Survivor: Ghost Island's First Cast-Off Stephanie Gonzalez Says She Needed A Miracle To Stay In The Game Gonzalez reflects on what made her such a huge target from the get-go.
Posted on Mar 1, 2018 02:50pm

On the season premiere of Survivor: Ghost Island, 20 new castaways were thrown into the deep end as they barely had a moment to step off the boat and speak with each other before they were picking tribes and competing in a challenge.

Though she played a strong, competitive game, Stephanie Gonzalez became the first castoff of the season after being campaigned against by fellow Malolo tribemate Donathan Hurley, not to mention causing a cacophony of whispers during the season's very first Tribal Council.

STREAM: The Season Premiere Of Survivor: Ghost Island On CBS All Access

We caught up with the castoff, affectionately known as simply "Gonzalez" to her tribe, to get her thoughts on the game ending early for her.

It seemed like you were determined to show your tribe that you weren't, in your words, a "girly girl." Do you think showing off your strong competitive side so early in the game hurt you?

Stephanie Gonzalez: Absolutely. I'm a strong believer that what people can be afraid of what they don't understand or like. So I think the fact that I showed up and I'm in a little yellow dress but I have this tomboy personality is like, "Woah! She's really throwing me off! She's got makeup on and she's got a yellow dress [on], but here she is carrying a machete and trying to build a shelter and trying to make fire and building traps!"

So I think that they saw me as a little sharper than what they pictured. That put a huge target on my back. Maybe if I'd gone in and, I don't know, had on some sportswear or something very tomboy, then they could've felt like they had me figured out. I think because they didn't have me figured out, that's why I got the boot.

Do you think you would've stayed a little bit longer if Jacob hadn't been the one to go off to Ghost Island?

Stephanie: I do. I hate to say it, but I really think that I would've made it much deeper into the game. I don't know how deep, but I would have really stepped up on building and solidifying an alliance.

But because it was only three days in, and Jacob, who was our immediate pick, was at Ghost Island, it really screwed with me. I think if it would've been me or somebody else on Ghost Island and Jacob at camp with the tribe, I think he would've been gone and I would've lasted a hell of a lot longer than freakin' three stupid days! [Laughs]

We also saw Donathan campaigning against you in the lead-up to Tribal. Can you shed some light on what happened between you guys?

Stephanie: Yeah, so, Donathan already knew he was on the chopping block. He approached me and Brendan while we were at the beach and chatting. He got emotional and he was like, "Oh my God, I know that based on physical challenges that I'm potentially gonna go home."

He got emotional, and we all kind of felt right there with him, you know? We wanted to make him feel better, but it really hit Brendan a lot. I know Brendan has kids, and [you can't help but] think of Donathan as someone you want to take care of. So it really sucked, because when he plotted against me, I know what led him to say that, and I think he just received it completely wrong.

At no moment did I ever tell him to shut up. I would never tell anybody to shut up; that's against everything I believe in. There was a time when we were all chiming in and trying to give direction to our puzzle makers during the puzzle segment of the challenge, and every single person that didn't participate in the puzzle was screaming at our puzzle makers. All of us, at the same time, giving different directions.

I was the person that said, "Hey guys, we really should have one person speak to them because right now this is already a lot of pressure and everyone is scatterbrained because they can't see the bigger picture of the puzzle, because they are up close and personal with it versus being a little bit further away from it."

When we were all yelling at the puzzle makers, "Hey, you need to do this!" We're all yelling at the same time literally telling them what to do as if that works. I made a comment like, "One person needs to talk because we're all screaming at them and it's only making things worse." [Donathan] took that as me telling him to shut up.

There was no point where I told Donathan, "You need to shut up." I was like, "Hey, we need to have just one person—not all of us—yelling at our puzzle makers. That's not going to help them and we're not going to get this puzzle done."

So after that, what was your mindset going into Tribal? It looked like you started the overt strategizing at Tribal—do you think that hurt your game in the moment or flipped the vote in the moment?

Stephanie: It didn't hurt my game in the moment because I already knew I was going home. So I didn't make anything any worse for myself. At that point, it was needing to do everything in my power to have some kind of chance or hope.

So there was no point where I was like, "Oh, this is going to hurt my game." I'm like, "I'm already going home. I need to stir this up. If I can somehow make a miracle happen it needs to be right now and I need to do whatever it takes to make that miracle happen."

So I already knew I was going home, I had confirmed it with all the whispering going on. I kind of played a trick on them and figured it out. And then once I realized I was going home I said "Screw it, I'm gonna stir things up." Because if I'm going home, that's a mistake on their part. They're gonna wind up back at Tribal Council, which, sure enough, they did.

Would you do anything differently if you could do those three days over again?

Stephanie: Yeah, absolutely. I would've just played a dumber game. I would've just been dumber, more quiet, nonchalant. I wouldn't have helped as much. I felt with certain things, like building shelter, I should've just been more low-key. Like I was just there to look cute or something. Not there to play. [Laughs]

What would you say you learned about yourself during your time on the show?

Stephanie: I learned that I'm very independent. I realized that a lot more. I knew I liked doing things on my own, but I really like doing things on my own. I think that was a little bit of an eye opener.

I also learned that if I don't have a smile on my face, I have the most award-winning, epic Resting B**** Face on this planet. [Laughs] If you need a B**** Face in Hollywood, I've got a girl for you.

Watch all-new episodes of Survivor: Ghost Island on Wednesdays at 8/7c on CBS and CBS All Access.