Justine Elias
August 15, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Maybe nice girls do finish last — or almost last. Colleen Haskell, a 23 year old advertising student from Miami, was the last of the fun-loving Pagong tribe to face ”Survivor”’s Tagi alliance. Known for her easygoing attitude — as well as her clear eyed comments about the growing conspiracy to boot her off the island — Colleen nonetheless outplayed many of her more ambitious fellow castaways.

Now the University of Georgia graduate tells EW.com why her tribe couldn’t fight the Alliance — and she reveals the truth about her relationship with Greg.

You took only one quarter off from advertising school in Miami to be on the show. What are you doing now?
I’m back in school — it’s a two year program where you build a portfolio of copywriting and graphic design, so I’m halfway there. I actually have exams in two weeks, which is stressing me out. Then there’s that Town Hall meeting [which will air live on Aug. 23, after the last episode of ”Survivor”]. Trying to juggle all the things at once is a challenge. I talked to the marketing people here [at CBS], and as I was leaving, I said, ”So will you guys remember in a year when I’m looking for a job?” It’s going to be an issue, I know, the job hunt and things like that. I’m learning this whole field, so one day I think I want to be a graphic designer, the next day a copywriter.

Last time we saw you on Pulau Tiga, your legs were covered with horrible sores. How are you doing?
I’m fine, thanks. I had to go see a dermatologist the next day, and he gave it some fancy name and gave me an antibiotic and it cleared right up. So right now I have scars from the bug bites I had been scratching — those will last about one to three years. I think they’re kind of cool, like battle wounds. But it proves the show is real. Maybe some people think that when the camera stopped rolling we had a nice place to sleep and food to eat. Looking at my legs, you can tell that wasn’t true. And let me tell you, I just LOVED when CBS showed all the close-ups of my hairy, nasty legs. I was like, ”Okay, I think we’ve had enough of those now! They get the point!”

The early episodes were crawling with rats, but we didn’t hear much about them later on. Where’d they go?
Oh, they were always around, everywhere. I think there were just so many rats that the story got boring even to the camera people. because they were being bugged by them too. But they were island rats, vegetarian rats — not big New York City subway rats. They were more…. mouse-ish. Little mouses. [Laughing] They were like little kittens.

What was the one luxury item you brought with you, and why?
I brought this soap, Cetaphil cleanser. I was allowed to bring my contact lens solution. I was like ”Darn it, I can’t be on an island without washing my face. It’s very important!” So I ended up using that as my luxury item. In retrospect, I wish I had brought something more fun or interesting. I’m expecting the ”Survivor 2” people to get really creative. Gervase brought a deck of cards, I think that was the craziest thing we had. I actually showed up with a superhero cape and really wanted to bring that but it was turned down at the door. I was like ”Oh, I can use it as a blanket, and it looks cool” Later in the show, Jenna and I made our own, just to have fun, and it lightened, I think, the whole mood.

When did you realize that the Tagi voting block was controlling your fate?
The first vote. Why would four people vote for Gretchen? Gretchen is the most lovely person you could ever meet. But we didn’t know how many people were actually in it. We thought maybe it was Sue, Kelly, and Rich. We really thought, maybe Rudy just doesn’t like Gretchen — you know, she’s very strong. Not his type. So who knows who he’ll vote for next time? We didn’t know how strong they were.

Why weren’t you and the other Pagong members able to form a counteralliance?
I mean, you had Jenna, Gervase, and I screaming at Kelly and Sean, trying to get them to vote a certain way. But they’re smart not to. I have to give them so much credit for that. Because if they joined our little alliance and we kicked off their whole team, Jenna, Gervase, and I would turn on them at the end. And they had already bonded with these people. The alliance had worked so far. Why would they leave it now?

Speaking of alliances, what was really going on between you and Greg, Miss So-Called Play Kitten?
Oh, the Greg question! That’s why I think I’m really doing this whole media circuit — because I need to clear my name. You know, it was funny. We were just in the CBS marketing department, and this guy came up to me and said ”I’m the one who made the Greg promos” — the ”play kitten” business. And I said ”Oh no! I blame you!” Okay, so the play kitten story, first of all: Greg and I actually made that up before he even said it in an interview. It was a joke, and it was just kind of funny — it was an analogy for the ”Survivor” game. You know, you have a pet kitten, you love it, you hold, you squeeze it, you call it your very own, and then you break its neck. And that’s what’s so twisted about the game. The alliance has been treating each other like little kittens, and now they have to turn around and break each other’s necks.

The ads for that week’s ”Survivor” promised some big, steamy romance. And we get…. what? Hand holding?
Exactly, exactly. To make it exciting for TV. It was a great story line. And any romantic thing they could hint at. You know, nothing happened on the island. That was a lot of editing. There’s the one shot that looks like we’re kissing in the tent, and if you look closely, I’m just whispering in his ear. And Greg and I, we actually knew they wanted to set us up from day one, so we kind of played into the cameras a bit. I have to admit that. They hoped, they really did, they hoped for something. It was really great, because we’re great friends now. I met a new best friend. But, no — no romance on the island.

What else about life on that island can a TV viewer NEVER comprehend?
It’s hard to say. Living on the island and having the experience I had for 33 days — that in itself was an experience of my life. The TV show is something entirely separate and different. I don’t even view them as the same thing. So many things were different about being on the island: your relationships to people; how important people became to you, because that’s all you have; trusting people. The paranoia — I don’t think you can really understand by watching the show. It was a game show, but we lived it. That’s hard to explain. People will ask, ”Why’d you do this?” or ”Why’d you hang out with this person?” And I say, ”Well, who else was there to hang out with?” You take what’s presented to you, and we all did our best to deal with it.

Did you have any privacy?
If you wanted it, and you weren’t doing anything too exciting, yes. If you said, ”I’m going to go down here and pick up a coconut,” they’re not going to follow you. But most of the time, they were around. They didn’t want to miss anything. You never got used to the cameras in your face. You just stopped caring. It was like, I can’t NOT talk because the camera’s here. I have to have a conversation right now. We weren’t bombarded with cameras — there were three two-person teams [of a camera operator and a sound person]. So it wasn’t like there were 15 cameras. The first night we were there, they were all scrambling around and trying to get together what exactly they were doing. By the end they had it down to a science.

What is your proudest moment on the show? You were much admired for trying to invite everyone to share your reward barbecue.
I think everyone would have done that in that situation. I mean, ”None of us have eaten. We’re all going!” I mean, you felt badly. Who cares if they’re voting against you or not? They’re still hungry. I loved winning that food! I’m so proud that I won the Jungle Gym competition. I’m kind of proud about the whole Pagong team and how we played the game. I’m glad we didn’t get too malicious. I’m glad that I can walk away from it calling everybody that was on my team a friend.

What did you think of that shot of Richard saying, ”If I win, I’m not going to share with anybody?”
He’s so funny, isn’t he? God, he just makes me laugh on the show.

You seemed to be the first person to comment on Richard’s, well…
[Laughing] Annoyance factor? The editing really made it seem like I started speaking out only after Greg left. That was the story line, I think. You know, ”Greg’s left, Colleen now comes into her own.” But I’d been talking the whole time. I would just complain to Greg a lot, so after he left, the next closest person who I felt comfortable complaining to was the producer who was asking these questions and who was behind the camera. So I opened up a lot more because [the producer] was a familiar face. I knew he wasn’t plotting and planning behind me. He wasn’t involved in the game. I think that’s when comments like that started coming out.

How did you feel about the sadistic nature of some of the challenges?
Like the bug? Everyone says the bug eating one bothers them. And standing on the balance beam. Oh my gosh. Can you believe all the other competitions were 10 minutes long and this one was THREE HOURS? I mean, it was too long. I was so close. I just didn’t have it in me. I almost won it and I think I could have, but I don’t think I had the will. Kelly had a stronger will. She went into the game wanting to get that far and that’s why she’s still there. And I went in thinking, ”Wow, free trip to Malaysia and I’m gonna hang out!” So that’s where she had the edge over me. I only wised up to the game after, I think it was the third tribal council, when I got two votes. I said ”Hey I’m not ready to leave yet!” That’s when I started to actually plan things.

After leaving the island, what came next?
I actually stayed with Greg, which is where, I think, a lot of the romance rumors come from. But that’s because both him and I are interested — you know, an open ticket, why not stay and explore Malaysia. So I stayed for awhile afterwards and had a good time. We went to the other side of Borneo. I wasn’t going to leave without exploring. I’ve been to Africa and Europe and I’ve never been able to go over to Asia. That’s really what interested me the most about the show when my friend and I saw the open audition. I said, ”It’s filmed in Malaysia — I’m going.” If they had said this is going to be filmed in the Florida Keys, it wouldn’t have struck a chord at all. I’m actually planning to go back [to Southeast Asia].

Sean and Jenna have told EW.com about their plans to get into television and film. What about you?
I mean, I’m not an actress, I have no desire to be an actress, and just because you’re on TV for a summer doesn’t mean it gives you any right to be an actress. There are people who are in school studying for that and working really hard, and I was on a game show. To be offered things like this is wonderful. Some of it sounds really fun, but it’s just silly how the world works like that. I’m staying in school right now. I don’t have any plans for anything. If I could do something where I’m allowed to be myself, like be a travel correspondent or something goofy like that — that’s the only thing that really catches my eye. I could do that for a year. But I don’t think I could go out and do some acting, some real serious acting. I don’t think I1d be any good at it, to tell you the truth.

Now Jenna’s said she’d consider posing for Playboy. We asked Gervase if he’d pose for Playgirl, and he said, ”If the price is right, the pants are coming down.”
Oh God! Gervase! That’s so Gervase. How funny is he? God, he’s wonderful. So is this a lead to the Playboy question? Nice, nice transition! Yeah, Jenna and I were offered, and I turned it down. It was the strangest answering machine message I’ve ever gotten in my life. I’m struggling because I don’t have enough to pay rent that month, and [I] turn on the answering machine, and it says ”Hi, we’re willing to start at $100,000 for you to pose in Playboy.” And I’m like ”Oh my God, I just need $50.” I stopped listening to it as soon as it was over and refocused on other things. I actually do think it’s flattering, I’m not insulted. It’s just not for me. I don’t see myself doing that. Jenna is considering doing it, and I can completely understand her situation. She has two young girls and the money and Playboy isn’t THAT bad. But it’s not for me.

Well, you do get some prize money. What will you spend it on?
Nobody gets any money until after the show goes off the air. After taxes, it’s not that much. I don’t really even know how much I got. I’ll pay off school — that’s at top of the list. Get rid of the debt.

The next ”Survivor” will be filmed in the Outback. Would that destination tempt you as much as Malaysia did?
No. Because Australia — I haven’t been yet, but I know I’ll get there. Malaysia is somewhere I don’t know I would have gone if it wasn’t for this. But I’d do the next ”Survivor” if it was the one in space. How crazy for a normal person being able to go to the Mir space station? How wonderful! What an opportunity. I think everyone needs to take advantage of this whole reality TV thing.

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