Two minutes into Wednesday (Nov. 17) night’s “Survivor: Nicaragua,” Brenda Lowe declared herself the king of the game, confident that her alliance was unbreakable and unstoppable.
Less than an hour later, Jeff Probst was snuffing out Brenda’s torch.
Falls from grace are not uncommon in “Survivor,” but Brenda wasn’t the victim of a Tribal Council blindside. No, Brenda was blindsided earlier in the episode when she discovered that NaOnka, one of the centerpieces of the alliance, was the a key part of the upcoming coup.
HitFix caught up with the deposed King to talk about her fall from grace, why she didn’t demand Sash give her the Immunity Idol and why she bothered trusting NaOnka at all.
HitFix: In 44 minutes of TV last night, you went from crowning yourself as king to heading home. What did it feel like watching that unfold?
Brenda Lowe: I hated every second of it. I hated it from last episode, even though it was a good episode for me, but I knew it was the beginning of the end, once Marty was out. I cringed this whole episode. My parents and my family didn’t know know it was the end for me, but I think they could tell from my body language that something was up and this wasn’t good. And I hated it. I’ll never watch that episode again.
HitFix: How did you family and friends react?
BL: Everyone was kind of silent silent when it was done and then they started saying, like, “You did your best” and “You did amazing” and “You did so good.” When my mom and dad came over to hug me, I just lost it. I turned into Baby Brenda, because I never had that release. I just took it in stride and tried to be the big person and say, “Oh, it’s just a game,” but the emotions were there. I was committed to the game. I wanted it badly and I thought I had a great plan to get to the end. I thought I had the right people on my side. I thought everything was perfect. I was trying my best and then to watch it again and to see my family. It was me thinking I was disappointing my family that hurt the most and now watching and realizing… Obviously over there I got over it, but here watching it again with my friends and family and all of these new people who are supporting me, I was like, “Ohhhh. I don’t want this to be happening.” It was tough.
HitFix: Watching the episode last night, it looked as if learning NaOnka was betraying you was like a punch in the gut. What happened to you at that moment and where did your spirit go from there?
BL: It was a bunch of denial. I was rocked. I was like, “Why? Why her? Why of all people?” I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand it. I could understand anyone else, but I couldn’t understand her. I got outplayed. I thought, “This is what it feels like.” She did it. She really outplayed me. Like you said, a punch in the gut is a perfect way to describe. It was like punch, a kick, everything.
HitFix: But given NaOnka’s erratic behavior throughout, why on Earth did you think you could trust her? Why was she the one you put that much confidence in?
BL: Yeah, well, you didn’t really get to see the nice NaOnka. You didn’t get to see the cute NaOnka. She’s very funny. Believe it or not, she’s friendly. She’s sweet. She’s kind. She was a girlfriend out there to me. We’d talk all night long. We’d talk about her family, her life, her situation. I know a lot about her and I felt like this had gone beyond alliances. I had that with several people. Actually, my whole alliance, before we were an alliance, we were friends and I definitely had that with her.
Think about it this way: At the beginning of the game, people wanted me out. I was looked at as a threat, right? With the whole Shannon thing? Now to have somebody like NaOnka on my side, all the attention went to NaOnka. There was no attention on Brenda anymore. Everyone wanted her gone. She would steal things. The gun was pointed at her. And my alliance was set up in a certain way where we were strong enough to have people target her and we’d be taking them out. It was a beautiful system. Target NaOnka and we’ll protect her and we’ll take you out. That’s how it worked. It was risky to have someone who’s a roller-coaster ride like her, but it made sense. It made perfect sense to me and at the same time, I trusted her.
HitFix: As you look back, though, how much was that you trusting her and how much was you taking her support for granted?
BL: Taking her for granted? In what way?
HitFix: Well you obviously felt like you had Chase in your back pocket. Did you feel the same way about NaOnka, that you felt like you didn’t need to shore up your support with NaOnka because she was solid?
BL: Yeah, but I don’t look at it as taking her for granted. I was a friend to her. I invested a lot of time with her. You saw the merge that as soon as we got together, I told her everything. Everything. I never took her for granted. I protected her. When she did all of the stealing stuff, we were like, “Are we going to protect this crazy person” and the choice was, “Yes.” I was angry at her for doing that. I thought, “What are you doing? You’re going to ruin the whole game for us. You’re going to leave and our alliance is gonna be four now.” I never took her for granted. I invested a lot in her.
HitFix: Having watched the episode last night, what do you think you could have done or what do you wish you could have done after you found out that your head was on the chopping block? I assume you’ve done a lot of thinking about this in retrospect…
BL: Retrospect! I’ve been going over and over. I’ve written a lot of entries in a journal. I talked to the psychologist about it. The coulda-woulda-shouldas were driving me nuts. And every time I think about the whole idea of approaching Benry or approaching Holly or Jane, my logic comes to the same conclusion that that wouldn’t have helped. I think maybe what I could have done was more insisted on Sash giving me the Idol. I didn’t insist. I made my points and I kept going with the point which was, “Hey, these people are targeting you by taking out your main alliance.” I kept telling him, “You’re going to be weaker with me gone.” I kept telling him and telling him, but I wasn’t like, “You need to give me the Idol.” I never said said that. I said, “We could do something crazy if I had the Idol.” But I wasn’t like, “You give it to me now.” I think that’s the only thing I had.
And I guess the other thing is I could have approached NaOnka, but you know what? You saw how adamant she was about me going out. Would it ever have happened? There are so many things I could have done and should have done, but looking back, I know why I chose that strategy. I thought that it would work. My point is that I didn’t not do anything. I did do something. I had my strategy. I wanted them to trust me. I wanted Sash to trust me enough to give me the Idol, so he couldn’t see me scrambling, he couldn’t see me talking to Benry, Fabio, Holly, Jane and Dan. He could not see that. He had to see that I was trustworthy with him and with Chase and NaOnka and Purple Kelly to the end. So that’s why. That’s why I was like, “Look. I’m with you guys. I’m with you guys. I’m with you guys. I’m not even gonna be talking to these people. Can you give me the Idol. Won’t that inspire you to give me the Idol when you realize that I’m loyal to you to the end? These people are targeting your alliance. They’ll target you next.” That was my strategy. That was my take.
HitFix: That being said, then, what did you make of Sash’s decision not to give you the Idol? And he and Chase also wrote your name down, it looked like.
BL: They did. Well, one of the reasons why NaOnka turned on me is that when Sash went off to the Reward with all of the guys, I started to think that Sash could pull something with Marty, that he could get close to him. Me and Sash had been talking about that. I didn’t know if that guy alliance, Marty had mentioned it to me, he said, “Us six” and I would be No. 6 and I didn’t want to be in that alliance with me being at the bottom and Sash being maybe No. 5. So when they were away, I pulled NaOnka aside and I said, “Look, NaOnka. We have to see if we can trust Sash. If he comes back and says ‘Let’s trust Marty,’ we shouldn’t be able to trust him. If He comes back and says ‘Let’s take Marty out,’ we can trust him.” So with that said, she went and she’s like, “Really? So you’re willing to take out Sash?” And I said, “Yeah, we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do to stay in the game.” And she’s like, “Really?” So with that information, she told Sash and of course Sash believed it. So for him not to give me the Idol, who would give an Idol to somebody who was already planning to take you out? See what I mean? So it was high hopes for me, but he wasn’t gonna give it up. And if I was in his position, I might not have done the same too.
HitFix: Looking at the people are left in the game, whose gameplay did you respect and who did you not particularly respect?
BL: I have to respect everybody, because they made it farther than me. That’s first and foremost. But I prefer not to be sitting there under the radar not doing terrible at challenges, I don’t think that’s a strategy. If it gets you far, great. But it doesn’t match well with my character. But with somebody like Sash, we played similar. He went through the extra step by making more alliances. He was very calm. He sucked at challenges, but he was good with people and I respect that about Sash. He was thinking and thinking and constantly thing. And Chase might be the total opposite, didn’t think too much, just went with his heart, but in the same way, he’s *there*. He is there and I’m not. He stuck to that from the beginning. He’s like, “I’m just gonna go with people I trust. I’m going with my gut.” And it looks like it’s working for him. Benry and Fabio? Same thing. Fabio’s more underestimated than Benry, but he’s a good guy, very genuine, can’t help but tell the truth, and he’s more invested in the game than people think. And Benry, same thing. I always knew Benry was calculating and he wasn’t afraid to be loud be vocal and be good at the challenges. He’s a strong, very amazing physical player. And I like that. Those are the type of things that I like to see. And I respect that.
HitFix: As a last question, at your final Tribal Council, the only real regret you mentioned was not keeping Marty around. Since I know you’ve been replaying the game in your head, how do you think the game would have gone if you’d kept Marty last week?
BL: Yeah, if we would have kept Marty, it would have been Jane who was out and that would have totally changed my game. If you look at it, Chase would have been closer with us. Holly would have been without her partner. It would have been a total game-changer. Marty was easy to handle. He was smart. Yes he was. He was a player. But we all knew that he had to go, sooner or later. We’d all known that since the second La Flor tribe and we all knew that it was only a matter of time. He was under control, basically. But people like Jane, who were swaying Chase, that was a big deal for my alliance. It was a really big deal. So if we’d kept Marty and taken out Jane, it would have totally changed for me. I think.