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"Nice' is a loser on this "Survivor'

Published Sep. 3, 2005

(final edited version not provided for electronic library, please see microfilm)

Do nice gals really finish last?

That's the question you can't help asking Gainesville resident Gina Crews, who became the sixth person voted off CBS' Survivor: Marquesas on Thursday night, mostly because she wouldn't indulge in the back stabbing and intrigue the show often demands of its participants.

Crews, 29, was the odd woman out in the second version of the Maraamu tribe, formed when producers shook up the original two teams of contestants stuck on Nuku Hiva, part of the Marquesas islands near Tahiti.

Her three teammates _ real estate agent Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien, student Neleh Dennis and Georgia Superior Court judge Paschal English _ had been part of the rival Rotu tribe before the switch. And even though Crews had a chance to convince Dennis and English not to vote her off the island, she refused to try to torpedo Vavrick-O'Brien, considered a bossy and sometimes ineffective leader.

"I didn't want to ruin the bond that we had," said Crews, who was shown Thursday growing close to her new team members. "I truly believe a nice person can win this game. But I decided to let the chips fall where they may and . . . the nice person doesn't always win. It's kind of like life."

CBS' fourth Survivor was filmed in December and January, but participants are prohibited from speaking about the show until the episode airs showing their ejection. So Crews' Friday was jammed with interviews _ first on CBS' The Early Show (she demonstrated the talents that won her the Florida Watermelon Association's seed-spitting contest in 1998) and later for newspapers and radio stations across the country.

A lifetime Florida resident and avid Gators fan, Crews earned a degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Florida and was voted Florida Watermelon Queen in 1996. (The next year, she was voted National Watermelon Queen. Seriously.) Last year she resigned from a high school teaching position in Union County, accusing a female student of harassing her.

Facing TV cameras Friday in a tasteful dark green suit and black shirt, Crews admitted she showed a little more skin on Survivor (the onetime nature guide was sometimes shown in a black bikini). But even though she isn't closing the door on showbiz opportunities, Crews did rule out one option taken by Survivor: Outback's Jerri Manthey: posing nude for Playboy.

"They wouldn't have enough money to pay me for that," she said, laughing. "I consider that a little bit sacred. Besides, I've shown the world enough of my body on Survivor."

And what of rumors that she's been secretly dating fellow Survivor ejectee Hunter Ellis (he was the third person voted off the show), a buff Fed Ex pilot from La Jolla, Calif.?

Though the New York Daily News reported Monday that she's moving west to be near Ellis, Crews said she's considering a move west to pursue a graduate degree in environmental studies.

"I can guarantee I'll run into Hunter (after any move west)," she said. "But as far a romance goes . . . well, I don't know about that."

It's all part of Crews' new life as a reality TV celebrity. She's got national fame but no job and few clues where this whirlwind of attention may ultimately take her.

"It's been crazy but wonderful. . . . (Survivor) was the opportunity of a lifetime," she said. "I never knew that I could walk into that game and come away with a group of friends I would have for a long time."