Genie Chen thought she had made a strong enough bond to get her through one more vote on Survivor 41, but the grocery clerk got bagged after Shan Smith chose the strategist over the loyalist, sticking with ally Ricard Foyé to vote Genie out of the Ua tribe and out of the game.
Genie became the latest victim who trusted Shan only to be sent packing at a Tribal Council. How does she feel about her ouster? And how does she feel about her own game? Was she too trusting?
We asked Genie all that and more when we caught up with her the morning after her ouster, and also inquired as to how this spare tire felt about being put on the side of the road when her tribe no longer needed her. Not only does she respond to that, but she also explains how an untimely trip to the bathroom may have completely altered the entire course of the season. The time for answers is now!
Robert Voets/CBS Genie Chen on 'Survivor 41'
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So were you surprised by the vote or not?
GENIE CHEN: Well, I have to say I was surprised at the moment it happened, because I really thought I had Shan. I really thought she, in the long run, would not go with Ricard because there was always something about Ricard that nobody on the tribe truly trusted. And the only reason why we were even wanting to work with him was because of Shan. So she was like the common denominator for pretty much every single person that got booted. So I was surprised at the time, but now, of course, looking back, I'm just like, "Of course they were going to go together again! How could I think I'm so special that it wouldn't happen to me?"
Shan said before the vote last night that it was a question of keeping the strategist or the loyalist. I argued in my recap that in cases like that you keep the loyalist. What do you think?
That's what I thought too, because usually in pre-merge — especially when it's a tribe that has only two people in it, like Matsing — you need to keep the person that is going to be true to you, because you're going in as two people into a bigger group of people and you need the person you trust 100 percent. And it's funny, I did not see that they had this argument, Shan and Ricard, about him giving her back the extra vote. So I did not know that happened. And even now after watching that, I'm still baffled as to why you didn't just go with me, man. I was honest with everybody.
Were you too trusting? Was that your biggest problem?
Oh, that's an understatement. Yes. I was way too trusting. Absolutely.
Ricard described you as "a spare tire that we're about to put on the side of the road when we don't need her anymore." How did it make you feel watching that last night?
Oh man, I felt like I wanted to first cancel my AAA subscription because I was like, "Damn, I'm never going to look at this card the same! Like a spare tire?" But I actually laughed. It was kind of a hilarious comment, and it wasn't so hurtful to my person. It wasn't a personal attack. It was just interesting to see that he was able to compartmentalize me as an item.
You've had a lot of time to think about this, so what are your thoughts on Shan and Ricard taking the idol clue you shared with them and then going ahead and essentially using it and taking the idol?
You know what I was doing at the time when they did this? I was out there getting fish for all of us. I brought like three tiny little fish, and we each had one. We were like, "Okay, we're going to have some protein before we go in." I watched that and I'm just like, "Wow, I had no chance at all with them."
When I spoke to JD last week, he said your freakout back at camp after Brad was blindsided was actually a lot more intense than what they showed and that you were cursing people out and throwing things. What do you remember about what happened?
You should have seen them. I wish they showed it. But the three of them were all trying to fan the fire, trying to get it going, and I was just sitting on the bamboo laughing at them. And I was saying petty things like, "Oh yeah, I bet you wish that Brad was here to help you out — he was pretty good at fire!"
Oh, my God. I was so petty. People I've known for like 30 years were like "Genie, I've never seen you angry before!" Nobody had food. It was like seven days with literally one handful of coconut and two earthworms that we all fought over. So I was deliriously emotional and would say things. First of all, I walked into camp and tripped over that stump, you know? And I just screamed, "F---!" I couldn't hold my emotions in. I was like, "You guys deal with the f---ing fire. I'm not doing it tonight!" Because before that night I had been doing the fire every single night — I had gathered all the wood. I was the only one gathering wood. I was the only one waking up every one or two hours to feed the fire.
And then I said, "Hey, you guys do your food. I do my own food." 'Cause I was cutting coconuts for people. I was the one finding food. I found sea urchins. It was the most terrible thing we ever ate, but I was finding food. So I was like, "You do your food, I'll do mine. And I'm just gonna, you know, be there for the challenges." And then Ricard said something, snarky. He goes, "Well, that's not really team-focused." And I turned around and said, "Why? Cause I won't f---ing make papaya salad for you anymore?" I'm like, "Wow, I'm saying some pretty terrible, petty things." And I just couldn't help it. It was just so raw. I just couldn't hide anything at all.
Robert Voets/CBS Genie Chen on 'Survivor 41'
Did you know about Brad's advantage? Shan made it seem during that scene like you didn't.
I did not know about that nighttime trek to get the steal-a-vote. I remember asking Brad, "Hey, can I just look at the item?" Because we were there when we found the idol, but I didn't actually look at everything. So before we went to Tribal, I said, "Can I just look what it actually says?" So he gave it to me. And then I remember when I unrolled it, there was another thing that said steal-a-vote. And I was like, "What is this? We didn't find this together." And he did tell a lie to me and said "Well, it's part of the idol. It's a very powerful thing."
I was like, "That sounds fishy. This story doesn't seem to line up." But I was still thinking that at least he was in my alliance. We were together, you know? So once she told me that about the nighttime track and that they made some kind of dummy — she actually had helped him with that — I was like, "Okay, Genie, you need to stop getting angry and now need to start like just forgiving people because you need to work with these people. And I needed to get from the bottom up, because I couldn't stay mad 'cause that would kill me.
JD also said he tried to get you to join him in voting out Ricard with his extra vote but that you wanted no part of it. Why is that?
Oh, JD. That was completely false. I remember, I knew he had the extra vote because what wasn't clear was that I actually saw him coming into camp with that thing sticking out of his pants. It was a very sloppy moment. Everybody saw, even Brad. So I knew he had that, and Shan even told me what it was specifically. That's another moment where I thought I had Shan because Shan was telling me things I didn't see. So I knew he had some advantage. Shan told me it was an extra vote. And then after Brad left, I was like, "Okay, I need to try and see if he will work with me on this."
And even when I was saying things like, "Should you just write Ricard? That's my only shot. I would do my shot in the dark." And that was his perfect chance to say, "Hey, well, why don't we do this?" So I painted towards him and even said to him, "Oh, I know you have that extra vote, but I'm assuming you want to take it to the merge with you." Obviously it was yes, because he didn't offer that, right? So I was like, "All right, I'm not going to be able to get him to use that."
Then Shan told me, "I'm going to get that extra vote." 'Cause that wasn't shown either, right? So she told me that was her plan. My plan was then, "Okay, I'm going to go and then tell JD, 'Oh, Shan is going to get your extra vote, so, please, we've got to do something now.'" I left for literally 10 minutes to go to the bathroom, and when I came back, she already had it. She was like, "I got his extra vote." And I was like, "Well, there goes that plan. So my only option at that point was I got to trick JD, and it's gotta be him. I can't work with him. Everything he was useful for, he'd given up.
That's fascinating. You pause for a bathroom break for 10 minutes and maybe this entire season plays out completely differently.
I know, the whole time, I only went to the bathroom three times, and that's the one time I had to go! It's like, really?! C'mon!
There's always so much that doesn't make it on air. What's something we didn't see that you wish could have made it into an episode?
Actually, my favorite day was the worst day, when I got voted out. That was the worst night. But that same day I got voted out, I went fishing to go get us food. And this was when they were stealing the idol and playing a fake idol in and everything. I was getting food for us and felt like Ozzy. I came up with a fish and I cheered, and it was the tiniest little fish, but I felt like it was, you know, a giant ahi tuna. That was a great moment for me because I didn't think I'd be somebody who could do that.
And when I was watching last night, I was like, "Oh man, I hope they show that I get three fish!" But no, they didn't. What they show is Sydney getting like nine fish. I'm like, "Aw, man, really?" But I get it. Maybe Sydney looks way better getting fish than I do. But still, they could have showed me a little bit with a fish, you know?
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.