Jessica “Sugar” Kiper didn’t have a very long journey on CBS’ “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains.”
The “Survivor: Gabon” finalist and occasional pin-up model was the first person voted off in the Thursday (Feb. 11) night premiere of the new All-Star season.
What Sugar’s run lacked in duration, though, it made up for in memorable moments. She started the episode as a star, shedding her top and two would-be tacklers to key her tribe’s victory in the season’s initial Reward Challenge. But in the Immunity Challenge, Sugar was part of a quartet of Heroes who squandered a big lead on a climactic puzzle. Coupled with an unfortunate night trying to snuggle with Colby, it was no surprise when the Heroes opted to write down Sugar’s name at Tribal Council.
Or at least that’s how the episode made things look. HitFix caught up with Sugar on Friday morning to discuss editing, toplessness and whether she thinks of herself as a Hero.
Click through for my full conversation with Sugar…
HitFix: Hey Sugar. Seems sad to be talking to you so soon.
Sugar: Oh, it’s alright. I died months ago. I wasn’t surprised to see who got their torch snuffed last night.
HitFix: I can imagine that. So is there a certain honor to being the first person out in an All-Star season, or are you still bitter?
Sugar: Oh no! I wasn’t even bitter then. I had a big old party last night and all of my friends got to watch me go down. I think that it was an honor to have been playing. Sure. It’s an honor and not a surprise. I feel very lucky being the first one out of this season, because it was particularly rough and I don’t know if I could have handled the elements.
HitFix: You went through one of the great “Survivor” roller-coasters last night, from Reward Challenge hero to the first out of the game. Did it feel like the puzzle-making failure was the turning point?
Sugar: I think the puzzle had very little to do with it, because I was so sensitive to us all having lost it. It really did not go the way it was edited. I knew that I was definitely on the chopping block, so I was scared and I was crying, so I probably should have held that in a little bit, because it was just like, “Oh, let’s vote her out first. She already knows she’s going.”
HitFix: Do you think that’s what did you in, that failure to contain your emotions in the key moment?
Sugar: It’s that and I’m weak and I’m annoying, apparently. I think a lot of people just didn’t think that I belonged there and I’m kind of one of them, so…
HitFix: When you watch yourself on “Survivor,” do you learn things about yourself? Or do you mostly learn things about editing?
Sugar: I’ve learned that I either want to be an editor or Mark Burnett when I grow up. I don’t know. I wish there was a real tape of what really happened, because I’d like to know what I think really happened. Yeah…[She breaks out laughing.] I have no idea what I’m saying, but everything played out very differently than I remember, but some of it was definitely on-track.
HitFix: Let’s take one specific example. We only saw one edited version of the awkward night with Colby and you looking for your male protector. What didn’t we see?
Sugar: Dude, there is so much stuff you did not see. That night, it’s hilarious actually, because I think I slept in-between every single person, either that night or the second night, just trying to find a spot in the bamboo. I was trying to get close to Colby, but only because there were rumors about me and JT, so we were not even hardly talking. It doesn’t even look like we had a conversation. So yeah, I guess was grasping at straws.
HitFix: And at your party last night, were you explaining what actually happened to your friends?
Sugar: Yeah. We were watching at a club on a big screen and I was like, “What?!? Colby?” And some people knew my real story and we like, “How did they make that happen?” It was hilarious. So yeah.
HitFix: You didn’t look so great at that moment, but let’s talk about the first reward challenge, where you were absolutely the hero. So the four of you were brawling and Sandra gets your top off. What’s going through your mind at that moment?
Sugar: I was thinking, “Oh my God, this is my chance to prove that I’m actually going to do something for the team,” so I just ran with it. I told Sandra, “Don’t undo my bra, b****” and she’s like “I’m a villain, ha ha.” She was just hanging onto it and I was thinking she doesn’t know me very well. So I just rolled out of it and ran and I was like “Thanks!” in my head.
HitFix: You got to the map topless, but scored the point for your team and you flipped off all of the Villai, how great did you feel at that moment?
Sugar: It felt really awesome for a second and then I came to and I was like, “Holy s***, what did I just do?” Then I think I went behind everybody and I thought I was going to throw up, because I was having this really weird rush of adrenaline.
HitFix: And you know that’s a moment that’s going to get replayed in “Survivor” clip packages forever.
Sugar: Oh yeah. My Rambo moment. Thanks, Sandra for that extra airtime.
HitFix: Is “Survivor” just a No-Modesty Zone, or are you not a particularly modest person?
Sugar: I’m a lot less modest. I used to be very modest, like I’ve never flashed on Mardi Gras or anything and I’m from Louisiana. But after Gabon… I used have a weird thing because I had a peeper at one point, so I’d always have to have the curtains down, but now I live in an apartment with windows all the way around it. I don’t walk around naked [or “nekkid,” if you want a more literal transcription], but I’m a lot less closed up than I used to be. I even guest-starred on a burlesque show and that’s way not who I was a couple years ago.
HitFix: When you knew you had the chance to do this again, where you excited? Or did your hit the beach and immediately start saying “I why the heck am I do this again?”
Sugar: Yeah, I was like, “This is going to suck so hard.” Yeah, I was just going to try to get through it the best I can a show that I’m try at the challenges and do the best I can, because I knew I had a lot to make up for after my season.
HitFix: Could you talk a bit more about that? What did you want people to see in you this time that maybe they didn’t see in Gabon?
Sugar: The viewers always see what they see. I was more worried about the people in my tribe. I wanted them to think I was strong and helpful and could vote with them and could be a good lackey or whatever, to keep me around for some reason. I went in trying to win this time and that was probably where I went wrong. I didn’t try last time.
HitFix: What did you think of the “Hero” designation? Did you think of yourself as a Hero the first time around?
Sugar: Probably in a stupid way, yeah. Now that it’s been a year and now being put on a Heroes team, I realize that for one, who am I to judge who the good guys are? None of us are all good or all bad and it’s kinda s****y that people got put on that tribe. I didn’t hate any of the Villains and I didn’t love all of the Heroes. I knew that I had backstabbed people get where I was and getting called a Hero was just… I dunno. It was like a nice honor, but a lot to live up to. I felt bad, actually. It felt like when I went and ate all that fruit the fourth time at Exile [in Gabon] and I was like, “Oh. They’re dying, but I’m still going to eat this fruit.” It was like, “Yes. Thank you for calling me a Hero, but I don’t really feel like one.”
HitFix: I was wondering something last night. Do you think the game would have played out differently if the Heroes and Villains had been integrated as two mixed tribes from the very beginning?
Sugar: Wow. Yeah. Of course it would have played out differently. I would have tried to team up with a lot of the villains. Well, maybe not a lot of them, but three or four of them.
HitFix: Who in particular?
Sugar: Jerri and Coach and Courtney and probably Russell, but only because I didn’t know anything about him.
HitFix: Last question here… Would you do this a third time.
Sugar: No. [Long pause.] But I’d be happy to cast it.
HitFix: You have an appreciation for the casting process?
Sugar: Oh man. I met this guy from New Zealand the other day and he’s getting his green card sorted out. He’s lived here for like 10 years. The guy has had cancer three times and the first time, he cut his own cancer out of his own leg. Like a New Zealand guy, “Grrrr.” He in like 10 minutes told me like 20 crazy stories, so I was like “This guy has got to be the best ‘Survivor’ dude!” But he has to get papers straightened before. I had just met this guy and there are very few people I would even tell “Yes. Go ahead and try to do this.” I met this guy and out of all of the people who are like, “Hey, can you help me,” I thought, “This guy really needs to be on the show.” Like if I had met [“Survivor Gabon” winner] Bob, I’d have cast Bob.
“Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” airs Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBS.