'Survivor 44's Jaime Lynn Ruiz Says She "Looks Back and Laughs" on Her Edit and Fake Idol
Survivor 44 is here! Every week, Parade.com's Mike Bloom will bring you interviews with the castaway most recently voted off of the island.
Though Survivor players are usually abandoned with the most meager of supplies, Jaime Lynn Ruiz was able to bring her own prop: A magic wand. It was a tool of manifestation, something that got her out of corporate life, into the world of yoga, and onto the show. After Jaime described the wand to us in the premiere, she was then shown wiping out in her first steps in the game. And those two moments serve as a microcosm of Jaime's game. With a seemingly unbreakable smile, she consistently talked about feeling on top or in power due to her superior social skills. But in actuality, her position seemed less authentic than the idol she was led to dig up. And it all came to a head on Day 23, when Jaime's attempted manifestation of her picture-perfect win was reduced to just pixels.
Jaime's story, from beginning to end, was based on advantages. It started at the very first Tribal Council of the season when, fearing the target was on her, she openly played her Shot in the Dark. She was the first one to become safe from it in the show's history, but it kickstarted a domino of chaotic plays to begin the season. A few days later, Jaime struck gold when she discovered an idol at the well alongside Matthew Grinstead Mayle. Little did she know, though, it was fool's gold, a fake created by him to engender trust. Jaime would get a real one to match when she was swapped over to the Soka tribe. Using the opportunity to make new bonds, Jaime gloated that she had the most information of anyone in the game. And joining back up at the merge with her old tribemates, the "plant lady" felt the seeds had been laid perfectly for a money tree to proposer on Day 26.
But the self-proclaimed MVP soon became the LVP as the Ratus went out as quickly as the advantages did in that first Tribal. Jaime hit her low point when Kane Fritzler was voted out in possession of her idol, now leaving her without her closest ally and "immunity." But Jaime and Lauren Harpe were able to rally as a tight twosome. As the game went on, the Tika trio began to loom larger as a threat to everyone left. But despite declaring the "era of alliances" was over, Jaime felt confident in her group with her, Lauren, Carson Garrett, and Yam Yam Arocho. Siding with them at the Final Seven, she elected to take a shot at them next round after Carolyn Wiger popped up majorly with her surprising idol play. And for what it's worth, Yam Yam seemed to legitimately entertain the idea. But it was too little, too late. After Lauren won immunity, Jaime's fate was sealed, as she went out with the same positivity and love that entered the game tripping in the sand weeks earlier.
Now out of the game, Jaime talks with Parade.com about why she chose not to go for the Tikas last round, the plight of her fake idol, and how she reacts to her edit this season.
Related: Read our Survivor 44 pre-game interview with Jaime Lynn Ruiz
Let's start with where things end for you. Yam Yam seemed to be really putting on a performance at Tribal Council, saying the vote will be a breakup. How surprised were you that the Tikas stuck together and you'd be voted out?
Yeah, I was really surprised. Especially now seeing how much of a threat Yam Yam and Carson really perceived Carolyn. So I'm going back like, "Well, why wouldn't you then keep me?" Because my idea was to really always be managing my threat levels socially and in challenges, just so that I can never be a threat to literally anyone. Yam Yam and I had a really great relationship from day one of the merge. The very first sunset that we watched together, we started building our relationship, which I wish was shown more because it allowed me to trust him so much. And so it was heartbreaking. But we are playing this game, and I totally, I totally understand the move, but it was a shocker. As soon as I saw my as soon as I saw the first name, I was like, "Okay, it's me." And I kind of had an inkling going into Tribal.
You speak about your relationship with Yam Yam. And this episode we see you try to cement a foursome with you, him, Carson, and Lauren. Was this group the reason why you and Lauren didn't try to break up Tika in last week's episode?
Yes, absolutely. Carson, Yam Yam, Lauren, and I had been working together since the merge, because Carson was a Ratu member. And I say "working together," but we obviously know how it's unfolding. But Carson started building a relationship with Lauren immediately. However, I was kind of leery of that relationship, because it just didn't feel right. We're Ratu strong, and he wasn't really part of it. And I knew there was something up their sleeves.
So Lauren and Carson were very close, and Yam Yam and I were very close. And so we were both kind of working the angles. Lauren, and I would come together and talk about what we want to do. And then we'd each talk to Yam Yam and Carson. And then the four of us would come together at times. And so it was very easy to look at this and think, "Okay, this is this is working." But we did also know that there was still a Tika three. So we're kind of treading lightly and working with what we had the information that was given.
Even after you vote out Danny, did you try approaching Heidi in this past vote to try to work together against the Tikas?
Yes. I think that because we had written her name down so many times as the split vote, it was really hard to gain her trust. And Lauren and I tried really hard that last day on the island to say, "Hey, let's break up the Tika three." Heidi was very good. She did not share anything about her idols. So that wasn't a tool that we thought we would have to leverage. But part of that last day was bringing in Heidi like, "Hey, what can we do?" And in our last conversation, she was going to write down Carolyn's name. But then we saw how that unfolded. We had written her name down so many times. It was just too far gone at that point.
Let's say Carolyn is booted here. You had this foursome, but you talked in the last episode about how much of a threat Carson was in the Final Three. What would your ideal endgame have been?
It was really wild. I think Carson had thought he was hiding how great of a gameplayer he was. But we knew that anybody that's there that's next to Carson, it would be a challenge for them to win. Ideally, my path to the end would have been sitting next to Carolyn and Heidi. Because Carolyn is also playing a really great game where you don't really see what she knows and doesn't know. I had very little conversations that were relationship building with Carolyn. And so because of that, it made it very easy to want to take her to the end, which is amazing.
With Lauren, although I'm her number one, she's a threat. She is amazing at challenges. She and I would plan out these votes, especially going back to the Frannie vote. We knew we had to kind of rattle the Tika three. And so we were gonna throw out Heidi's name to Frannie and Carolyn and then have the guys vote for us and then not tell Heidi so that Danny and Heidi have a rift happening. So there were a lot of things moving. I knew I couldn't sit next to Lauren, but I wanted to get to the end with her. Because she had so many brilliant plays like that.
We have to talk about your idol, considering how much it was a part of your story this season. You even said in your Final Words that finding one was close to the top of your Survivor bucket list. Talk to me about everything around it, including finding out it was fake.
Okay, so as soon as I found the idol, it's like a dream come true. It's a moment. I want to find an idol. And I found the idol. It is like a needle in a haystack out there. You find it and it's like, "Oh my gosh!" And by this time, it was the day after the next day that Brandon's idol would be out there. And so there was a split second where I was like, "Wait, is this fake? No, I've kept track of everyone. There's no time to make a fake idol at all. It's real." So I'm playing as if it's a real idol. And I'm running scenarios in my head. If I do this as if it's real the entire time, it does give you a little boost of competence. You're playing with an idol now!
So it is a blessing in disguise the way that it went out. Although I do think that when you play a fake idol, it's an iconic moment. I wouldn't have been mad at it. It's hilarious. But at the time, I'm sitting there thinking it's real and saying, "Nooooooo" as Kane's walking out. But I'm trying not to react because I'm thinking, "What am I going to do? Am I going to spill the beans to my tribe or not?" And everybody had already known I had an idol. The moment that I stepped back onto the beach at Ratu for the merge, Lauren came up to me and said, "Do you have an idol? Everyone thinks you have an idol. Matthew told Carson and Carson is telling everyone." So that wasn't news to me when Carson said, "Hey, by the way, everyone knows there's an idol." Because Lauren had told me right away. She and I were close from really day one.
So it was something that I always had to navigate. And I think the reason that I made it such a big deal was my conversations with everyone were like, "Hey, Jamie, do you have an idol? Everyone thinks you have an idol," and me saying, "No, I don't have an idol! Of course Matthew would say that about me. Why wouldn't he? He's not in the game anymore. He's gonna say that." And every single person would come up to me individually and say, "We know you have an idol. If you do, let me know, because we can use the idol." I was denying and denying. So After Kane left, and after me having to repeat it to everybody, it was like, "I'm having the same conversation with everybody on the island. So let's just make it a group conversation. This is why I'm telling everyone. This is the story, and I'm sticking to it. I promise. It's public information." It's not a secret when every single person comes up to me individually and asks about the idol, either pre it being voted out with Kane, or post it leaving with Kane.
One of the things I loved about your edit was that we would see you get approached with pieces of truth, like Josh and Matt having fake idols, and you not believing it. But when you tell the story of what happened with yours, nobody believes you either. What was your reaction to seeing how much your story wasn't going over well?
I knew how it sounded. It's the most outlandish story that you could come up with. (Laughs.) Or it's like, "Is this a lie? Is it a really bad lie? Does she know how to lie?" I remember sitting there thinking, "No one believes me. And why would they?" But then putting myself in their shoes, I'm like, "Wait, that would be a really silly lie to make up." So there's so much going through my mind at that time. Because the other conversation I was having with everyone is, "Hey, because you have this idol, there's a huge target on your back." My whole strategy is managing my threat level so that I'm literally the least threatening person the entire time. And now I have this idol that's really not here anymore. And this is going to be what is making a target on my back. S there was a lot of having to convince people. And then, yes, it is very funny seeing how much I don't believe people and people don't believe me. Nobody really believed anyone! But then you have to; there is an element of trust that has to be there. It's a wild game. And I love it.
We have to finish by talking about your edit. You were the source of a lot of comedy this season, not only due to you believing you had a real idol, but also the editors highlighting claims that you were the most valuable player and how you "have more information than literally anyone. If anyone doesn't see it, they're blind." How do you react to watching back the way your story was told this season?
I'm incredibly grateful for this opportunity to be on the show that I love. And really, when you go on it, you know that anything that you say in any kind of way, will be perceived by either gameplayers, or the audience, or whoever, in the way that they want to receive it. And so, when people perceive things, they kind of then put it through their own filter process of what it means to them.
But I have to watch it and just laugh. Because it's like, "Who does this happen to?!" I do wish that there was more of my strategy and gameplay, but there's only so much time and there's one story that they can tell. And the idol was the thread that kept coming up for my storyline. So it's fun to watch back. I know what my experience was. I'm very grateful. The players are amazing, and the friendships that we all have now. So I have just to look back and laugh and be grateful for the opportunity. There's a reason that people make it that far in the game. I relied heavily on my social game, and it would be tough to show every single clip of me building all of these relationships that did keep me safe in the game for as long as they did. But I love laughing at me. It's fun! We're funny! (Laughs.)
Next, check out our interview with Danny Massa, who was voted out in Survivor 44 Episode 11.