‘Survivor 43’: Justine Says ‘Hats off!’ to Cody for Clever Idol Hat, Shares What the Edit Left Out

The Vesi tribe on Survivor 43 had a great first episode. But the second episode showed them not being able to take home a victory. Showbiz Cheat Sheet talked to Justine Brennan over Zoom on Sept. 29 about that loss, getting tricked by Cody Assenmacher and more.

[SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers ahead for the Survivor 43 Episode 2.] 

Justine on her relationship with the Vesi tribe

Q: You mentioned season 41 winner Erika Casupanan meaning a lot to you since she was a child of immigrants from the Philippines as well. How much did you think about her while filming?

Justine: Honestly, I thought 0% of Erika. It’s funny because when you are prepping to go out on Survivor like I was practicing making fire in my sink for two months leading up to that. I was religiously listening to Rob Has a Podcast like every episode, all the exit interviews. And you do all this prep, and then once you get out there and you’re just thrown into it. That all just leaves your mind.

And so all you’re focused on is survival, and you honestly forget these small things that you would tell yourself going into the game. Like, always be observant. Like, never trust anyone that all goes out the window.

Q: You were not a fan of spiders in the wilderness. Did you know before filming this would be a problem for you?

Justine: No, and to be fair, I don’t think anyone like spiders. Like. Do you like spiders?

Showbiz Cheat Sheet: No

Justine: No. Yeah, no one likes spiders. And, like, I’m getting, like, characterize. It’s like, ‘Oh, like, she doesn’t like spiders. Oh, well, she went on the wrong show.’ But like, no one goes on Survivor and is like, ‘Oh, hell yeah, I’m excited for the spiders.’

But yeah, honestly, they were everywhere. Eventually, you just kind of get used to it, but they chose to only show a montage of me hating the spiders, which is totally fine.

Justine Brennan from 'Survivor' Season 43 stands in a red flowy outfit on the beach.
Justine Brennan from ‘Survivor’ Season 43. | Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images

Q: You and Owen [Knight] kind of brought the same energy to your tribes. He complained during self talk while doing chores around camp. But tried to keep a lid on it around other castaways.

Justine: I’m totally fine being compared to Owen. Like I thought that he was very endearing last night, so.

Q: But do you think he’s going to last much longer? He was already in danger the first week. And then we see like even though he’s trying to keep things in, it’s still seeping out to other castaways on his tribe.

Justine: It’s hard to tell. And people study edgeic. And I think like some people think that certain people are going to make it far based on what they’ve said in confessionals. And certain people aren’t going to make it far based on confessionals. But it’s hard to tell also because Survivor is largely based on luck, honestly. So we’ll see.

Q: Were you aware at all of how other people in your tribe were feeling about you?

Justine: I knew from day one that I was a target for Nneka [Ejere] and Cody [Assenmacher]. But I thought Jesse [Lopez] was with me, Noelle [Lambert], and Dwight [Moore]. So I didn’t know that Jesse not only wasn’t with us, but, like, connected with me the least up here.

I was, like, kind of bummed to hear that because I really liked Jesse as a person, and I was like, ‘Oh, dang, like ok.’ But no, I knew I was always a target. I just didn’t know I was that much of a target, I guess.

Q: Why did you already know that Cody and Nneka would target you?

Justine: I think that I could tell they were making more of an effort with Noelle. I kind of said this in last night’s tribal council, but I was the only person that Cody had never gone out of his way to talk game with. And so I knew that Cody didn’t really have an interest in talking to me. And there’s a reason why he made his mind up about me from day one. And yeah, I think that he brought Nneka into that, and it was just unfortunate for me.

Q: Did you try to talk game with him to try and overcome that distance. Or you’re like, ‘Alright, I see what it is. I’ll focus on other relationships.’

Justine: I didn’t because I knew that he wasn’t making an effort with me. I knew that I already had a target on my back. And I also equally thought, like, I don’t know if Cody is that strategic of a player. Like, I mean, he was exactly how he is on screen.

He’s like jumping off rocks, and he’s like, unpredictable. And so for me, I was just like, Cody is Cody like, you don’t really need to worry about him. But in hindsight, yeah, I should have probably made more of an effort with him and neutralized him more than anything.

Q: Were you surprised at all, like how much Jesse was like pulling in Dwight? Like, Dwight really did seem like, why would I not want to be insulated by the women and the guys? And Jesse’s like, ‘You are my island wife. I will take out your other options.’ And Dwight was not happy. A quick divorce you got in the middle of that.

Justine: So what you don’t really see in the edit is that at this point, Dwight was 100% with me and Noelle. He was in our circle of trust. There was no question in my mind that he wasn’t with us, and we were happy to have Dwight be the person that on the surface is like neutral and not with us.

Because that meant that he gets information from Jesse and from other people and then reports it back to us. But so yeah, I wasn’t too surprised to see him and Jesse seemingly forming a bond, but I knew that Dwight was with us that entire time with Dwight.

Justine’s reaction to Cody’s secret hat advantage

Q: Going to the beware advantage, I saw that you’ve said before the season. You’re like, ‘We’re on the lookout. We know what happens at ship well, but something new is coming.’ So you knew that. But like you said, things fly out the window once you’re actually there. We see that Cody found the beware advantage, and luckily he already made a hat.

Justine: Which honestly genius for, for them to think of like, ‘Oh, let’s just bedazzle your hat.’ So honestly hat pun intended, hats off to them for, for thinking of that.

Q: What was your initial reaction as you started to see what was happening?

Justine: So my initial reaction, so I found out at Ponderosa how the beware advantages worked for my season. And I–my jaw dropped. I was like, what? Because, of course, I think back to when I just volunteer my beads for Cody.

I’m just like, ‘Oh my God.’ But I was also like, ‘Wow, like, that is such a creative beware advantage for our season. And like, that’s such a creative idol.’ Like, none of us thought twice about it, so they really had us fooled.

Q: You voluntarily gave your beads. How did it feel watching that?

Justine: People on the internet are like, ‘Why did Justine just, like, sign her own death sentence?’ It’s like, well, if I had known that, I wouldn’t have done it. Of course, if we had any inkling that this was part of an idol or some sort of advantage, like, no, I absolutely would not have done that.

Q: Another thing that tips the scale probably more to you going home is that you bragged abou being good at lying, and Jesse was so creeped, which is so funny to watch him be like, ‘Oh, she’s so scary.

Justine: But if you think about it in a normal day conversation of someone being like, ‘Oh yeah, like I can keep a straight face on when I lie.’ Like, and in a game of Survivor where you are encouraged to lie and betray and do all these terrible things that you don’t really do in society.

Like it was just a one-off conversation that they showed out of context. And so, of course, people are like, ‘Why would she say that to him? Like, You’re sharing too much, Justine.’ And it’s like, well, that was taken out of context, number one. And number two, I thought that I could trust Jesse at this point.

Q: What was the context?

Justine: So I believe the conversation was one of the conversations where Jesse came up to me, and he was volunteering information saying, ‘Ok, so Cody and Nneka are confused about like why you look so comfortable, like they think that you’re going home tonight. So I think that like what should we go back to them with?’

Like, I think I should tell them X, Y, Z. Like Jesse was strategizing with me and that’s, that’s when I was like, yeah, I can like, I can ask Nneka, just, like, keep a straight face. Like it was, it was a conversation where Jesse was strategizing with me. And so, of course, they took it out of context and made it seem like I was just like an oversharer, whatever.

Justine’s reaction to Tribal Council


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Q:  So now we’re at Tribal Council, and we’re, we’re thinking we’re just having a nice little chat about this, that hat, that visor. But Cody’s like, well, I’ll make you one, if you stay. Were you surprised at how direct like he was? Not bs-ing.

Justine: Yeah, yeah, it was kind of snarky. And I caught on to that. I also caught on to Nneka being like very smiley and like, just like, exuberant. And so I was like, ‘OK, these people are way too confident in how they’re acting right now.’ That’s when I realized that I was going home. But if I’m going to get memorialized as being nice to Cody, then I will take that.

This interview has been condensed for this article.

Other Exit Interviews:

Morriah on Disappointing the Dad of ‘Survivor 43’ and Not Believing Gabler