If you’re keeping score at home, “Survivor: One World” may have done away with its Men vs Women twist long ago, but this is the fifth time in six weeks that a man has gone home.
Colton Cumbie orchestrated the elimination of Bill and Matt (and Monica, the only woman sent home in the last six weeks) and then Colton’s body orchestrated his elimination. Since then, and since the abrupt Merge, a female alliance headed by Kim and Chelsea has sent Jonas and Mike packing.
This week’s booted contestant was Jay Byars, who wasn’t the secondary target of the Salani alliance, but went packing when Troy played an Immunity Idol. Jay had a chance at his own Idol, but stepped down at the Immunity challenge in exchange for chicken wings.
As you might guess, Jay regrets that decision now.
In our exit interview, Jay discusses failed alliances, tasty dipping sauces and his partnership with Colton.
HitFix: So how much were you shouting at yourself watching Wednesday’s episode?
Jay Byars: I’m pretty sure I’m in a depression right now, man. Looking back, you always think, “Woulda, coulda, shoulda.” My family was watching last night, rooting for me, and in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “You guys are not gonna like this ending.”
HitFix: And how did they actually react?
Jay: My little nephews are the funniest. They were like, “You stepped down for chicken and beer? What an idiot.” And I’m thinking, “Oh great. I have to hear it from a 10-year-old.” It was funny, man. It was bittersweet.
HitFix: OK. Let’s let’s talk about the chicken and beer. How were the chicken wings?
Jay: The chicken wings were awesome, man. I got a little side of ranch dressing. The beer was nice and cold. I traded it out for some candy and a bite of Leif’s cheeseburger. It wasn’t worth a million bucks, but it was pretty darned good.
HitFix: What was going through your mind at that point? How confident were you and how much at the back of your mind was telling you that maybe you should stay up there in the challenge?
Jay: It did cross my mind, standing there. I knew I could win if I stayed there. I trained to win any freakin’ immunity that could possibly happen. Honestly, if I didn’t feel 100 percent safe, I wouldn’t have ever stepped down. In my mind, I was for sure that Alicia or Christina was going to go home, so I stepped down.
HitFix: You’ve had the Ponderosa time and a few months to hear about things. How much that happened on Wednesday’s episode was a surprise to you?
Jay: The surprise was seeing Kim and Chelsea think, “Alright, well, Troy’s gonna play an Idol possibly, so let’s swing some votes Jay’s way.” I knew that was gonna happen. I really didn’t think it was gonna be that early. I thought that they might send Tarzan or Leif home or something first. But they saw me as a bigger threat, I guess. So that was surprising.
HitFix: Do you wish that Troy had told you about the Idol earlier? And if he had, do you think there’s anything that you guys could have done with it differently?
Jay: For sure. Troy obviously, you guys saw, he wanted me to vote for Kim. But everything was so last minute. It was right before we were leaving. Everything was last-second. Everybody’s running around and Troy’s like, “Hey, I’ve got an Idol.” I’m like, “Oh great. Well this just throws everything off.” So my whole idea, which I came up with, was that, “Well, I knew they were going to want Troy gone before me, so let’s just get Troy to play his Idol and next week we can blindside Troy and I’ll help you guys, but let’s just send one of these girls home now.” So…
HitFix: Could you talk about the decision at that point to immediately go tell Kim?
Jay: Like I said, I knew that the girls wanted Troy gone really bad. It had been a topic of discussion. I knew I was gonna work with Troy, but I knew I didn’t want to sit at the end with Troy, because I felt like he was gonna have an easy win because everybody liked him, he’s super-competitive, he loves “Survivor.” I knew that I eventually was gonna have to turn on Troy, so I was just like, “Well, I’m gonna work with Kim and Chelsea more. I trust them more.” So that was my whole idea behind that.
HitFix: Why did you trust Kim and Chelsea so completely?
Jay: I think I was so eager to get off that old Manono Tribe that once the switch happened, I was just like, we had an awesome tribe and I knew we could dominate every challenge and everybody was getting along and I just really felt like they would like that so much that it would carry into the Merge. I just put my trust in them. I chose to trust them once we were on that new tribe and I was like, “Look, I’ll work with y’all til the very end and we’ll see what happened.” But it backfired.
HitFix: So it was an issue of you having coming from something worse and them having an alliance and stuff to go back to and you really not?
Jay: Yeah. I definitely think that played a part in it. The guys, our camp was crazy from Day 1. I don’t think we could ever get on the same [“Accord”? “Rapport”? “Record”?]. I think everybody had their own agenda and just couldn’t see eye-to-eye just to stick together long enough to send the right people home. I don’t think anybody ever trusted an all-guy alliance once that kinda fell apart.
HitFix: What did go through your mind when you got out to the beach on the very first day and you saw the gender-divided tribes? It sounds like that pretty much ruined your game from Day 1.
Jay: Oh yeah. That was probably the biggest shock of the game, literally. For whatever reason, I did not see a Guys vs. Girls going down on my season. Once they said that, I’m thinking, “Man, I’m one of the biggest guys out here. They’re gonna try and send me home.” For whatever reason, I reason, I got hooked up with Matt. I tried to stay away from Matt. I had my people picked out and I ended up with Matt and I just became even more of a target for those guys. I was on the Bottom Three early off and I think that put a divide between me and some of the other guys early on.
HitFix: What were hoping to do as an alternative to ending up with Matt and Mike and those guys?
Jay: I did want to work with Mike. Me and him had actually talked early on. Believe it or not, me and Colton were going to work together. I was letting him work the girls and I tried to stay away from the girls and just stayed low-key with that. Going into a Merge situation, I would have liked to have had Colton there, believe it or not. I was letting him talk to the girls for me on my behalf, so I think that was another reason for me trusting them, is because I thought that they really wanted to work with me.
HitFix: Oh, I believe it. Colton told me and other folks that he wished he could have given his Immunity Idol to you and that you guys had made a close connection. We didn’t see any of that on TV, but did you feel the same way?
Jay: Yeah, I did. Me and Colton, we didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything. Obviously he was a really strong presence and a crazy character, but I felt like he was one of those people that everybody else was gonna wanna send home, so I was like, “Well, that’s another number on my side that I can work with.” I felt like the way he was kinda playing both sides, if we could make it to the Merge and we and him were on the same page, that I would have a shoe-in with the girls. I really thought me and him were going to do a lot of damage together, but then he goes and wants to catch appendicitis.
HitFix: It sounds like you’re saying it was entirely a strategic partnership and not you saying you saw a different side of Colton from the one we saw, right?
Jay: Right. 100 percent. Colton was definitely hard to get along with. He was definitely a drama queen. He was making crazy moves and causing all kinds of ruckus at our camp, but at the same time I knew that this guy knew the game in and out like nobody’s business and that’s the type of person I wanted to work with. I did for a little while, but it didn’t last.
HitFix: Going back to Kim and Chelsea. What was it like watching last week’s episode and seeing how easy it was for Kim to sway Tarzan to get him to turn on Mike?
Jay: I think that Troyzan and Mike didn’t get along early on in the game and I felt like I had to play mediator amongst those two to try to get them to stay together as guys early on, but they just had it out for each other. For whatever reason, I think Kim might have picked up on that and just been like, “Hey, let’s run with this.” That’s super-smart on her. She saw a chink in the armor and went for it.
HitFix: It sounds like you’re pretty respectful of Kim and Chelsea and their misleading of you guys?
Jay: Oh yeah. She played us like a fiddle, man. Looking back, I was an idiot for falling for it, but at the time, you obviously don’t know what all is going on and I just chose to trust them. I fell for their trap completely.
HitFix: So no hard feelings? Lots of people leave the game angry about being lied to, but you’re not?
Jay: Oh no. I look at it like this: I had a blast. I think everybody lied, cheated and stole or did whatever they had to do to get as far as we have. It’s a freakin’ game. You know that stuff’s gonna happen. That’s the hard part about this game is separating the real life that takes part in it — you build relationships and you get to know each other — but at the end of the day, somebody’s gotta leave. That was definitely the hardest part, but I have nothing but love for everybody in my season.
HitFix: Go back in your mind to a moment or two that have eaten at you for these past few months. What are the things you wish you’d done differently and that might have prevented this?
Jay: Obviously, duh, stepping down when I know I could have stayed up there longer than anybody. Other than that, I went into the game with the mentality that I was gonna work with the outcasts or whoever everybody wanted to send home or just pushed to the side, just because I wanted to have those numbers and work with people that people wouldn’t necessarily think that I would. I think I kinda got comfortable there at our new tribe, right before the Merge, so I let that idea slip and I never went and talked with Alicia once they came on-board and I never went and talked with Christina. I kinda let my gameplan screw-up.
HitFix: You don’t fixate on that vote when Colton convinced everybody to give up Immunity and go to Tribal Council? It seems like that messed up the numbers for the Men for the rest of the game…
Jay: Oh yeah. That was my whole thing. As soon as they did that… Obviously it was a unanimous vote. I had to agree with it. I was on the Bottom Three, which was why I went along with it. I voiced my opinion and I was like, “Hey. This is gonna come back and bite us” and obviously it did. I do think everything would have been different if we hadn’t done it. I didn’t want to be the only one to stand up and have even a bigger target on my back, but looking back now, I think even if I would have pissed everybody off and not have done it, it would have been beneficial for all of the guys in the long run.