Karine Lavigne-Fortin was one immunity challenge away from winning it all on Survivor Quebec.
The 37-year-old Chelsea resident was one of the final contestants on the first-ever season of Survivor Quebec, which aired this spring. She placed fourth out of 20 players from across the province.
Had she won the final immunity challenge – a brain-wracking trivia puzzle on Day 43 – she said she feels she had forged enough alliances that the jury would have voted her in as the first-ever winner of Survivor Quebec.
“I was so close,” said Lavigne-Fortin, days after the finale of Survivor Quebec aired on the French language channel Noovo on June 18. “I want to stay humble, but with the jury – we talked to each other after – if I would have gotten a place in the top three, I think I would have had a good chance.”
While she wasn’t crowned as the sole survivor – that title and the $100,000 prize went to Gatineau’s Nicolas Brunette – Lavigne-Fortin said spending 43 days in a Philippine jungle with 19 other French-speaking strangers “trying to survive” was the experience of a lifetime.
And did she ever represent the Hills well. The Chelsea-based karate teacher won four immunity challenges on Survivor Quebec, including a record-tying 160-pound water bucket challenge that led her and her team to have their “first real meal” on Day 16; they got burgers and fries.
“Best burger ever,” recalled Lavigne-Fortin. “I don’t like tomatoes, I don’t like pickles and it was all in there, but I just ate it all.”
What viewers see on screen and what the players on the island experience are much different, said Lavigne-Fortin, who described the entire 43-day campaign as a poorly planned camping trip in the Hills with little food, next to no resources and no cribbage board for late night games. She said that the whole “surviving” aspect of the game is real, as players are dropped off on an island and are forced to make a shelter, collect firewood, find water and whatever food they can to stay alive. Karine’s tribe – Kalooban – lost its first few reward challenges and, as a consequence, were forced to relinquish their fire-starting tools for close to four days.
“We didn’t have a flint, so no rice,” she said. “For about 92 hours, we ate coconut and drank water.”
When it came time for the tribes to merge, that’s when Lavigne-Fortin went into beast mode. She forged alliances with multiple groups of people and won two individual immunities back to back on Days 42 and 43. She also won the Get a Grip challenge, where players try to outlast each other on a giant pole with narrow foot pegs. She lasted three hours and three minutes — the longest out of anyone.
“If I didn’t win that challenge, I was going out at that tribal council that night. I had to win,” she said. “I was thinking of my kids, thinking about my people at home. I wasn’t going to give up.”
While she missed out on the grand prize and the title of Sole Survivor in Quebec, Lavigne-Fortin said she has no regrets and is now planning to run a half marathon this fall, while eyeing her first-ever live kickboxing match sometime this winter.