In a game that's all about forming alliances, J'Tia Taylor essentially blew up her own chances of winning in Week 2 of Survivor: Cagayan, when she dumped out all but a few grains of her tribe's rice in a moment of frustration. Despite the fact that she managed to (shockingly) not get voted out immediately afterwards, J'Tia's torch was finally snuffed in this week's episode.
"I have no regrets," J'Tia tells TVGuide.com of the rice-throwing incident. "It was kind of like my 'go big or go home' moment."
At this point, she's done both. Read our full exit interview with J'Tia to get her full explanation regarding the rice, and thoughts on how Jeff Probst may have influenced her tribe's decision to toss her on Wednesday's episode.
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TVGuide.com: You've had a pretty interesting run on the show. I have to start by asking about the rice-throwing incident. What was going through your mind?
J'Tia: When I threw out the rice, basically we'd come back from the challenge and I was feeling bad, because I didn't come through for my team and for myself. It was kind of like my 'go big or go home' moment, and I did not go big, clearly. (Laughs) I thought that the sit-down at Tribal Council was a little unnecessary. I thought it was kind of kicking somebody while they were down. Also, we had an alliance and we were going to vote off Kass, and that was going to be the decision. But now Garrett changed everything. He decided that there needed to be an open forum. So I was really upset. I really wanted to hurt Garrett. Garrett was always talking about how he wanted to eat. And, everybody else I didn't really care about because they all just said that they'd vote me out. So, I threw the rice in the fire.
A "go big or go home" moment. But ... you didn't go home after that.
J'Tia: I know, right?! I was excited about that.
It was pretty shocking that they decided to vote Garrett off instead of you. Were you surprised? How did you pull that off?
J'Tia: You know who pulled that off? Kass and Garrett. They helped me pull that off — Garrett, by just talking. The more he talked, the better chance I felt like I had. He basically gave it all up, was stumbling over his words. I was like, 'I can at least put together a sentence. If I can't do a challenge, I can put together a pretty good sentence.' Really, he just kind of shot himself in the foot. I made the point that he had an immunity idol but he didn't bring it and this would be a perfect time to get him out. Kass made a great decision to go with the girls, where she could jump over me and be [in position] 1 and 2 with Tasha, instead of being third with the boys. So it kind of just worked itself out right there at Tribal Council.
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After dumping the rice though, were you certain that you had sealed your own fate? Maybe not right away, but somewhere down the road? It calls to mind Brandon Hantz's behavior a couple of seasons ago.
J'Tia: Throwing the rice out was kind of 'scorched earth on the way out the door.' Like, 'You're going to do this to me, well, let me mess up your chances before I go.' I didn't think about Brandon Hantz. I thought, 'If you come for me, you're going to get hurt,' pretty much. And I'm going to hurt you. So that's basically — not nice, but what I was thinking.
Do you regret dumping the rice?
J'Tia: No. I have no regrets.
OK, moving on. What was the dynamic in your tribe like after voting Garrett out?
J'Tia: Well, it humbled Spencer, because I think Spencer pretty much thought he knew what was going to go on. And it kind of solidified the relationship between Tasha and Kass. I still felt like I was on the outs, but I thought Tribal Council was awesome. I loved it of course, because I was still there. So, I think we just really wanted to regroup. That Tribal Council was really hard on us. I don't know if you saw that, but it was a lot. It was a lot of emotion, it was a lot of thinking. It was a lot of going back and forth. I don't think anybody came out of there feeling great with whatever way it went.
Was there anything that happened behind the scenes that you'd like viewers to know?
J'Tia: I know that it seemed like everybody hated everybody, but I feel like the girls got along a lot more than you see. There was this power struggle, but I do feel like the girls got along more than the guys did. The guys were just really butting heads — well, except for Spencer. And I think really that's what got David and Garrett voted off. They underestimated the rest of their opponents. The girls got on really well. Even if we were yelling at each other, we got past it, and I think people didn't see that.
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Still, the Brains tribe has really struggled this season, in everything from building your shelter to performing n challenges. Why do you think this is?
J'Tia: I think the other tribes came together as a team, and we really never came together as a team. I like to say it was like Clash of the Titans. Everybody had their own agenda. Everybody was trying to do their own thing. We were supposed to be a tribe, and we never were. We were just individuals who were on the same beach. I think a lot of that came from that. And we're all leaders, we all are used to being in charge, and not many of us are used to just following. So it got very frustrating and we just couldn't pull it together.
It seemed like the pressure really started to get to you in particular during the challenges.
J'Tia: Well, I was nervous. I think that the advantage that the Brawn tribe had is that, I feel like all of them played some sort of team sport where you had to perform under pressure. Where I excel, my brains, I never have somebody yelling at me, 'Solve that problem! Get that out!' So it's a little different and it did make me nervous. And I really wanted to come through, and I just couldn't do it.
So let's talk about that final Tribal Council. It came down to you or Spencer.
J'Tia: I think they did what they felt was best. I think they were egged on. When I went in to Tribal Council, I knew there was a possibility that I'd get voted off, but I didn't think I was going to get voted off, because we had talked about it. I felt good about it. I felt like [Kass and Tasha] weren't just patting me on the head. But as Jeff spoke more and more about challenges and staying strong, I think their opinion turned. Even though I was trying to turn it the other way and let them know that, there's going to be switch-ups. You need loyal people on your side. But you know, Jeff is the host, and his words carry weight.
Photos: Meet the cast of Survivor: Cagayan
Do you feel that you've been cast in an unfair light on the show?
J'Tia: I mean, they used what they had. Can I be bossy? Yes. Can I be mean? Yes. I definitely can. But I feel like that's just one facet in the diamond that is J'Tia. So, they showed what they showed. I did everything. I own up to it. But, you know, that's a story. My real life is the truth.
Looking back on your run, would you have done anything differently?
J'Tia: I would not have volunteered for that puzzle. I can do puzzles. What I can't do is swim 200 yards, jump over something, pull some things back and then do a puzzle while people are yelling at me. It's a different situation. I wanted to bring it home for my team. I really wanted to change the tide, and I wasn't able to do that. And it was just really frustrating.
What was the biggest surprise to you, being a participant on the show rather than a viewer?
J'Tia: The elements were definitely hard for me. I actually took it better than I thought I would because I am not outdoorsy. Let me put that on the record. I am not outdoorsy. I sit in a nice air-conditioned office. I don't do that sort of thing. Even when I work out, it's in air conditioning. But actually, the thing that affected me the most is how many people are actually around. When you go to a challenge, you don't see anybody, but there's got to be 200 people there. It's not just you and Jeff and the tribe.
Who do you think is the biggest threat on the Brains tribe going forward?
J'Tia: Let me tell you, anybody who makes it out of our tribe has a pretty good chance. Like I said, it was Clash of the Titans. Nobody in that tribe is stupid.
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on CBS.
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