To hear Survivor: Redemption Island's Ralph Kiser tell it, he was one of the last standing members of the original Zapatera tribe because of his honest game play. But looking back, the 44-year-old farmer wishes he had played just the opposite. "I could have lied and done dirty things — and I wish now I had — but I just didn't," Ralph tells TVGuide.com. Kiser also talked about the advice he tried to give to Natalie Tenerelli, why he clashed with Russell Hantz from the beginning and why Ralph thought he wouldn't make it.
You had a huge advantage during the first part of the duel, so why did the puzzle slow you down so much?
Ralph: First of all, I'm not great at puzzles. I just couldn't focus. Everything looked the same to me. I don't know if I was worn out or what was going on. There wasn't much I could do about it.
After the first Redemption Island duels were purely one-on-one, how much did it throw you off to have to compete against three other people?
Ralph: I thought it was going to be one-on-one, but when we got up to three, I had no clue what was going on. It was all news to me and I was just going to give it my best.
Why do you think you were one of the last-standing players from the Zapatera tribe able to stay in the game?
Ralph: Because I was honest to each and every one of them. I said I was going to do something and that's the way I did it, so I think that got me a long way. I tried to back my word, and everything I said, I tried to do it. I think it got me further in the game — it may not have — but it was definitely part of the game.
Before Steve was voted out he tried to get Natalie and Ashley to flip. Was there anyone in particular you were talking to from the original Ometepe tribe?
Ralph: Andrea. When she came to Redemption Island, I talked to her but when we merged, the game just stopped. We couldn't do anything. They didn't want to talk about the game, they didn't want to talk about our homes. I'm here for a game and may the best one win and I must not be the best one because I couldn't do anything. I could have lied and done dirty things — and I wish now I had — but I just didn't.
How frustrating was it play the game of Survivor post-merge where your strategy and your moves were so limited by Rob's power over his alliance?
Ralph: I told Natalie during the game, "Call some of your own shots. This is a game for a million dollars. And try to do something you're not told to do." But that's the way they chose to play their game and that's the way it ended up.
Why do you think Russell failed to make it as far as Rob in the game?
Ralph: I think poor Russell, he played the game before and we knew how he was going to play. He said he was going to change the way he played it, but he started that same old crap again. "Boston Rob" loves Survivor and he loves to try to win. I think a lot of players just didn't watch a lot of Survivor and just took on Rob as a leader. Russell wanted to be the leader on the other team, but right off the bat, he started playing dirty.
How much do you think your early discovery of the hidden immunity idol affected Russell's game play?
Ralph: If you watch the game, they show how it went but I don't think he knew I had the idol at the time. I sure didn't tell him. He thought I was more of a threat to him the whole time. It was a game and I was there to play and wasn't looking to make close friendships. He, I think, took it the wrong way. He kind of got a little upset over it.
What was the biggest surprise about playing Survivor for you?
Ralph: The biggest thing about Survivor is, I love it, but it's a whole lot harder than I ever thought it would be. I thought those challenges from earlier seasons would be [easy] but it's a whole lot tougher than I ever thought it would be. There were times when I didn't think I would make it. I'm a pretty big eater and I thought I was going to starve. ... But I love the game to death. I thought it was awesome. I'm just a local guy in Virginia and never really been out a lot and I was really shocked about the experience.