‘Survivor’ Winner Michele: ‘I Did Give (Neal) a Little “(Expletive Deleted) You” on the Way Out’

Michele Fitzgerald (CBS)

Michele Fitzgerald (CBS)

“You need a resume with big moves” has been the blueprint for winning “Survivor” for the last few years. So, when Michele Fitzgerald used her solid social game to top Aubry’s solid strategic game, everyone was a little shocked.

But, the jurors can vote for you because you’re nice, you’re good at challenges, or you share the same favorite color. It can literally be for any reason.

I spoke with the new champ the morning after her win to ask her about Neal’s venom, Cydney’s vote, and the kick heard round the world…

Gordon Holmes: Hey Michele, how is it going?
Michele Fitzgerald: Hello?
Holmes: Hello, Michele?

(Hangs Up)

(Calls Back)

Fitzgerald: Hello?
Holmes: Hi.
Fitzgerald: OK, now I can hear you.
Holmes: Am I being punked?
Fitzgerald: No! Nobody’s punking you.
Holmes: I see how it is when someone becomes a millionaire.
Fitzgerald: (Laughs)

Holmes: So what happens when the cameras shut off last night and you’re a million dollars richer?
Fitzgerald: We go out and we celebrate. We drink some champagne.
Holmes: Congratulations.
Fitzgerald: Thank you.

Holmes: Interesting win for you. I’ve always wondered; if you’re in a position where you don’t have to make big moves, then why do it? To impress jurors? It seemed to come down to a battle of your social game vs. Aubry’s strategic game.
Fitzgerald: I think it went down to social vs. strategic. Not that Aubry didn’t play socially, because she did. But, she played socially with the people that she wanted to play with. She picked and chose who she wanted to play with whereas I played with everybody. And I never counted anybody out. I was very flexible with who I could work with. If we could’ve gotten the numbers and I could have worked with Jason or Scot, I would have. I always had options open where I think she was a little more closed with her options. I think people were a little bitter about that. I think when you’re not willing to work with people it hurts their feelings.
Holmes: Is it all being open to working with people? That could alienate some of your current alliance members.
Fitzgerald: Well, there has to be a foundation of trust before talking strategy. I’m not a super strategic person so I went in and built relationships because that’s what I know how to do. And then I can talk with you about where we go in the game.

Holmes: What kind of feedback have you been getting based on your social game win?
Fitzgerald: It’s really mixed. And that’s hard to hear. My back was against the wall and I played the only way I wanted to play. But people are going to root for what they want to root for. I’m getting some people that are super supportive of my win and they loved my gameplay and sometimes it’s best to let the big personalities shoot each other in the feet and play true to yourself. I don’t think you have to make big moves, but I gained momentum. As people were floundering I got stronger and stronger. That’s a lasting impression. Maybe I was under the radar, but I ended with a bang.

Holmes: Neal had some…interesting…things to say about you when you removed him from the jury. That was way more heated than I had anticipated from him. Did you and he have a problem aside from that moment that we didn’t see?
Fitzgerald: There are a few levels to that. I think when Neal and I were on Chan Loh there was a lot of bitterness from when I screwed up that reward challenge. He really was gunning for me. He never wanted to work with me. He never gave me the time of day. I don’t think that he thought I was intelligent or really offered anything. I think he saw me as a number. So, I don’t think there was any shifting him. He held Aubry up to this really high standard and she had played this amazing game. And I see where he’s coming from. But, I think that you could see when she was making fire, he was hardcore rooting for her. I knew that was the best decision for my gameplay to vote him out. He was evacuated, which had to be tough, so he probably wanted to make this bold, end-of-game statement fighting for Aubry and I stripped that from him. I’m sure that was challenging. You’re inclined to spit out a mean comment, but it showed that I’d made the right decision.
Holmes: I loved Probst saying, “Yeah, that was probably the right call.”
Fitzgerald: (Laughs) I did give him a little “(expletive deleted) you” on the way out.
Holmes: Was that a hand gesture or verbal?
Fitzgerald: It was both.
Holmes: So, the point got across.
Fitzgerald: I said it, then I put the exclamation point on it with the finger.
Holmes: Was that a double?
Fitzgerald: It was a single. Double…I wasn’t going to go there.
Holmes: Yeah, too far. A single bird is classy.
Fitzgerald: (Laughs) Thank you. I like to think I’m classy.

Holmes: I’m a big believer that “Survivor” is a product of the season the players last saw before they left. Do you think your win might change the game?
Fitzgerald: If people take anything from my gameplay, I hope they take that calmness is something you need. If you’re calm, people around you are calm. They’ll be at ease and more likely to connect with you. If you’re constantly frantic and stressed and over-strategizing, and people aren’t sure where you’re going to land…those are the people that nobody wants to work with. I hope people appreciate my confidence, strength, and calmness. I’m not sure if people will follow that because it doesn’t translate well to TV. People want to come in and be this huge personality. But, what they end up losing is the finesse that is needed to move forward.

Holmes: I don’t think I’m going to get to talk to Cydney today.
Fitzgerald: That’s a huge bummer!
Holmes: I know this. Have you had a chance to ask her why she voted for you over Aubry?
Fitzgerald: Yeah, Cyd is my girl. Me and Cydney had a really tight relationship from Chan Loh. We had been talking about the Nick vote, the Scot and Jason vote. We knew we were going to flip. That had been in the works since before her getting on the beach with Aubry at the merge. I did not want to work with Nick anymore, so I talked with Cydney. We both felt bummed that they didn’t show more of our relationship. But at the same time, she straight up told me, “You were loyal to me and loyalty is what matters in my book. That’s where I’m going to cast my vote.”

Holmes: Alright, word association time. Let’s start with Caleb.
Fitzgerald: Funny.
Holmes: Tai?
Fitzgerald: Fascinating, confused a little bit.
Holmes: Scot?
Fitzgerald: Gentle.
Holmes: Nick?
Fitzgerald: Sarcastic, guarded.
Holmes: Jason?
Fitzgerald: Family man.
Holmes: Joe?
Fitzgerald: Loyal, lovable, sweet.
Holmes: Anna?
Fitzgerald: Oh my God, Anna is the sweetest person ever. Kind.
Holmes: Cydney?
Fitzgerald: Hilarious, sassy, and tough as hell.
Holmes: Aubry?
Fitzgerald: I think she’s sensitive and she has an amazing ability to create meaningful relationships.
Holmes: Julia?
Fitzgerald: Bubbly.
Holmes: Debbie?
Fitzgerald: One word? Protective.
Holmes: Let’s finish with Neal.
Fitzgerald: Ice cream. (Laughs) What can you say about Neal?

Holmes: I’m assuming your favorite moment was when someone handed you a big check. Do you know what my favorite moment was?
Fitzgerald: Let’s hear it.
Holmes: It’s when someone finished a puzzle and then felt the need to karate kick it across Cambodia.
Fitzgerald: (Laughs) Kung fu, babe!
Holmes: The art department works really hard making those things!
Fitzgerald: Oh my God, are you saying I took a shot at the art department?! I love that structure. If I could have it now I’d glue it together and put it as a centerpiece in my room. But, Jeff had said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if the person who won knocked it over at the end?” And I thought, oh that’s a hint. So, I’m going to kick the hell out of it if I win. I’m not some kind of Kung Fu Panda over here. I’ve never done karate a day in my life. But, I’m gonna celebrate when I win that final immunity.
Holmes: You don’t just push it over like a mic drop. I’m gonna kick the (expletive deleted) out of this thing.
Fitzgerald: Umm…I (expletive deleted) kicked the (expletive deleted) out of it. (Laughs)
Holmes: Are you going to go on eBay and try to win this puzzle?
Fitzgerald: This was never a thought for me. I might have to do that. But somebody might really want it. We’ll see what the bidding war goes to.
Holmes: I like that you just won a million bucks and you’re like, “Let’s see how much it goes for.” No splurging for you. That speaks well of you.
Fitzgerald: I made my sister buy the coffee this morning. Nothing is changing.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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