Monica Culpepper made it all the way to the very end of Survivor: Blood vs. Water, and ended up taking home the $100,000 second place prize after getting the one vote that did not go to winner Tyson Apostol. But the season ended on a bittersweet note, as she was hammered at the final Tribal Council, and not over any moves she did or did not make, but rather just for the type of person she was. We spoke with Monica the morning after the Survivor finale to get her thoughts on what went down, and she tells us about the painful ordeal, as well as one moment we did not see. (NOTE: You can also read our interview with winner Tyson right here.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I gave Probst some crap at the start of the season because I was like, “Hey, why does Brad get the last name treatment of Culpepper? Monica played this game before and she never got the last name treatment.” Now that you won a bunch of challenges and made it all the way to the end, do you feel you have earned the last name status?
MONICA CULPEPPER: Of course! I’ve earned the Culpepper last name status. I couldn’t be happier. I get the last laugh.
EW: You certainly do, but you weren’t laughing at that final Tribal Council. What was going on there? You had Caleb, Laura and Hayden all coming at you and saying they wanted you to open up and say stuff that was wrong about you and all this junk. I kept scratching my head thinking, what does any of this have to do with her gameplay?
CULPEPPER: You were scratching your head? Imagine that it went on for over two hours! It was unbelievable. I was prepared for fireworks at final Tribal because look at the Tribals before. People went beyond gameplay and got personal and personally attacked me out there, so I was prepared for anything. And what you saw was just a small fraction of what happened. It hurt me. It hurt me. I couldn’t win out there. I would talk, and people would say, “You talk too much.” And you don’t think its funny when you go to final Tribal and then they say “We don’t know you?” Yes, you do know me! You played the game with me and the problem is you never played with someone who is just nice. And maybe it’s because I wasn’t willing to trample and run over everybody to win the prize. And maybe that’s because of the position Brad has put us in in our life together that a million dollars really wasn’t going to change us so I wasn’t desperate. And maybe that’s what they wanted to see.
There are so many things that got edited out of that Tribal, but there was one moment that was really unbelievable. Hayden’s question to me you really did not see. You saw the rebuttal. His question to me was this: “Monica, write the letter E in the air for me.” So I paused for a second and made a capital E, and it was facing the jury. And he looks at Jeff and she said, “Did she do it right?” And I looked at Jeff and said, “Whose question was that? Are you asking me a question through Hayden?” And he said, “Well, it’s a self awareness test.” And I said, “Did I pass?” And he goes, “Yes, you passed, but you waited as second.” And I looked at him and said, “Waited a second? I answered it right. The most self-aware person is sitting right here. I didn’t know if you wanted a capital E or a lowercase e.” I mean, I was fighting Jeff Probst out there! It was amazing!
EW: Have you thanked Vytas yet for his vote that gave you the second place money?
CULPEPPER: Absolutely! I think it was a little bit of Vytas’ redemption. He wasn’t willing to draw rocks that early in the game for Brad. And I think he thought that was an opportunity to extend the olive branch to Brad and vote for me. And he pulled me aside afterward and said, “I voted for you and I’m going to tell you why. I have been a fan of this show and I have never seen someone take from episode 1 with her husband being told ‘F.U. Brad Culpepper,’ to the last second of final Tribal, and I am just blown away by your strength and for that, you got my vote. “ And I appreciated that very much.
EW: The last three Tribal Councils where people were voted out all sort of followed the same script where we were led to believe that you might be close to flipping, but then you never did. You were never actually close to switching side though, were you, especially when Hayden and Ciera were pushing hard for it?
CULPEPPER: No, it would have been a bad strategic move and I would have then just been seen as Hayden’s lapdog. I also heard what Gervase said when he said, “This isn’t Big Brother.” And I felt like out of respect for every single person that has played the most brutal game under the harshest conditions — I do not want to let somebody that has won Big Brother win Survivor too. That played in my mind too. I thought, no way, no day.
EW: Is there any bad blood out there because of the stuff with Bard and his tribe? Are you and the Codys okay with each other?
CULPEPPER: Absolutely. You know me. I’m always going to take the high road. Candice was avoiding me from the time we landed here and were in the lobby. And it took me going to her, and I put my arms around her and said, “Candice, it’s okay.” She didn’t even say she was sorry. She looked at me genuinely with her gorgeous face and eyes and said, ”Thanks.” And I said, “I get it.” Playing Survivor is chess. Playing loved ones Survivor is 3D chess.
EW: What if Probst Calls and says, “Hey we want a Culpepper on again, but only one of you can come.” Who would it be, you or Brad?
CULPEPPER: 100 percent it’s going to be Brad. I am completely retired. You’ve seen my story. Nobody wants to see my story again. Brad? You haven’t seen his story. You got a jaded perception of the rock star super-stud he is, because of Candice and Marissa’s outlandish comments that were really directed at me. Unfortunately, the loud voices are clouding the perception of what Brad is. Brad got eliminated because the 21st player, Jeff Probst, kept peppering him and peppering him and peppering him. So I am dying to See Brad’s game on Survivor myself. I can’t wait.
To watch an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s finale, as well as our pre-game interviews with the final seven, simply click on the video player below. You can also check out our interview with winner Tyson Apostol. To read Dalton’s recap of the finale/reunion, click right here. You can also get Jeff Probst’s take on the finale/reunion right here, or click here for more intel from Probst on the next season of ‘Survivor’.
For more ‘Survivor’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.