'Survivor' 's Monica Talks Strategy & Losing Weight

Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS

Monica Padilla, 25, celebrated law school graduation by immediately signing up for Survivor: Samoa. As she became the sixth juror on last week’s episode, the San Diego-based stunner revealed her final-vote criteria with PEOPLE and talked about losing 17 lbs — and gaining it back and then some! –Carrie Bell

You went out with a bang. Did you figure going home was a done deal so why not stir the pot?I did everything I could to stay in the game. I knew I was going home so I was ready to make some big moves. You can only keep everything in for so long. I restrained my temper for 32 days and were driving me nuts. Other than the confessionals, you have no outlet. I wasn’t just pushing buttons to push buttons. I thought I might be able to convince some to change votes. I had been on the chopping block many times and I had scuttled my way out every time.

Were you successful in ruffling Russell’s feathers?I exposed cracks in his armor for both the in the game and for the who will make up the final jury. The things that I did will help determine who gets sent home next and possibly who vote for.

It came out that you all knew Russell had lied about being a fireman and is actually a multi-millionaire. Who told you the truth and when did you find out?Jaison told us although I already had an idea that Russell wasn’t the noble hero he made himself out to be because when I made a pact with him, I made him promise on his fireman’s oath. When he turned back on that deal, I knew he was either not a fireman or he was a piece of crap or both. The fact that he didn’t evade that promise and he deliberately lied made me question.

You said you’d cast your vote based on need and as he didn’t need it, he wouldn’t get your vote. Is that really your criteria?It’s a factor for sure. But you don’t go on Survivor to decide who is the best charity case. You go to find the best player so you have to consider a lot of different factors when making that final decision.

You suggested that Russell couldn’t win against Shambo because of the number of original Galu members on the jury. If it came down to that, do you honestly believe would vote based on original tribal loyalty?When I was making that argument, I didn’t believe it at all. Shambo was a key turning point in the vote so I needed her out. But looking back, I can see how could respect the moves she made even though all were based on emotion. She totally annoyed the hell out of me all the time, but she’s not a bad person. She just made some moves that interfered with my game. You can’t take any of this personally. Not even the names Russell called me. Unlike in chess, the are your pieces in this game and tempers flare.

How shocking was the first look in a mirror?I didn’t feel like I lost that much, but I lost nearly 17 pounds. She started at 111. When I looked in the mirror, I was skeletal. I barely recognized the gross girl looking back. I figured I’d immediately go back to normal but my stomach was in an uproar, like my body forgot how to digest. I suffered for days at Ponderosa. Sometimes I wouldn’t even get out of bed. Now I’m all screwed up. I have no self-control and gained everything back plus an additional 10 pounds. Moderation is not a word that describes my diet. If you take me to a buffet, it’s all over, so I force myself to stay home and cook.

What’s next on the to do list?I’m working at a law firm but hoping to move to L.A. to start working in entertainment law. I was also a theater major and played Pocahontas at Disneyworld and did commercials so I’d like to revisit that while I’m still at an age I can. Monty Brinton/CBS

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