It almost seemed inevitable? As hard as Chanelle Howell fought for her Survivor life, she was pretty much doomed after the messy first tribal council her tribe attended.
The executive recruiter, 29, thought she was tight with Daniel Strunk until he called her out when he was getting heat from their other tribemates, which she credits with tanking her game early on.
“It was quite literally when Daniel threw me under the bus at that tribal,” she exclusively explains to Us Weekly. “I was like, ‘I don’t know how to recover from this.’ And I’m gonna be playing from the bottom for the rest of the game. And that’s exactly what we saw. Because once he did that, I had to go back to camp and I’m like, ‘All right, well, all I have right now is information. And so I’m going to use this information to make Daniel out to be worse than I am.’”
And that’s when Chanelle went to Mike Turner and outed Daniel for spilling his secrets. “That put a lot of the blame on Daniel,” she says. “I think that’s mostly what happened. And so ever since then, I was able to shift the blame and all of that onto Daniel. But once he was gone, it’s just me, you know?”
Speaking of Daniel, he previously told Us that he and Chanelle both agreed to not risk their votes when they had the chance at what fans call “Ship Wheel Island.” But she remembers very differently.
“That conversation never happened,” the New York City resident says. “And the reason I’m gonna say it never happened, No. 1, it never happened. But No. 2, we had no idea that Ship Wheel Island was a recurring thing. We thought, ‘OK, this is gonna be similar to the summit on Millennials vs. Gen X, where they go one time, they might have, like, PB and J, or they might just kind of chat or whatever. And then that’s it.’”
“There was no conversation ever about risking a vote or not risking a vote,” Chanelle adds. “That was that. It just literally never happened.”
Scroll down to read our full interview with Chanelle Howell from Survivor 42.
Survivor airs on CBS Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.
Us Weekly: Hi Chanelle, how are you feeling today?
Chanelle Howell: I‘m chill. I’m kind of Zen. It’s obviously super exhausting coming off of a day of high emotions.
Us: For sure. How was watching it back? Is it how you remembered everything played out?
CH: It’s pretty close to how I remembered it. Honestly, obviously there are a lot of things that are kind of missing because you can’t tell it all in a 45 minute episode. But, I mean, in terms of that last day, I remember literally just sitting on the log and looking over and seeing Romeo unraveling and thinking to myself, “Oh, my God, this is my chance to potentially fight to stay in this game. And so yeah, I think that was pretty much, like, the sentiment going forward.
Us: So going into tribal, what did you think about your odds against Romeo?
CH: You know what, I think I was a little bit too secure because that day at camp was just, like, super chaotic – like, the most chaotic day I think I’ve ever seen on Survivor, during my time. And so, I didn’t play my Shot in the Dark for a couple reasons. No. 1, I didn’t know that it was so close, you know? I genuinely thought Romeo was going home. And then, partially, I kind of forgot about my Shot in the Dark too a little bit. It was in the back of my mind but really, I just did not know that it was so close. And so I remember sitting in tribal council actually, and at one point I started counting on my hands ‘cause I’m like, “Damn, Jeff is asking me a lot of questions.” And so I started counting on my hands at how many questions he asked me. I’m like, “This is gonna be my frame of reference for next time. Like, is this normal? Is he always gonna ask me four questions or five questions?” And so I was in tribal, having these streams of consciousness, like, “Oh, shoot, this could be it for you.”
Us: Did you know at the time who was leading the charge in terms of getting you out?
CH: Yeah, I think Mike was leading it. I think Hai probably started it, but once that train was going, it was too late to stop. And I think Mike was the person who was like, “No, no, no, I’m pushing from the back. Like, we’re continuing on these tracks.” And so I think it was probably more so Mike up the rear, but Hai was leading the charge until a certain point.
Us: Mike voted for you, but felt super betrayed and upset when you voted for him. What was going on there? What’s the difference to him?
CH: This is the thing. He and I made the exact same moves in the game. Right? He lost his vote. He didn’t tell me I lost my vote. I didn’t tell him. He voted for me for self preservation in case Daniel played a Shot in the Dark. I voted for him for self preservation in case Daniel used his Shot in the Dark. And I think what we’re seeing is, like, he was just a lot more emotional about it than I was. I was very logical, very much like, “I understand why you made this move and it was actually smart of you.” But I think we see almost this, like, inconsistency with Mike. I know we see Mike say, “I would take a bullet for Hai and Lydia, and then the very next day, he votes out Lydia without batting an eye. And so I think we just see a lot of inconsistency from him and a lot of emotionality, if that’s a word, from him. That was something that I didn’t anticipate. And so because I didn’t anticipate that, I didn’t even put in the extra work to be like, “Oh God, let me work overtime to repair this relationship.”
Us: Right. As for Daniel, he told me that you both agreed under no circumstances would you risk your votes. Did that conversation really happen?
CH: That conversation never happened. And the reason I’m gonna say it never happened, No. 1, it never happened. But No. 2, we had no idea that Ship Wheel Island was a recurring thing. We thought, “OK, this is gonna be similar to the summit on Millennials vs. Gen X, where they go one time, they might have, like, PB and J, or they might just kind of chat or whatever. And then that’s it. It never happened again in the episode. And so when we’re at the challenge and Jeff told Taku to send someone to Ship Wheel Island, we’re like, “Oh, that’s that’s back? That’s a thing?” And so there was no conversation ever about risking a vote or not risking a vote. That was that. It just literally never happened.
Us: Interesting. So when you got back to camp, knowing that you probably lost your vote, did you consider revealing it right then. Why wait until tribal?
CH: So here’s the thing: I did consider that. I wanted to bring in my closest ally, which is why I told Daniel about it. But there was a world where me not having a vote, Mike not having a vote, it could cause Jenny to flip and Daniel to flip to say, like, “Let’s just take out Chanelle.” Right? And so I didn’t want to open a door of like, “Well, Chanelle, you risked your goal. That means you go home.” And so it was more of protection and me thinking that I could probably [do] damage control after the fact.
Us: Oh, OK. Makes sense. At what point did your game unravel? Was it that first tribal? Did you ever recover from that?
CH: It was the first tribal. It was quite literally when Daniel threw me under the bus at that tribal. I was like, “I don’t know how to recover from this.” And I’m gonna be playing from the bottom for the rest of the game.” And that’s exactly what we saw. Because once he did that, I had to go back to camp and I’m like, “All right, well, all I have right now is information. And so I’m going to use this information to make Daniel out to be worse than I am.” And so that’s when I went back to camp and I’m like, “Yo, Mike, Daniel told me about your idol. He told me about this. He told me about that. He’s not keeping your secrets.” And that put a lot of the blame on Daniel. I think that’s mostly like what happened. And so ever since then, I was able to shift the blame and all of that onto Daniel. But once he was gone, it’s just me, you know?
After that tribal council, I was just like, “You going to have to work really hard to recover from it.” And again, the thing that I didn’t anticipate was, like, man, I’m so logical. And the way that I do the game is, like, in the eyes of the greats. Good Survivor players, you might get blindsided. And what do you do when you come back to camp? You go “Good game.” Like, “All respect, no hard feelings.” Right? And so I’m operating under the premise that you guys are all playing like good Survivor players, and y’all are gonna be fine 10 days down the line, like, off of something that happened on day seven. I guess that was my blunder, not estimating and not understanding that people are playing a game. Maybe not like the greats, maybe not as strategic as I thought, or maybe not as logical as myself.
Us: Right, maybe a little personal. In terms of you and Daniel, have you guys had conversations since? Are you guys OK or you’re not super close?
CH: No, I mean, I’m absolutely cool with Daniel, like, we’re friends. I’m honestly friends with everyone on the cast. There’s no hard feelings. And the reason that I say that is because Survivor is a hard game and, like, Daniel probably felt like he had no other options. And I don’t blame him for being sleep-deprived, starved and in this weird, weird space. And he had a meltdown at tribal. And I’m not saying that I would’ve done the same thing, but I can’t fault him for that because, I mean, it’s easy to happen. And I feel like there was one chaotic moment and ever since then it was just, like, we couldn’t recover from it – just like I had my one moment that I couldn’t recover from. And most people have their moments, the differences is a lot of people can recover from them. We just couldn’t. I don’t hold anything against him or anything like that.
Us: Well, that’s good. All comes back to that one tribal. So what was your plan for after the merge? Who did you want to work with?
CH: So, I did try to put together an alliance. It never makes the air because it doesn’t take off, but I did try to work with Hai, Drea and Rocksroy with Omar on the side. And I actually was a lot closer to Hai than the edit shows, which is why it kind of stung to watch it back and to see the isolation. But we were actually a lot closer. Hai was actually my day one alliance on the island. I wanted to put together an alliance of Hai, Rocksroy and Drea and have Omar on the side. I also had a really good relationship with Lindsay as well. And so, I was like, “You know what? I might not begin the core group, but as long as I have enough individual relationships that might shield my name if it’s brought up, I will be able to make it to a place where I can get my footing.”
Us: Do you think you would have had a chance to stay had Tori not won immunity?
CH: Yeah, I do think Tori would’ve been the one to go home because in the last days – and again, it’s a lot that you guys don’t see – but in the last days, I was really starting to rebuild a lot of those bridges, like with Hai and even I think with Omar. There was a lot of talk of like, “OK, wait, something’s not adding up about what Vati’s doing to Chanelle. It’s starting to feel like a pile on, like, she doesn’t seem sneaky. She’s chilling out the whole time. She’s cool, calm and collected.” People were starting to then doubt what Vati came into the merge saying. And so I think that had there been more options on the table, I think that I probably would’ve stayed, and I would’ve maybe had a new-ish lease on the game. Because the perspective of me was shifting a lot in that last day, which is why we see the scramble of, like, maybe “Chanelle’s not the right vote-out.” And then we see Mike dig his heels and like, “No, no, no, she’s gotta go.”
Us: So maybe if you had another day or a little more time…
CH: Which is hard with the 26-day game, right? Because in a regular game for 39 days, you might have three days in between tribal where you can really build those bonds. But with 26 days, there’s literally no time.
Us: Very good point. So are you interested in playing Survivor again?
CH: I mean, I think anyone who says they wouldn’t is probably lying, so yeah, I would. Honestly, playing Survivor is gonna be on the highlight reel of my life, so yeah.
Us: And as a fan, what did you think of this accelerated version of the game?
CH: As a fan, I’m just happy and grateful to play. Would I have preferred to play a 39-day game? 100 percent, absolutely. I want the true and authentic Survivor experience, but I think with the roadblock that they did place – like, the no rice, you gotta, fight for flint, which, I mean, honestly, we didn’t have a fire. Vati was the laziest tribe. We literally did not have a fire after day two and we never tried to make it again. So I think with the accelerated version, it’s harder in its own ways. Like I just said before in terms of not having the time to rebuild the relationships, it’s harder in its own ways. And so while it’s shorter, I would prefer a longer game. It’s probably just as hard. Maybe slightly less, because I can imagine the psychological toll that takes on you over more time, but yeah, I think it’s pretty on par.
Us: I know we have to wrap up, but I always ask players: Do you think there was anything you could have done at tribal council to stay or was your fate sealed when you walked in?
CH: You know what, the only thing I could have done is play my Shot in the Dark. But outside of that, no one is changing their mind at tribal council. No one is changing their mind at tribal council, especially in a group of 11, right? At 11, you’re like, “Man, I just hope it’s not me.” No one’s thinking about end game. No one’s thinking four steps ahead. It’s, like, at 11 you are just finding your place. Like, “OK, let me just solidify an alliance, vote right the first time so that they know that they can trust me and we can move forward.” No one is changing their vote at tribal. Tribal is for formality that you just do. In very rare circumstances will someone change their vote at tribal.
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