When CBS aired dramatic promos for the return of its Thursday-night reality staple Survivor: Panama Exile Island (Thursdays at 8 pm/ET), it was clear the game was about to head in an entirely new direction. Drama kicked in to high gear once the tribes viewers love (and love to hate) joined forces in this season's merge. The traditional postmerge endurance challenge saw La Mina's Nick Stanbury, Terry and Austin make it to the final three, where it was a fight to the finish for individual immunity. By hanging upside down for 46 minutes, Nick earned a second-place finish, but his Gitanos tribe mates felt his physical presence was cause to send him packing. TVGuide.com sat down with the Wyoming native the day after his ejection to get the scoop on his Panama stay, why he won't be handling a machete any time soon, and his affinity for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
TVGuide.com: What has the reaction been like from your family and friends since your elimination episode aired?
Nick Stanbury: I really haven't had the chance to get in touch with many of them. I'm sure they're a little upset. They can't possibly understand why the others wanted to get rid of me, but I told them it was a game and I knew what I was signing up for.
TVGuide.com: You missed the three-week mark by just a few days. Did it seem like 18 whole days out there?
Nick: It felt so short! The days flew by. At the same time, the game is not even halfway done. I had a hard time believing some of the stuff I went through in 18 days.
TVGuide.com: But you did make the all-important merge. When that happened, you mentioned that the tribes felt "two days of love."
Nick: Well, when you come with a crate full of goodies and alcohol, the love seems to make itself a little more apparent. It was "two days of love" when we met and Casaya had no reason not to reciprocate. Hell, their life was looking great. They were thinking they had nothing to worry about, going into the merge with the numbers in their favor.
TVGuide.com: I believe it was Melinda who coined the groups the "kumbaya tribe" and the "crazy tribe."
Nick: Casaya the dysfunctional misfit tribe. You love to say that, but they put together a pretty good winning streak and they were able to perform when it mattered.
TVGuide.com: In advance of last week's episode, CBS aired promos suggesting someone would get carried off the island on a stretcher. In actuality, the episode dealt with an incident during the construction of a shelter where you accidentally chipped Bruce's tooth with a machete. What exactly happened?
Nick: The events in the promo have yet to be seen. The machete incident was basically just us not thinking. While we were building the shelter, Bruce was holding rope and I was cutting up which you're never supposed to do and his face was about 2 feet from the knife.
TVGuide.com: Didn't they teach you not to do that in the Boy Scouts?
Nick: I actually wasn't [a Boy Scout], but I should have been it would have been nice preparation. The knife cut through the thin rope and it was just a sickening sound. I was terrified that I not only might get voted out that night, but I might have severely injured someone.
TVGuide.com: Would you say the biggest thing you learned on Survivor is not to go near machetes again anytime soon?
Nick: Yeah. I learned to think about what I'm doing when I'm doing it. It was completely uncalled-for.
TVGuide.com: Let's get your take on the immunity challenge. Was the fact that it was simply a test of endurance a relief for you?
Nick: I was glad it was physical I needed and wanted it to be. I was the third physical threat, behind Austin and Terry, and maybe I could have hidden that for another vote if the new tribe didn't see my physical strength. The challenge was very exposing for me, which ended up being a disadvantage.
TVGuide.com: You did rather well, and that got Gitanos spooked.
Nick: I knew I was looking really bad once I outlasted Austin. You either win it or you look weak and finish third.
TVGuide.com: It seemed difficult to remain focused, especially when Jeff Probst constantly made comments to try to throw you off. How on earth did you manage to concentrate?
Nick: He was trying to provoke a little conversation and because he does it during challenges and tribal council, we came to expect it. I wish he would have kept talking, because the longer Jeff talked and the more involved I was with his conversation, the less I was thinking about how bad my arms were burning and how much skin was getting scraped off my forearm. I was like, "Tell me a story, Jeff. Tell me anything."
TVGuide.com: During that conversation, Shane hoped to be offered a cigarette in exchange for removing himself from the challenge. What item would you have wanted in exchange for stepping down?
Nick: Historically, the postmerge endurance challenge has food rewards. I wasn't expecting it, but I definitely thought it would happen. Peanut butter and chocolate would have been hard to resist. Anything with calories.
TVGuide.com: After the merge, which Casaya member did you think had the best shot at advancing in the game?
Nick: Without a doubt Aras. Aras is the leader of Casaya at this point in the game. Courtney and Danielle view Shane as this complete weirdo flake, and they need to pull together because it's really Aras who sways that tribe. Right now, I'm still rooting for Austin and Terry, but from the Casaya people, it's Bruce or Aras. The only person I'm really rooting against is Danielle, because she's just boring. She never said anything and was just... there.
TVGuide.com: Your CBS.com bio states your reason for heading to the island was to meet "smart, beautiful women." Did you succeed?
TVGuide.com: I can't really answer that yet since the show just got over, but being on the Survivor hasn't hurt. If I meet someone who doesn't know about my being on the show, I don't tell them. I didn't have trouble meeting people before this, but it's so silly for someone to want to meet me because of Survivor.
TVGuide.com: Which of the women made your time in Panama a little easier?
Nick: Ruth Marie, Misty and Sally. Ruth Marie was a motherly presence. On night 10 or 11, I had panic attacks and couldn't sleep and Ruth Marie totally calmed me down. I was always grateful for that. Misty and Sally are both beautiful, smart girls great to have around.
TVGuide.com: You describe yourself as "overly analytical." What did you find yourself analyzing most on the island: the nutritional value of snail stew, the La Mina women, or how to shut up Shane once arriving at the Gitanos beach?
Nick: Definitely the food. The women were great, but when you're that hungry, everyone becomes asexual. A can of peanut butter would have dwarfed any of the girls. Shane didn't bother me. His annoyance is definitely being played up. He's unpredictable in a group when he thinks he needs attention, but when you sit down with him and talk about his son and girlfriend and life in L.A., he's a pretty interesting guy. He made the game fun and I liked watching him in action everything from his posture to his crazy hair to his denim, thigh-length shorts!
TVGuide.com: Going back to your online bio, are Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen really your favorite actresses?
Nick: It was a little tongue-in-cheek at the time, and I'm not saying I didn't write that, but it came back to haunt me. I was just being a smart-ass and I didn't know that was going to be on CBS.com!
TVGuide.com: But it did, and since we're in New York, why don't you leave us with your critical take of New York Minute?
Nick: I wish I could give you one! If for any reason our paths cross and I have the chance to meet Mary-Kate and Ashley, I'd love to take them up on that. I know they're over 18 now!
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