Although many Survivor viewers and fellow castaways believe Taylor Stocker was a terrible strategic gamer, he argues otherwise. In our one-on-one interview with Stocker, he claimed to be playing harder than anybody actually realized because he was busy pretending to be a “dumb” snowboarder. He also offered his response to Figgy’s negative commentary about their post-Survivor breakup and revealed which two castaways he was planning to bring to the final Tribal Council. And what about stealing his tribe’s food? Does he feel bad about it today? All that and so much more below. Enjoy!
SheKnows: You didn’t seem too surprised by your elimination. Did you know it was coming?
Taylor Stocker: Yeah. I pretty much knew I was on the chopping block.
SK: What made you realize it was you being targeted instead of Jay?
TS: Going into it, I had a conversation with Hannah when she was coming off the beach. I said, “Are there votes coming my way tonight?” She said, “I think you know who to vote for.” To me, that meant that I was supposed to write down Jay’s name and he was supposed to write down my name. That means they were going to split the votes between us. That was my indication. Everyone is telling me that it’s Jay. Then when I have a conversation with Jay, everybody was telling him it’s me. When your name is not being dropped to your face and you’re being told too much, you start to smell fish.
SK: You didn’t go down without a fight, though. Your exit was very memorable when you told everybody how you snatched food from the tribe and then revealed Adam’s secret Reward-stealing advantage. What was it like for you to watch that moment back on TV?
TS: It was pretty hysterical. I loved watching Adam get dragged through the mud. If I’m gonna get dragged through the mud, I’m gonna drag you with me, man. It was a fun Tribal. My idea of fun is different than a lot of other people. [Laughs.] It was quite entertaining. I had a conversation with Jay prior to Tribal just talking about if it was a better idea to drop the bomb at camp or at Tribal. We thought it would be best to do it at Tribal if it were to work at all [to change votes] because Adam wouldn’t have time to scramble. We just kind of watched him scramble at Tribal. Obviously, the vote didn’t go the way we wanted it to. That would’ve been epic if it did.
SK: The relationship you had with Adam was clearly strained. Was your dislike for him based solely on Figgy getting voted off or was there something more we didn’t see?
TS: Adam and I get along great in the real world, but in the game, it was horrible. Adam is a total superfan of the show. I’m a fan of the show, but definitely not the level that he’s at. Even when he wasn’t talking about strategy in this game, he was talking about strategy in past games. I was just wanting to eat some rice in the morning and relax. [Laughs.] He’s a great guy and I love him.
SK: So there are no hard feelings?
TS: No, no. We’re cool.
SK: You made the argument that Adam’s possession of a Reward-stealing advantage was a more dangerous secret to keep from the tribe compared to your actions of stealing food. In reality, your secret impacted everybody in the game directly. Do you agree your secret may have been worse?
TS: No. I think stealing the food itself wasn’t really the problem. It was revealing my cards of how I was playing. Adam and I exchanged secrets. I’m scheming, I’m stealing food, I’m hiding it and eating at night while everybody’s sleeping for multiple nights. On top of that, I was holding these secrets about Adam and scheming against everyone else with Adam. When all that information came out, they probably looked at me and said, “He’s a big liability. It’s not OK to keep him around anymore.” I don’t think it was actually the physical food that people were upset about. It was more the game play.
SK: Do you have any remorse for stealing the food? Did it bother you at all?
TS: No. [Laughs.] A lot of that is just kind of my character of just trying to have fun and do something that seemed impossible to do. No, I have no remorse. I thought if I wanted to make a lot of good friends then I should go on Big Brother and we can all hug it out. We’re here to play Survivor, so I’m gonna scam anybody I have to scam.
SK: Many of the previously eliminated contestants have said you aren’t playing whatsoever. People like Michelle and Figgy told me your head wasn’t in the game and argued you would never deserve to win this season. What’s your response? Was your head in the game?
TS: I think my way of playing the game is different than everyone else. I’m pretending to be this dumb person. Even taking it a step further where a situation that I’m in an alliance with Jess [Figgy] and Jay. These are people with huge personalities that just stick out. They’re doing all the work and I’m just sailing along right behind them. If we get in a tight spot, their heads are on the chopping block because they’re so loud. I often, even in life, think the same thing. If I know someone’s going to do a lot of the work for me, then you just tail behind them. They’re on the chopping block. Fig was the casualty of that aspect in the Takali tribe. When I get the chance to strategize, then I definitely do it. A lot of times I was playing up this dumb snowboarder that sucks at puzzles. Some of these things Michelle took the fall for being a puzzle wizard. I’m extremely good at puzzles. I think everyone that gets on the show are better than the average because they’re on Survivor. I could see why some people wouldn’t think I was playing the game, but I also got farther than a lot of people. That shows something.
SK: So what was your end-game plan? Who did you want to go to the final Tribal Council against?
TS: Obviously, I’m bringing Adam. Definitely not Zeke. Maybe Hannah and Sunday just because they’re very low-key personalities. Adam had made a lot of plans up until now and hardly any of them have worked. The Figgy vote was in his hands anyway. It was handed to him on a platter. None of his strategizing has worked up until this point. Maybe behind the scenes, he is doing a ton of work and it is working, but what we’ve seen so far is just a lot of work that’s non-productive.
SK: No Jay in the finals with you?
TS: I love Jay, but he’s like me. I wouldn’t take myself to the finals [laughs] so that’s not gonna happen. I love him, but we would have to go at each other at some point if I was still in the game.
SK: When I interviewed Figgy after she was eliminated, she didn’t have the kindest things to say about you. She said that you guys aren’t friends anymore and have stopped talking despite having seemingly fallen in love on the show. Have you read any of her comments and how do you react to her thoughts?
TS: I read, I think, two of them. I kind of assumed what the other ones said. [Laughs.] If she wants to go out of her way to bash me, she can do that. I’m not going to do that. I’m not gonna return that favor. She said she learned new things about me. I learned some new things about me when I got out of the game as well. We broke up because I wanted to do what’s best for my family. I didn’t think keeping her in my life was going to do any good things for my family. A lot like her getting voted out in the game was a lot like us breaking up in life. I understand why she’s really upset about that, but I am just trying to do what’s best for my family. I hope one day she’ll come to grips with that.
SK: Is there any chance of you guys becoming friends in the future?
TS: Maybe friends at some point. There’s no animosity on my side, so it’s definitely in her court.
SK: Did you really fall in love with her while the game was underway?
TS: I think it was a really strong connection. I think she would say she had the same thing toward me because we are extremely alike in a lot of ways. Over time, I think that would possibly fade out and we would be bad for each other. Encouraging this craziness is just too much. I do respect her as a person. Yep.
SK: A lot of viewers celebrated your elimination on social media accompanied with nasty words about you. Has it been hard for you to read the hate?
TS: Haters are gonna hate. I’m not gonna sit there and mope about someone saying something stupid. These people are behind the computer screen and typing away. I know that none of those people would say those things to my face because something bad would probably happen. [Laughs.] That would be awkward. It doesn’t really faze me. I live up here in north Idaho, and I haven’t been affected whatsoever by any of the stuff that’s been on social media. No one really cares up here. I’m pretty sure people don’t have TVs up here. I have never been once confronted about allegations toward me or them hating me. I just kind of stay away from that stuff.
SK: How did you end up on the show?
TS: An interesting series of events. I always had the desire to apply. I was working in North Dakota and had a lot of free time at the place I worked. I applied when I was there with some snowboarding clips and crazy stuff to explain my personality. I then went through the whole application process.