‘Survivor’ Michaela: “I’m the Strongest Female That ‘Survivor’ Has Ever Seen When it Comes to the Challenges”


Michaela Bradshaw (CBS)

QUICK NOTE: The good folks at XFINITY sent me deep into the Fijian wilderness to bring you an exclusive look at “Survivor: Game Changers.” While I was there I conducted interviews with “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and the entire 20-person cast. I also captured exclusive photos and other behind-the-scenes tidbits. So, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.

Name: Michaela Bradshaw
Age: 25
Hometown: Fort Worth, TX
Previously Played On:
“Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X” – Finished 14th
Best Known For: Not letting a wardrobe malfunction keep her from dominating a challenge.

ANOTHER QUICK NOTE: This interview took place before “Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X” aired.

Gordon Holmes: So, I haven’t seen “Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X” yet.
Michaela Bradshaw: Nobody has!
Holmes: I’m trying to avoid spoilers. So, I’m going to take a little walk and I’d like you to tell my recorder why you think you were brought back.
Bradshaw: OK.
Holmes: And I’m not going to listen to this until next winter.
Bradshaw: Got it.
Holmes: (Puts Fingers in His Ears) La la la la la…

Holmes walks off.

Bradshaw: (Laughs) I was brought back, probably because I’m the strongest female that “Survivor” has ever seen when it comes to the challenges. I basically carried a tribe on my back. A tribe that was supposed to lose, and we didn’t. So, that’s why I’m here. Because I’m a beast in these challenges. And I was blindsided, so I deserve this second chance.

Holmes returns.

Holmes: How long did you have to go home and recuperate?
Bradshaw: I was home for a little less than two weeks.
Holmes: Wow.
Bradshaw: Yeah, I got home on a Saturday and left again on a Friday.
Holmes: And did you know before you got home that you were coming back?
Bradshaw: By the time I got home, I did know. They asked me before I left and the answer was 100% yes.

Holmes: You played your game in this exact location. Do you know little secrets about surviving in Fiji?
Bradshaw: I know that idols are super hard to find here because all of the trees look like they have one in them. (Laughs) I do feel comfortable here, which is good. I’m not going to be thrown off by weather or conditions. I was on one of the worst beaches ever and survived that. I think it’s good for me because it feels like home, not home, I don’t want this to be home. But it feels…what’s the word?
Holmes: Familiar?
Bradshaw: Yeah, it feels familiar.

Holmes: People have been brought back this quickly before. Russell Hantz from Samoa to Heroes vs. Villains, Malcolm Freberg from Philippines to Caramoan. But, they did it by themselves. You’re not alone. Is Zeke someone you can work with or someone you’re going to be wary of?
Bradshaw: Zeke? I’m not sure how to feel about him. So, I’m lumping him with the rest of everybody here. This is an individual competition and I’m not putting my eggs in anybody’s basket. Me and Zeke, we’ve seen each other before. We started off on the same tribe, but that doesn’t mean that I’m here for him or he’s here for me.

Holmes: I listened to our last pre-game interview last night. I keep asking questions and you kept saying, “I’m going to handle it.” How’d that work out for you?
Bradshaw: Good! And I know the fastballs out here. The heat, the hunger, that type of thing? Those were easy to handle. The challenge was the people part. Building relationships knowing that you need to screw over those same people to advance yourself, that type of thing is not natural to me. You know if I’m for you in real life and you know if I’m against you. And I’ve never had a situation where I’ve had to feel like I’ve had to mask my feelings about anyone. This is a situation where it doesn’t matter how you feel about a person, it matters what’s going to get you past the next Tribal Council. Seventeen people aren’t going to get as far as they hope to. And you should probably have a hand in sending the majority of them home.
Holmes: So, I should know if you’re for me or against me?
Bradshaw: (Laughs)
Holmes: Cause I can’t tell right now.
Bradshaw: Gordon! I’m for you! You should assume the positive.

Holmes: Alright, I’m not just here to interview you, I’m here to get you prepped for this game.
Bradshaw: Good!
Holmes: We’re going to play a game called “The Best Defense.” I’ll give a reason that someone might use to get rid of you, and you have to defend against it.
Bradshaw: This is perfect! Because playing defense and flipping things is something I’ve been working on.
Holmes: Alright, I’ll give an argument and you need to flip it.
Bradshaw: Grade me harshly.
Holmes: Will do. Michaela was on season 33, I don’t know a thing about her. She’s an unknown quantity, that makes her an easy first boot.
Bradshaw: Here’s the situation, I can tell you why I’m here. I’m here because I was great in the challenges. You saw that yesterday, didn’t you? You know why all of these other people are here and you want to let that continue? Is it best to send me home or for you and me to send everyone else home? Why are you worried about a challenge person when you have all of these social threats here?

Holmes: For Michaela to be brought back quickly, she had to have done something big. And I don’t want to be the victim of her next big move.
Bradshaw: That’s an interesting thought, but what was your big move? And what was Tony’s? Everyone here is capable of big moves. Why are you afraid of mine?

Holmes: One of my questions with this Game Changers theme has been; are these people who changed the game forever or people who intend to change their own personal games?
Bradshaw: You know, that is an interesting question. Michaela is definitely going to change her game, because her game didn’t win me a million dollars. You’d be a fool to not adapt. Probably the only person who has shown that you don’t have to change that much is Sandra. And that’s a reason why she can go home.
Holmes: So, she’s an early target?
Bradshaw: Definitely. And the fact that she got along a second time by being a vote for people, she proved that someone can win the whole game that way. So, you think they’re a goat when in reality they’re a millionaire.

Holmes: What are your thoughts on the rest of the cast?
Bradshaw: Most of the people here, in my mind, I can tell why they are here. But, there are a couple of people that I’m not sure…they didn’t leave a memorable mark on me. And it may just be that I’m not the most astute “Survivor” watcher and I missed something. And the others…let’s just say nobody is going to try to help me win.
Holmes: That tends to be the case.
Bradshaw: (Laughs) Knowing that is going to help.

Holmes: Is there anyone you’re hoping to work with?
Bradshaw: Ozzy. He seems like a genuine person. He’s shown that he can put his heart on his sleeve. I’m not the type that flirts with people, and I don’t intend to do that at all. But, I do like being able to grasp onto something genuine. Cirie, I’m excited to have another African American woman and maybe get to play with her. And, she’s someone who has so much experience with this game and she knows how to navigate the people portion of the game. Oh, and Debbie, she’s just hilarious. I think she’s going to add comical relief which is something I’m going to need to stay sane. Also, Tai! He’s so sweet!
Holmes: He’s a cutie.
Bradshaw: He is! He’s just a little munchkin.
Holmes: I love that guy. But if I wanted some chicken, I’d have a problem with Tai.
Bradshaw: (Laughs) But he’s just so nice! So, I hope to connect with the genuine people, at least initially. Then I’ll have to move with the flow.

Holmes: Aside from Sandra, are there any early targets?
Bradshaw: Ah…I guess I have to get used to targeting people…a person I’m worried about is Ciera. She’s sneaky and she’s known to be sneaky. She’s known to be on the bottom and survive Tribal after Tribal after Tribal. And, that’s something that worries me. Not to say that I’ll lobby for her to go first, but she makes me nervous. Tony, doesn’t make me nervous as much as I know that he knows how to navigate this game. And if he doesn’t want you in it, you’re in a bad predicament. I feel like the slick, sly people should go first. That would be helpful to me because they beat me every time.

Holmes: As a challenge beast…challenge stallion…whichever term you prefer…
Bradshaw: (Laughs) I like them both.
Holmes: People who have come back immediately have said that they weren’t able to recover physically 100% in the short period of time they were given. How are you feeling now as opposed to when you started Millennial vs. Gen-X?
Bradshaw: I feel pretty fine. My gastro-intestinal situation, that’s a slight issue. When you go from starving to eating…it’s an issue for your body. Your body has to restart and then to put it right back into starving again, it’s probably going to have some effects. I don’t have the same amount of muscle as I did before. But, these challenges, at least the first half of the game, they aren’t about muscle. They’re about adrenaline and figuring them out. There were times when I was so tired that I couldn’t walk to the water well, but you put me in a challenge and you couldn’t tell. My desire to win is so deep that I will create new energy for that purpose.

Holmes: Has anyone reached out to you to create a pre-season alliance?
Bradshaw: I’ve had a couple of people, but they’re not here. Zeke did text me, but it was like a weird, “BTW, I’ll see you in Fiji” text. But, it’s nothing to where…we didn’t leave on good terms. Me and Zeke aren’t an item. I’m suspicious of him and he’s suspicious of me. I think that text actually made me more suspicious. (Laughs)

Holmes: You’re in lockdown now where you’re not allowed to talk. Has anyone been smiling at you, winking at you?
Bradshaw: I smile at everybody. I know it’s only a matter of time before people start looking at me as threatening. Even in my regular life, like back in college. People who don’t interact with people like me find me intimidating. I’m not doing anything to you, I’m just capable and willing to do things without you. So, I don’t want to come across as intimidating here. I’m trying to come across as ultra-friendly as possible without tipping over the line to being someone that makes people wonder.
Holmes: Have you caught anyone else interacting with each other?
Bradshaw: Most people, it’s like they’re trying not to smile. And some people haven’t smirked at all.

Holmes: Does it concern you that there are four people here from the same season?
Bradshaw. No, I don’t care that Aubry, Debbie, Tai, and Caleb are here. Having that big of a group will put a target on them which is great for me. If people notice that and are uncomfortable with that, then I’ll act uncomfortable and we can work together.
Holmes: Any problem can become an opportunity.
Bradshaw: That’s right, I just have to know how to shift things to my benefit.

Holmes: If there is a twist, what could it be?
Bradshaw: I feel like it’d be hard to separate us into teams, so I think we might pick our own teams with a schoolyard pick. I feel like there’s going to be something that happens after you’re voted out that can bring you back into the game, maybe like Redemption Island. I feel like we’re going to do more challenges than normal. Maybe we’ll all be at the same beach.

Holmes: Alright, I’ll give you the name of a potential twist. You tell me if it’s awesome or awful. Hidden immunity idols?
Bradshaw: Awesome!
Holmes: Redemption Island?
Bradshaw: Awesome!
Holmes: Of course because you’re a challenge…what did we decide?
Bradshaw: A challenge champ!
Holmes: That works. Exile Island?
Bradshaw: Awesome.
Holmes: Medallion of Power?
Bradshaw: Awesome. Especially if I have it.
Holmes: Extra votes?
Bradshaw: Awesome.
Holmes: Stealing a vote?
Bradshaw: Awesome.
Holmes: Eliminating a juror.
Bradshaw: (Laughs) Awesome!
Holmes: You’re a very positive person.
Bradshaw: (Laughs) Because I’m thinking of all of these things as if I had it. But, the opposite would be awful.

Holmes: Alright, I have another game. I’m going to give you three random cards, each card has one of your opponents on it. You and Zeke are not included because nobody knows who you are. You tell me who you’re going to vote out first, who you’re going to work with and eventually eliminate, and who you’re going to take all the way to final Tribal.

Round One: Cirie, Ozzy, and Ciera
Bradshaw: Vote out Ciera first because she’s too sneaky. Align with Ozzy…this is like my plan. And I’m going to take Cirie to the end…and this is risky…but “Survivor” has never seen two African American females at the end.
Holmes: There’s been an all African American final three, but it was two men and one woman.
Bradshaw: Was that the one season Earl won?
Holmes: Yes.
Bradshaw: Right, and that was the season where they were divided by race?
Holmes: No,  Cook Islands was the season divided by race. Earl won Fiji.
Bradshaw: OK. But, yeah, Cirie’s dangerous to take to the end.
Holmes: What argument do you use to beat her?
Bradshaw: The men will respect that I won individual immunity challenges. She’ll pitch her case, she’s a good pitcher. But, I pitch for a living.

Round Two: Tony, Debbie, and Troyzan
Bradshaw: Vote off Tony first because he’s dangerous. I’ll align with Troyzan because he’s a strong man and I can get wind of what the men are doing. And I’ll take Debbie to the end. She’s an honest player and she’s someone I can switch to when I have to dump my alliance. And I feel like people will think she’s kooky and they’ll award me a million over her.
Holmes: I dunno, it’d be fun to see what a kooky person would do with a million dollars.
Bradshaw: (Laughs) That’s true!

Round Three: Sandra, Jeff, and Caleb
Bradshaw: Sandra has to go out first. I feel like in theory, you could get multiple people on board with this because she’s won multiple times. Align with Caleb because we’re both athletic and that can tie us together. He’d also open some doors with other people that might not want to align with me. I might get scooped up into something good. And I’ll take Jeff to the end. I don’t think of him as that savvy. I don’t remember him doing anything huge. I think If I got to the end, I’d have immunities over him. I’d probably make some moves without him. He doesn’t have the look of a sole survivor.

Round Four: Hali, Brad, and JT
Bradshaw: Hali is out first. Not for any particular reason, but she reminds me of the people in college that I didn’t hang out with. Align with JT, he’s a southern boy, I’m a southern girl. And take Brad to the end because he’s going to piss off everyone on the jury.

Round Five: Sierra, Andrea, Sarah
Bradshaw: Sarah looks so happy in this picture, but on this island she just scowls! All the time! I’ll get her off first. She is very perceptive, that’s why she got voted out when she played against Tony. I don’t want that working against me. These two, I don’t remember them that deeply. I would align with Sierra because she’s tall. And I’ll take Andrea to the end, I guess. These two are people I don’t remember how they changed the game. Either they did really subtle things or I wasn’t paying attention.

Round Six: Tai, Aubry, and Malcolm
Bradshaw: Aubry looks so innocent here, but she has developed into something else. Tai is so lovely… I’ll vote Aubry out first. Her game developed so much. I think she’s coming back ready to charge on people. I think she’s super smart. I hate to vote out a strong, smart woman. So, I take that back. It’s hard because I want to win, but I respect other people’s games. The longer you keep her in, the more she can vote you out. She’s the reason Cydney went home.
Holmes: So, she’s still first out?
Bradshaw: Yes. Because I’m playing for me, I’m not playing for you. You had your chance. I’ll align with Malcolm. I don’t know how well it will work, the buff dude and the one strong girl. And I’ll take Tai to the end. Our hearts will connect and he’ll scoop me in. But, he can’t communicate anything to the jury and that will work in my favor.

Holmes: Let’s jump back into this for a second. You mentioned that you’d hate to vote out Aubry because she’s a strong, smart woman. When you play the game, do you take into account that the world needs to see more strong women and the world needs to see more strong minorities?
Bradshaw: I am definitely taking that into account playing the second time. I did not take that into account last time. But after the game was over I realized; “Oh, why did the women and all of the minorities last the shortest amount of time? And isn’t it interesting in the games where you have more minorities, that they perform better?”
Holmes: You’re referring to Yul and Ozzy in Cook Islands and Dreamz, Sandra, and Earl in Fiji?
Bradshaw: Exactly! Isn’t that interesting? And it has something to do with the issues we face in society, they’re amplified in this game. People don’t walk around their everyday life being outwardly racist. But, as a white male, you might feel more comfortable with white men around you. It’s not that you’re uncomfortable with black women, but your friend group is probably more white. So, in the game it’s easier for you, on a subconscious level, to align with white people. And in a game where little things can separate you, having this big difference is something that can separate me. It’s there, and it’s one thing that I’ve thought of a lot.

Don’t miss the two-hour season premiere of “Survivor: Game Changers,” Wednesday March 8, 2017 at 8 p.m. ET.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

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