Kenzie Petty was shocked to get Maria's vote to win “Survivor 46”

The newest champion also reveals what went down after the final Tribal Council.

Nowhere in the Survivor handbook does it say that to win Survivor, one should tell that jury at final Tribal Council that “Yeah, I got brought along on votes. I’ll take it. I’ll own it. It’s true. I’m not going to say I drove a vote.” Yet, that strategy paid off — literally — for Kenzie Petty. The 29-year-old salon owner from North Carolina (who is very much pregnant) became the latest player to be crowned the Sole Survivor when she was voted the winner of Survivor 46.

Kenzie used her big smile and strong social game to take her right to the end, with the only vote ever cast against her being a mistake by fellow finalist Ben Katzman. Once Kenzie was able to win the final five immunity challenge (with a big assist from Liz Wilcox) and then beat Liz at the final four fire-making competition, it put her into the final three, where she defeated Charlie Davis and Ben 5-3-0. She even shockingly scored the vote of Charlie’s biggest ally, Maria Shrime Gonzalez, to seal the deal.

We spoke to the winner the morning after her televised glory to get the full scoop on what went down out at final Tribal Council, what she plans to do with the money, and if she might be making a return trip to the island.

kenzie petty was shocked to get maria's vote to win “survivor 46”

CBS Kenzie Petty on 'Survivor 46'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you think your chances were looking walking into that final Tribal Council?

KENZIE PETTY: Walking in, I thought I had a pretty good chance. I'm not going to lie. I had practiced my story all day, I was ready to go. And once we got into it, and Charlie had such a good story and was so good at articulating it, Ben had some really good points, I was like, “Oh, I have to really fight now. I have to really go for it.” Yeah, walking in, I felt very confident, and then midway through I was like: I don't know. It was just a lot of moving parts. Like if I say one thing, I could lose someone. You know what I mean? Does that make sense?

Yeah, that makes sense. But you say you became unsure during Tribal. Did you feel like things were going your way or not?

It's hard to say because Charlie and Ben were so convincing as well. They both had really good arguments, but towards the end, I got my momentum and I was like, “Okay, I think I'm doing it. I think I can pull it out.” But it feels so surreal when you're so close, and I fought so hard…. I don't even know how to describe how I felt in that moment. I felt like it was right there, or it was going to slip away. It could have gone either way. It was so close. I mean, look at the votes.

One of the things I was really wondering about is how Tiffany was going to react to the news that Kenzie at one point tried to take her out? She didn't seem to react to that. Did she not hear that, or register that, or did she not care what happened there?

Honestly, I tried to take Tiff out for a second, and then I was like, “No, it's smarter to have the idol where we know where it is. I love Tiff. I trust Tiff.” So it was a pretty fleeting thing for me actually. So I think she was just like, “No, Kenzie's my girl," and at Final Tribal I was like, “I did throw your name out there, but I didn't vote for you. So do without what you will.”

kenzie petty was shocked to get maria's vote to win “survivor 46”

CBS Kenzie Petty on 'Survivor 46'

It wouldn't have been Yanu without Yanu arguing amongst themselves at the final Tribal Council.

It's just so on brand for us. We never stop entertaining. At least there's that.

How shocked were you by the Maria vote? As you were doing the jury math in your head, I'm guessing there was no scenario where you thought you were getting that vote.

I literally said, “There's no way I am getting Maria, so that's out.” I was like, maybe I'll get seven, but there's no way I am getting Maria. When I figured out she had voted for me, I was very shocked, but I really did work hard at connecting with everyone as hard as I could, especially post merge. I'm just a people person and I wanted to build bridges with everybody. And so I did spend a lot of time getting to know Maria. Obviously not as much as Charlie, but at the end of the day, you never know what people are going to vote for or what speaks to them. So I think my strategy was just to be authentically myself and hope that that showed through to the jury.

Did any other votes surprise me? Q is a wild card. You never know what that guy's going to do.

I wasn't surprised by any of the other ones. It was pretty hard to be surprised when it's compared to Maria, you know what I mean? But Q, I was pleasantly like, “Thanks, bud. We went through a lot together. Thanks for coming through for me at the end.”

kenzie petty was shocked to get maria's vote to win “survivor 46”

CBS Kenzie Petty and Maria Shrime Gonzalez on 'Survivor 46'

We saw how much Ben was struggling with the fire-making decision. What if he had to struggle with an even bigger decision? What if it had come down to him and the tiebreaker? What do you think he would've done?

I think he would've gone Charlie, and that's just the way the cookie would've crumbled. I would've helped Ben the same way, regardless. He was struggling and he was my ally, but it didn't have to go there so I'm not even going to entertain that thought because it wasn't a tie. I won fair and square. We can go down the hypothetical route all day, but it doesn't really matter.

I love the hypothetical route! That's my lane! Do you not know that about me?

No, I'm living in reality. I just won. It didn't go to that.

Alright, let's talk about some other stuff. Had you and Liz spoken beforehand about teaming up in a challenge to take down Maria? How did that transpire?

No. I am good at puzzles. So I had mine done pretty quick, and then Liz just started counting. She was stacking her puzzle pieces kind of strange. And I was like, “Okay, maybe this is Liz's puzzle strategy.” And then she was like, “It's 28!” or whatever, and I was like, “What's 28?” And she was reading my puzzle as I was finishing it, and I was like, “Oh, Liz is helping me. Liz is giving me the answer right now.”

Liz knew she wasn't going to finish and had already started stacking. And then when the plank thing clicked, I was like, “What plank? What plank?” And Liz was just like, “I know the plank. Bye!” and just took off. And I was like, “Oh, she's really helping me.” I couldn't believe it. And then my brain, I was just like, “Okay, now all I have to do is count geckos,” which I could barely do. So thank goodness I had Liz.

kenzie petty was shocked to get maria's vote to win “survivor 46”

CBS Kenzie Petty on 'Survivor 46'

Did you have a second there when you finished the puzzle and were like, “All right, I won immunity!”

One hundred percent. I was like, “Puzzle's done, we're good.” And then you're so depleted by that point and your adrenaline is pumping so high that you're just like, “I'm done. I'm good.” But I think it speaks a lot to the friendships that I built that Liz did help me without us talking about it. Of course, we wanted to beat Maria, but ultimately if I didn't have a good relationship with Liz, then she wouldn't have done that. So it's just a combination of a lot of things that all worked for my favor for that challenge.

Liz said that she essentially would've wiped the Tribal Council floor with all of your blood had she made it to the end. What do you think about that assessment?

Well, I think it's interesting because everything is perspective. A lot of people, even at my watch party last night, were like, “Why did Liz think she was such a big threat?” And I was like, “Liz was a threat to me sitting there.” She had the jury full of Nami. She told us she was tight with all of them. I was like, “She's got four votes. If she's telling me she's friends with Tevin and Hunter, why wouldn't I believe her for that?” So to me, and to Charlie, and Ben, she was the biggest threat going into the final three. It might not look that way now, but Liz was playing a good game too, and I really think she could have sold it.

So did you directly ask Ben to go to fire? You mentioned that you could use this on your résumé, but did you actually go to him and request that he put you in?

No. Actually, I choked that day. I had been making fire every day. People were calling me the Fire Sprite. I made fire. It was nothing until that day. So that day, Ben and Charlie were helping me make fire all day, and they were like, “This is how you do it.” I was like, “I know how to do it. Charlie, if you can do it, why don't you do it?” I was just so overwhelmed and under so much pressure that I was just choking and cracking to the point where I was like, “I can't believe you're making me do it!” But ultimately, I would've done it and I'm glad I did it and I am grateful. But I definitely was not begging to be in that position at the moment.

kenzie petty was shocked to get maria's vote to win “survivor 46”

CBS Kenzie Petty on 'Survivor 46'

I don't know if it's the edit, because they put in the music and all that, but it looked like you were really struggling and you sort of took a breath, reset yourself, and then were able to make the fire. Is that what happened?

Yeah, that's exactly how it happened. I got in my own way. I got in my own head, and I ultimately had to just take a cleansing breath and be like, “You are about to ruin your chances at a million dollars. Take a deep breath. You know what you're doing, believe in yourself." So that was my moment where I was like, I have to show up for me. There's no one else looking out for me. This is my moment. Take a deep breath and get your head back in the game. You can do this.

Did you believe Ben when he told you that he had mistakenly voted for you?

Yes and no, because I spent so much time with Ben and I knew how much he was struggling that I was like, this is believable. And the edit, it's so bright and it looks so fun, and they show all of us smiling, but it is so hard out there. It's so unbelievably difficult. And especially when we were up all night every night, I was like, I believe that it could have been an accident. And if it wasn't an accident, what other options did I have? I knew I wouldn't have beaten Q and Maria in the final three. I was like, even if he did write my name down, this is still the best path forward for me. So ultimately, I was like, whether accident or not, this is where I'm going.

kenzie petty was shocked to get maria's vote to win “survivor 46”

Robert Voets/CBS Kenzie Petty and Jeff Probst on 'Survivor 46'

I'll admit it, I didn't see you being like a semi-challenge beast out there. Did you surprise yourself by winning two individual immunities?

I would not call me a challenge beast, Dalton. I did my best. I was surprised at how bad I was at most of them.

The throwing the ball over the platform situation.

Everything! The mud crawling nets were my kryptonite. I really thought I would do a lot better. But I think winning two was amazing. And I think winning one with the help of a friend is just so quintessential for my life. I just love community and helping each other get through things. And I know it's kind of controversial and people think it's cheating or whatever, but there are no rules in Survivor. We could do whatever we wanted. If he didn't want Liz to help me, Jeff could have been like, “No, that's not happening." But when you're applying for Survivor, they want you to think outside of the box and that was a way for us to make what we needed to happen.

Yeah, the savvy Survivor player knows you never ask first because then they can say no. You just do it and they will stop you if you can’t.

Exactly.

So much doesn't make the edit, even for someone like you that had five million confessionals. But what's something that happened out there during your 26 days that didn't make it onto TV that you wish we'd had a chance to see?

Oh my gosh, there's so much. One of my favorite moments, I didn't get to fish until the last day basically. And then I had some downtime and I was like, “Okay, I want to try fishing.” Me and Charlie went out, and he was showing me how to use the Hawaiian sling because Yanu didn't have anything, so I didn't get a Hawaiian sling until the merge. And Charlie was like, “Don't worry, I'll show you how to use it.” And I was like, “Perfect!” So we get out there. and Charlie goes to wind it up to show me how to use it and immediately just flung the Hawaiian sling back into the family jewels. And it was so funny. It just felt like a blooper. I was witnessing a blooper reel in real time and it was such a funny, beautiful moment.

kenzie petty was shocked to get maria's vote to win “survivor 46”

CBS Kenzie Petty, Charlie Davis, and Maria Shrime Gonzalez on 'Survivor 46'

So what happened after the cameras turned off? You win a million dollars, are drinking champagne, there's pizza, you do the after-show. What happens after that?

After that, the final three, it's so hard. I was so blacked out processing everything. I was like, I just won. I felt awful for Ben and Charlie. It was like a weird guilt, excitement mixture. And we all took a boat back to Ponderosa, the three of us together, and it was really special. And then we were partying with everyone, but we were so dirty. Everyone had been hanging out together and partying, and me and Charlie and Ben were kind of like… the after-show was all just too much and the three of us all just went to Ben's room and sat in the hot tub together, just the three of us. It was actually a bathtub outside, and we hung out and processed everything together. It was really special to end it with them.

Obviously, the question you're going to be answering all day: What are you going to do with the money?

I am investing it, actually. I'm not touching it. I really did go out there to set up myself for retirement. I am going to take a little bit longer of a maternity leave than I would've originally, but yeah, I'm going to be working the same. I'm living the same. I'm pretty much just putting it away and forgetting about it and I'm going to be able to retire someday.

So what do you do if Jeff Probst comes calling for you to head back to the island? I know Survivor 50 might be a little tough with a new baby, but at some point in the future would you be open to putting yourself through this entire experience again?

I've gotten asked this a hundred times in the last 12 hours. I think my Survivor experience was everything I wanted it to be. I know what it's like to be on the bottom. I know what it's like to be on the top. I think I'm good. Of course, if they call, you need to think about it. But I am very full from Survivor and I don't have anything else that I need from the island. I went out there to win, I won. I would love to watch all of my friends win, so I don't know.

Check out the rest our other Survivor 46 finale coverage including an exclusive deleted scene, interviews with the final five and the jury as well as our full episode recap and look ahead to next season.

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Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.

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