Survivor: Ghost Island interview: Stephanie Johnson on tribe swap trouble, luck, and biggest downfall
Through much of the past few episodes of Survivor: Ghost Island, Stephanie Johnson was clearly established as a player worth rooting for. She was someone who loved the show, was eager to play, and was well-liked by just about everyone out in the game. Yet, she fell into a situation after the tribe swap where she was on the wrong side of the numbers and eventually found herself voted out in what proved to be an emotional Tribal Council vote. In some ways, it almost felt like her passion and her story hurt her because she could be a major jury threat at the end.
Was that the case, and what were the Naviti members of the new Malolo tribe doing to insulate themselves from any danger of going home after the swap? These were both questions that we were eager to get some sort of answer to in our exit interview Stephanie today.
CarterMatt – Do you think that you were viewed as a threat just because you were likable and cared so much about the game?
Stephanie – Absolutely! This game has the physical, the social, and the strategic aspects, but at the same time it also takes a s–t ton of luck! From the beginning I just didn’t have luck on my side. I didn’t really win anything except for the immunity challenge when Morgan went home, Ghost Island got switched up so a person wasn’t immune, I couldn’t play for an advantage — I didn’t have luck on my side. If I had one or two things go right for me I definitely think I could’ve been sitting there at the end.
I’m assuming that you and the other Malolo people spent time looking for an immunity idol.
I looked for an idol every single day. I was all over the place. I never stopped and just chilled, except for watching the sunrise. I always watched the sunrise, but after that I was constantly moving.
When you entered that Tribal Council, did you know it was going to be you?
No, I knew it was going to be me the second we got back from the immunity challenge.
I can’t imagine how frustrating it has to be to keep trying to come up against five people who were just so immovable. They didn’t even try to show the possibility last night of one of them flipping.
It absolutely was. There was no budging. Kellyn and Bradley were the power couple and the other three were just their pawns. They would do whatever they said. Whatever Bradley and Kellyn wanted, they go. They wanted to stick to the numbers and pick us off and that is exactly what they did. They got their way and it was really frustrating. You can visibly see me getting frustrated so many different times. With Morgan gone [from the new Naviti tribe], it gave us hope that maybe there would be a crack. But those five weren’t cracking.
Did you know that there were people going through your bag for the advantage?
I didn’t know that this was going on. I obviously wasn’t around — I wouldn’t let someone dig through my stuff if I was there.
I was just wondering if someone tipped you off, because I was interested to know why you cast the vote for Des.
I was sure it was me — I had read Michael and Jenna the second I got back from the immunity challenge. They weren’t open to play and Jenna wouldn’t even look me in the eye. I knew it was an individual thing for me at that point. I was sure it was me, but in the off chance that it was Michael I didn’t want to have a vote go towards Bradley. The same goes for Kellyn and Chelsea. With Sebastian, I felt like I had a better relationship with him, and I didn’t want to vote for either Jenna or Michael if I had to go back to camp with [one of them].
For me, it was a safe vote to go back to camp that night without pissing anybody off, except for maybe Des.
In terms of life before this tribe swap, how safe did you feel on the original Malolo?
It was a solid five! It was me, Michael, Brendan, Jenna, and Libby. We were super strong and we were in a great position. Had their not been a swap I feel like there would have been a good chance we would keep going.
I was in a great position, but I suppose you can never feel like you are in a great position because it can be gone in one moment. That should have been a sign.
How much consideration did you give to keeping Jacob back in the second episode?
There really was no saving him at that point. He is so loyal and he would’ve been a great ally and we could’ve done really well, but at that moment he was everybody’s target. It was an easy vote and it was early in the game. He also gave me a lot of information nobody else knew.
I would have loved to work more with Jacob, but it was just not going to happen, because everyone else had him as their target.
So overall, did being on Ghost Island help or hurt your game?
It was devastating to my game — it really caused my downfall. With Kellyn going to Ghost Island, had she been immune we would have gone into Brendan’s Tribal four – four and that would’ve been a game-changer for us. The fact that I was there and wasn’t immune didn’t help — I got voted out — and I didn’t even have a chance to get an advantage. I was also away socially from my tribe for 24 hours. I feel like Ghost Island completely screwed my game
About the experience
Did being on Survivor live up to all of your expectations?
Absolutely. It was everything and more. I loved every minute! I did want to smack some people sometimes (laughs), but beyond that I loved the people and I loved the adventure of being out there. I loved the strategy of the game and loved the challenges.
Was there a part of it that was harder than what you expected?
I don’t think that there was any part of it that was harder. I actually felt fine physically and had a lot of mental clarity, even though we were literally living off of two tablespoons of rice a day and a handful of coconut. That actually surprised me, that I actually felt so good. I think that the hard part for me was that I had to keep bouncing back because we kept losing. It really tested my resilience.
What it hard watching yourself get voted out?
It was horrible and my kids didn’t know until last night. It was harder than I thought to watch back — there were a lot of tears and shock and emotion. It was not easy to watch. I thought that it might be okay to watch, but I felt like the episode as a whole was so sad — I was crying the whole episode!
I’m sure your kids are still super-proud of you, though. You were out there and were so enthusiastic about the game.
As a mom I think it’s a pretty common fear that you think you’re failing your kids. Last night I think my oldest picked up on the dialogue, and he’s only eight. He picked up on the fact that I was sensitive to looking like a failure to them. He came over and wrapped me in a big hug and said ‘I’m so proud of you, mom.’ Then, my little guy followed suit and said it. It really brought a sense of peace and closure to the whole experience because it was my only lingering fear — that I was disappointing them on some level by not coming home with a million-dollar check.
Any interest in playing again? I feel like I know the answer to this.
Hell yeah! Can I hop on a flight tomorrow?
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