‘Survivor: San Juan del Sur’ interview: Missy Payne on perception, decisions, injury, and more

Missy -Missy Payne was definitely a fighter on “Survivor: San Juan del Sur.” Despite a pretty rough injury, she managed to make it still to the final three, and with a vote from her daughter Baylor, she at least made it on the board.

Today, we discussed a variety of different “Survivor”-related topics, including her recovery from her injury suffered out in the game, some of the decisions that she made, and whether or not there was a way for her to get more votes from the jury than just her daughter’s.

CarterMatt – First of all, how does it feel to be able to actually discuss the game now?

Missy Payne – It is a huge weight taken off my shoulders, which is great because I’m not very good at lying or keeping secrets, as we all know because I was portrayed as super-loyal. With all of my friends asking so many questions, it’s nice now to be like ‘okay, let’s talk about it.’

How is the injury now that you are a little bit removed from the show?

I’ve been in physical therapy since I’ve been home. It’s not great. I’m still not fully healed, I still have to wear an ankle brace, and I’m a runner at heart. I’m still having to wear an ankle brace, and you don’t tell a runner they can’t run. Ah! It’s killing me. They did say that it is a six-month healing process. I tore some little ligaments in the top of my foot, and actually, a clean break probably would have healed a little faster. That’s the bummer, because I’m not very patient.

I think anytime you have a six-month waiting period, it’s hard to be patient!

I know!

Looking back, are you still happy that you stayed out there with the injury? I don’t know if it would be in better shape now had you went out earlier.

I was not going to quit. I have no regrets for finishing the game the way I did, and on one foot. It was super-hard, because I am not very good at asking for help, and I’m not very good at physical pain. I’m pretty tough, but there’s no way I would go out and play any differently.

Since there was so much time that was spent during the early going with the other tribe, what were your first few days like at Hunahpu that we didn’t see?

What they didn’t show was that out of the gate, they give you a basket of rice and tools and stuff, and because I’m the mom, that’s kind of the way that I jumped in, I started organizing and digging through everything, looking for that idol, looking for a clue. They didn’t show that, or me aggressively playing whatsoever.

Immediately I bonded with Jeremy and Natalie, and it was just awesome. We were stuck like glue, Natalie and I, not necessarily Jeremy since I think he was playing everybody. There was a moment where Reed really tried to align with me, and we had a couple of conversations about that. But he was so neurotic and flighty, and I couldn’t trust him because I would tell him something, and he would run off and tell someone else. Jeremy and I were like ‘I don’t know. He’s pretty wacky.’

Out of the gate over there, we were kind of playing the game, and we were having fun because we were winning! We didn’t have to get real serious because we weren’t voting people off yet.

Early on it looked like Baylor was in trouble. Was was the feeling like in the early going, thinking that your daughter may not show up at one of the duels?

You hate those days when you see the other tribe walk in, and I would just look for that little body and go ‘thank god.’ We would all do that. You had no idea who was going to be next. We had our own speculating of what was going on at our camp, but it was TERRIBLE. You’re already nervous enough about ‘Survivor’ and getting voted off, but having to worry about someone else was awful.

I want to ask about the rice. Specifically, did it turn out to actually be a good thing that your tribe ate all of it? You never went to tribal council early on, so could this be something that future tribes do?

(Laughs.) I hope we haven’t set the precedent for future ‘Survivor’ seasons that you get to just make a deal with Jeff Probst so that he brings rice. I don’t think that’s the case. It took a lot for him to go over and make that deal.

I was definitely the cook. I was not the one making the decisions about how much rice we were eating. I felt like I was feeding a fraternity house, and these guys were constantly like ‘we need more, mom! Cook more!’ … We were just eating rice, and it literally to me felt like nobody had a care in the world for how much we had.

Then, on the other tribe, I feel like personalities were different. They analyzed a little better, had systems going. We were having a party on the other tribe. It was probably not the best decision to eat as much as we were eating.

When you got down to maybe the final six or seven, were you starting to picture the combinations of people you wanted to go to the end with?

I did not think it was wise to go to the end with Baylor. Natalie and I had multiple conversations about that, because there was no way anyone was going to vote for [me or Baylor]. They were going to be like ‘screw y’all.’ That would have been great for the history books, that we were the one couple to go to the final three, but I had doubts about that decision.

The plan was, and this was sort of Jon’s plan, was to have Missy, Jon, and Natalie go to the final three, and Baylor and Jaclyn will head over to the jury to start working [for jury votes] … I never was really sold on that either. I was looking at Jon thinking ‘you’re crazy!’ You cannot predict the fate of this game. You just can’t! As his arrogance and pride got a little bit bigger, it was kind of a turn-off, and then you’re sitting around thinking ‘what is going to happen.’

A little bit of it was kind of foggy, to be honest. I knew that Natalie and I were going to be in the final three. I just didn’t know who that third person to sit there was going to be, because if you had put any male, even Keith who didn’t even play the game to be honest, he would have won. Sadly, it was such a guy-heavy, weighted game … It had this fraternity house, bro bond going on. We talked about it! The belching and the farting. It wouldn’t have mattered. They didn’t have much respect. It was hard to picture yourself with any male in the final three.

Did you think that you were doomed when you were heading to the final tribal council, or was there anything you could have done?

I didn’t think I was totally doomed. At the final tribal council when we gave our speeches, I had to go first. That stunk. I wish I had the chance to let someone else go first, because I don’t think I had a good pole position. Secondly, I didn’t really want sympathy votes whatsoever. Most people looked and me and thought ‘you were really strong to finish the game with your injury.’ It wasn’t ‘people tried to feel sorry for you.’

I just feel like it was a lost cause after I found out that Ponderosa became its own tribe, and Josh and Reed over there are super-articulate and very manipulative. They were going to make that game end the way they wanted to end so they could have their own little victory. It’s sad because I don’t think it was fair the way they manipulated people, and now people in the game have even told me ‘looking back, you really were true to your word.’ It is what it is, and it ended the way it was supposed to end. I’m a big believer in what goes around, comes around. We may not understand it at the time, but [it will become clear].

What has it been like over the past few months watching the show back with Baylor?

She lives in Nashville, so we only got to watch it together a few times. It was amazing to have this experience that we are going to have for life. I think I hear past players say that ‘it’s so hard for your friends and family to understand it,’ so for us to be able to go like ‘do you remember this, or remember that’ [is great]. We also have a huge amount of support back here in Texas, and there is a big crew who watched with me.

But it was amazing to be able to do something like that with my kiddo, and something that she will be able to share with [future generations] for years and years to come.

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