Jefra Bland was the last remaining contestant in the game from the original Beauty Tribe and for most of the game, she flew well under-the-radar. But last week, she ended up on Tony's bad side after he blindsided her close ally, LJ, and this season, that's the last place you want to find yourself. On Wednesday night's episode, Jefra became the fifth member of the "Survivor: Cagayan" jury when she found herself blindsided in a similar fashion. I spoke with Jefra today, one day after the episode aired.
Jefra began the game seemingly in a good spot on the Beauty Tribe and seemed to bond extremely well with fellow tribe mates LJ and Alexis. The tribe switch took Alexis away from her, but she managed to remain in the majority alliance on each of her tribes. When the tribes merged, she was distraught to find that Alexis had been voted out, but she forged ahead forming what would become the season's most influential - and volatile - alliance of six, along with LJ, Tony, Woo, Trish and Kass.
But her game took a near-fatal blow when LJ was blindsided by Tony. Of all of those who were kept in the dark, Jefra took the sly move the hardest, which only made her a target in Tony's eyes. She had a golden opportunity to rattle the game when she went on a reward with Jeremiah, Spencer and Tasha, and the four formed a real alliance. The four planned on weakening Tony's grasp on the game by voting out Woo, which would have been Jefra's first really big move that she could have pointed to.
Instead, just moments before the Tribal Council, Jefra had a change of heart. She decided to go back with her former alliance, including Tony, and they took out Jeremiah. Little did Jefra suspect, she would be the next to go.
Fearing the formation of an all-girl alliance, Tony and Woo decided to flip and vote out Jefra, the one person that Tony didn't trust, mainly because of her more verbal reaction to LJ's ousting. Jefra was sent packing, never really getting a chance to make that one big move.
Today I spoke with Jefra about her time in the game, her original Beauty alliance, her big non-decision and how she interpreted those words of inspiration given to her by her mom when she won a letter from home.
Jefra Bland: Hi Tom, how are you?
Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: Doing great, sorry to see you go! So let me dive right in to the big decision you faced. You had the opportunity to flip on your alliance and vote with Spencer, Tasha and Jeremiah and it looked like you were going to, but you ultimately decided to side with your original alliance. What was your main reasoning in deciding not to flip at that point?
Jefra: Survivor is a game that is all about numbers. And I didn't think that I had the numbers at that point to make the flip. When I came back from the Reward Challenge that day, I had to convince Kass or Trish to flip with me. Flipping by myself would have just led to four-four and someone pulling rocks to see who goes home. So when I went back to camp and I was trying to get them to flip, I guess while I was gone, Tony had filled them with smoke again and had convinced them that we all needed to stick together and no one was willing to flip with me. So I wasn't willing to flip and potentially draw rocks and send myself home when I could have stuck with the alliance and been guaranteed another three days. At the same time, to follow up your question, I had found a clue to a hidden Immunity Idol at that BBQ Reward Challenge.
Tom Santilli: Oh really?
Jefra: Yeah, Tasha and I had looked for it like crazy and even Spencer went with us to look for it. Not once did Spencer mention that he had an Idol. Had he informed me that he had the Idol and that he was willing to play it for me if that were to be the case, then I definitely would have gone ahead and flipped, had I known that they had an Idol that could have potentially saved me. I would have been a little bit more willing to flip, but they never mentioned that to me.
Tom Santilli: Also on that Reward Challenge, you received a letter from your mom back home. How did you interpret her words at that time and after you decided to flip back and vote out Jeremiah, how did you justify the words of advice she had given you?
Jefra: Receiving the letter from home was probably my greatest moment in the game. It was truly an incredible experience and I had no idea how emotional that would be. To be out there and get that was like a boost of confidence. In the moment I tried to use the letter as a very literal thing. My mom was saying don't be afraid to lie, don't be afraid to jump ship. I tried to take that as inspiration to make a big move. At the same time, I'm not going to want to make a big move if that big move could potentially send me home by drawing rocks.
Tom Santilli: At the point where you did vote out Jeremiah, who had you hoped to sit next to if you would have made it to the Final Three?
Jefra: I was really hoping to sit next to Kass. I had thought that she had ticked off enough jury members with her decision to flip and was definitely not going to get jury votes. It was a very bitter jury I would say at that point. So I didn't see any of them reconciling with her. Besides her, I was hoping to sit next to Trish or Woo.
Tom Santilli: So you were planning on getting Tony out at some point then obviously? He wasn't someone you saw as potentially having rubbed the jury the wrong way?
Tom Santilli: Earlier in the game, when Tony blindsided LJ, he really went behind not only your back, but the backs of Kass and Trish. But you were a bit more vocal afterwards. Why do you feel that you skyrocketed as someone Tony couldn't trust when he didn't have those feelings for Kass or Trish, who both also must have felt slightly betrayed?
Jefra: It got to the point where I was just so tired of the blindsides. And him playing double agent and the spy shack. So I was like, look, you're either with us or you're not, so to speak. You're thinking I'm not loyal and I'm going to flip, how loyal are you when you have to spy on me every time I walk to the water well? So I was to the point where I started calling him out where a lot of other people didn't. Meaning Kass and Trish. They just sort of let it go and said, oh, we didn't know either. But I was like, yeah, so what are you going to do about that?
Tom Santilli: So looking back on it then, do you regret being vocal with Tony? Or going the other way, do you wish you would have tried harder to turn Trish and Kass against him?
Jefra: I don't regret standing up to Tony becauses literally, his paranoia was ruining everyone's game. It was driving everyone nuts. So I don't regret that it all when it comes to Tony. I truly believe that I gave it my all. I had spoke with Trish for a very long time at the well, little did I know that he was lurking in the bushes. And she was just not willing to turn on him. Same thing with Kass, we had a conversation on the beach for quite a while and she wasn't turning either.
Tom Santilli: So when Spencer cast his vote for you last night, he said, "Morale of the story: Actually play the game before you get played." What's your response to that comment and the sentiment that you weren't "playing the game"?
Jefra: I really just took it with a grain of salt. I knew he was mad at me because I didn't flip with him and that's what he considered playing the game. Because that was the best decision I could have made for his game. But that wasn't the best decision for my game, turning on my alliance and drawing rocks four-four.
Tom Santilli: How happy were you with how you were portrayed overall? Was there anything that you weren't happy about or wish they would have shown in regards to your storyline?
Jefra: I was disappointed when they didn't show me finding the clue and looking for the Idol. A lot of times around the Beauty beach I was going around strategizing with Alexis, looking for Idols and really trying to play the game. I didn't really get an edit that made me look like I was a potential big player, but all in all I am very pleased with what they chose to show.
Tom Santilli: Reading your backstory, I know that you are a Survivor in more ways than one (Jefra is a cervical cancer survivor). What can you tell me about your life outside of the game and the battles you've overcome?
Jefra: When I first was cast on Survivor, one of my family members found out and they were like, man, how do you do it? 39 days playing this game on an island is like a vacation compared to life for most people. The things that we survive in everyday life is so much harder than the things you go through on the island. There are people who face much worse challenges. And I didn't play the "cancer card" out there because it's just a part of my story, it's a part of who I am. I didn't want anyone's pity or sympathy from it. It is what it is and I've learned that you just have to survive and go on. Even when you think you're down, whether in Survivor or every day life, just keep going because life will always turn around.