In future seasons of Survivor, we will be combing the CBS bios for clues. Taken out without a hint she was even in danger, Kelly Sharbaugh, the 25-year-old hair stylist from Los Angeles, was described as someone who “embraces the unknown” and “takes life as it comes.” Was this a wink in our direction that she would be whisked away without warning? In this interview, Kelly gives us a glimpse into what the game was like for someone used to eating at the popular kids’ table.
How does it feel to be part of some of the best strategizing that has ever been seen on Survivor?
Yeah, I mean, last night’s episode was amazing and I was curious to see how they were going to edit how that played out. It was cool for me to see it. I was thinking that it was just a reward challenge; the thought never even crossed my mind that he would have it again.
Even though you were on Galu and didn’t have a lot of contact with Russell, what’s your impression of him after watching the episodes?
I think, being there, and not seeing everything that he was doing behind the scenes, I just thought he was a creep. Having watched the show now it’s given me a lot more insight into how strategic he was in order to gain his plan. He is by far the most strategic player our season. Yeah, I’ve got to give it to him, he’s playing the game incredibly well. Personally, a lot was different but his game play was amazing.
I noticed when you guys were at tribal, Erik was giving looks to kill. What was the vibe when you had to join him at Ponderosa?
Well, it was a little bit intimidating because Erik came in, obviously very angry … you have to look at us the entire time, like, we were all scared to make eye contact with him, then to get in a car and have to go back to Ponderosa and live with him! Getting out of the car and walking up, it was kind of like, “Well, all right,” give a dive down and see how he is. He was really -- I regretted sending Erik home, so it was good we got to go to Ponderosa and hash things out to help each other understand it. It was good to have him there the whole time.
What did you think when Natalie killed and ate that rat?
That was another thing that I saw on TV that I only heard about because I was on the reward challenge, but I was so proud of her for doing that. It was probably as cute an animal as I’ve ever seen, and not only did she kill it, she killed it and ate it. I give her some credit for doing that. Luckily I was on a reward but for her it was a necessity at that point.
What is your take on Shambo?
I think Shambo’s crazy. I don’t see any strategizing behind anything. I think she’s playing this game completely on emotion. I think she’s childish and not an effective woman.
Seven of the Galu members were from California. Do you think that helped you guys gel as a team?
No, I mean, we’re all from California but we’re all so different – are there seven of us? The first person we voted out was from California. Our personalities were much more cohesive. But maybe if we had a Russell on our tribe it would have made the dynamic so different. I think that we all had a tendency to be supportive of each other and weren’t manipulative and conniving.
Was it tough watching last night or was it exciting to see everything that went down when you weren’t there?
It was a mixture of both because I’m from California but the rest of my family is on the East coast, so from 6:00 here, before I’ve seen the episode I’m getting calls and emails. It was emotional for me to go home; I just was so shocked that I wasn’t prepared. Usually you have an idea you are going home so you are a little more prepared, but I didn’t have any idea I was going home until the second I was going home. It was a little hard for me. Plus, all your friends and family are saying, “I know you made it to the end!” So it was kind of like, a little bit of a letdown tonight to go home. But it was great to watch, a great episode. It definitely had a turn in it. It was entertaining.
Once you are voted out they swap your picture with something, and I was thinking Angelina Jolie from “Gone in Sixty Seconds.” (Kelly laughs) Then hand you a picture of a hidden immunity idol.
How does it feel to be one of the people stopped by the idol?
That’s what the idol is for; it was played the way it was meant to be played. Hands down to Russell for finding two with no clues. I wish I would have had a little insight into it but that’s how it’s meant to be played.
Do you think they made the right choice to take out you to get to Laura?
I don’t understand the strategy behind that. If you wanted to get to Laura, Monica was her closest ally. Plus, Shambo didn’t get along with Monica during that time either, so it was a little bit weird strategy-wise. If you wanted to hurt Laura it would have been Monica, but you’ve got a blindside – you can blindside anybody – why wouldn’t you have gone for one of the guys? It didn’t make too much sense to me.
Monica mentioned that maybe you guys should have split your votes. Why didn’t you?
I was so [unintelligible] on that conversation. Honestly, the day I got sent home, we all treated it like a vacation day. We didn’t spend too much time strategizing or thinking. The thought never crossed my mind that he would have already found the idol, because I’d been on the reward, not looking for it. I mean, I was there as part of that conversation, but – (laughs) It didn’t work out like that.
I watched the Ponderosa video with you and Erik. Erik kind of makes it seem like something’s going on there.
I know, that was news to me, too. I had no idea. That’s funny because that last night, when he got out of the wagon, we were watching movies and I was trying to fall asleep, and he was putting on music. I don’t know if he was trying to put on mood music or what, but he ended up putting on this tape of Asian people singing Hotel California. (laughs) I don’t know if that was what he was intending, but…
What’s the story of how you got cast for the show?
I met a casting director. He approached me, asked if I want to do it, and I wondered if I could because it looks so hard. So I started studying it, and I have a super competitive nature, and that made me want to get on even more, just learning the strategy and game play. I am so thankful for the opportunity.
Right when you were voted off, if you could have hand-picked the winner, who would you pick?
I would have picked Brett. He was my biggest ally out there, which you really didn’t get to see. He and I were playing a similar game, which is unfortunate that he’s not edited on too much yet. Yeah, I would pick him hands down. I think he’s playing under the radar as far as people being intimidated by him or thinking that he’s a dominating threat. I think that he is, and that he’s going to surprise a lot of people.
When you were going to Tribal Council last night, did you pack any clothes?
No. A funny thing is I wore my favorite pair of boots on the show. They’re like an old, one-of-a-kind vintage pair, and I wore them to other Tribals just in case, you know, be prepared. I put them before Tribal that day but they had red ants nesting in them. So I had to take them off, and it was the one day I didn’t wear my boots and I got sent home without them!
Galu was after Russell, so why were you upset with him for voting you out when he was your target?
He was my target. I think I didn’t understand why I went home after I went home, and I didn’t understand how Russell was playing. All I saw was him around camp lying to people, being conniving, and being sneaky. I think he was manipulating all of his tribe. I didn’t see the strategy behind his choices, and from now it makes more sense and I think Russell is playing an amazing game.
You said you wanted to outwit, out-strategize, and you seemed upset at those that were doing it. Editing didn’t really show you doing any of that, so are you happy with your edit?
I think that I went into this game to play a game to win money. I didn’t go in to be a character or to be a villain or be the center of attention. That’s not who I am. So yeah, I don’t think I got a lot of air time but I was playing under the radar, I was in good with everyone, I had good alliances, I feel like I was doing good at what I was doing. So at the end of the day I was genuine and at least I left with dignity.
Do you agree with the perception that Galu was more of a high school clique?
I think – no, I don’t think we were a high school clique at all. I think we were very cohesive and very supportive of each other. It’s not a high school clique when Laura and Dave were both involved, and they’re both 39, so it had nothing to do with age or anything, it was how well we got along together. Even when Russell was there, he was very much a part of it. The only one on the outs was Shambo, and I think she put herself on the outs.
So she wasn’t alienated because she couldn’t fit in?
No, no one alienated her at all. She chose to sleep somewhere different than all of us, she chose to do all these things. I think those were all her decisions.
Are you surprised at Shambo’s trust in Russell?
No, not at all. I knew from one of those early times she went over to Foa Foa that we would end up losing her. I was hoping that during the double elimination that we actually got to send someone home because it would have been Shambo, because she was too much of a liability to bring into a merge.
You said in your “Meet Kelly” video that you hate liars. Can you get to the end of Survivor without lying?
No, I don’t think you can. Well, I mean – I think you’re going to have to lie. I think lying is definitely a part of this game, but I think what you have to keep in mind that everyone playing this game are real people, they’re not just pawns and players. So I think it’s a fine line. You have to play and game, and you can play a dirty game, but at the end you have to remember they are people who are going to be voting for you.
What was the hardest part of the Survivor experience?
For me the hardest part was coming out of the game and physically get back into things, like being able to eat. It was really hard to eat for the first couple of days. It was really hard to do anything because everything was exhausting, even just walking. It was hard for me to get back into things. As far as the easiest part – well, it was all tough, but none of it was so tough that I couldn’t handle it. I never thought about quitting or anything.
Earlier you said that you feel differently personally about Russell - how do you feel about him personally?
Personally, I question his integrity based off of how he was able to treat people like this, and personal conversations that we had. Hands down, I give it to him for being the best competitor so far.
What did you think about Russell Swan as a leader before he went down?
I think that Russell Swan is a great guy and I think his leadership qualities are very much in his real life. He had a wife and daughter at home, and he talked so much about how they are his life and that basically he lived to take care of them and make them happy. And that’s what he did for our tribe. Especially the women – he wanted to make sure we were taken care of. I don’t think anyone else could have done better. I think a terrible mistake was to elect Shambo because when someone already has a little bit of a power trip, a dominating, condescending personality, you give them a little bit of power they’re just going to run with it.
I’m on the opposite side of the coin, you have a video online and I( think it was you that said Mick would make a great politician – what was your read on the guy?
Oh, yeah. Mick would be a good politician. I didn’t see any of his leadership skills so I don’t know what he was like back at camp, but any question you would ask him, you would never get a straight answer. It was always, he would never say anything bad about anyone, never say anything good about anyone else. It was very political answers. I felt like he was playing to the jury the entire time he was there.
When you saw the first votes for you I assume you knew you were going home at that point.
Yes, I knew it was between me and Monica, and as soon as I saw my name I knew that was it.
There was a series of reactions but I have to say the biggest was from Dave who looked like he was literally stabbed in the stomach. Were you guys close?
Yeah, I was close with Dave. I was close with everyone. I think everyone was just so shocked because I feel like I was the last one expected to go home that night, so that’s why it was such a blindside. None of us were expecting it.
Did any of you look for the hidden immunity idol when you got back from your reward?
It’s actually funny because we made a comment at the reward challenge that, “Oh, I call the bridge!” because there’s only so many big landmarks out there and it seemed like it would be under there. No, we – the reward challenge was our day off, then we had the immunity challenge, then we went to tribal right away. So I wish I would have looked for it! But no, I didn’t spend any time looking for it and I’m not sure if anyone else did.
If you had to vote from someone from the Foa Foa tribe to win, who would you vote more?
That’s a tough question. Mick I haven’t seen anything from. I would probably say Russell. He’s not my favorite person but I think he’s playing the game the best.
Tell us about Laura.
Laura is a really interesting person on many levels. I feel like if we weren’t on this show together that I would have never gotten to know each other, we’re so black and white. I’m the liberal, and she calls herself a “fit version of Sarah Palin.” She’s very dedicated to her faith, but not in a prissy way at all. It’s almost in a way that makes you want to learn about it too. There were definitely times that I sat down and prayed with Laura, and it was the first time I prayed in years. And, I think that her edit is coming off making her look like a little bit bitchy, honestly. But her conflict with Shambo, I think Laura did the best she could, and I feel like Shambo targeted Laura, and was attacking her. At some point you run out of patience and Laura was standing up for herself. I don’t think Laura did anything wrong. Honestly, I think anyone living with Shambo in that environment would understand and have acted the same way Laura did.
What about Danger Dave?
Dave totally surprised me the most out of anyone there. The first day I was like, “Who is this guy with the ponytail, I don’t know…” He was funny but he would say these things, and he would take it to another level with these jokes sometimes. Danger Dave is by far one of my favorite people there. He’s hilarious, and he’s got a heart of gold, and I feel like he is trying so hard to stay united with all of us, be accepted, and for everyone to love him. He even inspired me physically at times, like jumping over those hurdles. I’m really proud of the things he did.
Was Galu as split down gender lines as it seems on the show?
Not at all. Laura and Monica wanted to do this female alliance, and Erik and John wanted to do a male alliance, then you have me and Brett in an alliance, and Dave’s in the mix too, and I think Brett and myself would say “the girls want to do this” and “the the girls want to do this.” But then we’d go and talk, and the guys thought they had all the power, and that Brett was voting with them -- and at the same time the girls thought they had all the power, and that I was voting with them—so I thought Brett and I really had the power in the tribe, in terms of swaying decisions and votes.
What have you seen on TV that surprised you the most?
I didn’t know all the strategy behind Russell’s actions. He’s actually playing a really good game. I knew about the rat, but I wasn’t there to see it because I was at the reward challenge. So seeing Natalie kill the rat last night and eat it, I was totally surprised. I’m super proud of her; it was really cute. I think she did a great job and I’m proud of her for being able to do that. She’s come a long way from her first day of putting lemons and limes in her canteen.
What haven’t we seen that would surprise us the most?
Honestly, I think Brett. Brett really hasn’t gotten much airtime at all, and I think everyone’s forgetting that he could be a dominant force. He’s a really big threat out there, socially and physically. I think he’s playing a great social game, and I think that when the time comes, he’s going to step it up, and hopefully win individual immunity.
Were you surprised that Shambo voted for Russell and not for you?
It’s funny, I haven’t seen that video; it’s the only one that won’t load on my computer. I actually thought she did vote for me until someone told me a few minutes ago. But I am surprised, but she was still portraying that she was with Galu, so that was a smart move to vote for Russell.
After Russell Swan, and Erik left the game, who would you say is leading the old Galu tribe now?
Maybe Laura? She kind of stepped up to it. She’s just such a nurturing person, everyone gravitated towards her. She always makes sure that everyone’s fed, and has what they need. Shambo had been appointed leader, I think, to make her feel comfortable with the guys -- which I think was a mistake -- but I don’t think she was ever a leader. Most of our decisions were still made by mutual agreement.
Dave seemed to be steering things the way he wants through her.
I think that Dave is too scared of the tribe turning on him to really call the shots.
What was the best part of Samoa for you?
I kept relying on things that would get me through, or just the reward days. You would get to go eat, but the pirate ship was amazing, going to the rock-slide—those little things kept us going, and they were so well-earned at that point.
Many thanks to CBS for letting us talk to Kelly this week!