Tina Wesson viewed this season of Survivor: Blood vs. Water as her shot at redemption. After going from first (winning The Australian Outback) to worst (being the initial person kicked out of All-Stars), Tina wanted to prove she still had the chops to go all the way. And she almost did, falling just a single day short, after making it back into the game off of Redemption Island, but then being booted once again in the very last vote-off. Of course, all of that seems insignificant now after Tina’s son Taylor was killed in a car accident just two weeks ago. Had he been wearing a seat belt, he would most likely still be with us today, and Tina showed up at the Survivor reunion last night with a personal plea to others to not make the same mistake Taylor did, and to buckle up.
However, Tina still loves her some Survivor, and we had a chance to chat with her about her latest go round on Blood vs. Water. (NOTE: You can also read our interviews with winner Tyson Apsotol and runner-up Monica Culpepper.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, Tina, I just want to say how sorry I am to hear about your son, and all of our thoughts are obviously with you and Katie and your entire family.
TINA WESSON: Thank you so much.
EW: I’m sure that was very hard for you to sit there on national television last night and celebrate the season, but hopefully being around that whole Survivor support group brought you some comfort.
TINA: Absolutely, and I honestly feel like there’s kind of mission now burning inside of me because it really brought home to me just how important it is to buckle up. And there were equal chances in the car, and it made a difference. And so I really feel a passion now to tell every youth to buckle up, and if I see someone driving a car and they don’t have their seat belt on, I just might have to pull them over
EW: I could see you doing it too.
TINA: I’ve become a seat belt vigilante!
EW: Okay I know you want to talk about the game, so let’s get to it and start with the question that I’m sure has been running through your mind for six months now: Do you think you would have won had you made it to the final 3?
TINA: Hands down. Hands down. Because I was on good terms with everybody on that jury. Actually, if anybody had made the final 3 other than those 3, that person would have won — whether it was Hayden, whether it was Ciera, whether it was me, whether it was Katie, Caleb. Anybody that had gone back into the game and won that final challenge, they would have won the game.
EW: Isn’t that the advantage of Redemption Island, in that you can bond with people there against the common enemy that voted you all off?
TINA: And that is the tricky part. The tricky part is to vote people out but do it in a way that they are not angry with you and devastated, and I think most people in the jury somehow felt as if things were done in a way that was hurtful. And even though I think Tyson played a fantastic game, and I’m glad he won, and I voted Tyson, but there were things that were unnecessary that he did. And I wish that he had been a little more gracious in his demeanor, and it would have been easier to give him my vote.
EW: What was up with Laura asking you to let her win the final duel? Doesn’t she know who you are? You’re Tina Wesson! You’re not going to lay down in a competition to get back into the game!
TINA: Yeah, that kind of hit me by surprise as well. Desperate times call for desperate measures. She really believed that she was on a mission and God had ordained her to win this, and so I think it was just an act of desperation. And had she got back in, I think there’s a really good chance she would have won that last challenge and probably won the game.
EW: Do you feel she thought you owed it to her to let her win because she helped you beat Vytas in the other duel?
TINA: I don’t think that she did. I just think that she wanted it so desperately. And she knew that she was in trouble that challenge and that’s all she knew what to do.
EW: Speaking of laying down in a competition, you are going against Katie in a duel with the loser going home. You’re about to beat her, and you ask her if it’s okay. What if she says no, Tina? Then what do you do?
TINA: Then I probably would have dropped my thing and helped her get her thing out of the dirt.
EW: Well, I spoke to both Probst and Katie about this, and they agreed that Katie was really there more so you could go back and play again rather than a competitive fire burning in her belly to win this thing.
TINA: Katie has always been a real bore to play games with. If she wins, she doesn’t celebrate. If she loses, she’s okay with that too. So she’s really not a very competitive person. And so she doesn’t have that quality. Competitiveness — she did not get that gene. So none of this was as important to Katie as it was to me.
EW: So have you found any cavemen to go hit her over the head with a club and drag her back to a cave yet?
TINA: I haven’t, but that’s not to say I won’t go down swinging trying. This is a definitely an area that I probably need to clam down a little bit with. Her biological clock may not be ticking, but my grandmother biological clock is ticking. I’m just trying to get her motivated and on the ball.
EW: Which is harder: Being voted out first, like you were in All-Stars? Or being one person away from the finals, and quite possibly, another million dollars.
TINA: Being voted out first, hands down. Because I missed out on six weeks of an adventure. You get to have another adventure when you are voted off, but it’s nothing like the opportunity to play the game. I love this game. So that was very disappointing.
EW: How would you critique your gameplay this time out?
TINA: Well, I would say physically, I disappointed myself. I thought I would perform a lot better physically, but I’m definitely a lot older than I was the first go round and I felt it as far as my performance as well as just how I felt out there. It took its toll on me. I wish there was a point in the game where I considered flipping and doing an all-girl alliance. I think I was also probably a little more aggressive than I have been before in my comments. I regret that. I actually apologized to Monica for being so straightforward to her with my comments. I just really felt bad for that and that Monica really took a lot of beatings this season and I regretted being a part of that.
EW: There are some previous winners or people that have played this game a lot where you don’t know if they want to come back and do it all over again. But knowing you, I have a feeling that if Probst calls you up and says, “Hey, Tina. We’re finally going to do that all-winners edition that Dalton Ross keeps bugging me about,” that you would be all in. Am I right?
TINA: Absolutely. There are people like Rudy Boesch who played when he was 80-something. If he can do it, I can too. They may have to make the challenges wheelchair accessible but by golly, I’m going.
To watch an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s finale, as well as our pre-game interviews with the final seven, simply click on the video player below. You can also check out our interview with winner Tyson Apostol. and our chat with runner-up Monica Culpepper. To read Dalton’s recap of the finale/reunion, click right here. You can also get Jeff Probst’s take on the finale/reunion right here, or click here for more intel from Probst on the next season of ‘Survivor’.
For more ‘Survivor’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.