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Jenna Bowman on Missteps That Led to Her Shocking Survivor Elimination

Life competing on Survivor isn’t always easy — but the same can be said of life after Survivor. Jenna Bowman, one of this week’s castaways, talked to SheKnows about her unexpected elimination, trolls on social media who’ve mercilessly targeted her and why two particular Survivor contestants are, in her opinion, bad players.

SheKnows: Going into the vote, did you know your time was up?

Jenna Bowman: I thought I was safe. After the challenge, it was three Navitis against us two [herself and Donathan]. I went to the Navitis and asked them if they were willing to flip on somebody. Can we make a move that doesn’t involve voting off Malolo? They said no. They were Naviti strong. From there, that’s when you guys saw them say they would vote out Donathan. Here I thought we were all voting for Donathan. My job was to play it up at Tribal that I knew I was going home and had come to terms with it so Donathan didn’t get nervous and play the Idol for himself. He had approached me with the option of voting for Sebastian and he would play the Idol for me. I thought I was going in with them voting for Donathan and he may play it on me. I was safe regardless, so when neither of those options worked out and it was my name, I was shocked.

SK: Where did it go wrong for you?

JB: When I was pitching the case of keeping me over Donathan to them, I let them know he had an Idol. I was trying to make the point that he needs to go because he has an Idol and he’s erratic by flipping to both sides. Looking back, why would they want to vote for somebody who has an Idol because one of them could be sent home? I think I became the easy vote. Donathan not playing it on me was just because our Tribal was so cryptic. They didn’t show a lot of it. It was quick and short with weird, cryptic messages from the Naviti side. He and I really had no idea where anyone stood, so he ended up playing it for himself.

SK: Did you think he was going to give you his Idol?

JB: I had hoped, but I thought that was my backup plan. I thought for sure he was going home. I didn’t nail that down with him prior to Tribal. I didn’t make that my No. 1 priority, which obviously I should have. I was also skeptical about it. Here’s this guy offering to play an Idol for me when we really didn’t have a relationship up to that point. It didn’t make sense. It was almost more of a red flag than a really solid offer.

Donathan Hurley with Jenna Bowman on Survivor: Ghost Island
Image: CBS

SK: Why target Donathan when he’s somebody on the same side of the dwindling Malolo numbers?

JB: I had just been literally down on the numbers the whole game. I’m somebody that wants to play the game and wants to play it hard. The fact I had no control up to this point was so frustrating to me. Seeing we have a small Tribal Council with four people that aren’t exactly big targets or really strategic players, I thought I could finally make something happen and take control of my game. To me, the person I wanted to go home was Chelsea out of that group. She was a threat, winning the Immunity challenges. So, when Donathan approached me to write down Sebastian, I didn’t agree with it. To me, it was between Sebastian and Donathan, and at that point I had a bigger relationship with Sebastian from day one. I really didn’t have anything with Donathan. I went with relationship versus gut, and it ended up screwing me.

SK: Donathan said he was considering giving you his Idol, but then you voted against him. What has the feedback been from viewers?

JB: It’s been mixed. I’m getting a lot of love from people that have been really supportive toward me. Donathan and I are good. We’ve been promoting that and doing damage control with anyone thinking I have any ill will toward anybody. But his fans are definitely very spirited, and they like to post their comments and thoughts on my Instagram. It’s whatever. They’re die-hard fans of his. I had called him an idiot and then got voted out. A lot of it has been, “Karma is a bitch.” There’s been a few comments about me being a racist for some reason. I have no idea where that’s coming from. I think some of them are just a little ridiculous, but for the most part, it’s nothing I can’t handle.

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Jenna Bowman on Survivor: Ghost Island
Image: CBS

SK: After your torch was snuffed, you didn’t even get time to process what just happened. Instead, you had to join the jury immediately. Were you able to concentrate on what was being discussed as you watched the second Tribal Council unfold?

JB: Here you are trying to figure out what just happened. You’re upset. At this point, you just want to go talk it out and process things about what I could’ve done differently, and obviously go eat and shower. I had to go right back and face everybody that just voted me out and sit on the bench with these beautiful-looking people with the new Tribal. Then to watch my alliance get voted out was a lot to process. I think making that transition from player to juror so quickly gave me a sense of not worrying as much about being bitter. I think it made me get over the bitter part of being voted out. Then it was game on because I had a little bit of power and control in the game that I haven’t been used to.

SK: Tell us about Chelsea, because viewers aren’t getting to see much of her game at all. Watching the show, it’s easy to forget she’s even there. What are we missing about Chelsea?

JB: You guys didn’t see a ton of me, either, so I can’t sit here and be like, blah, blah, blah. In my opinion, I definitely didn’t see any type of strategy coming from her or Angela. To this day, we all have these huge connections, and I lack that with those two people.

SK: Does it bother you that Angela and Chelsea are still in the game when others who are playing harder have already been voted out?

JB: Yes, it definitely does. At the same time, I’m sure a lot of people could turn around and say it looked like I wasn’t playing the game. It’s easy for me to say because when I feel like you have the numbers and the security of that and you’re not willing to make a move, that’s what I’m judging as not playing the game. If you’re down in the numbers and trying to stay alive, I feel like that’s slightly different because you really don’t have any options. I feel like I haven’t seen anything from Chelsea and Angie in terms of taking control, even being in the majority. I don’t think Angela was on the right side of any vote, either.

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Jenna Bowman on Survivor: Ghost Island
Image: CBS

SK: Since your story wasn’t heavily showcased this season, tell us about some of the strategy we didn’t get to see.

JB: Our strategy was just discussing, “OK, what can we do to make the next vote?” There was never creative moments or exciting moments besides very early on at Malolo. Me, Michael, Brendan, Stephanie Johnson and Libby had an alliance. We called ourselves the Starfish Five. That was the most exciting part of the game for me because, in a sense, Stephanie Johnson and I had a lot of power. We were in charge of figuring out the Gonzalez vote and the Jacob vote. Stephanie and I were really the ones lying to Jacob and getting him to trust us and blindsiding him. Those two votes were just the most exciting because I had power. I’m good at lying. I’m good at manipulating. I just didn’t have the opportunity after that to keep it going. The biggest regret is them not seeing I was scrappier than I was. I was still fighting. I fought every vote.

SK: Going into the game, you admitted to struggling with having “resting bitch face.” Did that ever come up in the game where players perceived your attitude wrong?

JB: It was definitely discussed once we started talking in the first couple of days, with everyone getting to know each other. We all kind of talked about our first impressions, and it was definitely brought up that this girl walks in here like she owns the place. Jeff Probst actually gave me this tip back in casting. He was like, “When you get there, just be open. ‘Hey, guys, I have this issue, but it isn’t who I am. Don’t let it get to you.'” That was kind of my strategy going in, and it worked because I made it through the first vote and ended up actually making really strong alliances pretty quickly off the bat.

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SK: That’s fantastic that Probst gave you advice!

JB: He was amazing because that was an issue for casting. That’s just how I came across, but the more I talked, people understood and saw a different side of me.

SK: Were you concerned about the first impression you’d make?

JB: In the beginning, you don’t know anybody. The votes are purely based off an impression of somebody. If I’m not letting my guard down and showing my vulnerable side, which I usually don’t in social situations like this, I knew it was going to be held against me. I made sure that I aligned myself with Stephanie Johnson, one of the most bubbly, happy people. My first move was to make sure that people saw me with someone like that instead of writing me off as an antisocial type of person.

Jenna Bowman on Survivor: Ghost Island
Image: CBS

SK: How did you get on the show?

JB: I was recruited. They reached out to me last December. I was voted most likely to be on a reality TV show back in high school. The night before, I was sitting with family and talking about how I needed a change. I needed something exciting because I was so sick of my job. I kept saying I was going to quit my job and move to an island to live the island life. My dad was like, “You should go on the Bachelor.” I kid you not, the next day at work I get a call, “Hey, this is CBS. Would you create a video?” It was an experience that I will never forget, and I think the fans have been amazing. Now I’m a true fan of the show. It’s amazing.

SK: How did they find you?

JB: I have no idea. They never really shared that information. It was just more along the lines of, “I was told to find you and I found you. Will you make a video?”

What do you think of Jenna’s plan to take out Donathan? Join the conversation and leave a comment below.

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