November 19, 2010 11:30 AM

The “king” is dead. Despite being in the power position for much of the current season of Survivor, Miami’s Brenda Lowe, 27, was betrayed by her alliance and forced out in a swift shift in power. The paddleboard-company owner spoke with PEOPLE about the treachery, underestimating the other players and why she’s no longer a sore loser.

Was the shift in power as sudden as it seemed on TV?
It was very, very sudden. The biggest shock was finding out at almost the last second that it was NaOnka. She had already planned it, said it, people had signed up. It was too late. There was no way to reverse it. It was so intense to go from feeling like you were in control to being voted out.

It seemed like getting rid of Marty, which was strategically smart, is also what made the others consider you a threat.
I wanted to vote out Jane who was much more of a threat, but I had to stick with my alliance. They didn’t want to [upset] Chase by mentioning Jane as a possibility. Sash and I felt uncomfortable with it but we didn’t want to ruffle too many feathers. Little did I know that it would be my downfall.

Why didn’t you scramble to save yourself?
My only hope was that I had a strategy and an alliance that had worked so far and I thought if I showed Sash and Chase they could trust me to the last second, maybe they would save me. If I had gone around talking to Benry, Jane and Fabio, how would I look to them? My best option was Sash’s idol so I couldn’t afford to make him question my loyalty.

Did you expect Sash to give you the idol?
No. I didn’t look at him when Jeff asked for idols with a big grin on my face like, “Thank you very much for the idol, Sash.” I knew chances were very slim.

Did it feel like a betrayal?
It bothered me big time. I’d always felt safe because my two best buddies had idols. But it was a reality check. It’s like, “Brenda, who are you kidding? They’re playing a game to win too. Would you give it up? Probably not.” NaOnka is just crazy so I get why she didn’t. Sash must have faith in something else like another alliance to feel comfortable enough to not save me. But I get it because I knew I might have to take him out at some point.

Were you more let down by NaOnka, Chase or Sash?
NaOnka. It was her plan. Chase and Sash didn’t instigate it. Once the ball was rolling, they couldn’t stop it, so why stick their necks out . . . when they couldn’t have saved me anyway?

Can you admit it was smart to eliminate you?
It was a smart play. Obviously these people weren’t as dumb as I thought. I underestimated them and that was a huge mistake for me.

What did you learn on Survivor that you can take back to real life?
I was forced to become a better loser and a bigger person in Nicaragua. I had to admit that they beat me. It was hard to swallow for someone as competitive as me. But I grew up and realized it’s just a game.

Was there a physical toll as well?
I lost 14 pounds and all shape that I had going in. I got super dark and I have all these bug bites and scars all over my body that are still visible today. I lost hair because of the malnutrition. It sounds miserable but it’s part of what you signed up for in order to play this great game.

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