Jessica Johnston (‘Survivor’ 35) exit interview: Cole Medders is in the ‘friend zone,’ Joe Mena’s move ‘totally uncalled for’ [PODCAST]

Wednesday night on CBS, 29-year-old nurse practitioner Jessica Johnston was blindsided on “Survivor” by the former Heroes and Hustlers. (Read our “Survivor” 35 Episode 7 recap.) Jessica voted with her former Healers to eliminate Chrissy Hofbeck, but they were simply outnumbered when the other two groups decided to form a super alliance.

We recently spoke with the Louisville, KY resident about her shocking blindside, her relationship with showmance partner Cole Medders both on and off the island, and which game move Joe Mena made that was “totally uncalled for.” Listen to Jessica Johnston’s exit interview podcast above, or read the transcript version below.

Gold Derby: Hey Jessica, how are you?

Jessica Johnston: Hey, I’m good, thanks. Well I’m not good, but you know.

GD: You’ve been better.

JJ: I’ve had better days.

GD: Well, let’s start right at the end. In your parting words last night on “Survivor” you said this was the “biggest blindside of my life.” So were you really convinced that Chrissy was going home?

JJ: Yeah, unfortunately I really hate to admit my downfalls and my weak points but yeah, I was overly confident in the relationships that I thought I had built with Ben and Lauren. I really thought they were gonna vote with us and yeah, I really believed all the votes would be to Chrissy and in my head I was thinking, “Okay, if the votes aren’t to Chrissy they’re to Cole,” because I knew there was so much animosity between Ben and Cole and I knew Ben was a powerhouse so I was thinking, “Okay fine, if it’s Cole, sorry for you. I protected you enough, I cleaned up your dirty work enough. I will move forward just fine by myself.” I do life really good alone so again I had option A and option B in my head. I had no idea that I was the plan B to somebody else, it was shocking.

GD: The goal heading into the merge was for the five red Yawa tribe members to remain solid: You, Cole, Mike, Lauren and Ben. Why do you think that bond was broken?

JJ: So again, a lot of theories, but I was really pleased to see last night in the edit that Lauren really tired to convince Ben that it was a good idea to stay with the Yawa that we had developed and I love that because I felt like Lauren and I had — I really worked hard, like I’m a relational builder. I’m good at it, and they’re genuine and so I was excited to see that Lauren almost came with us. She made a really good move by joining with the majority of the people who wanted the Healers gone.

I think that ultimately Ben had a lot of different hands everywhere. I knew that he had a relationship with Chrissy based on the way he defended her in our conversations and I was thinking, “Okay fine. Chrissy’s your first wife. I’m your second and I don’t know if I fully trust you,” but I was so blinded again by so many other things with Cole I just don’t think I allowed my thoughts to go to the possibility that they would not vote with us. Lauren had made it pretty clear that she could get Devon to flip with her. However, I was not taking into consideration that Desi, Joe they were on an island with Devon and Ashley. Of course they’re not friends, they had a lot of chaos go on in their camp, they’re totally split. So again I was just shocked that they didn’t vote with us and totally misread the situation.

GD: The five healers decided to stick together and vote out Chrissy. What was it about Chrissy that made her a big threat? Was it her social game?

JJ: Yeah I think amongst all of us we had pegged Chrissy as a pretty big social threat. I had some encounter with Chrissy at the merge. This is a time when we should be friendly go-lucky, talk to each other and it felt like she was pretty cold towards me, which isn’t a good sign female to female and I got this vibe that like, “Oh no, you are one of those women that are threatened by other women. Who could threaten you?” So I did not feel good. That was one reason I wanted her gone and the other reason was, I was forced to join in with Ben because of the split. I knew Ben had a relationship with Chrissy; I had zero relationship with Chrissy, so I wanted her gone because of the threat that I felt like she was gonna be one of those women to totally target other women, which as we’ve seen, is seemingly true. Katrina, Roark, Ali, myself, all of those votes kind of credit Chrissy. So yeah, she’s a threat.

GD: Now we have to talk about your showmance partner, Cole. What is your relationship like today with Cole? Have you guys gone on that date yet?

JJ: That’s funny, yeah so we have seen each other quite a lot since the show, had a great time together but we are just friends. We’re in different places he’s doing his thing and I’m in Kentucky so, enjoying each other when we see each other but definitely in the friend zone.

GD: He really let you down a few times on the show, whether it was spilling secrets that you’d told him or eating some of the food. Why didn’t you just kick him to the curb and say, “You’re playing on your own!”

JJ: Yeah it’s really funny when I hear that line and I heard it a lot, like, “Jessica what are you doing?” and I’m like, “Hello everyone what does everyone want me to do? I never went to Tribal! “And I didn’t have a curb to kick him to. There’s no curb, people! However, I will say, I’m not gonna reject the fact that I was in showmance with Cole. The first couple days we definitely had something that was very confusing, like, “Are we a couple? Are we playing each other? Do we have something? What is it?” The lines were very skewed. As the game went on and I started seeing his mistakes at Yawa I was thinking, “I don’t care what this is, you’re killing my game, but what am I gonna do about it?”

There was, again, no curb, and I felt like the role I played on Yawa was picking up his messes, ‘cause Ben and Lauren our conversations with them were always like, “Yeah guys, I know he’s a liability. We’ll have to see how the game goes. I’ll vote him off when I need to.” Like those were my words to them. Of course they didn’t get shown which was totally fine, but relationships end all the time, a.k.a. I’m still single so I’m really good at ending relationships. I would have ended this if I had to. Did I want to? No. Cole was not malicious, he just can’t keep a secret and that’s a character flaw, so it’s like what do you do if you have someone in your alliance who can’t keep a secret but who would never flip on you? He would’ve never written my name down unless it came to the point he had to, as I would have. So it’s a hard question to answer.

GD: Switching gears, one of the funnier moments of the episode was when Chrissy met Joe for the first time and she said how loud and obnoxious he was. You started this game playing with him. What are your feelings on Joe? He’s a very divisive player.

JJ: He is, and you know what? My only line towards that question is, I’m glad I was on Joe’s side. Joe is a villain, he would’ve played that role. He’s a good player. He’s strategic, he’s smart, he reads people like no other. People can argue that point but he’s a good player. He’s chaotic, he’s manic, but he knows how to find and Idol right? Joe is someone you want to be on their side whether you like him or not. That is what I chose to do is be on his side and I felt like I was.

GD: What did you think of Joe’s move of putting the idol around his neck? Was that something you would have done?

JJ: Totally uncalled for. I think that he was just acting on emotion. I think that he was, again, feeling the high of having an Idol at the merge not having to be worried. Ultimately he was protecting his game. Joe is a player. I don’t think that he was thinking about the repercussions that it would cause on the rest of his alliance, a.k.a. me. But, I can’t get mad at him for doing that because he protected himself. I do think, what would the scenario have been if he had not thrown the Idol around his neck but had still played the Idol for himself? Would the votes have gone to Cole and not myself? And unfortunately we’ll never know.

GD: Heading into last night’s individual immunity challenge, what was going through your mind? Did you feel pressure to win, or were you just kind of like, “Whatever happens happens?”

JJ: Yeah that’s, again, my downfall. I wasn’t comfortable but I wasn’t worried about myself. I was worried about my alliance. So going into the challenge I was mostly full of excitement like, “Yeah my first individual challenge on ‘Survivor!’” Which I totally blew (laughs). But going into it I just felt happiness. I don’t remember feeling anxious. I don’t remember feeling like my life was on the line at all.

GD: You weren’t as bad as Ryan though, Jeff really made fun of Ryan there.

JJ: Yeah, Ryan pretty much sucked bad. That’s okay. It was a really hard challenge, everybody!Like it was tough, so props to Desi (laughs).

GD: Final question Jessica: If you could pinpoint one moment as your favorite moment being out there in Fiji, what would it be?

JJ: Oh gosh, I have two. I think my favorite moments were the moments I had privately. We kept winning so they weren’t really shown, but my ability to build relationships is my strong point and I felt like I had some really great moments with Roark and Desi privately, really great moments with Joe, and really great moments with Mike separately. So inside I was thinking, “Oh my god I’m doing this, like I am building sub-alliances within a huge alliance,” which is what I think a good player does. Again unfortunately, none of the mattered in my game when it came to the end of my game, but I love thinking that I’ve built from great relationships that are still great relationships even after the game.

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