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Survivor's Michaela Bradshaw Dishes on Her Tense and Dramatic Tribal Council Exit: 'I Was Glad to Go Out in Style'

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It was the “what” heard ’round the world.

“I was in shock,” Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X contestant Michaela Bradshaw, 25, tells PEOPLE of her dramatic exit after being eliminated on Wednesday’s episode of the CBS reality competition. “It was hard to watch that tribal council. But I was glad to go out in style.”

Now back home in Fort Worth, Texas, the vacation club saleswoman reflects on her on-island rivalry with Figgy, why she didn’t realize people saw her as a threat and all about that intense final exchange with Jay, the former ally who sent her packing last night.

Monty Brinton/CBS Entertainment

During the first few days of the season, it seemed like you could have been the first person sent home.
If we would have lost the first challenge, I 100 percent would have gotten votes. Part of the reason you didn’t really hear from me during the first episode is that barely anyone from my tribe would talk to me. It was that apparent that I was at the bottom of the tribe. But instead of running around the beach scrambling and telling lies, I just took a step back and observed and then would go up to people who were key players — mainly Jay and Michelle — and telling them useful information about what was going on. I pointed out that there was a group forming against them and suddenly I became a swing vote. That’s how my name came off the ballot and it became Figgy and Mari in danger. I got very lucky that we didn’t have to go to tribal council right away, because that took a few days to accomplish.

Why did you and Figgy not get along?
When we got to the island, there was a lot of work to do. We were warned that there was bad weather coming and I wanted to focus on building the shelter. Everyone was running into the woods to get bamboo and Figgy was the one person who would go out and then come back with nothing to show for it. Then she started kissing and hanging out with Taylor. I didn’t appreciate her need for attention and she didn’t connect with my taskmaster nature and our tension grew from there. We had different desires. I wanted to work and make the shelter. She wanted to talk to all the guys. But we’re fine now.

You didn’t seem happy at all when the tribe switch-up happened and you headed to a brand new camp.
I didn’t want to have to build a new camp from scratch! But as far as the people I was with, I felt very fortunate. If I’d been with any of the other Millenials, I could have been in trouble. I knew if I was on a tribe with Figgy and Taylor, I’d be in trouble. And I had no idea where I stood with Zeke or Adam. But with Jay separated from Michelle, I knew I could work with him and I really got along great with Will and Hannah. I loved Bret and Sunday too. We really did like each other as a tribe of six.

You seemed excited to share your final-four plan with Will, Hannah and Jay. Did you realize at the time that the boys saw that as a reason to get rid of you?
I was just trying to reassure my Millennials that we could make it to the end together. I never realized my strategizing would scare Will and Jay. Watching at home, I was sitting there thinking, “Michaela, you should have kept your brilliance to yourself! Everybody doesn’t need to know the plan. And just because you want to go to the end with someone, that doesn’t mean they want to go with you.” That was a huge mistake and a huge red flag I put on myself.

You had a very heated exchange with Jay after the votes were revealed. He had some intense eye contact with you.
In that moment he was standing up for what he did and I give props for that. If you’re going to make a big move, own it. The first thing Will said was, “I’m sorry.” Don’t be sorry. You did it. Jay said, “I did this and I’m sticking with it.” And if nothing else, I can respect that. This is Survivor. This is a game where you make moves and you take action. Yeah, it sucks that a move was taken against me and I got sent home. But as a competitor, I can respect his betrayal. At least he was honest about it.

If you get to play the game again, what would you do differently?
I would keep chill and let other people feel like they were running the show. If I have a plan in my mind, I don’t need to verbalize it! And I’d also not be as trusting. Just because I’m loyal and trustworthy, that doesn’t mean other people will reciprocate that. I have to realize that someone being truthful is going to be more rare than someone lying. I’d say I’d try and not be as competitive in competitions but I don’t think I could hold back if I thought I could keep us from going to tribal council.

Survivor airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on CBS.