Michele Fitzgerald is a polarizing winner when it comes to Survivor. If you weren't paying attention, you would have missed her presence for the first half of the season. Her character and storyline were virtually invisible for more than three weeks of the 39-day competition, because she was never forced to face Tribal Council until after the tribes merged. It was an advantage that kept her from stirring up bitter blood because she never had to vote somebody out of the game until day 22.
"Just because you're not going to Tribal does not mean that you're not playing," Michelle told us on the Survivor finale red carpet. "I'm laying the foundation for those relationships all during that while."
When she was crowned the winner by a 5-2 vote against Aubry Bracco, there was a mixed reaction from the live studio audience in Los Angeles. Social media was also torn. Some were heavily favorable of Michele's performance, while others blasted her victory on the basis that she wasn't as deserving as somebody strategic like Aubry.
As brash as it was, we asked Michele how it feels that some viewers suggest she may be one of the most forgettable winners in Survivor's 32 seasons, within the ranks of somebody like Natalie White.
"It's not good to hear that people think you're a forgettable winner. In the same token, what they're seeing as forgettable I think was my genuine strength that carried me through the whole way. I was calm. I was subtle. I wasn't stepping on anybody's toes and pissing anybody off. I was able to create bonds that go beyond the game. People want to see these big, crazy personalities and these big, crazy moves, and that just wasn't the way that I played. I played a subtle game, and I'm happy with that because I was true to myself."
Since the final Tribal Council was filmed more than a year ago, she had a lot of time to ponder the eventual outcome.
"I was about 75 percent sure [about winning]. I knew that I had really strong personal relationships with a lot of people on the jury."
But she didn't anticipate her win would be a unanimous vote.
"I knew she [Aubry] had two votes and knew that I had two votes, for sure. The other people were kind of up in the air. I was very very nervous. Being next to such a strong competitor is never great when you're in the final three. It ended up well for me."
Now, she is $1 million richer.
"I've thought some car payments and making life a little bit easier. I've tried to stay as humble as I can with the experience because I didn't want to count my chickens before they hatched."
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