Shantel Smith reveals her one big Survivor regret
Shantel Smith was ruthless in taking out the competition all season long, but the Mafia Pastor was the victim of the latest hit on last week's episode of Survivor 41. After informing her No. 1 ally Ricard that others were looking to take him out, Ricard flipped the script by winning immunity and targeting his partner-in-crime when she least expected it — engineering a plan to vote Shan out with an idol in her pocket.
It was a brutal blindside, but one in which Shan appeared to harbor no ill will since the duo had openly discussed having to take a shot at each other at some point. Deshawn, however, was on the receiving end of a parting shot, with Shan calling him a "snake" for what she deemed duplicitous behavior. But how does Shan feel now? We checked in with the recently eliminated contestant to get the full scoop on her Survivor stint, which included one key sequence that thankfully never made it to air.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The edit made it look like Ricard masterminded your ouster. Was that the case, and if so, did that surprise you?
SHANTEL SMITH: Yeah. I mean, it was completely Ricard. And I know that it was completely Ricard, because I know the way that he thinks, and I know the way that he moves. So, I was not surprised. And oddly, if I was going to be taken out by anyone, I want it to be Ricard. But Ricard knew that he needed an extra vote, and he knew where to go get that vote. So, yeah, he was smart enough to see the cracks in the all-Black alliance. And he was able to read that, how quickly I could gather the votes, if I wanted to get him out. And so, yeah, I'm not surprised at all. Not surprised at all.
You and Ricard were both very open with each other that you would have to duke it out at some point. When did you want to cut the cord on that partnership?
So, I think with Ricard, towards the end of the game, it's so interesting, all this commentary about how I stopped listening to people, and I wasn't listening. I think my game started to slip the moment I started listening to people and people-please, really taking into consideration what people wanted to do. We saw that with the Tiffany vote. I wanted to vote out Heather. Well, Deshawn wanted to protect Heather. And then again with Naseer. I didn't want to get out Naseer. There was a whole fiasco about this extra vote, and I was like, "Let me give that to Ricard. Let's just work together." And so, that was what it was. But I think with Ricard and I, at that point in the game, we all had the numbers. It was the all-Black alliance, and it was Ricard who wasn't completely in the alliance, but was a number for us.
And so, it just didn't make a lot of sense, that move, I don't think, in the long run, but I think I wanted to take Ricard, at least, to final five. And yeah, I mean, I loved him so much. I had such deep, deep, profound love for Ricard, and still do. And so, I was just trying to delay the inevitable, and honestly, my heart just got me at the last bit of the game. You see me on screen weeping, telling him, "Not yet."
I've been with this person since day one. We had so many conversations at night, in the morning. He was my gay husband, for lack of better words. And I just wanted to keep him for as long as I could. And I think in the back of my mind, I was hoping maybe something would happen, but my heart just got too wrapped up in it, and I was hoping to just go as long as I could with him. So, he was smart to make the move when he did.
I felt like I was watching a horror movie this season, where you could see the killer before the victim does. You kept Genie, instead of Ricard. And you're calling her the loyalist, and she's saying, "I'm going to be loyal," and I'm knowing, "Ricard's too smart. He's too good. He's going to take her out. Don't keep him." Have you replayed that vote in your head a bunch since you were out there, or do you think that was the right move at the time?
I replay a lot of things in my head, and I think through it, and I go, "With the information that I had at the time, I would probably make the exact same decisions." The only vote I did regret, obviously, was the Genie vote-out, just because I love Genie. That's my homegirl. She'll be my homegirl. She'll probably be in my wedding. I love her to death. She's one of my favorites. And you didn't get to see a lot of Genie, but she's just an incredible girl. And I feel like everyone in the merge would've fallen in love with her. The problem with Genie was that Genie was honest to a fault. I mean, when I was working the blindside for Sara, when I was trying to blindside Sara and get Sara out of the game, Genie went to Sara and told her to play her shot in the dark.
She's like, "I'm voting for you, Sara. Me and Shan are going to vote for you, and just play your shot in the dark." And I was like, "Genie, what are you doing? You can't do that in Survivor." So, I knew that taking her into the merge, it could potentially just be really, really crazy. And so, I was like, Ricard is definitely the Judas here a little bit. But I think when I fall in love with a person, I just fall in love with a person. My dad says I love way too hard, and I think I did. And I wanted to work with Ricard. He was strategic. I was strategic. We could be very honest with each other and still move together.
That was the thing about us. We could criticize each other. We could bicker. We could bitch at one another. But at the end of the day, we were going to move with one another, and I really liked that relationship. I think my only regret was that I didn't tell him that I wanted to make the final two with him. And the reason why I didn't, was because we're sitting at that fire at the pizza under the stars reward, and he says in front of Heather and Xander, "Shan and I haven't locked in a final two." And I didn't hear about this until later, but he says, "I only said that because I didn't want them to know how close we actually were." But in that moment, I thought, "Oh, damn, maybe he's moving away from me."
And that's the only move I think I regret in the game, was being afraid. And I never want to move in fear. That was the moment where I was just so afraid to put myself out there and say, "Do you want to be final two with me?" It was that moment of, "Do you want to go the prom with me?" And I didn't ask him because I was afraid that he would say no, but yeah, there was a lot happening in the game. And yeah, it was a horror movie. I could see how people feel that way.
Even though you twice backed off your desire to vote out Heather when others didn't want to go along with it, in your edit you were portrayed as someone who was not good at taking opinions that differed from your own. And we heard not just Deshawn say that but Ricard as well. Do you feel that was an accurate portrayal or not?
I think there's always room to grow, for sure, and stuff to learn from how you play Survivor. But I know myself, and I know I wouldn't have gotten as far in the game as I had, had I not been a good listener. I wouldn't have been able to pull off the stuff that I did, had I not been a good listener. So I know that I'm capable of listening. I think it gets tricky when you're working with alpha males, or men who are particularly sensitive, and I honestly will stand my ground on that. I really do feel like that was the case here, because I didn't have that issue with Danny. I didn't really have that issue with Liana. I didn't have that issue with Genie, or Brad, or anybody else. And you see with my vote that I voted with the people who were calling the shots at that moment.
Ricard didn't want to do Heather. He wanted to do Naseer, and we talked about it like we always do. We fought about it like we always do, and I voted with him. You know what I mean? The same thing with Deshawn. Deshawn threw a whole tantrum at Tribal. I've never once seen a man kneel before a woman in Tribal and say, "What do you want to do? I'll do whatever you want to do," And it goes their way. I've never seen that. And I did that in Tribal, knelt before him and asked him what he wanted to do, and that I wouldn't vote outside of him. And I didn't. I voted with him. I voted to protect Heather and to take out Tiffany, even though I knew that wasn't good for my game, but I wanted to be loyal and I wanted to listen to my Alliance.
So, I mean, it's like, I get what the edit was showing there. I think they wanted to show how Deshawn was feeling, and maybe how Ricard had felt frustrated at certain moments. But yeah, I do feel like I was doing more listening at that point than I probably should have, but I'm also strategic. And I also want to be in the game, and I also want to have fun playing Survivor. And there were moments where Deshawn would walk up to us and say, "I don't care who it is tonight, as long as it's not me." And so then me and Danny and Liana would go at it and strategize. And so, the edit is what the edit's going to be, and people are going to see what they want, but I know who I am, and I know that in every space, I'm a leader, and I am a thinker, and I'm strategic. But I do think that I'm a good listener. I do.
You called Deshawn a snake on your way out. Why?
For Ricard, it hurt way more because we were together since day one, but Ricard and I are game players. This is what we do. So, for me, that was a freaking good move, and he could never have pulled it off unless he knew where the crack was, and the crack was Deshawn. I called Deshawn a snake in that moment because, for me, that morning where you see us talking, where I have the sticks in my hand, that whole conversation, that was the morning where Deshawn came to me and doubled down on the all-Black alliance, and swore on the culture that he was going to be voting with me no matter what. And at that moment, I was completely locked into the mission, to the all-Black alliance.
And definitely, in hindsight, wish I could have just played my own game, but that's the privilege that white players have in the game, is that they don't have to think about this double standard. They don't have to think about the world in this way. But as a person of color in 2020, all we watched, in pre-game, before we went into the game, was the George Floyd trial, and I never got the results. So, we never got the verdict. So, I was high on that. And in my personal life, I'm an activist. I was leading the protest in Pasadena. I was leading the protest in L.A; for Breonna Taylor, for Ahmaud Arbery, for George Floyd.
So, for me, the culture was so big, and Deshawn knew that I was an activist, knew my heart. And at Tribal in that moment, I really felt a deep sense of betrayal that went beyond gameplay, because it felt like he locked me in using this social movement, and then flipped on me. Now, watching everything in its context, I'm like, I can see why he thought what he did, but at the end of the day, I remained loyal to a person that didn't give me the courtesy of a conversation. Didn't give me a heads up. And people had told me that Deshawn was throwing my name out all over the place. And at every moment, I went back to him and said, "Hey, I'm hearing this from Evvie. I'm hearing this from Tiff. I'm hearing this from Xander. I'm hearing this from everybody else." It wasn't until I heard from Liana, who was in the alliance, that everything shifted. And so, for me, what Deshawn did felt bigger than the game, and so, that's why I called him a snake at Tribal.
How are you two now post-game? Have you had a chance to talk this out a little bit?
I think it's always going to be hard. That relationship will always be hard for me, because it is so much bigger to me that, what was happening in the world. But I love him, and I will defend him and go to bat for him. And he's my brother, and we are all going to grow and learn from this. And hopefully, the next set of players can feel free enough to play their game, and not have to worry about these things. But it was a hard moment for us, but I think we're working through it. And I love that boy. I love him.
Why so focused on Heather? Why was Heather this huge person that has to be taken out?
My focus with Heather was that it wasn't about Heather, because Heather has no game. But the thing with Heather is that she was crucial to Erika's game. And my thing with Heather was that I was like, "No, you're a vote for Erika, and Erika, I believe, is smart." And I kept telling people that I think we should take out Erika. And I think one of the ways you take out a person without having to take them out, if people are so set on, "Well, let's wait," is taking out their right hand man, which, I guess, is also the same thinking of Deshawn like, "Let's get rid of Ricard, because Shan's the most powerful player in the game." So, my thinking there was, I think Heather just needs to go.
And Heather rubbed me, and I would say a number of people, the wrong way when we were just out there on that island. I just got an icky feeling from her. But yeah, so that was my whole thing with Heather was, is I just didn't want to play with her. And then also, I just felt like she was a vote for Erika, if Erika ever tried to want to make a move. And it didn't make sense to keep Heather, because I don't believe in bringing goats to the end. I just don't. I don't think it's good gameplay, but it is what it is.
I know with MS, you don't really know when it's going to flare up. Was that an issue for you at all out there or not?
Surprisingly, I was so terrified that I was going to have a flare up when I was out there in Fiji, but there was something that was so healing. I don't know if it was electromagnetic. I don't know if it was just being around a lot of green, and a lot of blue, and the sky, and it's a really warm climate, or the sand and being by the water. I don't know, but I felt like I healed in a lot of ways. For my MS, I had optic neuritis, so I couldn't see out of my right eye for a little while, and my left side just was my left shoulder. And I feel like I healed a lot when I was out there, surprisingly. My body just really, really healed.
I mean, I've done eight rounds of chemo Lemtrada. But when I was out there, I really felt my body just healing and just wellness be a part of my journey out there. And that, for me, has been a big, pivotal moment for me in coming back home. I've always been plant-based, but now just recognizing the importance of environment, and nature, and climate, and energy and the people that are around you, it was a joy to be out there. And people would think, "There's so much stress out there. You're going to flare up," but there was so much stress back here in America. I'm more bound to have a flare up here than in Fiji!
But my body did really, really well. And I feel so proud as someone with MS, to represent for that community in some way. Sometimes you feel like the diagnosis is the end of your life, and it's just not. I went on and I lived out one of my biggest dreams, and I'm just so thankful to God. It was an incredible opportunity, incredible dream experience. And so, yeah, I didn't get sick. I think I probably healed. The only problem I had was I couldn't go to the bathroom, and that's another thing. Anyways, I'm giving too much away, but I'll just stop there.
There's always so much that does not make the final edit, and even though you got more screen time than anyone this season, was there anything that didn't make it to TV that happened out there that you wish would have?
I don't know that I wish this would've made it to TV, but the truth is, is that that afternoon we got back from the challenge, it was day 18, and I had one conversation with everybody. I told Liana, "Let's not flip on the all-Black alliance. Let's just stay together. Let's all vote Erika." And so, we all agreed at that moment that's what we were going to do. And then I was with the medics for the rest of the day. I was, I hadn't used… okay, Dalton… I hadn't used the bathroom. This is going to make it to Twitter, I know, but I hadn't used the bathroom in 18 days. And this will just tell you that sometimes s--- will take you out, literally, because I could not go to the bathroom. So, I was at the medics all afternoon and just could not go.
And they were concerned about it. And so, I came back with 10 minutes to Tribal, and everyone's like, "Man, why didn't Shan play her idol?" Listen, I was just recovering from what took place with the medics. I was not even thinking about an idol that moment. I was like, "Man, I just had to go to the bathroom!" So, seeing the edit, they were very gracious towards me.
And yeah, production definitely gave me a lot of screen time this season. I did not expect that. It was an up and down experience, for sure, seeing myself on TV that much. But that last episode, I've never seen anything like it. I felt like I wasn't watching myself. I'm like, "Who is this person that's this fallen slain hero? Et tu, Brutus?" All those feelings. So, that was the only thing that didn't make it to TV, and I'm glad it didn't, but now everybody knows that, literally, I was constipated out there.
Will you play again if they ask you?
It's too soon.
That means yes.
I hope so. I mean, maybe, I don't know. Only with Ricard. No, I'm just joking.
That's your first mistake.
My first mistake already.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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