Interview: Julie McGee talks ‘Survivor: San Juan del Sur’

“Survivor” fans almost never respond well to players who quit the game, but in my experiences doing weekly exit interviews, I've talked to many players who voluntarily departed and I've heard almost no second-guessing. 

You might expect that reflecting on the decision to quit months after-the-fact on a full stomach and a regular sleep schedule might lead to regrets, but that has yet to be the case.

Julie McGee, who left “Survivor: San Juan del Sur” at the end of this week's episode, is similarly comfortable with her decision. At the time, she missed boyfriend John Rocker and felt alienated from her tribe after controversy involving trail mix and, months later, she's fine with what she did. 

She's not necessarily fine with the way “Survivor” depicted the events around her exit, preferring to emphasize that she only had bits and pieces of trail mix in her bag and not a cache of snacks, but Julie sounds like she's at peace with the rest. She's still annoyed with Alec. She's still doubtful about Missy's sincerity. And although she wishes the editing hadn't made her sound like she felt the other castaways disliked her because of her prettiness, she knows the things that were said about her. 

Click through for the full Q&A with Julie McGee…

HitFix: OK, so last night you said that you expected to get some backlash for your decision. What has the response been over the last 12 hours or so?

Julie McGee: Well everything that I”ve been able to see — I have been interviewing quite a bit and I haven”t been able to see everything — but there”s been some nasty stuff. There”s been some nasty stuff. There”s been some great stuff. But the really nasty stuff I”m thinking, “Man, these people.” I mean I tell you what, would you ever, you know, come out of your basement where you”re typing all of this? Would you ever come and say that to my face? I mean I understand when people are disappointed because of the game and because they”re fans of the game and they want to see it played through but yeah, some of the nasty stuff is not so easy to read.

HitFix: Well, I mean, can you give me sort of just like an overview of what that”s been like I guess?

Julie McGee: Yeah, well I mean, you know, I”m a strong gal. I understood that this was going to happen and I understood that even when I was sitting there talking with Jeff when he came out that night. I understood that it wasn”t just going to be, “Oh sure, yeah, just leave and no big deal.” I understood. And I also understand on a deeper level people just judging because they can. And I understand that because I”ve dated John for three years. And he is – that has been his life for over 15 years now, being judged by what people think he is for, you know, not knowing him personally. I see this every day and I understand that there”s always going to be judgment and haters.

HitFix: Now speaking of John, one of his defining characteristics in baseball was obviously his competitiveness. What was his reaction to your decision?

Julie McGee: Now with him aside because he was already out of it, he was 100 percent supportive, you know, and thank God because when I got there to Ponderosa that night and actually found out that he was there – because I wasn”t expecting for that group to be there any longer. He just stood there with open arms and I just fell apart, you know. Then imagine him, that size. He”d already put on kind of a little bit more weight and I”m just barely 100 pounds and he”s 6″ 6”, 250, you know. I just literally melted in his arms. And he was fully supportive. Now the competitive nature comes out if you watch our first challenge where I beat him and, you know, he says, “I lost to a girl.” But I expect that kind of a comment. It”s John, I mean, come on.

HitFix: Now we all know that the “Survivor” edit is just one part of the story. After watching last night”s episode was there anything that you sort of really wanted to make sure that people understood about your decision that maybe we didn”t see on TV?

Julie McGee: Absolutely. There”s a lot, you know. Simply put, you know, when I watched that back and I saw kinda  how quick to judge and hateful the people that were living next to me and sleeping next to me every night were, how they said the stuff just because they found some broken pieces of nuts in the bottom of the bag. And that was not stolen. They stole it from me! That is absolutely absurd and yeah, it”s hard for me to swallow. Saying “She”s selfish”? Give me a break. I”m the most selfless person you”ll ever meet. I”m a giver. I”m sweet. That”s who I am. And so all these people were saying this was just awful. And if you really know what happened at the Merge, the Merge feast, you would understand that it was just me scrambling and putting together all the food that I could to get off the mountain for everyone. And bits and pieces of nuts and dried fruit in my pockets and my shoes, whatever I could do to get stuff off the mountain. And that”s what they said I was hoarding, some like fresh new bag of trail mix. It was just absurd.

HitFix: Well you did tell the camera though that you were saving *something* just for the people you like, so what was that?

Julie McGee: [She laughs.] Well, you know, I was having a little fun with it at that point because I was so irritated with everyone. I just felt so alienated from the group after the Merge. I had such a connection with Missy but I felt like that was lost when she got back with Baylor. You know I felt the same with Reed and I felt like that was kind of lost when he got back with Josh. On and on and on. And then Alec and what I said on TV was “punk butt” to not cuss his little punk-ass. He”s just constantly talking smack about me. I was frustrated. And they told me in interviews, you know, “Vent,” and so that”s what I chose to say.

HitFix: But your interpretation of things is that there was not an actual meaningful quantity of trail mix that you were hoarding away at that point.

Julie McGee: No. And I”ve said this multiple times and I cannot wait for the final show and I get to tell each of them that they had a few broken nuts and dried fruit that just happened so to hang out in my bag for a few days with my dirty underwear. So I hope you enjoyed it.

HitFix: OK, so you go off and you”re sort of seeking solitude of some sort and Jeff Probst comes up. What role do you think he played in cementing your desire to leave?

Julie McGee: I think it was kind of done at that point when Jeff came in. You know it all happened so fast it”s hard to kind of go back through it because it literally happened so fast I couldn”t even go back to camp to grab pants. I couldn”t talk to anybody.  And, I get the reasons why they do all that but I feel like when he was talking to me he was trying to kind of also get a feel for what I was feeling and why I was feeling it, you know, missing John and was John playing a big part or was it more me because this is Blood versus Water and this is only the second one. And I feel like he”s also trying to, you know, kind of figure out the mindset of the players when you”re there with loved ones.

HitFix: How immediate, how fast do you feel like the decision was where you went from, “Okay, I”m not happy” to “OK, I need to quit.” Like how much consideration did you really feel like you were giving that choice out there?

Julie McGee: It was daily. I have to tell you I mean all the normal, all the norm that comes with “Survivor.” You know, the eating 200 calories a day and sleeping with your face in the dirt and no baths, the mental anguish. I get all that. It comes with the game, right. You signed up for it yada, yada, yada. But everything sort of chipped away at me very slowly. The rain storm, I have to tell you and if you watched it you know that I was not very strong in that moment. I knew that would probably be the one thing to really, really set me back if not completely. Being cold and wet but I also wanted to prove to myself and I know that I could have quit at that point. But I also didn”t want to make a decision when I was that miserable and that weak because I know I almost could guarantee that I would have regretted that one.

HitFix: Everyone goes into “Survivor” assuming there is going to be a certain amount of hardship. So you had to go in assuming X amount of hardship. Why was it so much harder than you expected it to be?

Julie McGee: I would have to say kind of… I guess I should have just kind of rocked this off and told you that, you know, the straw — I mean there”s all these things that were chipping away at me — but the straw was getting to the merge where there was all these loved ones coming together. It was really tough. It was really tough where I needed to refuel a little bit. I was getting nothing. I mean yeah, there were many options to refuel but that was kind of where my head and my heart was and seeing where everybody else was making strong alliances and having their partner there with them. There”s no way that they would split up. If it was all happening before my eyes and I didn”t have that. So I think if it had been another, you know, regular “Survivor” show that wasn”t Blood versus Water it would have been different for me.

HitFix: Would you have wanted to do that version of “Survivor”?

Julie McGee: Absolutely. I mean the loved ones. It was just too – the dynamic was just – it”s just so – it brings so much more hardship into it.

HitFix: Talk a little bit about that conversation with Missy out there because you came away almost immediately going, “Okay, she said some things but I got the feeling she only thought of me as a vote.” What was sort of your thought process listening to her, you know, and why did you not, I guess, believe her sincerity?

Julie McGee: Well was it not written all over my face? I wanted to blurt, “Really?!?” I mean, “Okay Missy, okay. Yeah, okay.” Because I didn”t. I mean who… she didn”t love me. In this game she wanted to protect her ass and she wanted to protect Baylor”s ass. And, you know, she was trying so hard to pull in and gather any kind of, you know, anything to say to me to make be believe that she needed me there. But I understand the game. I understand why you need me. Do you know what I mean? Like that was not what I needed to hear right then. So yeah, it kind of pushed me far away from her versus, “Oh yeah, I”ve got her. She”s not going anywhere. Yeah.”

HitFix: Well could she have said anything that you would have bought? Could anyone have said anything that would have actually helped you in that moment or where you gone at that point already?

Julie McGee: Yeah I think so, possibly. I felt so chastised at that moment because the hashtag, you know, scandal, trail mix scandal. No one was talking to me. And I”m thinking if anybody is worried, concerned or worried or mad, you know, talk to me. Make me feel like I”m a part of this in some way. It was the most bizarre situation. Like nobody was saying a word. And now watching the show last night I”m like this is a lot bigger to them or at least it seemed bigger than it really was. If they had just asked me, if you had taken any time to get to know me at all, I”m not that kind of person. I”m not stealing anything. This is what happened, you know. I mean give me a break. But it was really weird. I just felt so hated in that moment. And then it just barreled out of control from there.

HitFix: Basically it seemed like Alec was the one who was pushing your buttons out there. How much did you want to sort of go off on him out there?

Julie McGee: Oh I can”t even. I can”t even tell you. I wanted to so many times and I held it together. I didn”t want to be the loudmouth starting problems but I just could not believe how confident he was of himself, him and Baylor kind of throw them into, you know, The Young Kids Club and in the end they were owning shit out there and thinking they could do anything better than anyone else. I mean we”re all different. That”s what makes life interesting and makes the game interesting. So, you know, don”t question me and don”t make me feel that I”m some weak-minded individual and selfish person. I mean you don”t know me from Adam. And if you really took the time to know me then you — actually I don”t know if he would, because he”s just not that smart.

HitFix: In the conversation with Jeff you sort of made some assessments of why people were sort of judging you out there and why you were sort of on the outs. Sort of a few months later and well rested, well fed, et cetera, what are your sort of clear-headed thoughts on that part of the experience?

Julie McGee: Yeah well I just have to tell you that when I was being interviewed by Jeff right before it was all said and done, yeah I was kinda like can they have showed other things than just me saying, “Oh, it”s because I”m so pretty.” I”m like, “Give me a break. There”s gorgeous girls on there. It”s not about that.” No one will know but other cast members did tell me their initial judgment of me, their initial thoughts and their judgment of me. “Oh, I thought you were just a well-kept girl. I thought since you”re dating him and the way that you carry yourself and the way that you”re, you know, you”re fake boobs and the way that you wear your makeup and this, that and the other.” That was said. It wasn”t that I was just dreaming it up. And so when Jeff asked me and the way it was edited down it just looks like I”m like “Oh yeah, people judge me because I”m just so darn pretty. I just can”t help it.” You know, it”s not like that at all. So yeah, that kind of sucked. I wish I could have deleted that part.

HitFix: And just as a last question, how frequently do you bring up that Reward challenge that you beat John at in conversations with John?

Julie McGee: Well, you know, I have it in my arsenal for when he”s started acting like he is too cool for school. And I”m like, “Oh well, you know, don”t get too far ahead now. I mean it wasn”t that long ago my dear, yeah.”

HitFix: So having that now in your arsenal does that sort of make the “Survivor” experience to some degree worth it just for that?

Julie McGee: Oh my God. And it was worth it on so many other levels too that it”s, you know, I won”t have time to really get into it with you but yeah, that was amazing. It really proved to me my strength mentally and physically.

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