“I do not want to blame it on culture and I do not want to blame it on editing.”
With those words, uttered late in her exit interview, I found myself coming very close to liking Abi-Maria Gomes, the primary villain of “Survivor: Philippines.”
Yes, Abi-Maria still makes excuses for the actions that led to her becoming pariah on “Survivor” this season, actions like helping to cause the implosion of her tribe thanks to a fabricated feud with RC or tormenting a vulnerable Lisa or gloating after a Reward. But those excuses include a torn ACL that threw her out of synch from the start of the game, rather than criticizing teammates or Jeff Probst or her Brazilian heritage.
In fact, Abi-Maria sounds pretty honest about the way she behaved in the Philippines, or at least about the way it looked like she behaved, since she describes much of the experience as “foggy.”
In the conversation, Abi-Maria talks about her thwarted desire to be “a Brazilian delight” and how she and RC probably would have butted heads even if Pete hadn’t created chaos. She also discusses her aggressive confrontation with Mike Skupin on Wednesday’s episode, including the strategy behind calling him an “idiot” and a “moron” at Tribal Council.
Click through for the full interview…
HitFix: Talk me through your strategy at that last Tribal Council, particularly how hard you were trying to push Skupin…
Abi-Maria Gomes: I know. I was pretty mean, huh? Pretty evil over there. He’s not a moron. He’s not an idiot. But I was just trying to make the point that I was the perfect goat to take to the Final 3. I just wanted to be taken to the Final 3, regardless, and I was trying pull out an awesome argument at the end. I was just formulating a beautiful case to win it, but my only chance of making it to Act 3 was if I would just be taken as a bottom-feeder and the goat, so that was my strategy, being hated more, basically.
HitFix: So none of that reflected your actual feelings towards Mike?
Abi-Maria: No. He’s a great guy. In real life. In the game, I did think that he was… what I said. But in real life, he’s a kind, honest man with seven kids to raise.
HitFix: The big plea that you were making was if you were taken to the Final 3, that there was no way you could win…
HitFix: But I assume you didn’t really believe that and you had a strategy out there where you could still win?
HitFix: And what was that strategy going to be?
Abi-Maria: You’re talking about what would I say at the final Jury? My strategy was to be the unliked one.
HitFix: But what were you going to say to the Jury to make them give you the million?
Abi-Maria: Oh. Well… I got injured Day One. I had a major injury on my right knee, so rather than being medivac-ed and being off of the game, I just stayed through. You don’t want to be seen as the weakest link, but I pretty much survived with an injured knee. I actually had to have surgery when I got back into the real world. It was a major surgery and I’m still recuperating from it. So I had some pointers there. I can’t give it all to you! If they invite me back, I have to keep some secrets.
HitFix: Tell me a bit about that injury and whether you think it impacted you early on, specifically the number of challenges that you didn’t participate in in the first half of the season…
Abi-Maria: Absolutely. The injury had everything to do with how I played the game. I went in with amazing intentions. I wanted to be charming, loved, a Brazilian delight! But I got injured at the fishing boat and I didn’t know what the injury was. I didn’t want to be too vocal about it, because I didn’t want them to think that I was worthless at challenges. So I was just trying to work my way into staying in the game and then Pete approached me with the numbers in the alliance that he was trying to build and I’m like, “You know what? I’m gonna just stick with the guy here, til I can’t stick with him no more,” because before the Merge, he was still saving me.
HitFix: You say you wanted to be charming and a Brazilian delight, but personality-wise, did you think that you were still being that, despite the injury?
Abi-Maria: No. After I got injured and I was there fighting with my injury, I was absolutely not a Brazilian delight. I was a royal bitch and that was playing into that.
HitFix: How would you have played differently, do you think, if you had been yourself, if you hadn’t been injured? How would you have interacted with people differently?
Abi-Maria: The perfect scenario would be me not being too close to my Evil Three alliance. It would have been me just mored balanced and being more charismatic. It’s such an intense game. When you’re there, you’re watching people, you’re watching body language. I would have done it a lot differently. I wouldn’t have been so emotional, so attached to Artis and [muffled]. I would have been more lenient, as well. I would have probably given RC the chance to talk to me. But I didn’t. I acted abrasive and passive-aggressive and it just got worse by the day.
HitFix: What has it been like watching the season? When you watched those first few weeks play out on TV, did it look like you remembered it? Or was it a completely different thing?
Abi-Maria: It’s so foggy, to be completely honest with you. It’s like a dream, because I was in so much pain. I tore my ACL. I was in so much pain and I was so tired and so hungry. You just become a little delusional. When you’re asking me questions that’s why I’m trying hard to think, because it’s like a dream, so foggy. I literally don’t remember much of it. Watching on TV, I’m really surprised. I joke that every Wednesday night, I have to go through about two bottles of wine just to watch myself, because it’s embarrassing at times.
HitFix: What has embarrassed you as you’ve watched it?
Abi-Maria: Oh my goodness. Like when I got back from Reward? “Oh, I’m feeling like a princess! No, like a prince! No, more like Cinderella!” That’s pretty bad. And then my interactions with Lisa. Jesus. That wasn’t nice. Yes, she was wishy-washy, but my approach was poor.
HitFix: How about watching those early episodes and when you saw that Pete was behind your Immunity clue fight with RC, what was your reaction there?
Abi-Maria: I thought it was funny.
HitFix: But there was a lot of drama that came out of that. How much did you wish that you could have avoided that drama? Or was it unavoidable?
Abi-Maria: I wish I could have avoided it, but RC is great, super-intelligent, she’s awesome. But she’s abrasive in her own way, so it’s like two very high-strung personalities fighting for the game, so it was like a cat-and-mouse situation. It was either her or me.
HitFix: So even if Pete hadn’t done what he’d done, eventually there would have been a blow-up over something?
Abi-Maria: Regardless. Yeah.
HitFix: There was, of course, that Tribal Council that suddenly became everybody unloading on you and you seemed blindsided by the whole thing. How hard was that at the time?
Abi-Maria: It was so hard. Now, watching it, I understand why people hated me so badly, but when I was living it, I didn’t think people hated me so much like they did. It was really hard to see that. That was genuinely — and then everyone makes fun of me when I say “genuinely” — I was genuinely hurt. It was pretty real. Of course, we see more of my negative side, but I feel like I did have some good moments, too. You know? Some charismatic days.
HitFix: Do you want to share any of those? Any of those charismatic days that we didn’t see? Things that we didn’t see that might have painted you in a different light if we’d seen them?
Abi-Maria: We would make a lot fun of my English, so we’d laugh about it a lot, little mistakes I would make and I would try to say the little American phrases. It was funny how I’d put it together and they would make fun of me, so that was funny. We had some good moments. And I made some really good beans! They didn’t show me cooking. I was actually the chef there. I fed everyone until I got fed up.
HitFix: Out there you were saying that you thought that there were cultural reasons for why people weren’t responding well to you, but now it sounds like you have a different view of things?
Abi-Maria: I do not want to blame it on culture and I do not want to blame it on editing. I want to take it as a big girl. I did say those things and I did act poorly at times. Brazilians, we are intense and passionate people and we say how it is, but … You know … I do not want to blame my gameplay on my culture or on CBS editing at all. I want to take it.
HitFix: “Survivor” always likes to go with things like “heroes” and “villains.” When you look back on how you played this season, do you think you were a villain out there?
Abi-Maria: Uhhh… Pretty clear. I was laughing when they were praying. Come on. That’s pretty devilish. I was like “I wish she’d die. I’m here for a million dollars and not to make friends” and she had two bite marks on her neck. That’s pretty mean.
HitFix: You did say earlier that you didn’t want to give away too much of your end-game in case you got another chance to do this again. If you get that chance to do this again, would you be a villain again, do you think?
Abi-Maria: Well, it would be an honor, for sure.
HitFix: But do you think you’d be a villain again?
Abi-Maria: That’s the thing. When I went into the game this time around, I didn’t go with the intention of being a villain and totally turned. So it’s really hard for me to answer your question, because I may tell you, “Yeah, I’m gonna go back there and I’m gonna be a total bitch all over again,” but then you don’t know what kinda people I’m gonna be put on the island with. You don’t know what’s gonna happen. There are so many factors that have to do with how things end up. So for now, I would try and use a different approach, a different strategy, but who knows?
HitFix: And are you looking forward to the reunion show on Sunday?
Abi-Maria: Hopefully no one will kill me… But yes!