‘Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X’ exclusive: Sunday Burquest on blindside vote, value of social game

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We’ve seen the players on “Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X” be blindsided on a number of occasions, but on Wednesday night’s new episode we were just as blindsided as anyone to see Sunday Burquest be the player sent home before the finale. She was under the radar, and not perceived by everyone as the biggest threat; yet, it seemed as though taking her out was simply one of the few moves that everyone could get the numbers together to make.

We certainly had a number of questions for Sunday, so we were happy to be able to speak with her earlier this morning — she provided a lot of great insight on her strategy, and a number of things she did right in maintaining key relationships. For those who missed it, we also spoke to Will Wahl, and that interview is up and worth looking at over at the link here.

CarterMatt – I know this was a surprise to me, but going into this past Tribal Council, did you have any sense that you were in danger?

Sunday Burquest – No, I did not! There’s always that little [feeling] in the back of your mind that makes you think it could be you, but I really didn’t think it was going to be me [going home]. I’d had conversations with Hannah and Adam that day, and I really didn’t think it was going to be me going home.

I was watching the votes being read last night and I think it was after the second vote came out with your name that you had a big reaction on your face. Was it at that moment you knew that you were done?

Yes. Even after the first vote [I felt that way], but you hold out hope that it’s only one vote. As soon as I saw the second vote, I knew. Terrible.

And I’m sure watching it back last night, all of those thoughts and feelings came back.

Yeah, totally. Every feeling came back. I’m crying — even though I knew it was coming. My kids didn’t know because I didn’t tell them anything. It was pretty interesting around here.

How are they taking it? I’m sure they’re proud that you made it that far, but they’re probably also bummed out.

They’re way proud of me, even [if] they’re bummed out. I mean, we’ve been watching as a family since the start of the show, so just for getting on and for making it that far, they were proud of me. I mean they made fun of me for my remarkable work in the challenges (laughs), but they had fun watching.

Do you have an understanding as to why you were voted out over Bret in that particular moment?

I think it really was just Hannah pushing. She wanted to have I guess a ‘big move.’ I don’t know if getting me out is a big move — I think a big move is getting out a big threat — but she wanted to have credit for moves in the game. I’m surprised it went that way, and I’m surprised Adam went along with it. But, when you have people that you’re working with and they are all voting in one direction, you just have to concede.

That just tends to happen out there, but one thing that was good for you this season is that you seemed to have one person who was loyal to you the entire way in Bret. When did you guys first start getting that alliance together?

It got together really early. I wanted to work with Bret and Chris right away. My plan going into the game was to go with two alpha males and follow them into the merge so that I wouldn’t be the first target. I just really hit it off with the two of them. Bret reminded me of my husband, and the two of them together reminded me of my brothers — I have three brothers. It was a comfortable and easy alliance that came together.

The part of the game I was the most worried for you and Bret was after the tribe swap. Back at the time in which Michaela was sent home, was there anything in particular that you or Bret did to save yourselves in the game?

Here’s the thing: Those millennials were very tight, but the six of us [at Ikabula] were really tight. I put in a lot of work spending time individually with each one of the millennials, which was a strength of mine. Once the day [started going on], I was pretty sure the votes weren’t going my way and I was waiting to see what was going to happen. By the end of the day Will came to us and asked us if we would vote for Michaela — we said that we would, since we didn’t really have a choice. I found out later that Bret actually knew for a good part of the day; they were trying to keep it under wraps, but once Bret and I had a conversation about voting for each other, Bret would have been in danger had I voted for him. They had to bring me in on it.

We tend to always discount some of the social game on the outside in comparison to some of the strategy. Can you talk a little about how for you, building bonds was so essential to your success and staying as long as you did?

The strength of my game was my social game. It’s obviously not my physical ability (laughs), but I did connect one on one with people. My goal was to make a relationship with every person, even if they weren’t in my alliance. I feel like sometimes people get set in their alliance and they don’t develop things, and that means that they are limiting their options. So for me, my goal was to make a relationship with every single person, and it gave me more options as we moved forward. It gave me the option to work with Adam, and people believed me when I said things that weren’t necessarily true.

It helped me. It didn’t necessarily get me to the title, but it was my strength for how I played the game.

One person in particular I was fascinated with was your relationship with Jay, since we saw the two of you talking after the merge pretty often. What was the dynamic between the two of you like?

I would keep him in the loop on if he needed to play his idol or not. I would give him information on the side, and there were a lot of winks behind the scenes, us talking in the woods. I don’t think people realized how tight Ikabula was behind the scenes. It surprised me a little to see Will going behind Jay’s back on the show, but I connected really well with Jay. I just kept that going. I feel like giving information helped build trust.

You mentioned Adam earlier, and I know you weren’t privy to everything that he was going through out there. I know you’re a cancer survivor, so had he opened up more about what his mom was going through, do you think that this would have built an even deeper emotional bond between the two of you?

Possibly. I knew that his mom had been diagnosed, but none of us knew to the degree of what was going on. Everyone knew that I was a breast cancer survivor, so it was talked about openly. Had he spoken to me, it would have been more of an emotional attachment for me to him, knowing what my kids went through when I was going through cancer. So it could have forged more of an emotional connection and I may have ended up sticking with him, but it wouldn’t have been in my favor.

And it was incredible and inspiring to see you out out there doing this after going through everything that you did.

Let’s talk about the endgame. I’m sure you wanted to go to the final three with Bret, so who would’ve been the other person?


What was it about Ken? Was it the relationship you had with him, or things he was doing in the game?

I feel like I had a good relationship with him, and I just felt like he wasn’t strategizing as much. I felt like maybe I could pull some things out of my hat that made it seem like I was doing more in the game than he was. That would’ve been my defense if I was sitting next to him. So probably Ken, and maybe Hannah.


We wondered this back around when Chris was being voted out: Was there any way for Gen X to work together? We saw a little bit of distrust between you and Jessica, so could nobody get on the same page after the merge?

Basically. After the Paul vote there was just really a divide that we couldn’t fix and didn’t work hard enough to fix. I could say for myself that I should’ve worked harder with Jess and trying to fix things with her; that was a mistake of mine. Bret and Chris also did not trust David at all. I would say things like ‘oh, we could do this with David,’ and they were like ‘no, don’t trust David.’ They were right, but I was like ‘we could probably work with him on a vote or two’ and it never could come together. Once we got together at the merge, everyone had the people they trusted at the swap.

Now, at the end of the game before I left I pitched to David and Ken ‘let’s pull Gen X together’ when we decided to vote out Will. I was like ‘we don’t want a millennial to get to the end. We don’t want a millennial winning. Why don’t we pull ranks again?’ It didn’t pan out, but I tried.

Would you be interested in playing again, and is there anything that you would change?

I’d definitely play again, and what I would do is definitely take more risks and more vocal in the decision-making. I’m the type of person who takes charge in many situations, and I was conscious of that and didn’t want to put myself in that position in the game. So, I over-corrected.

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