Natalie Anderson says one of the hardest things about participating in Season 29 of Survivor was not having her twin sister Nadiya (who was eliminated in Week 1) in the competition with her. But, at the same time, Natalie believes she never would have been able to pull off her well-deserved victory if she hadn't been forced to play the game on her own.
"If Nadiya was there, I wouldn't have been able to pull off what I did," Natalie told TVGuide.com the day after her victory. "It would have been way more fun to play with Nadiya ... but it wouldn't have been easy for me to play the game I played, because I played a very subtle game as far as not letting people know what I was doing. I wasn't out there like Jeremy and Jon, where I was in this position where people saw me as a threat."
Though Nadiya told TVGuide.com after her ouster that her and Natalie's participation on The Amazing Race (twice) "came back to haunt [her]," Natalie believes that the lessons she learned from the other reality show helped to inform her Survivor strategy.
"The fact that I'd lost a million dollars twice, it didn't faze me and it didn't scare me to make big moves and be like, 'You know what? Who cares if I lose a million bucks again? Been there, done that. Who gives a s---? Just play the game for what it is,'" she says. "That's how you can really play the game, is if you forget that there's a million bucks at the end and you play it exclusively for the reason of playing, which is the emotional, and the social. The drive behind me playing the game was Nadiya, Jeremy, proving myself to everybody that doubted me. All that stuff is a way better driver than the million bucks."
TVGuide.com: Congratulations on your win! How are you feeling?
Thanks! I lost my voice and I'm still a little bit drunk I think, but I'm doing good.
So, what made you decide to blindside Baylor instead of Missy?
A couple things. One was that I literally had a bond with Missy from Day 1. ... I knew that her loyalty was better for me in the Final 4 situation than Baylor, because Baylor and me — yeah, we had fun and, yeah, we were "Survivor sisters" but she didn't owe me anything. Also, keeping Missy in the game allowed me to have somebody I could deflect off of and not seem like the biggest threat. I think I was the biggest threat, but it was really easy for me to scare Keith into thinking Missy was a big threat, and scare Missy into thinking Keith was a big threat. Basically I just wanted to keep her in because I knew I could trust her to keep me close to her, and keep me in the Final 3. ... I figured Baylor would have been a loose cannon if I had kept her around. And if I voted out Missy, there's no way I could have counted on Baylor to still be with me. ... I knew Missy being around was better for me in the long run than Baylor being around.
We didn't get to see any of your conversation with Jaclyn. What did you say to her to convince her to vote Baylor?
It was really last minute. Everybody was on the Jaclyn train. ... Everybody was kind of like, "Oh, time to get Miss Michigan out." I went up to her right before we went to Tribal and I was like, 'Vote for Baylor.' And she was really confused. She didn't know I had an idol, and she thought actually Missy had flipped on Baylor and was trying to vote out Baylor. I was like, 'Just vote out Baylor.' I didn't have any time to solidify it. ... I knew she had no other play, so if I told her that last minute, she would be on it, but there was no guarantee. I don't even know why the hell I asked her at Tribal Council 'Did you vote the way I told you?' It makes no sense that I would ask somebody a question like that in Survivor and expect them to tell me the truth. But she did, so it was good for me.
You, Missy and Baylor had such a tight alliance. Did you struggle with flipping on them?
It was hard. It didn't make it easy for me, but I know it's a game at the end of the day. You could see, when the votes started coming in, I was really, really sad for Baylor, because we really did bond out there. ... But that didn't make me lose focus on why I was on Survivor. I didn't go out there to make friends. It was awesome that I did, but that's not the reason I was on Survivor.
After you were able to engineer Jon's ouster, were you pretty confident that you were on a road to victory?
I wasn't confident I was going to win, and I think that's one of the reasons I did so well on the show. ... The only time I felt confident was once I saw the look on the jury's face when me, Missy and Jaclyn walked out on our stools for the last time. I knew the guys respected me as a person and as a game-player. It was awesome to see the votes the way they came in, because winning for the money's awesome, but there's a crazy feeling that you get when the jury's actually happy to write your name down, and excited for you, and respect you in the game. I was confident only when I sat down in the last Tribal. Before that, I never really got too confident.
It surprised me that Missy and Jaclyn were willing to go to the Final 3 with you, because (at least to an outside viewer), you were clearly the biggest threat. But it seemed like even though the jury members knew that, they didn't see you that way.
The other people didn't! Nobody ever wrote my name down once to get voted off. I didn't get one single vote the entire season, which to me is crazy, because I was doing reckless stuff, crazy stuff — cussing out John Rocker, things that otherwise would put red flags on somebody. ... If you're crazy, it usually means that you can play Survivor well. I still don't know why they took me to the Final 3. I think I just did a really good job at convincing Missy and Jaclyn that Keith was a threat and being on board with Keith and convincing him that Missy was the biggest threat. So, working with people that I could use as shields — they weren't really shields for me in my head, but it was awesome to use them as a shield to set in this paranoia in other people, which kept the target off me. ... They knew I was good in challenges, and they still didn't see the fact that I was a threat, not only physically, but also socially and strategically. It was crazy.
You and Nadiya literally bookended the season, with Nadiya being the first person voted out and you winning. How do you think your game would have been different if she had been there?
I can only imagine if we had made Merge or we had gotten to go against each other on a physical challenge. Me and Nadiya, it would have been literally a bloodbath. We would have been out there, literally blood out for blood.
A lot of people who weren't fans of you guys on The Amazing Race said they were rooting for you here. Which game did you like playing better?
I think that I enjoyed playing Survivor more than Amazing Race. ... Maybe if I didn't win, I would say, "You know what? Forget Survivor. I got to go back and race around the world with Nadiya and eat and check into fancy hotels at the end of the night and do fun stuff with Nadiya." But the fact that it turned out the way it did just shows that the game ofSurvivor is such a crazy, unique, once-in-a-lifetime thing that I got to experience. ... I would say Amazing Race is way more fun while you're doing it, but if I had to do one again right now, since I've done Amazing Race twice, I guess I should just stick with the pattern and doSurvivor one more time.
What would be your biggest piece of advice on how to win Survivor?
You can't be scared of being voted off. You have to think about how to avoid getting voted off, but if you have a feeling and you want to do something, just do it. If you play being scared, you're never going to win. Maybe you'll get far. Maybe you'll make it one more Tribal, two more Tribals. But you've just got to forget about the million bucks and pretend that's not on the line, and play this game the way it's supposed to be played. Obviously the million bucks at the end of the day is awesome, but you've got to just go balls to the wall on Survivor. There's no point on pussyfooting around it.
So, are you and Nadia going to open your Crossfit studio in Sri Lanka?
Yeah. My Crossfit coach came out last night for the finale and she was one of the reasons that I was really good at all the physical challenges. We're going to probably go back to Sri Lanka and figure out the timeline. We didn't have any money to do it before, but now obviously the startup money isn't a problem anymore! [Laughs].
Are you happy Natalie won Survivor: San Juan del Sur — Blood vs. Water? And are you excited for Seaosn 30 — Blue Collar vs. White Collar vs. No Collar? Sound off in the comments!
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)