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.

Ever since Amber Brkich and "Boston" Rob Mariano got to the end on Survivor: All-Stars, being in a showmance has been surefire way to paint a target on your back for early expulsion from the tribe. So it was a not a huge surprise when Chelsea Walker was ousted on day 11 from Survivor: Island of the Idols after getting a little too cuddly with tribemate Dean Kowalski… until it turned out that they were not actually getting cuddly at all.

Even the guy who raised the concern on the show about their relationship, Aaron Meredith, told EW that it was bogus. "There was NEVER a concern of a showmance between Dean and Chelsea," Aaron said in his Quarantine Questionnaire. "But you see my confessional voicing my concern about their 'relationship.' That confessional was filmed after we swapped tribes following Chelsea's vote-out… and I was fed questions from production to help make sense of why she was voted out."

While Chelsea is firm that there was no kiss to tell about ("I will say Dean and I were never in a showmance"), she gets why the show made it seem that way. "After the fact, my tribemates told me the decision to vote me out happened minutes before Tribal, and I can only assume there wasn't much footage," Chelsea says. "There needs to be some sort of narrative/explanation for a vote-off, and so while I don't agree with the showmance edit, I get it from a production standpoint, so I'm not going to nitpick it any further. It is what it is!"

In her Quarantine Questionnaire, Chelsea sheds more light on what went down before, during, and after her season 39 adventure. Read on for more insight and intel!

Chelsea Walker competes on SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols
Chelsea Walker on 'Survivor: Island of the Idols'
| Credit: CBS Robert Voets/CBS

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

CHELSEA WALKER: For one, I've stopped crying, so that's good! After I got back from the show, I immediately returned to work and eventually got to launch and host IMDb's first-ever live Survivor After Show with a couple other Survivor players, which was a lot of fun. I also got to interview Jeff Probst and a few season 40 cast members for it, so that was really cool.

I spent last summer at home in New Jersey enjoying all things Wawa. I actually got to link up with Michele, and I love her and her fam. Currently, I'm still living in Los Angeles but recently moved a couple miles south to Manhattan Beach, and I absolutely love it here. I finally have an in-unit washer and dryer, so I am really living the American dream.

What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?

I think my proudest moment is just the fact that I finally got on the show. I've talked about my casting journey in the past, but it took me about six years of applying before I finally got on. I was in the mix for Blood vs. Water, Worlds Apart, and Millennials vs. Gen X, and getting both ghosted by casting or cut during the finals process was always devastating. I think it got to the point where my parents even suggested I stop applying because they hated seeing me get my hopes up only to be let down each year. I'm proud of myself for my perseverance, and hope I was able to inspire future applicants to never give up on the dream.

What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?

I should say my biggest regret is not playing my idol, but I honestly was so blindsided it never crossed my mind once to play it. I had an alliance with Aaron, Dean, Missy, and Elizabeth, and a separate half-ass one with all of the girls. I felt really solid about my placement in the tribe, and my strategy as a player was to make my best move under the assumption that every other player was making their best move.

We knew a tribe swap was approaching, and at that point in time I really felt the best move was to get rid of Karishma. I didn't see any scenario where voting me out made sense. I still don't. Upon returning, everyone told me it was the wrong move and there was no real explanation for the decision. But ultimately, I should have formed closer bonds. At the end of the day, my own alliance turned on me and voted me out. If our relationships were as close as I had thought, the idea to vote me out would have never come to fruition, and people wouldn't have agreed to it.

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

I don't know if this will blow fans' minds, but here's a funny story. Despite Lairo being a hot mess of a tribe, we really had so much fun out there those first few days. I don't know if it was because we were starving and delusional, but I've never laughed harder. On night two, Aaron had an idea that whoever Jeff called on first at the opening challenge would have to fit a certain word into their response. Somewhere in our delusion we landed on that word being "meow."

So we get to the challenge and Jeff does his opening spiel, and points to Elaine and says, "You, girl in the front… When you text, do you type 'Y-O-U' or 'U'? … Okay I totally made that last part up, but he did ask her what she thought of our tribe. So we all quietly start egging her on, Tom is behind her saying, "Do it, do it, do it!" And she goes, "Jeff, I love this tribe… blah, blah, blah… We're ready to go out there and win right meow!" We all started cracking up, the other tribe looked at us like we were morons, and Jeff wasn't having it and very quickly moved on to the next person. And then we proceeded to get absolutely crushed in the challenge.

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

I think it was fair — I mean, I only was around for four episodes and had very little impact on the final outcome of the game, so there was only so much story line for me. Thank God I found an idol and made fire, otherwise I probably would have been Purpled. I will say Dean and I were never in a showmance. After the fact, my tribemates told me the decision to vote me out happened minutes before Tribal, and I can only assume there wasn't much footage. There needs to be some sort of narrative/explanation for a vote-off, and so while I don't agree with the showmance edit, I get it from a production standpoint, so I'm not going to nitpick it any further. It is what it is!

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

It was really challenging for me. I returned to work two days after arriving back in the U.S., which in one sense was nice to keep myself preoccupied, but at the same time it was extremely difficult to focus on anything other than Survivor. I constantly found myself daydreaming about what could've been, and harping on all of the could've, should've, would've moments.

My family and a few friends who knew I was on the show were supportive, but no one really understood or could relate to what I was going through. I was so so disappointed in myself, and my own experience was never what I imagined after applying for so many years. The only people who can relate are your castmates, and we all talked about the game nonstop. Over and over and over again. It's not healthy. There was one night where I talked to Elaine on the phone for six hours, and that's when I knew there was a problem.

The finale is the best thing for everyone… and I imagine it's like that for every cast in the sense that it finally closes the chapter, everyone moves on and returns to their normal lives, and the large cast group chats soon fade. And I'm sure family and friends are very relieved to not have to hear about it anymore.

Survivor: Island of the Idols
Chelsea Walker on 'Survivor: Island of the Idols'
| Credit: Michele Crowe/CBS via Getty Images

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

I've never regretted going on the show, but after coming home I do remember wishing I was on a different season. Never in a million years did I think I would go pre-merge, let alone be on a season that is ranked [by EW] the worst season of all time. At the end of the day, if it were getting voted out fourth or never getting on the show, I would choose getting voted out fourth every time. I remind myself that so many people would do anything to have the chance to be on Survivor, so I try to put things into perspective. I'm so grateful for the experience, and while it may not have been the experience I wanted, it's better than nothing at all.

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

I talk to Elaine by far the most. She is a lifelong friend and a couple of us from the cast got to attend her wedding a few months ago, which was amazing. I think she is one of the greatest humans I've ever met! Lauren lives close by in L.A. and we talk frequently, but she is too busy TikTok'ing to actually hang out with me. (Lauren, if you are reading this, buy your beach cruiser already!) I was able to spend time with Dean, Tommy, Elizabeth, and Jack last summer, which was so much fun. Ronnie and I just caught up the other day — he recently crushed it in a poker tournament, so that was really fun to follow along and root for him. We have a pre-merge group text with Molly and Jason, though that hasn't been too active as of late. Karishma is really sweet and always checks in. And Big Tom will always be my grasshopper.

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

I actually stopped watching my own season after I was voted out… which everyone can agree is probably for the best. Season 40 was really fun to watch, though I'm not sure if I will ever watch the show again with the same excitement I once had. Don't get me wrong, I still think Survivor is the greatest reality TV show of all time. I was so pumped for the show when it blew up on Netflix in the beginning of the pandemic — it's about time the casuals put some respect on its name! My favorite seasons are Heroes vs. Villains and Fans vs. Favorites, but if I could choose any season to be on, it would have been David vs. Goliath — I think it was probably the best newbie cast they've had in recent years.

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

I'm going to go with Reem. I think she is hysterical, and I highly recommend purchasing her Cameos. You get your money's worth! Tier 2 I'll go with Randy Bailey, because it's Randy. Tier 3 I'll go with Davie and Christian, because I think I could happily talk to them for hours and not get bored.

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

I feel like we've been getting a lot of the same answers: No more Edge, too many idols/advantages, leave Fiji, etc.… So I'm going to switch it up and say bring back the opening credits and iconic final vote deliveries. I neeeeed to see Jeff on a jet ski one more time!

Finally, would you play again if asked?

One hundred percent yes, but I have made peace with the fact that this likely will never happen until Survivor 48: Pre-Mergers.

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

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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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