Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Jay Byars on being voted out due to chicken wings
With season 41 of Survivor delayed 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.
Being on Survivor means being hungry. Like, really hungry. So it's no surprise when players often decide to take guaranteed food over a chance to possibly win immunity. But the surprise is often on the contestant who believes they're safe and therefore does not need to win, only to then be voted out later that night.
That's exactly what happened to happened to Jay Byars on Survivor: One World. With only three players left competing in an endurance challenge on 25, Jay stepped off when tempted with chicken wings and beer, leaving only Leif Manson and Chelsea Meissner (who eventually won) to battle it out. He was then voted out of the game a few hours later. The decision still haunts him.
Now, Jay explains why he gave away his shot at immunity, the castmates he's still in touch with, his pitch for a season do-over, and much more. Grab some wings and a brewski and settle in for the Jay Byars Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.
JAY BYARS: It's crazy to think 10 years have gone by, kinda makes me feel old. As soon as I came back, I went straight back to modeling. For the record, I did work for my brother's landscaping company for many years prior to modeling (why I was labeled as a landscaper on the show). I actually had to say no to the biggest modeling gig I have ever been offered to date to make Survivor happen; CBS wouldn't let me fly out one day later than everyone else to make it happen, so I had to try to get that momentum back.
I worked in nearly every major city in the U.S., lived in L.A. for a little while, went overseas, and finally settled back in South Carolina. A few years ago, on set I met a sexy lil' lady that was my pretend wife for a day, Jessi Boseman, and we actually ended up getting married this past November. We are currently in the middle of renovating/flipping our first home together… one that I purchased as a single man thinking I'd live there, but she changed all that.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
Ahh man, that's tough, but a few highlights come to mind. I can remember standing on the island on day one right before the game started and Jeff was giving the intro, I was like, "WOW, I made it." It's a long process just to get to that point. Sitting in Tribal with the immunity necklace is the obvious one, I think it's the only time during the game the paranoia eased up for a second. It was also cool to have my family in N.Y.C. for the finale. That was special for me to have them share in the experience.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
You really gonna make me relive this? Those damn chicken wings! I could have easily won that competition too, but I was trying to not look like a physical threat and I was so sure Alicia was going home that night.
What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
How many times Jeff cussed Tarzan out for saying "the game is afoot" lol. You're being filmed 24 hours a day, there's so much that happens that never makes it. I think me getting sent home had more of a story to it, but that was left out too.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
I think I got a fair edit. I was so worried about coming back to my industry attached to reality TV, thinking it could negatively affect my career, that I played it way too safe. Plus, I was young. I would do things a lot different knowing what I know now.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Yes. I remember waking up the first day back to a quiet house by myself feeling like I was in a foreign land. We spent 51 days out of the country, and you get to know your castmates more in that amount of time than you do your family and friends in a lifetime. Me and Jonas talked that day about how it felt so weird to be back in the real world after living through such a crazy experience and not being able to talk to anyone about it because you're still in secrecy at that point.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Absolutely not. It was an incredible experience. I always tell people it was like being dropped off in Jurassic Park with a bunch of knuckleheads. It was a blast.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
Jonas and Chelsea. I didn't really get to know or hit it off with Jonas until our days in Ponderosa. That dude is a character, he's so fun to be around. I admire and respect him so much, he's like a long-distance big bro to me. He was even in my wedding. Outside of the norm, we usually talk about real estate or cryptocurrency ides.
And, of course, being from South Carolina, me and Chelsea hit it off in the game, even though she stabbed me in the back on the show, lol. From working in Charleston, we actually had a few close mutual friends but just had never crossed paths until in Samoa. Her family basically adopted me. I'll go hang out with her dad or brother if I'm in town even if she's not around, they're like a second family to me.
And, every once in a while, Troyzan.
Do you still watch Survivor, and, if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
Yes, probably Redemption Island. I know some people don't like it (its different when you've been voted off) but basically having a losers bracket or just the chance to pick off people one on one.
Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
Probably Boston Rob - the dude's a Survivor legend. If I could choose from my season, I'd say Troyzan. That guys vs. girls start killed us, way too much testosterone for one hut. I think we would have worked well together with a different start, and it would definitely make for some good TV, he's a trip.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
I think if you played the game with the same people 10 times you'd have 10 different winners. So I think it would be a cool experiment to see the same group play, just split up differently.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
For sure. I'd hop the first plane out. (Hey, Jeff, are you reading this?!)
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