Despite playing Survivor with Tony Vlachos — one of the most disloyal, untrustworthy players in the show's history — Kass McQuillen found herself in the strange position of being the most disliked member of her tribe on Survivor: Cagayan. Why? McQuillen, who came in third for the season, has a theory.
"It's a double standard," she tells TVGuide.com. "A man does what I did and makes it as far as I did, they're a great player. ... Look at Tony."
Regardless of the reason behind it, the animosity towards Kass put her in a prime position to go to the final two — that is, until Woo reneged on his promise to Kass, and cost himself $1 million in the process. Read our full Q&A with Kass to get her thoughts on Woo's decision, as well as why she was "embarrassed" for Spencer, and how she could tell Woo had flipped on her even before they went to Tribal Council.
First things first. What do you have to say about Woo's decision to go to the final two with Tony and not you?
Woo is a man with integrity and honor, and some people are just too good for this game. As a contestant and a fan of the show, I think it was stupid. I felt like he gave the game to Tony in doing that. But knowing Woo as a person and as a man, that is Woo. And I respect that. It doesn't really have a place, unfortunately, in Survivor.
After you and Woo had that conversation promising each other that you'd take the other one to the final two over Tony, how surprised were you that he went back on his word?
I was not surprised at all. Woo is such an easy person to read, and he's so genuine. And that day, going into Tribal, he could not look me in the eye. He was so nervous. He just wanted to get to the vote. ... He used to give me a little wink before Tribals, and I called it the Woo Wink. I did not get the Woo Wink that day, and I knew. That's why I didn't look surprised. I was more disappointed in Woo at throwing away the game. If he was going to do that, he should have just given me his necklace and said, "Hey, Kass, why don't you and Tony go to the finals so we can really finish this great season out with an explosive Tribal?"
Who do you think would have won between you and Tony?
I don't know. Tony was pretty despised and I was pretty despised. And I don't know if the people on the jury were evolved enough at the time for me to make my argument. How did we do anything differently, except Tony had idols and allies? Which was a huge thing for him. If he had to play the game I played, he would not have made it to the end.
Out of the final four, who were you most nervous about potentially going up against?
I wouldn't have beaten Spencer. I believe I had a shot against Tony and Woo, if I pitched my argument to the jury correctly. And if not, they would go down as the most bitter jury in the history of Survivor. ... I don't think anybody could beat Spencer, because he hadn't done anything. He hadn't pissed one person off. And my thoughts on his gameplay are different than other people's. I think he had many occasions he could have made big moves, but he fell into the charm that was Tony. I mean, my God. He pandered to him in his jury speech. I was sitting there embarrassed for him.
Why do you think there was such animosity towards you?
I think I was maybe sometimes a little too smug about things at camp. And I also think when I made that move, when I flipped on Sarah and the alliance, it was so shocking to everyone. They were shocked that someone who looked like me, and who was quiet and was just making rice, working around camp, actually had a dagger in her back pocket. I don't think they could look at me and reconcile my image and how I behaved with the fact that I just flipped it around. It's an emotional roller coaster for people out there who have to go through these ups and downs, and I think it's easier for them to take it from someone like Tony, who's just brash and out there and in your face, than someone who's just sitting there calmly listening and smirking, as it is, apparently. ... And like I said [on the finale], it's a double standard. A man does what I did and makes it as far as I did, they're a great player.
Do you really think a lot of the hostility was because you're a woman?
I do. Several of the women came up to me ... after the finale, the contestants, and said, "Kass, you're so right. We did judge you." And I've had some people interviewing me saying, "My God, when you said that, it was like you smacked me on the side of the head and I realized that if you were a man, I would not think you were [a villain]." Look at Tony. He did horrible things. We honestly did not believe he was married with a child, because he told so many lies out there. If that's what people think of you, how is that you could get to the end and win?
What was the hardest part for you, socially?
Quite honestly, I'm very introverted and I do not do well socially with people a lot. I have my own group of friends and my family. It was difficult for me to interact with people who weren't going to soccer games and stuff. And I mean, I don't hang out with college students. So you get there, and it's a very different thing. I'm 41. I didn't think I was old until I played Survivor. Now I feel like I'm 71. Forty is the new 70 when you're on Survivor and you're a woman.
Did you bond with anyone, or did you feel like you were on your own out there?
I really had fun. Tasha and I really bonded, and then we had the rough patch there after my flip. I think it was six days she did not speak to me out there, which was detrimental to her game. You can not go a day in this game without attempting something with whoever you need to do it with. Spencer and I had this weird competitive thing, and he was so petulant all the time around camp. Tony and I, we had a blast. Tony and I every morning were the first people up, and we would go walk and check the fish traps and just check in with each other. And I felt like he was my brother out there. We would get into the most ridiculous squabbles. I mean, I made the man speak llama. We were both frustrating each other because we were both playing and wanted it so hard. And he has a hard time believing that a female probably would take him on and stand up to him. And it was fun to do it to Tony, because he was just that type of guy that, my God, get a nerdy girl bugging him and he's going to be pushed to the edge.
Your comeback victory in the first challenge on Wednesday was crazy. What was going through your mind? Did you come close to giving up?
Well, I didn't even want to go out on that pole. I'm deathly afraid of heights. I don't even want to go on a ladder. My husband said, "Oh my god, you're going to continue your streak of sucking," because I told him how bad I was at challenges. And I said, "You know they're going to have to come in with a helicopter to get me off that pole." I was so scared. I was shaking so bad up there. I was up there a good 15 minutes. I mean, I gave them every opportunity to finish that puzzle. And actually, I've been told by producers, they had written me off. There was one camera on me and the action was there on the puzzle. And then I just heard my husband's voice. ... My husband was just encouraging me, and there was no way I was going to give up out there in front of that man. ... And then it came together and that key popped up. Then, I don't even remember jumping. I did hear that I screamed. And swimming is not my strong suit either, but the puzzle, it's focus and it's calm under pressure, really. That's the difference, is just staying focused on the task at hand.
Looking back on your game, would you have done anything differently?
I don't like to be a revisionist. You play in the moment out there. I feel that I made every move to get myself to the end. I should have been better socially. That's my game flaw. But in terms of moves and decisions I made and who was voted out when, I played my game and it got me almost where I needed to be. On any other season, I would have been in the final two.
I'm very happy with my game. And I'm super happy I got to play Survivor, because I've watched this show from the beginning. I'm that lady screaming at her TV in the living room, crying at the family visit. So, it's great. And I feel like I played kind of like a fan. A lot of people come up to me and they're like, "You say exactly what we're thinking when we're watching the show."
Would you play again?
I would definitely go back. It's a fun game to play. If it weren't on TV, it would be great. You could just go play and not have to go through all this. I'm just super proud to be part of this season, because I really believe it's a great season. I'm glad to be on a great season and be a part of making it a great season — not to be someone who sat around in the shelter and did nothing.
What did you think of the Survivor: Cagayan finale? Do you think Kass could have beaten Tony or Woo? Sound off below — and catch up on episodes of Survivor here.
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