Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Jenny Guzon-Bae reflects on the dreaded message in a bottle
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.
Jenny Guzon-Bae simply played Survivor way too early. When she and her Rarotonga tribe showed up for a Survivor: Cook Islands Tribal Council on day 24, they had a plan. And that plan to vote out Rebecca Borman went off seamlessly. Just one problem: After Rebecca’s torch was snuffed, the tribe was instructed to open the message in the bottle they had received after losing the last immunity challenge. They assumed it would tell them it was time to merge. They assumed wrong.
Instead, the note told them to vote someone else out right away. This being in the days before Whisperpalooza and open lobbying at Tribal Council, Jenny did not bother pleading her case to her castmates on why they should keep her and get rid of mutineer Jonathan Penner instead. “In the old school days, you never spoke unless spoken to,” says Jenny. “No one ever got up to whisper in someone’s ear. No one ever spoke out of line.” Instead, even while sensing she could be in trouble, Jenny just sat there and hoped it would all turn out okay. It didn’t, and she was voted out. An absolutely brutal way to go.
We caught up with the Cook Islands puzzle dynamo and had her fill out a Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire. In the process, we learned how Jenny’s experience on the island completely changed her life off it.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you’ve been up to since appearing on Survivor.
JENNY GUZON-BAE: Well, it’s been FOURTEEN years, so a lot has happened. In a nutshell, after the next few months after Survivor, I knew that I needed to do more with my life — something else was calling me to do differently. Soon after, I quit my job as a successful real estate agent and became certified in yoga instruction in 2008. It has been the best decision ever. I don’t make as much money, but I have found my true calling. Each practice I share, my goal is to help people embrace their true and best Selves through the physical and philosophical practice of yoga.
In 2012, I started my own retreat company, Yoga Within You, LLC and I have traveled with students from different parts of the world to stunning locations in the United States, Caribbean, Mexico, and Costa Rica. Due to COVID, I’ve cancelled my upcoming retreats in 2020 and 2021, but I look forward to exploring the world and deepening yoga practices with my yoga friends and family.
When COVID locked us down in March, a day later, I immediately went on Facebook Live and offered free yoga to provide support and community. I’m still teaching online but have shifted to Zoom where I’m joined by my student bases in Chicago and Los Angeles.
Oh yeah, L.A.! My husband and I downsized from our home of 22 years where we raised our now adult son, Casey, and moved from Illinois, where we were both born and raised, to Venice, Calif. since August 2019. Casey also lives in L.A. and it feels good to be together, especially now. Beach therapy has been comforting during quarantine times. I do miss my family and friends back home, but definitely not the weather!!
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
My proudest moment was episode 8’s immunity challenge. Again, Raro had been losing challenges to underdog tribe Aitu, and it was getting disconcerting. Aitu was already at the last leg of the immunity challenge, the puzzle portion. When Raro finally caught up, Aitu was still struggling with the puzzle which gave us a bit of an advantage. When Rebecca, Adam, and I dumped out the pieces, I could already see how to easily piece the puzzle. Quickly, and after pushing Rebecca and Adam out of the way, I solved the puzzle and we won. After losing so much, it was a win we really needed to boost our morale.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
My biggest regret will always be not speaking up during the Tribal I was voted out. In the old school days, you never spoke unless spoken to. No one ever got up to whisper in someone’s ear. No one ever spoke out of line. Now you see that ALL the time with these new schoolers. After voting off Rebecca and then reading that the message in the bottle said to “Vote another person off” (rather than it saying what we hoped, “You’re merging!”) I had a feeling that it would be me because I was clear that I wasn’t a fan of the love affair going on between Adam and Candice.
Before Candice jumped ship, Adam, Nate and Parvati were an alliance. But puppy love got in the way with that. To this day, Adam will always say his biggest regret is this same Tribal! He should have kept me and not Jonathan. And that’s what I would have said if I only spoke up — “'Take Jonathan out, not me.” I know that the rest of Raro feared that if we were to merge, I would align with my original Puka tribe, Yul and Becky, but I had absolutely NO alliance with them since day one. We were never on the same page. Even after telling my Raro alliance that, they apparently didn’t believe me. I wish they did. You would have definitely seen a different game play out. That tribal was pivotal IMO.
To this day, I strongly believe that none of my other castmates outplayed me. Mark Burnett and his producers’ dumb Message in a Bottle did! So, I really need that opportunity to show I have the ability to outwit, outplay and outlast!
What’s something that will blow fans’ minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
Haha…that’s a LOADED question! There are a few things, but it’s best I really take that to the Survivor grave. However, I will share this…after Candice was voted off and was back at Ponderosa, she was so enamored by Adam that I had to talk her out of stealing a canoe on our Ponderosa island and paddle to Adam’s island just to see him! I remember telling her, “Are you crazy, girl??” Haha! Now I wish she did! That would have made for great TV!
Oh, that reminds me of another thing that no one ever knew! In Episode 10, I remember Candice had just come back from Exile island. All the tribes were at an Immunity Challenge and Adam & I were seated out, along with Candice. While the others were competing, Adam sneakily pulled out some food (coconut or whatever) out his pocket and gave it to Candice. I remember rolling my eyes.
Ironically, that’s the same episode with the bottle vote, so maybe they caught my eye roll and it got me in trouble that evening!
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
I have no complaints about my edit. I know, personally, I’m more of an outspoken person and I was really holding back in a lot of situations so I wouldn’t appear to be a bitch, bossy, or a threat. I wanted to make moves whilst flying under the radar. I would have edited myself and been more vocal or aggressive outwardly without making it look threatening.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
As I mentioned in the first answer, I knew that there was something more for me. I was on a high from being on the show, sharing it with family, friends and fans each week, but I knew I had to do something more meaningful and impactful. Switching to teaching yoga has made such a huge difference in my life, and I know I have also changed other people’s lives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard how I’ve helped my students better themselves or get through a challenging part of their lives — just from my teaching. It means a lot. Survivor gave me so much beyond the game.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
A couple years back, Parvati and I were going to host a yoga retreat, but we unfortunately had to cancel it. Just a couple weeks ago, I met up with Parvati and met her husband and adorable daughter, Ama. Nate showed up later and he and I took a nice stroll along the Venice boardwalk and caught up. Adam and I either text or chat on the phone. He’s such a great guy. I’ve forgiven him for voting me off, haha. Through social media, I’m still in contact with Ozzy, JP, Cao Boi, Stephannie, and Cristina (who recently sent me a Survivor face mask that she made!). Also, a couple weeks back, a few of us (Ozzy, JP, Billy, Cristina, Cece, Flica, Stephannie, and Cao Boi) gathered on Zoom for a Cook Islands reunion to benefit charity. It was cool to catch up, laugh, and reminisce with my Survivor family. Whomever I haven’t mentioned, I’m not in touch with.
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what’s your favorite season you were not on and why?
I missed a couple seasons after mine. I was maybe “over it” or needed a break from it so I could concentrate more on myself. But I do watch it more regularly now. I always imagine what I would be like in that particular season — what would I say or do, etc. I really loved Winners at War!
Who’s one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
The Queen, Sandra. After I met Sandra, I could feel a connection with her. I bet that if we were in a game together, we’d be aligned then it would have been my greatest pleasure outlasting her towards the end!
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
Stop inviting the same people back!!! I know they were fan favorites but come on…
Finally, would you play again if asked?
HELL YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s been 14 years and now I’m 50…50!! But I feel so much stronger mentally and physically than before. Plus, remember, no one outplayed me. Don’t you find it ironic that they haven’t had a vote-off like mine, since? Because it was stupid. I need to get back on and prove that stupid twist got rid of potentially great player. I need to avenge!