Cocky, manipulative and always good for a funny confessional quote, Brenda Lowe may not have had a long run on “Survivor: Nicaragua,” but she earned her “Favorite” status on personality alone.
With those memories, Brenda was an early disappointment on “Survivor: Caramoan.” For the first half of the season, she barely spoke and rarely appeared on camera and when she did, she seemed to be nursing some sort of injury that was never explained.
But then, in the past few weeks, Brenda began to assert herself. She had an emotional high point when she helped Dawn recover her teeth and resolve a crisis of confidence. She started growing tougher and tougher in challenges, including a memorable endurance showdown against Andrea. She became more vocal regarding strategy and targeting threats.
All of that was just setting Brenda up for this week’s heartbreaking episode in which she won the Family Visit Reward, but sacrificed her personal gain for a prize for the majority. Then, at Immunity, she let Dawn take the Idol, certain that Eddie would be going home. Instead, Cochran decided that Brenda was both too strong and too saintly and when he went to Dawn, Brenda’s best friend didn’t hesitate to accept the new plan. Blindsided at Tribal, Brenda mostly held off her tears before giving one of the most emotional final interviews in “Survivor” history.
In this week’s exit interview, Brenda reflects on Dawn’s betrayal and whether or not she thinks it was the right move to send her packing. I also got to the bottom of both Brenda’s injury and her early silence.
Click through for the revealing Q&A…
HitFix: So how hard was it to watch last night’s episode and relive that?
Brenda Lowe: It was really hard. It’s funny, because I was so pumped up for it for my family because, you know, my dad’s on “Survivor” with me and my sister made her debut! But I knew that the end was going to be a major buzzkill for all of us, so it was hard. Or it was hard the second half.
HitFix: Was there anything you hadn’t known about the deliberations that went on back at camp after the Immunity Challenge?
Brenda: Yeah, I didn’t know, and what hurt again watching the show, was I didn’t know that there really was no temptation not to vote me out. There really was no one being like, “Oh, we can’t do that!” like “That’s messed up!” There was none of that. It was just a, “Sure! Yup! She’s gotta go. Yup! She’s gotta go. She’s gotta go. She’s gotta go.” That hurt. I didn’t know it was like that. I thought there would be some type of internal conflict with Dawn, but that was nowhere to be seen and that hurt my feelings.
HitFix: I was impressed that you had the wherewithal to put on that smile and really not to cry until you were relatively far away. How hard was that in the moment?
Brenda: Super-hard. I felt like crying. I felt very hurt. From the first time they brought out the first “Brenda.” It’s like, “Here’s a Brenda vote,” I’m like, “Oh God.” I just knew that it was me and I knew that if it was me, then the people who voted for me were Sherri, Dawn and Cochran and that hurt my feelings a lot, coming from the whole Dawn thing. I would have liked to believe, and I believed at that time, that she would never stand for something like that, to have me voted off like that. But she didn’t, so that hurt my feelings, to say the least.
HitFix: You’ve had many months to go from emotional about what happened to making being analytical. Are you through with that journey? Can you look at it from a strategic or analytical point-of-view at all?
Brenda: Yeah and I did even instantly. As soon as you get voted off, you’re like, “Oh!” and you know that you’re playing this game and you’ve been on the other side. You’ve been on the other side where you’ve had to vote off people as well and you hopefully want them to understand why that was the case. “It’s nothing personal blah blah blah. It’s just the game blah blah blah.” But it still hurts. I can’t explain it. This time playing “Survivor” there were so many more emotions that were involved in giving your heart to somebody and really believing that you had this strong connection with somebody and then to find out in the end, “What were you thinking? This is ‘Survivor.’ This is exactly what happens to you.”
HitFix: But on that analytical or strategic level, do you think they made the right move in voting you out?
Brenda: For sure. I definitely think so. I think so, but I think the people who made the right move more was someone like a Cochran or a Sherri, because everyone knew the bond that I had with Dawn because of the whole teeth thing, so for them to witness her doing something like that to me, just made everybody not like her, I think. Know what I mean? It made people, in my opinion, they would probably look at her and say, “How could you have done that?” So if I was a Jury member, which I instantly turned into one, I would look back and be like, “I don’t think I would vote for you, because you’re horrible.” [She laughs.] So if I was Dawn, I would probably have reconsidered like, “Maybe I shouldn’t be doing that and maybe in the Final, I could make a plea that I brought Brenda to the end and I’m a good person and blah blah blah. She didn’t deserve to win, because of these, these, these reasons,” instead of being like, “I had to take her out no matter if she saved me and my teeth or whatever.”
HitFix: It sounds like you see the negatives in why Dawn did it, but you appreciate why Cochran did it and you can appreciate it as a game move?
Brenda: Yeah, and I think it’s because I just had different connections with both. With Dawn, we had those connections, like I said. So yeah it’s strategic, but there was something else. There was something else, there was another element involved, which I believed was something like a friendship, like an honor thing between two people, which I didn’t have with Cochran. So for him, it was very easy for him to make a decision. For Dawn, I though she would have some type of difficulty in voting me off, but she did not.
HitFix: Looking back at that Reward Challenge, do you think that there was “right” thing that you could have done or do you think that no matter what decision you made at that point, you basically lost for winning that challenge?
Brenda: That day, I felt like I was on top of the world and I felt like nothing could ruin my day, because 1) I made it to Family Visit and 2) I experience Family Visit and 3) We won the challenge, with my dad. So I felt, “This is amazing!” I didn’t see anything negative about it. I didn’t see, “Oh. OK. Oh great. Now it sucks. Now I have to make a decision. Now blah blah blah.” The only thing that kinda sucked was not being able to see my sister, but the food part, I was like, “Whatever. We have five more days in the game. We’ll be eating soon.” But no. I felt like everybody would do the same thing as me. I felt like the right thing to do was to give up Reward so more people could enjoy it and I want to believe that most people would have done the same.
HitFix: Have you played the “What if?” game in your mind as to what would have happened if you’d taken the Reward? If there would have been any sort of blow-back that you could have anticipated?
Brenda: I think if I did accept the Reward, which I never would have done, I think if I had, I would have regretted accepting it, because that’s not something that you do when you’re on “Survivor,” I think. I think when you’re put in a dilemma where it’s like, “Alright, you can get everything or all these people can get it all.” It’s like, “Eh. I’d rather let all these people get it all, because if the tables were turned, I would want somebody to do that that for me.” I would want that. I didn’t feel like I lost anything. I think that’s what also made it easy. I didn’t feel like I lost. I spent the time with my dad. I got that boost that I needed. We had a great time together. I didn’t feel like, “Oh no! You’re slipping out of my grasp.” I felt like, “Alright. I got what I needed. They can go eat the food. That’s OK.”
HitFix: I want to go back a little bit, because it’s been one of the season’s big mysteries that was never answered. Your leg was wrapped up and you were limping for a while. What happened to you there?
Brenda: I hurt myself on the lily pads where we had to run across the lily pads in the challenge where we had to smash the thing in the water challenge and then run it back. That was where I hurt my knee really bad, to the point where, for a couple days, I couldn’t bend it. I couldn’t bend it and then slowly I had to massage it and then keep it straight and then slowly I could start using my leg, but my leg is not the same to this day. I can’t bend it all the way. I can bend it maybe 98 percent of the way, but I have some pain that will most likely never go away. They say it was just a really, really, really bad internal bruise that’s probably going to stay there. So that’s what happened!
HitFix: How much would you say that impacted your game on any level? Physical, strategic, etc?
Brenda: Strategically, in a weird way it actually helped. In the beginning, I wanted to come across as weak. Around camp I would act light-headed. I allowed people to get me water, which is something that I never would have done. I’m not like that at all. I’ve never had headaches and stuff like that in my real life. I like to be independent and actually help others, but I wanted people to see me as weak, so that their impression of me was totally different from what they saw in Nicaragua and, ironically, having a leg that was messed up, people would not totally see me as a physical threat, especially with the knee problem, so it ended up kinda working. It was scary for me, it was emotional and scary for me, because I was like, “Great. I need my knee. I need to run. I need to climb up these ladders and my knee’s messed up.” In a game where I can save myself through Immunities, it was scary for me, but I really hid that from a lot of people, my fear of the knee thing.
HitFix: You mentioned perceptions of you from Nicaragua and I think a lot of us were surprised in the first half of the season by how quiet you were and how little we saw you, but staying under the radar was part of your strategy?
Brenda: Yup. For sure. Absolutely. I definitely wanted to break that image of me where the only thing that people knew about me was being so cold-hearted and such an Amazon woman from Nicaragua. I didn’t want people to look at me like that, because then I’m easy vote-off. I had really no friends there. I don’t hang out with any of these people. I didn’t play the game with any of these people. I don’t go to any reality events, so I don’t know any of these people and they all know each other. So I felt like, “Hmmm… They’re gonna be judging me on that, so I’m gonna give them a new impression of me” and that was just to be completely tame, to seem distant, to seem weak, to seem like I’m not focused on the game, to seem like I’m struggling. And it really helped. It really helped and people did look at me a lot differently and instead of being that easy target of, “This girl thinks she’s gonna run the show this time? We have other plans for her.” And that was my strategy and it definitely work.
HitFix: But it seemed like you were having so much FUN the first time you played in Nicaragua and it maybe didn’t look like you were having as much fun this time. Was that the case?
Brenda: I did have a lot of fun, but it was more terrifying the second time around. That I have to admit. Yeah, I didn’t look at it that way. But the first time around, it always feels good to be on top. It always feels good to be like, “Yeah. I know where the Idols are. I know what’s going on. If I want this person to go home, they go home!” It feels good. But the second time around, it was very terrifying, but I have to say that I had more fun the second time around. I was there longer. I had better experiences. I learned more about myself. I had strategies that took me farther in the game instead of just being all cocky and whatever. It actually got me a lot farther, so I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it, especially knowing how easily you can be voted off and to be able to get through that and to make it to Final 6, it was a big high. I was on a high for a while towards the end. So the second time around it definitely might not look like it was more fun, but it was.
HitFix: And you can still look at it that way even after the way you went home?
Brenda: For sure. Oh yeah, that part sucks, but having the experience with my dad there and having the great challenges and the weather was beautiful and the challenges were amazing. That was so much fun. So those things plus my family visit and my dad was there and sister was there. That made it better than Nicaragua for me.