Interview: Jaclyn Schultz talks ‘Survivor: San Juan del Sur’

As so often happens with second place finishers on “Survivor,” I really think that there were some seasons that Jaclyn Schultz would have won.

In some seasons, she wouldn't have been going up against a strong strategic and physical player in Natalie Anderson, a player who kept Jaclyn in the game by playing an Idol on her behalf in the vote that should have been sending her home.

In some seasons, Jaclyn wouldn't have been staring at a heavily weighted with frat guys who ignored her or dismissed her in the game and lacked the subtlety to respect a game-behind-the-game strategy, rather than only being able to notice a brazen and up-front approach. 

And in some seasons, most seasons really, that Jury wouldn't have included Jaclyn's boyfriend Jon, the public face of the season's most powerful two-person swing alliance. Yes, Jon's presence guaranteed Jaclyn one vote, but it also was a reminder for the Wes and Alecs of the world that Jon had seemingly dragged Jaclyn as far as she got this season.

That attitude ignores that Jon and Jaclyn alike describe their relationship as an equal partnership, which I can buy. It also ignores that in the most important Immunity Challenge of the season, Jaclyn returned from an overnight at Exile Island and pushed aside exhaustion and physical injury to win. And with that Immunity, she opted to protect Natalie, just as Natalie had protected her a Tribal before. 

Jaclyn's achievement in the game earned her Jon's vote and also a vote from Reed, a ballot many people have suggested Reed cast to keep Missy from tying for second.

In her exit interview, Jaclyn discusses the struggle to properly present her achievement to the Jury, that big Final Immunity and how close she came to booting Natalie in that penultimate vote.

Oh and because I sometimes like to ask stupid questions that have been nagging at me, I got the truth about the mysteriously appearing yoga pants that somehow joined Jaclyn's ensemble at the end of the game.

Click through for the full Q&A…

HitFix: So if I had asked you going into the reunion show what the jury vote was going to be, what would you have a predicted?

Jaclyn Schultz: Natalie. For sure.

HitFix: But with what vote count?

Jaclyn Schultz: I knew Reed voted for me.

HitFix: Okay.

Jaclyn Schultz: So it's basically exactly what it was.

HitFix: How did you now Reed had voted for you and what do you think he was voting for there?

Jaclyn Schultz: He did not want Missy to be second. I know that. But also Reed and Josh and I had a really great connection. I think out of everybody I'm the closest with Reed and Josh right now. We just kind of connection on the level of we need the money for a surrogate and so do they and adoption and all of that, so that was really cool.

HitFix: What was your sort of feeling about the tone of the Final Jury when you were actually there and did you feel like you were getting through to them in that moment or did you feel like it really didn't matter at that point anyway?

Jaclyn Schultz: No. I mean going into Final Tribal I knew that my story wasn't that strong just because Jon was the more dominant player in the game. So I knew that my gameplay wouldn't be as strong as Natalie's. And going into it I'm like, “Okay, my whole thing is I want to bring awareness to MRKH,” I know it sounds crazy but I mean this whole fame and everything only lasts so long and I want to use it for a purpose higher that myself. And that's what I did and I'm happy with the outcome of everything.

HitFix: So, including MRKH as part of your sort of jury argument and story, that was always a part of your strategy and approach?

Jaclyn Schultz: That was a part of my approach going into the game and wanting to get awareness out to America. I mean it sounds stupid but whatever. I knew that my story going into the Jury was strong on a personal level but that's not what wins “Survivor” necessarily all the time. So that's what I gave, but it was hard. I mean it's a bunch of guys up there and they're playing like, “Okay, Natalie killed it.” And she did. She totally deserved to win.

HitFix: Well okay, you say that Jon had it the “stronger game,” how much of that is you actually feeling like Jon had the stronger game, how much of that is you feeling like Jon had what was being perceived as the stronger game?

Jaclyn Schultz: Jon had a stronger game in terms of being very social and keeping the relationships going with everyone. I had a stronger game in terms of strategy and kind of talking out the moves between him and I. So where I lacked he kind of made up for it and where he lacked I kind of made up for it. So we were kind of like a duo in that sense that we kind of completed each other. [She laughs.]

HitFix: Do you think that there was anyway that you could have sold that in a different way so that it would have gotten through to people like Alec and the rest?

Jaclyn Schultz: No. It wouldn't have gone through at all. I mean from Coyopa Day One everybody kind of pushed me off to the side. So I mean I fought though. I was like, “No my voice is being heard like hello.”

HitFix: You talked a little bit and we sort of saw it play out that you were experiencing sexism or being over-looked in the post-Merge tribe. How much do you feel like that, with the composition of the jury, was always going to weigh against you regardless?

Jaclyn Schultz: In terms of Jury yeah. I mean I knew that Keith going into the Final Three he would have won. All the guys loved Keith. It was interesting to try and battle that but it's so funny how all the three women ended up in the Final Three and the guys were all in the jury.

HitFix: Talk a bit about sort of the difference in the game that Natalie played versus your game and why it was easier, for again, people like Alec and Wes to sort of respect and vote for her game versus your game.

Jaclyn Schultz: I mean she made big moves; she went through the whole game by herself; at the very end she was cut-throat. I had no idea what she was doing and that's awesome. So there's no doubt in my mind that they should have voted for her. My game was more… Jon was the dominant player, I was in the background just strategizing and nobody saw that. So in hindsight I'm like, “Okay I should have stepped away from Jon more, been even more social and stand on my own, as opposed to the power couple doing it together where there's always going to be a dominant.” It was hard to separate yourself. Blood versus Water, man, a whole another layer.

HitFix: So Probst did that straw poll last night people saying Keith would have won, now do you actually believe that if you had gone head to head in an actual Jury with Keith you would have been able to take him down?

Jaclyn Schultz: Hmmm… No. I don't think so. Well, I mean maybe, just because Jon and I were in the middle making all the decisions almost the entire game, so maybe. And Keith didn't really have any strategy; he was just kind of super-likable. So I mean maybe. Who knows? Who knows?

HitFix: Talk about that final Immunity Challenge. You didn't just win, you won coming back from Exile, you won seemingly ready to pass out every single moment. What kept you going in that challenge?

Jaclyn Schultz: Oh my gosh! Well, Jeff was like throwing me off all the time because he's like, “Jaclyn's not even in it. She's behind.” So that was giving me like a fire like, “Okay screw you. Shut up Jeff. Shut up Jeff.” I literally got to the top, I couldn't even breathe, so I knew as soon as I caught my breath and got my bearings I could just focus on the puzzle and just slow-and-steady, just concentrate, focus, stop worrying about like, “You can't breeze, just focus on the puzzle.” So that's what I did. And I actually went up and down those stairs twice. I came from so far behind, but then I was so far ahead. I went down, got the numbers in the wrong order, went up and they were in the wrong order, so I had to go back down and look at it again.

HitFix: And then you also have the mishap on the pole. What's going through your head in that moment?

Jaclyn Schultz: Oh my gosh! The pole was wood and so when I was sliding down, I got splinters in my hands so my reaction was just, “Let go,” which unfortunately resulted in me falling on my butt twice. Oh my God, I was so skinny but I have a little more cushion in my butt, so it helps. But I literally couldn't walk for a month after we got back from the Island.

HitFix: That was a really hard challenge. How gratifying was it to watch it last night fully fed and actually at a good frame of mind?

Jaclyn Schultz: Oh my God, it is so awesome. I have been waiting to watch that. The fall, the second fall, it was brutal but I was like, “Oh my gosh.” It was awesome. And I really wanted to watch it with Jon because when I walked into that tribal and I had the necklace on he didn't even think that I had it on. Josh looked at him and was like, “Oh my God,” and Jon was like, “What?” So he was really excited to watch it with me and I was actually down in hair-and-makeup with Natalie and it came on and I was like, “Oh my God I have to watch this with Jon.” And I like sprinted upstairs and I was like, “Oh my God.” And he's like, “Oh my God.”

HitFix: And then afterwards we saw you and Missy have that, “What if we vote out Natalie conversation at the shelter.” [“I know,” she sighs.] So how close do you feel like you really came to making that move?

Jaclyn Schultz: I don't think I came that close to it. I knew it was going to be tough for me to take first place no matter what. And I couldn't bring it in myself to vote out Natalie. Like I wouldn't have been there if she wouldn't have played the Idol for me. And even though she coordinated the blindside with Jon, I couldn't do it. But I went to Missy like a half-hour before tribal and I was like, “Missy, what if we voted out Natalie? Like she's the biggest threat. She's making all these moves; she's got a good case.” And when Missy kind of gave me the whole like, “Oh man that's a predicament, man, she like just saved you,” it was like, “Okay.” It was like a moral thing like, “Can you do that?”

HitFix: Well, I mean Jon told me that a lot of the dynamic between the two of you was you throwing out those contingencies and throwing out ideas. So how much of that conversation with Missy was just you throwing out that as an idea rather than as a hard-and-fast you were ready to vote Natalie out strategy?

Jaclyn Schultz: It was an idea, it wasn't like a hard-and-fast, “We should do this it” was just that I wanted to know what she thought about it, if she would even vote out Natalie because she was so tight with Natalie since day One, I mean stronger and I thought that Jon and Missy had a better connection, but I was totally wrong. I just wanted to see if she even would. And what she kind of gave me the hesitant like, “Holy s*** this is like a big deal if you do that,” I was just like “Okay.” I don't know. I couldn't do it.

HitFix: Natalie at the previous tribal had made the “big move,” so why were you hesitant to make the “big move”?

Jaclyn Schultz: I almost fell indebted to Natalie because I literally wouldn't have been there if she didn't do that. And she played me so hard because when she told me to write Baylor's name down she's like, “I'm doing this for you because you were with my sister in the very beginning. You were with Nadiya and I'm repaying you for doing that and being on her side when everybody else wasn't.” So I was like, “Okay.” I mean literally I was going home that night if she didn't do that so when I wrote Baylor's name down I was like, “Alright Baylor, it's me or you so I'm just hoping it's you.”

HitFix: And last night Natalie said that she sort of blacked out and didn't remember that moment where she asked you if you had done what she told her to do, did you remember it? I mean how vividly in your memory is that scene?

Jaclyn Schultz: Oh, I remember the whole thing. I didn't know she had an Idol. I had no idea. I thought she was coordinating a blindside on Baylor or Missy and talking to me and Keith and saying, “Okay us three are going to vote one of them.” I had no idea. So when she played the idol I was like, “Oh my God.”

HitFix: And if you had gone out at number five as you expected to, was there anyone in that group who could have gotten your vote over Natalie? Did you sort of have a sense of contingency votes?

Jaclyn Schultz: No. I would have totally voted Natalie. Totally.

HitFix: On the Reunion Show last night, Jeff Probst seemed I would say mighty sympathetic to Jon's side in the big fight. I assume you've had a lot of supporters for your side though go as well, right?

Jaclyn Schultz: Yeah. Well, it has really been a side thing with us, it's just kind of like, “Oh my god they're so annoying, Jaclyn blows up over blah blah blah.” But under those circumstances the littlest thing will set you off. I mean you're not sleeping, eating, you know, it's just everything is so magnified. So looking back at that fight I'm like, “Wow I got so mad over that?” It's just crazy to watch.

HitFix: We saw you play a similar role with Missy after Jon went out. How do you think you would have played if it had just been you in “Survivor” and no Jon?

Jaclyn Schultz: I would followed my instincts. That's for sure. I mean Jon had the connections with Missy and Natalie and everybody on that original tribe so I was going with what he was saying just because he felt strongly about the connections and the relationships and trust that he had. So I think that if I was by myself I would have followed my instincts a lot more.

HitFix: Okay. And do you think your instincts would have led you as far as you've ended up or not?

Jaclyn Schultz: I think so. I think they would have. I mean who knows?

HitFix: Now, I asked Jon this as well,  whether or not you second-guess any of those various votes where the two of you really were just the swing almost there/four/five consecutive tribal council's. As you think back on any of those do you second-guessed any of those decisions?

Jaclyn Schultz: No. I don't have any regrets. I think that everything worked out the way it was supposed to. I wish Jon would have played the Idol. I think he would've had a better case in the Jury to win. I would have went home that night, but it all works out how it did.

HitFix: So you were okay with that possibility if that had been the way the chips had fallen?

Jaclyn Schultz: Yeah. That was our plan. I was supposed to go out at five and Jon was supposed to go to the Final Three and Baylor was supposed to go out at four and her mom was going to go to the final three.

HitFix: And you were totally down with being the sacrificial lamb as it were?

Jaclyn Schultz: I was. Jon and I wanted the money to adopt or a surrogate. I knew he wouldn't ever go back on his word with that. And we were in it together. We wanted to get at least one of us there with a great story. I mean I had a great story but my gameplay wasn't as apparent and obvious and out-in-the-front as his.

HitFix: And I have to close by asking the stupidest of stupid questions, I was wondering this last night and I saw a couple other people were as well so I have to ask, did you always have those yoga pants or did we just noticed them for the first time last night?

Jaclyn Schultz: [She laughs for a bit.] They were Natalie's. She let me wear them. Yeah.

HitFix: See, there's an answer! I'm glad that there was actually an answer because everyone was sort of wondering, “Hey where did those pants come from?”

Jaclyn Schultz: Right?!? It's just like you wear the same thing for 40 days like any new piece of clothing is like Christmas. So she's like, “Yeah girl just wear my pants I'm wearing these.” I'm like, “Okay. Sweet.”

HitFix: Excellent. Well, I'm glad I got to the bottom of that mystery if nothing else. 

Other “Survivor: San Juan Del Sur” exit interviews:
Missy Payne
Keith Nale
Baylor Wilson
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