03/16/2014 at 09:00 AM EDT
In the 28 seasons of Survivor
, there have been few contestants who have made as many missteps as J'Tia Taylor.
She was bossy to her other castaways as they built a shelter. She panicked under pressure, causing her tribe to lose challenge after challenge. And, most egregiously, she dumped out the tribe's rice supply in a fit of anger. "It was not my finest moment," she admits.
But Taylor, a 31-year-old nuclear engineer, was gracious in defeat. "I totally understand why they voted me out," she says. "I probably would have voted me out, too."
The season started off rough for you and went downhill. Was it as bad as it seemed, or is it just the edit?
The edit showed what it showed. There were no CGI people running around the island. I said what I said and did what I did.
It started when you were building the shelter.
Yes, I'm bossy. Other people were bossy
as well. I had an idea on how to build the shelter. Other people did, too. I was like, 'If you have a better idea, let me know.' And my idea didn't work. Obviously, if it had worked, I would have been the hero. I was willing to stick my neck out.
Being "bossy" is okay when things work out.
Exactly. But if it doesn't work out, then you're just being a control freak.
You had a lot of trouble in challenges. You seemed to crack under pressure.
I don't know what it was. I don't work in an environment like that, where things are under pressure. The brawn tribe had people who played on sports teams. They're used to having people screaming in their face. When I solve equations, there's no one there to scream that I'm doing it wrong!
Maybe you were on the wrong tribe. You're a former model; what if you had been on the beauty tribe?
I think if I had been on the beauty tribe, things would have gone better. They had fire
the very first day! On the brains tribe, I was the youngest female, which made me a target. We were all leaders
, and leaders need followers. Everyone was trying to outmaneuver and out-strategize each other.
Okay, let's address the elephant in the room. You threw out 95 percent of the tribe's rice.
Let me clear something up: rice was not all we were eating. We had coconuts and bananas. We were boiling crabs. We weren't starving. And it wasn't 95 percent of the rice; I'm not sure where people got that number. We still ate rice before every challenge. But even so, yes, that was drama. Probably not the best move ever.
Explain why you did it.
I thought 100 percent that I was going home. I had blown a puzzle and knew that I was on the chopping block. And Garrett was leading the tribe, and he complained ALL the time about being hungry. So I thought, 'I'm going to target this fool.' I was angry because I thought I was going to go home.
And yet the tribe kept you around for a few more days.
I was fighting like a raccoon backed into a corner.
Were there things we didn't get to see?
I really was strategizing. When I first got to the beach, I put an alliance together of me, Tasha and Spencer. But what you really didn't see was that we had fun out there. You didn't see us doing each other's hair, or laughing at jokes. I consider everyone on my tribe as a friend. I did what what I did. It's all part of the diamond that is J'Tia.
And now that you are gone, how do you feel about the show?
I still love Survivor
. Obviously, this changes the way I look at the show; I realize that they can't show you everything, and a lot of what happened was never seen. But the show is top notch; the challenges are intricate, the experience is amazing. I'm so glad I did it.