On Wednesday's episode of Survivor: San Juan del Sur — Blood vs. Water, Val Collins made the head-scratching decision to tell her tribemates that she had not one, but two, hidden immunity idols — when in reality she had none. But, she believes that it was her time on Exile Island at the start of the game that's more to blame for her elimination.
"You're not there for two days. I don't know who's been walking off with each other. I don't know who's bonding," Val tells TVGuide.com about her early disadvantage. "By the time I got there, people were a little bit more strategic."
It remains to be seen whether Val's husband Jeremy will bear any of the responsibility for her ouster — since it was his volunteering for a challenge that sparked the chain of events that sent her to Exile Island in the first place. But Val says she's somewhat grateful that Jeremy will be able to focus on his individual game from here on out.
Read our full Q&A with Val to find out why she made up the lie about having two idols, as well as her thoughts on John Rocker's annoyance with "losing to a girl."
TVGuide.com: What was your reasoning for saying that you had two immunity idols?
It was crazy, but I wanted to just try and get [John and Jaclyn] off my back. And their biggest thing was, we just want to flush the idol out. So, I thought that if I said I possibly had two — I was making them think that I found one in Exile. ... So, I was throwing out stuff to just see ... who actually was running the show and who actually knew the game. ... It was just massive paranoia on the tribe, including myself.
But why say you had two, and not just one?
I've seen it before, where saying that you have an idol does sometimes buy you some time. It does get people to back off. At some point they want to see you use it. Our tribe, we were just losing so many challenges and when Nadiya went, I thought I was going. So my thought process was, if I'm going, then I'm going to go out with a fight. I'm not going to go out just being a pawn piece in this game. I'm going to try and make some moves. And if that worked, even though it was a lie, it would have been the best move ever. I think Survivor's about trying to make moves, trying to make things happen. It's not always logical with hunger and lack of sleep and paranoia going on, but I think that I had to try to make a move or I just would have been sitting there with my name going up. And this kind of made everybody question, and that was part of the split vote. They weren't 100 percent sure I didn't have one or two.
Let's revisit the first episode. What was going through your mind when you learned you would have to compete against Jeremy, and then when you found out you were heading to Exile Island?
It was just dread. I was upset, and was heated that we actually had [competed] in the challenge. I was more heated that I lost to him in the challenge. I mean, we are pretty competitive, battle of the badges, in our house. ... All in fun, but we definitely do give each other a hard time over stuff like that. So, I really wanted to beat him. And once I went to Exile, it was just dread, because that's almost like the social game suicide.
Were you as surprised as Jeremy was when you were forced to go up against each other?
No, I immediately knew that we were going to go against each other.
So, were you surprised that he volunteered for the challenge, in that case?
I couldn't believe it. I definitely was shocked seeing him volunteer, but I understand his position and people saying 'You should do it' and him not wanting to look like he's backing down to the challenge. ... We went into it knowing, yeah, we're playing blood vs. water, but you'd better go out there and go balls to the wall for yourself. I think we both tried to think about each other in certain moves that we made, which is sometimes a hindrance. But, we both went in there knowing we had to play our own social game, and that was a day-by-day thing. It was hard.
How is Jeremy going to handle your elimination?
I think you'll see, like with any loved one, everything about this is emotional. ... The person that you're there with inspires you and makes you go harder. ... I hope to see that he rallies up and that he goes hard afterwards, seeing that I'm gone. I feel like it's probably going to be some type of relief, because now you can actually play your own game. I think that most Survivors want to just play your own game. You have so much other stuff to worry about with your tribe that worrying about a loved one is just added stress ... and emotional exposure that you don't expect.
You had a clue to the immunity idol, but Dale got to it before you could. How much time were you able to spend looking for it?
You don't have that much time, especially when you haven't been there. ... Getting back and having a clue after not being there, it wasn't as easy to just walk away when camp is pretty much all set up and I don't know where the well is and I don't know where stuff is. ... [If] I just go off and try to walk off by myself, or I'm walking off with random people, it looks more obvious than it does in the first couple days, because that's expected. [I] have eight people watching me. ... People knew that there was a possibility that I had a clue, so they were watching me like a hawk.
Do you think your elimination was due mainly to your being on Exile Island?
Exile Island was huge ... and the girls being outnumbered. ... I was at a disadvantage with that too. You don't realize until you get there how important it is to be able to watch people socially and everybody introduce themselves at the same time, and be able to see who's walking away with each other and who's sleeping next to each other. All those things play a huge factor in kind of knowing who to try to strategize with, who to watch out for. So when I came back, I didn't know in the guys' alliance who was who. Who was running the show? I wasn't sure it was Josh. I wasn't sure if they were all still loving Dale for getting the fire going. I knew from Keith that Wes knew who John was, but I wasn't sure if because of that they were all John's fans or if they didn't like him. So basically me starting out, I was just trying to figure out who's running the show. ... It's a lot to try and figure out with very limited time, without being obvious.
What was your reaction to seeing John and Jeremy's interaction on Exile Island?
As much as I didn't want to see Jeremy go to Exile, I think that was a good strategic move if we were all going to work together after the merge. ... They're both sports guys. They're both athletic. So, I think strategically it was a good choice. I wasn't surprised that they got along. Jeremy's very easygoing and very likable and I think that he would find John entertaining.
Do you feel betrayed by John, since he said that he would try to protect you after spending time with Jeremy?
He was playing both sides of it. He was afraid he was going to get voted out, like most professional athletes do early on, and he wanted to put himself at an advantage. I don't blame him, but I didn't think that he had that much control over the guys, and I was not going to go out without a fight.
Things got a little tense at Tribal Council between you and Baylor.
It was already known that she was flipping. It was already known that she was trying to play all sides of it, and you saw Jaclyn also call her out about it, because she was wafting around camp doing that with everybody. I think she was the easiest person for me to take some heat off myself, and if there were people on the fence about voting for me or her, which is kind of what was buzzing around, that was my opportunity to cause some havoc in Tribal. John had told me that they were going to split the vote ... so I needed to do something that was going to try and solidify my spot and then throw some heat on her.
What did you make of John's comment about "losing to a girl"?
I thought it was hilarious. I think John's a funny guy. Some of the things that John says, I see why people could be offended. But I work with all guys, being a police officer. And my husband works in a brotherhood too, the firemen. And John being a professional athlete and being in the dugout, I think it's a similar type of banter that goes back and forth. There's a lot of trash talking, there's a lot of one-liners that happen, and I think John is good at that and I thought it was funny. I didn't think it was offensive at all. I thought it was normal.
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)