Survivor’s Maria Gonzalez Talks Contentious Finale Vote, Friendship With Charlie: ‘This Moment Right Now Is Really Hard’

The following contains spoilers from Wednesday’s season finale of Survivor 46.

It wouldn’t be a Survivor finale without a little bit of controversy.

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In Wednesday’s season closer, Maria Gonzalez landed in fifth place after Kenzie and Liz worked together to best her in an immunity challenge. Without safety around her neck, the challenge beast and mother of three was immediately voted out of the game. Once on the jury, she surprised everyone when she voted for Kenzie to win the million dollars over her No. 1 ally, Charlie, who also wound up in the Final 3 seats alongside rock ‘n roller Ben. (Read our full recap here.)

Below, Maria talks to TVLine about her unexpected jury vote, where her friendship with Charlie stands and what she calls her lowest moment in the game.

TVLINE | I’ve got to start where I’m sure everyone wants to start… 
OK, go for the jugular right away. Let’s just do it. [Laughs
TVLINE | After watching it all back, do you have any regrets not giving Charlie your vote in the end? 
I just want to be clear. I was one of five people that voted for Kenzie. So it’s not my singular vote that made the decision. This is not a story about why I didn’t vote for Charlie. This is a story about why I voted for Kenzie, why I chose Kenzie and for me, yeah, that started at the Final Four fire-making when I watched Kenzie make fire, when I watched her having so much frustration and failure and doubt, and then come out on top and see what she was capable of. It reminded me so much of me and so many times where I have doubted myself. I have stumbled, I have fallen and I’ve had to fight to move on.

Then comes Final Tribal where Q has his question of, “What are you going to do with the money?” And everybody that knows me and loves me knows why I came on this show. Because I, for so many years as a mother, shelved my dreams, gave everything of myself to everybody else and became a shell of who I was as a person. It’s taken me years to fight for my passions, my dreams and I had the full support of my family to do that. And so when Kenzie said, “I’m doing this for me, this is a moment in time where I’ve given everything to everybody else since I was 15 and I’m taking this money and I’m starting my family,” it couldn’t help but trigger the rawest response in me, which was like, “Hell, yeah, girl. go for it!”

TVLINE | Have you talked to Charlie since then? What have those conversations been like? 
Yeah, Charlie and I have spoken multiple times and have also visited each other over the last year. Obviously, the last week or two have been pretty intense and I have so much respect for Charlie and so much love for Charlie and so much care for Charlie. But ultimately, if we are going to be able to come out on the other side of this, the ball is in his court and if he doesn’t want to, then I respect that. It’s OK. But I do hope that we can because I felt like we had started to build a friendship after this. It’s just this moment right now is really hard.

TVLINE | Liz and Kenzie had to team up in order to beat you in an immunity challenge and subsequently take you out. You were gracious in defeat, but c’mon, tell us how you really felt about it!  
I mean, if you could be my dentist, you can see the enamel that I chewed away at my teeth just to not say what I wanted to say in that moment. I was angry. I was so angry! It felt so unfair. I felt robbed. I felt all the things, but I try really hard not to speak when I’m full of emotion. I try really hard to come back down so that I don’t say something that I regret. And at the end of the day, it’s an honor that it took two of them to take me out. It’s an honor to be blindsided, like people get blindsided. So the fact that they felt like one of them couldn’t do it alone, but they needed the other one, to help each other, I have to feel pride in that.

TVLINE | People on Twitter last night were bringing up South Pacific as a reference. Jeff specifically told Albert that he couldn’t help Sophie beat Ozzy. 
I have seen a little bit of that. This is not my place to talk about fairness and unfairness. I can just talk about what it felt like to me and it felt unfair. It felt like I was ganged up on. But, yeah, I don’t know the history behind what’s allowed and what shouldn’t be allowed. But yeah, it sucked. It totally sucked. It was hard to watch back. Tears [were] streaming down my face in that moment again being like, “Damn, like, is that OK? That shouldn’t have been OK.”

TVLINE | Tell me a bit about your idol hunt. Were you positive that there even was an idol to find?  
I have had moments over the last year where I have woken up in this panic thinking how cool would it have been had I whipped out an idol, gone through my spiel — “You guys got me” — and then just surprised them. These delusions of grandeur that you can have.

I searched all afternoon. I think the biggest mistake that Kenzie made was taking Ben to the reward with her because it left me at camp searching. I searched the entire day. I was really hoping that we would have that moment where I’m looking and the idol’s right there and the camera’s pointing it out. I was hoping that that would come just to pour a little bit more salt in the wound. But no, it didn’t happen. I looked. I threw everything at the wall. I pitched everybody to everybody just to see if something was gonna stick and then I just accepted the defeat and it was OK. I knew it was going to be me. They did me a solid and told me beforehand.

Survivor 46 Episode 8
Survivor 46 Episode 8

TVLINE | Liz felt like she was a huge threat to win the game. Is that true? She seemed a little delusional from my couch.  
I have a lot of love and respect for Liz. I think she’s hilarious. I think there’s no way that anybody would know. You’re playing the game, you see four Nami on the jury. You think, “Oh, that’s a potential for four votes. She’s the last person standing of her tribe.” So anybody could have reasoned in their mind why they could have been a threat to somebody. So, you don’t know and you don’t realize until the game is over.

TVLINE | Besides winning that last immunity challenge, was there anything you could’ve done to secure yourself a seat in the Final 3?  
Maybe [not doing] the rock-paper-scissors. I think that was obviously a negative turning point, but there was a lot that wasn’t shown that went into that moment. That moment really started off with me saying I wanted to nourish the people who need to be fed. They deserve to have food, and so I choose Ben and then I’m about to choose Liz. Then I look at Q who’s like, “I chose you last time.” And so I was like, “Damn, you know, he’s a loyal ally. I like working with him.” I respect him a lot and I didn’t want to burn that bridge. And so my head said you gotta pick Q at this point. My heart said I have to pick Liz and then I froze, I didn’t know what to do, didn’t know how to make that choice and it ended up looking really bad in optics, right? But I do feel like that was a moment where the people that maybe didn’t perceive me as someone that has to go suddenly were like, “She’s gotta go and she’s as evil as Q” is,” in their mind, right? And so suddenly it was like, “These two, they’ve been working [together], and we didn’t even realize it.” I think that was the moment that they realized. So yeah, that was probably a really bad misplay at that moment. People have to understand that my intention was to pick Liz, I just got torn. It was a tug of war between head and heart.

TVLINE | Let’s pretend that Q played his idol at six and Charlie goes home. What do you think the game would’ve looked like for you from there? 
Q and I had a path to the end. Q and I, as far as I know, we weren’t planning on turning on each other. Who knows, right? You gotta do what you gotta do to get to the end, but I felt confident enough in my abilities, my physical abilities, and Q felt confident enough in his. For me mentally, it was like, “If I can just get to this Final 5 and win this Final 5, I knew I could do fire. I felt pretty confident in pitching my case to the jury, no matter who I sat next to.

TVLINE | What was the hardest part about this experience for you?  
Not getting the letters. That was tough. That was really tough. That was a moment where it broke me down to a point that, obviously I fueled it into something else, but it really got me. The lack of food, the lack of sleep, the cold, the wet, I could deal with all of that. That moment of just running through my mind visualizing where the kids were sitting when they were writing their letters, and how one wrote them in English, the other wrote them in Spanish and they wanted to make sure Jeff could read them if he read them on TV. I knew so much was going into that, that it just killed me. It killed me. That was probably my lowest moment.

TVLINE | How about your highest moment? When did it click for you that you could actually win this thing?  
I think it started with the first individual immunity win and then I had to hide. Suddenly I was a threat and she’s strong and she’s a mom and whatever. The conversations began right after that. So I had to go back down a little bit. Then when it came the Tiffany blindside, she’s a beast. She’s amazing. She’s such a badass and she was coming for me first. So I’m like, “I gotta take her out” because she’s gonna come for me. Once I made that move and then the other challenge wins, I’m like, “Dude, I could totally take this to the end.”

TVLINE | Season 50. Do you want to play again? Yea or nay? 
Listen, if you said I had to leave tomorrow, probably not. But give me a month or two and I’m ready to go. [Laughs]

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