SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

With season 41 of Survivor delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EW is reaching back into the reality show's past. We sent a Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire to a batch of former players to fill out with their thoughts about their time on the show as well as updates on what they've been up to since. Each weekday, EW will post the answers from a different player.

Fire was no friend to Kara Kay out on Survivor. Not only was the realtor from San Diego taken out one day short of the final Tribal Council when she lost the final four fire-making challenge to Mike White (who made it up to her by bringing her back to Fiji), but it turns out much earlier in the game that she almost ended up in a fire herself! "I had vertigo so badly that I had to lay down and almost rolled into the fire," explains Kara. "I thought that might have been the end for me, but I guess the game had another way of using fire to get me out."

An early showmance with Dan Rengering could have spelled doom for Kara in the game, but her strong social skills and endurance prowess (winning a tough immunity challenge) brought her to the brink of victory as Kara did not receive a single vote against her in the entire game. But, in the end, while she dodged fire on day 7, she could not avoid it on day 38.

Now, Kara looks back at her Survivor journey courtesy of her Quarantine Questionnaire.

Jackets and Eggs
Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.

KARA KAY: Since we wrapped filming, I've transitioned back into my reality of being a full-time realtor — and quite ungracefully at first, might I add! I was dealing with clients' roof leaks and having a hard time not understanding why everyone wasn't just stoked they actually had a roof. I slowly got back into my workout routine of cardio/weight classes, yoga, running, biking, and hiking. I gained 15 pounds to go on the show, then lost 26 pounds while I was there. My body was very confused and it took a while to get my metabolism back to normal. I also bought a home, a car, a cat, and at least 7 house plants. I'd say my life is close to being complete.

What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?

My proudest moment from playing Survivor had to have been how good everyone looked at Tribal after they visited Salon KK when I did their hair with leftover kabob sticks. Just kidding. Winning immunity was probably the top proudest moment. There's nothing like knowing that necklace is your protection for the night! It was also fun to be neck and neck with Davie, who only lost because there was a fly who would not leave him alone. 

What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?

Hmm, this is going to sound bland and boring, but I really feel like I played so that I didn't walk away with any regrets. I went in with the intention of playing a more understated game, so I guess my biggest regret is not making it to the final three so I could plead why my game was worth voting for to win. I feel like my edit was very true to my game, but there was even more going on behind the scenes with regards to intel and high-level navigating that there was simply not enough time to air. 

What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?

I'd like to remember the very first night of the entire experience, where the Goliaths spent hours arguing over how the shelter would be built, which resulted in us giving up, panicking over Mike looking for an idol, and then, when night came, we had no shelter whatsoever. We literally threw bamboo on the ground with haphazard palm fronds strewn across some trees for shelter above, and all ten of us pretty much dog piled and hoped for the best. At one point, Natalia looked up and saw a coconut directly above her head and said, "I'm praying to the Survivor Gods that coconut doesn't fall on my head in the middle of the night." To which Jeremy replied, "Girrrrl, you're gonna have to pray to the real Gods if that thing falls on you!" This might be something you had to be there for, but trust me, it was hilarious. 

Survivor Kara Kay
Kara Kay on 'Survivor: David vs. Goliath'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?

I am incredibly content with the edit I received. I feel like it was pretty true to my character and the editors did a great job of highlighting my game. I don't envy their position trying to create development for 20 different people with such a short amount of time to do so. I really think the show should be longer so that they can give each person more air-time.! I was terrified wondering if they could create a different personality for me based on what they decided to share, but I honestly think they included a very well-rounded storyline for me, and I'm very thankful.

What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?

Are you kidding me? To be out on an island for 38 days with mostly rain making your life a seemingly permanent hypothermic experience, not being able to eat much besides rice, assuming everyone is colluding behind your back, you can imagine it's not easy to just pop back into reality. I'll never forget how special it felt to see rain falling from inside a heated condo rather than from beneath a tarp while I shivered wondering if I would ever be dry and warm again.

I'll still look at the clouds and pretend like I know when the rain might come, and I'm always prepared with an extra jacket just in case. It was also wild to come back and realize that food was just always… available. I could think of what I wanted to eat, and I would get it. I cannot believe at one point on Vuku I was genuinely excited to add hermit crabs to the rice so we could have "seafood fried rice." I make sure never to take the simple things for granted anymore and have been staying true writing what I'm thankful for every single morning.

Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?

Never. I was so happy to be a part of that experience and did a decent job of remembering how fortunate I was to be there. I will say there was a point on the seventh day where I was so hungry, I was so confused as to how I'd ever get through the remainder of the game, but it never turned into regret. That same day, I had vertigo so badly that I had to lay down and almost rolled into the fire. I thought that might have been the end for me, but I guess the game had another way of using fire to get me out.

Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?

We seriously had the best cast. I loved the people on our cast so much that I decided to date one of them! Of course, Alec is the one I spent the most time with after the show, and we had a ton of fun together before deciding amicably to part ways. I also love spending as much time with Mike as possible; he was the person on the island I knew I could count on to be on the same wavelength as me, and little did I know he'd be the reason I'd go scuba diving with bull sharks a year later (among many other fun adventures). I'd say our friendship is pretty wholesome — even the internet thinks so!

I was also lucky enough to help Angelina and her husband buy a home, so I love to go visit them. I went to Nick's wedding in Kentucky last year, I'll be at Alison's wedding later this year, and I'll still reach out to or hear from Carl, Natalia, Elizabeth, Davie, Bi, Jess, and Gabby to laugh at memories from the game, or something that happened after the fact. I wouldn't be surprised if we organized another trip like we had in New Orleans shortly after we stopped filming!

Kara Kay on 'Survivor: David vs. Goliath'
| Credit: CBS

Do you still watch Survivor, and, if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?

I do, and I have my entire friend base into it now too! My favorite season outside of mine is season 32, Koah Rong, because I loved watching Michele dominate and take home the million. I planned on playing like her in my season, but highly underestimated Nick's ability to solve puzzles and grossly overestimated mine. I just like the way she handled herself the entire time. Even in a power position she maintained a level of grace and something about her is just badass to me. That season was dynamic in a way that was different than any other season in my opinion.

Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?

Well, I guess on that topic, I would have loved to play with Michele, because I think we would do a great job of going with the flow of the game but would also have fun getting creative in strategizing. I'd also love to play with Kelley Wentworth or Lauren O'Connell because I think us three could get a really great handle of what's going on, and then be able to take control of the game when it mattered the most. Am I blowing my chances of winning a season with them or what?! Don't tell anyone my plan, haha.

If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?

As a social player, I genuinely love the basics of Survivor — highlighting the parts where people unravel because they are starving and cold and having to fend for themselves without a ton of tricks to be used at Tribal Council. Maybe I'm saying that because I'm salty I never found my own idol, but I also think a lot of the basic survival entertainment gets lost in the mix of explaining what each device does and who has it.

I think players can get pretty creative with idols and social trickery and I would love to see at least one season with bare minimum advantages to see who ends up coming out on top with just politics. I bet we'd see some classic entertainment.

Finally, would you play again if asked?

Of course. Who could say no to another chance to appear on the best show on television?! And if I did, I would come well versed in fire making, and I would play shamelessly. As if there was any other way to do it!

To keep track of our daily Survivor Quarantine Questionnaires and get all the latest updates, check out EW's Survivor hub, and follow Dalton on Twitter.

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Episode Recaps

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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