The fifth-place finisher also reveals her lowest moment in the game, which may surprise you.
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Lauren Harpe surprised some people with her performance on Survivor 44. People like… herself! Lauren won two individual immunity challenges and made it all the way to the final five, and, as she said through tears on the show, it was a run she didn't know she had in her.

The 31-year-old elementary school teacher told Jeff Probst she was "so proud of who I have become" after making it all the way to finale night. She was finally eliminated in fifth place and sent to the jury after being unable to find a hidden immunity idol that could have saved her.

But what if Lauren had found an idol and worked her way into the final three? How would she have fared with the jury in the end? Why did she vote the way she did? And what can she tell us about the stuff we didn't see on the island? We spoke to Lauren the morning after the finale to get the full scoop on all that and more — including why she was so "pissed at Carson. Watch the entire interview above or read it below.

Lauren Harpe on 'Survivor 44'
Lauren Harpe on 'Survivor 44'
| Credit: CBS

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let's start with your vote for the winner. Why did you give it to Yam Yam?

LAUREN HARPE: Man, you know what? Yam Yam had the best social game. He was so genuine. They didn't show a lot of our relationship there, but Yam Yam was the most social, and I feel like he had the best jury management. You see him being such a great human being when he was with Carson, showing him how to make fire, and just relating to us on personal levels. I feel like he had the best social game of the three.

With Heidi, I didn't have as great of a connection with her. She was friends with Danny, and Danny was gunning for me the whole time. [Laughs] We had some tension there. And then with Carolyn, I feel like she played a great game strategically, but behind the scenes we didn't really know or see that because we didn't have any relationships with her. Or I didn't have as much of a relationship with her. So that's why I went with Yam Yam.

We heard from Carson on the show that you were a big threat if they kept you around. So if you had made it into the final 3, how do you think you do?

If I would've had that idol, and I would've made it to the final four and then gone in fire or got pushed to the end, I think I would've had a fighting chance. The only person I really think that I would not have been able to beat was Carson. I had a lot of friends on the jury. I had Brandon, Kane, Jaime, and then I even formed a relationship with Danny. I probably would've struggled pulling in Frannie and Matt, but I think that I had a lot of alliances there that would've helped me a lot at the end.

We saw you searching for that idol on the new beach. How long were you looking for that and how frustrating was it not finding it?

There was a point where you hear Carson say, like, "I've never seen anybody just give up," right? So there was a point where I was defeated. I pulled my letters back out, I was reading them, I was crying, exhausted. My eyes were puffy and I was like, "Man, I'm going to lose." And then there was a moment. They didn't show it, but I was just like, "I'm going to look, I'm going to find it."

So I went out, what feels like an eternity — maybe 30-35 minutes — where I was searching through the trees and looking through those rocks on the side, just for anything at that point. It looked like [the idol was on] a little twig or something on the side, but on the island, there was this one big tree that was very unique and very different than anything else. So that's the one that I stayed at for the majority of the time, but I could've never found that freaking idol. It was like a needle in the haystack. It was like hanging off of a twig or a branch. So that was very, very hard to find, but I was determined to go get it. I tried, but unfortunately, we saw how it turned out. [Laughs]

Lauren Harpe on 'Survivor 44'
Lauren Harpe on 'Survivor 44'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

Survivor is filled with highs and lows. I assume the high for you was winning those immunity challenges. What was the lowest point of the game for you?

The lowest point of the game for me was after the family [letters]. Or maybe even right before. I guess that was the high and a low because you get these letters and you're like, "Oh my gosh, my family! I love them so much! They're pushing me forward!" But then also I'm at a low 'cause I'm like, "Oh my God, my kids! What are they doing? Where are they at?" For me, I tried to be, as you could see, very stoic and just very strong. I didn't want to think about my kids or my family, because it made me cry, made me feel a little vulnerable, and I didn't really want people to see too much of that.

That was the lowest point for me — when I really had the moment to think about my family, think about my kids, and they're dependent on me right now. It was heavy. It was a great moment knowing that I was doing something grand, but it was just heavy on me. That distracted me in the game.

I've always wondered about that. I always thought that if I were out there — which I would never do, by the way — how I would just have to shut myself off from that personal side of my family and not think about them. To have that reintroduced could be really jarring.

Yeah, it was very hard to shut it off because when you're in the moment and you're thinking about it, you dwell on it, and you're crying, and you're exhausted. It shows some vulnerability and you can connect with people in that way, but it's just hard. You have to be able to balance that.

You talked both on the show and in a deleted scene we had on EW about the lessons you learned out there on the island in terms of being a single mom and how it was okay to ask for help and not always feel like you need to do it on your own. It's been almost a year since you got back. Has there been a change in your life in terms of that since Survivor?

Yeah, most definitely. Before going out there, I was just so independent. I'm like, I can do everything! I'm going to prove to everybody in this world — and my ex-husband —that I can do it! But then I realized I need support. I need help. Not even just with my family, but even at work and in every aspect, I always ask for help now. I always speak to other people. It takes a village to raise a child, but then it also takes a community to just be successful and reach your goals. So I definitely have changed. I have so many more friends. I have so many more people that I realize are very supportive of me, that and they love me and life is better this way.

Lauren Harpe on 'Survivor 44'
Lauren Harpe on 'Survivor 44'
| Credit: CBS

What was it like when you got to Ponderosa after being voted out?

Okay, so I'm going to be honest with you.

Hit me.

I was pissed. I was pissed at Carson. 'Cause I thought Carson and I were cool. I was like, Man, Carson is like one of the closest people to me here. So I had a really hard time understanding why he would vote me out at that point, you know? I really struggled with that, like, Why would Carson vote me out? Why would he do this? Am I going to vote for him when he gets to the end? So I struggled. That's the biggest thing that I struggled with, just like being like: Why?

So what was it like when he showed up right after you?

I was pissed! [Laughs] I was pissed, but I wanted answers. And then I got to talk to him. Then we found out how intelligent he really was — like he was an aerospace engineering student and all of that. So it all made sense. But I was very upset when he arrived.

What's something that happened out there on the island that never made it to TV that you wish we had gotten a chance to see?

I really just wish we would've seen more of my relationships that I had in general. Like my relationship with Carson, where I feel like I played very closely with him. And Yam Yam. So just seeing those relationships from my perspective. But, to be fair, we had some great storytellers like Carolyn, Yam Yam, the Tika three — they were amazing. Just seeing the game through their eyes and their perspective was phenomenal. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

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SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

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