. What was the overall experience like for you? Was it what you expected?
Paloma: It was nothing like what I expected it to be. It's a lot harder — you don't actually absorb it until you're out there living it. It was hard to have a strategy and play this crazy game that has so many different parts while struggling with all these things your body needs, like sleep and food. But it was really exciting and a very, very good experience. What are your future plans? You've lived in Kenya and have said that you want to return there and build an orphanage or a school. Is that still your plan?
Paloma: Yes. A lot of the Survivor family are very involved in charity events, and I am actually really excited about participating. Hopefully, I can put one together. There are other ways of making a million dollars to help these kids in Kenya. I'm excited about that, and I'm excited about what the future holds. Like I said in my closing statement, there is nothing bad that could have come out of this. I'm a happy camper.