Interview: Baylor Wilson talks ‘Survivor: San Juan del Sur’

“Survivor: San Juan del Sur” finished its season on Wednesday (December 17) night with a terrific finale that trimmed the field down from the episode-opening Top 5 of Baylor, Missy, Keith, Jaclyn and Natalie down to four and then three and then a very deserving winner.

Over the next five nights, I'll be posting the five exit interviews I did all before 10:15 on Thursday morning, counting down from fifth place.

It happens that the fifth place elimination was one of the season's most shocking, as Natalie bucked with a long-established plan to go to the finals with Baylor and Missy by playing an Immunity Idol for Jaclyn, turning a shocking vote against the totally blindsided Baylor. 

The season's youngest player at 20, Baylor got a bit of a negative rap through the season for being wishy-washy, for being a brat, for being carried along by her mother Missy. But if you look at certain moments in isolation, Baylor was largely responsible for turning the season's first vote against Nadiya. That ended up being huge for several reasons. Then later, Baylor was integral in convincing her mother to flip on Jon, leading to probably the game's most pivotal move. 

In her exit interview, Baylor talked about those big moves and also about Reed's Final Tribal hostility. She discusses the challenges of playing with her mother.

And at Final Tribal, Baylor voted for her mother and said she felt that Missy played the best game. Does she still feel that way?

Click through for the full Q&A…

HitFix: When you voted for your mother at Final Tribal you said that you thought that she had actually played the best game out there. Taking your relationship with Missy out of the equation, make that argument for me now if you would, please.

Baylor Wilson: Honestly, I can tell you now that in that moment I voted for my mom because I loved her and I”m her daughter. Looking back now I truly, I don”t believe that she played a better game than Natalie. So, you know, I”m not gonna make an argument because I don”t think that anymore.

HitFix: I can buy that.  So that”s a sort of the heat of the moment kind of thing and you”ve had time to sort of marinate on it, I guess?

Baylor Wilson: Yeah. I mean truly, I don”t, Watching is so different than actually being in the game. And now that my brain is not in game mode and, you know, after getting abused by a Broadway actor in that moment, it”s very difficult to explain.

HitFix: No I can understand that. Did you and Reed have any sort of conversations last night clearing the air as it were?

Baylor Wilson: No we did not. Unfortunately like Reed said in the reunion show he doesn”t want to apologize and he won”t. Which is okay. And I actually have taken it upon myself to work through this and I”ve forgiven him, myself. But it doesn”t mean that I respect him or the way he went about that whole monologue.

HitFix: As he put it last night at least, it was sort of the difference between, again, things that you say in the game versus in the real world. But when it”s as personal as that was, does that make it harder to separate those two?

Baylor Wilson: Oh yeah. Well that”s the thing is I think that that was his cover-up last night for the extremity of, you know, the level that it went. I mean truly I think that was a little bit silly for him to say. I understand separating game and real life and the character in the game and the person in real life, but at that point it truly does get too personal.

HitFix: Did any parts of it sound true or was it just impossible to find any truth in it because of how he expressed it all?

Baylor Wilson: See that”s the thing is my mom and I are very fair people and I truly do listen to people when they have a problem with me or my mom or anything about my personality. And I really do think about, you know, “Is this true or did I do something that reflects this explanation?” and honestly I was listening to it back last night and absolutely not. Nothing makes sense about what he said. In fact, I think it”s completely wrong. There was something he said like, “You don”t pay attention to the help and you feed your daughter” or whatever. And it”s funny because Reed was the one that was always being fed first. So it didn”t make sense. 

HitFix: Okay, let”s leave that behind now and go on to some other stuff. You said earlier that now you”ve come to realize how well Natalie was playing out there. When did you sort of first realize in the game how strong a player Natalie seemed to be?

Baylor Wilson: Oh when she blindsided me. Absolutely. There were just like so much bittersweet emotions going on in that moment. I was so shocked. I was so surprised. I was really proud of her for some reason, but I was proud of myself for making it that far and I was also, you know, looking forward to a hamburger. So yeah, it was shocking but that is truly when I knew Natalie came to play the game.

HitFix: Well talk me through that tribal council because it does seem as if it was a roller coaster of emotions because you had had the conversation about her maybe playing the idol for Missy. So she gets up there with the idol. What”s going through your mind in that moment?

Baylor Wilson: I mean like you saw, me and my mom felt very comfortable in that moment. And even when my mom spoke about our alliance I figured she was getting up and playing it for me or my mom. I mean really that”s how comfortable we were in that moment.

HitFix: And when the actual votes go against you are you able to process in that moment what happened, why it happened, sort of what the strategic reasons are behind it?

Baylor Wilson: Oh yeah. Basically I was thinking, “Okay, first of all she doesn”t want to go to Final Tribal with me and my mom. And second of all she doesn”t want me to accidentally win Immunity tomorrow, because I”m physically capable and my mom”s not.” So I think Natalie was strategically thinking, “Okay, if I can go up against less people then I”m going to try.”

HitFix: Now you make it to the top five and mostly what we saw you talking about was making it to the top three basically. Had you given any thought to what it would take from that point for you to actually win this game?

Baylor Wilson: Yeah. If I made it to the Final Three I basically would have to convince every single hater on the Jury that… Basically my speech would have included like, “My name was written down the most and you guys all underestimated me and I beat you out, every single guy here.” I probably would have been kind of honestly bratty, to Reed”s extent, and would have brought that up for sure. And I would have taken it all out on the big, mean older brothers that were all sitting in front of me.

HitFix: And do you think you would have found any traction with that?

Baylor Wilson: [She hesitates.] Maybe. I don”t know. It probably would still, you know, have some reason to not appreciate me sitting in the Final Three, but some of them may have been impressed. I think Jeremy would have been, you know, surprised and also proud because he”s all about standing up for your game play and actually making the moves, but then also like being proud of it and saying something. He mentioned that quite a bit. So I don”t know. You never know.

HitFix: Well as you say, people were targeting you almost from the beginning. How did that sort of impact, I guess, basically your comfort level out there the entire time knowing that there was always at least in the background the possibility you could be targeted?

Baylor Wilson: I guess my comfort level was definitely never at ease but at the same time I think it kind of worked to my advantage because I always had that fire lit under my butt. Like, “Baylor you have to survive another Tribal so you better say something right to somebody so you don”t get voted out,” you know?” So that was basically what I was thinking every single time was “I”m going to make it to the next Tribal. Make it to the next challenge, you can see your mom. Make it to the next Tribal.” That was all I could do because I truly was the target for so long.

HitFix: Now Natalie said last night that having Nadiya go out first was part of what lit the fire under her. Did Natalie ever have a sense of your role in voting Nadiya out in the first Tribal?

Baylor Wilson: Yeah, I think she knew. We actually talked about it. They didn”t show it but, you know, I said “Sorry,” just personally, just, “Sorry to run your sister out but, you know, I had to do what I had to do.” And Natalie respected that. She was like, “Girl, I got it. I can understand it”s the game.” And, you know, that”s probably the reason why she was totally okay with voting me out, you know, which is fine.

HitFix: When you look back at that first vote, I mean that was a very pivotal vote almost immediately. Were you and Josh sort of had one side that you were on and then you did flip. How do you look back on that vote and how that shaped your game really throughout?

Baylor Wilson: Yeah, that was definitely a game changer for me immediately off the bat. When I decided to go with the guys I was basically going with my gut but also going with how I usually act in real life, which is I have more guy friends than girlfriends. I have a harder time trusting girls in general. And so when I met up with Josh and we kind of connected and decided to work together, we had a couple of conversations but I basically was just leaning on him to kind of make that first decision for us as an alliance. But at the same time, I had to make a decision between girls versus guys and I chose guys which is interesting. It really is, to think back. I haven”t thought about it really until you said that.

HitFix: It just seems to me like normally the first vote is always an easy vote because there”s always someone who”s pretty much useless and that person gets voted out. And you guys actually had a circumstance where you didn”t vote out a useless person. You made an actual choice. And that sort of shaped the season, to me it felt like.

Baylor Wilson: Yeah, we definitely had smart players on our side in the beginning. I mean Dale and Josh are fans of the show and they know what they”re doing. They”re smart people. It was funny because Josh is kind of a the messenger to me for getting the information from the guys and so he would go talk to the guys and, you know, Dale and John Rocker and him kind of decided, “We want Nadiya out. She”s strong or whatever.” And they came and told me and, you know, I was bummed but at the same time I understood. I was like, “Okay, let”s do it. Let”s get out of threat. I”m about it. Let”s play this game.” Do you know what I mean? That”s what was so funny is they were like, “We came the play” and I was like, “Dang, I better step up my game.”

HitFix: You also had a huge role and perhaps I think maybe an underrated role in getting Jon out. Talk a bit about convincing your mother to go along with that vote.

Baylor Wilson: Yeah, oh my gosh, that was so tough for me. It was also, it was just frustrating to not open her eyes to the fact that we”re playing “Survivor” and Jon is a threat. I mean basically it”s so hard. Sometimes, even in life, the simplest things people can”t understand and especially stuff right in front of your eyes. And it was frustrating because I was like, “Mom, he is going to blindside you if you don”t get him out right now.” And she really wanted to stick to that loyal game-play, which she did, up until that point I had to convince her, you know, otherwise. And finally she listened to me.

HitFix: Do you think the Baylor who entered the game on Day One could have made that argument? Could have been as convincing? Or was that sort of a part of your journey in this game?

Baylor Wilson: Oh that was definitely a part of the journey. She really wanted to play a loyal game in the very beginning and she did. And that”s what was so hard, is my mom really sticks to who she is and when she decides something she”s gonna do it. And so I had to kind of slowly break down those walls. And having Natalie to help me helped a lot. It would have been different if I had to do it in the beginning.

HitFix: I talked with Wes about this as well. Do you guys feel like you had a unique challenge because you were both very young, among the youngest people out there but also coming in there with an authority figure who was with you at as long as Keith was with Wes and Missy was with you. Do you think that sort of produced a unique challenge for the two of you?

Baylor Wilson: Absolutely. I think that Wes has a similar relationship to his dad that I have with my mom in that we both are prone to just taking care of our parents. Not that they needed it ever, but that we care about them and love them enough to be their number one fan and number one cheerleader and we don”t want anyone to mess with them as much as they don”t want anyone to mess with us. So it was tough having them there to constantly look after even if they didn”t need it or want it.

HitFix: And you came in very young again, very inexperienced. You played 36 days of “Survivor.” If you played again in a regular Survivor game without Missy how good do you think you”d be at “Survivor” now?

Baylor Wilson: Oh, I think I would be a lot different as a player and a lot more experienced and I think I”d be ready to go and ready to make it to Day 37 again and hopefully win the game. I mean truly, I have a whole different perspective and I”ve become not only a fan of the show but my own fan as a player which is kind of cool. And not in a cocky way. It”s just basically being proud of myself. I made it to day 37 as a 20-year-old girl who basically didn”t know much about “Survivor” before it started.

HitFix: Well would you want to go out tomorrow hypothetically or would you want to wait a year or two and get just a little bit more life seasoning just in general?

Baylor Wilson: Oh no. I”m ready to go. I”ve had enough life seasoning. Trust me. 

Other “Survivor: San Juan Del Sur” exit interviews:
Jon Misch
Alec Christy
Reed Kelly
Wes Nale
Jeremy Collins
Josh Canfield
Julie McGee
Dale Wentworth
Kelley Wentworth
Drew Christy
John Rocker
Val Collins
Nadiya Anderson