For fans of Ashley Underwood, the Mainer who just competed on “Survivor: Redemption Island,” there are two main questions begging to be answered.

One is, “What were you thinking?” Why didn’t Underwood vote off the show’s fiercest competitor when she had the chance?

Second, is she still friends with Natalie Tenerelli, the 19-year-old from California who had never been camping before and became Underwood’s best friend on the show?

An exhausted Underwood, 26, answered those questions Monday after getting just a couple hours of sleep following Sunday night’s season finale. She and some of the other competitors spent the rest of Sunday night posing for red carpet photos, doing press interviews and partying at a rooftop penthouse venue.

Underwood and other members of her tribe had the chance to flip their alliance and go after “Boston Rob” Mariano, who was the ultimate winner of the game and its $1 million prize.

“Honestly, hindsight is 20/20, and it’s hard to look back and say, ‘Oh, I could have done this and I could have done this,’” Underwood said in a phone interview. “I don’t know, if I didn’t have my alliance with Natalie and Rob, if I would have made it to the final four. … I aligned myself with the smartest player, the most experienced player.”

Underwood and Tenerelli often sunbathed together on the show and frequently said “I love you” to each other. But then Tenerelli threw Underwood under the “Survivor” bus by agreeing to vote her out according to Mariano’s master plan.

Tenerelli had promised Underwood she would let her know “100 percent” if Underwood was ever on the chopping block, but she didn’t.

Although clearly still perturbed with Tenerelli, Underwood said Monday she will still be friends with her.

“Does she not know the girl code? No, I’m just kidding,” Underwood said. “Yeah, we’ll still be friends. It’s a game, and I said things and did things that people forgave me for. We’ll be friends, and we’ll talk.

“Obviously, watching it back last night, it brought back emotions and feelings, and hurt feelings and all that stuff, but we’ll definitely be friends for sure.”

Underwood said she had considered voting for Tenerelli, who made it to the final three, to win the $1 million prize. But in the end, she wanted to give the money to the person she felt deserved it the most by playing the game better than everyone else.

“That was Rob,” she said. “I mean, hands down, with the people he was sitting next to, it was no contest.”

Underwood also has mended fences somewhat with Phillip Sheppard, the former federal agent whose strange behavior drove all of the contestants crazy.

“I actually talked to Phillip quite a bit,” she said. “Phillip is someone that, God bless him, I cannot live with him. I never want to live with him ever again. But I definitely would go out and get lunch with Phillip or get a drink with Phillip.”

Underwood said the game was “way more difficult” than she expected.

“You can’t prepare yourself for starvation and for being as tired as you’re going to be,” she said. “No sleep. How do you train for that? As far as the mental game, it was pretty much what I expected. It was constant paranoia. It’s a mentally taxing game.”

She lost about 20 pounds on the show, and said she was craving banana pancakes and peanut butter by the end.

“It was the weirdest thing,” she said. “I think peanut butter is one thing that a lot of (the contestants) crave. The morning I got home, I made banana pancakes, and they were amazing. It was great.”

What’s in Underwood’s future? She plans to take advantage of her 15 minutes of fame by developing a fitness-related career and perhaps looking into some entertainment-related opportunities.

“I’ve always been really passionate about health and wellness and fitness, and all that stuff,” she said. “Just from my past experiences with basketball and Miss USA and now ‘Survivor,’ I’m developing my own unique workout that kind of encompasses all of them. I’m getting my fitness certification and trying to kind of build off that.”

She’ll also be launching a new website in a few days:

“I’d love to maybe get out of Maine for a little bit and see what New York has to offer,” she said. “This is the perfect time.”


Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: [email protected]