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Jess Chong says every minute on “Survivor 46” was torture

Jess Chong says every minute on “Survivor 46” was torture

"I was just sitting there praying for something to take me out of there."

Did Jess Chong even play Survivor? Because it seems even Jess did not recognize the person playing Survivor 46, saying the lack of food and sleep had turned her into an “alien.”

It was a rough go for Jess, who never found her footing with her tribe, had trouble forming sentences at Tribal Council, and was blamed (and yelled at) for another poor Yanu challenge performance. Things got so bad, she could not even find a fake immunity idol her tribe left out for her (so it eventually had to be handed off directly), and she even started eating ants “so I don’t have to talk.” In the end — even after a Bhanu Tribal Council meltdown — Jess was unanimously voted out by her tribemates, making her the season’s second victim.

How did everything go so wrong so fast? We spoke to Jess the morning after her televised ouster to get the full scoop on her wacky Survivor journey, one she says she was more than happy to be over.

<p>Robert Voets/CBS</p> Jess Chong on 'Survivor 46'

Robert Voets/CBS

Jess Chong on 'Survivor 46'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, what did you have for breakfast this morning? Did you have ants?

JESS CHONG: [Holds up jar of black ants] My husband bought these for our watch party. I sprinkled them on sun cupcakes. They smell like vegemite. They're actually quite pungent.

I was out there for the first few days and was at that first Tribal Council where you honestly had trouble stringing words together. Did you ever get your footing in this game where you actually felt like your normal yourself?

Yes and no. I mean, my spirit and soul were myself, but I was having quite a hard time keeping my stuff in one place and keeping my stuff together. I was a subdued version of myself. I was kind of like: Well, I can't really take up that much space in this tribe. Not because of my ADHD, but because if I say anything, I feel like it could blow back against me, or I just feel like I have to kind of lay low and let people do their thing. There were some strong personalities out there. I was like: I don't need the attention. I'll just let people say what they want to say and do what they want to do.

What was it like watching it all play back on TV and seeing the mental condition you were in and how much you were struggling out there?

It was better and worse than I imagined. I remember ... Sorry, I'm running on five hours of sleep. You have to know that when I have five hours of sleep, I feel like I'm going to die.

I've seen you on less than five hours of sleep before, Jess.

And I need everyone to know I was so much more coherent and funny than I thought I would be. I thought I was just spouting gibberish. Also, I just did not sleep in pregame. I was really excited, but I was also sleeping next to someone who was coughing, and after the first night of sleeplessness, it just kept compounding. By the time of the marooning, I was at 120 hours. I can't do 120 hours without sleep. And then it went downhill from there.

<p>Robert Voets/CBS</p> David Jelinsky and Jess Chong on 'Survivor 46'

Robert Voets/CBS

David Jelinsky and Jess Chong on 'Survivor 46'

What was it like watching some of the things Kenzie and Tiffany said about you being such a bad Survivor player and not smart enough to go to clown school?

I was like, you can say whatever you want. The very first day during Sweat vs. Savvy, Tiff, Kenzie, Bhanu, and I all built the shelter together and I talked to Tiff and Kenzie for the duration of the time that the guys were out there. I know everything about their dogs, their home life, their hometowns, their families. We talked a lot. So to make it seem like I didn't take social initiative with them or try to talk to them and try to find my footing with them socially? I wish they'd shown that.

Because I'm very, very extroverted. I'm not introverted, especially when I'm meeting new people. I get so excited. And I was obsessed with Kenzie in pregame. I was like: I really want to work with her. And as soon as we got off the boat when we were allowed to talk to each other, I grabbed her hand and I was like, “I'm so excited to be on the same tribe as you. I really want to play with you.”

And when I saw her running around making alliances with everyone but me, I was like: Oh, well. The next person I went to is Q because it was clear to me that Q was very close to Tiff and I knew after the Sweat challenge, Jelinsky was toast. I was like, there's no way this guy's staying in the game. Q was so pissed off, I could feel like the anger coming out of his pores.

So I ran straight up to him and I was like, “I know you hate quitting and I really appreciate that you've come straight to the shelter to help us build it more. I really appreciate your work ethic.” And so we started working together, and I wish that they'd shown a little bit more of my secret alliance with Q and Bhanu.

<p>Robert Voets/CBS</p> The Yanu tribe on 'Survivor 46'

Robert Voets/CBS

The Yanu tribe on 'Survivor 46'

How much was everyone yelling at you during that last immunity challenge?

That is all I remember from the challenge. I remember that there were pieces of the puzzle that were sideways, and when I tried to correct them I would just get yelled at. And I remember stepping back and looking and being like, “Oh, that I is in the wrong place.” And I remember even when I was digging the treasure chest out of the sand, I didn't dig enough to get the treasure chest out and just every single place where every single tumble I made — it was noticed by everyone.

And it even happened during the gecko challenge when the gecko's fingers were getting stuck in the little ropes course and stuff like that. I remember feeling so frustrated in the gecko challenge because before Jeff says, “You're not going to get the gecko over by pulling on the head,” you can even hear me saying, “Guys, we can't push it over if we're pulling the head.” I just remember feeling like nobody's going to listen and no matter how much I raise my voice or yell or lose my temper, I don't think anyone's going to listen. So we can watch the tapes later and see if it's my fault.

What was your role during the puzzle portion of that last challenge? Or was it just they didn't think that you were working fast enough? What was the issue?

I don't know. I remember when we got to that puzzle, I was like, “We have to put it so that all the dark pieces are facing one way and the light pieces are facing the other way.” But we had a very bad communication. I don't recall even designating roles for somebody. We didn't say, “Well, maybe we should put the shortest person at the ends.”

I work in software engineering, which is a very collaborative field where people kind of cross functions a bit. And so people are expected to just do a lot of different things. And when I played rugby, I was a utility player. I could play any of the back positions. So I assumed people would have the flexibility. That was stupid on my part. But I assume people would have the flexibility and the camaraderie and teamwork skills to make something happen rather than have to designate a leader, because I work somewhere that's very flat and people all respect each other and stuff like that.

<p>Robert Voets/CBS</p> Tiffany Ervin, Jess Chong, David Jelinsky, Q Burdette, and Bhanu Gopal on 'Survivor 46'

Robert Voets/CBS

Tiffany Ervin, Jess Chong, David Jelinsky, Q Burdette, and Bhanu Gopal on 'Survivor 46'

How were you feeling walking into that second Tribal Council in terms of your chances?

So I looked at the idol. I knew it was fake, and I was now running on 240 hours of no sleep. And actually at the first Tribal Council, they were trained very hard to get me to play my Shot in the Dark. And I was like: Why? What the hell? This doesn't make any sense.

For the second one, it was very clear to me that they just wanted me gone so bad. And I was just like: Well, I want me gone so bad. I would love to be airlifted out of here by the bats that are terrorizing our camp at nighttime, because I cannot stand to be here. I was grinning, and I was smiling through my torture. I was like: Every minute here is torture. I don't feel respected. I'm tired. I have not slept. Nobody's tried to help me sleep except for Bhanu. What am I supposed to do?

And so at that point, unlike normal people, I don't have an ego about playing a stupid ass fake idol. And then Bhanu went and did his thing, but in the first Tribal Council, we were getting instructions to act like we were going home and put on a show. And I was like: Why are they torturing Bhanu? He's already struggling so much. What is going on? And I was like: I just want this to be over. And I think I was just sitting there praying for something to take me out of there.

I'm sorry I’m so honest about it, but I was just like: Get me out of here! 240 hours without sleep, I'm getting dementia. And I had spent so much time with with elderly people that are not getting good sleep and seeing how it affects them. And I was like: If I stay out here, I'm going to really suffer. I'm already suffering and trying to smile through it. But I was like: This is a battle for my soul. If I stay out here, I'm going to lose brain cells permanently.

<p>Robert Voets/CBS</p> David Jelinsky, Kenzie Veurink, Bhanu Gopal, Tiffany Ervin, Q Burdette, and Jess Chong on 'Survivor 46'

Robert Voets/CBS

David Jelinsky, Kenzie Veurink, Bhanu Gopal, Tiffany Ervin, Q Burdette, and Jess Chong on 'Survivor 46'

So did you not play the Shot in the Dark because you didn't want it to work?

There were a thousand reasons why I played the fake idol. I also thought: Well, there's a chance that it's real because I knew that Q saved my butt in that first Tribal Council. And so there was this glimmer of a chance that it was real. But then I was also like: Please don't be real. And I also didn't want to play the Shot in the Dark because I was like: Why would they make me do this? Why would they give me this fake idol? Why would they make me play the Shot in the Dark when it would probably be easier to influence me and Bhanu to just vote for each other and then split the votes between them and have one of us go home than to make me do this.

I was just very confused. And I also didn't really want to lose my vote. That was just total soup. And I'm still confused about it all.

It sounds like you were done. You were ready to go.

I was done. I was like: Do I want to one in six chance to stay with them and prolong my torture? No, thank you. Goodbye.

What’s something that happened out there that never made it to TV that you wish we had a chance to see?

The very first night, Jelinsky went to look for an idol, and I was so angry and I kept calling him Sketchball. And so we were all sleeping in the shelter. And you saw how it cracked and fell on us? Well, we would've probably died had we been actually sleeping under it. But Bhanu and Kenzie had gone to find out what Jelinsky was doing, and so me and Tiff and Q ended up sitting [up at the very front] when the shelter fell. So I want everyone to know that David Jelinsky saved our lives. That's what I want everyone to know. When he went idol hunting, he saved our lives.

He is a legend!

Yes. We would've gotten completely flattened. Maybe that would've been a better outcome for me, honestly.

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