But once there the castaways she wasn't aligned with quickly caught-on and ousted the 22-year-old student from Columbia, SC during last night's broadcast of the long-running CBS reality competition series.
On Friday, Jaime talked to Reality TV World about her current relationship status with Erik Huffman; if she really thought a wooden plaque she found on the ground was a Hidden Immunity Idol; how she was forbidden from breaking one of the Ten Commandments despite her best efforts; why the decision to throw Immunity Challenges played out the way it did; and how she knew she'd be going home before it happened.
Reality TV World: How did you end up being cast for Survivor: China? Had you applied to the show before?
Jaime: I only applied on time, which was last October. I sent in an application and a video. Actually, they [first] called me in reference to Pirate Master. So I was a finalist for Pirate Master, but never made the show. Then I went back for casting for Survivor: China, and I made it.
Reality TV World: Had you watched a lot of Survivorbefore going on the show?
Jaime: Yeah, I watched quite a bit of the former seasons, so I kind of new what I was getting myself into.
Reality TV World: Why do you think you had such a good relationship with Erik Huffman?
Jaime: Erik and I are both southern. We're both from the same area of South Carolina [Jaime resides in Columbia, Erik is originally from Greenville]. We had a lot in common. He's a very trustworthy person. I knew he didn't lie to anybody while we were out there. He's just a genuinely good guy, so I felt like I could trust him. The whole time out there, he was just my comfort. He reminded me of back home, and for once I felt like I could confide in somebody, so it was really nice to have him on the island with me.
Reality TV World: When Erik told you he was a virgin, you commented how it made you trust him even more. Did you ever think that it was some sort of strategic move on his part?
Jaime: Well you know, you're always very paranoid about everybody... So I was wondering, "Well, he seems like a great guy. I really like him. But you never know if he's just trying to play you for a vote." When he started revealing more about himself, I started realizing he just was a really great guy with a good personality.
Reality TV World: There have been some photos of the two of you hanging out together floating around the Internet. I take it you guys are dating now?
Jaime: You know we're best friends. We try to stay in touch as much as possible. But right now we're both pretty busy. I'm a student at the University of South Carolina; I'm graduating in May. He's in a band... So we do keep in touch as much as possible, but we're really just friends outside the show.
Reality TV World: Why was it that none of the Zhan Hu members ever thought for a second that Fei Long had received the same parchment explaining the swap of tribe members? Why didn't you guys ever piece that together?
Jaime: (laughing) We felt like we had such unfair tribes at the beginning, because they had all the strong men and all the big guys. You know, [original Fei Long member Jean-Robert Bellande] is 6-foot, 6-inches. [Fellow original Fei Long member James Clement] is a human Hercules, and then [original Fei Long member Aaron Resiberger] too. We just thought that they were such unfair teams, that maybe this was [the producers'] way to make it a little more fair than it had been the previous episodes.
Reality TV World: When we talked to Sherea Lloyd last week, she said Zhan Hu had discussed throwing challenges prior to the swap. Was that the case? Did Zhan Hu discuss throwing challenges before you swapped Sherea and Michael "Frosti" Zernow to Fei Long for James and Aaron?
Jaime: Yes we did. We tried to plan because we were so worried. We were like, "Well, we're going to have the dominant team because we're going to have James and Aaron right now. But that means [Fei Long] is probably going to vote you guys [Sherea and Frosti] off first. What can we do about this?"
We said, "Well, if we have to, we'll throw the challenges. Hopefully you guys [Sherea and Frosti] can make friends over there, try to make alliances, try to get in good with their tribe." We knew [Fei Long] didn't like Jean-Robert, so we were like, "There might be hope that y'all can get rid of Jean-Robert before one of y'all." So we had discussed throwing the challenges before they even left the Zhan Hu camp.
Reality TV World: Was Erik involved in those discussions?
Jaime: Erik was definitely involved in those discussions. Erik was actually involved with all the discussions about throwing the challenge except we had come to the conclusion that we weren't going to throw the first [Immunity Challenge]. We wanted to throw the second one to get rid of Aaron, because he was such a threat and he had so many alliances at Fei Long, we knew we didn't have a chance to flip him over to Zhan Hu.
But we felt that James was somewhat of an outsider [with Fei Long]. So we were going to work on seeing if we could trust him, and hopefully, [Fei Long] would vote out Jean-Robert first. So we decided we wouldn't throw the first challenge; we'd throw the second.
Well when we got to the [first Immunity Challenge after the swap] and the boys were swimming out in the water, [fellow Zhan Hu member Peih-Gee Law] and I caught wind of a conversation between James and [Fei Long member Todd Herzog]. They were conversing across the playing field to each other and we just got a very eerie feeling that, "Okay, [James] is still talking to them in-front of us -- so he's obviously still with them -- we might have to throw both challenges."
Reality TV World: I see. So that's why Erik seemed surprised after you threw the first Immunity Challenge, because he didn't know you were going to do it?
Jaime: He didn't know because we had said, "We're not going to throw it. We're going to throw the second one instead." Last minute, we kind of had to do what we thought was right.
Reality TV World: Were you concerned Fei Long would realize what you and Peih-Gee were up to during that Immunity Challenge?
Jaime: No because honestly, we were kind of known as the happy tribe. We were always smiling, [host Jeff Probst] always made more comments about how giddy we were. We were just trying to make the best of a bad situation. We kept losing. Fei Long's camp had fruit trees, they had vegetation, they had so much more than we had at our camp. We were just trying to make the bets of what we had.
So the whole show we were trying to always smile and have a good time. The only time I realized, "Shoot! We might be in trouble," is when Jeff threw the [puzzle piece] back over to me. Because when I threw it [to hide it as part of Zhan Hu's plan to throw the challenge], nobody saw me. But when [Jeff] blatantly just gave it back to me in-front of everyone, I was like, "Well... That could be a problem."
Reality TV World: Do you regret your decision to vote out Aaron before James?
Jaime: No. Honestly, I still don't think we had a chance to get Aaron on our side. We kept trying. We really did. We asked Aaron about Fei Long alliances and he would just... I think he was trying to open-up with us, but to him we were still enemies, so it was very hard for him. He had so much going on at Fei Long -- he's such a likeable character, such a likeable person -- that everybody over there had an alliance with him.
So when we kept trying to say, "Hey, do you have alliances?," He wouldn't really give us information. We realized, "Okay, we don't have a chance in getting him on our side. We have to get rid of him."
Reality TV World: Were you confident Sherea and Frosti would keep their alliances to Zhan Hu after being traded to Fei Long?
Jaime: I felt that if we went to extremes to throw challenges for them -- and they knew what we were doing -- that that would prove our loyalty and prove to that we were going to stick with them throughout the entire season. So I thought that was a great way to show our loyalty to them and make them realize, "Hey, we're willing to do this for you." I thought in return they'd do it back for us.
Jaime: Mostly James getting kidnapped [by Fei Long]. We were very worried once he got kidnapped. First off... we missed James but what's going on over there. What are they telling him. I knew there was a Hidden Immunity Idol clue [which James received when he was kidnapped]. I didn't know who he gave it to or what he conversed with that person.
We were actually worried that Aaron had [the Hidden Immunity Idol], which is why we blind-sided him the episode before. So when we realized Aaron didn't have, I was like, "What if James has it?" So we started thinking about the idol.
Sherea and Peih-Gee also conversed [during last week's Reward Challenge], and Peih-Gee got a bad feeling about. Then I kept trying to make eye-contact with Frosti to see if he was still with us, and he never made eye-contact with me. So we started getting worried about them. We were still really pretty close with James, we hung out. We thought we were getting on his good side. We thought he's a pretty huge... We thought, "Well if we don't throw it, we prove to him we're gonna win this challenge and sacrifice one of our own [original Zhan Hu members]." Then it would really show that we're with him and he'd stick with us.
Reality TV World: Did you suspect James of trying to throw the Immunity Challenge when he slowly at chicken fetus?
Jaime: It actually did cross my mind a little bit. We all kind of were looking at each other like, "This man can eat anything! What is going on here?" So when it came down [to the end of the challenge] -- I don't know if you noticed, but Erik went twice -- we decided to put Erik back in instead of James just because he was so weak when he [went the first time]. We didn't know if he was throwing the challenge or what was going on, but it kind of set-up a guard that he took so long to eat it. So we had Erik go twice instead of James.
Reality TV World: What was your initial reaction when you found the wooden plaque on the ground that you subsequently thought was one of the Hidden Immunity Idols?
Jaime: I looked up and realized the plaque was missing, and looked down and saw it. When we had walked up earlier from the water, we noticed James was up there doing something, so it kind of startled us. I was thinking, "You know what? Maybe we startled him and he had to drop it and we just found it because he didn't have a chance to get it because we just walked up on him while he was taking it down." So I was like we could have it, but then again he might've of gotten the wrong [plaque] down first and realized he had the wrong one, dropped it, and got the right one. So we really didn't know if he had the right one or the wrong one, which is why I decided to go through his bag.
Reality TV World: That leads well into my next question. Why didn't you go all the way when you snooped through James' bag and actually look at the plaques he had to compare them to the one you found?
Jaime: (laughing) I wanted to steal the idols, but then I found out you're not allowed to.
Reality TV World: Okay, I didn't know that.
Jaime: Yeah, you're not allowed to steal the idols because that was my first thought. I thought I had just opened a bag of gold.
Reality TV World: Did they tell you that rule before the competition started?
Jaime: No they didn't (laughing). I think they told me when I went through his bag. They were like, "Hey, that's considered personal property you can't take those."
Reality TV World: Did you ever take them out of the clothes they were wrapped in?
Jaime: I pulled them out, they were in legs. He had put them in his pants' leg. I did pull them out to look at them to see if they were the two things hanging up. I wanted to compare them to the one we found that was in Erik's bag, but we heard Peih-Gee and James walking back up from trying to look for frogs to eat.
Reality TV World: So I'm assuming you didn't see the inscription on the idols James had in his bag.
Jaime: I didn't see the writing on the back because I pulled them half-way out and realized, "Oh no! They're coming back up here. I have to put them back really fast before I get in deep trouble with James."
Reality TV World: So you knew James had found two idols but then also thought you had found a third. How many Hidden Immunity Idols did you think there were in the game? Did you know there were only two idols and think maybe one of James' wasn't real?
Jaime: I thought there was two and I thought James either dropped the right one when he got it, or James dropped the wrong one when he got it. I knew there were only two, because the clues [said there was a Hidden Immunity Idol at each camp]. So I knew there were only two idols, but we thought maybe because we had startled him, he got the wrong one.
Reality TV World: So you knew the whole time that there was a chance the plaque you had in your possession wasn't a real Hidden Immunity Idol.
Jaime: Oh yeah. The first thing we did when we went to the Fei Long camp [after the merge], Erik and I -- when everybody was down in the water -- got our idol out and compared it to the idol that was hanging on their [archway], and realized it matched the one that they still had hanging. So we knew we had the wrong one.
Reality TV World: Okay, that makes sense.
Jaime: Yeah, we did know we had the wrong one. I still played it [at Tribal Council] just out of... I thought if they see me, I tried to make it obvious to Todd that I had one. I didn't know that he knew that James had [the Hidden Immunity Idols]. But I wanted him to think that I had one that way he'd tell them to vote for someone else instead of me.
Reality TV World: How confident were you heading into the merge?
Jaime: Oh I was so scared of the merge. We actually had a whole conversation the day before. I didn't want to merge. I knew we were in deep trouble once we hit merge. I do well in the challenges, I knew that was going to be a problem for me because people were going to see me as a threat. I also wasn't 100% confident in James at that time. I wanted to be, but it was still in the back of my head that he might go against us. He talked about trying to get [Fei Long member Denise Martin] to come with us. So we realized maybe James is really with us and he's going to get Denise and we'll have the votes. But it was still nerve wracking to go from one camp where I was so comfortable and never really had to worry about being voted off, to where I knew the target was going to be right on my back
Reality TV World: Was Frosti's allegiance to the original Zhan Hu still kind of wishy-washy in your mind too?
Jaime: Frosti and I were so close -- they never showed this -- but we were so close. He was like my brother out there. I really didn't think he would go against us. I thought if anything, he would get Todd to come with us. We kind of mentioned that to Frosti. We were like, "Todd's controlling things over there. Maybe try to get him to swap and see if he'll come with us." We told that to Frosti right before he left. But it never even phased me that he would switch tribes. We talked right when we got to Fei Long [after the merge] and his strategy was still with us.
Reality TV World: Peih-Gee knew that both Courtney Yates and Sherea voted for Jean-Robert at the previous Tribal Council. How did she learn that?
Jaime: I think James told her. James told us a lot of information about Fei Long.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised by that or is it a part of the trust with James you were talking about?
Jaime: That was a trust thing. You know we were telling him things, he was telling us things. We were trying to form a bond with him. We actually told him before Tribal Council that we threw the Immunity Challenge, which is why I didn't care about saying it to Jeff. We were trying to blind-side Aaron just in case he had the Hidden Immunity Idol. We told James, "Hey, we want you on our side. We're not voting you off tonight. We need you with us. We need your numbers and Fei Long's going after you as soon as we merge."
Reality TV World: So Zhan Hu thought there was a chance James would defect from Fei Long?
Jaime: Oh we really thought he would because Aaron said, "Fei Long's trying to take-out James. He's too much of a threat in Individual Immunity." So we knew that James was kind of an outsider at Fei Long, so we really thought he'd go with us. We needed him!
Reality TV World: Did you really think the deal you tried to make with Todd about who has the Hidden Immunity Idols would work or was it just a last-ditch effort to save your neck?
Jaime: I think that was more of an effort for him to think I had the idol. So I said, "Hey look, there's two. One at your camp, one at ours. I know who has both of them. I'll explain this to you later." I thought that was kind of trying to tell [Todd], "Hey look I have it. I might play it tonight. Make sure you guys don't vote for me." Definitely trying to make him say, "Well Jaime trusts me for some reason. I like her. Maybe she could help." I knew he was kind of leading everybody over there so I thought that might him help tell everybody else to vote for someone else instead of me.
Reality TV World: So were you surprised how your elimination went?
Jaime: Not really. I had this feeling in my gut that I was going. I was trying to go out with a laugh, pull out the idol, see Jean-Robert's reaction. Call out James -- that he has the idols -- for the people that didn't know yet. I was trying to make the best of the situation because I just knew it was me. Jean-Robert kind of told me I was going, so it was hard to go into Tribal Council knowing you're about to get voted off.
Reality TV World: Jean-Robert told you that right before Tribal Council?
Jaime: Yes he did.
Reality TV World: Going back to everything that happened before the swap and the merge, what was your reaction when Fei Long decided to kidnap you?
Jaime: I was so scared. I really didn't understand why they picked me. I was like, "Well they might think I'm a dumb blonde and just share all my information about [Zhan Hu] to them." So I was making up a lot of just funny little things, telling them that it was a unanimous vote against [Steve "Chicken" Morris], that we were all friends, that the only outsider was Chicken. I actually stole some [fishing] lines and hooks from [Fei Long] to bring back to [Zhan Hu] to show my tribe, "Hey look you can trust me. I'm not a traitor. Please don't vote me off." Because they don't know what happened while I was over there. They don't know what was going on.
I was worried too about the [Hidden Immunity Idol] clue, because I didn't know how to explain that to people. Because of course everyone's first question was, "What was in that tube?" So I actually told everybody that it was just a phrase from Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" saying to watch your enemies closely. The lie ended up going on through the rest. Everybody who got kidnapped used the same exact lie. So it was kind of funny (laughing). So I was like, "Well, I guess it worked."
Reality TV World: When you returned to Zhan Hu, what did you tell them about Fei Long? Did you dish a lot of dirt or was Fei Long guarded while you were there?
Jaime: They were going around their normal business. I knew Aaron was their leader right off the bat. I knew that they had problems with Jean-Robert, that they didn't like him at all. I knew that they had all the fruit and stuff that we didn't have, which was kind of upsetting to me. I learned a lot about their tribe dynamics and I definitely went back and told all my Zhan Hu tribe mates exactly what was going on. I knew I could trust [Fei Long member Leslie Nease], so I told them, "Hey look, if we're trying to get someone on our side at the merge, I think Leslie's the one we can trust."
Reality TV World: Why did you decide to share the first Hidden Immunity Idol clue with Leslie? Did you two have a good relationship?
Jaime: Yeah, originally when I got there I was going to give it to Courtney because I knew she was the weakest link and the longer she stayed the better chance [Zhan Hu] had at winning challenges. But then I knew Leslie was sick, and I was worried that she was sick. I knew I had a bond with her, I knew she was a good person... I didn't want to give it to the strongest person, that's for sure. I thought Leslie would be on the chopping block because she's sick -- and because of our bond and because she's a good person -- that I could trust her in the game. So I gave her the clue hoping it would save her and hopefully because I gave it to her, she would trust me throughout the game.
Reality TV World: So that plan actually worked since Leslie repaid the favor and gave you a Hidden Immunity Idol clue when Zhan Hu subsequently kidnapped her.
Jaime: Yeah, we actually talked about that. I said, "If I give you this, why don't we do it back and forth?" She was going to kidnap me or Erik again if they got the choice -- try to convince Fei Long to kidnap Erik or I. Then I was going to convince Zhan Hu to kidnap [Leslie].
Reality TV World: After you watched the episode, were you surprised to see Leslie shared the clue with Todd?
Jaime: Yeah. I specifically told her, "Don't share it with anybody." But you know, her thinking was Todd could help if [Zhan Hu] has to kidnap someone after Leslie, we could kidnap Todd. It was a strategic move by Leslie, but it ended up hurting her.
Reality TV World: Did you have any idea where the Hidden Immunity Idol was after receiving the second clue?
Jaime: I knew it was high up and I knew it was right near our camp. So I thought it was a necklace or something, so I thought it was going to be hidden in [the archway's] shingles. So for a few days I climbed up and pulled off some shingles to see if it was hidden in there. But I couldn't find it.
Reality TV World: Do you think something romantic was going on between Frosti and Courtney?
Jaime: I definitely think Frosti thought Courtney was cute. Courtney had such a funny personality, I think he was attracted to it. But I think as far as romance is concerned, I think it was more of a really tight friendship that they formed.
Reality TV World: Is there anyone you would really like to see win? Anybody you don't want to see win?
Jaime: I would definitely love, love, love to see Peih-Gee or Erik win. If someone from Zhan Hu could stick it out, I'd be thrilled.
I guess the only person I don't want to see [win] is James. I guess I feel... I think he's a great person, but I guess I feel he lied to us so much throughout the whole game that it's hard for me to want him to win.
Reality TV World: Since he's so physically strong, do you think James' social skills are being underestimated in the game?
Jaime: I think they're underestimating his social skills, but now that it's Individual Immunity, I don't think they really care about that. I think they're straight, "Who are we going to get off that's going to beat us up." I definitely think he's going to be a target.
Reality TV World: What was your strategy going into the game; do you think it worked; and was "playing stupid" part of your strategy?
Jaime: When I got there I was like, "I'll just play stupid." I'm southern -- I have a drawl -- I'll just pretend that I'm here to have a good time (speaking in a southern drawl). It worked. I had so many alliances on my team, I never had to worry at Zhan Hu about getting voted off.
But I think the longer... [Zhan Hu] kept having to vote people off and they kept seeing, "Jaime must be in the midst of all this." I think they just realized that I was pretty competitive at all the challenges and thought I was more than a threat than anyone initially expected.
Reality TV World: So what's next for you? What are you doing now?
Jaime: I'm a student at the University of South Carolina, so I graduate this May. I'm going to backpack across Europe -- try a few of my survival skills out for a month after I graduate. Then I'm going to go ahead and try to get a job.
Reality TV World: What are you studying?
Jaime: I'm studying public relations and I have a business and marketing minor. I would really like to do sports broadcasting.