The first time Abi-Maria Gomes played Survivor, back on Survivor: Philippines (Season 25), she was instantly thought of as someone who was destined to return to the game at some point. That’s because she was a scene-stealing, self-proclaimed villain, and the type of player that was pure TV entertainment gold. But she was also perceived as a “goat,” and because she rubbed people the wrong way, it didn’t appear as if she had much chance of ever winning the game. That season, she lasted 36 days and was voted out during the thirteenth episode. On Wednesday night’s episode of “Survivor: Cambodia,” during Episode 13 once again and on Day 35 this time, Abi saw her second-chance hopes come to an end when she was blindsided by Spencer and his latest “voting block.”
In case you’ve missed anything, get caught up on Episode 13 here.
Clearly fans wanted to see Abi play Survivor again, or there was no way she would have been voted back on the show. But Abi’s reputation as a “bully” and a villain preceded her, and she faced tough times from the very beginning. Was Abi unfairly picked on, or does she bring trouble herself? Only a few hours into her second chance season, with hopes of redemption and changing her image on her mind, Abi was involved in some drama when her bracelet ended up in the personal bag of Peih-Gee. Soon after, Abi found herself on the brink of elimination several times, never really able to shake the “stigma” that she had created from her first season.
But somehow, someway, she kept making it through. Whether she felt safe of not, the viewers knew from most of the other player’s confessionals that Abi didn’t really have a true ally in the game, as nobody else seemed to keen to let her make it all the way to the end. That’s a tough thing to overcome, and it speaks to her feisty personality, and her deep inner-strength, that she was able to now play a total of 71 days in the game of Survivor without any sort of real support structure around her.
As she made it to Final Four, Tasha finally led the charge against her, not wanting her to be able to get through to the end of the game. In a 4-2-1 vote, Abi was blindsided just when she thought she was gaining traction in the game.
I had the chance to speak with Abi today about her second chance, her last few days in the game, and that bracelet incident that seemed to start all the drama for her this season. Here is the transcript:
Abi-Maria Gomes: All right! Hello there!
Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: Well how are you Abi?
Abi: Eh, just hanging in there.
Tom Santilli: Well I am sorry to see you go.
Abi: I appreciate it, thank you.
Tom Santilli: You faced a lot of adversity this season. On your day-after interview on CBS.com (above video) and in your Ponderosa Video, you mentioned that you came into this game with a stigma, that you didn’t feel like you had been given a fair shot at a second chance. How so?
Abi: Well, I feel like the people that I was playing against had just watched Survivor: Philippines, with such a target on me for how I played that season. And this is a second chance season and it just goes with the title. Who would people rather see winning on a second chance season a hero or a villain? Right?
Tom Santilli: Well, with that stigma, a lot of players that have been voted out this season, maybe except for Peih-Gee, have all talked fairly positive about you…
Abi: …and you can add in Shirin.
Tom Santilli: …yes, her too, but for the most part people have called you very loyal. How big a part does the show itself play in this “stigma” that you have as a crazy, unpredictable villain? Do you blame the editing at all in how you are portrayed versus how you really are in the game?
Abi: I don’t blame anything or anybody but myself. There is just so much that editing can do. I think that at the end of it all, I might be my worst enemy, you know?
Tom Santilli: Aren’t we all. But you are known as a “villain.” The other villain this season was Kass, and even though she tried very hard to change that perception this season, she ultimately was not able to overcome that. What could have gone differently for you villains that maybe would have benefited you more this season, and given you a real chance?
Abi: Not have taken Spencer to the merge? (Laughs) To have not allowed him to team up with Tasha, he had a great relationship with her at Cagayan and I think that was a big mistake.
Tom Santilli: Watching this season from home, a lot of players in the game really were not kind to you at all. There were a lot of really bad things said about you in confessionals and in private conversations where you weren’t there…
Abi: …I don’t think that I am very well-liked in the Survivor Community, let’s put it this way.
Tom Santilli: Well what do you attribute that to?
Abi: We see it playing out this season, from the get-go. It’s just me on the bottom. It’s “Abi is so unlikable.” Abi, nobody likes Abi, it’s just constant negative words being thrown towards me. Then I just have to watch the season all over again, and you know, it’s just right there. They just don’t like me. But whatever.
Tom Santilli: There was a nice moment this season though, when you were feeling all alone and Terry had come out to comfort you on the beach.
Abi: That was definitely an honest relationship being built out there. Terry is a great man. I was a little iffy in the beginning because I was being very loyal to Shirin and I wanted to play with her and she definitely did not like Terry and did not want to play with him. So I was just trying to stick with that. But then when he had my back and he reached out to me and came and spent hours with me, I mean I was super-vulnerable. That just spoke so much about him. And so much about Shirin.
Tom Santilli: So you come in getting a second chance and you’re hoping to change your perception on the show, and the very first thing that happens is that whole incident with your missing bracelet. What was that all about from your perspective?
Abi: Oh goodness. I was just curious and I honestly thought they were just trying to awaken the Brazilian dragon. They were just trying to quench that whole situation. It was just so bizarre, with how Vytas was pretty much instigating, telling me that it was inside Peih-Gee’s bag. The whole thing was just so odd to me, but I don’t think they would own up to it at all after the fact, even if they did plant it, even if they were trying to create some paranoia in me. They knew and saw from my previous season that I have a short fuse, but I don’t think they would own up and say that they did it on purpose.
Tom Santilli: What sort of game did you want to play coming in this season? When you’re voted in by the fans, obviously people wanted to see you play the game again. Had everything gone your way, how would your game have looked?
Abi: I would like to play as long as it’s not a mean game.
Tom Santilli: OK. Let’s talk about last night’s Tribal Council. You voted for Keith because you had thought that was what Jeremy, Tasha and Kimmi were going to do and that was the side you had chosen. But what made you want to go with them and not Kelley, Keith and Spencer?
Abi: I thought I was in the exact same position that Spencer was sitting at right now, where I was in the middle. The message I was trying to send was a women empowerment message, I was trying to get rid of the men and keep the women strong.
Tom Santilli: But were those the people then, that you had hope to go to the end with?
Abi: I had planned to go to the end with Tasha and Kimmi. Because I think that they are the ultimate goats this season. They didn’t have to go through half of what I had to go through in the first stage of the game, so I thought that I had that in my pocket. I thought that my game, you know, was ahead of theirs.
Tom Santilli: Tasha, interestingly is sort of the opposite of you in that a few players (in their exit interviews) have talked negatively about Tasha, yet we don’t see a lot of reason for that on TV. And in your Ponderosa video, Kass and Savage argued about what they thought about Tasha. What are your thoughts on Tasha as a player and what are we not seeing at home?
Abi: I think that Tasha had a very good pre-game alliance with Spencer and it was a huge mistake letting that kid get as far as he is now. And he’s a little too arrogant for his own good, by the way.
Tom Santilli: Was Spencer just underestimated this season?
Abi: I mean, just listen to half of his confessionals (laughs).
Tom Santilli: How are you on a personal level with the rest of this cast? Have you made any lasting bonds with any of the players from this season? Anybody you never care to see again?
Abi: I would say that I don’t really care much about Peih-Gee and Shirin, based on what I’ve seen as far as their social media interactions. That isn’t the type of energy that I like keeping in my life. You know, that resentful ugliness. But there definitely are some people that I will have long-lasting relationships with. Wentworth is one of them. And I am totally Team Wentworth at this point.
Tom Santilli: There was a lot of talk this season about how to “handle” you out there, the right and wrong ways to talk to you and when to include you in the conversation and when not to. What would your advice be to someone who is going to play Survivor with Abi-Maria Gomes? What’s the best way to “handle” you in the game?
Abi: Just be careful when you’re out there. Little things can be so highlighted and blown out of proportion. An example that I could use is, remember when Ciera was mentioned [by Savage] to be used as a decoy? Well I was pretty much used as a decoy at every single Tribal. So just think on that for a second.
Tom Santilli: Well people were definitely pretty harsh on you this season…
Abi: I agree (laughs).
Tom Santilli: …is there anything that you would like to say to the fans who voted you on, or the ones that maybe didn’t vote you on?
Abi: I am so thankful for everyone that was Team Abi, for those that voted me on and who believed in me. I am so sorry that I had to disappoint them. When you are playing a second chance season where the fans vote you on, it is an extra responsibility because you are not only playing for yourself and for your family, but you are playing for them. So I am sorry that I didn’t deliver as A+ as I wanted to, but I tried and I am so sorry. I did the best I could.
Tom Santilli: Leave me with something about you, about your personality, that you wish people out there knew about you, that maybe has not come across very clearly on television.
Abi: I am not crazy (laughs). I am not mentally unstable (laughs). I am actually very well loved and liked in my real life. I have a lot of people that love me dearly and it’s unfortunate that in the Survivor Community, I am not seen in that light.
Be sure to join me next Wednesday for the last episode preview of the season when we look ahead to the two-hour Finale Episode, followed by the full Finale recap and analysis, and of course, the final round of exit interviews with the remaining six contestants next Thursday.
Please check out one of my favorite Survivor sites, SurvivorFever.net.