Chelsea Townsend had become queen of the immunity necklace in “Survivor: Ghost Island,” winning back-back challenges to keep her safe through the past two Tribal Councils. But her luck ran out this week, as Domenick outlasted her in a grueling endurance challenge.
Without immunity around her neck, Chelsea and the tribe’s other girls hatched a plan targeting Wendell, but it relied on both Laurel and Donathan making a big move to turn on members of their own alliance. In the end, the plan did not work, and the immunity queen was sent to the jury.
Chelsea spoke with CBS Local’s Phil Stauskas about the plan, her immunity run, and getting to see her sister on the island.
You were queen of the immunity challenge! Did you expect that to be the case before the season started?
I couldn’t expect it, but I hoped for it. I grew up as a dancer, as a cheerleader. I had a lot of strength in endurance type stuff, so I think that I was hopeful that, come individual immunity challenges, which can be a little more endurance, that I’d be able to do really well, and it worked out that way. So, that was really fun.
So, what happened last night?
It was hard. I was fighting like crazy to stay in there. But I think at that challenge, I already knew that my name was tossed out there. I hadn’t been able to find a hidden immunity idol despite scouring the jungle for hours on end. And there was a lot of pressure. And even though I was doing my absolute best to hang on, I think the pressure just got to me. And, as it got down to only three people left, I could feel my safety right there and it just got away from me.
You mentioned in your final words that you were a big fan of the show. What was it like to have Jeff Probst putting that necklace around you?
Oh, my gosh, it was a dream come true! It was definitely one of my biggest goals on the show, of course besides winning — to win individual immunity. So, having that happen, it was a dream come true. And then, to have it happen again, it was just icing on the cake. It was the most amazing experience, like, getting, I guess ‘necklaced’ for safety, and getting to have that moment that you see on “Survivor” that you just dream about.
After the first one, there had to have been thought, at least, that maybe that, if you kept winning challenges, that you would put a bigger target on your back. Was there ever any consideration to throwing something or is that just not something that’s in your nature?
Absolutely not. I knew from the merge that I wanted to be a “Survivor” winner that absolutely earned by title, and I wanted to come out swinging when the merge hit. I wanted to win as many individual immunities as I could, and then rely on my strategy and my social relationships to be able to save myself from the chopping block.
It would have been nice to have a hidden immunity idol too, but as much as I looked for hours on end, fate seems to have not worked out in my favor to find one.
The girls came up with this plan while you were all left behind from the reward. Before Tribal started, how confident were you that you were going to be able to pull off this plan to get Wendell out?
I was confident, but I was skeptical. I had high hopes that things would work out. I had high hopes that people watching the game would see that Wendell and Dom were the biggest threats in the game. Dom was obviously safe, but everybody knew, that I talked to, all the girls knew that Wendell had an idol, because I used that as part of my gameplay to try and convince people. “Hey, he’s got an idol. I may still be going home, but at least flush his idol. You’ve got to vote for him. You’ve got to get this guy out. He has way too much power.”
Laurel was agreeing with me, and Donathan was completely on board. He wanted to make a big move. He was ready to play the game. But they were kind of voting as a pair, and Laurel was very skeptical, especially after Kellyn wrote her name down at the last Tribal. She had a hard time trusting Kellyn. So, I think it was all just Laurel being like, “Yeah, I’m on board,” but also saying that to the guys. And, ultimately, I think she felt more security in staying with them versus pulling off a big move and fighting with us.
How did your emotions change then once Donathan opened his mouth at Tribal Council?
Oh, my gosh, my stomach dropped! Because my whole strategy was, okay, I’ve got to kind of play dumb here, that I’m not voting Wendell. We told Donathan, “Hey, we’re going to throw your name out there, just because we don’t want Wendell to get spooked. We can’t have him playing his idol.” And I had to kind of make a choice before Tribal, like, I’ve got to act in Tribal like I don’t know what’s going on, that Wendell’s not my target.
And so, when [Donathan] kind of brought all that stuff to attention like, “Oh, yeah, there’s a crack! It’s gonna be a blindside!” and I saw Wendell’s face, it was like, “Oh, my gosh, why would you say that?” So, at that point, I thought that I was just going. And then when Wendell didn’t play his idol, I was like, I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but maybe this is my saving grace and something epic is about to happen.
So, you didn’t know that it was going to be you then?
I thought it might be. I knew the whole time that I was their target. Thought it might be, but thought that, somehow, people would see Wendell as the bigger threat and Laurel and Donathan would decide to blindside him with the three girls that I was with.
At least there is one silver lining. You did make it to the loved ones’ visit. You got to see your sister out there. Tell me a little bit about your relationship with your sister.
We’ve always just been super close. It’s just her and I, and we grew up as classic sisters — fighting and being super competitive with each other. She did gymnastics, I did dance. As we’ve grown up, we’ve just become so unbelievably close. I told her before I actually went out to Fiji, I said, “I’m getting you on this show. I’m going to make it to the loved ones’ visit.” And it was kind of funny, they actually showed it on the episode, me telling her, “I told you I’d get you out here!”
It was an amazing moment, and I had worked so hard to get to that point, and it was very rewarding, even though I didn’t get selected and wasn’t able to pull out the win to get her to have more of a “Survivor” experience. I was still super grateful I was able to have her out there to experience “Survivor” and be a part of it since it’s such a big thing in our family.
What is it like when you’re out there, and you don’t have family around for that long? What’s it like to see a familiar face?
Oh, my gosh, it’s everything! When you’re in that game, you’re just kind of in game mode. You can’t trust anyone fully. I mean, you hope you can trust people, and you hope that what they’re saying is true, but you don’t know for sure. So, to have somebody run out there that you love and that you can trust completely, it’s like this giant relief. You just get so emotional, because you feel relieved to have somebody that you trust and you love around you.
It’s hard out there. It’s a very, very hard game. Besides the not eating or sleeping, you’re constantly trying to weigh what people are saying to you and if it’s actually true or if it’s not, so that’s huge. The loved ones’ visit is huge to have a little refresher of genuineness.
You have a very large fanbase online that hoped you would have gotten farther.
The fans are so great. And I’m so grateful for all the fans that have supported me throughout this journey. I know I was pretty invisible, but there were still fans that were able to find the moves I made, the strategy I made, and I’m so grateful that everyone has been so supportive of me.
Watch “Survivor: Ghost Island” Wednesdays at 8:00 PM ET/PT on CBS.