Sunday Burquest said her time on Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X was incredible, but there was a sour postgame note that really took a toll on her. In our one-on-one interview, Sunday explained why her portrayal on the show hurt her feelings and made it difficult for her to rewatch. She also revealed her thoughts on the final six castaways and why she doesn’t have much respect for the way Hannah Shapiro is playing. Lastly, she admits she would do it differently if given the opportunity to compete again.
SheKnows: Was your elimination expected or were you truly blindsided?
Sunday Burquest: It was totally a surprise. I had been talking with Adam and Hannah during the day and thought we had a plan. When you walk into Tribal, you always have a tiny bit of thought that there’s a shot it could be me. I really didn’t have that feeling when I walked in. The second vote came up against me and I knew I was going home. I was thinking, “Why?!?! I’m sitting here with Jay, David and Adam. Why am I going home right now?” I felt like it was a wasted shot at taking out a bigger threat in the game. Of course I’m saying that because I’m the one that went home. [Laughs.]
SK: What was your endgame strategy?
SB: I would’ve probably stuck with Bret as we got closer to the end. I would have liked to be with possibly Hannah or Ken. My goal was to have an open window where I could make a big move for myself without announcing it to everybody. I was planning on using the relationships that I already had in place. Even though I had a good relationship with Ken and David, I really felt like it would be good for me to have a good relationship with every single person, even if they weren’t in my alliance. I was hoping those relationships would carry me through and I would get an open window where I could make a move before we got to the finals.
SK: Speaking of your strategy to make a big move, there are many critics out there who say you weren’t playing a good game at all. Since we didn’t get to see a lot of your strategic moves, what is your response to those critics?
SB: Nobody can make a big move on their own. They need other people to [help] do it. I was in most conversations about votes going on. I don’t know why all of it didn’t make the show, but I was making decisions with Chris and Bret. I was making decisions with Jay. I was giving Jay information. I was making decisions with Adam and Hannah at different points in the game. I just think if you’re a huge fan of the show, you’re not gonna get out there and do nothing. I worked with my skill set, which is the social part of the game. I knew I could connect with millennials. At the time before I knew what the theme of this season was, I would say, “I can connect with young people.” I put in my time with relationships, and I felt like that time I put in would pay off for me later. I was always working. Everything I did was to try and advance myself in the game. What can I say? I did my game the way I would do it even though it wasn’t 100 percent visible to everybody.
SK: Being a self-described fan, does it hurt your feelings on how your game was portrayed?
SB: Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny, because my husband will say, “All your friends aren’t looking at all those Survivor critics or listening to the podcasts and reading all this stuff. They’re just happy you’re on the show.” That’s fine, but as a fan of the show you want it to seem like you were really playing the game. It was really hard for me this entire season, actually, watching it. I knew I was playing. I knew what I was doing, but obviously in a 42-minute episode you can’t fit everything in, especially if it doesn’t fit into the narrative of the story. Yeah, it’s hard. In your head, you’re like, “Wow. I just had such an opposite idea of what I was doing than what’s being shown.” People around me are like, “You don’t have to worry about all that.” I realize that, but I’m a fan of the show. I want people to know I actually played the game because I’m a fan of it.
SK: Did this tarnish your overall experience?
SB: No. The experience was amazing. When I came home, I was on cloud nine. I had so much fun. I met great people. I probably wasn’t prepared for the critics as much as I could’ve been coming out of the game. The game itself and the people I met far outweighed the critics and negative things that have been said about me. I think, for me, I would love a shot to play again because I could correct the mistakes I made. You get out there, and it’s so different. You think you know the game, but actually putting it to practice is a different thing once you get out there. You can always learn once you see yourself do something. I see things I could’ve done different, so it would be great to get another shot.
SK: What would you do different?
SB: I would be more vocal in the decision-making process. I would take more risks. I would mend fences that I didn’t mend knowing that every single relationship can end up being important some time in the game. I just would’ve been more up front. At home, I’m a leader in charge of a lot of things. I was determined to not put myself as a target being in any kind of leadership role. I wanted to go into the merge with a couple of alpha males thinking they would be shields for me. I over-corrected. I didn’t take enough initiative or control of things that were going on because I wanted to avoid getting a target on my back for being bossy or taking charge. That’s a big one. I would fix that.
SK: You had a very tight bond with Bret. Why did you two connect so well?
SB: He reminded me of my husband. He’s pretty low-key and easygoing. He’s fun to be around, so that made me feel comfortable. Even the combination of him and Chris, I have three brothers and it reminded me of being with them. If you off-the-bat like a person, it makes it easier when deciding if you’re going to align with them. Right at the beginning of the game, he told me he would never write my name down. I told him the same thing. You can’t trust everybody, and you can’t trust anybody 100 percent, but you have to trust somebody, in my opinion, to move through the game. That ended up being Bret for me.
SK: Did he ever tell you during the game that he’s gay?
SB: Not until after the game. I was surprised, and then I was so proud of him. I was like, “What?!?!” All of us were sitting there when he was telling us after the game. I just wouldn’t have guessed it. Seconds later I was like, “Wow. I am so proud of you.” That had to have been a big deal for him.
SK: Looking at the final six castaways, do you think there is anybody who may have squeaked by? When I interviewed your pal Chris after he was voted off, he said there are several people, particularly Hannah, who aren’t deserving of the $1 million.
SB: I don’t know that I’m going to say some of them don’t deserve it because they’re there. I do think, though, you can get there in a way that you pick people off along the way or you can get there in a way that people are respecting your game play. I don’t know she got there in a way people are respecting her game play. I have a hard time saying some may not deserve it because they’re there. She did something to get there. The people that are in the final six did something to get to that point. The people that aren’t there did something to not be there. I have a hard time saying they don’t deserve it. Do I respect everybody’s game play? No.
SK: Which player’s game don’t you respect?
SB: I didn’t love how Hannah was playing. I have to preface it by saying I love Hannah. I think she’s very smart and very bright. I didn’t like how she kind of bounced back and forth. I didn’t like some of the decisions she made and the reasons she was making them. But she lasted longer than I did. I don’t like to have sour grapes about it, but I didn’t like how she went back and forth. She had allegiance to some people and then flipped on them. I didn’t like that.
SK: What’s your take on both David and Adam?
SB: They’re both really, really smart. They both approach things differently. David is an enduring person. David is good at gaining loyalty from the people that are around him. Adam had more of an up-and-down game. There were times everyone was annoyed with him, and there were times everyone loved him. He’s really smart about the decisions he makes. You might not think he was making a good decision, but you would find out the next time that it was. Adam was upfront too. He would be like, “I will vote with you next time, but I’m not gonna vote with you this time.” He would do it, except for the vote I went home.
SK: How did you get picked to be on the show?
SB: This was actually my second time applying. I applied the first time with my friend for Blood vs. Water. I just sent it in and told them what I could bring to a tribe. I think the fact that I’m a breast cancer survivor helped me, and the fact that I work with young people. Of course, I didn’t know it was going to be Gen-X vs. Millennials. That ended up working in my favor, and I think that was a big reason why I got on the show. A huge dream. Unbelievable. When I got the call, I just freaked out.