Kelly Bruno set out to prove that being an amputee wouldn’t keep her from winning “Survivor.”
On Wednesday (October 20), Kelly B learned that she was wrong, but not for the reasons she might have originally feared.
Having only one leg wasn’t a physical impediment for Kelly, not for a single second that the “Survivor” producers chose to show us. But it didn’t take long before Kelly’s own teammates began to speculate that in a jury situation, the “sympathy vote” would make Kelly unbeatable.
At Wednesday’s La Flor Tribal Council, spurred by Brenda’s [possibly justified] paranoia, long-term threat Kelly was voted out instead of short-term (and maybe long-term) threat Marty.
HitFix chatted with Kelly B on Friday about being blindsided by her elimination, her feud with NaOnka and what her “Survivor” performance proved.
Full interview after the break…
HitFix: You seemed pretty much totally blindsided by the results on Wednesday’s episode. Is that fair?
Kelly Bruno: I think so, yeah. Yes it is.
HitFix: So watching episodes back, seeing how everything actually went down, how did that feel?
KB: You know, obviously I was surprised on the night I did get voted out, just because everyone had been so… I’d talked to a couple different people and everyone had said the same thing about who we were voting for. I guess I wasn’t aware that so many people were in on it. I think that was so shocking about watching it on TV, that Fabio knew and was in on it. And Sash, the comment he made about saving Marty and not wanting to vote out Marty was a little upsetting, since I’d gotten his back previously. So I guess I was just surprised.
HitFix: Did it make you feel worse to understand how you came to be voted out or was there a certain relief in knowing?
KB: Hearing what Brenda said about being worried, somewhat threatened by the fact that if I continued moving on like I did, I could potentially win it all, there’s certainly some comfort in that, if you do go out, it’s kinda for the best reason possible, that you do have the potential to win it all. I guess in that respect, maybe it left me feeling a little better, but I think the reality of it is that people wanted me out and that’s never fun to see.
HitFix: We’d seen a number of your tribemates say what Brenda did, that if they went too far with you, you’d be unbeatable with a jury. Was that a sentiment that anybody shared with you during the game?
KB: People definitely expressed a concern about sympathy votes. Shannon made it pretty clear up front that he would give me the million dollars if I made it to the Final Three. I had no expect no expectation that I would go that far with him. I think initially our plan, Alina and I, we wanted to go to the merge with him. It had been expressed and the whole concept of the sympathy vote is one that I was very aware of. I thought that by just doing well in challenges, I could prove that that was not what I was about. I think that maybe I went too far in trying to persuade people that it wasn’t about the sympathy votes for me, but maybe that’s what made them so threatened.
HitFix: Given that you’d heard those things, could you have been more sensitive to or aware of the idea that people might want you out? It seemed as if in Wednesday’s episode, you didn’t give any consideration at all to the possibility you might be in trouble…
KB: At the end of the day, every time you go to Tribal Council, there’s that thought in the back of your mind that you might be going home. I don’t think you ever go and feel safe. I felt more comfortable as Tribal Council went on, since it seemed like there was a real rift between Marty and Brenda. There seemed to be an issue there, so especially at the re-vote, I figured that they did not feel comfortable with Marty and I did feel better about that. So I was a little bit surprised when my name came up in the re-vote, since Marty had the Idol and didn’t play it and he was clearly scheming and really playing really hard. It seemed like that would have been a smarter move for them, but I guess I just didn’t predict it, to go down the way it did.
HitFix: When the game started, you initially kept your leg a secret, really for as long as you could. What was your expectations for how people would respond and how did that compare to the reality?
KB: I think I expected people to respond the way that they did in the respect to think that maybe I wasn’t as capable as everyone else out there. That was the motivation behind keeping it quiet and keeping it hidden. So I helped out around camp. I helped build the shelter. I helped gather firewood. I did that before anyone had a chance to make a judgment on me, because you make your first impressions as soon as you go out there, so I wanted to give them the chance to see what I was about before they weighed in on the fact that I have one leg. I think that, generally speaking, people responded really well to it, at least initially. It seemed they were thinking that I was a fairly capable individual, despite thinking that I had the sympathy vote card. And I think that at challenges I was able to really show that I was suitably competitive, I wasn’t a liability to the tribe, despite what Na seemed to think, and that I was as motivated and physically capable as anyone else.
HitFix: Did any part of you go in anticipating or fearing what ended up happening? That you were actually viewed as more of a threat, rather than as a physically weaker competitor?
KB: It crossed my mind, but just because anyone who is really competitive, especially physically, especially in this day and age, in this game, it seems like the “Survivor” today, you see people as a threat because they can win challenges and individual immunity after the merge and those are the people you’re up against, so you’d rather bring weaker people. Sure, that was always in the back of my mind, but I think the fact that I wanted to show that I could help the tribe, I was still seeing it as if we were in this together and we wanted to win so that we didn’t go to Tribal Council, that was my motivation and why I was playing so hard in the physical challenges.
HitFix: We saw no evidence at all of any liabilities that your leg caused you during the game. Were there things that you were unable to do? Or was it a non-issue?
KB: For pretty much everything out there, it was a non-issue. I was honestly more concerned with skin breakdown and some of the issues as an amputee that I might deal with, but really I was able to take care of that and there no physical challenge. The mud would have been the most difficult thing and I think I handled that pretty well. I don’t think that people saw that as an issue while I was out there. I think they just saw me as a threat in general, or you had Na who just didn’t like me for some reason.
HitFix: But I was really curious less how other people were viewing it and more how the game actually felt to you.
KB: I had a leg made for it. I had a very specific leg made for the event and it handled things very well. I could go in the water and do everything that I needed to do. I never thought twice about it and never had a problem.
HitFix: You mentioned your problems with Na. Did you have any indication before the Immunity Clue… skirmish, I guess?… that things were about to get physical? As you were talking back, did you sense that there was going to be a tug of war?
KB: [Laughter.] Yeah, well, in the back of my mind I knew that that was probably the way she would handle it. She’s a very emotional player and she definitely had the physical advantage and the size advantage. She didn’t seem like someone who would kind of be diplomatic about it, so part of me, I think that’s why I responded the way I did. I wasn’t really surprised. Disappointed. I was disappointed that it went that way, because that’s not how I would have handled it, but I wasn’t surprised that she handled it in that way.
HitFix: Given that you guys were already on different sides, as such things go, alliance-wise, how *would* you have handled it? How could you have handled it?
KB: My goal was to get her attention and do it discretely, talk together discretely and read it together. I knew we weren’t on the same side, but I would have rather kept it quiet than have everyone know that there was a clue out there. That would have been my goal, but I was never able to catch her eye. She wouldn’t look at me. I think she was plotting her plan and so I didn’t get that chance to make that suggestion. It was hard, because how do you do it discretely, especially with somebody who’s obviously kind of your nemesis, your enemy out there? It made it very difficult. It was the worst possible situation it could be and I didn’t really have a chance to make any decisions on how to handle it, since she kind of jumped the gun on that one.
HitFix: So they reshuffled the tribes and on one hand, you lost your major antagonist in Na, but you also lost your major ally in Alina. In the game of “Survivor” is that a good trade-off or a bad trade-off in the balance?
KB: I’d say it’s not necessarily a good tradeoff. Na, I think, there were enough people who were questioning her emotional game at that point, especially the way she kept treating me, that I think I could have persuaded people, especially with somebody else on my side. It was very hard to start over on your own and try to make a new alliance so far into the game. I struggled with that, a bit. My only option, at least in my situation, was to go with Marty and Jill, but the numbers weren’t necessarily there, so I felt very stuck.
HitFix: Was that something you attempted to do, do make an alliance with Marty and Jill?
KB: I think if I had known that I was in such trouble, apparently, I would have worked more aggressively in trying at least to do something. At that point, in my head, I was thinking I’d already caused enough waves, I’d already had enough attention with the issue between me and Na, I kinda wanted to just bury that and go along with everyone else and be sure that I was going to be part of what was left of their alliance. That was my motivation and not really being aggressive at trying to start something new with Marty and Jill.
HitFix: And in retrospect?
KB: Of course, if I had to do it over again, I’d probably work harder on that.
HitFix: As a last question… Bottom-line your “Survivor” experience for me. Did you get out of it what you wanted to get out of it? Did you make the statement you wanted to make?
KB: Yeah, I absolutely do. It was an incredible experience, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I think, at the end of the day, I played my game. I was true to myself. And I think I was able to represent disabled people in a good light and show what we’re capable of and that’s part of the reason I was there.
HitFix: And just for you personally, were you satisfied with how you did?
KB: You know, you always wish you’d gone farther and made some different decisions, but I’m absolutely happy with my game and how I played and how I did.