By Dalton Ross
August 20, 2020 at 12:15 PM EDT
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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.

Stephanie Valencia had a plan. And the plan, on paper, had merit. Twice, Russell Hantz had played the game of Survivor. Twice, he had gone to the very end with a female ally. And twice, that female ally got more votes than he did. So when Russell hopped off a helicopter in Nicaragua and onto Stephanie’s tribe for Survivor: Redemption Island, she figured to herself: Why not me next?

Unfortunately for Stephanie, her tribemates had other ideas. Having seen the chaos Russell wreaked in his first two outings — including pouring out players’ water and burning their socks — the tribe threw a challenge to vote him out, with Stephanie not too long behind him.

Stephanie was almost afforded another opportunity out on the island when she was part of the group of former players fans would vote in to play Survivor: Cambodia — Second Chance, but she did not ultimately make the cut and was left hanging out in the studio audience. Would Stephanie play now if asked? And what does she make of her time on the island a decade later? We sent the firecracker a 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.

STEPHANIE VALENCIA: It’s been almost 10 years since Survivor! I can’t believe it. I’ve been up to many things — primarily focusing on my career. I’m in the reality television industry, on the production side. I enjoy it very much.

What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?

Honestly, I’m proud that I was selected to participate. That’s the most difficult part of the entire process. Going into a casting meeting and then they decide that you’re a good pick for this amazing opportunity. As you know, there are millions of submissions, and I was picked out of all of them. I’m a part of television history and it feels good. I’m flattered and honored.

What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?

I would say my biggest regret from my experience was my inability to form a stronger relationship with my entire tribe. I should have been the middle ground for those who opposed Russell Hantz and for those (Krista and myself) who saw him as an asset. A). He’s a strong player in challenges so we were highly likely to get to the merge with better numbers. B). His personality isn’t for everyone. You either love him or you hate him. His tribe mates mostly hated him, so guess what?  C). His presence in the final vote wouldn’t matter! No one would care to give him a vote because their disdain for him is prevalent.

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

When it came to the challenge where members of our tribe decided they were going to throw the challenge so they can vote Russell out… We (Russell, Krista, and myself) knew they were planning on doing so. We should have vocalized this to Jeff in the moment so that something would have been done. We could have had better options.

In the final edit that made it to the show, it made it seem as if we didn’t know that our tribe mates were going to throw the challenge but, in reality, we knew, and we should have done something. I don’t think that’s exactly mind blowing but… it’s a little inside scoop. There was one moment while we were crab hunting and I chucked the machete 15 feet and nailed a crab. That blew my mind.

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

I really enjoyed the edit I got. It’s always easy for me to be myself. I laughed almost the entire time while I was watching the show. I don’t really enjoy watching it now because I can’t stand the sound of my voice and I’m just a sore loser. I hate watching the entire thing unfold and overthinking everything.

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

The adjustment for me wasn’t difficult. I was looking forward to getting back to my normal life. I was very aware during the entire time that the attention we were getting on-set and off-set wasn’t normal. I knew it was strange to be asked about everything that was happening every day. I knew that this elevated feeling of my opinion wasn’t my actual reality. We weren’t working and we were just playing a game… I tried my best to keep that in mind so I could go back to my life as soon as possible.

I did go through some anxiety leading up to the airing of the show. That waiting process was tough, but I was so happy when we finally got to see it. To say the show is massively entertaining is an understatement.

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

Nope. Not once. If we had to go back in time, I would agree to doing it all over again.

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

I keep in touch with Krista. Actually, my current roommate was childhood friends with her, so we keep in touch often. Other than that, I follow a few old cast members on Instagram and that’s about it.

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

I don’t. My family loves the show, but I just can’t watch it. It’s not really relaxing for me to watch. I’ll literally be watching another season and can’t keep focus on the actual show because I’m thinking of all the logistics behind the scenes that I witnessed. Or I’ll be thinking about how I wasn't able to go further in the show. It’s annoying. I annoy myself!

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

I would have loved to play with Sandra. She’s hilarious, and I think it would have been fun to team up her. I’m a sucker for an outgoing personality.

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

That’s a difficult question. The show has been running successfully for so long that I feel like it’s close to perfect. BUT… I’d maybe suggest that throwing challenges shouldn’t be allowed, but I have no idea how they would implement it.

Finally, would you play again if asked?

At this point of my life, I really don’t have it in me. Honest to God, the entire process is very harsh on your body. My immune system hasn’t been the same since! Maybe I would. I don’t know, I go back and forth!

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

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