She was the Great Manipulator, Survivor: Vanuatu's female answer to first season winner Richard Hatch – only she didn't last as long. Lakewood, Colo., barista Ami Cusack, 31, became the second target of the newly struck alliance among Eliza, Scout, Twila and Chris, getting booted off this week in a 4-2 vote. Cusack talked to PEOPLE about fighting to the end and rewarding herself with some fine dining.
How do you feel about the comparisons to Richard Hatch?
I was talking to him about it – Richard Hatch, the legend! The man! – and I think it’s fun to be compared to Richard Hatch. I take it as a compliment.
What did your girlfriend Crissy think of it all?
When I saw her, I had total and complete joy. I thought she would think I’d smell, but she said, "You just kind of smell like campfire," and I’m like, "Really?" At least she did not get to smell the guys. The guys smelled so bad.
After Leann’s surprise vote-off last week did you think you'd be next?
I certainly didn’t give up at that point. I had to go for it. I had to win immunity and I knew I needed to. I was trying to knock off Chris’s (shuffleboard pieces in the challenge), but his were next to mine and unfortunately I knocked my own off. I knew the second after I released it that I missed. I knew.
But you reaped the perks of the reward change, going overnight at a hotel.
I had steak, crème brulée, wine, dumplings, you name it, and I kept eating! I actually smuggled french fries on a plate and ate them in my room.
Watching yourself on TV must be interesting. What are some reactions you're hearing from people?
The best thing I can relate it to is (as if) all of a sudden you are watching a home movie that all of America cares about. People say, "You are so cocky!" but I thought I was confident. People on the street are like, "Ami!" And I’m like, "Do I know you from somewhere?"
You gained weight before taping began. Did that help?
Yes. I put on about 20 lbs. before the show because I figured about 20 lbs. could last me 20 days. If I couldn’t find something to eat before 20 days were through, then that would be a problem. When I left the show, I had lost about 20 lbs. So it balanced out.