J'Tia Taylor began the game on the Brains tribe, but will ultimately be remembered in Survivor lore for a brainless moment. That moment - the dumping of her own tribe's rice supply - is her defining moment on "Survivor: Cagayan." I interviewed J'Tia today, one day after the airing of Episode 4, in which she had her torch snuffed...the third Brain to be sent packing. In case you missed it, here is the full Episode 4 recap).
On Day Six, after being told to her face that she was the one who was getting voted out, J'Tia decided to go out with a bang. Figuring she had nothing to lose, she decided to grab the tribe's rice - their only real food supply for the 39 day adventure - and proceeded to dump it into the fire. When all was said and done, 95% of her tribe's rice was ruined.
Normally, this action would mean an instantaneous exit from the game. But J'Tia survived an additional six days in the game, an unprecedented feat for someone who sabotaged their own tribe. She nearly made it through another Tribal Council last night, but was ultimately unable to convince Tasha and Kass to keep her over the more manipulative and strategic Spencer.
J'Tia's rice dumping didn't do her any favors, but it was her poor to horrific performances in the Immunity Challenges that made her a real liability to her tribe. She was loyal, true, but not exactly stable. The decision didn't appear to be an easy one, but J'Tia was finally voted out.
Here's my full interview with J'Tia, where we talk about her tribe, her time in the game and of course, that rice incident.
Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: Hi J'Tia! How are you doing?
J'Tia Taylor: I'm great!
Tom Santilli: Well, cool to talk with you. Wow what a start to the season! I wanted to start off in asking you what kind of reaction you received in your personal life and also online, especially following that premiere episode?
J'Tia: In my personal life, everybody who knows me, knows me and loves me for who I am. So people in my personal life found it to be pretty entertaining. Also online people thought it was entertaining. Some people thought it was good, some people thought it was bad. I take the good comments and forget the bad ones, to be honest with you.
Tom Santilli: I'm sure you're going to be asked about the rice incident 50,000 times today...
J'Tia: Oh yeah!
Tom Santilli: Specifically with that whole incident, were you happy how that was portrayed? Was there anything else that we didn't see that you'd want to fill us in on?
J'Tia: If you wanted to know about the drama at Luzon (Brains), it would take the whole season. So yes, there were some things that weren't shown on TV, it wasn't just that I came back and dumped the rice. There were some other sort of in-betweens and going back-and-forth, me getting more agitated, that sort of thing, and it culminating in the rice drop. So yeah, there were some things you didn't see but you saw the important part.
Tom Santilli: Now nobody knows you simply from watching you on TV for a few episodes, but were you happy overall with how you were portrayed?
J'Tia: You know, they used what I gave them. So would I say I can be bossy? Yes I can. Can I be mean? I surely can be mean. But I would just say that those are just a few of the facets of the diamond that is J'Tia. But I am a very loyal friend. That same meanness that I used to dump out the rice in the fire is the same meanness that I use to defend my friends and my family. So it's not so good if you're on the other side of it, but when you're on this side, it is what it is.
Tom Santilli: Had the scenario been reversed, say someone on your tribe dumps out your rice supply, how would you have reacted?
J'Tia: I would have been mad. I think they were mad, even though they didn't really show that. It wasn't just like, "oh, that's OK," let's move past it. So I understand their reaction.
Tom Santilli: If you had to boil it down, what was the major malfunction of the Brains Tribe?
J'Tia: We never worked as a team. We missed the importance of being a team. We were there scheming against each other and we never really came together. I wasn't the only bossy person out there. Somebody was always telling someone, "you need to do this or this." I saw the Beauty tribe and it looked like they were bonding. They were playing corn-hole, they were bowling. We never did anything like that. It was always just very, very tense at our tribe. If you weren't up the whole time working, then you were lazy. If you asked about rice, then you were all about food. So it was just very tense.
Tom Santilli: Last night's Tribal Council showed Tasha and Kass seeming to be seriously debating who to keep and who to send home. You had been performing poorly during the physical challenges, but do you think they would have kept you had it not have been for the rice dumping? Why did they ultimately keep Spencer over you?
J'Tia: If you watched the challenge, Spencer was frickin' awesome during that challenge. So I really think it came down to performances at the challenges. As you see our discussion at Tribal, it was all about loyalty versus our performances at the challenges. But I understand their decision.
Tom Santilli: Was it as hard of a decision for Tasha and Kass to make last night, or did you have a gut feeling that you were going home the whole time?
J'Tia: I thought they were going to keep me going into it, but the more we talked and the more they led us in one direction with questioning, I saw that it was changing. So when I saw that they were talking, I knew that they were talking about voting me out, not keeping me. I was not surprised when the votes came.
Tom Santilli: We also saw last night that the Brawn tribe tried desperately to throw that challenge, but failed because the Brains were just that much worse. Does that make your exit from the game any harder to deal with, knowing that you were sent home in a week where the other tribe tried to lose on purpose?
J'Tia: Um, no. Really, they tried to throw a challenge about throwing balls in a hole and you have a former NBA player on your team? Come on now! I mean, it was ours to lose and we lost it. But it was very interesting to watch.
Tom Santilli: Could you have imagined if Cliff would have lost a basketball challenge up against Spencer and then would have been blindsided and sent home? Ouch.
J'Tia: Oh my God, wow! Yeah, that would have been a great episode. See? That's what should have happened. We should rewind time and make that happen.
Tom Santilli: Now that you've been voted out, will you still be rooting for Tasha, Kass and/or Spencer?
J'Tia: I'm rooting for them. I feel like anybody who can get out of our tribe is probably going to kick some ass. I would be lying if I didn't say that I felt some resentment, but I love them. It's a game. I hope they do well in the game and in real life.
Tom Santilli: We saw in the preview for next week that a tribe shake-up will be happening. Does that make your exit sting a bit more, knowing that your situation in the game would have been about to change?
J'Tia: No. I was happy. I mean, I threw out the rice, I don't know if you saw that episode! (Laughs) But no, I threw out the rice and still managed to survive. So like I said in the last episode, I knew I was hanging on by a thread, I honestly felt like I could have made it out of that Tribal Council. But I didn't. So I have to accept what happened.
Tom Santilli: As I mentioned before, we don't get to really know you or anybody as a person from watching a few episodes of a reality TV show. So is there anything that you would like people to know about you that wasn't shown or revealed on Survivor?
J'Tia: Just that there are different sides to me. I am very serious about my work, I'm very serious about my friends and family. I take what I do seriously. I'm always out there trying to make things better for people like myself in my field. I do a lot of outreach with girls and under-represented minorities, because it's hard out there. It's hard out there negotiating this world when people are against you and they're telling you that you can't do something. So I really want to get out the message: Just get out there and try. Win, lose or draw, you're out there giving it your best and that's all you can really do in life.
For even more, be sure to watch J'Tia's day after interview to the upper or left of this column. Also be sure to subscribe to this column (above by my name) to receive email alerts of new postings and you'll want to follow me on Twitter too, @tomsantilli, and at tomsantilli.com as well!
Also, make sure you check out one of my favorite Survivor sites, Survivor Fever.