SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

With Survivor filming for seasons 41 and 42 indefinitely postponed 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.

You wouldn’t know it from watching Survivor: One World, but Christina Cha is no wallflower. However, when Christina felt her outspokenness in the game was becoming a weakness rather than an asset, she shut it down. “Playing with a big alpha personality in the beginning hurt me,” says Christina, “where it basically put a BIG target on my back.”

As a result, we never saw the real Christina, even though she made it all the way to day 38, coming in fourth place. “Many that know me personally said that they didn’t recognize the person who played this game,” she says. “Because I am normally very outspoken and have more of an alpha personality. I realized when the moment I was myself, it put a target on my back. So many times it felt like I was walking on eggshells, watching every move and listening to every word.”

So who is the real Christina? Well, watch every move and listen to every word she makes in her Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire to find out!

Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

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

CHRISTINA CHA: After my appearance on Survivor, I have been focusing on my career as a filmmaker in writing, producing, and consulting. I recently achieved my Masters in Fine Arts at the AFI Conservatory in Producing, where my student thesis film won two College Television Emmys and was nominated for Best Short film in the Student Academy Awards. That put our film [up] for consideration for the Oscars in 2020. It’s been a fun, interesting ride to see where all of this hard work will go.

What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?

Wow. There were a few. I think the most important part was not to let my ego take over the game. I allowed myself to be resilient in many difficult situations, such as handling Colton and Alicia’s bullying, and turning that into a new friendship. Playing with a big alpha personality in the beginning hurt me, where it basically put a BIG target on my back.

By observing the environment of the game, I would say my biggest strengths are patience, listening, and seeing the potential good in people. Many times when people attack other people it is due to lack of awareness and not knowing the full details. That normally leads people to jump into the conclusion without rationalizing thoroughly through communication. I felt I had handled that situation the best I could at that moment.

My other proudest moment was seeing my father in person on the island for the “Loved Ones” episode. I didn’t expect him to show up due to his health condition, and was surprised he was willing to actually play the ″Loved Ones” challenges together and we didn’t end up last! And achieving the final top 4th contestant was just amazing to experience. All I can say is, I am forever grateful.

What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?

I was beyond nervous when I was playing this game. My vulnerability level was at an all-time high! So many situations made me second guess myself, when I should have just trusted my gut instinct. I knew from the beginning Kim Spradlin was the main threat to this game. Though I liked her as a person (still do), I knew in my gut she was the ultimate threat to winning till the end.

I only told a few people in our tribe that we should vote her out if [any] of us wanted a chance to win this game. And those conversations were with Monica, Jonas, Alicia, ″Troyzan," and “Tarzan” Dr. Greg Smith. I was very careful who I spoke to without blowing my cover. I wanted to make it to the end by flying under the radar. That was very difficult for me because I am very open and outspoken. Who I was on the first episode was my true self playing the game. Once I knew that put a huge target on my back, I instantly changed my tune and became this other persona on the show to avoid getting voted out.

I do regret not making bigger, bolder moves in the game that could have potentially put my position at a higher risk of being voted out. But I chose to be calculated in my moves and was a little naive to believe the only chance I had to win was to win the last challenge against Kim where we were both neck to neck to win. I definitely will not let that opportunity pass me up again.

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

Well, there were two big ones that never got aired. The first one was during the big second merge. I had a talk with Troy, Jay, and Jonas, where I explained that the women have already made an all-women alliance to the finals and the guys needed to be smart and turn this around or they will try to vote each guy out. I told them openly to use me as their “mole” in the game because right now I am the lone player that can easily help shift the numbers in the votes. But it didn’t work because Kim figured out a way to get rid of Jonas. So I continued to play the game for a few secret alliances with the original Salani women tribe, Alicia and Tarzan, and with Troy.

The second was the Survivor auction episode where everyone was upset at me for letting Troy take the next challenge advantage. I already knew the original Salani tribe was planning to use me for their numbers to vote, so I purchased the $80 lasagna that didn’t get aired. That is why I could not outbid Troyzan. Not to mention, Troy and I had a secret alliance with each other, and it was a test for Troy to see if I was going to go with him or not.

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

I have mixed feelings about the edit I received. Many that know me personally said that they didn’t recognize the person who played this game because I am normally very outspoken and have more of an alpha personality. I realized when the moment I was myself, it put a target on my back. So many times it felt like I was walking on eggshells, watching every move and listening to every word. I focused on making it to the final, but when the moment came to get to the end, I knew I couldn’t win because the alliance with Sabrina, Chelsea, and Kim was so tight.

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

All I could think about was sleep. I couldn’t sleep out in the wild because we had bamboo branches as our bed. The moment my body hit the bed, I passed out for 14 hours straight.

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

The moment I saw myself on episode 1, where I lost my temper at Tribal Council. Yeah, that was embarrassing. I was so nervous how my edit would turn out for the rest of the show. I normally don’t ever lose my cool like that unless I am pushed beyond my comfort zone. I had no proper sleep, food, and shower. I was definitely cranky.

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

Season 24 was and still is a very loving group of great people. While in quarantine, we did a group Zoom call with entire cast and Lynne Spillman made it as our guest of honor. Unfortunately, Jeff Probst couldn’t make it and join us. But maybe he will on the next one?

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

I do off and on depending on how busy my schedule gets. Because I played and met these great people, I enjoyed watching the 40th season, Winners at War. Really thought that was a brilliant concept and it’s fun to see my friends play the game against each other at a heightened level.

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

I admire how honorable Yul Kwon played on Cook Islands. He just seems like a very interesting mindful person to get to know in the game, and I would like to pick his brain. I also like Sandra Diaz-Twine because she just cracks me up with her sly, low-key wit personality. I know on a personal level, I always enjoyed her presence. But I can totally see her backstab and even blindside me in the game.

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

I think the game in general has done a good job in evolving and adapting to new concepts. I would say continue to make surprises for the contestants, allowing more twist the game rules. Maybe bring in a few “surprise” Fan Favorite Players in the middle of the merge to mix up things up. I know that’s not the normal run of the show, but it would create more of an unfair advantage for a few players and we could see how they would adapt to the tribe that has been in the game longer. I think it would be entertaining to see the reactions for the rest of players who have been playing since day one to now see two new players coming in later to game at day 10. The advantages for the two new players are being well fed, [having] sleep, and showers. The disadvantage for coming in later is not making the key alliances in advance. But maybe they can have the ability to rock the boat and change that. You could call it Survivor: Unfair Advantage.

Finally, would you play again if asked?

Yes, definitely. Sign me up! After all of the experience I learned, I definitely will be playing differently.

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