Forget The Apprentice. The real test of book smarts vs. street smarts played out on last week's Survivor: Palau, where the Ulong tribe's never-ending losing streak forced the remaining members to choose between the well-educated Kim Mullen and James Miller, an often unintelligible steel worker. The tribe opted to off Kim — a 25-year-old grad student from Ohio — because of her tendency to rest on her duff while others busted their butts. Here, she rings up TVGuide.com to defend her lazy ways and set the record straight about canoodling with fellow reject Jeff Wilson.
TVGuide.com: Where did you go wrong?
Kim Mullen: Let's see... Where did it go right? It started off good and then just went downhill. If I had done my part and won my match in the last immunity challenge, there is a probability that I could still be there because the guys were losing. But since I didn't, they chalked it up to what was going on at camp and what I am capable of, versus the others.
TVG: Were you actually able to do more and simply chose not to?
Kim: No! I did get firewood and boil the water, but I'm not going to be able to hack down a tree. Opening a coconut with a machete is [also] a lot harder than it seems.
TVG: You weren't just slacking off?
Kim: It wasn't that as much as I was really worn down. I was doing what I could do and it was just getting worse. If I had another chance, I would have physically prepared more beforehand. I was right in the heat of graduate school when I was getting ready to leave, so I was trying to get papers done, take tests and [I] was glued in front of the computer when I really wish I could have been glued to the gym.
TVG: Speaking of school, why are you learning Arabic?
Kim: I really wanted to be able to get both sides of stories [in the news] and just have access to a culture that I wasn't familiar with. By learning the language, I was able to open a whole new gate of understanding. I'm glad I did. I can click on sites and newspapers and read people's perspectives and kind of understand where the other side is coming from.
TVG: Do you plan to do something political when you get your doctoral degree?
Kim: Eventually, I would like to be a professor and do consulting work for international organizations and maybe write and do analytical work in the [political] news arena.
TVG: OK, sounds impressive. So why did you go on Survivor?!
Kim: [Laughs] Well, I like traveling and doing crazy things. I wanted to go live in exotic places. I mostly study the Middle East and Africa. With Africa, we study the beginning of time and forming tribes around water and the need for fire. It was so ironic because the entire time I was out there getting the fire going and being near the water, I kept thinking, "This is like my textbooks brought to life." It all really did make perfect sense.
TVG: Did your textbooks mention the backstabbing part?
Kim: No, they didn't talk much about the tribes backstabbing each other. And they didn't have these immunity challenges back in the day.
TVG: Were you surprised by some of the not-so-nice comments people made about you?
Kim: I think one of the biggest surprises was with the romance between Jeff and I — Stephanie seemed to be the biggest supporter of it. [She was] saying, "I'm not threatened by it" to our faces. To see her advocating [our] dismissal [on the show] was kind of surprising.
TVG: What was going on with you and Jeff?
Kim: It started off that we weren't sleeping and were up late chitchatting while everybody else was sleeping. And then it grew from there.
TVG: So you're just friends?
Kim: [Giggles] More than...
TVG: Think you'll date him now?
Kim: I'd like to, and we keep in touch. We'll see what happens.
TVG: So you liked Jeff. Was there anyone you really didn't get along with?
Kim: James. He didn't like me. He made it perfectly clear to my face that he did not like me.
TVG: Why? What did you do to upset him?
Kim: I picked him to be on the tribe; that is the worst I did. He didn't like the thing between me and Jeff. He pulled us aside individually and basically told us he didn't want us together and we shouldn't be talking — and that just escalated things and made it that much worse. He had it out for me.
TVG: What surprised you most about the game?
Kim: Losing so much. I didn't expect that we were going to lose and that I would be going home. Our whole tribe, the morale was going down. Everybody was getting ticked off about losing over and over again.
TVG: Do you think the Ulongs could make a comeback?
Kim: Everybody was getting ticked off about losing over and over again. I sure the heck hope they can pull some rabbit out of their hat. It would be nice, and I still am rooting for them all the way.
TVG: You're back at school now. Any plans to use your Survivor fame to pursue acting or modeling?
Kim: No. My goal [in doing Survivor] was to pay for school and pay off my loans. I didn't, so that is that.
TVG: Would you ever do anything like this reality-TV adventure again?
Kim: I would do this in a heartbeat. Definitely.