When it comes to Jessica Johnston, she admits that sticking with Cole Medders and his abs were a big mistake on Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. Despite her family warning her not to align with an attractive guy, Jessica found herself in a bubbly beach showmance that bit her in the butt. In our interview with Jessica, she explains why she thinks Cole is the worst player this season and reveals why Jeff Probst is wrong about the way she played. Plus, she dishes the dirt on her current relationship with Cole. Are there fireworks?
SheKnows: Did you have any idea your elimination was coming?
Jessica Johnston: It’s the worst. I’m so stupid [laughs] for not even being remotely aware that my name was out there. It was absolutely a blindside. I had no idea. Bravo to everyone. It was awful and great at the same time.
SK: What did you think was going to happen?
JJ: It’s embarrassing. I was overly confident in my relationships with Ben and Lauren. I was 100 percent confident in the Healers alliance. We were such a powerhouse. I assumed the majority of votes were going toward Chrissy. I had spent the day of the merge — instead of protecting myself, doing damage control — I was trying to make Cole and Ben be friends. I told Cole to apologize for stealing food from other people. Going in, I thought I had those votes. If Chrissy goes, great, that’s what we want. If Chrissy doesn’t go, then Cole is gone. I was fine with it. I can do this game without Cole. I had done enough damage control going into the merge vote. During the merge, utter chaos happened as Joe was throwing his Idol around like a maniac. Even in that moment, it should have dawned on me something was going down. But it didn’t. I thought they would start targeting Cole. My whole experience with Ben and Lauren was they wanted Cole gone so bad. In my head, I was like, “There’s no way they would put my name down.” It really wasn’t until Jeff showed my name on the first ballot I realized, “Oh, God. I have totally screwed my game.”
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SK: Jeff Probst told Entertainment Weekly that you essentially blew it and didn’t play a great game because you were distracted by Cole. Do you agree with him?
JJ: I totally disagree with that. Love you, Jeff, but I totally disagree. Advice I got going into the game from a family member was not to align with a good-looking guy. I was like, “Are you kidding me? I would never. Duh!” Then, what did I do? If I could go back and change that moment with Cole and myself, I would. But what do you do when you’re on a winning tribe and everybody is getting along? We never had to test or try anything. I felt like I was doing my best protecting Cole, yet telling Ben and Lauren, “I get it. He’s stealing. He’s a liar. He has to go when the time comes.” I don’t know what else I was supposed to do. I certainly didn’t want to come across like I was backstabbing Cole on the tribe when we weren’t even going to Tribal Council, and I feel like there was a lot of strategy that wasn’t shown. I want to reject the fact that I was in a showmance, but I have to own it. I was. It happened, and it screwed me. If I had it to do over again, I would not follow an eight-pack. Maybe a 12-pack, but not an eight-pack [laughs].
SK: So where did it go wrong for you?
JJ: At the beginning, I think maybe I was a little too hopeful I could potentially find love and win $1 million at the same time. I think maybe my head was in the clouds a little too early in the game, but it was quickly identified that this was not love. People who love each other don’t steal peanut butter [laughs]. I was just too far in to get out. I was unaware of how much I was doing damage control. It was my inability to separate who I am in real life from the game. Shame on me. In my real life I’m selfless. I give and give and give. The game of Survivor is selfish, and I couldn’t wait to play a selfish game. I basically didn’t play a selfish game. I was consumed with protecting Cole, Mike and Joe. It just ate me alive, and I didn’t even realize it until honestly last night watching the show.
SK: Who do you blame for your elimination?
JJ: I want to point the finger at Cole, obviously. That would be really easy for me to do, but it was my fault. I’m not joking when I tell you I spent that day convincing Ben that Cole should not be the vote. Then I spent the other half of the day convincing Ben that Joe should not be the vote. I wasted my whole day on getting back with Joe and trying to keep Cole quiet. I was also working to keep Mike from being paranoid. In reality, I should’ve said, “Screw all of you guys! You’re ruining my game!” I should’ve been the one flipping on the Healers alliance [laughs].
SK: Did you have a plan in your mind of who you wanted to go to the end of the game with?
JJ: That’s another downfall. I wish I would’ve thought about that more. My tribe never lost, and although we were strategizing amongst each other, it’s really hard to envision who you’re gonna go to the end with when you’re never tested. I never had that opportunity to really dig down in my thoughts. The closer I got to the merge, I realized that Cole was an enormous liability and he had evolved into this person no one liked. He would’ve been someone I wanted to go to the end with because nobody liked him. Then there’s Joe. He had evolved into a villain, and I think he was playing a game that no one liked. I think I could’ve argued my case for the $1 million against those two and won [laughs].
SK: Did Cole have any idea how bad a social game he was playing?
JJ: He is 100 percent unaware of what he does. In the game, everything you see is real. Nothing is made up. He really was catching huge fish and not sharing. In my head, I was like, “Oh, you’re so stupid. Everyone hates you.” Then I had to do damage control. It was constantly back and forth in my head with how to handle these situations. He’s totally unaware. After the game, he became aware once he got food and back in his normal life. He was like, “Oh man, I messed up big.” I said, “Yes! Absolutely you messed up big and you took me with you!” But I take full ownership. I’m an adult and could’ve broken it off. My bad. Shame on me.
SK: Is there anything between you and Cole today?
JJ: We have seen each other. We think very highly of each other, but we are in the friend zone at this point. He’s a great guy, but just friends.
SK: Most of the previous interviews we’ve done this season have resulted in other contestants telling us that J.P. is the worst player in the game. Do you agree with that or do you think Cole gets that title?
JJ: One hundred percent that goes to Cole. J.P. doesn’t have a personality. Cole has a personality, but he’s just stupid. That’s the difference [laughs].
SK: On the flip side, who do you think is playing the strongest game. If the vote was held right now, who do you believe is most deserving to win?
JJ: Ben. There’s so much that’s untold. I’m excited to see how the rest of the season plays out. I am strong in my personality, and we butted heads a lot. Ben would tell me what he thought, and I was like, “Don’t tell me what to do, Ben. I will make the decision.” Ben had the ability to make me believe that I was his. Chrissy and I were very similar with Ben, although she’s a little dirtier in the game than I was. Ben, from what I saw in the game, he works hard. He knows how to build an army, which matches him perfectly.
SK: How did you get on the show?
JJ: It’s such a long story, but I love it. I started applying to Amazing Race in 2009 with one of my girlfriends, and I just don’t quit until something happens. I kept applying, and two years ago and we made it to finals. That put us in front of producers and casting. They didn’t pick us because we didn’t match their theme, but they put us on a casting list. A year later I got a call asking if I would apply to Survivor, and of course I jumped at the chance.
SK: Probst also told EW that you would be a good pick to return for another season. Would you play again?
JJ: My whole body just smiled, literally. It would be a dream to finish a game that I feel like was cut short. I don’t think anybody saw what I’m capable of. I’m capable of a lot. Given a second chance, I would do everything different, like not following an eight-pack [laughs]