Love him or hate him, Russell Hantz has been one of the strongest players on Survivor: Samoa all season. Thanks to his aggressive tactics and knack for finding hidden immunity idols, the Texas millionaire seemed poised to coast through to the finale. Unfortunately for Russell, Monica Padilla's final day on the island was also her strongest. Monica not only threatened to sway the jury against Russell, she also put fear into his closest alliances and exited the game with a bang. But with six contestants and two episodes, will it be enough? The 25-year-old law student talked with TVGuide.com about showing her more aggressive side, what could hurt Russell in the end and who she thinks will be the next to get burned.
TVGuide.com: Were you fully expecting to go home at tribal council or did you have hope that your talks with Mick, Russell had helped?
Monica Padilla: Every time you go to tribal council, you expect to go home or just plan to go home just to kind of prepare yourself. At that point, you have a slight little bit of hope that things may change in your favor. When it comes down to it, I was pretty sure I knew exactly how it was going to go down.
TVGuide.com: What prompted this new side of Monica we saw on the last episode?
Monica: I think in life, I'm a little bit more bold and outspoken than I tried to be on the show. I like to speak my mind and I knew going into the game that I would have to monitor that and keep my mouth shut. Men tend to get a little bit threatened by women who are in power positions and who make powerful moves like that. So I guess I tried to stay a little more under the radar given how much of a big mouth I can have. At that point, I knew I had nothing to lose. So, at that point, everything was just flying out of me, everything that I could possibly think of was just to stay in the game at that point. I think a lot of my personality and a lot more of who I am came out that last day.
TVGuide.com: Do you regret not showing that aggressive side of yourself earlier on in the competition?
Monica: I think it would have hurt me earlier in the game. The only thing that really hurt my game and made me go home as early as I did was underestimating the power of the hidden immunity idol and estimating when Russell might have it. Even so, I played it off to everyone that anyone of those four Foa Foas could have had it. That was a game-changing aspect of the game.
TVGuide.com: Do you think some of the points you brought up with players on the Foa Foa team will continue to have an effect in the last two episodes?
Monica: I definitely think they'll have an effect. I don't think there's a likelihood that there's going to be a final five or a final four so someone's going to have to get burned. I think that that's going to have a definite impact on what Brett can do and whether or not he can really work the cracks in that armor.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think Russell decided not to play his immunity idol at tribal council? There seemed to be a lot of tension at tribal council but he still didn't play it.
Monica: I think it was a cocky move on his part, coming in and wearing the idol. I think once he decided not to play the idol, if I were Mick, Jaison or Natalie, I think I would have regretted, at that point, not voting for Russell. That would have been the moment to take out the most aggressive player before he takes you out first.
TVGuide.com: Do you firmly believe what you told Russell about swaying the other votes against him in the jury?
Monica: I think the jury will most likely be against him, if he were to make it that far. He's burned a lot of bridges. I think that's the beauty of this game that I always loved, is just having enough strategy to where someone will respect it and not vote against it for you in the end. I think that that's something Russell basically underestimated and something he didn't go as much thought to that needs to stay in the game.
TVGuide.com: Do you think people finding out about Russell' fortune will affect the jury votes as well?
Monica: I definitely think it will affect the vote. Obviously, different people vote based on different virtues when it gets to that point in the game. That's what's so interesting about the jury is that you really just can't predict the outcome ... You make your decision based on your own personal values and your own priorities. For Russell, I think it's definitely going to hurt him. Some people might respect the fact that it's helped him go further in the game but I don't know if that's going to be enough to get him the vote, though,
TVGuide.com: Looking back, there were a few people who criticized the girls alliance in Galu, calling you the "90210 yoga club" for not competing enough. Do you regret any part of how you played the game or are there things you would do differently?
Monica: I think I would have made my alliance with Laura a little bit less obvious. She was someone that even to this day, I know I can put my trust in and I think we definitely had each other's backs from the beginning and there was an understanding. In the end, you align with people that you like and I think, in the end, that hurt me. I really think I should have made that a little bit less obvious.
TVGuide.com: At this point in the game, who do you expect or hope to see make it to the finale?
Monica: I would love to see Brett take it all, I think Brett and Natalie are probably my strongest contenders.
Who do you think will make it to the Survivor finale?