Nathan Griffen Nathan Griffen

He succeeded where affable Adam Mesh and Beantown's Brian Worth couldn't. In the third round of NBC's Average Joe, former Air Force missile technician Nathan Griffen, of Tampa, got the high sign from Las Vegas model Anna Chudoba, leaving Rocky-the-jock to lick his chiseled wounds. But was this Cinderella story too good to be true? TVGuide.com chatted with Nathan about his big "W," his bigger ear studs and the even bigger shock about his current love life.

TVGuide.com: You got the big "W" for average Joes everywhere!
Nathan Griffen:
I definitely wouldn't consider it a "W" because it wasn't a football game, but I made it to the end, and that's an experience in and of itself.

TVGuide.com: Did the fact that a Joe has never won temper your expectations?
Nathan:
All I hoped to gain was the chance to meet some new people, make some new friendships and do stuff I never expected to do — like wear a bright-red wrestling sling, which I will never do again. If I had gotten cut the first episode, so be it.

TVGuide.com: Did you think Dante was Chicken Little the way he repeatedly warned, "The hunks are coming! The hunks are coming!"
Nathan:
He was running through the streets screaming about "battle plans," but Aaron F. and I just sat on the couch taking no part in it. I had made it very clear that when the hunks came through the door, I was going to say, "Hello, welcome to the house." Regardless of physique and what they were there for, we were all in the same experience.

TVGuide.com: Let's talk about the makeover: What was most brutal part about it?
Nathan:
For the past few years I've been bouncing back and forth between the scruffy look versus clean-shaven with short hair. So when that got done, it wasn't anything different; it was like going to the barbershop — except there were lots of pretty girls there!

TVGuide.com: Yet you kept the earrings, and I kept fixating on them.
Nathan:
I don't think the producers were very excited by them. [Laughs] They kept trying to find ways to cover them up or make them inconspicuous.

TVGuide.com: A coworker of mine theorized that you must have gone through a goth phase at some point.
Nathan:
[Laughs] I've always dealt with, "Am I a punk? Am I a skater? Am I the artsy-fartsy guy?" I've never really fit in to any group, so when I started with the plugs I said, "Hey, this is kind of 'me.'" Post-makeover it was funny, because I had gone from this scruffy guy with the plugs to the clean-cut guy with these big holes in his ears.

TVGuide.com: As you were making your play for Anna, did you think, "This is a long shot at best plus there's a country between us after the show. Should I throw in the towel?"
Nathan:
I never did anything that was not within my character or my capabilities, and I never had a game plan. I told myself when I left for L.A., "Be yourself." When the last date came, my only concern was, "Who knows what is going to happen after the show?" Even if I wasn't chosen to stay with Anna in Tahiti, I still would have liked to spend more time with her.

TVGuide.com: She says that you two had the best conversations.
Nathan:
I felt really comfortable around her, and I knew she felt comfortable around me. Some of the stuff that we talked about was so inconsequential it was ridiculous. We actually had problems because it wasn't stuff that people would want to watch us talking about on TV. That fact is, I didn't look at her as a goddess, as a "goal," but as somebody I had just met, in some strange experience we both shared, and I wanted to see what [would happen].

TVGuide.com: I've already heard from Anna. In your own words, what happened after the show?
Nathan:
I'll say absolutely nothing happened with us because there was nothing expected to happen. We ended the show both understanding that a friendship is a really good foundation for any relationship, and in that situation — knowing that you will soon be a country apart and you can't see the person [yet] because you have a contract with NBC — getting to know each other better was going to be difficult. What happens when the cameras are off? Are we the same people? Now that I've talked to her for a year, I know that we are. If it happens for us a year from now, six months from now, a day from now, we'll see what happens. We'll take it a day at a time.

TVGuide.com: Anna says you're living with someone?
Nathan:
I'm dating a girl who I was friends with prior to the show. When I first told Anna she was nothing but supportive. She then said, "I'm still single and it's kind of lonely. I'm wondering if I'm ever going to meet someone." Knowing what I know about her, to hear her say that amazes the heck out of me. I've told her that when the time is right, she'll find somebody with whom she will fall in love and have a really fruitful relationship.