Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Monica Padilla got over 600 sand flea bites in Cambodia
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.
Cambodia was one of the most brutal locations in the history of Survivor. For one thing, there was the oppressive heat, with three different players collapsing after a single challenge on the Kaoh Rong season (with one, Caleb Reynolds, being airlifted out of the game). But there was another hardship players had to endure beyond the sun, and one which took a huge physical toll on Monica Padilla and others on the Survivor: Cambodia - Second Chance season.
"In Cambodia, my body got attacked by sand fleas and I was covered in bites and welts," says Monica. How bad was it, exactly? "I was bored waiting to start a challenge and counted over 600 bites." 600 bites!!!! Well, at least they didn't hurt too much, did they? "They were so itchy and painful!" Oh. But that was it though, right? "I guess they started to lay eggs in my skin, and it was getting infected because production gave me an antihistamine and they rarely give you anything. They try to keep the game intact and stay true to 'surviving the elements.'"
Okay, that all sounds completely horrifying. And to add insult to literal injury, Monica was blindsided on day 13 after trying to make a move to keep the female alliance numbers up - a painful early ouster after her solid showing on Survivor: Samoa in which she made it all the way to day 33. "I kept saying I didn't care," says Monica, "but it definitely stung that I didn't do better on my second chance after wanting to go back soooo badly. I felt like I disappointed my friends, family, and fans who voted for me to get back on."
Now, in her Quarantine Questionnaire, Monica looks back at her time on both seasons, and the highs and lows of playing the toughest game on the planet. She should know. She's got the bites to prove it.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
MONICA PADILLA: I got mini-married during COVID with a very small intimate wedding. My dad walked me down the aisle, which was really special and we are also hoping to do a big wedding now that we are finally returning to some normalcy!
Workwise, I am still practicing law and am litigating in Los Angeles and all over the country for the Casas Law Firm, representing and protecting the hard-earned brand and reputation of our client models, actresses, and influencers and working on some great cases. I love our firm and I am having a lot of fun with it. Still doing voiceovers here and there, so that's been super fun too! Would like to dabble in hosting and would love the opportunity to explore that.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
Lasting 33 days on Samoa and getting super sassy fighting to stay in the game on my last day. I felt like I did everything I could in that season and walked away with little to no regret. I had such an amazing experience that season, and felt like I really grew as a person out there.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experiences?
I regret going in a bit too aggressively on Second Chance. it was such a whirlwind being out there again, I wish I had really connected with more of the players and not tried to play so hard to play the game right off the bat.
What's something that will blow fans minds that happened out there in one of your seasons but never made it to TV?
In Samoa, I had to defeather a chicken after the boys beheaded it, and in the middle of defeathering it - mind you it was now headless - it freaking clucked! I was so shocked! Even the camera guy looked at me like, "What the HECK?!" And they aren't really supposed to interact with us or react to anything.
Also, in Cambodia, my body got attacked by sand fleas and I was covered in bites and welts. I was bored waiting to start a challenge and counted over 600 bites. They were so itchy and painful! I guess they started to lay eggs in my skin, and it was getting infected because production gave me an antihistamine and they rarely give you anything. They try to keep the game intact and stay true to "surviving the elements."
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
On my first season, I was fine with my edit, but I feel overall I wish we could have seen a bit more of me out there on both seasons.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
After my first season, I remember the city being really loud - buses, cars, all of it. I also found myself eavesdropping on conversations back in the real world - in restaurants and even stores. I was out to lunch with a girlfriend and was like, "Oh that table over there is going to the music awards as guests!" My girl was like, "Ummm, is this a new thing we listen to strangers' conversations??"
I also couldn't stop eating and gained about 40 pounds in a month, got an eye infection, and developed an allergy to laundry detergent. But above all, I was just so grateful for the little things: my hot shower, my cozy bed, trips to the grocery store… I was just so much more appreciative of every little thing.
After Second Chance, I was so bummed I didn't do better in the game and was voted out early. I kept saying I didn't care, but it definitely stung that I didn't do better on my second chance after wanting to go back soooo badly. I felt like I disappointed my friends, family, and fans who voted for me to get back on.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Yes. After Second Chance, I was so bummed I didn't do better in the game and when I got back home in 2015 I found out my dad was exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's. I wish I could have been there for my mom and family at that time. I can't imagine how she felt coming to the realization that she was slowly losing her soulmate. He is 83 now, and still fighting but I just wish I could have done more.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your seasons?
Eliza is a dear friend and Survivor sister! I am so proud of her. She is running for District Attorney of Manhattan and I back her 10000 percent, so if you're a voter in NYC make sure you vote for her this June!
My husband grew up in Utah and has a ton of family there, so we are in Utah often and we love keeping up with Joe and Sierra now that Joe is an Utah resident and cowgirl hubby. Joe introduced me to Sierra after our season and I just adore her and getting to witness their journey and celebrate their marriage - they are like family to us.
I still speak to Franny, T-Bird, Sandra, PG, So, Corrine, and Jeremy here and there - mostly messages just keeping up and I am also one of the only ones who stays connected to Natalie White and Shambo. I had a lot of fun rooting for Sandra and Jeremy last season and messaging with them during their epic Winners at War season!
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
I haven't really kept up with all the seasons, but I was absolutely obsessed with Winners at War! Loved seeing my friends and other legends I never got to know as well play such epic games, and overall what an epic season! So fun to watch and root for my friends and faves!
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
I so wish I could have played with T-Bird! I was so bummed she didn't get on Second Chance. We would have done so well together! I adore her so so much! She is such a light!
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
I would love it if the show interacted with fans more as it airs, which is so easy to do with social media these days. That way fans can say, "Hey, we want to see more of this player or we want to see more of the conversations leading up to last night's Tribal. Even if they just aired it on CBS.com, I think that would be so cool.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
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