Interview: Josh Canfield talks ‘Survivor: San Juan del Sur’

“Survivor: San Juan Del Sur” may have its share of savvy strategic players, physical threats and lucky Idol-finders, but the entire season may ultimately not be shaped by any one strong player or powerful couple, but rather by Julie McGee's untimely decision to quit.

Julie, girlfriend to former baseball player John Rocker, departed “Survivor” in the episode that aired last week and her exit preempted a vote that was predetermined to go against Boston firefighter Jeremy. The vote against Jeremy was going to be the centerpiece of Broadway veteran Josh Canfield's charge for the million dollars, swiftly taking out the head of the rival alliance after the Merge. 

Instead, Julie's self-elimination meant a skipped Tribal Council and it meant that Keith's Immunity victory went for naught. In the next Immunity Challenge, a memory task came down to Josh and Jeremy, with Jeremy winning, preempting his own departure and shifting voting momentum against Josh.

Josh's only hope was perpetual swing vote Jon & Jaclyn, but Jaclyn's feelings were hurt after she felt ignored by the boors in her alliance and she pushed boyfriend Jon toward Jeremy's alliance.

Farewell, Josh.

In his exit interview, Josh maintains that he was attentive to Jaclyn and that Miss Michigan made a mistake in abandoning her alliance due to perceived slighting. He also takes issue with my suggestion that Jon & Jaclyn have achieved a level of joint clout rarely seen before on “Survivor.” He also explains why he decided to target Baylor rather than Missy once Jeremy was no longer an option.

Check out the full Q&A below…

HitFix: First off… In that post-elimination interview, what did you mean when you said you showed too much of yourself?

Josh Canfield: Yeah, I think what I was talking about is showing too much that I was kinda in charge and too much that I knew the game well, being more of a fan of the show. I think I may have given away that too quickly and I think I was just referring to the fact that I maybe would have rather tried to stay a little more undercover with that.

HitFix: Several other people that I've talked to this season have mentioned that as well, that there seemed to be a pretty clear split between the people who were genuine fans of the game and people who didn't know anything. How did you feel that split when you were out there?

Josh Canfield: You could definitely tell. And, in a sense, another reason why I ended up having a target on my back was because a lot of the people who weren't fans of the show and didn't really understand “Survivor” as much were like, “Oh, we need to get rid of these people who understand 'Survivor,'” so that's kinda like Kelley going out and Val and people like that as well. Yeah, there was a definite distinction this season, I think, between people who were fans and understood the game and people just were kinda flying by the seat of their pants.

HitFix: Who would you want to single out specifically as flying by the seat of their pants?

Josh Canfield: That's a hard question. I could more talk about the people who probably weren't as big fans of the show. Like Baylor probably wasn't like a huge fan of the show and Jaclyn probably wasn't a huge fan of the show. People like that. But then you obviously have the Jeremys and Reed and the people who are just huge, huge fans of the show.

HitFix: Obviously Julie quitting pretty much screwed your game entirely. How annoyed have you allowed yourself to get about that? 

Josh Canfield: [He lets out a big sigh.] I was annoyed, yes, but I haven't let myself get too annoyed at that, because things happen in this game all the time. One day can change everything. So Julie's quit? Yes, it did spark that and if we had gone to Tribal that night, I do think that Jeremy would have gone home and the whole game would have been different, but I think you can say that about so many different moves that happen throughout the game. Like even the new Hunahpu, we won both of those Immunity Challenges. If we would have lost one of those, we would have sent Jeremy home that time too. So there are a lot of those moments. Definitely Julie's quit affected me and then I just couldn't keep my alliance together for the next three days which, we all know from watching “Survivor,” is really hard to do.

HitFix: Talk about alliance maintenance and Jaclyn's feeling that she wasn't being treated with enough respect out there.

Josh Canfield: I definitely think that Jaclyn's feelings were valid. I don't think, especially Alec was not doing the best that he could be doing to include Jaclyn and make her feel a part of the alliance. That was definitely not happening. So in one sense I feel like Jaclyn's feelings were valid, that she was not being treated with the respect that probably Alec was giving Jon, but it's hard in this game. You're aligned with people all the time that you maybe don't like or that you wouldn't be friends with outside of the show. So you have to, in some ways, throw away your feelings to be a good player in this game and be like, “I'm gonna stick with the alliance that I've chosen because it's gonna help me better in the end. I don't care about how I feel or even how they're making me feel or treating me. As long as I've got a solid alliance that's gonna move me forward, that's what actually matters.” So the fact that she flipped just because she wasn't being treated well, I totally understand it, but do I think that's a good gameplay? No. 

HitFix: How about your role in keeping her in the fold? Do you feel like you did everything you could?

Josh Canfield: Absolutely. They didn't show much of that in the edit on Wednesday night, but I was constantly with Jaclyn, because I knew that Jaclyn was key to that alliance, because in the original Coyopa she wasn't in my alliance. So I knew I had to try extra hard to make sure she felt comfortable and safe in the new alliance, because before we weren't together, so it's like, “Oh, now we're doing this.” So I was very much with her, very much including her in strategy talk. At Tribal Council when she called all the guys out for being rude and not talking to her or just treating her badly, what they didn't show was right after that, I called her out and I was like, “Jaclyn, you're just chump-checking everyone in with all the guys and I don't think Reed and I have been treating you badly.” I was like, “I've been with you for these last three days always talking strategy and other things with you. Do you deny that?” And she was like, “Fine. Everyone except Josh.” So I was like, “Uh. Well. And then you're still gonna vote for me? OK.”

HitFix: Was there anything you could have done or should have done to keep the goofballs under more control? Wes and Alec in particular, could you have done anything more with them?

Josh Canfield: Yeah, sure. We did try, Reed and I did try at points to calm Alec down and try to get it through his head that, “It doesn't matter if you want to treat someone a certain way, you can't. This is 'Survivor.' You need to treat everyone with respect, because even if this person ends up not in your alliance, they're gonna be in Jury now. You're gonna want their vote for a million dollars. So it makes no sense to treat people bad at this point in the game, because you want their votes.” And Reed and I did to talk to Alec about that. It's hard as the game goes on. This was at like the three-week mark and your real self comes out, I think. And I think that is what ends up happening. When you're picking your alliance back in Day 2 or Day 3, you don't know how they're gonna react on Day 21. You're stuck with the people you've aligned with.

HitFix: What was your reaction when you were seeing the “real self” of those other people you were aligned with?

Josh Canfield: You know, I'm still friends with Alec and Wes. I love those guys so much. But it was a little difficult going in and as we progressed further in the game and being like, “Oooh. This is going to be rough to try to keep everyone at bay and keep them on people's good sides,” because Alec tends to rub people the wrong way. So if you're OK with that and you just kinda toss it off as, “Oh, that's just Alec. That's just how he is,” then you're fine, but if you take anything personally that he says, then you're gonna have a problem.

HitFix: Out there, how did you guys allow Jon & Jaclyn to become as powerful as they've seemingly become and did you have any pause at any point to try figuring out what could be done to stop them from being basically the pivot of every single vote?

Josh Canfield: Well, unfortunately there was nothing that Reed or I could have done because before in the original Coyopa, Jaclyn wasn't even a part of the alliance and then all of a sudden we got down there, after the fourth person got voted out, Drew, once we did the Tribe Swap, Jon & Jaclyn were together and Reed and I weren't on their tribe, so we had no say in what was going on in that tribe and we won both times, so we never ever went to Tribal, therefore that put Jon & Jaclyn in a position where they were already, because of their earlier positions in the game, they became the middle people at the new Coyopa. That was all luck because of the Tribe Swap. So they got into that position out of luck and by the time we hit the Merge, there was nothing that Reed or I could have done to change the fact that they were definitely in the middle, because those things had now been set up because those things had now been set up because of those last two Tribals that they'd gone to.

HitFix: As a fan of the game, can you think of a circumstance in which two people have really ever had the degree of power and control that those two appear to have at this second?

Josh Canfield: Oh man, sure. I mean, there's been multiple times where there's been those people who were in the middle who have to choose, but I would debate that that doesn't mean you're the power couple. I think that means that at that moment, you're the couple who's going to determine the rest of the game and how it's going to be played with who it's going to be played with, but that doesn't mean that you are, yourself, in a good position. So throwing the term around “power couple,” yeah they definitely were the ones who had the decision to make, but now that they've made the decision, whenever you do that, you're now on the bottom of your tribal alliance, because you have two tribal alliances going on that are strong and both of them are saying, “No, come to our alliance! No, come to our alliance!” and either one you go to, you have to realize that you're probably going to be the bottom, because they already have their alliance. So it's powerful in the sense that they get to choose and they're not the ones going home that night, but as far as long-term, I think it's dangerous.

HitFix: As you were sensing you were on your way out, what sense were you getting of how your alliance was likely to function without you as the kingpin?

Josh Canfield: I was about 95 percent sure that I was going home that night. Reed and I had already said good-bye before Tribal, because I figured I was going home and we'd tried everything we could do and it just didn't seem like it was going to go our way. Once I left, I was concerned with what was about to happen, because obviously they're down in numbers 4-to-6 at that point, so I was like, “Well obviously they're down in numbers, but Reed's incredibly smart,” so I was like, “I'm really hoping that he's able to maneuver around and try to change things up a little bit or get into a different alliance or something.” So I was confident. I was trying to stay positive. But from the outlook, sure it looked pretty grim.

HitFix: Why was Baylor your target once Jeremy was no longer an option?

Josh Canfield: It was Baylor just because needed to split up Missy and Baylor. That was next goal, was just to get rid of them, because they were basically one person and Missy was the one controlling Baylor. And the reason why we went for Baylor instead of Missy, I think it was more of just the guys felt they would rather not hang out with her anymore. I think it was just a choice of two evils, which do we take out first, Missy or Baylor?

HitFix: From your current point-of-view, a few months later without the passion of that moment, do you think you made the wrong target of those two?

Josh Canfield: I don't think that it would have mattered because I don't think, regardless if we were going to vote for Missy, it still wouldn't have been Missy who would have gone. It still would have been me. I don't really think it mattered who we were actually going for in the end.

HitFix: Out there it seemed like you had a begrudging respect for Jeremy. After actually getting voted out, were you able to transfer that to full-respect?

Josh Canfield: Oh, I don't think I ever begrudged Jeremy. I think I just identified him as someone who I was like, “Dude, all this guy wants to do is get me out” and that's why I kinda was like, “Awww, come on dude! Come on!” So I was like, “I'm gonna have to try to get you out because you're trying to get me out out.” We both kinda recognized that we were controlling our own alliances, so that needed to happen. But yeah, I saw what he was doing. He was a force to be reckoned with if people listened to him and that's always a person that you want to take out. I respect the fact that he was able to put himself in a position of leadership and power. I think he actually was more dominant than me in the sense that I think he showed his cards way more than I did that he was too powerful. I think was why Jaclyn & Jon originally swapped to our alliance was because they were like, “You're right. Jeremy is just trying to take control of everything.” He kinda wears his emotions on his sleeve a little bit.

HitFix: Do you think that in a non-Blood vs. Water situation, if you hadn't had Reed out there, you would have potentially been able to work with Jeremy?

Josh Canfield: Yeah! Yeah, I think in a different situation and different scenario, Jeremy and I could have worked together. Yeah. If I had originally been on his tribe and somehow we connected at the very beginning, yeah. We could have probably gotten really far together until all of a sudden we didn't trust each other. But I think that yeah, in a different situation, if it were something like a “Fans/Favorites” or an “All-Stars” and we were playing together in that sense, I think it would be possible that we could work together.

HitFix: My standard final “Blood vs. Water” is this: Had you and Reed discussed the point in the game at which it would have been OK for one of you to write the other's name down? Or would it never have been OK?

Josh Canfield: We went in there going, “If we need to vote each other out, we're gonna vote each other out if it progresses us in the game.” Our goal at that point was to take everything really slow and be like, “If there comes a point where it's not working out that both of us are in the game and there's a problem, then we'll figure out who has the best chance to move forward” and the other person would go ahead and vote that person out if that was the consensus in the tribe. We'd already talked about that. We'd even talk about like, “OK, what if we're going all the way and we're still in the game and it's Final 5, what do we do at this point?” We talked about how we'd want, in the Final 4 or whatever, probably one of us to not go to Final Tribal Council, because you don't want to split votes. If people looked at us as one at that point, you don't want some people voting Reed and some people voting Josh, because me winning is kinda like Reed winning and Reed winning is kinda like me winning, so the better thing to do was stay out of the Final Tribal so you can vote for that person and that's another vote and no split.

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