Paloma Soto-Castillo, the 24-year-old student and former Kenya charity worker from Downey, CA, was the latest to be booted from the game, and the first bootee of the physically powerful Kota tribe. Paloma can reduce the circumstances of her torch being extinguished to three little letters – A-C-E. FoRT caught up to Paloma by conference call where she spoke to reporters about her Survivor experience.
How do you think you came across to viewers?
I don’t know! I feel like a lot of people have been saying that I came across as sassy, feisty, and a lot of people say I was funny. A lot of people say I was a “cute little girl” on the show.
It does seem like on our site that people describe you as “cute”. Would you say that’s a fair representation of you?
I get that in the real world outside of Survivor. It’s just because of my voice, it’s squeaky, it sounds like a mouse – I get it. And just because I look young for my age, and my personality in general. So I do get that a lot, so it wasn’t surprising to me that it came out on the show and people decided that’s who I was.
Can you give us your idea of what happened and why it went wrong for you?
I just feel that the Kota tribe was all about having a physically strong tribe. They really wanted to be a strong tribe when it came to the physical aspect of the game. And Ace was their main guy. He was the most athletic person we had – he was in the best shape, he was the strongest; so as much as they didn’t like him, as much as he annoyed everybody, they felt that they needed to keep him around for the challenges that were coming up. By voting against Ace or voting for Sugar or somebody that Ace didn’t want to be voted off, they felt like they would upset him and if he was upset, it wouldn’t keep the tribe unified. They wanted to keep the tribe unified and ready for the challenges. They had to keep it the way Ace wanted them to vote because otherwise he would have been upset.
What did you think of his idea to throw the reward challenge?
You know, Ace is sneaky. He always had a plan, and a part of the plan in throwing the reward challenge was to have the strongest people be able to play for the immunity challenge, which is obviously more important than the reward challenge. But for the reward challenge, he wanted to put me on the pole, which was another part of his plan to make me look as weak as I could. That’s what he wanted, and that’s what he accomplished.
He could have played the weaker players without actually aiming to throw the competition, though.
Yeah, I feel that his whole little spiel about throwing the competition was just another Ace moment that he had. I mean, he had so many Ace moments. It was just an Ace moment of him trying to sound intelligent and have a strategy for the team to listen to, to have a plan basically. It was just like, “Okay everybody, listen up! I have a plan. This is what I think we should do.” It wasn’t necessarily the smartest thing but it was his way of taking control over everything like he always did.
If Kota were to lose the immunity challenge next week, who do you think would be the next target?
I think that Kelly would be the next because by voting off Ace with me she went against the tribe, and she stayed loyal to me. She remained faithful to our alliance and relationship and voted against Ace, but now she has a huge target on her back not only because Ace and Sugar are joined at the hip, but also from the rest of the tribe because the rest of the tribe now knows that she’s not going to vote along with them. She’s going to vote against them.
Did you ever consider going with Ace and Sugar in an alliance?
Maybe in the first minute that I was in the game, but once Ace opened his mouth I knew there was no way I could be in an alliance with him. We did not get along. I could not have been in an alliance with him. It would have been bad. And Sugar was his sidekick, so no – the people that I felt that I could be in an alliance with were Kelly, Bob, and Charlie.
Were you aware of the other four, though, that they had started an alliance?
No, nobody was aware. They did a really good job. Kota for the most part seemed like we were all united and we all got along. It was obvious that people were annoyed by each other and there were clashes here and there, but for the most part, from an outsider’s perspective, it just looked like we were a united tribe and everything was fine and dandy. Yeah, they did a very good job of playing off that four-person alliance. They would hardly ever hang out with each other, all of them at the same time. They would always include us in all their activities. They made sure that it wasn’t obvious they were all aligned with each other.
About the strategic withdrawal from the reward challenge, what did you think of the whole plan?
There’s a part in there where Ace is talking about how he feels how we should throw the whole challenge and that he feels it’s not important that we have bedding and whatnot, and I actually said it and it aired – which is cool – I said, “We still want to win.” It was almost like he was saying, “Let’s just throw it,” and I’m like, “No, we still want to win, that’s a stupid thing that you’re saying.” Strategically, I feel for Kota team. It was horrible that we lost that challenge. It almost seemed like Ace wanted to lose it, but it totally brought down our morale for the immunity challenge that we lost. When you lose at something it totally brings down your morale. You’re upset and it divided the tribe a little bit. Going into the next challenge like that, I think the way that it ended up had a lot to do with the reward challenge.
Did Ace put you on the pole or was that a team decision?
No, that was Ace’s decision to put me on the pole.
So it was a declaration from the top?
Yeah. And I mean, in the ball challenge, where they rolled the ball through the maze and one person had to sit out, I didn’t want to sit out because when you sit out on a challenge you’re automatically perceived as the weakest link because otherwise, why is she sitting out? So it’s really funny because on the show, it’s like, “Who is going to sit out on this challenge?” and right away I’m like, “Me!” It took – we all argued about it, and I told Ace, “I don’t want to sit out, I don’t think it’s cool.” Ace was all about it. He’s like, “You’re the shortest one on the tribe and we need tall people on this challenge. Is that cool?” I was like, “No, that’s not cool,” but then he made it seem like I wasn’t taking one for the team. Like, you’re the shortest person, we need tall people, why don’t you just sit out? So I was like, “Okay.” Since the beginning he’s been doing everything he could to make me not play the game and make me look like I’m not a strong person.
So Ace is a very dominating person?
Very, very dominating.
He makes all the decisions.
Yeah. And it’s sad that the rest of the tribe let him. That was my whole thing at tribal. I knew when I went into tribal that I was going to get kicked off already. I 100% knew it. I just wanted to voice my opinion, and let every person in the tribe know that this was the way everybody felt about Ace, and I was like the one person who was going to voice it and not just succumb to the way he wants us to act. I’m not going to be his puppet.
What did you think of Sugar finding the idol? Did you have any inkling she had it?
You know, we were all – I was really, really surprised that Sugar found the idol. I’m not going to lie. When she was sent to Exile we all knew the other tribe thought she was the weakest link. Sugar cried a lot while she was with us at Kota. That’s all she did. She was very emotionally unstable. She’s going through a lot in her life right now, and so when we thought of her on Exile, it never occurred to us she would be out there looking for the idol or finding clues. We literally thought of her breaking down, crying, and being miserable.
What was the big factor for losing both challenges?
I almost feel like that whole strategic move that Ace had of going into the challenge with the mentality that if we don’t win this, it’s not a big deal – and by putting the quote-unquote strongest girls and sitting them out, that it would make a difference. That and the way it played out – in order for it to be a fair game it had to be the same number of women on both teams, and their women compared to the ones we have – I mean, Crystal’s bigger than any of the men on the task, let alone all the women. So right away it was almost an unfair advantage. Regardless they would have won that part of the competition regardless of who was on the pole.
Do you think Ace had anything to do with you losing the pole challenge?
Obviously he had something to do with it because he had told me to be on the pole. But as I was saying earlier, I feel that even if Sugar was on the pole and I went out with Bob I feel like the result would have been the same in that case. Crystal would have dominated any single woman or man on that challenge. In the third round she dragged Ace across the finish line also. I don’t specifically feel it was his fault I lost the challenge but at the same time it wasn’t the smartest move on his part. Whatever he wanted to do, he accomplished. He wanted to make me appear as a weak person and that I was incapable of doing something, and that’s what he got out to the tribe by putting me on the pole.
What were you and Ace like with each other when the cameras weren’t on you?
Basically the same. He would say something, and I wouldn’t necessarily snap back but I was very sarcastic with him. If he said something that bothered me, I’d say, “Why do we have to do it that way?” An example of it came out when he said we should throw the challenge, and I said, “I think we still need to win.” I would always say something instead of nodding my head like everybody else did. I was quick to respond and say, “Well, no – it shouldn’t be this way.” We never yelled at each other. The cattiest it ever got was at tribal council.
Since Sugar did so well on Exile, do you look at her differently now?
I do look at her a little bit differently. Sugar’s still Sugar to me. She was able to find clues and make her way across Exile and find the immunity idol, and anybody who does that deserves a pat on the back, but she’s still Sugar. I still feel that she’s going to be playing an emotional game, but you never know.
How valuable is Bob to the tribe?
Bob is very, very valuable. I think Bob would be the stupidest decision to vote off at this point. He’s amazing. He’s a provider for our tribe. He’s a workhorse; he does not stop; he builds everything. He’s just a nice guy, doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, doesn’t upset anybody. He’s a good person, a very, very good person.
What types of dangers did you encounter that we didn’t see?
There were snakes, there were elephants that you could hear at night. There is wildlife out there, I mean, we were in the middle of the jungle. And it is scary. There was always that possibility something could happen, and you could never be too careful. The wildlife was a dangerous aspect of the game.
So there was a worry about getting bit?
You know, bit by a snake, when you’re walking around you want to be extra careful about where you’re going to step next because you don’t want to scare a snake and get bitten. The bug bites you get, the ticks – everyone was scared of getting…um, I’m totally blanking now.
Yeah, Lyme disease. Everyone was really scared of getting Lyme disease. There were so many ticks there. The elephants would come through the camps at night, any type of wildlife was very scary.
What is it like to go from our type of lifestyle watching Survivor on television with a soda in hand, then trying to sleep and exist out there?
I was that person who would sit on the couch and watch it hour after hour, and say, “Oh, that’s easy. I can do that.” And then when you’re actually out there, it is a huge reality check and a very humbling experience. You don’t really know how your body is going to react to not eating for three days, or eating very minimal amounts of food for a time. Or lack of sleep, or even the comfort of sleeping. All these things that you take for granted and you don’t really think about how you’re going to react to them. It was crazy. I had a really hard time when I was out there in that aspect of what was going on, how it affected me – lack of sleep, not being comfortable, being cold at night, not eating, all of that was very, very draining. I lost a lot of weight when I was out there, too, so that also affected me a lot.
Did that act as a catalyst for people’s personalities?
Surprisingly there were some people – everybody’s body reacts different to these situations, but there were some people that were fine, or at least they seemed like they were fine. For other people, it was just – people throwing up, or feeling sick and depleted. It takes a toll on you, it definitely does affect your personality because you’re trying to be the same bubbly personality, talkative, happy, but at the same time you’re body’s like, “You’re going to die!” So it’s weird.
Did you have a favorite from a previous season?
There’s a lot of people I liked. I know Eliza’s not a favorite but for some reason I like Eliza and I thought she played a smart game. She talked a lot which I found entertaining. Stephanie was such a badass, she did everything. Parvati played a great game. Amanda, Ozzy – there’s just so many.
Have you been venturing online?
Prior to the show airing it I would go on SurvivorSucks.com and the blogs, but I just realized that these people on the blogs – they don’t know me, and there’s a lot of people who say really nice things. I appreciate it and it’s such an amazing thing to have fans, it’s cool to have fans who like you, I love it. But there’s other people who just don’t like you and they’ll say anything they can say about you in the most harshest words, and I realized I don’t need that in my life. I stay away.
How do you think the alliances will play out now that you’re gone?
It seems like the “onion” alliance as they’re calling it will be pretty strong. They seem to have it all figured out. If that alliance remains strong and they remain loyal to each other, I feel that will take them really far into the game. Sugar will be next, then Ace, then Bob, and then it will be them four. They’re the only ones that have an alliance. Kelly doesn’t have anyone anymore, Sugar and Ace have each other, and Bob is on the outskirts.
How would you have done it differently?
In retrospect I feel maybe I should have aligned more, been more talkative, developed more of a closer relationship with Corrine and Jacquie. Maybe the whole Ace thing…maybe not have voiced my opinion so much, maybe bit my tongue more often and not let everyone know how much I couldn’t stand him. I should have kept it to myself a little more so I wouldn’t have put such a huge target on my back.
In your bio, it says you moved to Kenya by yourself, do you want to explain that and compare the two experiences?
On a whim I just decided I wanted to do some humanitarian work in Kenya, so I left by myself and spent 3 months there. The experience was a very good one. It was a humbling experience, it taught me a lot about myself, and I came back very independent and feeling like I had a purpose in my life. It was a very good experience. I thought I would be able to compare it to Gabon and Survivor, but now that I look back, there’s no way. They’re like apples and oranges. My experience on Survivor was completely different. It taught me different things about myself and life, but it was completely different. I’m also happy that I did it because they do tie in together a little bit. Now that I’ve been on Survivor, there’s a lot of past cast members that are involved in charity work, and I’m just excited to be a part of those charity events, and hopefully a charity event going on for Kenya.
So you originally went for charity work?
Yes, all I did was taught kids in school, volunteered in an orphanage, worked in a local clinic. I lived with the people there and submerged myself in their culture so it was a neat experience.
And language wasn’t a barrier?
Actually, in Kenya their official language is Ki Swahili but they were colonized by the British, so they speak English. But the Masai out in the bush, I lived out there for about a month and a half, there the language was a barrier because they don’t speak English. They speak Masai, their native tongue. That was really hard.
Are you really going to give up watching Survivor forever if Ace wins?
(laughing) That’s what everybody asks me! No, I won’t. But I’ll be really, really disappointed. I’ll go on strike or something. But I’ll keep watching. I love Survivor. I think it’s an amazing show.