Jessica “Figgy” Figueroa may not have won a million dollars, but she did find love – at least temporarily – out on Survivor.
“I knew he would never write my name down,” Figueroa, 23, told PEOPLE of her relationship with fellow Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X contestant Taylor Lee Stocker the morning after her elimination aired Wednesday night.
Now back home in Nashville, the bartender reflects on how that relationship may have been her downfall and why she thinks he should have volunteered to go home in her place.
What did you learn about what was going on after watching the episodes at home?
It’s interesting to see different dynamics. Seeing Mari trying to get me out was comical because I didn’t get to see it. I would see all these conversations happening in the distance, but I had no idea what was actually being said. It was weird hearing what was being said.
Did the rest of the Millennial tribe have the right idea about who was running the game from inside your Tri-Force alliance?
It was a 25 percent democracy and everything was divided pretty evenly, and Michelle was an extra finger on someone’s hand, and then it was Jay, Tay and I. We were all calling the shots equally. When Mari said, “Figgy is running the show,” I was. Then Michelle kind of had to save my butt. The women were in control-ish, but that took the target off the guys, so we were all beneficial to each other.
Did you feel prepared to play the game of Survivor?
You can’t prepare yourself for any of it. I would workout more and eat chicken and rice or something to prep yourself, but there’s no way to prep yourself for paranoia. Look at David for crying out loud! I was lucky to have Taylor to ease that paranoia for me.
Do you regret being so open about your relationship with Taylor and friendship with Michelle?
I would have been secretive about it if I hadn’t been in an alliance with a 12-year-old boy who just had his first wet dream. Literally, that’s exactly what Taylor was. He could not control himself. He was constantly googly-eyed and drooling over me and I couldn’t hide it. It was like, “Hell, what can I do?” I had Michaela on one tribe, Zeke on another and I knew they hated me and would have ratted us out so we couldn’t keep it hidden, so we just needed to come out with it. Not one time was “power couple” what we were trying to project, though. Taylor was never out there thinking about the game of Survivor. He was thinking about the experience, but wasn’t there for the game or the money like I was.
Did you realize that about Taylor at the time?
I realized that and I was like, “Why aren’t you going home? Why aren’t you volunteering as tribute and being Katniss Everdeen [from The Hunger Games] and save me?” because you obviously don’t care about the game. He was so free-spirited and just, like, “I’m going to go snowboard in Fiji.” And I was like, “No, dude, get your s— together!” I was not there for that and he wasn’t there for that either. No one goes out there for love. I was a fan of the show and there for the title of sole survivor. Taylor was just an added bonus that actually led to my downfall.
But it had to be nice to have someone you felt that close to out there with you.
It was so nice. It was amazing. I had someone I could trust completely. And after we lost a challenge, he’d tell me everything was okay. It was nice having someone build up your confidence every night telling you how beautiful you were. I had someone I really cared about kissing me goodnight. That kept me sane out there. It was a total comfort.
Do you think you benefited from tribes being split by age?
I actually think I would have done better in a tribe that wasn’t divided by age. Everyone may look at me as a stereotypical Millennial, but I think I would have gotten along great with some of the Gen X-ers if we’d started out together. And maybe Taylor and I wouldn’t have been on the same tribe. That would have completely changed my game – and I think for the better.
Survivor airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on CBS.