The following contains spoilers from Wednesday’s episode of Survivor.
The season’s wildest Tribal Council had to take somebody out.
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In Wednesday’s episode of Survivor, the three tribes finally joined together on the same beach in hopes of “earning” the merge. But it didn’t take the Reba and Belo members long to realize that Kaleb was both a social and physical threat to their game. At Tribal Council, every single player voted for Lulu’s social whiz, only Kaleb had another plan in place. He used his Shot in the Dark and shockingly won that 1-in-6 chance at safety. Unfortunately for J, when the tribe revoted, she saw her game slip through her fingers as she became the sixth person to leave Season 45. (Read our recap here.)
Below, J talks to TVLine about her relationship with Julie and Dee, owing Austin a sandwich and that jaw-dropping spectacle of a Tribal Council.
TVLINE | First off, why did you create the plan to take the fall for the Sifu vote?
J MAYA KRISHNAN-JHA | So a couple of things to clarify. I knew Dee voted for Sifu in Tribal Council because you see Dee pull that last minute audible, so I knew that was from her. We talked about it once we got back to camp and I actually never told Sifu that I voted for him. I think the plan that was formulating was if we lost an immunity challenge and we went to Tribal Council and we were worried about Sifu playing his idol or if I was worried about Sifu playing his idol, I thought that the most likely scenario for him to buy was that I wrote his name down. I’m on the outs. He shouldn’t play his idol because it’s an easy vote out for me. Send him home with an idol in his pocket.
Now, I know the idol is non-existent, but I think something that contextualizes this a little bit is that at original Reba, I actually wanted to work with Sifu and he did not necessarily want to work with me, which is totally fine. But he kind of threw my name out repeatedly after I tried to go and work with him. So I think I took that as a sign that we were not ever going to be allies in the game, even if that’s what I wanted. Going into the swap, the way that the numbers shook out, I really wanted it to be me and Sean, and Dee and Julie as the two duos that stayed on Reba because I knew at least I could work with Sean. But as we all know, that didn’t work out even though I tried to keep Sean in the game.
And so coming away from that Tribal Council, I was really down trying to figure out where my place in the game was and how I was going to even make it to the merge. I basically had that plan to come to the girls and say, “Look, you guys are gonna decide between me and Sifu. I can be used. I’m loyal. I can work with you guys.” And so it was really this last-ditch effort, but it never came to fruition because we won that immunity challenge.
TVLINE | There seemed to be a disconnect between you and Julie and Dee. They both seemed more than fine to cut you loose. What’s your take on that and how did you perceive your relationship with them at the time?
I do want to say that I think sometimes the truth falls a little bit in the middle. I think they were playing a great game. I think that’s the answer. I thought I was much more in with them than I was, but that obviously is also juxtaposed against the fact that at that point in the game, it was convenient for me to work with them because we could have created the majority at that swap. And also I didn’t perceive there to be a path forward with Sifu, so my options were limited. I think because we were working together, I was lulled into this sense of, “We are an alliance because we’re working together and making decisions together.”
And that’s, I think, where my gameplay went a little bit south. It was just a bad read. I always did know that from original Reba, Dee and Julie were very close with each other. I think it was just at the swap that I thought that maybe I had a shot of being a potential third even though I always knew that the hierarchy would always go them and then me. But I felt like my options were limited at the swap, so I let myself be lulled into that false sense of security.
TVLINE | Knowing that a Shot in the Dark was a possibility, why didn’t the group decide to split the vote? Was that ever discussed?
It’s a great question! Another question that I asked myself is “Why didn’t I just take the initiative and throw a hinky vote on someone?” I’ve said this before, but I stay up at night thinking about this kind of stuff like, “Oh my God, you could have had the single-handed power to take someone out of the game. Who would you have done? What would have happened?” You go through that thought process.
But in terms of splitting vote, I actually don’t know. That’s part of the reason I didn’t play my Shot in the Dark. I thought that there was a chance that Kaleb would really convince a couple of people to vote me and I was like, “Maybe it’s gonna come down to a couple of votes, so I should not lose my vote.” I think people just didn’t think he would play his Shot in the Dark until Tribal Council and he was starting to come for me and make it known that he was aware that things were potentially going to go south for him. So I think there was just a lot of last-minute decisions that people made that eventually culminated in this unanimous vote that we obviously saw was nullified.
TVLINE | Kaleb used his Shot in the Dark and Jeff unraveled that “Safe” scroll. Your face sunk. Tell me a bit about what was going on in your mind in that moment.
I knew going into that Tribal Council that there was a lot of calculated risk-taking. For me, I [was] making connections with new people in the game, [but] the connections that I was making were very quick. I [still] felt like there was a lot of potential there and I really wanted to explore them more. The possibility of potentially working with people like Jake and Emily. It comes down to that Tribal Council. “Do I rock the boat? Do I show people that I’m here to make big moves if it comes down to it? Throw a name out, even though the likely scenario is that Kaleb’s Shot in the Dark doesn’t go through and then he goes home?” I was trying to weigh those possibilities. I was like, “If I play my Shot in the Dark, I lose my vote, I come off as distrustful. Then tomorrow, all of these scenarios…” I was just worried about people not wanting to work with me the next day and I already knew I was at the bottom. So I was like, “I don’t know how I would recover from this.”
So yeah, all of that to say: I definitely went into that Tribal Council knowing that if for some reason Kaleb is safe tonight, it is going to 100% be me going home. That Hail Mary that I gave at the very end is literally just me trying to go out with a little bit of fight. Like, “I don’t really know what to do at this point.” It was just me throwing out a name that I had heard and hoping it stuck, but obviously I knew it wouldn’t. So, the second [Jeff] says “safe,” my mind immediately goes to, “Oh my God, I’m going home tonight.”
TVLINE | Do you feel like you might owe Austin a sandwich sometime in the future or…
I’m definitely gonna buy him a sandwich and you know what? I will say, those sandwiches looked good, but I feel like I can probably whip something up that would make him even more tempted to take the sandwich and not the amulet. [Laughs] You know what? That’s a great idea! I’ll send sandwiches to people after the season ends.
TVLINE | Did you ever think that accepting the amulet would have turned Austin or Kellie against you, and do you regret pushing so hard for it?
To quickly answer the second question, yes, I do regret taking it. But at that point in the game, I was just so desperate for new people to play with that. I was like, “But what if this works and this brings me into a potentially a new alliance, at least in the interim?” Maybe long term, it puts a target on my back, but we can get to that point if we get to that point. So, that was a little bit of my decision-making.
Also, I wanted some Survivor hardware! I was like, “Well, what if Austin goes home tonight?” That was a possibility in my mind. Austin’s a complete physical and social threat. He could totally go home from New Belo. And then it’s me and Kellie, right, and already the amulet that has more power. You’re tempted by, “Oh my gosh, what if this does become an idol at some point in the game? That would give me a lot of power.” There are a couple of different considerations in your brain, but I think at the end of the day, it probably is safe to say that I should not have taken it. Every time I see that clip now, I’m like, “Take the sandwich, you idiot! Take the sandwich.” [Laughs]
TVLINE | That immunity challenge looked particularly brutal. How did it feel to run through that, and what was the hardest part?
They did touch on it a little bit in the episode, but my hair gets caught in the net on that first leg of the challenge and you can see the shot, and it’s such a grotesque shot to look back at. My hair is caught in the net and my body is moving, but my head is not moving because my hair is entangled. Essentially, what I had to do to get out of that net was like, every two seconds, I would have to lean my head back and then yank it forward and rip my hair out of where it was stuck in the net. I literally left that challenge and there were clumps of my hair still stuck in that net. And I was like, “Oh, I feel so bad for the person who was to clean that out.”
But I will say, there are obvious wins in Survivor. There’s the strength of winning an immunity challenge or making it through a particularly dicey Tribal Council. But for me, I count that as a big win in my book because that was my biggest fear coming into the game was getting the mud net. I hate the idea of the mud net and there was a moment in that net where I was like, “I don’t think I’ll ever make it through. They’re gonna have to come and cut me out and we’re not even going to progress past this leg of the challenge.” And I’m just so proud that I was able to, in those circumstances, make it through. I think that goes back to this idea of small wins for me. I look back at that and I’m like, “Yay, I did it.”
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