It was bound to happen sooner or later. Last week, Survivor: Palau's Stephenie LaGrossa — sole survivor of the Ulong tribe — fell victim to the tight-knit Koror alliance. Here, TVGuide.com asks the 25-year-old pharmaceutical rep all about Janu's sacrifice, which players were real stinkers and if, as we suspect, she threw some immunity challenges.
TVGuide.com: Do you feel like a good role model for women?
Stephenie LaGrossa: Now I do. I didn't know I was going to be popular or even well-liked. I thought maybe I'd come off as a bitch because I am so honest and competitive.
TVG: How did you feel about Janu quitting to save you?
Stephenie: Janu was going to quit no matter what. I don't think she did it to save me. When [we both] realized at tribal council that it was going to be me [voted off], that's when I got upset. And Janu was like, "I'm so fed up with this." She was so sick and just really wanted to be out of the game. I'm grateful that she did that and proud of her because she stood up for herself.
TVG: You seemed very savvy about the gaming aspects of Survivor. Are you a fan?
Stephenie: Huge Survivor fan. I know the game pretty well, or at least I thought I did. I know that the strongest usually go, but I'm so competitive... I couldn't sit back and act like I'm not trying my best.
TVG: So you didn't throw the fruit-tossing immunity challenge?
Stephenie: No! I was really trying.
TVG: This viewer thought for sure that you were just pretending to be weak.
Stephenie: No. I needed that immunity. But I was just so not good at throwing coconuts.
TVG: But you had no problem in any other aiming-oriented challenges...
Stephenie: [Sighs loudly] Well, you are not good at everything, I guess. Coconuts are not my thing. With the shooting one [earlier this season], I had no idea what I was doing — that was like an angel sitting on my shoulder. Some people thought I threw the [underwater breath-holding] one, too. Really, no. The water came in. I think the [cage] bars were uneven. They do try to make the challenges as fair as possible. But I did not throw any challenges. I contemplated throwing the fire one [against Bobby Jon] because I was so afraid of going back [to camp] by myself. [But] I was like, "Hell, no, I'm winning!"
TVG: What were you thinking on that night you went back to camp all alone?
Stephenie: I just thought, "This cannot be for real. They are not going to leave me on this island by myself." I really thought I was going to be alone until I eventually lost to somebody on Koror and then all of Ulong would have been conquered.
TVG: It was impressive that you were able to row that boat home alone.
Stephenie: It wasn't that hard, because the current was going with me. If that current goes against you, you are in big trouble. When I jumped off the boat in the beginning of the game, it was going the other way and I was going backward when I was swimming. That was terrible.
TVG: Are you proud that you outlasted all of your Ulong tribe mates?
Stephenie: I am. I have no regrets. I did the best I could do under the circumstances. I was on the worst team in Survivor history! I outlasted them and then I went to Koror and didn't get voted off [right away]. I'm obviously not happy with the outcome. I wanted to be the sole Survivor.
TVG: How do you feel about the Ulong tribe?
Stephenie: When I think of Ulong, I cringe because we lost so much. Some people dealt with loss better than [I did]. They were like, "It's OK, we'll get 'em next time." But it's not OK, we just lost! Let's discuss why we lost and make it better. We never [did that]. It was all about, "We're macho and muscular and we'll be fine." But we needed some brains, and we couldn't get that.
TVG: Who did you consider Ulong's leader?
Stephenie: I personally didn't think that we had a leader, but [some] people have said James was leading the tribe. [Makes a scoffing noise] Yeah, he was verbal, but he wasn't a leader. I tried to lead, but by example. I didn't want to be outspoken and be the bigmouthed leader. I would say, "What do you think about this?" And people would come to me and say, "I think we're going to vote this person off." And every vote went my way. I think I had a little bit of an impact.
TVG: Host Jeff Probst told Ian to clean up because he reeked. Did he really smell that bad?
Stephenie: We all smelled that bad. Ian just looked that bad because he had blotches of dirt stuck to him. But Greg scrubbed his back, and he did such a great job. That was so funny. [Smirks] I was thinking, "Coby is missing this right now." He would have died laughing at them. But Ian's hair was all stuck together. Bobby Jon and him — it was a toss-up for who was the dirtiest. But we all smelled. I think we just got immune to the smell.