Jeanine Zheng reveals reaction to Jesse having her Survivor immunity idol

Jeanine Zheng seemed to be in a pretty good position once all three tribes merged onto the same beach on Survivor 43. Her Baka tribe had the most players in the game. She had an immunity idol. She had a rock solid ally in Elie Scott. And she had gone through a tribemate's bag and not gotten caught… or so she thought.

The problem was Mike Gabler had been told that his bag had been searched, and he then blabbed all about it to other players, telling them Elie had done it. That started a chain of events that included rock solid ally Elie being voted out, Jeanine giving her idol to someone else (Dwight Moore) who then gave it to someone else (Jesse Lopez), ending up at the bottom of the numbers, and then being voted out. It was a crash and burn for a player that thought she was on relatively solid ground just a few days prior.

We spoke to Jeanine the morning after her televised ouster, and peppered with a batch of burning questions. Was she indeed asking for her idol back at Tribal Council? What was her reaction when she found out Jesse actually had it? And what exactly happened to her chin anyway? Watch the entire interview above or read in below for answers galore! (Also make sure to read our full episode recap and check out a hilarious, must-see exclusive deleted scene.)


Robert Voets/CBS Jeanine Zheng on 'Survivor 43'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So Jeanine, why are you talking to me? What happened?

JEANINE ZHENG: Oh God. What happened? [Laughs] It's been a rough couple of episodes. I'm talking to you because I'm first member of the jury. I'm booted from the game now, but excited to be here and be able to unpack a little bit more about my experience.

I guess we'll just start with the actual vote. Were you surprised that Owen and Gabler voted you out as well, or did you see that coming?

It's hard. It's a yes and no question. I was very aware of the fact that I was on the bottom and that my name was out there and that I was kind of on the chopping block going into Tribal. I was, again, very cognizant of the fact that it was going to be either me or Ryan going home. And, at the same time, I did have a level of trust in Owen an Gabler to be voting together. They voted with me the last time. In my mind, I didn't really see or understand a long-term path forward for them if they didn't fight for me or vote on my side. And so that's kind of what in my gut was leading me to believe that there's a chance that they will vote with me and not against me.

You and Elie trusted Sami and he just kept burning you both. When did you finally piece it together that this dude was not your ally?

So, to his credit, Sam Bam is such a great player in the sense that he really had us fooled. Up until this episode, I felt like I could trust Sami. And then the irony was that conversation that you see me, him, and Owen having where he's like, "Hey, I'm at the bottom of the seven. This is not a good place for me. I wanna work with you guys" — that day was the first day where I thought, "Oh, I can't trust Sami." And it was, ironically, the first time where he was actually wanting to work with me in the entire season. I was putting my eggs in his basket and wanting to work with him and trusting that I could work with him. And that just wasn't the case.

Look, there was a lot of misinformation in my exit interview with Dwight last week.

Oh My God. [Laughs]

So I want get to the bottom of last week's Tribal. Were you or were you not trying to get your idol back from Dwight during that Tribal Council?

Okay, this is a great question because even watching it back, I was like, "Was I trying to get it? Oh my God!" No, in that moment, my heart just went out to Dwight. I was really just thinking of him as a friend, as a person. I could feel him behind me just shaking so much. And Noelle and I were kind of just like, "You're good, you're good, you're fine" and comforting him. And that's what you're seeing is me just putting my hand behind and trying to pat his leg and comforting him.

I was not reaching for the idol. I know that as soon as the votes are read, you have that window of time to be able to transfer any sort of advantages, use them at your will. And then once Jeff says the statement and gives you your time to do so, whatever's on your person is on your person. So I was not trying to physically ascertain the idol back.


Robert Voets/CBS Jeanine Zheng on 'Survivor 43'

Dwight was presumably gone from Ponderosa when you showed up since they usually clear it out of pre-jury people once the jury starts showing up, so when did you find out that it was Jesse and not Dwight that actually had it?

Well, we'll see when that comes about, but I definitely did not realize. I mean, you saw in this episode, I thought that my idol was flushed. I was devastated. Everyone else on the episode also was like, "Wow, Jeanine got her idol flushed." And so just, it's really Jesse's secret to reveal.

Whenever you did find out, what was your reaction when you found out that Jesse had the idol?

Oh my God. I was like, that's my baby! [Laughs] So in a way, I think it's bittersweet because I'm so bamboozled, but also kudos to you. Nothing but props. And also, at least it's still alive. I really thought that all the work that had gone into assembling it was down the drain going home with Dwight. So I think those were my reactions.

So why would Dwight have handed it to Jesse instead of just holding onto it? What was the thought process? It already had been swapped once. Did people think you were too close or something?

Dwight's reasoning was that he was scared. It was all in an effort to preserve my idol. So it was well intentioned. [Laughs] He was scared that at Tribal, he gets spooked and then plays it, and that would just kind of shatter our relationship moving forward. And he didn't want to even tempt himself to do that.

The second reason was that exactly. He was almost thinking, "Okay, wait, people could probably pick up on the fact that Jeanine and I are close. I think that the safest place to put it is Jesse's pocket." And that's why he transferred it last minute and didn't even tell me. Didn't tell anyone. So that's what happened.

I mean, how many crotches has that idol been in at this point?

I know! [Laughs] I mean truly! It's the pinnacle of the idol hiding places, but I was not imagining it to be that way.

It needs a shower. Okay, can we talk about the chin? How does it feel now, first off?

It's completely healed. Thank you for asking.


Robert Voets/CBS Jeanine Zheng on 'Survivor 43'

I was guessing it was from that digging under that log. Is that when it happened? When you were digging under the log at the challenge?

Exactly. It was literally day two. And, of course, I have this huge scar on my face for the entire season, but it was because I was under the log. And I don't think people or viewers understand how difficult that log challenge is. I mean, across the board for everyone. Cody did it. Ryan said it was the hardest physical thing that he did. I completely agree. Because I was basically suffocating under it and could only come out the other side by scraping my face against it. And so that's where you see that. But I was like, there's no way. I could hear my tribe. And I was like, "This cannot be the end of our challenge. if I don't come up the other side, for Baka, that's it." And I was like, that can't be.

What did medical do to help you with that post-challenge?

They did as much as they could. They cleaned it with iodine. They put like some anti-bacterial on it. But there's not really much out there that we're given honestly. And it was just a scrape. It was cosmetic, so it wasn't like I was ever at risk for anything serious cause they took care of the infection risk.

I just sort of realized though, you don't have any mirrors out there. So you had no idea what it looked like.

Exactly! And I think it's actually better that way. But it's funny cause watching it back. my whole tribe was like, "Oh, it doesn't look that bad." And looking back on it, I'm like, "Thank you for sparing me. But also you were completely lying to my face!"

Not the only thing they were lying about. Jeanine. So Gabler kept telling everyone that Ellie went through his bag. You were actually the one who went through the bag, although you and Elie were in cahoots. So what were you thinking as that news started going around? We saw Elie screaming, "I need to tell people" this and that, but she doesn't want to necessarily throw you into the bus. What were you doing and what were you thinking then?

We're talking about the merge, right? When he just spilled the beans to everyone. In my real life, I think I would've been just like, "Oh my God, it's time to come clean and face this." I did not find it would be productive to talk about, admit to, or just have any conversations surrounding the bag. Because at the end of the day, it wasn't about the bag.

The bag was a quick example for Gabler to be able to use to demonstrate to other people that he didn't trust Elie. And everyone knew it was actually me who went through the bag. He could have very well said, "It was Jeanine that went through the bag, let's target her" — even though I was safe for that round. But I do think the particulars around the bag was not what the whole issue was.

It was this mistrust that he had had from Elie and felt that betrayal from day one because him and her were closer than he and I were in that way. And so he really felt knowing that it was Elie and Jeanine who went through my bag, he felt really, really, really hurt by Elie doing that and not so much me.

And so when I'm coming back, Elie's kind of trying to address this and, I'm trying to not address that. I'm really just like, "Can we stick together for this one vote? Let's not try to resurface all of this past hurt, past drama. We really as a five worked so hard to be able to have five Baka members moving forward. Can we just vote together for this one vote, secure Sami and Owen their buffs and rehash this all at a later time?"


Robert Voets/CBS Elie Scott and Jeanine Zheng on 'Survivor' 43

What was it like being on a tribe with Gabler? Because he's a wild card. Sometimes he's giving these weird speeches after challenges, other times he's passed out for hours. Seems like you don't really know what you're going to get. What was it like for you dealing with that?

It was hilarious because he truly was like a mystery bag. You never know what you're going to get from Gabler. That was most exciting about waking up every day on the Baka Beach. And I think because of that, a lot of my other tribemates, we saw, had their opinions about what was going on. And to me, honestly, I wasn't bothered. There was nothing about him. I just found it hilarious, and he always made me laugh.

There's so much that doesn't make into the episode because they just don't have enough time. You're out there living an experience and you're probably like, "Oh, I can't wait to see this play out on TV." And a lot of it then doesn't even make it. What's something we didn't see that you wish had made it into an episode this season?

I really wish that they had shown more of the relationship that I had with the Vesi members, Noelle and Dwight. I think a lot of viewers might have been confused why all of a sudden the merge happens and you're giving your idol to Dwight. And that goes to show how close I felt with him and how much we had even pre-merge established that we wanted to work together.

So when we got to the merge it's actually crazy because Noelle and Dwight were also on the same page. As soon as we saw [Noelle] do the log challenge, we were like, "She's a badass. We need to work with her." And then we saw that kind of rapport going back and forth between our two tribes. So it felt like that was a really big part of my strategic narrative that didn't get shown on the show.

Well, I know a lot of people are sad to see you go. Some might even call the vote… proposterous.

Oh my God.

I wish we got to see more of you, but as I wrote in my recap, who knows, maybe we'll see you again out there.

Here's hoping. I am really trying to start the movement. Second Chance for Jeanine right here. Second chance for her chin!

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