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

I've been too generous to Coyopa. That's been the takeaway from my first two “Survivor: San Juan Del Sur” exit interview of the season.

I've been paying too much attention to a couple very close performances in challenges and not nearly enough attention to the sheer number of challenge losses accrued by a tribe that is only a few weeks from the sort of Pagonging that could throw this season's Blood vs. Water twist out of whack.

Val Collins, the season's second booted castaway, doesn't suffer fools and, in the case of this interview, I got to be the fool in asking why things have been so tough for Coyopa when it didn't seem like it should be that bad a tribe.

“What? You don't think it looked like a bad tribe? Are you kidding me?” Val asked me, incredulous. “This couldn”t have been the worst tribe.”

She makes a convincing argument and I guess I won't be surprised if Coyopa continues its losing streak.

Val, whose competitiveness will surely be missed, also makes a somewhat compelling argument for her double-Idol bluff and for why she was never able to recover from an initial stint on Exile Island.

In addition, in two seasons of Blood vs. Water exit interviews, no contestant has been as quick to say that, given the right opportunity, she would have cast a vote against her loved on, husband Jeremy.

For that reason alone, this season will miss Val.

Check out her feisty exit interview…

HitFix: A lot of people have been trying to sort of figure out what happened in the first vote last night. Do you feel like you have a clear sense of what happened in that vote?

Val Collins: I think initially Josh was going to vote for Baylor and, I think that was kind of squared away at camp. But then when Josh saw John walk away with me, which was very, very uncommon, I think that he rethought what John was saying, you know? He didn”t completely trust him.

HitFix: Was that something that you had known before watching last night”s episode or like suspected or had you been sort of just going through theories in your head before seeing the episode?

Val Collins: No, I had an idea. I mean Josh had already flipped on us so I knew Josh was just wishy-washy, you know? And I knew that Josh had a bunch of paranoias about a lot of things that had to do with the game which, you know, it”s the first six days and we lost three challenges. So everybody including myself is a little bit paranoid about their position. So I knew that Josh was paranoid about me going to Exile and getting possibly having an Idol clue and now to see John comes back and now is talking to me that we could be working together and then John could possibly have an Idol. So I think that whole situation, I mean, I was the first one to go and now I have the connection with John and Jeremy and possibly Julie? And if things go well, possibly a firefighter connection with Wes and Keith later on? So all of those things, if you”re paying attention, are good reasons to have targets on my back and big reasons to not fully trust what”s going on with anyone that”s around me.

HitFix: Going up to that Tribal Council though, how confident would you have said that you were that things were gonna go the way you expected them to go?

Val Collins: Oh, I wasn”t confident. I wasn”t a hundred percent confident. I didn”t trust John. I didn”t trust John. I thought he was playing both sides of it, mainly because if he”s telling me that we”re gonna split the votes and then that would mean three of the guys were supposed to go for Baylor. That gives me and Jaclyn five and Baylor”s gone, you know? But if that was the case why are you telling me to play my Idol? Why are you telling me to play it if that”s actually what”s gonna happen that three people are gonna actually go for Baylor? So I didn”t trust what he was saying and he wasn”t giving me like really good reasons on why. And then again he was with me and then he was off with the guys. So I didn”t trust that he was fully on my side.

HitFix: Let”s talk first a little bit about Baylor. I asked Nadiya last week to try to explain Baylor”s vote at the last Tribal Council and Nadiya said that probably Baylor couldn”t explain her vote and therefore Nadiya couldn”t explain her vote. [She laughs.] Does that sort of sound like an accurate description of the game that Baylor”s playing out there?

Val Collins: Oh yeah! I mean our tribe”s a mess. Coyopa was like a follow-the-leader stinking tribe. We”re losing. Everybody”s all over the place. At this point nobody”s really even gaming and making moves. They”re just following after each other. And that”s why, with the target on my back, I was like, “I”m here to play this game and I”m gonna just throw whatever I can and hope something sticks.” I wasn”t gonna be a little pawn piece out there and that”s what Baylor was. She was a little pawn piece. I mean, don't get me wrong. It”s obviously working to her advantage right now but there”s a reason that she”s getting votes in both the Tribals. It”s because people were skeptical of her and me kind of throwing her under the bus was just to kind of try and throw some more shade her way and get off of me.

HitFix: Well talk a bit about Coyopa and why they”re doing so badly out there because it didn”t seem, at least on the surface, as if it was an epically bad tribe that you ended up with and yet you keep losing. 

Val Collins: What? You don't think it looked like a bad tribe? Are you kidding me? This couldn”t have been the worst tribe. I was like, 'Who picked this? Are you blind and ridiculous?” This is, you have Drew who”s like what, 6'5″, Jon who”s like 6'5″, Jeremy was 6'1″ and all of these guys have abs, right? Okay. And then we get, I don”t know, a 40-year-old retired major league baseball player with bad knees and we get an old guy and we get two other guys who are like, you know, 5'8″ and definitely they”re athletic — don”t get me wrong that they”re not athletic — but this size in some of these challenges does matter and body type in some of these challenges does matter and you can”t have a tribe where you have three guys… Like ultimately we should have gotten, they should have got one of the young guys and we should have got one of the older guys, you know. It would have been a little bit more balanced. We had three young guys. Our tribe was horrible. Our tribe was crap. And I was like, “We need to rethink this.” It was completely unbalanced. And when they should have even rethought it was the fact that we had, you know, outnumbered by the women, outnumbered by the women and we have a 40-year-old compared to three guys that are all under 40 and athletic. That is not at all balanced.

HitFix: And here I was thinking that because the first challenge was as close as it was — I mean it came up to the puzzle and you guys were neck and neck and then the sumo thing it was down to the last competition — that it actually sort of seemed like the tribes were close. But you say from the beginning you knew that there was a disparity out there. 

Val Collins: I”m telling you there”s a huge disparity out there. And you have three people on your tribe that are 20 years old? It's like the concept mentally you have people that are still dependent and live at home with their parents versus people that have been out there and work for a living and actually have to face consequences on their own. That, in itself, is a totally different mental and social gain. So socially we were dealing with juveniles. Do you know what I”m saying? The majority of them. And then physically they had more size and stature. And, you know, younger guys with more athletic ability at the time. I mean look at John and Julie in that challenge. Completely unbalanced, right. It”s completely unbalanced. I go against my husband, going through there  I”m pissed. I should have beat him. I wanted to beat him. I was really mad the firefighter again wins over the police but, I mean, he goes through ropes for a living. He cuts through these whole little challenges… Obviously me getting over that wall? It was like did you see him? He was a stinking gazelle jumping over that thing like it was like nothing. I mean my sargents are like “Jeremy smoked you in that.” I”m like, “Are you kidding me. Of course he did.” I should have beat him. I wanted to but we were a mess.

HitFix: Well speaking of sort of the social dynamic at camp, how do you think your fate changes if you didn”t have to spend that initial time at Exil. Where do you think you would have found yourself if you”d been there from the beginning as opposed to where you ultimately found yourself.

Val Collins: My game would have been so different. I mean I was trying to fly under the radar and let anyone know I was a police officer. And nobody knew I was. And I  had to come in a little bit aggressive in the second tribal because I knew I had to or else I was gonna be gone. Ultimately, you know, I”m still gone but I wanted to try and play it as hard as I can. If I came there initially, I would have tried to mingle a little bit more with the boys. I would have tried to just blend a little bit more. I probably wouldn”t have been even so aggressive against Baylor, knowing that she was there with her mother and I was a mother there are certain things that I would have played up differently. And then I wouldn”t have had people watching me to see if I was going off to find an Idol. It would have been more of a level playing field whereas everybody was suspect of what I was doing, what truth I was telling and who I was walking off with and coming back. Camp is all settled. Camp is built up. Your shelter”s all set. Everybody knows where everything is, so me walking off talking with anyone, all eyes are on me. The first couple of days when you”re walking off to do stuff, you”re getting stuff for camp. Nobody”s really paying as much attention as they do when eight other people are sitting around and you”re the only one walking away.

HitFix: What was your reaction watching last night and seeing John find that Idol?

Val Collins: Ugh, I hate it! Okay, I looked! You have no idea how much I looked. I was ready to throw the TV out. Before he was done and I saw him looking, I was like, “IF he finds this in two minutes I”m gonna friggin lose it,” because I just looked for so long. I memorized my clue that if I had to burn my clue I would know what it said. And my clue said, “Your well will serve you well back at camp.” And it had a symbol for dig and it had a symbol for water. That”s all I got. So I was digging all around the well. I was pulling back stones that were attached to the well. I was looking at the symbols and trying to go in a different direction. And, mind you, it”s a high traffic area so I”ve gotta be strategic about how along I”m looking. But I looked multiple times a day for this Idol. 

HitFix: Talk about the decision to sort of try to pull the double Idol bluff and why you felt like you had to bluff as hard as you did.

Val Collins: I knew that I was a target. I knew that the highest possibility for anyone to go home was gonna be me. So I just wasn”t gonna sit there and take it and just sit there and all of a sudden my name comes up. If my name was coming up and I was going home I was throwing out all the stops. And part of that was being a little ridiculous with having two Idols. But again this was a cast of not all long-term “Survivor” fans, not all long-term gamers. Exile Island hadn”t been a factor in “Survivor” in years. So what was Alec? Junior high when that happened? Does he even know? So this is kind of my best opportunity to see who knew anything about the game. And I think too,  last season Tony had an Idol that can be used after the vote. And Tony had what? Three Idols and played one? So you never know. You don”t know if your tribe”s gonna be Idol-paranoid and usually they”re not so early in. But or if that”s gonna make people want to work with you and back off of you. So it was my only option is to say that I at least had the one. And the second one came into play because once I knew they were trying to flush to the one that”s when I came with, “Well, then I found one in Exile.” And then I did exactly what I did with the first “Idol.” I was pretty coy about it. I was like, you know, “The Survivors are always different and they're always trying to do something to keep us on our toes and see who was on their toes.” And I kind of played into alluding to stuff a lot more that I had more than one.

HitFix: And sort of seeing how things actually played out and seeing how Josh and Baylor waffled and all of that, in your mind as you”ve gone back hindsight was there anything you could have done? What is the strategic move that you wish that you had made that would have worked?

Val Collins: I have gone over this so many times and even watching it, I”m gonna have to watch last night”s episode again. I honestly don”t think… I think I was a target. I think the only difference would have been I either would have been just sitting there with my name voted off or I would have been trying to make moves like I did. Not being there for those few days that was just hard, it was definitely a game changer for me. And I think lose and then loosing, our tribe just losing so many challenges. I was just an easy vote. It was an easy decision. I don”t even think anybody really said anything else besides that. “We want to flush the Idol.” They wanted to flush the Idol and they were all connected and I wasn”t. So they all had loyalties and alliances that were deeper than their relationship with me.

HitFix: Does that level of sort of almost powerlessness – does that make it easier to accept or does it make you more pissed off about going out second?

Val Collins: I think it makes it easier to accept. I think it makes it easier to accept, especially for me. I was really apprehensive about watching this episode and being here on the West Coast, I was getting all types of messages from the East Coast from people that already saw what the outcome was and how everything played out. So I was really apprehensive, but I was happy. My main thing is with playing this was, I knew I was the target and I was not gonna go out like this victim, damsel in distress like, “Oh they got me!” Like I was gonna throw some wrenches in their game before I walked out. And so I”m happy that it went down the way it did

HitFix: And just as a last question and I”ve been asking this to everyone for now the two Blood versus Water seasons… We saw how competitive you and Jeremy seemed to be with each other as part of your relationship. Were you prepared to write his name down at any point if it advanced your game?

Val Collins: [No hesitation.] Yes.

HitFix: When was it gonna be allowed? When was it gonna be okay?

Val Collins: Right from the beginning. You saw Jeremy kicked my butt. He felt bad about it afterwards, but we went into this game knowing that like, “We are going balls to the walls with this.” And, you know, we're police and fire There”s a competitiveness about us anyways and we just kept saying, “Let the best profession win.” So we were definitely going for the red and blue team separately. Our family of course is another factor but I said, “You write my name down, I”ll write your name down.” And we weren”t looking back on that. No kid gloves with us.

Other “Survivor: San Juan Del Sur” exit interviews:
Nadiya Anderson