Poor, poor Kristina. That's what I was thinking last night when Kristina Kell was ousted from "Survivor: Redemption Island" after losing a duel to now three-time winner Matt.
But don't fret, because she sure isn't. Although she's the first of the eight Southern California residents on the current season to leave the show, Kristina has got a lot going on. And she still loves the show, even after I told her I felt she was forgotten briefly amid host Jeff Probst's questioning of Matt, Rob and Stephanie right before she was sent home.
"You have to understand, they're cutting a lot of stuff," Kristina said. "If Matt wants to chat away with Rob, that's fabulous because I can work on the puzzle [while he does so]."
I asked Kristina that age-old "Survivor" question: if she has any regrets, after coming out so strong from the get-go. She said she had no choice.
"The girls [Natalie and Ashley] were starstruck by Rob," she said, "and I couldn't lay on the beach all day and pick at my face. I had to try and hold on for as long as I could. There's also a big age difference between the girls and myself, 20 years."
Kristina also alluded to a bit of pride in her game-play, which likely stemmed from her greater maturity.
"I'm not going to bound down the beach like Bo Derek in '10,' she said. "I didn't want to get to the end and be, like, 'I'm here for my million but didn't do [anything]."
Of course, in my mind, the girls weren't the biggest part of Kristina's undoing. That honor goes to the supposed former federal agent, Phillip, who Kristina said she had to play with from the beginning because she didn't have numbers. She said she doesn't even regret that first tribal council, where Phillip put her whole game on blast.
"A couple of hours before tribal, I felt I'd lose him, and he was running around with his hands in the air telling me and Francesca that he'd tell our whole plan to everyone," she said. "He's a very difficult man ... showing the [hidden immunity idol] wasn't something I wanted to do."
Kristina said that even with Phillip running around like a chicken with its head cut off (as I imagine it with the new info), she was surprised at his outbursts at that first tribal council, because she had no idea he'd blown the whole plan.
She did have many nice adjectives for Francesca, though ("she's fabulous ... love her"), and named some other players she would have liked to align with in the game.
"Andrea was on the fence," she said. "She wanted Rob out, but didn't want to make a bold move. I talked to Matt too."
Kristina said she's very grateful to a lot of people who supported her, to the show for the experience and to the medias. She said she catches up with Francesca every now and then and talks to Matt too.
But right now she's in the middle of her last semester at the University of La Verne College of Law. In addition, she and her husband are keeping busy running a store in Los Feliz called Glory Sales and Service, with all products made in America. She said she also volunteers with families of autistic children, pushing for early intervention and helping the parents of the newly diagnosed.
"It's scary, and it's something I know about," she said, talking about her own autistic child.
As with Russell last week, I asked Kristina who she would put money on to win this season, and who she personally wants to win. She said Matt on both counts.
"If Matt makes it back into the game for the merge, he's a force to be reckoned with," she said. "He's got charm, talent and wants revenge."
I also asked the admitted "Survivor" super-fan what it was like to be a spectator at last week's duel and witness the end (?) of the Russell era.
"It was fascinating, happy I was there for that," she said. "He's definitely a character and a brilliant 'Survivor' player. I watched him a long time in awe ... to see him cry -- it's an emotional game, so it wasn't a surprise. If you hate him or love him, you can't deny he loves this game."
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— Anthony Williams
Twitter.com / anthonyw_ent
Photos: Matt Elrod and Kristina Kell compete in a duel on "Survivor: Redemption Island." Credit: CBS