After becoming one of the first villains in Survivor history on The Australian Outback and her "damaging" experience on All-Stars, Jerri "The Black Widow" Manthey returned to the game for Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains a changed woman. Although she made it to the final four, Jerri fell short of the final Tribal Council after losing the last immunity challenge to Russell Hantz. Manthey spoke with TVGuide.com about how her strategy changed this season, why she almost voted for Russell to win the season and why Sandra Diaz-Twine's win was "poetic justice."
TVGuide.com: Why do you think you were able to make it so much further this time than either of your previous seasons on Survivor?
I guess I have to say that I learned so much about the game over the last 20 seasons and I've really grown as a person because of my experience on Survivor. I don't know if everyone can say that, so I feel very fortunate to have gotten so much out of it. ... I went into this season with a whole new attitude and a whole new outlook on what I was going to do strategically.
TVGuide.com: You've said in the past that All-Stars was very damaging. What about this season and these contestants that made this time around so different?
I loved the fact that I didn't really have any pre-relationships with any of the people there. I know that Colby had a history of playing together before and Rob and I as well, but neither one of them were people I really stayed in touch with in real life. We had no bonds as far as an instant alliance and there was so much of that going on there. Like Amanda said in the finale that it was a very personal game for her and I really related to that because of my all-stars experience. This was like starting with a clean slate. I felt like I was playing for the first time, but having played it twice. ... I enjoyed the fact that I was about to get to know a whole new group of people. I can honestly say, now that it's all over, that this is by far the most fun group of people I've ever played with.
TVGuide.com: You and Colby have both been on The Australian Outback and All-Stars, but you had very different experiences this season. Why do you think that was?
: I can't speak for Colby. I was definitely disappointed in his performance in challenges and I know he was as well. I really don't know what happened to him. He says, "Oh, I'm older now. I'm a veteran. I'm just not as strong." But ... I felt stronger emotionally and physically than I had in those previous two seasons. I was in a great head space, I was in great physical condition and ready to compete and I was very proud of the fact that, despite being 10 years older when I first played, I kicked the crap out of those 20-year-olds.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think you and Coach were able to bond so well over the season?Jerri: I didn't really know who was going to be playing in the game before I got out there. But I did know that, with a season focused on heroes and villains, Coach was going to be there. I had heard so much about him so I did a bunch of research about him online. I found that he was interested in a lot of the same things that I was: yoga, meditation, nature. There was a spiritual connection with him that I found a lot of comfort in out there. We really did bond in that respect and I knew that he was a loyal person, an honest person and that was the way he played the game. Those are the kind of people that you want to be close with because those are the people you can trust the most.
TVGuide.com: How many final votes do you think you would have gotten if Russell had taken you to the final three?
I knew that if I made it to the final three, I would have won. That's why Russell had to get rid of me, unfortunately. The jury basically told me that at end ... "We were really hoping it would have been you in the final three because we would have given you the million bucks." It's really frustrating to hear that, but it's also quite comforting. Just the extreme difference in my first time playing, where I was extremely disliked ... this time I was too well-liked to keep around.
TVGuide.com: How did you come to the decision of voting for Parvati over Sandra and Russell?
Russell made it very easy for me not to vote for him. I was so incredibly disappointed in him. I was leaning towards voting for him just because of his aggressive game play ... but what I was expecting in his jury speech was him to be humble and gracious and apologetic just to the people that he had to hurt along the way. Instead, he sat in front of all of us and denied that luck had anything to do with his success and he basically told us he didn't need any of us, that he made everything happen by himself. This is like a big slap in the face. I was in total shock. I'm pretty sure my jaw hit the floor. ... I changed my vote to Parvati because I had so much respect for that girl. Even though in the beginning she drove me absolutely insane with all of her flirtations and everything, I had to give her props. She is an amazing player. She's strategic, social ... I really had to vote for her. I'm glad that I voted for her and I'm glad Sandra won, if for no other reason than just poetic justice because Russell hates Sandra. He loathes her and it was perfect that she won.