By swapping her vote in the last tribal, Hayley sent Shaun home rather than King George’s intended target, Simon. Immediately after the votes were read, George assumed Nina flipped and thwarted his plans.
Speaking to 10 Play, Hayley revealed that she only really decided to swap her vote at tribal council, and hadn’t fully worked out what the next stage of her plan was. “The minute the votes were read out, half a second later [George] was saying, ‘It was Nina! I knew it was Nina’. I felt his wrath building,” The Brains V Brawn winner said.
“The wrath of George is pretty heavy, we’ve seen it. I decided I didn’t want to step in front of that,” she added.
Hayley had two options, she could have admitted to George that she had made the move against Shaun and promised it was in their best interest. But after seeing how strongly he reacted to the idea that Nina had betrayed him, Hayley took a step back and ended up going to bed.
“My mistake was that my motivation wasn’t as high as last time,” she said, laughing. “You see George at night strolling the beach, not sleeping and I’m like honked out. I’m like… I’ve won this already!
“By this point, I’m like 80-something total days playing this game, I go to bed, I don’t stay up and talk to Nina,” she continued. “I honestly think if I had stayed up, talked to Nina and said if you take the fall for the next day, I’ll find out what the split is and you, me and Simon can work together to take out George. I think she would have done it.
“I needed to come to her and give her that plan that night, but I didn’t do it… that is the night my game crumbled. I didn’t have that conversation, and that’s all it takes in the game. One missed conversation.”
The next day, Liz won the reward challenge and selected George and Nina to go with her to the Survivor spa, setting off alarm bells in Hayley’s head.
“I knew when they all went off to that spa reward I was in big trouble… the chances of the truth coming out was getting very high, and I was playing a very risky game.”
While the trio were at the spa, Hayley spoke to Matt and hoped that if George found out it was her who swapped her vote, she’d catch wind of it and go into damage control. “It turns out they didn’t even tell Matt, they actively kept him out of that which was a good call on their behalf because Matt and me were getting quite close.
“They just outplayed me,” Hayley said.
As George, Liz and Nina returned they had constructed a web of lies to convince Hayley that her secret hadn’t been spilled and she was in the clear. Heading into tribal council she was none the wiser that the King was taking aim at the Queen. As the votes were read, Hayley had a massive smile on her face, with George adding that a blindside was exactly what she wanted.
“I love this game and I want to make sure that if I’m going to leave it at some point I don’t know about it,” Hayley said. “It was a big blindside, at least for me, and then I can go to that jury bench and feel good that I did everything I could… I think that’s the best way to leave.”
Returning to the game of Survivor, Hayley knew she had one of the biggest targets on her back. The only returning winner this season, she felt like she stood out like a sore thumb, and had to manically convince the OG Heroes that keeping her around as a shield was their best option.
“Last time I played I was just some girl off the street and no one was scared of me,” she said, adding that this time around it was so much harder, not only because she was on everyone’s hit list, but because she knew she had to play a very different kind of game this time around.
“The first time I played I got everything I wanted. I won a game, I won challenges, I made blindsides, I had that full experience and there was nothing really missing from that, so when I came in this time I just really wanted to test myself and see how far it was possible for me to go,” Hayley explained.
“I was playing to win, for sure, but I knew that was really difficult for a returning winner. I knew that there was going to be a very slim chance anyone was going to take me to the end so I had to make sure if I was going to make moves they had to be so under the radar.
“If I had a big resume and won all these challenges - no one’s letting me get anywhere near the end! So it was very necessary for me to have a smaller game.”
Winning Brains V Brawn, Hayley’s legacy wasn’t an issue when making the decision to come back to the game, but she knew she couldn’t turn down the opportunity to have a chance to play on the beaches of Samoa.
“I’ve been a fan of this game for 23 years, and the beach and an island is where I’ve always visualised playing this game. I wanted to have that experience,” she said, adding that Heroes vs Villains is her favourite season from the American franchise. “I think it will now go down in history as the best season in the Australian franchise as well, I just wanted to be part of that history.”
Looking back at her game this season Hayley said there’s only one thing she’d do differently: have that conversation with Nina.
“I was really happy up until that point. I played the best game I knew how with the people I had on each tribe at each point,” she said.
“I still think I would have taken a shot at George, his game is so good and if they let him get to the end… I don’t know if you stand much of a chance next to George.”
Australian Survivor: Heroes V Villains airs Sunday - Monday at 7.30 on Network 10 and 10 Play on demand