Jessica Johnston had herself a pretty great run on Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, making it all the way to the merge without ever going to Tribal Council. Unfortunately, her first Tribal Council was the one where she was voted out. She was targeted by the alternate alliance, (led seemingly by Chrissy as a contingency plan) as a good person to take out in the event Joe or Cole had immunity idols. (Joe did end up playing one.)
This vote ended her run on Survivor in a surprising way, especially given that earlier in this same episode she referred to herself as the “Queen Bee” — and for good reason given that she had done a good job building relationships and being insulated from all sides. She should’ve been in a great spot!
In this exit interview we speak more with Jessica regarding what happened after the merge, what she did right in the game, and the awkwardness that comes with having so many people ask about her personal life after growing close with Cole in the game.
CarterMatt Let’s just start off broad here — When Probst is standing there at the start of the season announcing the twist and your designation as a Healer, were you happy with it?
Jessica – Yeah! In that moment I was just like ‘Jeff is on point per usual. I should be on this tribe.’ My initial feeling was that it was awesome, since based on appearance we all looked on point. Dr. Mike was slightly not great physically, but definitely a brainiac. I thought that the luck of Survivor was coming my way and that was really exciting.
Who did you feel was really running the show on the Healers tribe?
It sounds awful because I’m sitting here talking to you and I promise I’m not like ‘it’s all about Jessica,’ but I really thought it was me! (Laughs.) I build relationships really well and I make lifelong friends easily — I don’t know why. I’m just really open. I brought that part of that personality into the game and while it was a huge benefit, it also ended up being my downfall.
I made great friends with Roark and Desi and we talked about making a women’s alliance, which was great. I obviously made a connection with Cole, but one alliance that I had that really wasn’t shown was my connection with Joe. He tweeted last night after the show ‘Jess, you were my #1,’ which was awesome because we had discussed that before that split. To know that this was true to his heart, because it was true to mine, that he would’ve taken me as far as he could was awesome.
Of course, Dr. Mike and I formed a really good alliance at Yawa [at the tribe swap] after Cole went into his whole debacle of stealing food. I was then like ‘okay, I’m no longer going to be Cole’s girlfriend. I’m now going to have to be his mother. Mike, you’re the father, and we have to take care of our baby.’
There were so many different dynamics at play, but [before the merge] I felt like I was forming sub-alliances within a really huge powerhouse alliance. Again, at the time I was like ‘this is awesome — I couldn’t have asked for a better game.’ Of course, that ended.
One of the reasons I think, regrettably, that it was a good move for them to take you out was because I feel like you were the glue between a lot of different people. Did you feel that way out there, and how were you able to balance so much information coming to you from different people without ever blowing up your spot?
In speaking to my time on Yawa, my name was never out there. It was instead about Ben and Lauren trying to convince me and Mike that we needed to get rid of Cole. Always. In those situations I was always like ‘all right, guys. I know he’s messing up and he’s a liability, but we don’t have a curb to kick him to, so stop telling me to kick him to the curb.’ I would tell Ben ‘we’re not losing and I’m not going to throw a challenge.’ In hindsight, we should have.
What do you do? I just tried continually to shove things under the rug. Anything that Cole was doing I was making excuses for and I was cleaning up his trash.
Entering the merge, handling all of the talk ended up leading to my downfall. I was unaware of everyone else’s talk. I was consumed with trying to save my alliance — trying to convince Ben to trust Cole, trying to convince Joe not to be a maniac, and to bring everyone together. I was unaware of the bond between Devon and Ashley, what was Ryan thinking, and a lot of other things. I was totally clouded by my own goal.
Is there any way known to mankind that someone can contain Joe?
No. Again, I hate to be like ‘it’s all about me,’ but I feel like if Joe and I had more time to play together I could’ve controlled what he was doing. If you think about it he never had anyone dominant stand up to him. Desi didn’t, and Desi really wasn’t in any position to stand up to him. Then he was with Alan, who was kind of a crazy person too, and Ashley, who doesn’t have a strong voice, and Devon, who was blowing with the wind. He was never with someone who was like ‘Joe, you’re acting like a fool and you’re going to get us voted out.’ I like to think that I could have been that.
However, when I think about my relationship with Cole I was unable to fix him, so maybe I’m not as good as I thought I was (laughs).
Let’s play out some hypotheticals. Do you think it would have benefited you to be separate from Cole at the Tribe Swap?
It would have changed everything for me. The reason I was plan B at the merge is because Chrissy threw my name out with Cole’s. It would have changed my whole game.
On a similar note, do you think it would’ve benefited the Healers had another person — not you, of course — been voted out before the merge?
Again, it would’ve been huge. We were targeted at the merge because we were the majority powerhouse. It was really easy for the old Hustlers to be like ‘we’re going to get out the strong players’ because they’re weak as snot. They have strategy, but they didn’t have numbers. The Heroes also didn’t have numbers. Together, they could vote us out.
If we had lost more Healers, potentially we wouldn’t have been the initial targets at the merge. However, had Dr. Mike, Cole, and I not won all of the challenges after the swap, we could’ve gotten either Lauren or Ben out. That would’ve changed the game wholeheartedly.
Was playing the game at the merge as crazy as you expected? The speed of the game is often so different.
For the first day after the merge we had this period of time where everyone was like one big happy family and hugging each other. However, almost immediately after that people start going crazy and start talking like ‘okay, who is your allegiance with and who have you talked to?’ Immediately I went to Desi and asked ‘what’s the story on Joe and can we still trust him?’. It’s just totally chaos. Everything dramatically changes, which is why it is so heartbreaking not to make it further than what I did. There is so much game to be played and so many lines to cross, and unfortunately I don’t get to be a part of that.
I’ve already read other interviews saying that you and Cole are friends now after the game, so I want to ask something a little bit different than just asking if you two are together. Has it been strange to have to deal with so many questions about your relationship status? Did you ever expect that?
It’s funny. Even when I left the game I was like ‘how is this possible? I don’t go around with a shirt saying I’m single and I’m a virgin. How do things like that come up?’ Once it came up, it just kept going. I do think that it was portrayed pretty positively and I don’t think it’s a big subject, but it’s who I am. It came up on the island and it came up in confessionals, and therefore it ended up in the edit.
So it is what it is — the edit made it look like I talk about my love life all the time and I don’t! It just came up on the show. For anyone who knows me they know that I don’t just float into any relationship, so to be a part of an alliance / showmance was really funny for me. No regrets, though — no actually, kind of a lot (laughs).
So I’m assuming that you want to go back and play again…
Oh my God, I’d give anything. Anything.
Let’s say this happens. What’s the biggest thing you would change?
Everything. I was telling somebody about this earlier when I was talking about how I supremely screwed myself. When I left for the game someone in my family was like ‘Jessica, don’t align with the good-looking guy and don’t make best friends. Keep your mouth shut.’ I was like ‘okay, I’ll do that’ and I meant it! I watched this game and I knew I was not getting into a showmance. It was intentional not to do what I did, so guess what happens? I was unable to shut my personality down, I aligned with Cole, I made best friends and I got voted out.
If I play again I’d try to do what I originally envisioned to do or just play solo. Maybe I’ll be like a Joe. I kept saying I wanted to align with a villain pre-game; I actually think I could’ve played a lot of my game on my own and not had a connection with a Cole. It would be interesting to see, if given another chance, what I could do.