To hear Julie McGee tell it, she wasn’t really ready to quit Survivor: San Juan del Sur in last week’s episode, it was the show’s producers who were pushing her to decide. Speaking over the phone with The TV Junkies from Atlanta, where she was stuck in traffic, McGee, says production wouldn’t let her walk back to camp and talk to anybody either.
“I was really torn,” she says. “I was at that place, where my head was out of the game. I wasn’t really focusing the way I needed to play the game well and there were just so many other things going on that just pushed me over the edge. Then the last straw was, ‘You have to decide right now.’ My head was spinning. It was like, ‘Oh my God, I have to do this now? I can’t sleep on it?’”
Her quitting meant that there was no tribal council in last week’s odd episode, and McGee falls into that special ring of reality show hell where Survivor fans pour on the invective. But she says she knew that would be coming.
“I wasn’t really thinking of leaving,” she explains. “And I told production at that time, there’s no way I’m leaving. I put three weeks into this. I left my whole life behind, my friends and my family. And I had no intention of ever quitting. Because I understand how hated I would be and the repercussions of leaving the show. But it all happened so fast and production kept telling me to make a decision, and saying, ‘you have to do this now.’”
So she did, in an emotional meeting with host Jeff Probst. McGee, the girlfriend of John Rocker who had been ousted earlier in the show’s second “Blood vs. Water” season, never even knew she was being accused of being a selfish trail mix hoarder until she saw last week’s episode.
“Watching it back, I’m really, really, really hurt by the way people were acting, and the names they were calling me,” McGee says. “I understand them being upset at me at leaving and throwing off numbers – or something related to the game. But for them to make me feel like I was some selfish person and I had stolen something and I was hiding it from them — is not the way it happened at all.”
What had happened, she says, is that both she and Molly thought to carry as much leftover food as they could in their pockets and shoes after the feast that marked the merger. Other couples were mindful of feeding each other what they brought, but McGee “didn’t have anyone.”
“To me it was like everyone was in the same position as I was at the feast,” McGee says. “Everybody had the ability to pack up little pieces of nuts and fragments, and whatever I had leftover in my pockets and shoes and stuff — I don’t know if people wanted to eat that.”
McGee says she felt the wrath of quitting from fans. “There were a few really hateful people. But after a while, after the dust settled a little bit, I’ve had so many people that are supportive. Of course you’re always going to have the haters and the people who thought they could just jump into the game and do it a lot better. But all in all basically everybody sees me for who I am.”
As the road slowed in Atlanta, McGee mused over the idea of being back in the relatively empty jungles of Nicaragua.
“Whenever I sit in traffic, I think back to when I was sitting out there, and hadn’t had anything to eat in 20 hours and [was] looking forward to sitting with my head in the dirt.” She’s being a little sarcastic, but when asked whether she’d ever consider trying Survivor again, she says, “I would.”
Even though, she adds, “I know everybody would laugh at me.”
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS and Global.