Heather Pond and her partner Miles Haefner just came shy of beating first-season Love in the Wild champions Mike Spiro and Samantha Woods during last Wednesday night's finale episode of the new NBC reality dating series, which featured singles attempting to find love in the Costa Rican jungle.

On Friday, Heather, a 26-year-old public relations professional from Sonoma, CA, talked to Reality TV World about her Love in the Wild experience, her second-place finish and some of the most memorable events to-date -- including what is the current status of her relationship with Miles, why she said they held off on sharing the news that they were dating with their families and friends, whether she was falling in love with Miles during the season, how disappointed she was that they had to miss out on the trip around the world, and why she had originally hoped to be a contestant on Love in the Wild.

Reality TV World: Do I know you're still together, but what's the status of your relationship with Miles now? How is it going and what do you see happening in the future for you guys?

Heather Pond: Yeah, so, our relationship is moving along great. We're so happy to just finally be kind of public and share it with all of our family and friends. And so, our next step is that I'm actually flying out to Minneapolis next week, so I'll get to meet some of his family and close friends. And then in September, he'll be coming out to visit me.

So, we're just kind of focusing now on enjoying being public and finally getting to see each other's lives publicly now instead of just a driving tour, now we can publicly walk around San Francisco and really get to experience the city.

Reality TV World: A lot of contestants on other dating shows like The Bachelor have said that keeping the ending secret and not being able to spend much time with the person they met on the show between the end of filming and the show's finale is really hard on their relationship.  When I talked to Sam and Mike yesterday, they said they had similar restrictions on them but had actually been able to get together a few times and bend the rules and let their family know they were in a relationship -- were you guys able to do similar things or were you and Miles pretty much completely restricted between the end of filming and the airing of the finale?

Heather Pond: No, we were also able to see each other. He actually flew out to San Francisco twice and I went out to Minneapolis twice. That was great, but we made a decision together that we wanted to keep it a secret from our family and friends. We just thought that it was kind of a once in a lifetime experience.

This whole thing is new to us and unlike anything we'll ever do in our lives again. So, for us, it was fun not telling our family and friends so they can really experience it and we get to experience it all through their eyes. For me, I had a great time kind of torturing my family I guess.

They were so tired of me saying like, "Wait and see," or "tune in." I mean, you never get to have a secret like this that's so public, so for us, we just thought it would be fun to kind of wait for our families. And then, you know, I told my parents just before [last] week's show -- or actually, no.

We told them right after the switch-up [episode] because we knew that was coming -- where I was partnered with [Steele Dewald] and he was partnered with [Brandee Dillehay]. We wanted to wait to tell our immediate family that, and then we just waited until the show aired to tell the rest of our friends and family.

Reality TV World: How do you think being on Love in the Wild best prepared you to have a successful relationship together, what did you take or learn from the show that you can apply to your everyday lives together?

Heather Pond: I think it really kind of helped build the foundation for a good relationship where you're really having to communicate and trust each other, and you're in sort of this isolated-micro environment where your relationship with the friends on the show that I made and with Miles is really intensified at another level.

So, I feel like I can really be myself and be open with Miles and that's something that I haven't been able to really do in previous relationships, I feel like. I feel 100% percent myself and he allows me to be that. We have a great communication and trust.
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Reality TV World: At the end of the finale episode, Miles admitted he was falling in love with you to the cameras. Did you know at that time that he felt that way or did it surprise you watching it back? And also, were you falling in love with him then too?

Heather Pond: Yeah, I think the show definitely helped us kind of find the makings of love, and I wasn't surprised at all. I definitely felt very deeply for Miles then and still do, so watching it, it's fun to kind of see each other's commentary that we said about each other.

It's really kind of fun to watch that because you know what happened to you and what you said, but now you kind of get to see it from the other perspective.

Reality TV World: How disappointed were you that you didn't get to go on the trip around the world together? Was that a huge let down for you or were you simply happy that you had met Miles? If you had won that trip, do you think it would have strengthened your relationship even more?

Heather Pond: Well of course it was so disappointing that we lost. We never had the chance to go to the Oasis and then we didn't get the grand prize, so we were kind of the ultimate losers here since we didn't win any of that. But of course, we do have each other and obviously like I said, we can't really put a price tag on that. This is actually the best outcome -- that I am walking away with somebody.

I wasn't even sure that that would really happen and with this show, you know I watch reality TV as well, but I never thought that something real would actually come out of this. And to be with Miles, I'm so happy and it is the ultimate prize I guess to be with somebody.

Obviously, we would have loved to the world trip and I think for us, the reason why it was so disappointing, was because we wanted to spend more time together without commuting.

Now we're having to deal commuting monthly to see each other and all of those issues that come with a long-distance relationship, but we thought it we won, we'd have that opportunity to really spend another month together. We saw that as being able to spend more time together and have another great experience together.

Reality TV World: During one of the episodes, Benjamin "Ben" Hooker told a couple of the guys that dating on Love in the Wild after a few short weeks was like being in a relationship already for about five months. Do you agree with that and did you feel that was actually the case? Do you think your relationship moved a lot faster than you had expected or intended?

Heather Pond: Oh, absolutely. I feel like my feelings for somebody moved a lot faster. So, I knew -- just because you're spending so much time together and you don't necessarily have those distractions from the outside world, what you have to focus on is a relationship and also getting to know people there. So I think I left being like, "I feel like I've been gone for six months."

I feel like we've been in a relationship like six months to a year just because I feel like I know Miles so well and we've been able to spend so much time together. In the real world, if you were to go date somebody, you might spend a few hours a week with that person and there, you're spending 24 hours with somebody.

Reality TV World: When I talked to Steele a few weeks ago, he repeated his prior mention that everyone should go through a series of adventures together like you all did before they get married, and Skip Sullivan also agreed with that when I talked to him last week, saying that it is a true test for a relationship because you get thrown into stressful competitive situations you would normally not be in. What's your response to that, do you think the adventures really helped you and Miles form a strong connection or did they just make things more tense between you two? For instance, Mike and Samantha tended to bicker a lot during the adventures.

Heather Pond: I think I totally agree with Steele and Skip on this. This is -- I feel like you're tested so much and there's no way that I could try to fake my feelings through this. Exactly how you're feeling in the moment comes out in adventures just because you're so physically exhausted and you're just exerting all this energy. Your true colors kind of come out, I feel like.

So, I feel like for us, it was great because we had to communicate. Sometimes, I just didn't feel like talking on the adventure, and he'd be like, "Are you doing okay? Are you doing fine?" And I'd be like, "Yes, yes, I'm fine! I'll let you know if I need anything. I'm just trying to power through this hike right now, because I feel like I'm going to die."

So, I think it was great for helping us communicate and it pushed you through the test in a real stressful environment. Life's not like peaches and cream. You're going to have those stressful moments and you're going to have things pop up on the fly and you have to deal with it the best way that you can.

I think that this kind of stressful environment where you really have to figure out how to work together decides whether or not you want to stay together.

Reality TV World: Why did you originally go on Love in the Wild? Were you looking for a lasting relationship from the beginning or were you just looking for a fun dating experience but then changed your mind when you got to know Miles?

Heather Pond: I went in not knowing very much. I knew it was an adventure show, I knew there was a possibility of love, so I really just kind of went in with an open heart, open mind and I just wanted to see what the possibilities were. I wasn't sure. I wasn't even sure how the show would be -- like the adventures, I didn't know they would be as grueling as they were.

So my outlook on it when I got there was just to be positive and be open to the possibilities, and I found somebody, that would be great. If I didn't, it would be a cool experience either way. And it just so happens that it did work out, so I feel really lucky in that way. I think keeping an open mind about it really helped.

Reality TV World: When I interviewed Love in the Wild host Darren McMullen, he said most of the contestants went on the show because they tried all types of dating and nothing worked out for them. Was that your situation or were things different for you? Did that play any role?

Heather Pond: I haven't done like online dating or speed dating yet, but I certainly had been dating for quite awhile and it's been awhile since I've had a serious relationship I guess I would say. So, I saw this as a great opportunity to perhaps meet somebody. I was like, "Why not try it because obviously I'm not meeting anybody in San Francisco!"

Reality TV World: During the final adventure, Miles obviously had a really tough time swimming. You seemed to get frustrated that he wasn't moving as quickly as you hoped, so what was going through your mind? Was there a part of you that felt bad for him, were you angry or were you more just anxious because you wanted to win so badly?

Heather Pond: At one point, I think I was just laughing at him because I looked over my shoulder and he's swimming along the shoreline. I'm like, "Over here, Miles! You gotta come this way!" Part of me was like, "We gotta go, this is a competition," but it was just so funny to see him like trying to swim, that I was laughing about it.

Luckily, it didn't really affect us that much on the adventure because we ended up being able to catch up to Mike and Sam pretty quickly rowing on the water. I mean, it was just funny.

When we had to swim again, I was like, "Here we go!" I kind of felt bad for him too. But he eventually got there, so thankfully that wasn't the last part of the adventure or something. It was the beginning, so we were able to make up time.

Reality TV World: You and Miles seemed to be neck and neck in the final adventure for most of the course with Samantha and Mike. Where do you think you guys lost ground and at what point did you think you had lost the competition? Because to viewers, it looked like it was a foot-race to the finish at the end and Samantha was even struggling with a bad ankle so she was moving somewhat slowly.

Heather Pond: I think on the first day, we were pretty close, but definitely hiking the uphill part is not my strong suit. Samantha has a lot of endurance, so she did really great. It was a struggle to hike up that whole way, so I'm sure we kind of lost ground there. The first day, we should have pushed ourselves running harder, like every time they kind of walked, we would walk as break.

We should have just kept running the entire time, but in the moment, we were carrying these 15-20 pound backpacks and you're trying to run with it. I thought like, "I've been running and pumping my arms and not going anywhere," just because it was so heavy. So when Miles took my pack, I was like, "Yes! I can finally move and run!"

So I think there were a lot of different things. I also think we had some really great ox. We named them Betty and Peggy and we would have kicked Mike and Sam's ox, but unfortunately, we couldn't really pass them. Our moved right up behind Mike and Sam's, so I think if we would have had an opportunity to go past them, we would have.

Reality TV World: How long do you think you and Miles got to the finish line after Samantha and Mike?

Heather Pond: You know, I'm not really sure on the exact timing. We know we were close, but I'm not really sure.

Reality TV World: You and Miles mentioned numerous times throughout the episodes that you had a very light-hearted relationship and were always laughing. Did you ever feel like maybe you two weren't getting as deep as you would have liked and you wished you had more serious conversations and such, or were you happy you guys interacted like that in that maybe that's just the level you connected on?

Heather Pond: Yeah, I think that's in our personalities that we like to laugh and have fun and be light-hearted. And we certainly did have serious conversations, and I think that's one thing that the Oasis would have been really great for.

I know Mike and Sam, they were really able to connect and have a deep relationship because they had that time at the Oasis to really spend and kind of get to know each other even better, as opposed to when you're at the cabins and you are in a group setting.

So basically when you're in your room is really when you get your alone time -- or if you hang out in a hammock. So, we did have serious conversations and we do when we need to, but I think that part of what attracts us to each other is that we're able to just have fun and go with the flow.

We just laugh a lot, and that for me, is one of my top qualities going onto the show when they were asking me, "What do you want in somebody?" A sense of humor and a great personality are the things that are the most attractive to me.

Reality TV World: You were paired with Ben in the premiere episode. Why did you originally pick him and what did you think about him? Was he better, worse or the same in comparison to how the show portrayed him in his relationship with Brandee, and did your opinion of him change as time went on while you were on the show?

Heather Pond: Well, there were really only four guys to pick from left and so I kind of picked Ben. I thought he was tall and that might work to our advantage on the adventure, and he seemed nice enough from a distance.

He was also close and I didn't want to have to walk all the way down the line to pick a man. We definitely bickered quite a bit. Ben is very opinionated and I'm very opinionated, so we had a banter going on and we didn't always get along but I definitely respect him.

I think he's a good person and in terms of his portrayal on the show, obviously those things did happen -- the things he said -- but I guess I could say I was always looking out for Brandee because she's such a sweet person and so I always wanted to make sure she was okay first before talking to Ben or anything.

I think it's a somewhat accurate portrayal of Ben because he did say those things. I have to say I do like Ben as a person. He was actually extremely entertaining and fun there. It was just he did say a few comments that bothered me about Brandee because I was protective of her I guess, and her and I had become pretty close while we were there.

Reality TV World: When Brandee and Ben got eliminated, Steele and Erica Scherle were ousted right along with them. That seemed to surprise all of you. Was that the case?

Heather Pond: Oh my gosh, I had no idea. I had figured, "Alright, Brandee's probably going to go home tonight," and the week before actually when she had said no to Ben, I was completely shocked then as well because I had no idea. For Steele and Erica to go, yeah it was definitely a shock for him to ask Brandee. I think my jaw just dropped and I was completely surprised.

I think we all were genuinely shocked about that because it seemed like it was kind of coming out of nowhere and I thought Erica and Steele were getting along well enough that they'd want to continue together.

Of course my heart sank for Erica just because I thought if that happened to me, I would be upset. I thought she handled herself very well and I thought that she -- my heart went out to her when that happened. I just wanted to run up there and give her a hug.

Reality TV World: During the premiere episode, you ended up picking Miles at the Couples' Choice Ceremony. Why was that? Was it a physical attraction that drew you towards him or had you gotten to know him a little before that moment and you were sincerely interested in getting to know him better?

Heather Pond: Well I had my eye -- I wasn't sure who I was going to pick and it kind of came down to actually [Jared Ines] and Miles, and I didn't pick Jared and he actually went home.

So I felt horrible about that, but Miles and I had a brief conversation but not anything in length and we didn't really spend that much time together just because there were so many people there and you're talking to everybody at the beginning.

So it kind of came down to a last minute decision when I was sitting up there and looked over, I thought, "Well you know, I'm going to pick Miles. He seems like a nice guy and I want to get to know him more." And there was just something about him that was really alluring to me.

Reality TV World: In the second episode, Adam Rose asked you to be his partner and you accepted. What was going through your mind at that point and when did you realize things weren't working out between you and Adam?

Heather Pond: Well since Adam came in first, he had a guaranteed switch. So if Adam didn't pick me -- Both Miles and I probably would have gone home if he hadn't of picked me and Erica didn't pick Miles because we were in seventh place. So Miles and I actually thought we were maybe going home that night just because we kind of knew who would be pairing with who.

We knew the people behind us would have been picked and then we would have been the last couple standing, so in a way, it worked out. Unfortunately for Adam, he didn't know Miles and I had made a great connection.

So when I was with Adam, I just kind of gave him a heads up and said, "Adam, thanks for picking me, but I actually have feelings for Miles and I think that I'm going to go back with him and partner with him next time." So I gave him a heads up and we were able to kind of talk it through and stuff.

Reality TV World: How did it make you feel when during the third episode, Miles left Erica for you and asked you to partner up again at the ceremony? I'm assuming from what you've said, his decision didn't surprise you and he didn't feel a stronger connection with Erica, right?

Heather Pond: I knew that Miles was going to pick me so that wasn't a surprise because we had done the picnic together and then he told me one night in the hot tub, he said, "I'm going to pick you," just because he knew that I was kind of worrying about it. You know, there was always kind of a worry in the back of my mind like maybe him and Erica, maybe there's something going on.

I don't know what happens behind closed doors, but he's such a genuine guy and I trusted what he said. So I knew that he was going to follow through with that. I knew that I wasn't just feeling something on my end. I knew that it was mutual.

Reality TV World: What was it like competing with Steele when you got paired up with him during the episode when all the couples were forced to switch partners? Were you worried about the "curse of Steele" and possibly going home because he had a bad track record with adventures or were you excited and thought you could have some fun with him?

Heather Pond: Oh yeah, I was totally worried about the "curse of Steele." I was like, "Who's going to pick me. Oh, Steele's picking me. Great. I really hope this doesn't play out."

Not only was he finishing in last place or second to last, but it seemed like all of those girls that he was partnered with were going home.

So, I was like, "Great, please don't let me be the next one to continue this on." Steele is really athletic and he's great as a partner because I told him, "I need you to yell at me and I need you to push me hard on this adventure," and he was great. He's really encouraging, he's a sweetheart, he kept me pushing myself to go, and so he was great in that sense.

But then I looked over at the lock and he had tried all the combinations and when I actually went to his side to see, I realized he wasn't lining it up. I'm like, "Uh, I should have just taken charge and I should have just done this."

But there were things on my end where I was like, "Well, I probably could have done this, which would have helped save us." But you know, you can't really look back too much because there's nothing you can do about it.

Reality TV World: When you and Miles finally decided to stay a match and not switch partners again, what was it about him that made you so certain you didn't want to continue to get to know anyone else at that point in the competition?

Heather Pond: I think after being partnered with Steele, I was 100% percent confirmed that I wanted to stay with Miles. I had these strong feelings for Miles and I knew I wanted to be with him, but I think just being switched up and partnered with somebody else actually made me realize how much more I wanted to be with Miles and how strong my feelings really were for him.

So, it was kind of like distance makes the heart grow fonder and in that switch-up case, it really did. I think for everybody it kind of solidified that. I knew. I just followed my intuition and my gut and I knew that Miles was definitely the one.

Reality TV World: When I talked to Erica, she said although many contestants such as yourself never won overnight dates at the oasis, it wasn't a total loss because she felt the couples who spent time at the Oasis missed out on a lot of fun, gossip and times with the rest of the cast. Do you agree with that or are you upset you never had a chance to go to the oasis? Would you have rathered just spend that alone time with Miles?

Heather Pond: I think towards the end, part of me really wished that we had the opportunity to go to the Oasis because not only do you get that alone time, but you also get amazing food and you get these kind of unique little opportunities to enjoy a luxurious day. So, we wanted that and we kind of wanted that alone time together.

Also, you usually get to do something like a side adventure, like Mike and Samantha went ziplining or [Kym Nguyen] and Adam got to go on that helicopter ride. So, for us, of course we wanted to do that together Especially as the show came to an end, but at the beginning, it was really fun. It was fun getting to know everybody and all of the guys and all of the girls and hanging out by the pool or going hot tubbing at night.

Everyone's from across the country, so everybody had great stories, and we were kind of getting to know everyone in that sense. But also, when it came down to the last couples, it was like, "Okay, we're bored. There's only two of us here -- four of us here total." And Mike and Sam were at the Oasis all day.

Reality TV World: You joked during one episode that you were waiting to wear your gold-sequin bathing suit at the Oasis with Miles. Obviously that never worked out for you, so did you ever get the chance to show that off and wear it for Miles?

Heather Pond: No, I know it sounds kind of trashy now that I watched, but it's actually a very cute bikini!

It's from Victoria Secret and I was saving it. I love having outfits for special occasions and so my bikini, I was so looking forward to that. I haven't had a chance to wear it for him yet, but I'm sure on the next trip or vacation or something, I'll be able to bring it along and he'll finally get to see it.

Reality TV World: How much of a process was it selecting your wardrobe and choosing what to bring with you? What did you go through trying to decide which outfits you needed and did they give you any guidelines?

Heather Pond: Yeah, NBC provides us kind of just a guidelines list of, "Here are some items we recommend packing." Obviously they couldn't tell us what we were doing, but we knew we had to pack sort of adventure wear and kind of a nicer dress for the elimination. So, thankfully I have wonderful friends who helped me put together some clothes and I got to borrow from them.

And then I had to do some major shopping as well, because I live in San Francisco and I don't have a lot of summer clothes. So, that was fun but it's a task to try and pack for a month and especially when you know you're going to be on TV. So, it was a big process, for sure.

It's funny because we wore all of our good clothes in the beginning thinking we don't know when we're going to go home, and so at the end I'm like, "Gosh, I don't have anything else! I already wore this!" And I didn't want to wear something twice, so it was pretty fun at the end when we're all like, "Do you have this? Do you have that? Can I borrow it?"

Reality TV World: Do you have any regrets from the show?

Heather Pond: No, I don't have any regrets from the show. I think overall, I wanted to have a great experience and I wanted something -- I wanted to have a positive experience and that's exactly what I got. I think obviously not winning the trip around the world was disappointing, but at the end, I am with Miles and I feel like I never would have met him obviously if I didn't do the show.

So for me, it was such an incredible experience. I feel like I can cross off tons of things on my bucket list. I'm walking away with some wonderful friends that I'll likely be friends with for a lifetime, and then also, a fantastic boyfriend. So, I feel like I wouldn't change anything. I wouldn't change anything.

Reality TV World: Which fellow cast members do you think you will definitely remain in touch with? 

Heather Pond: Well, I can say that from the guys' side, I can definitely talk to Mike and Skip. Samantha and I have gotten really close just because Mike is in San Francisco and her and I are in a similar situation where we're in a relationship and we can relate. She was a great supportive friend because she understood exactly what I'm going through and she's doing it as well.

And then I'm very close with [Jess Debolt] and Brandee and [Theresa Trujillo] as well. And [Jessica Soares]. So I really feel like there's a lot of people, but I probably most frequently talk to Samantha and Jess D. from the girls.

About The Author: Elizabeth Kwiatkowski
Elizabeth Kwiatkowski is Associate Editor of Reality TV World and has been covering the reality TV genre for more than a decade.