'Survivor 46's Maria Shrime Gonzalez Reveals the Reason Behind Her Shocking Jury Vote

Maria Shrime Gonzalez

Survivor 46 is here! Every week, Parade.com's Mike Bloom will bring you interviews with the castaway most recently voted off of the island.

Maria Shrime Gonzalez tackled Survivor 46 the way she would a salsa dance. With every twist and turn that came her way, she stayed light on her feet, rarely having her balance thrown off. Though it seemed from the outside she was following, she was leading every major step. And, of course, she knew the importance of having a partner to match that step. She had one in Charlie Davis, as the two ran most of the season together. However, near the end of the game, the two fell out of step, and Maria quickly found herself on the back foot. She was left to dance on her own, sent out of the game before the final four count.

As the oldest contestant this season, Maria quickly cemented herself as the head of the Siga family. While the "vibe tribe" danced and dug their way through a harmonious premerge, she and Charlie quickly got set up in the middle between a brewing gender war. Simultaneously, Maria showcased how persuasive and powerful of a player she could be when she got David Jelinsky to literally fold his cards, giving her an extra vote. And, for the majority of the game, she was the one holding all the metaphoric cards. Amidst some wild swings and devastating blindsides, Maria and Charlie were behind them all. And Maria made one of the biggest moves of the game at the Final Eight, picking up the tribe pariah Q Burdette as her number two ally and taking out Tiffany Nicole Ervin with an idol in her pocket.

Unfortunately for Maria, this move proved to be the apex of her power. She had suddenly become the newest big threat, with even Charlie plotting to take her out. Luckily, Maria turned on her physical time just in time, winning two crucial Immunity Challenges. And she used that safety to make her endgame plans, which included the decision to cut Charlie in favor of Q. But Maria was thrown for a massive loop when everyone else came together to blindside them. Suddenly she was left at the Final Five, left out of the vote and the consensus target, to the point where Kenzie Petty and Liz Wilcox teamed up at the Immunity Challenge to take her out. After missing her shot on Charlie, he got the killing blow, helping send her out. But she got the last word, as she was one of the jury votes to prevent her former number one from taking the number one spot of the season.

The day after the finale, Maria talks with Parade.com about what led to her surprise jury vote for Kenzie, her decision to turn on Charlie, and her response to what various castmates have said about her throughout the season.

Related: Read our Survivor 46 pre-game interview with Maria Shrime Gonzalez

Of course, we have to start with your jury vote for Kenzie, which seemed to surprise everyone. You spoke about this on the after show, but talk to me about what made you go from telling Charlie that you'd vote for him to win on your way out to ultimately going the other way?
Okay, just to be clear, I was one of five votes. So only one person needed to vote differently. I have so much respect for Charlie. Charlie's game and my game, of course, I'm proud of mine, and I know he's proud of his. I think what it ultimately came down to was watching Kenzie make fire just lit a fire in me. I saw it in her eyes. I saw the fight. And as a woman who has fought for so many things, just something sparked inside of me when I saw her win and believe in herself.

And then came final Tribal. It was Q's question for me. "What are you going to do with that money?" And she said, "I've been giving myself to everybody for all of my life. And for once, I'm going to be selfish. And I'm going to do this for me." And if anybody knows, the reason why I came on this show, is that, in motherhood, I gave so much of myself to everybody else. And this show was for me; I came here for me. And it's almost like she knew that and she spoke those words to me. It just hit me on such a personal level. And so I've told many people, I was walking up those steps saying, "Charlie, Kenzie, Charlie, Kenzie, Charlie, Kenzie." And I'm gonna backtrack. When it came time for that pizza reward, my mind, and my heart went in two different directions. My heart said, "Pick Liz. That's the right choice." My head said, "Q has been loyal to you. You've got to repay him the favor." And I chose with my head. This was for me, for my heart, and for every woman who has put her life on the line for other people, on hold for other people. This was a woman who wanted to get married and start a family. And I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to support that. And so it reminded me so much of why I came onto the show.

Let's continue on the Charlie train. Talk to me about what made your relationship work so well. And did you always have it in your mind that you couldn't go to the end with him?
I think Charlie and I locked eyes from the marooning challenge. The minute we paired up, I looked at him, and I said, "Do you want to run this together?" And he said, "Yes." And, when we got to the end, with the piece on my back, and it was just that moment, we just connected. There was this trust; there was this respect; there was so much give and take. I coined our chats with Charlie "Check-Ins with Charlie." Every morning, we would meet on the beach and we would connect. Nobody would ever see us. We did it on NuiNui Beach, too. But I think we both had the understanding that, at some point, out of mutual respect, we're gonna have to go for each other. We could have gone to the end together. I think both of us could have been fine either way.

And then came Q. And Q became another ally for me. And people could not understand, "Why are you playing with Q?" But it was the look that Q gave me. It was the respect that Q gave me, to say, "Hey, my number one is coming for you. I'm here to defend you." I'm like, "Damn, I got two people!" They say you can't have loyalty on Survivor. But I had two people that I felt really loyal to. And I felt like they were very loyal to me. Then it became harder and harder to hide everyone's disdain for Q. But I had no shame being attached to Q. I felt like Q deserved to be there. I felt like Q was playing his heart out. And I think Charlie was too. So, at some point, it's just how do you get the biggest threat out?

Talk to me about what your relationship has been like since leaving the island. We have, of course, that ominous scene of the two of you on the boat talking about being in each other's lives as you plot to take each other out. But I would imagine he was feeling a certain way about the vote. And he told me that you had apparently discrepant stories about your vote since the island. At one point, you had said you regretted for Kenzie. Then, at another, you said you had no regrets.  And, this morning, he told me, "[I'm] not going to put the effort into into that relationship just the same. So no ill will towards her at all. But in terms of our relationship, we don't have to be friends. I don't dislike her. But it definitely won't be what it could have been." What's your side of the story?
We have seen each other a couple of times. He came to Dallas; the kids met him. Charlie is somebody I respect so much. Obviously, right now, it's tough. Because, as it is for all of us, when you watch it back, all the could have, would have, should have. Why did this happen? Why did she do this? Why did he do this? All that brings up a lot of emotions. I hope we can get past this. I have mad respect for him. But yeah, it's hard to watch back. It's hard for me to watch back knowing how much further back he was coming for me. You got to take shots at each other!

Speaking of taking shots, you make a last-ditch effort to survive at the Final Five, telling Kenzie and Liz that Ben actually purposely voted for Kenzie. We saw a bit of Liz thinking it over, but how much did you think you had moved the needle by the time you got to Tribal Council?
No, I knew. And actually, [there's a] reason that I did not put a vote on Liz that day, because nobody voted for Liz [all game]. I didn't put a vote on Liz because I had asked her out of respect, "Can you tell me if it's going to be me? If you entertain all these options, and you come to the conclusion that you are going to vote me out, can you tell me?" And she came and found me on the path, and she said, "Woman to woman, out of respect, I'm gonna vote you out tonight." And that was the reason why I didn't vote for her, because I felt like that was a pretty stand up move.

Let's talk about some key moments throughout your game. You mentioned it, by I have to go back to the "rock, paper, scissors" you made Q and Liz play when you were picking for the pizza reward, which may be the wildest way I've seen someone pick people for a reward in Survivor history. Talk me through your logic with that, and were you surprised by the adverse reaction to it?
No. So in that moment, obviously, I had to choose Ben. My heart said, "Choose Liz." My mind said, "Choose Q. Q just chose you." I look at Q. And I say with my eyes--maybe even with my mouth, I don't remember--"Do I need to pick you?" And he's like, "Yeah." So do I cut off a loyal ally? Or do I go with my heart and pick somebody who I know really should have the reward? And so what I said leading up to it was what my heart was thinking. My heart was saying, "I need to feed these people. This is what the right thing to do is." In comes my head, "Nope, I can't break or burn this bridge with this person that's been so loyal to me." And that's why it looks so messed up. Because I froze. Fight, fright, freeze, or fawn. And I froze. I didn't know how to make that decision anymore. It was so hard. It was pulling at my heart. 

Venus ends up calling that decision a "farce" at Tribal Council, which prompts a very emotional reaction from you. I want to get into your relationship a bit. Because we see you talk to her about the way she's being perceived, comparing her to yourself at her age. But when I interviewed her, she told me, "I was the most disappointed with Maria's behavior towards me, because I looked up to her a lot. She is who I wanted to be--well, I wanted to be--when I was older. I'm very much a type of person who wants to uplift other women. And for her to treat me so poorly. She had approached me and said that there was no there is no universe where she would have ever worked with me, which is completely uncalled for." What's your response to that?
I think the hardest part for me is, when I met Venus on NuiNui, and it was the Mo vote, there were six of us eligible to be voted off. It was three Nami and three Siga. Now, to Venus's credit, she didn't know I was working so closely with Charlie. But Me and I were in the water with Venus. And she comes to me, and she said, "Who from Siga should we get out?" I'm like, "There's only one person that's not here!" And the way that Venus operates is, the minute you say anything, she runs down the beach, and she tells everybody what you've said. Or if you don't say anything to her, she's like, "Well, why don't you want to work with me? You don't want to work with me. I can't trust you." And so there was just no right way to approach Venus other than, "I can't work with you. I just can't do it." Not out of disrespect, [but] I can't play a game that is so erratic with the way that she was acting. So that's why I had to distance myself from her. It was just too unpredictable.

Let's talk about the person you vote for on the way out in Ben. There was a secret scene a while back where you two talk after the Tim vote, and you accuse him of having the Siga idol and openly state you don't trust him. Even the day you're voted out, you're trying to pitch him as deceptive. Talk me through what made you feel that way.
Thank you for asking about this, because the secret scene has been incredibly damning to put out with zero context behind it. So the day that Jem got voted out, we went back to camp after we lost that challenge, and chaos ensued. We didn't know what Jem was doing. We just knew that she had changed and was acting different. And we just didn't like it. That day, Charlie and I found an empty envelope stuffed into a tree. It was a journey envelope. It looked just like mine. The only other person that claimed he got an envelope was Ben. And so there was this immediate distrust. And then there was Tim walking and stuffing something in his pocket, putting it in Ben's bag, then Ben putting something back in Tim's bag, and there was just a lot of shadiness.

Ben and Tim never wanted to talk strategy. I couldn't understand what they were doing. They wanted to "brotherly love" the whole first two weeks of camp. And I'm like, "I'm here to play a game." And they never wanted to discuss discuss strategy until that day. And then after [that], Tim went out, but it was like, "Well, now what?" I don't understand how you cannot want to play and now come to me and say, "Well, now can we work together." I've been wanting to do something for two weeks. And so it was very hard for me to trust him because of that envelope. Obviously, I was wrong, because Jem was the one who had the idol. But you have to see it from the whole story. And to put out a scene like that without giving the whole story is quite unfair.

Moving on to a brighter moment, your game hit its peak when you constructed the Tiffany blindside. On paper, getting Liz to keep Q after screaming at him the day before was quite remarkable. Talk me through how you got that together.
So after I won my first Immunity Challenge, Tiff started saying, "Whoa, she's dangerous. She's a mom, she's got a story. Now she can win challenges." And out came my name. And I was like, "Wait a second, whoa." And then comes Q to me telling me, "My number one, the one that I feel responsible for bringing into this six, is throwing out someone else's name in the six. I need you to know that." And so I had originally started to think, "I've got to take her out." Then comes Kenzie, who says, "I want to take Tiff out." I was like, "Well, damn! Okay, I guess if she wants to go for it, she can go for it."

And then on the Applebee's reward, there was a moment where I talked to Tiff. I said, "Are you throwing my name out there?" And she said, "No, I wasn't." If she had just told me the truth, we could work together. But, in that moment, I saw Kenzie shift. And I was like, "Okay, she's not gonna want to take her out. She's changed her mind. So this is my time to attack." Obviously, I couldn't tell Kenzie, because she would have told Tiffany, I could see that she wasn't going to turn on her. But Liz was so upset to have been left out of the Hunter vote that I knew [I could use her]. And plus, when Tevin went out, Liz came to me and Charlie, and she said, "Can you please back me on this vote? I want to make a move. I will repay the favor." And so when it came to Tiffany, I said, "Liz, will you back me on this vote?" And so the combination of her holding her word and also being so upset to have not known the plan for Hunter, I think both of those together was like, "Okay, I'll do this."

Lastly, you talked on your way out about how you wanted to show your boys that "Daddy is strong as hell. But you know what? Mommy is too." So what has the reaction been like from your family watching your entire game?
It's been really awesome. I didn't share with them anything about my journey. And so they've been able to watch everything unfold live, which has been really really exciting. And they're so proud of me. I mean, I've gotten so many hugs and so much love from them and from my husband. It's been awesome to watch with them.

Next, check out our interview with Liz Wilcox, who was also eliminated in the Survivor 46 finale.