In Kaôh Rōng, Michele made strong social relationships with her peers and utilized them to secure a place in the majority alliance after the merge. Her fluid social standing allowed her to make it to the final four even after losing her number one ally Julia Sokolowski, then herself being the target of an Extra Vote play by Tai Trang. She won a crucial Final Immunity Challenge, as well as an unprecedented advantage to strip a juror of their right to attend and vote at the Final Tribal Council. While she was not seen as the most strategically capable of the three finalists, Michele's social game, growth, and overall sincerity won her the title of Sole Survivor in a 5-2-0 vote.
Michele returned in Winners at War on a mission to prove her worth as a winner. She started in a considerable position on the Sele tribe as a recent winner, though found herself in a precarious position after a Tribe Switch as she not only found herself in the minority, but also on the same tribe as her ex-boyfriend Wendell Holland. Despite several early setbacks, Michele managed to reached the merge, where she would use her position as an underdog to collect a substantial amount of Fire Tokens. Michele would continue to keep herself alive in the game by winning a crucial Immunity Challenge, playing a 50/50 Coin advantage before an important vote, and aligning with Natalie Anderson upon her return from Edge of Extinction. Michele eventually clawed her way to the Final Tribal Council alongside Natalie and Tony Vlachos where she was praised for her perseverance, but overlooked by the jury in favor of Tony's dominant gameplay. She ultimately placed third with no votes to win.
Because of her successful run, being able to make it to the end both times mostly with her people skills, Michele's name has become synonymous with masterful social game.
Retrieved from CBS.com
Name (Age): Michele Fitzgerald (24)
Why You Think You'll "Survive" Survivor: My positivity. I wouldn't let anything dampen my spirit. Enthusiasm is electric, and that attitude would shape the tone around camp. I may be a Jersey girl, but don't let that fool you. I have no problem roughin' it.
Why You Think You Will Be the Sole Survivor: I've watched every season, so I know what it takes to be successful on this show. Using my charm, I think I can build strong relationships and lead an alliance without being viewed as aggressive. My social awareness will help me understand and use people's strengths, weaknesses and motives to my advantage. I'm not gonna play on the sidelines. I want to make big, badass moves that will get me further in the game, and have fun doing it.
Hometown: Freehold, New Jersey
Hobbies: I love to travel and play board games.
Pet peeves: People who eat smelly foods on planes, people who invade personal space, and a bad martini.
Three words to describe you: Feisty, fun, and free spirited.
When did you first watch Survivor? I started watching Season 1 at the age of 10.
Do you still watch Survivor? Absolutely! In my completely unbiased opinion, it's the greatest TV show of all time.
Who is your inspiration in life? My family inspires me every day. They are the most thoughtful, funny, and loving people I have ever met and they always push me to be better.
What does Survivor mean to you and your family? My family and I have always watched Survivor together so it is pretty sentimental. Being on the show has also allowed me to be involved with the Survivor community and I am lucky enough to call many of them my friends.
What is one way playing Survivor changed your life? Winning Survivor gave me the confidence to know that I can do anything I set my mind to. I did not win by being the smartest or strongest; I won by being myself. I think realizing that in my mid-20s was really pivotal in shaping how I handle challenges.
As Survivor approaches Season 40 and celebrates 20 years on television, what does it mean to be a part of the legacy? As a super fan, I am absolutely honored to be a small part of a huge legacy. Winning my first season was surreal. Now, I get to return with winners that I admire... I am pinching myself.
How will you play differently than you did in your past season? I don't think I will play much differently. In my first season, I learned that I am able to calmly adapt to changing circumstances and this is valuable in a game where paranoia runs rampant. Since I am a social player, I will lean into that and make as many personal connections as possible. I would like to make some fun, big moves this time but they have to be smart and not just for shock factor. The one thing that feels really important is advocating for my own story so that at the final Tribal I have a compelling narrative. Lately, we have seen a trend of strong, confident males winning Survivor so I want to show that you can have a different approach and still be worthy of the title Sole Survivor. The pressure is on this season because everyone wants to prove they are the best to ever play the game so I am expecting fireworks and lots of big moves.
Assigned to the Beauty tribe, Michele quickly bonded with Anna Khait and Julia Sokolowski to form a women's alliance. They had considered recruiting Tai Trang as a fourth member of their alliance to gain the majority, but the girls quickly lost trust in him after they caught him searching for a Hidden Immunity Idol. However, Gondol proved to be the most dominant of the three tribes as they won the first two Immunity Challenges, putting any plans on hold. When Tai reluctantly decided to help kill the chickens, he got emotional, having his tribe comfort him except Nick Maiorano, who offered no empathy. But Nick's attitude set the girls against him as they tried to recruit Caleb Reynolds in voting Nick out. However, Gondol won the next Immunity Challenge on Day 8, once again putting plans on hold. Gondol faced their first setback on Day 9 when Caleb was medically evacuated due to heat stroke after the Reward Challenge, but Gondol managed to bounce back from his evacuation by winning the next Immunity Challenge.
When the Tribe Switch occurred on Day 12, the Beauty girls were separated from each other as Michele was switched to the new Chan Loh tribe along with Nick, Anna stayed on Gondol, and Julia was exiled to the former To Tang camp. The new Chan Loh tribe won the next Immunity Challenge on Day 13, keeping Michele safe again. During the next Reward Challenge that involved releasing a set of buoys from a net, Michele struggled to release the buoys, putting Chan Loh behind and losing the challenge. Back at camp, Michele was distraught as Anna had been voted out at the last Tribal Council, and she worried that her performance in the Reward Challenge would make her a target, but Debbie Wanner assured her that she was safe and the two aligned against Kyle Jason. Nick, however, told Michele not to align with Debbie, but Michele did not appreciate Nick's patronizing attitude. Gondol then won the last Immunity Challenge before the merge on Day 16, abstaining Michele from Tribal Council once again.
When the tribes merged into the Dara tribe on Day 17, Michele and Nick became potential swing votes as the Brain and Brawn alliances were vying for their votes. After Nick won the first individual Immunity Challenge on Day 19, Michele and Nick decided to join the Brawn alliance, as they felt that Jason and Scot Pollard's arrogance made them least likely to get jury votes at the end. However, before Tribal Council, host Jeff Probst and a doctor came to visit the camp to inspect injuries that the castaways sustained. This resulted in Neal Gottlieb being evacuated after he was diagnosed with a life-threatening infection and became the first member of the jury.
After the next Immunity Challenge, Cydney Gillon approached Michele and Julia about targeting Nick for being a threat to the Brawn alliance. However, Michele and Julia debated sticking with the Brawn-Beauty coalition to target Debbie or make a bigger move by joining the Dara Women's Alliance in blindsiding Nick. At Tribal Council, Michele and Julia ultimately joined the women's alliance in blindsiding Nick, making him the second juror. The alliance initially decided to betray Julia for playing a double agent, but their plan was thwarted when Julia won immunity. Cydney and Aubry Bracco then wanted to target Debbie for her volatility after she failed to realize the fact that Jason or Scot had an idol and that Julia was playing both sides. At Tribal Council, Michele joined Aubry, Cydney, and Julia in blindsiding Debbie. After the next Immunity Challenge, the women's plan was initially to vote out Tai to flush out his idol, but Aubry tried shifting the target to Scot. At Tribal Council, Michele and Julia were left out of the plan when Tai turned on Jason and Scot, refusing to form the super idol and blindsiding Scot with Jason's idol in his possession.
Michele was confused when she was left out of Scot's elimination and felt that she and Julia were on the outs. Michele and Cydney won the next Reward Challenge and chose Aubry to go with them. During the reward, Michele tried to reintegrate herself into their alliance as Aubry and Cydney wanted to take out Jason and Julia before taking out Tai for being too likable at the end. After Michele won a critical Immunity Challenge at the final seven, the majority alliance decided to target Julia over Jason for her challenge and social prowess, but Michele was worried as Julia has been her closest ally since Day 1, so Michele and Cydney debated on targeting Julia or Tai. At Tribal Council, Michele ultimately turned on Julia, sending her closest ally to the jury.
After Julia's elimination, Michele hoped that by voting out her closest ally, she had gained trust in the majority alliance. However, Tai wanted to blindside Michele for her likability. After the Immunity Challenge, Cydney leaked Tai's scheming to Michele, forcing Michele to have to do damage control. At Tribal Council, Tai tried to throw Michele under the bus saying that she was on the bottom of the majority alliance, but Michele ratted him out about his disloyalty, mainly when he turned on Jason and Scot and how he had floated with the majority in almost every vote he was a part of. Tai used an Extra Vote advantage to cast two votes against Michele, but the majority alliance stuck to their original plan in sending Jason to the jury.
Following Jason's elimination, Joe del Campo won the next Reward Challenge and chose to share the reward with Aubry and Cydney. Back at camp, Michele and Tai made amends and planned to target Aubry. However, unknown to her, when Aubry returned to camp the next morning, Aubry made amends with Tai and decided to go to the end with Joe, while Michele and Cydney teamed up against Aubry and Joe. However, Joe started feeling ill as a result of feasting at the last reward. After his condition started getting worse, the medical team decided to pull him from the game.
After Joe was evacuated, Michele was targeted by Aubry and Tai for her close personal relationships with the jury. After Aubry won the final four Reward Challenge, she chose to share the reward with Cydney to try to weaken Michele for the Final Immunity Challenge. Back at camp, Michele tried to convince Tai to break up Aubry and Cydney's partnership. At the Final Immunity Challenge, Michele came from behind to win immunity, thwarting Aubry's plan. Michele and Cydney then decided to target Aubry as they felt that she was the best likely speaker going into the Final Tribal Council and tried to get Tai to flip. At Tribal Council, Michele and Cydney stuck to their plan voting Aubry, but Tai switched his vote to Cydney, forcing a tie and causing a fire-making tiebreaker to occur. Aubry won the challenge, making Cydney the final jury member, and making Michele, Aubry, and Tai the Final Three.
Michele then won an unprecedented final Reward Challenge on Day 38, which gave her the right to deny a juror of their voting rights. She considered removing Joe for his unfaltering loyalty to Aubry, Neal for his loyalty to Aubry and persuasiveness, or Scot being the victim of Tai's biggest move in the game. Aubry campaigned hard for Scot to be eliminated, knowing that Joe and Neal were her guaranteed votes. At Tribal Council, Michele ultimately voted Neal out of the jury, feeling that he could easily persuade the jury into voting Aubry. Before leaving Tribal Council, Neal said some harsh words to Michele to try and throw her off her case going into the Final Tribal Council.
At the Final Tribal Council, Michele was reprimanded for coasting during the pre-merge, but was praised for working her way back into the majority after Scot's elimination by turning on Julia and winning two Immunity Challenges. Scot openly advocated for Michele, citing that Aubry's game became less impressive near the end while Michele finished strong. Michele's social game ultimately helped her beat out Aubry and Tai in a 5-2-0 vote, becoming the Sole Survivor of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng.
|Michele's Voting History|
|1||Gondol Tribe Immune|
|2||Gondol Tribe Immune|
|3||Gondol Tribe Immune|
|4||Gondol Tribe Immune|
|5||Chan Loh Tribe Immune|
|6||Chan Loh Tribe Immune|
|7||No Tribal Council|
|13||No Tribal Council|
Jason, Julia, Scot
|Sole Survivor, Day 39|
Winners at War
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|Michele's Voting History|
|Sele Tribe Immune|
|4||Sele Tribe Immune|
|5||Sele Tribe Immune|
|Second Runner-Up, Day 39|
^1 In "The Penultimate Step of the War", Michele used a 50/50 coin advantage which landed on "Safe", negating 2 votes against her.
^2 In "It All Boils Down to This", Ben used a Hidden Immunity Idol, negating Michele's vote against him. Because Ben and Natalie both used Hidden Immunity Idols and negated all the votes cast at Tribal Council, a vote restart was held between the two non-immune players, Denise and Sarah. Michele changed her vote to Denise on the restart.
- Michele used her winnings to finish paying off her car.
- Michele currently works in the tourism industry as a Business Development Manager at Palace Resorts.
- Michele previously dated Ghost Island winner Wendell Holland (though the two had ended their relationship prior to appearing on Winners at War), Philippines contestant Pete Yurkowski  and Island of the Idols contestant Dean Kowalski.
- Michele, along with nineteen other former Survivor, Australian Survivor, Survivor South Africa, and Survivor New Zealand contestants, competed in the second Survivor-themed mini-competition of Sequester on June 20, 2020. She was eliminated in the eleventh round, finishing in 9th place.
- In the spring of 2021, Michele competed on MTV's The Challenge: Spies, Lies and Allies.
- Michele, along with Nick Maiorano and Chris Noble, currently holds the record for surviving the most days in the game without attending Tribal Council, with 22.
- Of those three, Michele is the only one who was not voted out at their first Tribal Council.
- Michele celebrated her 25th birthday on Day 37 of Kaôh Rōng.
- In Kaôh Rōng, Michele became the first and currently only winner to avoid Tribal Council during the pre-merge portion of the game.
- Ironically, she attended the most pre-merge Tribal Councils out of anyone during Winners at War, with 5.
- Michele is the least vulnerable female winner and the second overall behind Tom Westman, having been eligible to be voted out only four times.
- Michele is the only person in Kaôh Rōng to win more than one individual Immunity Challenge.
- Michele secured her seat at the Final Tribal Council earlier than any other contestant, by virtue of winning the Final Immunity Challenge on Day 37.
- Michele is the first contestant to be able to remove a juror from the game.
- Michele is tied with Natalie Anderson for the most challenges (both tribal and individual) won by a female winner, with 13.
- Michele became the third person from New Jersey to win in five seasons, following Tony Vlachos and Natalie Anderson.
- Coincidentally, they would later make up the Final Three of Winners at War.
- Michele is the youngest woman to compete on Winners at War.
- Michele (in Winners at War) holds the record for most Tribal Councils attended in a season with 16, alongside Mick Trimming, Natalie White, and Russell Hantz in Survivor: Samoa.
- Michele is one of four returning players to have never been voted out. The others are Jenna Morasca, Michael Skupin, and Colton Cumbie.
- Michele is the only one of these four to have reached the Final Tribal Council every time she competed.
- Michele is one of two returning players to have reached the Final Tribal Council every time they competed, along with Natalie Anderson, who was voted out and returned to the game via the Edge of Extinction in Winners at War.
Millennials vs. Gen X
|Survivor: Kaôh Rōng Castaways|
|Survivor: Winners at War Castaways|