Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Tijuana Bradley on being a victim of the infamous dead grandma lie
With Survivor filming for seasons 41 and 42 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.
Tijuana Bradley had a solid run on one of the very best seasons of Survivor, making it all the way to seventh place on Survivor: Pearl Islands. But imagine what could have been had she not let the notorious Jonny Fairplay know that she and the other women were planning to blindside his buddy Burton Roberts. It's a move that ended up getting Tijuana booted out of the game.
But that's not Tijuana's only regret when it comes to Jonny Fairplay, because T (as she was known to her Morgan tribemates) was also one of the duped victims of Fairplay's notorious dead grandma lie. During the Pearl Islands Loved Ones visit and reward challenge, Fairplay (a.k.a. Jon Dalton) had his friend "Thunder Dan" tell him upon arriving that his grandmother had died, causing Fairplay's tribemates to tear up and allow him to win the reward so he could find out more information about his deceased grandma. But it was all a premeditated ruse, as Fairplay later told listeners that his grandmother was "sitting home watching Jerry Springer right now."
Tijuana regrets falling for the trick. "I genuinely felt bad for him," says Tijuana now, "and would have given up my opportunity on the show if it meant him having solace and peace of mind with losing his grandmother. But instead, he manipulated the group by playing on our vulnerabilities to want to care beyond the show. Oh well — I got played because in the end, it's a game!"
A game that for the Pearl Islands season had a very controversial rules twist, where players that were voted out and put up in a hotel with food and other amenities were allowed to compete to get back in the game. Not surprisingly, Tijuana (like many fans) still harbors strong feelings about the Outcasts twist, and she shares them in her Quarantine Questionnaire. As a bonus, we also learn what really happened in that Panamanian village shopping spree. Settle in, old school Survivor fans, because Tijuana Bradley is ready to deliver the goods.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
TIJUANA BRADLEY: Married three years with a bonus daughter, and our Golden Retriever, Spartacus. We live in a suburb right outside of Chicago, in an area called Oak Park. I've continued my career in Pharmaceutical Sales, currently working as a Training Manager. In our free time, we try to travel as much as possible and partake in a range of outdoor activities.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
Hmm… just getting on the show was a super proud moment. At the time, there were over 100,000 applicants. To be chosen one of 16 was pretty freakin' cool! My hometown of Webster Groves, right outside St. Louis, was really supportive as well. My brother, who has since passed away, was ecstatic. It typically took moving heaven and earth for him to show [he's] proud of his little sister. This was one of those times.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
Pulling John aside to tell him that us girls were sticking together and that we were voting out Burton. Trying to be "honest" got me voted out of the game. It gave John a reason to manipulate the info to his advantage. As well, having empathy for him — really thinking his grandmother died. I genuinely felt bad for him and would have given up my opportunity on the show if it meant him having solace and peace of mind with losing his grandmother. But instead, he manipulated the group by playing on our vulnerabilities to want to care beyond the show. Oh well — I got played because in the end, it's a game!
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
I'm not sure it's mind blowing, but it looks like we canoe the entire way to Tribal Council. We didn't. It's too far a trek. Instead, they got footage of us leaving shore, then after it was captured on film, we came back to shore and took a speed boat to Tribal Council. I think the speed boat trip was maybe 15 mins or so. It would have taken forever for us to canoe there!
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
Meh. The first half of the first episode was BS. It's edited to make me look loud, obnoxious, and demanding when, in reality, they edited out the initial exchange that caused the first scene's argument in the first place. What the viewer doesn't see is that at the back of the store, an employee and I were amicable and she, after selling me the pot, continued to help me shop. When I was leaving, another employee stopped me, requesting that I pay for the pot I already paid for — and for more than the original price paid. After trying to explain I already paid for the pot, she insisted I give more money. The viewer doesn't see any of that, and instead everything after.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Not culture shock but my body took time to heal. The amount of bug bites and scratches on my legs were so aggressive and visible, I didn't wear shorts and skirts for almost two years.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
No. Loved every second of it and would do it all over again.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
Morgan 5 baby! Savage, Osten, Darrah and Ryno! They became family out there. I love them and always will.
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
It's been years since I've watched, but I saw most of Wendell's season, some of Zeke's, and the David vs Goliath season.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
I don't have a player I wish I could have played with. Instead, I have players I wish hadn't had to play with again. And that's the Outcast tribe. I still think that's BS that they let those jokers back in the game. Granted, I have love for them as fellow contestants and people, but that twist was wrong!!!
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
Sounds like the editing could give a more accurate portrayal of things. However, drama and controversy sells in reality tv — it's a part of the platform.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
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