Joe Mena is a brutally honest person. He tells it like it is. That’s what happened during our one-on-one interview with him after he was voted off Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. According to Joe, Ben is not the hero we’re all seeing on the show. Instead, Joe said he was actually a “prick” and an “asshole.” Plus, he explained why Chrissy was a terribly unlikable person before revealing why Lauren is a total underdog who could win this game.
SheKnows: Your elimination seemed like a pretty clean blindside. Were you genuinely surprised to be voted off or did you have any idea it was coming?
Joe Mena: I knew it was coming. The J.P. vote was what kind of made me feel it. They were so excited about finally playing the game and making a move that when they pitched it to me, I was thinking their target would be Chrissy or Ben. They mentioned J.P., and I was like, “Really? Where’s this blindside?” I really pitched we go after Chrissy and Ben, but they were pretty resistant on that. That made me feel like they were gonna take me out next round. That’s when I started thinking about the option to take out Devon. I was trying to work my relationship with Ryan. He finally disclosed to me he had the Idol. I was thinking about telling him to give Ben the Idol to take out Devon.
SK: After J.P. was voted off, Ben began acting like he was on the outside of the votes despite helping orchestrate the blindside. It seemed like you fell for all of it too.
JM: I was buying it. I was buying a whole lot of it. I had no idea. I underestimated the relationship he had with Lauren and Devon. Most importantly, I overestimated Devon and Lauren’s game. They were decent players. I never thought they would allow someone as dangerous as Ben to be a double agent. Who does that? Why would you allow someone to have that much power? I knew I was playing with fools, but to that level I had no idea.
SK: Ben has been given an epic hero edit. Is he really the perfect hero we’re seeing on TV?
JM: He’s a fucking asshole! That’s what Ben is [laughs]. Everything I’m saying is all in-game stuff. This is not how I feel about people afterward. In the game, Ben’s an asshole. He would amplify everything regarding Cole. I was like, “Dude. Fucking relax. If you’re gonna talk shit about Cole, why don’t you say shit to his face? Why are you waiting until Cole disappears?” My personality, I’m in your face, and I tell you how it is. To me, that really irked me about Ben. I knew it was game play, but Ben was talking all this crap and wouldn’t say it to anyone’s face. He was an asshole, really cocky and overconfident. I was annoyed hearing everybody talk about he’s a Marine. I don’t know if he’s a Marine; he could be bullshitting me. I don’t care what you’ve done outside of this game. All I care about is who you are in this game and what you’ve done in the game. He’s getting this hero edit, but to me he was a prick out there. I was not a fan of him. He was not a fan of mine, and the way he treated Cole was not cool. It is what it is, but he’s really cocky and definitely a prick at times.
More: Survivor‘s Cole Medders defends Chrissy Hofbeck
SK: Chrissy has been getting slammed by other castaways for her behavior during the game. What was your experience with Chrissy like?
JM: Chrissy did not like me. Ben did not like me. Alan did not like me. Those three players, I purposely tried to push their buttons. Internally, I was laughing and dying inside. I don’t take anything personal. The problem with Chrissy, she’s condescending. The second I spoke to her, I sensed it. I knew it. I’m in law enforcement. People pull rank all the time, and some people are entitled. That’s what rubbed me the wrong way with her. I sensed she took things a little too personal. She crossed that line. That’s just how she is. I think she has no self-awareness that people don’t like her because of the stuff she says and does. Chrissy really thinks she’s having a great social game. When it plays back, I don’t necessarily read into the edits. In the secret scenes, though, Chrissy was legit saying, “I’m playing an amazing social game.” No. She’s probably playing the worst social game out of all of us, including myself. I was purposely trying to piss people off, but they still respected my game. Do I think she’s an evil person? No. I think it was amplified in the game, but I just think she’s entitled in her day-to-day life. She was really phony out on the island, and I can’t really be around somebody trying to be someone they’re not — especially when they’re trying to be nice because I know you’re full of shit. Chrissy wanted to be that mama role, but she was really snarky and condescending. If she wasn’t condescending, then it would be cool.
SK: Do you have any hard feelings toward her today?
JM: No. It’s over with. It’s been left out there. We went at it, but there’s no hard feelings. We don’t have much in common, but we shared an amazing experience together. Chrissy, I’m sure she’s great in her day-to-day life. Out on the island, it wasn’t pleasant. I think it was a little more personal than it was game. Her conversations weren’t genuine conversations. It just wasn’t real.
SK: Did you go into the game wanting to be a villain?
JM: I didn’t want to be a villain. It came out that I had to be the villain. Everyone has a lane, and I played my lane. How do I further my game without having any ties to anyone? Nobody was willing to play with me for so many reasons. The edit made it seem like I was just getting under everyone’s skin, and that’s why they didn’t want to play with me. There were other reasons nobody wanted to play with me. One, I was a Healer. Two, I was threatening. I did know the game. But it just came to a point of how do I move further in the game? If I get enough people pissed off at me, they’re going to think nobody would vote for me to win. I ran with it. The concept, initially, was thought of at the tribal swap. It came about again at the merge. I wasn’t planning to do that at the merge. I had no other choice. At that point, I had to become creative.
SK: You said Lauren is playing a good game. As viewers, we haven’t seen too much of Lauren’s strategy until these last few episodes. What’s your take on her?
JM: She’s an underdog. Devon told me his final three would be Ryan and Lauren. I was like, “What?!?! You’re gonna bring who?!?!” I told him Lauren would beat him like there’s no tomorrow. She’s got a story, and she’s really frank. I get along with her because she’s very similar to me. She won’t give you bullshit. It may rub people the wrong way, but out there in the game where everyone’s lying, you kind of just want to forget about the game a bit and have somebody who can be honest with you. As much as I rubbed people the wrong way, I provided. So did Lauren. I think her social game is stronger than is being shown. She’s constantly thinking about getting to the end. Others were just thinking about getting by three days or to the family visit. I think that’s what makes her a good player. She was able to make a move when it’s necessary instead of just laying low. She’s the one who initiated flipping the seven-way alliance.
SK: How did you get on the show?
JM: My supervisor told me I would be really good at the game. In my office, it’s kind of like playing Survivor. Some people like me. Some don’t. He’s like, “The way that you are overall, you don’t let things get to you. I think you would be good on Survivor.” I was like, “I don’t even watch this crap. Survivor is fake. Survivor is not real. No. I’m not watching that shit. It’s whack. It’s fake.” But I did start watching around Heroes vs. Villains. I was like, “Hold up. This is my shit.” So last summer I decided to apply and send in a video. I didn’t think anything of it, and I got a phone call back. Next thing you know I was in LA for casting.