Pop Crave spoke with the sixth eliminated castaway of Survivor 45, J. Maya, who was voted off on Wednesday night’s episode.
Check out the full exit interview below!
It was a great Survivor moment to watch Kaleb successfully play his Shot in the Dark, but it was also very disappointing to watch you be on the receiving end of it. How have you been grappling with being a casualty of a move like that?
Oh, my gosh, it’s a great question. I think that there’s a lot of peace in it. I just feel very grateful to be a part of Survivorhistory. I mean, there are these two sides to your Survivor experience. There’s the side of you as a player, and there’s the side of you as a viewer and a fan of the game. What brings us all to this game is our love of these moments—moments where it’s unexpected, and there’s a twist, and the story behind it is so compelling. And so even while I’m sitting there at tribal council, and I’m, like, miserable, and I’m crying, and I’m sad, there is this little voice in the back of my head that’s telling me, ‘You know what? This is going to be so fun to watch a couple of months from now.’ And I got to do that yesterday. That was a wonderful part of the experience.
Going into tribal council, it was pretty clear to us as viewers that the vote was between you and Kaleb. What did you think was happening?
Oh, absolutely. I would say that it was pretty similar to that. I truthfully did know that if, by some magic, Kaleb was safe that night, it was 100% going to be me going home. And everything that you see in that live revote is, truthfully, just a Hail Mary. I was just like, ‘I can’t go down not fighting.’ But I think going into that tribal, it was just a lot of risk assessment. It was like, ‘Okay, if I scramble, if I try to get my name cleared at all from today, or if I throw a rogue vote out, or if I act out of turn at tribal council, that’s just going to further cement my position at the bottom.’ That’s just not smart if I want to have any longevity in this game. But you have to juxtapose that, obviously, against, ‘Am I going to even stay long enough for that to be a problem?’ So, that is what I think it really comes down to: this decision-making. And I compare it to the numbers that you see when I’m looking at the Reba flag, like all the calculations floating around in my brain.
I know you voiced being quite the proponent of the Shot in the Dark in a pre-game interview. Did you ever consider playing it in the first round of voting?
100%. Well, first of all, how funny is that? I’ve been sitting on that video for so long. I’m so excited I got to tweet it yesterday. Um, yes, of course, I thought about playing my Shot in the Dark. I think I was just worried that I had misgauged how unanimous it was going to be and that it would come down to a couple of votes, especially because of this lengthy discussion that happens at tribal council, where I’m being thrown out as like a very good vote out that night by people, and people are debating. And I was worried specifically that that had swayed people enough that I should keep my vote and, like, make sure that even that one vote was going toward Kaleb.
The possibility of Kaleb using his Shot in the Dark was discussed before tribal council, but the first vote for him still ended up being unanimous. Why was that?
That’s such a good question. And it’s something that I think about: why didn’t I throw one name out there, right? I would have single-handedly decided who went home that night if I had done that. When it comes down to it, I don’t know why it was unanimous. I think something that I would attribute to it is that decisions like this are made in such little time. And as you see in the episode, it reflects real life—how things go back and forth and back and forth. At one point in the day, it was very clearly me. At one point in the day, it was very clearly Kaleb, and people are going back and forth. Not to mention that there is essentially a live tribal, and people are throwing names out of tribal and giving arguments for why some people should stay and some people should leave. I would just say that with all of those factors, people probably didn’t know that it was going to stay unanimous until the votes were actually read. And you see my shock at that too when Jeff is reading the votes. I’m assuming that there’s going to be at least one vote for me, and there isn’t, and that is a moment of shock in the game for me.
I’m curious to know how you felt about Kaleb sort of taunting you at the voting booth, since we don’t typically see ballsy gameplay like that. How did you feel at that moment?
Oh, my gosh, great question. I would say I respect the heck out of it. I also remember being so impressed by how he just clearly was like, ‘Let’s talk about this out in the open,’ because, I mean, those are the kinds of tribals that I like to watch. So why wouldn’t that be the kind of trial that I would be honored to be a part of? You know, I love it. I feel like this is a game. Obviously, in the moment, you know, all my dreams and hopes are attached to said game. But like I said before, what brings us all to Survivor is this shared love of the game. And in the moment, you have to realize, at the end of the day, we’re supposed to be having fun playing this game, even if it is for a million dollars. And I think those are the moments that really make that apparent. So I thought it was funny, […] and it made me laugh in the moment.
You touched on this a bit earlier, but do you think Kaleb’s pitch against you in the first round of voting influenced anyone for the revote? Did you feel scapegoated at that moment?
I think it was probably always surely going to be me. I think it probably didn’t help [laughs]. But I think I went into that tribal knowing that if it wasn’t Kaleb, it was going to be me. And I think I was interested to hear that—I think at that point, it was a good game move. Because at that point, Kaleb was such a threat, and that was a word that had been attached to him for so long that for him to be like, ‘No, no, no, no, someone else.’ Like, ‘Someone else take the heat on this.’ I thought it was a good move. I don’t know how much I bought that at that point. I don’t think I came off really as like a threat at that point in the game. But you know, I will take it. But I did know in the revote, like you see my face when Jeff reads the ‘Safe’ parchment. Like. I know that I’m going home, so that was never really a question for me, sadly. But I just didn’t want to go down without a fight, so that’s why I was like, ‘Guys, let’s try to make something happen.’
Why did original Reba feel so comfortable sharing the plan to vote out Kaleb with Emily? How were they perceived out there as the last two remaining original members of Lulu?
It’s a great question. I would say that it’s a really tricky position to be in at Mergatory. You know each other for such little time, and a lot of Reba had never played with people outside of our original Reba tribe. So I think there was this idea of, like, we have to throw a name; somebody has to go home tonight. And people just felt like he was a safe option, and that’s why people really rallied around him. And, you know, they felt like there was no other option but to, like, really go around and just say, ‘We need to make some moves happen.’ But that being said, I don’t know. I would have to ask around. But it’s a great question.
Your original Reba tribe members seemed to not trust you since the beginning of the game, but their reasoning behind feeling that way remains unclear based on the edit. Can you talk about your gameplay during the early days at Reba that may have caused their distrust in you?
Oh, yeah. 100% Well, I would say something that I think is important to my gameplay that wasn’t shown, and again, I totally get why it’s not shown, especially [because] it didn’t really affect much in the grand scheme of things. But I wanted to work with Sifu in original Reba. I came up to him early in the game, and I was like, ‘The way that the cards are being dealt, we should probably stick together.’ We have the whole pinky promise, alliance name situation—I think it’s some music pun, if I remember correctly. But he immediately then goes to people on Reba and tells them that I want them out of the game. So I take that as, ‘Okay, he doesn’t really want to work with me.’ So, given that, I was like, ‘I don’t really have a ton of options here.’ I do notice that these two duos are forming, and I think I can probably… In my head, I was like, ‘I can wiggle my way in more with Julie and Dee.’ And especially in the swap, I was like, ‘Okay, well, now it’s like an easy majority, right?’ Like if they want to bring me in. And it really does come down to two things. I think part of it is like I was maybe a little bit more aware than I let on, but I think I wasn’t fully aware because they’re great players. So it’s somewhere in the middle. So yeah, I would say that I really did try to make something happen, and I had to work with the cards that I was dealt at original Reba for sure.
I’d love to go back to the Sean vote real quick. You admittedly wanted to work with him but still decided to fulfill his wish of being sent home. What led you to that decision?
Yes! Oh my gosh, one of the most complicated decisions I ever made in the game. And I think such a good representation of what Survivor is is this play between: we are getting to know each other as people, and we have to compete against each other as players. And for me, it’s this decision. It’s a people decision. I just love Sean; I really connected with him, and I felt like I wanted to honor his request. And that was 100% of the decision-making for me. I would have preferred for him to stay—not even a question, right? I mean, you see, as we connect on the beach, it was like, ‘Finally. Finally, I have someone that I can work with, that I can connect with.’ And, you know, I didn’t want to see him go. But that’s sometimes the game, like you have to put the people stuff first.
Dee seemed to be particularly against you in the game, as we’ve seen quite a few confessionals of her plotting against you. Watching things back, has that surprised you?
I would say I wasn’t super surprised watching things back. Because, you know, I did get a sense. I did get a sense that I was on the outs. So, you know, I totally get it. But it is a game—like, I really do understand that all of these comments are said in the context of it being a game. And that’s how I take everything, so yeah.
You mentioned you had an idea that votes were possibly going your way leading up to tribal council, which didn’t make the edit. How were you made aware of that?
Yes. 100%. I was being told by people that I connected with, especially at Mergatory, so, like, Jake… and I would say Reba came up to me and said, ‘Just so you know, Belo wants you out. Belo’s throwing your name out, but it’s gonna be Kaleb.’ And, you know, I don’t know if that was 100% the truth. Maybe it was me at that point, and then it switched to Kaleb. But I did in my gut know that it was Kaleb, and I think a big part of that came from a conversation I had with Jake, where I was like, ‘Jake, can you give it to me straight? and he said, ‘It’s definitely Kaleb tonight, like you are not going to go home.’ And that ended up being correct. So I’m really grateful that I had that conversation. But that is part of the reason I made the decisions I made. Like, I came into tribal knowing that my name had been seriously, seriously considered and thrown out, but that it was going to be Kaleb.
Wednesday’s episode continued to show more of Austin’s disdain for you wanting to go for the amulet rather than a sandwich during your journey together. Did you have any idea how much that move made him distrust you?
I love this storyline. I think it’s so fun. I was the devil for Halloween because I thought it was so inspired by my portrayal on the journey. I would say I didn’t expect it, but I think it’s so funny, and I honestly do get it because I was also so hungry on that journey. It’s 100% a regret of mine in the game that I took the amulet. I think at that point I was just so desperate for any advantage, any opportunity to weasel my way in. I thought maybe it would bring me and Kellie a little bit [closer]. I really wanted to work with Kellie. I was like, ‘Maybe this will make Kellie want to work with me more because maybe we can scheme against someone else together.’ So there were a lot of things that went on in my brain. But I think I was just too tempted by the promise of potential hardware and the promise of potentially getting to work with someone. I had no idea how that would pan out for me [laughs]. But you know, you live and you learn.
So with that being said, what were your true intentions with how you wanted to manage sharing the amulet with Austin and Kellie?
That is a great question. Definitely the latter. I didn’t think that it would be so soon. You know, I thought maybe we would let things settle a little bit at Mergatory and then see where things lie after that. I was very hopeful that I would make a new alliance going into the Mergatory, and then I could maybe pull them in and share this with them. So I was definitely waiting a little bit, but it was definitely something on my mind. I knew that that would have to happen at some point.
What song of yours would you say is the best introduction to you and your sound?
Oh my god, that’s such a kind question. Thank you for asking that. I would say [in] my newest song, ‘The Maze,’ I wrote about what it’s like to go through difficult times in your life. But know that at the end of the day, you really do have yourself as your greatest advocate, because you go through life with only one person, and it’s yourself. And I love that song’s message. I really like this new sound that I’m experimenting with. And so I would say that that is the song that I would use. I wrote that song last year, but it was so funny to me that one of the challenges was a maze obstacle course. I was like, ‘Yes! Life imitates art.’ And we did win that challenge, actually. So that makes me really happy. But that’s a great question. Thank you for saying that. An a-maze-ing question.
Survivor airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on CBS and Paramount+.