Jessica, a 37-year-old assistant district attorney from Voorheesville, NY, was ousted from the game because the merged Vinaka tribe couldn't agree on a person to vote out so Tribal Council came down to drawing rocks at random on Night 30 of Season 33.
Jessica just so happened to pick the one unfortunate black rock in the bunch of white rocks which all signified safety. Her torch was therefore snuffed by Survivor host Jeff Probst and she cried tears of disappointment and shock on her way out.
During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World, Jessica talked about her Survivor experience. Below is the first half. Check back with us soon for the concluding portion.
Reality TV World: So you didn't write Hannah Shapiro's name down on the re-vote and you picked the black rock...
Reality TV World: Has that decision haunted you ever since or are you proud of yourself for not flipping on Hannah, taking that big risk and allowing such an epic Tribal Council to unfold?
Jessica Lewis: I'm very proud of myself for not flipping. That game was not respecting flippers. That's why Hannah was being voted for by [Zeke Smith]'s group, and that's why we were voting for Zeke, because he had just flipped on us.
And if you look at some of the previous votes, people that were flipping that were not showing loyalty -- which I showed early on in the game, where I had turned my back on people in my alliance -- it wasn't a respectable move. And so I knew that I could not flip.
As much as I didn't want to pick rocks, I knew that in order to win the game, I needed to put my hand in that bag of rocks. Because sitting in the Final 3 against people who were willing to put their hand in the bag of rocks were people who'd be on a jury looking at you and having you justify why you flipped at that point and weren't willing to go all in was a huge component of why I made the decision I made.
I didn't come on Survivor to finish second or third or sixth or eighth, you know? I wanted to win, and I knew if I had flipped, my game was done, that I wasn't going to win. The only thing I regret is picking the wrong rock! (Laughs) That's the part that I revisit.
Reality TV World: Did you think someone else was going to flip on the re-vote or were you pretty convinced the result would end up as a tie again, with four votes against four votes?
Jessica Lewis: I wasn't sure. Everyone seemed so headstrong in what they wanted to do, but in the back of your mind, you're thinking, "Maybe it's all just a show and maybe someone will flip, and if that happens, what if two people flip? Then we're right back to where we were before."
So it's a risk that you take if you do decide to flip because you're hoping that no one on the other side will flip, because if you both flip, then you're right back at a tie. So, it wasn't clear that anyone was going to flip, and I think that people pegged me and wanted me to flip.
Because this is my take on it: I think Zeke thought I was expendable, that basically, there wasn't a whole lot of love on the other side -- obviously they had just tried to vote me out the episode right before that. And there were clearly people on the other side who wanted me to go home.
So if Zeke could show that I wasn't loyal to those people that I was being truly loyal to, he'd have an easy argument for getting me out of the game later. [He'd say], "She really has no loyalty to anybody, so we should get rid of her." So I think that was why the focus was on me, to get me to flip, because I think Zeke probably realized, "Hey, we can work this angle later."
Reality TV World: We saw Adam Klein start to cry when you picked the black rock. Was he crying because you guys were that close and we just didn't see your relationship grow on the show, or, do you think he was crying because he envisioned his game going down the tubes since he was now a member of the minority alliance?
Jessica Lewis: No, I'm going to get a little emotional now too. I think one thing people didn't see was how close Adam and I had really become during that game. Since the swap, he and I really connected. We spent a lot of time talking and really getting to know each other very well.
And so, we became very close. I think that he was just truly devastated that it was me and that I was the one that ended up getting that rock, because he really was such -- he was such a close ally of mine out there and someone I really relied upon in helping further my game and my helping to further his game.
We worked with each other very, very well because we kind of brought together two groups of people. I came with Gen Xers; he came with the millennials. And so, we were able to bring the groups together. I think that's truly why Adam was upset when I got that rock.
Reality TV World: Voting blocks and trust clusters came up several times in the last episode, so do you necessarily think Adam, Ken McNickle, Hannah and David Wright are dead people walking? Because I think the wild card here is Justin "Jay" Starrett. He voted with the majority alliance but he still should be a big threat in everyone's eyes.
Jessica Lewis: Yeah, and I think that's the issue with this game, is that a lot of people have referred to it as being very fluid. And there is a fluidity to it, but I also feel like that fluidity can almost be to your detriment. Because like I said before, you lose loyalty, then you've got a hard battle after that to prove you should win the game.
But I think for Jay, it's probably different, because he's got a lot of love on the jury, (laughs) as far as at least [Michelle Schubert] and [Taylor Stocker]. So I don't think people would be really, greatly affected if Jay were to do something a little more drastic because of where he is in that game -- where the game has brought him and where he finds himself.
So, I think for Jay, it would be not as detrimental as it would be for someone like me, who had issues and had to deal with certain things from past moves. And other people, too, that were out there, it wouldn't have been in their best interest to flip. So, I think Jay is probably in a different spot.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction when David played his hidden Immunity Idol for Ken? What immediately went through your mind? Did you think it was a mistake or great choice up until Jeff Probst read the votes out loud?
Jessica Lewis: In that moment, we weren't really sure who was going to be voted for. We had heard Ken's name earlier in the day quite a bit. We had also heard my name and we heard David's name. So, it was kind of a toss-up. We weren't really sure where they were going.
I didn't even know that conversation had occurred between Hannah and David; otherwise, I might have thought things differently about Hannah's circumstances. But in my mind, it didn't make any sense to vote for Hannah. It made a heck of a lot of sense to vote for Zeke, but I didn't see Hannah as being a threat moving forward in the game.
So, I guess in my mind, I didn't think Hannah was going to be the one they'd be voting for. So when he decided to play it for Ken, [that] was not his initial idea because his plan was to play it for himself, which is what he was going to do.
But the whispering at Tribal Council, though they did say Ken, it wasn't the first time they said Ken's name. So it wasn't completely off the wall that he played it for Ken because there was some previous discussion about Ken going home.
Reality TV World: How much did you trust Hannah while you were in the game? Because she was back and forth for a bit between Zeke and Dave before ultimately deciding to stick with Dave.
Jessica Lewis: I had a conversation with her about that because it concerned me that she had been so close with Zeke and now all of a sudden she wanted to play with David. [I said], "What is that all about?" And her response to me was, "I had to make a choice."
Well, that's not a great answer in my mind. You didn't have to make a choice. She could've continued to play with Zeke; there's no reason why you had to play with David. And so, Hannah was really kind of a wild card. My loyalty was with David and Adam and Ken, those three individuals.
Hannah was helping us get further along in the game obviously, because she had been voting with us -- as had Zeke. Zeke had been voting with us too. So, it was a strange trust that I had with Hannah because she was kind of all over the place.
And then during that final Tribal when we went to rocks, she was actually telling me to vote out [Will Wahl]. (Laughs) I couldn't figure out what she was doing, but she was telling me to vote out Will.
I was kind of scratching my head and she just kept saying, "If you trust me, vote out Will." But I was like, "Where is that even coming from?" It was in no discussion earlier in the day.
So to me, Hannah was really just kind of a wild card. You weren't really sure where she was going to be at any given day, and I think that's probably why David didn't put as much belief into her when she said, "I think it might be me," because that was kind of Hannah, where she was a little bit all over the place.