After making it through 55 days on a Samoan island and besting 23 other competitors to win Australian Survivor, Kristie Bennett is in the process of planning her next adventure, her reward to herself for being named Sole Survivor.
"I'm definitely going to start working on it over summer," Bennett, 24, tells WHO about travelling across Australia and adopting a shelter dog. "I need to figure out what type of car is best because I'll need to go on-road but also off-road and stuff like that. And I want to save the oldest dog that just needs a loving home."
Her victory was sealed after Bennett had Lee Carseldine join her for a final tribal council in which she laid out a sharp, focused case, describing how she always knew who would be voted out, lived through 20 tribal councils, ended up with original Aganoans in the final three, and won the final immunity challenge.
In an 8-1 vote and in front of her family, Bennett took home the title she has coveted since first watching Richard Hatch win Survivor when she was eight years old. WHO takes a deep dive with Bennett about her experience.
Q: Let's talk about that blazing tribal council performance speech. Where did that come from?
A: I have introverted attributes and I showed a lot more of them in the game, but definitely in that tribal council, I was showing that fierce, like, determined, more extroverted side, for sure. I had nothing to lose. I was better off just gung-hoing it. I didn't need to lie or trick anybody. It's just, 'This is how it is. If you don't like it, then unfortunately, I don't get the vote.' And I think the jury appreciated it.
Q: They did to the tune of an 8-1 vote.
A: Oh my goodness, when I saw that, I just couldn't believe it. I was like, what? I got eight of them! When I was thinking about it, I was like, I reckon I've got five, I reckon I've got enough to get me over the line, but then when I saw everyone except for El, whom I wouldn't expect to vote for anyone else but Lee, I was like, all of them voting for me showed that they appreciated my game in the end, which is absolutely incredible to be respected by such other fierce competitors.
Q: Matt said he was inspired by what you did. How did you react to that emotional vote?
A: I was speechless. I was aware that Matt was so impacted by how I gave up my love letters to him and how he saw me grow in the game, but for him to be like, 'Well done,' I was like, 'Thank you. I appreciate that.'
Q: Has it been hard for you and your family to hold on to the secret of your win for so long?
A: I'm a really good secret keeper, so no one knew. None of my friends had any idea because I wanted everyone to go along that journey that I went along. Like, oh my God, I was almost gone in six different situations, so it was so great to see them reacting without actually knowing. If anything, it was easier that way.
Q: As a superfan, how was it to see your family at the reading of the final votes?
A: Whoa, it was, phwoar! I never expected that. We had written off our families coming completely. And even having my dad come the previous day, I was like, that's the family visit, tomorrow is the end of it and then we're going home. And then, all of a sudden with the family rocking up, I was like, Survivor always wins! You actually can never forecast what is going to happen.
Q: OK, that challenge. Was it more or less nerve-wracking with your dad present?
A: It was like, OK, I know what I need to do and I know I have support now. In my game, I was backing me. So having my dad there, it was just like, yeah, remember all those people at home that you love that are going to be screaming at the television backing you. I remember telling my dad, after I stopped crying, 'I've been a part of a blindside, a double blindside, I went through two tribes,' and then he just goes, 'Kristie, get your head in the game, time for this challenge.' 'OK. Bing!' I was ready to go again. I didn't get thrown by it. If anything, and you can see it in the episode, I turn and look at my dad and just give him this cheeky little smile.
Q: When you were promising to take Lee to the end some six plus hours into the challenge, were you saying that in hopes he would hop off, psyching him out, just talking to keep yourself steady?
A: You are at that point where you just act on your instincts. I put my heart and soul into it and I meant every word that I said. In the back of my head, I was going, 'This challenge has got to end,' and on top of that, 'How do I get Lee off this damn thing?' I don't know if it made any impact on him or not, but it made me feel like I was in control.
Q: How much pain were you in afterwards?
A: I was physically ruined even the next day. There was nothing left in us after that challenge. We spent 55 days against all the elements, we were starving, our bodies and organs were already shutting down. That's the beauty of that challenge. All three of us, there is absolutely nothing else we physically could have done and or bodies gave up. We all just collapsed. The next day, I stood up and took three steps and had to sit back down. My arms were sore, the whole right side of my body ached and I couldn't feel it. I've never experienced anything like it.
Q: You said you always intended to take Lee to the final two. Did you think that if you presented a strategy case to the jury, Lee would be the better chance for you to win than El?
A: Hands down I reckon if El were sitting in the final two, she would have won, against either of us. Her social game was so on-point and she had great strategy as well. She just connected with people on a level that was extraordinary.
Q: Is that why you stayed close to both El and Lee, that they were decent people?
A: Exactly right and that's one of the reasons why I wanted Lee and El at the end because if any one of us won, I could live with that, and that's really big for me because that's my lifelong dream, and to be comfortable losing that to someone else, that's why it was extraordinary as well. We all had so much respect for each other. Lee and El are absolutely the most beautiful people I have ever met in my life. El changed my life forever in that moment on Day 3 and I have — and I'm getting emotional about it — I have the world to thank for her because I don't know if I would have made it if someone hadn't taken the time. El gave me the time at Aganoa and Lee gave me his time at Fia Fia.
Q: That crocheted dress that you wore throughout your time on the island. What happened to it?
A: Oh! I've got it at home and it is still stinky-as. I haven't washed it or anything. It is just as dirty and has just as many holes and I wore that to every tribal council I ever went to, so that is my dirty little souvenir! I actually love the store where I bought it. It's from Spell & the Gypsy, a collective, and I love their stuff and all I thought was, 'This will be perfect when I go out on the island,' so I invested in it and wore it. It got me through.
Q: What did you think about this show compared with the US one you grew up watching?
A: It is top-notch. When it came out, I thought, they are doing so much justice to the show. The shots are incredible, the way they capture people's confessionals, the way that they loop it in with what's going on at camp, I am so proud of the production work and I am so, so lucky to be a part of re-igniting Australian Survivor.
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