Interview: Jeremy Collins talks ‘Survivor: San Juan del Sur’

Two weeks ago, it looks like “Survivor: San Juan Del Sur” was coming down to a pair of solid alliances, one masterminded by Josh Canfield and the other led by Jeremy Collins. While “Survivor” history has taught us that we should never expect alliance leaders to run the table, we've only occasionally seen two post-Merge alliances so swiftly stripped of their leaders.

First, Jeremy seemed like he was heading toward elimination, but he won Individual Immunity and was able to steer power duo Jon & Jaclyn against Josh, seemingly leaving that alliance in a weak minority position.

But the following week, after Jeremy pushed Jon a bit too hard to reveal his Hidden Immunity Idol, the former college football player decided that the need to get rid of Jeremy had gone from “eventually” to “immediately.”

Viewers saw Jon make his pitch to Jeremy's ally Missy and saw her hesitation. We never saw how Jon brought his alliance together or how Reed became a part of it. Perhaps that's why Jeremy also was confused for a little while.

In this week's exit interview, Jeremy discusses his roller-coaster ride from seemingly in charge to joining Josh on the jury and the mistakes he may or may not have made along the way.

Check out the full Q&A…

HitFix:Your elimination seemed like a fairly big blindside. How long after you left, after your torch was snuffed, did it take you to sort of put together all the pieces?

Jeremy Collins: In that I was correct on everything, it took me a couple of days. When I first got out I thought Nat flipped on me. I didn't think it was Reed at all. So it took me a little while to understand what happened.

HitFix: Why did you think that? Why did you think that Nat was the one who had flipped on you?

Jeremy Collins: Because I didn't see… I knew it was my alliance that turned on me and I didn't see anyone in my alliance going with Reed, or anybody else in that other alliance. I thought since we made our decision we have our alliance, we're sticking to our alliance. I didn't think that they were going to let Reed come in and throw in a vote towards me and kind of a mess it up.

HitFix: And what do you sort of make of it being Reed who was there?

Jeremy Collins: It's just a bad decision. It's a bad move. Like Reed was in on all the conversations with the couples about getting out singles and now you're a single and you go with the couples again? You know, take out a single. It's just a bad decision. And Nat and I had another mini surround-and-drown on Reed saying, “Reed,” I”m telling him, “Reed, I can't tell you what's going on yet but you're all set. Don't worry.” Because he was really like erratic, playing the game erratic because he thought he was next. He wanted to burn the camp down, you know.

HitFix: But why did you think that you could trust him given sort of that behavior?

Jeremy Collins: Well, it wasn't that I trusted him. I just said, “You're a single now. Stop going towards that couple thing,” because that's all they were talking about was taking out these singles. So it wasn't a trusting but I had to get him on board with any plan that I had.

HitFix: Huh. Well, okay. Watching last nights episode, did it tell you anything that you hadn't known before or because of the way it was edited was it really just exactly what you knew?

Jeremy Collins: I mean, I think it was pretty much how I knew it. I didn't believe that Reed was the one. I heard that Reed was the one that was involved in all that, but I didn't believe it because Reed didn't have a voice while we were out there. Reed was playing the game erratic at the beginning, then he sat back and calmed down, and when Josh came along he just sat behind Josh. And then when Josh was gone he was erratic again. So no one could really get a gauge on Reed. He was just so crazy with it, so I didn't believe that they would go with them, that Jon would go with him – Jon and Missy.

HitFix: Okay, so you're talking mostly sort of about Reed and about Nat as being sort of the potential flippers, but how do you sort of feel about Jon and Jaclyn and Missy and Baylor at this point?

Jeremy Collins: Well, I mean, I knew Jon wanted me out. I knew Jon didn't want to go with me to the Finals. I knew all that. But Missy, I just didn”t – I had a secret alliance with Missy. I didn't see where the logic in all of it, to get me out at that point, was. I think it's a smart move to take me out because you don't want me to go to the end, but I don't see where at six-to-four is it logical to take me out. I didn't see that at all and it didn't benefit Missy at all.

HitFix: Well, given that, when were you anticipating it being the smart move to take you out and what were you prepared to do to sort of prevent that from taking place?

Jeremy Collins: My plan was, and I talked to Nat about this, we went on a little walk to the water, and I said, “Nat, we got to go after one of these two and, if not next, the one after that.” I said, “We got to decimate and take this other alliance out. So there's no one person flip that could flip the whole game back.” But you go and take me out and now it's five-to-four. All it takes is one person at the bottom to jump ship and now the game's flipped back on its head to the other side. It's too soon to take me out. It doesn't make any sense.

HitFix: Okay. So several people have talked to me about this in their exit interviews, sort of the divid between players who were big fans of the game and players who maybe just didn't know what they were doing out there. And everyone has agreed you were a big fan of the game and a player who knew what he was doing. But how do you think that split sort of impacted you out there?

Jeremy Collins: I don't even think that was the biggest part. I think more than that was people see how I look and I'm in shape and everything and they say “Jeremy”s going to take out every one of us if we let him get to these Individual Immunity challenges.” And I've tried to tell everybody, “I'm terrible at these challenges; stop looking at me as a huge threat.” I'm trying to tell ’em, “It's just me, I”m by myself. How am I going to go after each and everyone of you guys and take you guys out? It doesn't happen like that.” And I think that was more in everybody's head than me just being a strategic player.

HitFix: Well, but how about just sort of the other players maybe not being as strategic themselves and targeting people who seemed more strategic?

Jeremy Collins: I don't even see that. I don't really see that happen. I see that it was Josh and I that was kind of the two heads of each side and one of us had to go. And I beat him in the challenge, so he went and I just thought after that it was going to be – I don't think they thought of me as, “Oh, he's the biggest strategic threat.” That's the problem; everybody thinks that they”re a big strategic threat. They might not be strategic on the outside to everybody else in the public, but in their own head they think that, “Oh, I'm playing this game like a mastermind.” So they're not thinking, “Oh, we got to get Jeremy because he's the mastermind.” They're thinking “I”m the mastermind; I'm playing this game better than everybody.” You know what I mean?

HitFix: Well, but you did say that you and Josh were sort of the two heads of the alliances out there. How much do you feel like that was generally recognized when you were out there?

Jeremy Collins: I mean, everybody knew that we were the two tops, the two heads, but I don't think that had anything to do with them going after me. I mean, Jon said it right from the beginning that, “You can't take Jeremy to the end because he's a firefighter with the two kids and he'll win all. His story”s going to beat my story with a sympathy vote.” I don't even want to get into that. I don't know what that means, but he didn't want to do that. So it wasn't even a strategic thing that “Jeremy”s more strategic than me, I have to get him out.”

HitFix: Going along those lines, if Jon sort of always had that desire to get you out because of the “I can't beat him at the final,” do you think that that conversation you had with him hinting about the Idol, that it played any role in him turning on you immediately or did it have no impact?

Jeremy Collins: I think it did have somewhat of an impact, but he was planning on taking me out before that. He was planning on jumping to Josh”s alliance. And if you”re willing to jump to Josh”s alliance because of me, one guy on your alliance who is surrounded by a bunch of girls, and you would decide to go to another alliance that you have no connection with full of guys and one girl with your fiancé… Like, you don't want to play with me. So there was no coming back on that. I knew he didn't want to play with me but I was trying to force his hand because I didn't have any other option. I needed to go with Jon because Jon is a bigger target than me, and I need one target bigger than me in my alliance.

HitFix: If you think that conversation about the Idol played any role, when you played the “What-if?” games in your head do you think it makes a difference if you go more aggressively and actually just come right out and say, “Dude, you have the Idol”?

Jeremy Collins: I don't know. I don't think so. I think he plays more defensive and “I don't have it…” and I think me playing it up for him like, “Alright we”ll go back and find it.” And I told Nat, I said, “Nat, he has it. Jaclyn is going to exile next, and see how he likes that.” You know? But to deal with Jon I think you got to go with him slow like that; I don't think you come at him all aggressive.

HitFix: And sort of a sticking with this sort of game of “What if?” in your head, is there anything you think you could have done she shored up Missy and Baylor making sure they were still with you?

Jeremy Collins: There is absolutely nothing. I was working so hard up there especially with the girls and I'm going to get the [muffled] for them and I'm making sure they're comfortable. I've got their backs 100 percent, so I thought they were all set. I think the biggest thing I needed to shore up was when I was on Hunahpu and I was with Reed and at one point I went to go get some wood with Reed and he said – And we didn't talk about strategy — and I remembered, I said to him, I was like, “I know just when you're talking,” and I thought about talking to him about it but I changed my mind, and I said “I'm not talking to him about it.” And he said, “I”m needy and I needed you to talk to me then.” After that he said he knew that he couldn't trust me. And I said, “But we were together; I had your back. You took care of me when you said Keith was trying to take me out. You were on my back. I had your back, so what?” He said, “but I'm needy and I needed more.” So I think I would have played him a little bit closer to the vest, you know.

HitFix: Now when it comes to that sort of return to Exile, you had been to Exile Island before. When you were sent off there in the first place did you see it as an immediate positive or did you really sort of dread it and why was it so much harder the second time?

Jeremy Collins: You know what, I don't know what it was. I guess, the first time it was two of us. We were only there for one day. It was John Rocker and myself and we were only there for one day. We had some rice and it wasn't horrible. But the second time I was there for two days, it was almost like they cut the rice like in a fraction and that's all I had. I had like a quarter of a cup of rice for the two days. It was horrible. And there was no wood at this time; there was no wood to burn except 200 yards away. So I am carrying logs in the hot sun all the way across the island and it just wiped me out. I was really tired after that.

HitFix: You had all those things that put you front-and-center in the beginning from the first Reward Challenge to going to Exile, to Val being voted out. In an ideal world, do you think you could have possibly sort of slow-played the game so that you were under the radar longer than you were I guess?

Jeremy Collins: Yeah, I guess I could have. Right from the jump when they said that we're going into a challenge and it was our pick – and we all turned and Drew actually said, “Everybody”s looking at me,” and then a bunch of the girls were said, “No, we're not; no we're not. We're not looking at you.” And it was Kelley that came to me and said, “Hey, do you want to try this?” And I said, you know, at that point, you got to say yes. So now I'm thinking, “Word, I'm going against John Rocker right now.” I didn't even think about Blood vs. Water. I was like, “They're not going to put me up against my wife. Me and John, the biggest and baddest; let's go.” And it just put me out there and it was done from then, you know, and after that I couldn't go backwards, you know.

HitFix: So, talk a little bit about sort of the power and centrality that Jon and Jaclyn have taken. Are they lucky to be in the position they”re in and or is it smart gameplay or do you think it's going to sort of blow up on them?

Jeremy Collins: It's just not a good idea to be at that sway position. When you're going either way, you're at the bottom of each one. And to Missy's credit, Missy told Baylor – because I was there first — and Missy said to Baylor, “We”re not doing it. We”re with Jeremy. Let's go.” And Josh worked his magic on Jon and that's all it takes, all it took was, “Let's go; you can”t go to the end with a firefighter with two kids.” But I'm going to go to an alliance with two firefighters and one has two kids. It just doesn't make any sense, but that's what he chose to do and that's why he was in the middle all the time.

HitFix: So tell me a little bit about how Val reacted to the past couple episodes and to seeing you go home.

Jeremy Collins: Val's not happy. Val's a player. She's not trustworthy, so the two Idol thing that she didn't believe Johnny Rock, but Val is a smart girl. She knows that she could have played this game and done really well. And so she's kind of… She doesn't like it. And she sees me trying to take care of all these girls and she's like she just wanted me to take care of her. You know?

HitFix: But what was she specifically saying as things played out last night?

Jeremy Collins: You know what, I didn't even get the chance to watch it with her last night. So she was just taking care of the kids and making sure the kids are alright because the kids had a tough time watching it.

HitFix: How did the kids react?

Jeremy Collins: They're not happy. They're crying. Yeah, they didn't take it too well. I talked to them. I told him it's a game. It's not a big deal. They'll be all right.

Other “Survivor: San Juan Del Sur” exit interviews:
Josh Canfield
Julie McGee
Dale Wentworth
Kelley Wentworth
Drew Christy
John Rocker
Val Collins
Nadiya Anderson