By John Cochran
State trooper Kelly Remington emerged as an early favorite this season, and — full disclosure — was one of my personal picks to win. Surrounded by Blue Collar tribemates like the outspoken Lindsey, the brotastic Rodney, and whatever the hell Dan is, Kelly stood out as a beacon of sanity and levelheadedness. After reaching the merge and reuniting with her partner in crime, Mike, Kelly seemed poised to take control of the game… until Jenn pulled out a hidden immunity idol in a move that stung more than whatever that pervy bee did. After her shocking elimination, Kelly and I talked about dream alliances, post-merge plans, bloody foreheads, and the ‘Nited ‘Tates o’ ‘Merica.
Cochran: A recurring theme of last night’s episode was the threat posed by strong power couples. Carolyn, for instance, predicted that strong pairs would be in big trouble come the merge. You were a member of one such pair — possibly the strongest one in the game — with your Blue Collar tribemate, Mike. What was it about Mike that brought you two together?
Kelly: I guess right from the get-go — when we first went to build our shelter and started meeting everyone — Mike was the one who went out there and was just a workhorse. He was getting stuff done; he was telling people what to do. And, you know, it’s important — you don’t want to be the person to tell everyone what to do, because it’s going to put an “X” on your back. But he was motivating people, and he was just a good, hardworking guy. And I saw that he knew what he was doing. We pretty much connected by Day Two; we realized we had a lot in common. His beliefs; his attitude; his hard-working nature… we just connected right away.
Cochran: Another pair you were part of — whether it was real or imagined — was with Rodney. When I talked to Joaquin last week, he mentioned how confident Rodney was that you two would work together post-merge. And this week, we saw Rodney propose a new cross-tribal alliance to you that included you, him, Will, and Carolyn. What explains Rodney’s confidence that he “had” you? Did he?
Kelly: I had a really good alliance with Rodney. We connected from Day One. It wasn’t as close as my alliance with Mike was, but Rodney was definitely my number two. He was my backup plan: if something happened to Mike, then I knew I had Rodney and could still go far with him. I knew he wasn’t well-liked out there because of how boisterous he was and how he and Lindsey were butting heads, but I saw that I could just let Rodney be the explosive one. So, yeah, we did also have a good alliance out there.
Cochran: If there’s any consolation to be taken from your vote-out, maybe it’s in the fact that players voted out immediately after the merge are historically considered some of the biggest threats in the game. Indeed, last night we saw Jenn and Hali repeatedly state their belief that voting you out would “cripple” the Blue Collars. How did you develop this reputation as the mega-threatening linchpin of the entire Blue Collar alliance?
Kelly: I honestly don’t think that I was. I just think that they voted me out because I went to their tribe, bonded with them, told them how the Blue Collars didn’t get along, and said how I wanted to work with them. And then — after the merge — I pretty much was Blue Collar strong. I was loyal: I went back to Mike and Rodney and was talking to Sierra and Dan, and it just felt good to be with my Blue Collars. And Jenn, Hali, and I just didn’t talk after the merge. So I think it was more personal — that they thought I lied to them about wanting to stick with them after the merge. Because I really wasn’t that great at the challenges; I wasn’t the fastest; I wasn’t a great swimmer; I wasn’t that big of a threat.
Cochran: On the topic of challenges, let’s talk about last week’s immunity challenge, which your Blue Collar tribemates intentionally bungled to save you from being voted out. How aware of this plan were you? Had it been discussed prior to the swap?
Kelly: Yes, throwing the challenge was pre-planned. We did talk about at Blue Collar that, if there was one odd person out after a swap, we would try to stay Blue Collar strong the whole way. Even though we fought a lot, we still loved each other, and we were true to the core — we were loyal. So yeah, our plan was that if this is what happened, we were going to throw the challenge.
Cochran: You were part of another impactful (literally!) challenge moment a couple weeks ago, when you took a massive hit to the head during a Reward Challenge. It was one of the more visually arresting injuries in Survivor history. What was running through your mind as you felt the blood pouring down your forehead, unable to remove your blindfold? It had to be horrifying, right?
Kelly: It actually wasn’t. I thought at first it was sweat. But in the moment, you know you need food, you know you can’t lose this challenge. There was no thinking about “Oh, my head hurts.” I kind of just thought I’d actually run into a tree — I didn’t realize something had fallen on my head at that point. All I knew was “Alright: what’s the score? Let’s get this wrapped up and we can take care of it afterwards.” The adrenaline was going and we were sweating and we couldn’t breathe through those masks, so I just wanted to carry on and see if we couldn’t get back into this because we needed those chickens! So, no, at that moment, my head wasn’t my concern.
Cochran: Let’s talk about your Blue Collar days more generally. As a viewer, the Blue Collar tribe seemed ridiculously dysfunctional — rife with disagreements and tension and fighting. As someone who seems so even-tempered and well-adjusted, how did you manage to fit into such a combustible group? And how is it that, despite all the dysfunction, the Blue Collars have remained so fiercely loyal to each other?
Kelly: I fit in with the Blue Collars because that’s just how we all were. We all have great work ethic; we trust each other; we’re loyal. Yeah, there was fighting — but it was the perfect storm for me, because I could just sit back. Because I knew, going in there, I wasn’t going to tell them what I did for a living. I knew I wasn’t going to be that loud person that’s not going to get along — because we know, watching Survivor, those people put “X”’s on their backs. So it was easy for me to just sit back and watch Rodney get mad and watch Lindsey fight with him and watch Dan being over the top. It was a perfect scenario for me to watch these guys explode — “Go ahead, fight!” — because I knew I wouldn’t be going home tonight. But then, at the end of the day, we all worked together because we are Blue Collars. We’re strong, we want to win, we want to stick together. Even if I don’t like you at this moment, us Blue Collars were going to stay together to avoid going to Tribal, so we’d agree to fight this war together and do our best. And then we’d have down-time when everything would unravel and the fighting would start again. But when it was time to play game-on, we were all ready and psyched to go out there and kick some butt.
Cochran: One of the bigger Blue Collar tribe decisions you were at the center of was several weeks ago, when you and Mike were the swing votes who decided to send home Lindsey instead of Rodney. Do you think keeping Lindsey in the game longer could have changed the trajectory of the game for you?
Kelly: No; I think I made the right decision with Lindsey. She and Sierra were very tight — they were always hanging out. They were inseparable. I at least knew I had Rodney, but I wasn’t sure if Lindsey would stick with me or if she would’ve went with Sierra down the road. And I knew getting rid of Lindsey would definitely solidify me, Rodney, Mike, and Dan, and would get rid of Sierra’s best friend. So, no, I think I made the right choice. And Lindsey is an awesome girl, but she was a control freak out there with food and counting the rice for 39 days; there was a lot of drama about how much rice different people should get… So it just made our camp life a little better, getting rid of Lindsey and her controlling ways.
Cochran: Obviously things didn’t go your way last night, but let’s assume they had and Jenn was voted off. What was the roadmap for the rest of your game? Did you intend to stick with Mike all the way to the end, or could you see yourself voting him out earlier as a threat?
Kelly: I would’ve taken Mike all the way to the end. And then, if I had to choose between Mike or Rodney, my head would’ve probably said “Take Rodney,” because if I sat up there at the end with Mike, he probably would’ve won. But when you’re out there, you start playing with your emotions — so I probably have to say, in my heart, I would’ve been sitting with Mike at the end, even knowing it maybe wouldn’t be the best decision. If you’re out there 39 days — you’re exhausted, and you have this amazing friendship — yeah, going to the end with Mike was my gameplan.
Cochran: On the subject of Mike — he seemed very proud of his creation of the “Merica” tribe name. Shirin, on the other hand, seemed less than impressed. What was your take on it all? How Pro-Merica were you?
Kelly: I was for it! I like Merica! Because that’s what we are — we’re a melting pot. Even though Shirin thought it was crazy. But we went with it and I was all for it.
Cochran: Alright, back to the game. You were talked about as a major threat, but who did you feel most threatened by?
Kelly: For the No-Collars, Joe was a big threat. For the White Collars, Carolyn was a huge threat — she hung onto that pole for an hour. I mean, she’s tough. She’s watching out there, she’s making alliances. But I aligned with her — you want to keep those people close to you. Still, she was a big threat. And I’d say Mike, but he was my number one, so I didn’t really consider him a threat.
Cochran: Were there any specific instances or interactions you had during the game in which you felt like your cop experience came into play and really gave you the upper hand?
Kelly: I think my cop experience definitely helped me out. We’d just seen Tony win [ Survivor: Cagayan] and how he went out there without telling people what he did. So I knew I didn’t want to tell people what I did for a living, because people don’t trust cops. People know we’re sneaky — that we’re observing. I wasn’t going to try to break up the fights out there; it was nice to just be able to sit back and watch people’s reactions. You’re watching every minute you’re out there: who’s talking by the fire? Who’s getting up in the middle of the night? Who’s talking to that person? So it’s nonstop mental thinking, watching, observing; and that’s what we do in police work. We’re always looking down the road and checking to see what doesn’t fit. So I definitely think my cop experience helped me get as far as I did. But unfortunately, being lazy and not talking to Jenn and Hali one day was my demise.
Cochran: Ok, you brought up Jenn. What were you feeling once you saw Jenn play the idol? Did you at that point suspect you might be going home, or did you feel relatively safe all the way up until your name was finally revealed?
Kelly: Well, the rumor around camp was that Jenn was coming after me. But I didn’t feel like I had to worry because I had all my Blue Collars. And since we never found an idol, we thought maybe the twist for Survivor Season 30 was to not have any idols. I think Jenn even mentioned that an idol got voted off with Nina or something. And since it was three of them against seven of us, I didn’t feel like I had to worry about it. So when I saw her pull out that idol, I could feel my heart drop, like “This is not happening right now.”
Cochran: And what was the idol situation with the Blue Collars? Were there any attempts by the Blue Collars to find the idol, or was it just not a priority?
Kelly: We were out there the first couple of days and we did look for it, and all agreed that if someone found it, we’d tell everyone. But after two or three days of scouring the whole place — it was like a needle in a haystack — it stopped being a priority, and eventually we just figured there was nothing out there… until Jenn played her idol. And so, you’ll see, people will probably realize the Blue Collar idol is still hidden out there.
Cochran: So it’s clear you were fully Blue Collar strong out there on the island. But let’s say you could’ve worked with some of the people from the other tribes — who would’ve been your ideal non-Blue Collar allies?
Kelly: My alliance definitely would’ve been with Carolyn, Will… Tyler’s great — I didn’t get a chance to play with Tyler for very long — but Carolyn and Tyler had a strong alliance together out there, and she would tell me that she was with him. So if I wasn’t with Blue Collar, I definitely would’ve gone with Carolyn, Tyler, and maybe brought Will in.
Cochran: We saw you struggle with the memory challenge. We saw your bloody forehead. We saw Shirin’s eagerness to pee on Dan’s foot. But what do you wish we could’ve gotten to see from your time on Survivor?
Kelly: You saw a lot of drama with the Blue Collars, but we had a lot of fun, too. We’d go swimming in the ocean and have a lot of laughs. You didn’t get to see Dan stepping into a pot of food that we just cooked, and all of us being like “Dan! You bubblehead! You just ruined our whole meal!” I wish you could’ve seen when we made our shelter; the first night, it completely broke and all of rolled down into the middle of it. They should do a Blue Collar blooper reel.
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