It says a lot about Kim Spradlin that although few fans are describing “Survivor: One World” as one of the CBS’ franchise’s better installments, it’s easy to find viewers eager to call Kim’s season one of the game’s finest performances.
For 39 days, Kim crushed the competition, dominating “Survivor: One World” socially, strategically and physically.
She built an all-female alliance on Day One and stuck with it to the end.
When the Merge arrived with equal gender numbers, she manipulated and maneuvered to turn the men on themselves and soon orchestrated the systematic elimination of the opposite gender.
And as Individual Immunity became more and more important, Kim emerged as a challenge juggernaut.
Despite pulling the strings on every level — Troy departed telling everybody they needed to get her out — Kim was never in serious jeopardy and the game ended with her holding a Hidden Immunity Idol she never needed to use.
In previous exit interviews, her Final Three rivals Sabrina and Chelsea have both agreed Kim deserved to win.
In her exit interview, Kim discusses her strategy for the season and why she thought the Jury results would be even closer than 7-2. She also explains her shock at capping off the memorable season by winning America’s Player as well.
Click through for the full Q&A.
HitFix: I was just talking with Sabrina and she said that you guys had discussed it and you thought the vote might be closer than it was. Why did you think that?
Kim Spradlin: I think for me, I walked away from the final Tribal Council feeling really good about the votes and then over time, you have seven or eight months to think about it and I just, all of a sudden in the last couple months, it just seemed too obvious that I was going to win and I started to think that I hadn’t won. Then you start hearing rumors and I just kinda expected that maybe Sabrina had… There were some people that I knew had voted for me for sure. There were some people that I knew had voted for her — Troy and Leif. And then I felt like there were some people in the middle who could have gone one way or the other, so it turns out they didn’t, which is awesome.
HitFix: Both Chelsea and Sabrina were very open and frank about how you deserved your win. Would you have been as gracious to them if one of them had won?
Kim: You know, I think I’d prepared myself. I’ve been saying all along that this is a game and it’s what makes “Survivor” unique is that the person who sits there at the end technically did win the game and played the best game. So if Sabrina wins last night? She played a better a better game than I did. I overplayed and whatever you want to say. I was hoping and trying to get there for sure and wanting to be able to say the same thing today.
HitFix: You started to hint at it there: What would have been the reason why Sabrina would have won? What would have been the reason why Chelsea would have won?
Kim: I always thought Chelsea could be the JT to my Stephen, if you know what I mean. She was the straight-shooting country girl and she had a hard time and played a little more with her heart and not so much with her head and so I felt like if people were incredibly bitter, they would vote for her in the end. With Sabrina, honestly, I underestimated Sabrina, obviously, walking into that final Tribal Council. I thought Chelsea was my competition and was surprised to see that those other votes were going Sabrina’s way. So she obviously made some good connections with people as well. I think Sabrina was incredibly well-spoken during Tribal Council and thought a lot more about that, her social game, than I did, because I sat at Tribal Council and tried to be incredibly quiet and didn’t want to be called out on a lot of stuff. So I think overall she ended up looking very well-spoken and diplomatic throughout the entire season.
HitFix: Those Final Tribals, often they end up as loud griping sessions.
HitFix: What were you able to read from the tone as you guys sat there and faced the Jury?
Kim: I was honestly so pleasantly surprised with the tone. I walked in expecting to get “We hate you” and I was amazed at the amount of grace that was extended from people and that they had really come to terms with it, particularly Kat and Alicia. I knew they were either going to be way against me or way for me, so it was so cool to see that. I did also feel like even though there were some people that were mad, like Mike, I also got a lot of “Hey, great games.” So I was really pleasantly surprised by how forgiving they were.
HitFix: Did Troy ever tell you what the right answer was to his question?
Kim: [Laughs.] No. He never did. I’ll have to ask him.
HitFix: Have you given that any thought subsequently? Because it sounded to me like you gave the right answer.
Kim: I thought I gave the right answer, too. I have not given it any thought. Honestly, it doesn’t matter today and that’s pretty awesome.
HitFix: You said you’ve had seven months to go over the vote over and over again in your head. What has it been like for the past few months watching this season and seeing how well what you did played out on TV?
Kim: It’s been fun. I tried to expect the worst and walking into Episode One, I had no idea how I was about to get portrayed. I came home and kinda felt like I had a good shot of looking like a villain, so I was thankful that at least they made me look smart. I didn’t know how my strategy was going to come across. I did know that I went out there intending to respect people and make good relationships. I never wanted to make it personal or cut people down or say ugly things. It was all about the game for me. So I was really pleasantly surprised with the way it came off… Minus the mustache. [She laughs.]
HitFix: As a student of the game, do you want to try to put what you watched this season in perspective in terms of great seasons of “Survivor” playing?
Kim: I’ve gotten that question a lot today and that’s a hard one for me. Being a huge fan of the game, it’s hard to even hear people compare me to some of my favorite players, so I don’t know. I don’t know if it goes into that category or not. I just know that I went and played really well and it seemed pretty simple for me while I was out there, particularly after the result last night. I have my favorites and I’m not quite sure I’m ready to hear me be compared to them. That seems still kind of silly.
HitFix: So who are those favorites?
Kim: I’m, of course, a huge Boston Rob fan. Love JT. Love Tom Westman. I’m a huge Stephenie LaGrossa fan. Chelsea actually reminded me a ton of her. Obviously I love Parvati. I have a lot. I really, really love the show.
HitFix: A couple of those players you mentioned won once and then came back and were much less successful.
HitFix: Does that lead you to not want to come back again?
Kim: You know, I think it’s a hard thing to do. Unless you’re playing with all returning players, that would be a really tough thing to do. If they ask me back, I’m sure I would come back. I don’t see myself saying “No” to that any time soon.
HitFix: During the Rites of Passage, you mentioned how differently the game might have turned out if Colton hadn’t gone out. Any theories on what that might have looked like?
Kim: You know, from what I’ve heard, I think that that could have gone one of two directions: I feel like we would have either initially just had a huge clash at the Merge. You know, him saying that he was sending Chelsea home first, that was not going to happen. So I think it would have very quickly gone one way or the other and it could have ended up in their favor for sure.
HitFix: Sticking with hypotheticals: How would you have planned on playing differently this season if the tribes had been gender integrated to start?
Kim: Gosh, I don’t know! It’s funny, when I first found out it was gonna be Men versus Women, I thought that was gonna be my worst nightmare and I do think it ended up working in my favor, because I kinda got to play more of a “male” role in my tribe, just being calmer and more of a physical player and building the shelter and all of that. It made me more of an asset. If the tribes had been mixed, it could have been really interesting. I would have been fascinated to watch how that could have played out. My intention was to go in and not butt heads, so I do kinda think I would have played a similar role even in a mixed gender tribe. It’s the role I played when we switched tribes, just kinda quiet and being perceived a little bit as a wallflower in the beginning.
HitFix: It had never happened in “Survivor” history before, but do you think it would have been possible to get to an all-female Top Five if you’d started with integrated tribes?
Kim: I have no idea! I wouldn’t even begin to know how to think about that.
HitFix: But you have some sort of sense of the way that the women bonded as a group in a way that the men were never able to come together. So it seemed like you took advantage of that, right?
Kim: Definitely. I think the women bonded because we started out as the underdogs and we didn’t have anything and we were kinda miserable, so we bonded out of our misery. Had the tribes been mixed-gender, I don’t know that we would have ever had that opportunity. So much of this is trusting who you’re with, so I don’t know how and why the women would have come together and wanted to be in an alliance together. It was a pretty random group of women and I think had we not been forced together, I don’t know if we would have naturally gravitated towards each other.
HitFix: This goes back to Troy’s question to you at Final Tribal: Was there a specific moment were you actually realized that you might be able to pull this off? A point where you where you looked in the guys’ eyes and thought, “Oh my goodness, I’m actually going to be able to make them turn on each other”?
Kim: For me it was sending Jonas home. I’ll say it again. I think that was the moment. Had Jonas stuck around two more days, I really think Jonas was on to me and I think Jonas and Troy could have reunited and reconnected and that could have been me going home the next week, so I feel like sending Jonas home was huge, because it proved that Alicia and Christina were voting where we were telling them to vote and then at that point we had really cut down Troy and Jay’s options.
HitFix: It seemed like you had several moments, a couple caused by Chelsea, where you were worried that your house of cards was about to collapse. Was there a moment where you were particularly sure that things were about to get messed up for good?
Kim: I really feel like the couple of days before Final Tribal, I had kinda convinced myself that this was probably not going to go my way. I’d been staring at those people’s faces and they looked pretty mad. So I was convinced going in there that there was a good chance that they were going to be really, really angry. That’s as dire as I got. I was honestly never very afraid that I was getting voted out. It was more, “Am I going to be able to convince them to vote for me at the end or do I have to convinced them to vote for me?”
HitFix: What would you have done if you’d walked into Final Tribal and there’d been anger staring back at you?
Kim: I think the hardest thing to do at those things, and it’s a funny thing, is you have to be so careful, because the thing that you say to one Juror that controls them and their anger pisses another person sitting up there off, a person who maybe was going to be voting for you. So again, I think the best thing that I could have done up there is what I did, which is own it and say that I wouldn’t change a thing. You can apologize, but you can’t really. I think that people get a little irritated when you sit up there and throw yourself a pity party and act like it was so hard.
HitFix: You had a Hidden Immunity Idol in your pocket for a long time. Obviously you didn’t play it, but what did having that Idol do for you just in terms of confidence and knowing that was in your pocket?
Kim: Yeah, going into Final Tribal, I really considered pulling it out and saying, “Hey. And I’ve had this Idol since Day 12 and I never even needed to play it,” but I was like, “Yeah, that kinda feels a little bit cocky.” And that was already the problem. That felt like salt in the wound to these people that betrayed. It was like, “Oh, yeah. And I lied to you about this.” So I just felt like it was almost better at that point not to just pull out everything I had, all the bells and whistles, and throw everything in everybody’s face. That just kinda felt like too much to me. I actually wound up giving that to Troy when we got back to Ponderosa. He has that as a keepsake. He says it was worth more now that he knows it was in my crotch.
HitFix: Troy ended up being the one who was notably bitter in the end. What did you make of that?
Kim: Yeah, honestly, I know Troy fairly well and I don’t think it’s really how or who Troy is. I think Troy’s one of the funnest people out there. He’s so charismatic. He’s a really cool guy to be around. I just think he’s incredibly passionate about the game and it didn’t go the way he wanted and that’s a hard thing to come to terms with sometimes. It feels really real when you’re in it. I very much understand. I think that could have easily gone the other way and I’m thankful that it didn’t.
HitFix: Looking back, how important was it for you to have had Chelsea with you as your partner-in-crime throughout?
Kim: That was absolutely huge. I’ve heard her say this and it’s really true, but it’s not only having her strategically in the game, but having a person who you can go to that you can be yourself with and you actually feel like is a true friend who you see eye-to-eye with and you get each other, that’s priceless out there. One of the hardest things about playing “Survivor” is feeling very isolated and alone, so when you have a real friend that you have a heart connection with, I think that’s pretty powerful just in an emotional sense. But I also, me not going with Christina, Alicia and Tarzan at the end, I just started thinking that Christina and Alicia might cut me loose and take who they thought would be a better option at the end and I knew with Sabrina and Chelsea, that was my sure shot to sit at the Final Three. I trued them that much.
HitFix: And as a last question: Being America’s Player, does that mean something different to you? Do you think that validates something different about what you did out there?
Kim: Honestly, that is the most shocked I’ve ever been. I obviously knew that I had a shot at winning the million dollars, but I had no idea that I was in the running for America’s Player. And it surprised me. I still don’t know what to make of it, to be honest. I didn’t know that I was even on people’s radar a somebody that they thought was likable. I thought that was a shoe-in for Chelsea or Troy or Kat. So I don’t know. That really caught me off-guard, to be honest.