He made it to the final five, but for many Survivor: Nicaragua fans, it was easy to forget Dan Lembo was still in the game. After sustaining a knee injury early in the season, the 63-year-old real estate executive avoided as many challenges as he could and avoided the drama that defined fellow players such as Marty Piombo and NaOnka Mixon. Even when Holly Hoffman drowned his $1,200 shoes, Dan hardly blinked. Looking back, Dan says his carefree exterior was key to his strategy. He talked with TVGuide.com about how he kept his cool with Holly, why he bragged about his fortune to his teammates and his thoughts on next season's twist.
TVGuide.com: Do you think the right person won the game?
Dan Lembo: I'm very happy that Fabio won. I voted for him. I liked him. Had he not won the three immunity challenges and gotten himself the immunity idol, he probably would have been voted out and it probably would have been better for me, but he's a good kid.
TVGuide.com: You were in a close alliance with Fabio for the second half of the season so how different is he from the image he put forth on TV?
Dan: Well, obviously he wasn't dumb when he won the last few challenges. He wasn't ditzy at all. He's OK. He played that Fabio image and they gave him that name as soon as he came on the show. But he's a good kid and he deserved to win.
TVGuide.com: During the reunion, Holly gave you boots to make up for the shoes she stole from you during the game. How did you keep your cool about that incident?
Dan: Well, I didn't really keep my cool. But what was I going to do? She's a woman. If it had been a guy, it would have been a different result. She gave me the boots now and we're friends. That's a tough, tough game out there and as you can see it made her crack, and NaOnka crack and Purple Kelly crack. When people say to you, "Oh, I guess they give you a hero sandwich at the end of the day" — they don't give you anything. I lost 37 pounds.
TVGuide.com: Looking back at the game, what was the important part of your strategy?
Dan: I didn't make any enemies, I just went with everybody. They said let's vote this guy off, I'll vote that guy. I kept my mouth shut, which is usually very hard for me. So I just shut up and they kept me in because they liked me. ... One of the problems with me is that they realized I didn't have any enemies on the jury and they knew if I went there, the jury would vote for me. ... But you know what, I got to the final five, which is great.
TVGuide.com: Was there ever a point where you thought, "What did I get myself into?"
Dan: You know what it is, as long as you know it's coming to an end, it's OK. The other way — if I thought I was there forever? Like when Jeff Probst was talking about [Redemption Island]? I don't know about that. It's interesting.