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Interview with Kass: 'I don't think of myself as a villain'

Love her, hate her, Kass McQuillen was undoubtedly one of the most memorable players this season on "Survivor: Cagayan." Is she thought of as just a self-proclaimed "bitch" due to the fact that she is a woman, or if she were a man, would she be considered a "very strategic" player? Kass definitely came to play, but her approach and personality seemed to rub many of the others the wrong way. But she remained, to the very end, undoubtedly Kass. On Wednesday night's episode, Kass seemed like a shoe-in for Final Two, but became the last member of the jury when Woo chose to eliminate her instead of Tony. I spoke with Kass today, one day after the episode aired.

Kass - "Survivor: Cagayan."
Photo courtesy of Monty Brinton/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Kass became the final member of the "Survivor: Cagayan" jury.
Photo courtesy of Screen Grab/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

There have definitely been awful tribes throughout the history of Survivor, but few have been worse than the Luzon "Brains" Tribe. Kass emerged early on in the game as a player who was going to play the game hard, her way. It is rare these days on Survivor, for a person to play a truly independent game, but Kass managed to do so. Losing her closest ally in David on Day One, Kass regrouped and ended up forming an alliance with fellow Brains, Spencer and Tasha. Surviving the train-wreck that was the Luzon Tribe, the tribe swap suddenly put her, Spencer and Tasha in a position of power.

But after the actual merge, Kass made what would ultimately be one of the game's biggest and most controversial moves. Feeling unappreciated and on the bottom of her alliance, she decided to flip on her alliance and she voted out Sarah. At that Tribal Council, Spencer gave her a "zero" percent chance of winning the game. Thus, "Chaos Kass" was born.

That move wouldn't be the only move that would earn her that nickname. Seeming to get a kick out of watching those around her squirm, Kass seemed to have beefs with several other players, including Trish. Kass not only seemed not to care about what others thought of her, she seemed to welcome their bad perceptions. Throughout the game, even as she withstood several insults from the other players, Kass continued to believe that she might have a shot to win in the end if the jury could just respect her game. She won Individual Immunity at Final Four by staging one of the largest comebacks in challenge history, and then literally lost the Final Immunity Challenge by half a second to Woo.

Kass was this season's "goat," the player that everybody else wanted to sit next to in the end because they thought they could beat her. With Woo's final Immunity win, Kass felt all but certain that she would at least have a shot against Woo. Woo though, did not respect her game enough and instead chose to sit next to the more honorable Tony in the end.

With that, Kass became the final member of the jury, ultimately voting for Tony to win the game over Woo.

Here is my exclusive interview with Kass about her time in the game, her big moves and what she's learned by watching the game unfold on TV:

Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: Hey Kass, how are you?

Kass McQuillen: I'm good, Tom (laughs). How are you?

Tom Santilli: Doing great, doing great. I wanted to start off by surprising you and telling you that I am actually a big fan of yours, despite any haters that may be out there. I respect how you played the game and in some ways I can relate to your personality. As the season rolled along, in my column I kept trying to point out certain scenarios where I though you might be able to win, despite a bitter jury. While in the game, it seemed like you thought you had a chance of winning too. So was there a point for you where you finally realized that other people's feelings about you were so strong, that they weren't going to vote for you in any scenario?

Kass: Oh Tom. I started on a tribe of individuals, so none of us really paired off and had these connections that you saw forming on the other tribes. Sort of the Tony/Trish thing. I didn't have that opportunity. David went home, I was blindsided by that. People were playing so individually so early, that it set the tone for my game. After David went home I had a brief moment of self-pity and then I said it's time to play, it's time to play. But it sort of set the tone of every person for themselves. My plan was to lay low until the merge and then do what needed to be done. I didn't want to be the weakest person on the tribe and blow a challenge for us. But in terms of my personality and stuff, when we got to the swap, I didn't really click with any of those new people. I mean, I'm a mom, I don't really associate with cheerleaders and models (laughs). I'm the only parent in that group, I'm the only married person. So I don't have a lot in common or anything to discuss with them. I don't know what "twerking" is. Add to that, I'm sort of an introvert and can have an abrasive personality at times. I didn't really have a shot and I didn't really bond with anyone except Tasha. Tasha and I were close. With the whole Sarah thing, Tasha told me she had a Plan B and a Plan C and I asked if I was in it. And she told me to come up with my own. So I did. And I wasn't guaranteed with any of those people [Spencer, etc.], I'm sure you've read in post-interviews all of their revisionist alliances. But it's fine. We're Americans, we're entitled to a little bit of revised history, right?

Tom Santilli: There were a number of very harsh things said about you on the show, after the show and on social media. From what we know of you on the show, you seem to be a person that wasn't all that phased by the negative comments. But I'm sure that some of it had to have hurt. What, if anything, during this entire experience has affected you? Were you hurt by any of it?

Kass: The only thing that's bothered me really is Tasha on Twitter. You know, Twitter is really like, the death of people (laughs). It's like a black hole of negativity. Interspersed with a tiny sprinkle of happy people trying to be relevant. Tasha was favoriting people who were telling me to kill myself at one point on there. She was endorsing the Kass hate. And because I felt I respected her as a take is, everybody that gets voted out, I give them a hall pass for one week, for what they're going to say and how they're going to deal with their interviews. Because they're reliving their experience and they're reliving it through the eyes of an editor. And I know that everybody feels like some crucial part of their story has not been told. But to me, it's a TV show, it's a game. I went out there to play. In real life I never would have met these people. I know who my friends and family members are at home. I did come away with friends from this. There are people I will stay in touch with. I made amends with everybody except for Morgan. Morgan still has not acknowledged my existence. She's still in Ponderosa mode. Which is just hilarious to me. So Tasha was probably my closest friend out there.

Tom Santilli: In my interview with Trish she said the following about you: That you "loves to see people at their worst" and that you "loves ruining peoples' dreams." What's your reaction to those words and is Trish one of the people you made amends with?

Kass: You know, I think Trish was reliving that. I'm glad I gave her the finger, she had said horrible things about my five-year-old out there on the island. She crossed a line and you only saw a very small fraction of what was going on. To put it in perspective, she's the only person in Survivor history to be so horrible that someone had to quit the game because they didn't want to punch someone. All I did was give her the finger. That said, Trish is who she is. She's a rough-and-tumble Boston girl who grew up with four or five brothers. And she's vulgar and she's crass and she's mean. She is a button-pusher, it's ironic. If a grown woman is going to go on after-shows and still be talking about me in this manner, we just have to move on. But I talked to her, my daughter took a picture with her yesterday. Will we be life-long friends? No.

Tom Santilli: You made a comment during the Finale Episode that "You're not a goat, you're just hated." What's your definition of a goat?

Kass: Well, traditionally the "goat" is the Morgan-type, right? Just lays around, doesn't do anything, doesn't strategize, doesn't talk to anyone, just eats their rice, goes to the bathroom and resumes her throne in the shelter. To me, that's the goat. Someone who never makes a move or attempts to do anything. As a fan that's what I think of. Not someone who makes moves and then is hated. I think people hated me because I outsmarted them, combined with my lack of social skills (laughs). But I don't think they had enough fuel to justify the hate out there. Burning that alliance, they never got over it. Tasha didn't talk to me for six days. She threw her game out the window, because I wanted to work with her and I wanted to explain to her the situation. Yeah, I didn't want to be a goat, I hated it when the boys were calling me one. But it's kind of typical of my arc, just to be misjudged a bit on my gameplay.

Tom Santilli: Speaking of that, what is the biggest misconception you would like to clear up regarding you as a person and also you as a player?

Kass: Well it's almost ironic. Because as a player I hear people calling me emotional and estrogen-driven. But if you look at me on the show, everyone got mad at me because I wasn't emotional. I had a stone-face, or whatever. I did not ever do an emotional vote. Yes the Trish vote, I had a little flare there at the end because I was genuinely pleased that this person would not be going further. But I loved pushing Tony's buttons, I'm not sure why, I mean, because he's just such a nut-job. He's so histrionic and dramatic and over-the-top, he's really like that, that's Tony. I admit, that part was fun. I don't know why Spencer is so in love with Tony because Tony was horrible to him out there. Maybe it's this frat-boy, abusive, elder thing going on, I don't know (laughs).

Tom Santilli: Jeff Probst once pointed out that villains on the show rarely consider themselves villains. That being said, is it fair to consider you a Survivor Villain? And would you play again if asked?

Kass: I don't think of myself as a villain, but I guess that's the label they want to put on people. And yes, I would definitely play again.

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