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Survivor's Jessica: If I Had Flipped, It Would Have Ended My Game

Why she isn't bitter about her exit

Liz Raftery

If Survivorfans thought last week's pre-Thanksgiving double-header, which ended with Jessica Lewis getting sent home after the group opted to draw rocks, was heartbreaking to watch from the comfort of our living rooms, try living it.

"It was a pretty brutal experience," Jessica tells TVGuide.com.

To recap: After two votes ended in a deadlock between Hannah and Zeke, per Survivor rules, the other players had to either come to a unanimous decision to eliminate either Hannah or Zeke, or both Hannah and Zeke would be given immunity, and the remaining players would draw rocks to see who would leave the game in an sudden death scenario. That unlucky distinction went to Jessica -- who was, ironically, the player most vocal about not wanting to draw rocks in the first place.

TVGuide.com chatted with Jessica about her decision not to flip on Hannah, what we didn't see at Tribal Council, and what she thinks David's secret motivations were in the discussions leading up to the vote.

It seems like there may have been a lot happening at Tribal Council that wasn't shown on TV. Walk us through the chaos.
There was a whole lot of chaos. There were a lot of accusations being thrown around -- who had idols and who didn't, and people like, "You should empty your bag and prove that you don't." There was a lot of chaos happening, and there was a lot of whispering occurring. Hannah was telling me to vote for Will, and I don't know where that was coming from. Sunday's name was being told to me. And then, obviously there was whispering on the other end. I feel like it was being done by at least one person for a reason. I think David was trying really hard to be overly aggressive in order to try and get people to vote for him, so that he could play his idol for himself. I think that's what he was doing. Because it seemed really like angry, headstrong people.

I feel like I was kind of caught in the crossfire, because people then started telling me that I should flip, because I wasn't getting involved in all of the anger and animosity that seemed to be going on. I was just kind of taking it all in and processing thinking, "This is insanity. What are we doing? This is crazy." Because we've all come in here with a decision. We've all decided what we want to do. None of this is going to affect anything. It's not going to change anything. And ultimately it didn't, because we all voted for who we decided to vote for when we walked in.

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The final vote had to be unanimous. Do you think you would have been able to sway other people if you had flipped at that point?
Jessica: There are two levels to it. The re-vote was when they wanted me to flip. I knew that I didn't want to go to rocks, because I knew there was going to be no unanimous decision, because people had really dug in their heels and they were not going to be swayed.

But at the same time, if I had flipped, I knew that I was ultimately bringing an end to my game. I wasn't going to win a million dollars if I had flipped at that moment. The game was not respecting flippers up to that point. Hannah was getting voted for because she had flipped on Zeke. They were voting for Zeke because he had flipped on us. So, it wasn't a game that was respecting flippers. And I was being told to vote out Hannah because she was a flipper, but I'm being told to flip. So, that's really not a smart argument, because the reason you want to get rid of her is what you're telling me to do. And I think that it was almost like I was expendable at that point, because I think Zeke realized that I didn't have any love on the other side -- obviously we'd seen that with the previous vote -- and that ultimately, if he got me to flip, it was going to be really easy to then get rid of me because I would have no loyalty to anybody. Or at least, people wouldn't have loyalty to me, because I would have shown I don't have any loyalty.

So I knew, as much as I didn't want to go to rocks and as horrible as that moment was, if I had flipped, I wasn't going to win. And I didn't go on Survivor to finish third or second or sixth. I wanted to win. If I was going to go to the final three, I wanted to have an actual shot at winning, and I knew that would just completely cut any chance that I had of doing that.

Jessica Lewis, Jeff Probst, Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X
Screen Grab, CBS

As a juror, does the chaos at this Tribal Council in particular weigh heavily on your mind when you're thinking about how to vote for?
It certainly does. I think that the game that I've played up to that point with these people certainly is part of that decision. I think that I have a better understanding than the viewers watching, why this happened and what happened. There isn't too much animosity that I could have with people that were sitting there, because I kind of understand what was going through everybody's heads and why people were doing what they were doing and why people were so headstrong. But obviously it's one component of many that I will utilize in making my decision.

Why did Sunday tell Hannah and Adam that the plan was to vote out Ken -- and maybe a bigger question is, why did they believe her?
The interesting part about that is, that wasn't the first time we had heard Ken's name. We had heard Ken's name earlier in the day. We had also heard my name, and we'd heard David's name. So we had heard all three of our names. We didn't know where the votes were going to fall. And so, we all knew that it was going to be some combination or something along those lines. I didn't realize that Hannah had had that conversation with David [about people voting for her]. I didn't know that that even had occurred, otherwise I probably would have been focusing a little bit more on the possibility of it being Hannah. But, when they were talking about Ken, I didn't really think that could be completely wrong. But at the same time, I didn't know if it was going to be completely right, because we ultimately had no idea who was going to be voted for. It was one of those moments where we were all just kind of hoping and praying that we were going to get it right, and unfortunately we didn't.

You were adamant about not wanting to draw rocks. What was going through your mind at that moment?
I didn't want to draw rocks because obviously you're putting everything to chance. You're putting your game to chance, and I certainly didn't want to put my game to chance. But I also didn't want to lose either. And so, you're sitting there, realizing what you're up against. This is 10 people. No one's swaying. Nobody's changing their minds. Everybody's being very headstrong. And ultimately, six of us are going to be suffering the fate of this, where we are going to have to put our hand in a bag of rocks. Which is not a great idea, but at the same time, if I had put my hand in that bag of rocks and picked a white one, great! It worked out for five people, and my game would have been just the same as it had been before. If I had lost one of my core alliance people, I still think I would have recovered, because I wouldn't have had to have made any excuses for what I did. I wasn't going to have to try to regain loyalty or make an excuse for why I did it. I wouldn't be seen as selfish. I would be seen as going all in for this game ... as much as I knew going to rocks was a horrible thing. Ultimately, the two people being voted for are now not even going to go home. So, in the Survivor world, it makes no sense. You vote people out, and the two people you're voting for get to stay and someone else has to go home. So, it's really insanity.

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Physically and emotionally, what was your reaction when you saw you were holding the black rock?
Jessica: To actually have that rock in my hand was a horrible moment, because you realize, I'm done. That's it. My game is over. There's no buildup. There's no revealing votes, with
Jeff going through each one and you're seeing your name. There's no preparing for that moment. You can walk into a Tribal and know, I'm probably going to get voted for, but I think I've got enough people on my side that I'm not going home. Whereas, when you're picking rocks, it's that moment, and that's the only moment you have to process it. So it was a whole lot of emotion and just sadness and frustration that just all hit me at once. It was really awful.

Going back a few weeks, let's talk about when David played his idol for you. Objectively, do you think that was a good move for him?
For David, that was an amazing move. Obviously for me it was great, because I got to stay in the game, so I'm not going to complain about it. But people have said, in a lot of the things I've read and podcasts I've listened to, that it wasn't a smart move for David to play his idol so early for somebody else in the game. But what David really assured himself at that moment was, he was going to have a loyal person to the end. I was going to be completely loyal to David, no matter what. And obviously that proved true when we went to rocks. So, for David, that play was great, because he really assured himself, I've got another vote, and if I sit next to her in the final three, I win. [Laughs]. So for David, that was fantastic. For me, obviously it kept me in the game, which was great. But it was a hurdle I was going to have to get over if I made it to the final three. ... The fact that David recognized keeping me over Lucy was going to better his game, I think was a fantastic move for him.

I also think, the lead-up to that ... people were wondering why I voted for CeCe at that moment. But I voted for CeCe because I ultimately went with Sunday. Sunday and I had been very close and she and I were playing the game together, and she assured me that I was good, I wasn't getting voted out, I was fine, and we were voting for CeCe. So I ultimately picked Sunday over Ken, who I had just started working with. So as far as, where did my loyalties lie? At that point, they were with Sunday. And that wasn't shown, and so my vote for CeCe, people were really kind of scratching their heads going, "What? Where did that come from?" But there was a reason for that.

Tell me about your decision to give the legacy advantage to Ken.
Well, I promised it to him. ... Really, in that moment when I had that conversation with him, I knew I needed to get him back on my side. And in order to regain his trust, I needed to share that with him, that I had the legacy. And I promised it to him so I would maintain his trust as the game moved forward -- which ended up working out ultimately very well, when we swapped and were still on the same tribe. So for me, I do think that I was going to stay true to that promise, and that's why I gave it to Ken.

Was there anyone else you considered giving it to?
Obviously I thought about David, because David had saved me. I did consider giving it to David, but, because I had promised it to Ken, I ultimately decided to give it to Ken.

If Ken gets eliminated, can he give it to someone else?
Yes, he gives it to someone else.

Do you have any regrets about the way you played the game? Is there anything you would do differently?
I would pick a different rock. [Laughs] That's what I would do. I probably wouldn't go to rocks next time, though. I would try to make sure that we're not going to have a tie, I think, leading up to it. ... But I'm very proud of the game that I played and what I did. ... I think that I made certain decisions quickly in the game, because the game moves fast, when you're aligning with people and when you're deciding to play with people. And then you might determine that that might not be the best for my game play. I think that Ken was very smart in being more reserved about that decision. People kind of thought it was odd that Ken doesn't want to strategize and Ken doesn't want to align himself with anyone. But I feel like, for Ken, it ended up working out better because he had a chance to really kind of look at everybody before he made any decisions. Whereas, I was kind of thrust into this six very quickly. And then ended up looking at it going, oh. [Laughs] Having six is awesome, if you know that the six are really going to be on your side and really with you. And unfortunately, I think there were people in my six that weren't necessarily on my side and weren't necessarily wanting to play with me. But like I said, the game moves really, really fast, so you make decisions because you have to, and when you're looking at, "I'm going to be in an alliance of six," that's great. So I think that maybe taking a little more time to make that decision would be great. But ultimately, I really have no regrets, because I think in the end, I really had such an amazing experience. I loved every second of it, and really had such a fun time out there, regardless of the fact that I picked the black rock. I should have moved my hand to the left and picked a different one, and I could have gotten to stay and play longer. But ultimately, no. It was fantastic. It really was. I loved it.

Any final thoughts on the season in general?
I think this season in general has been insane. I think that the game play is so different than what we've seen in past Survivors. The ability for people to play so strategically in such an advanced way so soon in the game - and I really think it started right out of the gate. People were taking out strategic threats very early, as opposed to the way that you normally see the buildup in Survivor go. It's a much different mindset, where everyone who is playing this season I think really came into it thinking long-term and thinking endgame. And, how am I going to get to that point? So I do think it was a different expectation than I had going into it of how the game play was going to be. I think that we're going to continue to see Survivor evolve in how it's played. Because you can't expect any of what ends up happening. You really can't, because it's so crazy and intense and people are very strong in their decisions. I think that in this particular season, that aspect of the game really shone through.

Do you think that's a function of the Millennials vs. Gen X theme?
I'd have to say no, just because David was one of the leading individuals in that, as was Zeke. The two of them really were playing such a phenomenal game, and were really doing so well in maneuvering people and the votes and how they wanted things to turn out, that I think it forced everybody to play a little more strategic and a little more cutthroat, and to really think long-term. Because, the minute you stop thinking that way, you're next. And obviously, one's a Gen Xer and one's a Millennial, so I would give credit to both sides.

Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on CBS.

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)