SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

With Survivor filming for seasons 41 and 42 indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EW is reaching back into the reality show’s past. We sent a Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire to a batch of former players to fill out with their thoughts about their time on the show as well as updates on what they’ve been up to since. Each weekday, EW will post the answers from a different player.

She’s the one who got in the showmance. Which, really, is a shame, because Jessica “Figgy” Figueroa could have been a serious gamer on Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X. But her game (and edit) got hijacked by her romantic relationship with Taylor Lee Stocker.

Unlike Taylor, Figgy actually seemed interested in diving into the strategic elements of the game, but her close pairing with the hunky snowboard instructor made the then-bartender a target right off the bat — a target she was never able to fully shake. That pairing was also the majority of what viewers saw about Figgy out on the island. But don’t worry, because Figgy herself is here to tell you what you missed!

Figgy reveals lots of details about things that happened, yet never made it to the air, including when it comes to the show’s first ever full cast evacuation due to a cyclone. “We honestly wanted to stay out there and weather the storm,” says Figgy. “But we were thankful that Jeff and the crew decided to step in and potentially save our lives.”

When it comes to saving things, Figgy also held on to some choice nuggets of intel for her Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire. Read on for more!

Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you’ve been up to since appearing on Survivor.

JESSICA “FIGGY” FIGUEROA: Hey, friend! Ahhh… since I competed on Survivor, I have been able to do a lot of personal growth. I’ve traveled a bunch, and I signed a modeling contract with Wilhelmina New York back in 2017! Which was so crazy and something I had dreamed of all my life! Appearing in Adidas ads was pretty cool and unreal!

Even with that amazing opportunity, I felt like something was missing in my life and I needed to be doing more of what filled my heart up. So the biggest update for me has been my career change that took place in 2018. I decided to go back to school to finish my teaching degree! I took six years off from college and re-enrolled at a university here in Tennessee. It was not the easiest thing in the world to do, but I have taken on every challenge thrown my way and come out on top (Dean's List every semester! NBD).

Education has always had a huge place in my heart and was what I originally set out to do. I am super excited to be back in the classroom, encouraging students to dream big and work hard because they can do anything they set their minds to. I’ve begun student-teaching 8th grade Science this semester and will graduate this upcoming spring.

During the pandemic, I also launched a school supplies foundation called 615 School Supplies because what better time to do that, right? J This is something I have always wanted to do, and I finally had the courage to make it happen. Our goal at 615 School Supplies is to collect a variety of supplies to fill classrooms in the Metro Nashville Public School system. Teachers constantly purchase supplies out-of-pocket and we need to support both our educators AND our students. Teachers don’t make enough as it is, and they spend their own dollars because they love what they do, and they love their students.

Education is what fills my cup up and as you can see, I am thrilled to be back in that field J

What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?

I think one of my proudest moments on Survivor would have to be when I went spearfishing on my new swap tribe!

It didn’t make the air (which I was incredibly bummed about because we tend to see men displayed as the ones who bring home dinner) but I caught two fish and I was incredibly proud of myself. It’s something I didn’t think I would ever do, and I was honestly afraid to go out deep in the ocean! But I did it. I challenged myself and faced my fears. The outcome was amazing, delicious, and SO worth it. Moments like that are what Survivor is all about.

What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?

I think we all know what my biggest regret was….. NOT GETTING IN A SHOWMANCE WITH ADAM!!! Kidding!… obviously if I could go back, no showmance, period.

What’s something that will blow fans’ minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?

I will share a few moments that didn't make the air (because I love you guys).

One of my favorite moments that didn't make the air was the storm shelter I came up with. You guys may have seen a glimpse of us laying underneath our raft during episode 1, but production sadly depleted the world of the build-up that led to the creation of that awful thing. During the big storm in episode 1, our shelter broke and we were out of luck. The storm didn't lead up, so we asked the crew if we could bring our raft up from the beach. We were denied, so I decided we should go to the raft instead and dig a "cellar" underneath.

We did just that and it was terrible, yet amazing at the same time. Five of us dug a massive hole at an angle to ensure the raft wouldn't collapse on top of us, and we laid in headfirst. Imagine 5/6 people smushed together like a can of sardines, laying at an angle head first (and I'm pretty sure our legs were still sticking out into the storm). As uncomfortable as it was, this was the only way we could stay partially dry (and by partially, I mean hardly at all). We stayed in there for hours as the blood rushed to our heads. When the morning light came, we crawled out. Each one of us fell over and could hardly walk. We laughed, we cried, and ultimately, we survived the night!

When we were evacuated, it was one of the scariest moments out there because we were faced with the unknown. Was the game going to continue? Were all of our dreams about to end? As millennials, we honestly wanted to stay out there and weather the storm, but we were thankful that Jeff and the crew decided to step in and potentially save our lives. Fans, being in safety wasn't anything special and we didn't get any special treatment. We were still suffering, just not in the cyclone.

Another classic moment was before the swap when Michaela and I were tending the fire at night while everyone was sleeping. This was after the Mari vote, post-working together. She and I were singing a song from The Hunger Games, laughing, and we even stole corn in the middle of the night and cooked/ate it together. After the swap, the fireworks started between the two of us once again… but it was a nice “kumbaya” moment.

My showmance became what the viewers constantly saw of me, but another thing I think would have surprised the fans was my constant scheming. I was trying to create alliances with as many people as possible (which got me in trouble right out the gate). It was hard for me to contain my excitement for playing the game, and I ended up going a little nuts! A fun alliance that I created (that honestly lasted maybe 30 seconds) consisted of myself, Zeke, and Will. I named us “The lion, the witch, and the wardrobe.”

How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?

When you get yourself in a showmance, that’s what is gonna be shown. Unfortunately, it really took over my storyline and what I wanted to represent out there. I obviously wish they would have shown more of my actual game. I was great at challenges and loved competing. There were so many important conversations and decision-making moments that were left out. Will from my tribe compared my abilities early on to Parvati and Cochran (which was an honor to hear). Zeke said in episode 2 when he was trying to vote me out: "Darling, you are much too dangerous to stay in this game."

I don't feel like Figgy was fully shown to the viewers, but that's okay! Maybe I'll get the opportunity to show the world that side one day ;)  #WishfulThinking

What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?

Oh gosh, for me, I was dealing with a WHOLE situation post-Survivor (IYKYK). But it was crazy getting back to normal life. You can’t tell anyone where you were or why you have a crazy tan….. you’re away from home for quite some time, so there is a huge adjustment coming back to your work, your friends, and your family. You have to reconnect to society while carrying a huge secret. Your family doesn’t understand why you are so upset or hung up on what happened out there because “it’s just a game”…

But when you love and appreciate the game as much as I do, it stays with you. You can’t shake it. I thought about the game every day. Replayed challenges, conversations, Tribal Councils.... I thought about what I could have done differently… things like how if only David didn’t play his idol for Jessica, I would have had Lucy on my swap tribe and we would have been able to vote out Ken… how I wanted to get back out there and play again… as crazy as this sounds, I didn’t use a pillow again for about 2.5 years (and I'm not exaggerating)! Survivor is no joke and I love it for that reason.

Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?

NO REGRETS. Not a single letter.

In life, you must learn from your experiences, and I learned from mine on the island. I think viewers and future contestants were able to also learn from them, too. That’s so valuable to me as a person. To grow and become better because of what you go through. My Survivor experience has molded me into the person I am today, and I am forever grateful.

Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?

To a lot of people’s surprise, Adam! Adam and I created a bond after our season and he’s family. I talk to Lucy, because we bonded so much during our pre-jury trip… Sunday, because she’s amazing and has one of the most genuine, kind souls I know…. I try to keep up with my ride-or-dies from my season (Michele and Jay), as well as Bret, David, Hannah, and the others, but life gets in the way! I do my best to comment on Cece's posts, and like Rachel's pics just to let everyone know "I see you! Keep doing your thing!"

It's fun to see what my cast is doing these days and catch up when we can! (I talk with contestants from other seasons all the time, too! We’re a big, dysfunctional family.)

Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what’s your favorite season you were not on and why?

Do I still watch Survivor? Is that actually a question? OF COURSE! My favorite newbie season (besides my own) would have to be Cagayan. Great cast and just loved the season through and through. The OG Fiji season and Survivor: China are also high up there for me. Returnee season would HAVE to be Heroes vs. Villains… I mean, c’mon!

Who’s one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?

Once you play Survivor and you are in the community, it’s crazy how fast you make friends with everyone. If I had to pick someone to play with….. I’d have to say either Mama C or Sandra. Both are my girls. Don’t make me choose!!! A guy I would love to play with/against would have to be Tony because he is crazy and unpredictable! Is he in the tree? Is he in the bush? What a guy

If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?

Gotta be the amount of advantages in the game at once. I love how the game evolves and I respect the evolution because it keeps new players and returnees on their toes… but when you have 4 idols, 1 legacy advantage, 1 steal-a-vote, 1 idol nullifier, 1 steal-a-reward, 1 50/50 coin, and 16 fire tokens all in play at once — to me, it strips heart away from the game and where it first started out. Let’s take it back to season 1 and see who can really outwit, outplay, and outlast!

Finally, would you play again if asked?

IN A HEARTBEAT. No questions asked. Just tell me when and I’ll pack my bags. 😀

To keep track of our daily Survivor Quarantine Questionnaires and get the latest updates, check out EW's Survivor hub, and follow Dalton on Twitter.

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SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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