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Stephanie Valencia

Despite being a strong competitor, Stephanie Valencia found herself eliminated on Survivor: Redemption Island after making the fatal error of teaming up with Russell Hantz.

In a new interview with PEOPLE, the 25-year-old waitress discusses why she chose to align with known villain Russell and stay loyal to him, plus the reason she let it all out when leaving Redemption Island. Excerpts are below -

Did you know aligning with Russell would put you on the wrong side of the numbers?
I had no idea the sheer panic that his presence brought to the other tribe mates. I didn’t understand it. I mean, I know he had this reputation, but if we had kept winning we wouldn’t have had to worry about it. Then we get to the merge and you can get rid of him if you really can’t stand him.

You could have jumped ship when you knew Russell was going down.
I didn’t want to come off fake. I didn’t want to be like, “Everything’s fine.” My feelings were hurt. He was part of my alliance and now I have to try and be two-faced with these people and say, “I’m glad we got rid of Russell! Things are better around camp.” I just couldn’t do that. I thought maybe they would respect my loyalty.

You definitely made all your feelings known when leaving Redemption Island.
I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to cry. But I couldn’t hold it back, and I was like, “Well, I’m already crying, let me say everything that’s on my mind.” I felt so much better after letting Rob know that [Zapatera] can’t be trusted. I don’t want them to succeed. When I take losses in real life, I feel like I’m a lot more graceful. But this isn’t real life – it’s a game.

A new episode of Survivor airs tonight on CBS at 8/7c during which the tribes will be merged, and someone from Redemption Island will get to return to the game! It seems like the decision by the Zapateras to chose strength over loyalty (David over Sarita) right before the merge might come back to hunt them.

TELL US – DID THE ZAPATERA TRIBE MAKE AN ERROR BY CHOOSING DAVID OVER SARITA? ROOTING FOR MATT TO COME BACK INTO THE GAME?

Just a few weeks following the finale of season 21, CBS is now unveiling the cast of the all new 22nd season of Survivor: Redemption Island, which will reportedly include two former all-stars.

The battle begins this season in Nicaragua where the 18 castaways will be divided into two Tribes of nine: the Ometepe Tribe and the Zapatera Tribe. The tribes are comprised of individuals from all different backgrounds with the same ultimate goal: to be the Sole Survivor. While 16 of the contestants are new to the competition, two are former castaways who will be given another chance to compete for the million dollar prize and one last shot at redemption.

CBS has released the names of 16 out of the 18 castaways with the promise to reveal the final 2 contestants at the end of this week. It is heavily rumored that those two remaining contestants are none other than rivals Russell Hantz and Rob Mariano. Their return would definitely make for an interesting season.

As we have previously reported, this season of Survivor will be a bit different thanks to some new rules. In fact, host Jeff Probst explained the rule changes two weeks ago. The biggest change being that eliminated contestants do not leave the game but instead go instead to the “Redemption Island,” where he or she will face off against the next person voted off in a duel.

The loser goes home with the duel winner going on to face the next arrival at Redemption Island until one person is left standing. That individual will get a chance to return to the game. The other rule change is that producers will get to decide whether or not people who quit the game during the jury stage will get to stay and vote for a winner.

The new season of Survivor premieres February 16 at 8/7c on CBS. The cast photos and bios below -

CLICK THE CONTINUE READING BUTTON TO SEE THE CAST PHOTOS AND BIOS!

UPDATE – CBS has now confirmed that the remaining two castaways are returning vets Rob Mariano and Russell Hantz.

“Having never been awarded the title of Sole Survivor, Hantz and Mariano return to compete for the $1 million prize and one last shot at redemption,” CBS said in a statement. “They will each join a separate tribe of all new castaways at the start of the game, but it is the tribe who will ultimately decide if they will welcome the knowledge of an experienced veteran, or view these former castaways as a threat.”

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