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Editor’s Note: The players were separated by gender and didn’t officially know the theme of the season when this interview took place.
Another Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted across from the giant “Boston” Rob and Sandra heads at the Island of the Idols.
Winner of “San Juan del Sur ” (2014)
Name: Natalie Anderson
Hometown: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Current Residence: Edgewater, New Jersey
Occupation: Crossfit Trainer
Gordon Holmes: San Juan del Sur was a while ago, what’ve you been up to since then?
Natalie Anderson: After San Juan I went back to my real life. I’m pretty boring. Nothing changed in my life after “Survivor.” I took my parents to Vegas and bought myself a Macbook.
Holmes: Whoa…go crazy.
Anderson: (Laughs) Really.
Holmes: A million dollars isn’t quit your job money.
Anderson: Yeah, even for me. I’m super chill, I did go to grad school. It was good I had money for that. But, then I had this crazy concussion that forced me to take a break from grad school.
Holmes: Whoa…was this a crossfit related injury?
Anderson: I was front squatting, and I’ve had three concussions because of rugby, so the more concussions you have…
Holmes: The more you’re likely to get.
Holmes: I have a professional wrestling background. Unfortunately, I’ve had my fair share.
Anderson: It’s crazy.
Holmes: It’s really scary.
Anderson: Yeah. I had a front rack loaded for front squats. It’s just my bad situation, bad timing. I bent down to pull up my knee sleeve and I stood up into the rack.
Anderson: Yeah, and it was pretty heavy. I think I was front squatting 180, so the bar didn’t move. My head got shaken up, but I felt fine. I finished up my set and then I worked out and the next day when I woke up I knew I was concussed. The weird sequence of events was I felt symptoms, but I went to work. I was working a soccer game, I was taping an ankle, I turned my head away from the game for two seconds and got railed in the head with a soccer ball. It’s called double-impact syndrome. And so that ricocheted into this long-lasting symptom for like a year and a half. I had crazy symptoms. And because of “Survivor” I was able to take a break and dedicate my life to recovering. People said I wouldn’t recover, but I was pretty relentless. Here I am and I feel stronger and better than I did four years ago.
Holmes: I’d imagine that’d be pretty heartbreaking to be this person who’s so into fitness and then to have this injury that keeps you from your routine.
Anderson: Yeah, and it’s so weird with concussions because the first things doctors tell you is to relax, do nothing. But, I found a chiropractor who’s amazing. He told me to listen to my body. He said I could swim. He said “Don’t do anything crazy, but moving, blood is good for your brain.” I was super depressed and sad, I’m not that emotional, but I was so emotional during the concussion. And so, it was emotionally and physically really crippling. But, I was steadfast with my mission to recover. If I wasn’t as strong or tough as I am, it’d be really easy to give up.
Holmes: And you’re 100% now?
Anderson: Yes, CBS sent me to some big-shot doctor to make sure my head was all good. I’m here and I’m happy.
Holmes: Now, you’ve never played in a season where your sister wasn’t voted out first before.
Anderson: (Laughs) It’s so weird.
Holmes: Unless she is out here somewhere. They’re full of surprises.
Anderson: It’s a secret. She pops out! “Survivor” twist: Nadiya is on the beach somewhere. Find her! It’s so weird, all of these crazy adventures with CBS have started with Nadiya. Even “Survivor” that ended up solo started with Nadiya. We’re so happy-go-lucky, I came in with no expectations. I didn’t give a (expletive deleted) what happened. I was out here for a fun time. And Nadiya getting voted off made me so angry that it forced me to do things that ended up having me win. I never once thought, I’m going to win a million-dollar check or the fans are going to love my gameplay. I just did everything based on this revenge mission.
Holmes: What do you think people remember about you and your game?
Anderson: I think the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that I was a stronger female. I remember being chosen before guys schoolyard-pick style. Guys would pick me before some of the other dudes. For me, that’s a proud moment. And I think the second part is being super stealthy and patient with what I wanted. I had a mission and I think they saw me work towards that, leading up to voting everyone who voted off Nadiya. I think the Jon (Misch) move or the Baylor (Wilson) move stand out. Probably the Baylor move.
Holmes: So, how do you use that reputation to your advantage going forward?
Anderson: I would love people to remember how loyal I was to Jeremy. I was on a mission to get back for him. I was the only one who didn’t flip on him. So, if people look at me and see how loyal I was to Nadiya and Jeremy, maybe they’ll want to work with me. I think the second pitch I can do is I’m strong around camp, I’m going to fish, I’m going to clean stuff, I’m going to get wood, I’m going to help in physical challenges. I think that will make me an attractive tribemate at the start.
Holmes: We haven’t been told a theme yet. Any guesses?
Anderson: Obviously, I think it’s chicks vs. d…dudes. (Laughs)
Holmes: (Laughs) The way you held onto that “d” I thought you were going to say something else.
Anderson: (Expletive deleted) (Laughs)
Holmes: How much would you love to see that on a buff? Chicks vs (expletive deleted).
Anderson: (Laughs) Chicks vs. Dudes, Gordon! So, I’m so excited. I’m all about girl power. And these chicks are all bad ass. And, it’s cool to see the different demographics of winners. Maybe not ethnically, but as people we’re so different. So many different backgrounds, so many different ways of winning. I just hope we can get together, show them that the force is female, and basically wreck these boys. That would be my dream, to have a guy voted out first. You saw this last season, it boiled my blood to see them vote off Reem (Daly) instead of stupid-ass Keith (Sowell). And they were like, “Oh yeah, we’re trying to keep the tribe strong.” It’s like, “Reem is stronger than half of the dudes on your damn tribe and you keep Keith? It’s so (expletive deleted) up.” But anyway, I think the theme is all winners, chicks vs. dudes.
Holmes: If there are d…dudes here, who do you think we’ll see?
Anderson: I’m hoping to see Jeremy, Tony…”Boston” Rob, maybe. That’d be crazy because then his wife would be on my tribe. Maybe…who’s the Asian dude that one the race tribes?
Anderson: Maybe him, Earl (Cole), I don’t know…who else is there? Tyson? Another black dude, I don’t know his name. The only winner I’ve ever played with is Jeremy. I’ve never played with any of these chicks. And I don’t really know anybody outside of the game. Some “Survivor” players have this huge social aspect after the show. They hang out with each other, they do events. And I literally don’t mess with anybody. Jeremy is the only person I know from the game or outside of the game.
Holmes: There’s always talk of pre-game alliances in these returnee seasons. Has anyone approached you?
Anderson: My first season I started getting calls from random people. And if I don’t know you, I’m not making any freaking alliances before the game. I’m not that thirsty. And, if it has to be said, it’s not worth a dime. If it’s unsaid, that’s the best way. I’m not saying me and Jeremy are going to try to go to the end together, but there’s an unsaid camaraderie and trust there. I am nervous that some of these people have played multiple times together and have built a history. I don’t have any pre-game alliances except maybe for Jeremy which is an unspoken alliance.
Holmes: You’re in lockdown now, so you’re not allowed to talk. But, there’s always nodding and winking. Have you been doing any of that?
Anderson: No winking, that’s very corny.
Holmes: Finger guns, those are playful.
Anderson: (Laughs) No finger guns.
Holmes: No cutthroat symbols…no middle fingers.
Anderson: (Laughs) Exactly. I think it’s all fake. We joke around with each other. We try to make it seem like we don’t give a (expletive deleted) when deep down inside we’re looking at our competition. We can be really nice with each other, but there’s so much competition and all of us have egos. We’re thinking we’re the best, we’ve all been ranked against each other on platforms. And even though we act like we don’t care, we do care. There is some non-verbal communication, but it’s almost a nervous tic to pretend that what’s about to happen isn’t about to happen.
Holmes: So, you pretend not to give a (expletive deleted), but you give so many…
Anderson: We give so many (expletive deleted).
Holmes: Have you caught anyone sitting together, trying to communicate?
Anderson: I’ve seen Danni and Parvati have more communication than anyone else. They’re both from the older school. Parv’s done CBS media work before, so if anyone has the most connections, it’s her. Even I have a connection with Parv, she interviewed Nadiya and I before San Juan del Sur. We clicked immediately because I asked her why she has such a brown name when she’s white. She told me the background story of her parents who were super Hindu and grew up in this Hindu village or something. It’s funny because I have the whitest name possible and I’m brown as hell.
Holmes: OK, we’re going to play Align or Malign. Here are the nine women you’re about to destroy. Tell me the four you will work with and the five you will avoid.
Anderson: Align or Malign? This is like Bravo! OK, if only I could see how people ranked me.
Holmes: Oh, I can tell you.
Anderson: Wait, what?
Holmes: No, I absolutely cannot.
Anderson: (Laughs) Alright, Michele would play with me and I’d say, “Girl, let’s go to the final three.” And she’d say, “Let’s do it, girl!” But, she wouldn’t try and do her own thing and win. She’d be the perfect person to have as an extra vote. But, she’s no competition. Sarah, I have a lot in common with her. I think we think a lot alike. And I liked the way she changed as a person her last season. She was open to new experiences. And, I think we could bond on a level that’s not just “Survivor.” For me and Jeremy it was loved ones. Nadiya and then Val were voted off, it solidified our bond. Sandra, I’d work with her because, why not? She’s an epic player. I think she would be an awesome shield. She’d be an easy scapegoat for me to hide behind. She’s won twice, who the (expletive deleted) wants her to win three times? And, Parv…her loyalty to her alliances in “Heroes vs. Villains,” if something’s up, you can just go ask her. That’s something a sister would do. If somebody told me Nadiya said something about me, I wouldn’t worry about it, I’d just go say, “Hey Nadiya, did you say this?” And that was amazing.
Holmes: Lovely, let’s hear these maligns.
Anderson: Danni, I just don’t know her gameplay enough. Denise, maybe because she might have a Napoleon complex. She’s a shorter girl. Maybe she’s out to prove something and unpredictable. Kim was kind a flipper on her season. She took some (expletive deleted) from the boys, but she did it with a purpose. Amber, her husband might be out here and nobody wants to see a love pair. Her and him are going to have each others back. Let’s even the playing field and get rid of her so there’s no Blood vs. Water theme. And, then Sophie…she went to Sri Lanka…and we know people, but we don’t know people because of social media. A fan sent me a picture of Sophie in Sri Lanka. There are these levels…I’ve seen almost everyone’s Instagram. That kind of makes her endearing to me, but…I don’t know…
Holmes: Who’s first out of the five?
Anderson: Based purely on challenge skills…Amber.
Holmes: OK, of your aligns, who’s your ride or die?
Anderson: Ride or die?!
Holmes: I’m a 42 year old using terms like “ride or die.” Is that what the kids are saying these days?
Anderson: (Laughs) Sandra…I’d win against her because people would not want to hand her a million dollars. And, I’ve seen her at Tribal Council and she’s not that impressive. I think I could rile up a jury way better than her.
Holmes: If it is an all winners season. In a way, you’ve been there and done that. Is there a fear that some players are going to be interested more in becoming a bigger character than in necessarily getting to the end?
Anderson: I think if people had some regrets they could. I don’t have any regrets from my season. The one time I did something that was not calculated was when I yelled at John Rocker. It felt so good that I didn’t give a (expletive deleted). I think if anyone’s coming out here for the purpose of changing how they’re viewed, it’s because they have some kind of regret. I’m not too concerned about it. I think everyone here has proven themselves once, and they’re here to be the best of the best.
Holmes: An alien lands, and you have to show them one scene that proves why “Survivor” is so awesome. What scene do you show them?
Anderson: I didn’t see this finale because I was flying into LA, but Chris (Underwood) being on the island and coming back and winning? I think that would be the ultimate scene. That’s pretty amazing. Val being pregnant on the beach with Jeremy, that’s pretty moving.
Holmes: They make the cutest kids.
Anderson: They do! Have you seen Nadiya’s kids?
Anderson: She makes cute kids too.
Holmes: I didn’t know she had a baby.
Anderson: Yeah! Nadiya had a baby that totally changed my life. The one thing she told me, it was really easy for me to find motivation in Nadiya getting voted out, and this time she’s not here, and I have to get riled up with something. So, Nadiya’s baby was five weeks preemie. And there’s so much fight in her. She’s so healthy now. And Nadiya told me when times get tough out here and I’m feeling down and I think I have it hard, think of Trinity fighting for her life. And, don’t be a (expletive deleted) basically.
Holmes: Are you loving the aunt life?
Anderson: It’s awesome, being an aunt is sick.
Holmes: You get to do all the fun stuff and then hand them off if there’s a diaper incident.
Anderson: And also it has half my DNA, so it looks like me! I can pretend like I have a kid, have the best time, and then be like, “Here, Nadiya.” Being a mom is so hard, and that makes me proud of some of these chicks out here. We have so many moms. It’s pretty awesome. Total respect for these ladies.
Holmes: If Jeff let you pick a twist, what would you go with?
Anderson: I have a prediction for what they should do with this season. And, it wouldn’t particularly help me, it’s just awesome.
Holmes: OK, give me the prediction and then something you’d like to see.
Anderson: You know on my first season of “Amazing Race” they put two mill on the table. It wasn’t even all-star, it was a basic season. And that mind (expletive deleted) everybody on the starting line. We’re on the starting line and Phil (Keoghan) said (Natalie impersonates Phil Keoghan), “On this season of ‘The Amazing Race,’ if you win the first leg and the last leg, you will win two million dollars.” And everyone said, “Holy (expletive deleted)!” It messed us up. At the first Tribal, Jeff should say (Natalie impersonates Phil Keoghan again), “This is…” No wait, he’s not Phil.
Holmes: Your Phil impression is dead on. I’m dying to hear your Jeff.
Anderson: (Laughs) (Natalie impersonates Jeff Probst) “Guys, this scroll will be revealed later in the game. There’s going to be some information on this scroll that’s going to be important to your game.”
Anderson: Thanks. Then everyone forgets about this (expletive deleted) scroll. Then at the last Tribal Council, once they’ve all voted he says, (Natalie impersonates Jeff Probst) “Ah…you forgot about this scroll! This season on ‘Survivor’ the winner will win two million dollars!” That way it won’t mess with the game.
Holmes: OK, what twist would you want to introduce?
Anderson: There are no mental challenges, physical only. No brain skills! (Laughs) And there will be no memory challenges.
Holmes: I know some of you have had some concussions, so we’re going to take it easy on you.
Holmes: Alright, I’ll give you a reason someone could use to vote you out. I need you to argue against it.
Holmes: Natalie is tied for the most challenge wins ever by a female winner.
Anderson: Guys, I literally suck at puzzles so much. I was out first in the memory challenge, in the final immunity I lost because of the puzzle even though I had a thousand-hour head start. I’m good at physical stuff, so keep me around to win tribe challenges.
Holmes: Natalie didn’t have a single vote against her. That sounds like someone with a really good social game.
Anderson: It was Blood vs. Water, people were concerned with their loved ones. They felt bad because Nadiya was voted off. It had nothing to do with my social game. I was ruffling feathers, I was cursing people out.
Holmes: Natalie chewed out John Rocker.
Holmes: I don’t know if I can work with hot head like that.
Anderson: The reason I yelled at John Rocker, and this could be a lie, is because he said something super (expletive deleted) up about Nadiya. It sent me through the roof. You didn’t see this, but Baylor was crying every night. She said she was scared of John Rocker. Everybody knew what I was saying was true.
Don’t miss the premiere of “Survivor: Winners at War” – Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at 8 pm ET.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @GordonHolmes