“If I were to ever pass you along in life again and you were laying there dying of thirst, I would not give you a drink of water.” Those were some of the wicked words Kelly Wiglesworth received from Sue Hawk in the epic Season 1 finale of Survivor. Fifteen years later, she was given her second chance to outwit, outplay and outlast.
The game has evolved so much since Kelly first set foot on Survivor way back in 2000. Going into Second Chance, she found herself dealing with twists she’d never experienced, including hidden Idols and tribe swaps. In our one-on-one interview, Kelly explains why this season was more fun, reveals who she wanted to take to the final three and discusses how competing with Richard Hatch years ago influenced her final three goals this season. Plus, Kelly details why she and Richard won’t be friends anytime soon.
SheKnows: At the Tribal Council you were voted off, you said you were confident in your safety. So, when the votes fell against you, was it a true blindside or did you have a feeling it was coming?
Kelly Wiglesworth: I thought it was coming, I just didn’t think it was coming that night. Tash and I had a sense right before we left for Council that something wasn’t right. I believe she even said something at Council like, “Jeff, I’ve got a weird feeling. Something’s happening.” I just didn’t think it was going to be me that night [laughs].
SK: Why were you the target when there are so many other strong competitors?
KW: According to everyone there, I was the biggest target; me and Joe. He had the necklace, I didn’t. They saw an opportunity to take me out and they did. A lot of people were threatened by our friendship, too. People were perceiving us as a “power couple” and they didn’t like that. People don’t like to see two strong players getting close.
SK: Was it just a friendship or was there something more?
KW: No, just a friendship. Definitely.
SK: After you were voted out of the game, were you surprised when you learned Spencer, Jeremy and Stephen were the driving force behind your elimination?
KW: Spencer, I was not shocked at all. I wasn’t surprised by his vote. Jeremy was a bit surprising and hurtful. I wouldn’t have expected that from him. Fishbach was surprising in that he was really trying to work with me, Joe, Kimmi and Keith to having a sub-alliance. He was like, “Oh, this is great! This is brilliant! No one will suspect. This is the best idea ever.” Really, that whole day he was kind of trying to talk to me a lot and following me around. It was kind of shocking that he ended up being the one spearheading that movement.
SK: What made it so hurtful that Jeremy was part of it?
KW: From the time we first came together on the same tribe, Jeremy had approached me. He was like, “I got you. We got this. You’re good. You’re good. You’re good. You’re good people. Let’s do this.” Then when we came back together after the merge, he was like, “Glad you’re back. We were worried about you. We’ve got you. We’ve got you.” Just that kind of constantly reassuring me that I was good and we were in a solid alliance. We also bonded over family. We both have kids. I have a young son. When you bond and talk with somebody, it gets personal. For me, this was basically all about playing for my son. It was just kind of hurtful.
SK: Who were you hoping to go to the final Tribal Council with had you made it that far?
KW: Joe and Kimmi or Joe and Keith. I just felt a good connection with them. I felt a good bond with them. They are good people and good players. I think they definitely deserve a chance to win. At the same time, I thought, “Gosh, I might not have a chance to win against these people.” My lesson the first time around is I took who I thought everybody hated [Richard Hatch]. I took him with me to the end and I lost anyway. It almost made me think that maybe people didn’t see that as a good play on my part by taking somebody they all hated to the end. “Yeah, let’s give it to him.” I didn’t take somebody likable. I was like, “If I’m not gonna win anyway, I would rather have someone I really want to win, too, sitting next to me.”
SK: If you were still in the game, who would your next target be?
KW: Either Spencer or Fishbach. Spencer was sort of seen as a strategic threat, but he was also starting to come on pretty decent in challenges. Fishbach didn’t have much of a physical game, but he was seen as being able to sway numbers in his favor. He was more of a strategic threat. He also had that advantage and nobody knew what it was, which puts a target on his back as well.
SK: What’s your take on Tasha? Several people we’ve interviewed this season say she’s “hate-fueled” and nasty. Do you agree?
KW: I don’t have anything bad to say about Tash at all. She and I didn’t really have a chance to get to know each other. We weren’t on the same tribe until after the merge, and even then we really didn’t talk about much. I had spent some time with Savage and he really vouched for her as a good person. Other people along the way, too, said she’s a good person. The time I did spend with her, she was very nice to me and seemed very trusting. It seemed she wanted to have an alliance with me. It was actually her that felt something was up with the vote before we went to Council… I felt that she sort of had my back.
SK: When you were heading into this Second Chance season all these years later, what were you most concerned about?
KW: My biggest concern was the fact that I knew everyone saw me as a target. Everyone saw me as a threat — myself and a few other people who made it further in the game, you can’t disguise that. You can’t hide that. That was really hard. How am I gonna hide it? How am I gonna convince people that I’m not a strong player anymore and they don’t have to worry about me? That was part of my game. I had to just sort of be mellow, play under the radar and make people think I wasn’t really there to play. I wanted them to think I was just there to have the experience. That was working for me [laughs].
SK: Fans were thrilled you were voted back in to play the game again, but then there wasn’t much of you showcased this season. What was your reaction to seeing how you were portrayed?
KW: I just don’t think I was portrayed enough. I think how I was portayed is accurate. I just don’t feel like I got that much airtime. I don’t really recall getting that much airtime in the beginning of the game the first time around either. I really didn’t become a focus until later on anyway, from what I can remember from all those years ago.
SK: Have you heard from either Richard Hatch or Sue Hawk since you’ve been on this season?
KW: I have not [laughs].
SK: Did you think they would reach out?
KW: I knew Richard wouldn’t. I don’t know if Sue would or wouldn’t. You never know with Sue [laughs].
SK: What’s your relationship like with Richard? Do you guys communicate?
KW: We don’t communicate at all. He had some very interesting and strange things to say about me before the vote-in [for Second Chance] that was kind of confusing. I chose not to acknowledge it. I’m not looking to really have any sort of relationship with Richard Hatch at this point.
SK: Did you have any relationship with him before he made those comments about you cheating in the original season?
KW: No, not really. If we ran into each other, it was a “hey, how’s it going” kind of thing. Maybe an e-mail every now and then. But no, no relationship.
SK: At the final Tribal Council of the original Survivor, you were part of one of the most talked-about reality TV moments of all time when Sue unleashed her infamously brutal snake and rat speech. What’s it like to be remembered for that? What’s it like thinking back to that all these years later?
KW: It obviously sucked to be on the receiving end of that. The only thing I’ve ever heard from people in response to that is everyone has always told me, “You took the high road. You were very classy. You handled it very well and you should be proud of yourself.” I am. I know that at that moment, my reaction to her, I knew the whole experience was worth it. The Kelly that went into playing Survivor, had you said those things to me, I would have jumped up and knocked your teeth down your throat. But 39 days later, I said, “You know what? I’m sorry you feel that way.” I knew I was a bigger and better person than I was before and than she was at that moment. I’m proud of how I handled that moment.
SK: Explain what you noticed as the biggest differences playing this time compared to the original season.
KW: First time around, we were a lot more concerned with playing as a team before the merge versus playing individually. This time around, right when you hit the beach, it was like, “Who are we getting out? What’s our alliance? Let’s throw a challenge to get somebody out.” That was definitely not our mentality the first time around.
SK: Was it as fun for you this time?
KW: It was fun for me this time. Actually, I kind of feel like it was more fun this time. I came to play and I came to win, but I was also much more confident and secure in myself as a human being. I’m here to play. I’m here to win. I’m not just willing to do so much to get there. I drew my own line in the sand and I wasn’t gonna cross it. That was fine, and I’m happy and proud of the game that I played. I did have fun and met some great people. I got to go on some really fun Rewards that I never was a part of the first time around. I would have to say the tuk tuk cafe experience was probably my funnest experience on both times of Survivor.
SK: If CBS did Survivor: Third Chance, would you play again?
KW: Maybe [laughs].
SK: You seem timid.
KW: Maybe. We’ll see.