'Survivor: Philippines' winner Denise Stapley on Abi's 'shocking' vote, Malcolm's betrayal and outing Lisa

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CANCEL
denise-stapley-winner-survivor.jpgAfter warming a seat in every single Tribal Council this season on "Survivor: Philippines", Denise Stapley received the votes that mattered most, claiming the title of Sole Survivor and the million-dollar prize.

Zap2it caught up with one of the toughest women in the history of the show, who is still dazed about her "surreal" win.

Were you truly surprised -- did you think one of the others would win?
I've never allowed myself to think this is going to happen. There was lots of doubt, from that last Tribal Council. Initially I had this feeling like, "OK, I think I have it." I've had months to think and rethink -- [and I thought there's no way that Abi would vote for me.

And yet your nemesis sided with you over her original tribemates!
Abi's vote really shocked me. I knew it wouldn't be Skupin after she had lovingly called him an idiot and a moron, [but] she had that alliance with Lisa though so I thought for sure she would vote for her.

Does that change your opinion of Abi in any way?
[Laughs.] No! I love Abi to death -- Abi is Abi, luckily outside of the game we have made our peace and I think she's going to grow from this experience ... people ask, "Is she as bad as it looked?" And we all say, "It was worse. It was horrible." But outside of the game Abi and I are good.

Do you regret any of the comments you made about Abi?
I definitely regretted saying Abi's just not a kind person -- but I don't regret the essence of the comments ... One thing that just kind of clicking with me now: I don't think we see a lot of women on the show who are that vocal calmly, instead of a catfight. I think it's different to see a strong female player just confidently speaking her mind in that way to another female player. If it was two men going at it, I don't think we'd be having the same conversation.

Aside from the outcome what surprised you the most during the game?
What surprised me the most was how quickly Malcolm was ready to turn on me, so early. I was always willing to take him to the finals. I wanted him with me 100 percent, and I wouldn't have turned on him if he would've given me confirmation that he wasn't going to turn on me. I was surprised watching the season unfold and [realizing], "He is so going to slice my throat!" And luckily my shank was bigger.

Did you know Lisa was a child star?
I did. At last night's Tribal Council it looked like I [was shocked], but I knew that woman was a child actress the minute I saw her. And I told her that when she was pinning me so kindly in the mud for that mud ball challenge. I said, "Hey, does anybody know who you are?" And she said, No, and I'd like to keep it that way for as long as I can." And then I'm the one who outed her to Penner!

Have you heard from your clients since your win?
I've had many clients say already, like, "Hey I really hope you aren't rethinking coming back to the office and thanks so much -- if that isn't an endorsement for a great therapist." I feel lucky to work with [them]. I'll be ready to go back to work after the new year and life will resume, like normal.

So what are you planning to do with the money?
We are going to breathe. We have a 9-year-old daughter and I just want to make sure our future for her is well planned -- college funding, you know -- so we have some decisions to make about how we're going to be good stewards of this incredible gift that Survivor has just given us. We're just thankful.
Photo/Video credit: CBS