When Outdoors.com last spoke with Jill Ashlock and Amber Asay, the dynamic duo or terrible twosome—depending on who you ask—had not yet seen one episode of their Netflix reality competition show Outlast, a thrilling series about lone wolf survivalists dropped into the Alaskan frontier.
Jill, a private detective from Kentucky, and Amber, a yoga instructor from Arizona, didn’t win the $1 million prize—but that wasn’t the worst of it. They were shocked, to say the least, that they were portrayed as supervillains.
While the viewers saw them plot to steal sleeping bags, destroy their BRAVO frenemy Javier’s raft and arguably bully their own ALPHA teammate Justin out of the game, they say there’s a lot more to the story. Here, we give Jill and Amber the opportunity to set the record straight, repair their reputations and spill what really happened behind the scenes.
Outdoors: Jill, what was your very first reaction after watching the show?
Jill: I bawled like a baby. It was released at 3 a.m., so my husband and I got up early and started the show together. Around the sixth episode, I started hearing my phone go off. By 10 o’clock in the morning, there were already really nasty messages. Wow, that was fast. The hate is already coming in. At first, I was loving it. I was so enthralled with what I was seeing but I was like, oh my gosh. They didn’t put that in, they took that out and that’s not what is going on. I was screaming at the TV like it was my favorite football game and I was rooting for our team. Full love. I was disappointed things were left out and wondered why, but I was having a good time.
Outdoors: Amber, what was your gut reaction?
Amber: Cringed. Cringed. I learned a lot about reality TV. You have to narrate everything you’re doing in that moment, otherwise they can chop your words. They can take your words and twist them. I felt as if my character was dumbed down and created in such a way to just be malicious and a follower and this evil, conniving person. It’s not who I am. So it was very difficult to watch the show. In fact, in the middle of episode 6, I was so upset I had to take a break. My boyfriend was like, “We have to get outside,” because I was so distraught and emotional.
Outdoors.com: What was left out that would’ve put things in better context for what happened overall?
Jill: There were so many holes in the plot and in the script and in the narration that it leaves these big gaps for people to use their imagination.
Amber: They didn’t do a lot of character building with us in the beginning, so you don’t have any time to connect to us as humans. You don’t even really start hearing from me until the end when I start talking. All you hear are little sound clips put in to incite or elicit some kind of emotional response. This show sparked a lot of debate and it really hit on what your morals are. People like to take this moral high ground or think that we’re the worst, when in reality they aren’t showing you that before we were dropped, we were all out there for five days without any sleeping bags, so we knew that we could survive without them.
Jill: They didn’t show a lot of the bushcrafting, the conditions that we were in, what we did to build our shelter. Because these are some of the things that would not bode well when you’re trying to create super villains. This was not Alone and this was not some traditional survivalist show. They didn’t show the water filtration system with the sink that I created, the mushroom foraging. You can’t eat those. Those are poisonous! These are mushrooms you can char and it creates embers that we can make our fires with easier. Very little of that was shown.
Amber: But the sleeping bags is a big thing that we’ve been getting a lot of heat about. What people don’t realize is that was a calculated risk. We knew that everybody out there had already survived almost a week with no sleeping bags and no shelter with a tarp.
Outdoors.com: Also, if anyone was too cold and it got too dangerous, they would’ve just taken them out of the game.
Jill: You can go home to your warm bed. Just shoot your flare off.
Amber: We constantly get criticism about the “there’s no rules” thing—it keeps chanting in our head like an echo. And we were talking about it, and ALPHA team was not the only one.
Jill: We didn’t choose our team names, either. That’s something that a lot of the audience keeps forgetting. We weren’t out there like, We wanna be Alpha, we were named Alpha. We chanted that in camp constantly. We are the Alphas and we’re gonna prove it. And we ran with that.
Outdoors.com: What is the real reason you did some of the morally questionable moves?
Jill: We didn’t know how long the show was going to last. Like, can we do this for six months? We kept guessing and had conversations about it. How’s our food storage? How’s your energy? How are you doing today? Can we make it past Thanksgiving? We just had our first snow. How much of winter are we willing to go into and what are we willing to do to expedite this process? I did say, “I’ve gotta get rid of some of these players.” That whole interview with that one soundbite got so much play. But we weren’t sure we had enough resources to be out there for four months and we didn’t want to quit. But we knew we couldn’t stay, we couldn’t even keep a fire. It was a reality show competition. We made some choices. It was part of the game.
Amber: You see people on the show waving their hands around saying, “There’s no law here!” Obviously we knew there were laws, we prepped with briefings before we went out there. You can’t break any laws, obviously you’ll go to jail. You still have to abide by certain rules. We didn’t go out there with the idea that we could cut each other’s heads off to win a million dollars.
Outdoors.com: Was there a lot more comradery than what we saw?
Jill: When Angie was on the raft we were screaming, “girl power!” We wanted her to beat Jordan. We love Jordan. He’s a great guy. We’re not putting Jordan down, but we wanted that girl to win. There was a lot of the division on her team, you see Nick telling Angie she’s not good enough to go do it. And she killed it.
Outdoors.com: Nick came off as sexist. So did Brian.
Jill: You’re calling out the men that you got to see do [sexist things] on the screen. I’m gonna tell you, they’re not the only ones. They’re just the only ones that made the show.
Outdoors.com: Other players did morally questionable things, like Paul ditching DELTA.
Amber: History and storylines are written by those who win. Had we won, we would’ve seen a very different story. Perhaps we would’ve seen the moment when Jill and I caught Coho salmon using hand lines that created an unbreakable bond between us. You don’t get to see that. Had we won, which we almost did, we would’ve been the heroes. And it would’ve been a completely different story.
Jill: A lot of the fans are siding with Justin and blaming me for the sleeping bags and saying, “Bro, you would’ve made it if those girls hadn’t stabbed you in the back.” There is nothing that depicts that narrative at all. It’s totally objective. We never ever pushed Justin out. We were trying to save him by having conversations like, “Hey, you’re losing it upstairs and we see it and we need you to listen to us. We need you to let us take care of you.” And [with] his bravado, [he] saw that as manipulation, and so did the rest of the world. But we never needed Justin to leave. We never encouraged him to leave, and we never kicked him out.
Outdoors.com: What about accusing him of eating too much fish?
Jill: One time we were sitting around talking, just the three of us, and he literally takes fish and put it into his mouth. Like Justin, we’re sitting five feet away from you! That was a very clear indication that this man had lost his mind. There were some things that Justin did throughout the nighttime that indicated that if you didn’t know better, you would’ve thought that he was intoxicated. But we knew he was going crazy. Amber and I never got out of control. We were calm and calculated. Even with Javier, I never lose my cool. He’s the one that was flailing emotion outta control.
Outdoors.com: It’s true. He did burn his camp down to the ground.
Jill: He did that in the middle of a national forest! This man set a huge fire. He is continuing to propagate hate against the ALPHA team and spin this narrative of some type of heroic individual that is straight and narrow, while we are psychotic. One podcaster said it best, the exact words were, “Javier came across to me as a homicidal version of Charlie Brown.”
Outdoors.com: He definitely came across as a control freak.
Jill: Corey and Tim quit because of his micromanaging. But I refuse to propagate hate. I will not sink to the level of Javier. I will never go there. He can do it all he wants. I don’t care if he’s drumming up more and more haters. I’m still turning a few.
Outdoors.com: Have you guys talked to any other castmates?
Jill: I can tell you that everyone from the cast, all 15, have reached out to me, including Javier. I flatly called him out on his lies and manipulation. And then I blocked him. No one else on my social media accounts is blocked.
Amber: Dawn actually called me first thing the morning after it was released. So I was able to talk to her. I think that was very healing, especially because that’s right when the hate was starting. It was hard to decipher what’s real and what’s not. Like, what if the other cast feels like this? But it’s kind of the consensus that it’s all a game out there. Nobody has hard feelings. When Dawn found out about me losing my yoga class, she reached out to me and said, “I think you should come to Washington and do a yoga class!” The cast will always be bonded because we are the only ones who really know what happened out there.
Jill: Dawn in particular, had to reach out to Amber first because I didn’t respond. And then Amber reached out to me and said, “Dawn’s trying to get ahold of you. She wants to tell you something important.” So then I responded and we spoke. Her message was that she wanted to reassure me that her statements in a Seattle newspaper were totally misconstrued. She had said something like, “There are people that I wouldn‘t piss on if they were on fire.” She did not mean for that quote to be pointed to me. She told me point blank, “Jill, I was not talking about you.” I’ll have to leave it up to you to guess who that person is. Like I said, I’m not propagating hate. I’m gonna stand on that platform really firmly.
Outdoors.com: The women are so impressive on this show. It was such a shame when Angie got sick from eating too much fish and had to leave the game.
Jill: She’s gone on my social media and defended me. There’s a part of the show that you don’t get to see where I’m slaying these Coho salmon one right after another. We had so much, and CHARLIE had caught one itty bitty trout. So Angie said, “Hey Jill, can we come over there and fish with you? And you show us how you’re doing that?” And what does Jill do? “Come on over, guys. I’ll show you how to do it.” So Seth and Angie come over and they’re on my bank, which in Kentucky, you don’t do that. But we’re all out there doing this together. We were all a team. Angie did five really slow casts. And I’m like, “No, no, go down on your knee.” And I show her how to pull in the handline at the speed she needs to do. And she nails a big old Coho, like huge, and just starts crying. She wrapped her arms around me and embraced me. “You made this possible, Jill,” she said. “I appreciate you so much.” That was a cool day.
Outdoors.com: How are you dealing with all of the hate?
Amber: People have been saying some really hateful things, things I would never wish on my worst enemy. Over a TV show. It’s kind of scary, to be honest. The only opinions that I read and listen to are from people who have been following me for the past seven years who have seen my transformation. The other ones, it’s more a reflection on them. And I feel sorry for them.
Jill: I combat it with an intellectual pursuit of, okay, this person obviously did not graduate fourth grade. I can’t have a conversation. And then you’ve got people that are like, “I really hope you find Jesus. I hope you pray and you get to be a better person.” But here’s the thing. You saw eight hours outta 5,000 plus hours of what we lived through and endured. And until you get off your couch in your mama’s basement and do one ounce of what we did, how dare you judge us?
Outdoors.com: Are you still glad you did Outlast?
Jill: It’s not all hate—we have a really good fan base. Strangers are so empowered and moved by the strength that they see of me as a woman, as a competitor, as a survivalist. They actually can see this woman has more skills than all of these competitors combined. I’m getting that feedback, too, and it’s very encouraging. The haters are trying to turn it into something that allows them to feel more confident about the lack of what they’re doing with their own lives. They see this and it makes them angry. They were not ready for women like us. They cannot handle our strength and confidence. I’ll never back down. Because I am a boss, and I am a leader.
Amber: I was like, I’m done with reality TV forever. And now I actually think that more people need to chill out. Just smile and lighten up. Why are you taking things so seriously?
Outdoors.com: What do you want people to know about you?
Jill: I have three children, four grandchildren, and I’ve raised 44 foster children. Tonight, I have Boy Scout rock climbing at the gym, tomorrow is the National Archery Competition and for spring break I’m taking my grandkids and a bunch of 10-year-old girls on a backpacking camping trip. Even when people tell you you’re a piece of sh*t, that you’re a bad human, you know the truth. And I will rock that so hard for the rest of my life. These haters that think they’re tearing me down, they are just fueling a fire in me. I’m going to come alive and I’m going to give it to the world. Whether they like it or not, I don’t care.
Amber: I want people to know that we are so much more than our scars that we wear. The show put me in these boxes, in these subcategories, as a misfit and an outcast. And I have been fighting for the past decade to try to clean up the wreckage of my past and to try to be seen by society as a person, to be seen by society as somebody deserving. And what this entire experience has shown me from the start to the finish to the reactions is that I am the only one who I need to be okay for. I don’t have anything else to prove. I went to the show thinking that I had something to prove. I had something to prove to myself. Getting there, being able to go from a backpacker to a bushcrafter and then still not getting any money at the end of it has shown me that it’s all about the growth and the journey and the process. It’s not about the rewards. I want people to know that they can rewrite their story. While society may never look at me in the light that I think I should be, I know that my people and my tribe will. The right people will hear my words. The right people will hear the message and know that they can change their lives, too. That’s all I want. That nobody feels like they’ve done so many wrong things or that life is so hopeless that they can’t turn it around.
Outdoors.com: Amber, is it true you lost your job because of the show?
Amber: I was scheduled [to teach yoga] all the way through May, but the owner told me, “That won’t be necessary.” Then she changed her tune a little bit and goes, “Let me ask you a question while I have you on the phone. I have this review here, it says you had stolen from her. Did you take something?” I go, “Are you serious? Is this person even a member?” She takes a moment and says, “Actually, no, she’s not a member.”
Honestly, my heart broke. I’d worked there for 12 months. If she really trusted me or had any confidence in my honor and who I am, she wouldn’t have even asked me that or at least had the courtesy of doing due diligence before asking me. Once she saw how much play the show was doing, she reached out to me again and said, “We definitely don’t want to make it known that we’re against you. We believe you.”
“Can I still do yoga?”
“Yeah, that shouldn’t be a problem.”
By then, the exposure and being exploited on such a large scale really taught me a lesson about my self-worth. What am I going to allow? Everyone knows my past. Nobody knows me and my heart, but everybody thinks they do. “She’s a felon. She’s an addict.” They already put me in this box. But I get to choose if I stay there or not. If you don’t trust me, I don’t belong here. I decided I’m going to grow something that’s solid and full of authenticity myself.
Outdoors.com: What do you want to do next?
Jill: I work with Shoot Like A Girl and I was convinced they were going to cut me loose like what happened with Amber. But I got an email that was like, “No, we want Jill.” I want to teach survival. I want to teach wilderness education and techniques, tools, building construction, motivation, self-confidence. That’s where I’m headed.
Amber: I’m going to launch an adventure company. I already have my yoga and outdoor adventures credentials. I’m going for my climbing certification next.
Jill: I have been writing poetry since I was nine years old. It was my outlet. So I’ve taken to Instagram and TikTok and I’ve started putting out some spoken word and inspirational and motivational videos. To be honest with you, regardless of what this world thinks about me, all I’ve ever wanted in my entire life is to build up people who think they’re nothing. To let people know you don’t have to be a statistic of your traumatic past. That you can become something from nothing. That is going to be my mission.
Read more about Outlast:
- Meet the Cast of Outlast
- EXCLUSIVE Interview with Outlast’s Jill and Amber
- Episode One Recap
- Episode Two Recap: Hunger Pains and Pains in the Butt
- Episode Three Recap: Man Down
- Episode Four Recap: Hail to the Thief
- Episode Five: Burn it to the Ground
- Episode Six: The Loyalty Test
- Episode Seven: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
- Episode Eight: And the Winner Is