Stephanie Johnson is battery powered. I’m not just talking about her neon-bright leggings. The woman herself is a bundle of energy, which explains how she has the stamina to run, swim, and bike all those triathlons. But that energy, like her torch, was finally extinguished Wednesday night on Survivor: Ghost Island when she was eliminated from the game.
Stephanie showed she had some strong strategic and social skills in her right off the bat as she manipulated Jacob into feeling comfortable and revealing he did not, in fact, have a hidden immunity idol — and then voting him off. But Stephanie was playing from behind almost as soon as the game began, as her tribe lost the first two immunity challenges. She then she found herself down in numbers after a tribe swap, and then her tribe lost two more immunity competitions.
Ultimately, that was too much for the 34-year-old yoga instructor to overcome and she was ousted by the Naviti five currently running her tribe. What does she think of the folks that sent her home? Is there anything she could have done differently? And what did not make it to air that we should know about? We asked Stephanie all that and more when she called into EW Morning Live (Entertainment Weekly Radio, SiriusXM, channel 105) Thursday morning. Here are some highlights from our chat.
EW RADIO: Did you have a feeling it was you when you went to Tribal Council?
STEPHANIE JOHNSON: I knew in my heart it was going to be me. Coming back after not having that 24 hours with my tribe, I felt like I walked in and it was a different tribe. But you’re still never really ready for it. I was still out there trying to fight but even watching it back I realized I was in shock after I got voted out. I don’t even remember saying goodbye. So even if you know, it’s still a shock.
I thought it would be Michael or me. I held out hope that maybe it would be Michael, but in regards to Jenna, when I got back from Ghost Island, I immediately pulled her aside and told her that I couldn’t play the game and I was like, what are we going to do? And in our conversation, she dropped that she would never vote for Michael and at that second I picked up that her and Michael had made some sort of deal. And I picked up on her relationship with Sebastian and I knew when I left for Ghost Island that I kind of lost my greatest ally.
Why didn’t you try braiding Sebastain’s hair?
I was the braider! I braided Sebastian’s hair! I braided it every single Tribal and every single challenge. Every braid that you see was me! That was all me! I was the braider, so I think he was just out looking for a new braider.
Was there anything that surprised you watching this season play back on TV?
I was actually surprised to see Chelsea talking so strategically with people. They show a few clips of her talking and stuff, but I didn’t really see any of that while I was out there. She seemed more like the character that people would go up to last minute and say, “This is what we’re doing,” and she would just be like, “Okay, whatever.” So I was actually surprised to see — whether she was an important or active role — at least she had a role in the strategy.
What about the Tribal before where Michael gave you the idol and Brendan went home. Did you think that was going to be you at that one?
100 percent I was thinking it was going to be me and I know Brendan 100 percent thought it was going to be him. If I had even a 1 percent doubt that it wasn’t going to be me I would have been like, “Hold up. No, play this for Brendan.” But in that moment things are going so fast and everybody was trying to read everybody. If we had 10 more seconds maybe we could have tried to read Bradley better and maybe I would have spoken up. But I also had this comforting feeling like, oh, I’m safe now! So it was a comfort to me, but I wish we had 10 more seconds to think through things.
How does it feel knowing there was a switch-up right after you left?
That broke my heart because all I needed was one more night and I feel like I could have turned the tables. I needed some luck thrown my way. I don’t want to whine and complain and make excuses, but this game, as anybody will tell you, it’s about luck. It’s like I had a lot of bad luck put in a jar and handed to me — maybe I should say in an urn — and I broke it, and it exploded at Ghost Island all over me. I didn’t have any breaks.
Speaking of urns on Ghost Island, you got sent there and broke your mini urn and saw you didn’t even get a chance to play for an advantage. How frustrating was that?
So here’s the deal. I didn’t even know that I couldn’t play. Because Jacob came back and told us about Ghost Island and he could play and he got an advantage. Donathan went and Chris went and they could not play, but they were on the other tribe, so I never knew that they couldn’t play. And then when Kellyn came back, she could play but she chose not to.
So in my mind when I drew the white rock, I was over the moon because I thought, here’s my chance. I will either lose a vote or I’m going to get an advantage but I get to try and hopefully I’ll get an advantage. So when I got this “No Game” I was completely shocked, because I didn’t even know that was an option at that point.
How did you feel about the Navaiti five out there on the island, especially Bradley, because he showed up complaining?
If I’m going to be honest, I had moments where I truly was, like, taking berries and wanting to put them in his canteen and poison him because he drives me insane! But I also didn’t want to get kicked out of the game for poisoning somebody. But the one thing they didn’t show was that Bradley and I had some really intimate talks. We actually get along really well without any gameplay talk. As soon as gameplay talk started, I just wanted to strangle him because he would get so arrogant about it because he knew he was in a position of power. So I had this love-hate where I want to poison him, but I don’t want to poison him to death because I want him to come back the next day so we can talk, but I then want him to get poisoned again the next day. So it was a push and pull with Bradley.
Was there someone out there never on your tribe you wanted to get a chance to work with?
Dom. I really, really wanted a chance to work with Dom, just because he was older and I saw the way he would help people out of the challenges, and he was very nurturing so I assumed he was a father. I was really, really hoping I could get a switch-up and work with Dom. He just seemed like a powerful presence, but nurturing at the same time. And I knew if I could get in with him that we could bond over having kids because there are not many of us out there that have kids. I thought maybe that would be helpful to me.
Is there anything else from your time out there we didn’t see that you wish would have made it to air?
I do wish that had shown my relationship with the Naviti people. I really, really did push and make as many connections as I could out there and I had a very genuine connection with Chelsea. I knew that she would be pulling for me to stay. We have some similar backgrounds, so we really, really connected. And then Kellyn and I were really, really close — like a friendship close — and they didn’t really show that. Kellyn and I had a lot of intimate talks. We have similar storylines, so I was really close to them.