If you had told me two weeks ago that I’d be interviewing “Survivor: Nicaragua” castaway NaOnka Mixon and that she would have done something so wacky that I wouldn’t even have time to discuss debacles like stealing food, wrestling with the one-legged girl for an Immunity Idol clue and betraying her best friend… I guess I probably would have believed it. Reality TV seasons need drama and NaOnka was certainly drama.
On last Wednesday’s episode, NaOnka found a way to top herself, electing to quit the game along with Kelly Shinn. In one unprecedented move, as members of the Jury swore and cried, the season’s most vocal player and the season’s least vocal player decided that being 10 days from a million bucks just wasn’t good enough.
I was out of town and missed my normally scheduled post-elimination interview, but I caught up with Kelly and NaOnka this afternoon to talk about regrets, apologies and the way they were portrayed on “Survivor.”
[Note: Obviously if I’d had a 1:1 call with NaOnka, the food stealing and Idol wrestling would have come up…]
The full interview is after the break…
HitFix: OK, so the Tribal Council ends on the night you decide to leave. You go to Ponderosa. You eat a real meal. You shower. You get a full night’s sleep in a bed. The very next day, how did you look back at your decision to quit the game?
Kelly Shinn: Gosh, I don’t even know how to say it. I don’t think I have looked back and ever thought, “Gosh, what was I doing? Now that my belly’s full and I’m not tired anymore…” I still didn’t feel that. I think I was just so miserable and ill that I was just thankful. I think the day after was when I immediately realized how I had changed throughout the game and the different appreciation for the game and things like that. That’s what happened to me the next day.
NaOnka Mixon: The next day for me was more or less like, “What just happened?” I felt like I was sucked into a whole other planet and spit out onto this island of “Survivor” and then spit back into reality, so it was more like, “What exactly just happened?” In reality, I was appreciative for the whole experience and the journey and the new people that are in my life now. I still didn’t wake up with regret, which is kinda weird, but I still didn’t wake up with regret. It was more about being thankful for this whole experience. And I wished it hadn’t rained so much. I wish the elements weren’t as harsh, because I had no control over that. I still woke up just happy with what I did and just wishing that the weather was completely different. But I still had no regrets and still thankful.
HitFix: And how about watching the episode on Wednesday? How did it feel to you to watch what you guys had done?
NaOnka: I relived it. It was like living the whole 27th and 28th days. I was still shivering just watching it. And I was still just hoping that the weather would change, but it never did. I was upset. Watching it, I was like, “Yeah. I’m still in the same exact place.” I was still stuck because it started becoming miserable. You really had to look deep within and ask yourself how bad you want it. You can want something so bad and still not get it. You pray for something, but it’ll come when it’s supposed to come, not when you want it to come. It was just like, “Wow, that’s crazy,” just being on the other side and looking at it. It’s just different. I wish that that’d showed just how horrible it was. Benry and Fabio say it was four or five hours? OK. No one had a watch and there were no timers for us. So that’s what it could have felt like for them, but for Purple Kelly and I, it felt like eternity. It just wouldn’t stop. It was just horrible. So it was just reliving it all over again.
Kelly: I think for me, watching that episode, I’m not gonna lie, that was hard for me to watch. It really just put me back at that moment. Mentally, I felt like I was back there and I just sat there in shock and just felt miserable all over again. It was hard to watch, but again it just made me appreciate every little thing in my life that I have. It made me appreciate my family, what I have to eat and just being healthy in general. Gosh, I can’t stress enough: That episode was hard for me to watch and I think it was hard for everybody to watch, but especially for NaOnka and I, it really put us back at that moment.
HitFix: We sit at home and we see the conditions look bad, but we’re just relaxing on our couches and probably we have no way of really understanding how bad things can be on “Survivor.” Was there any aspect of the “Survivor” experience that was particularly hard that you hadn’t expected going in?
Kelly: I think for me what just came the hardest was that you go into “Survivor” and you know you have to mentally prepare for anything to come your way and you become mentally strong as you prepare for that and it’s amazing to me what it takes to break somebody down. And that rain… You know, people think, “Oh, a little while in the rain’s not gonna kill you,” but it really, I think, could kill you. It’s so bad. And a lot of people, they sit on their couch eating dinner and watching “Survivor,” but they have no idea what we’re going through. That’s the hardest part. When I watched these episodes, I was like, “Oh my gosh. Why aren’t they showing this…” They can’t show the whole 12 hours of rain the first four nights we were there. There’s just not enough TV for that. But I wish people would see certain things like that. I think the hardest part is just the elements, but then you come back and you just appreciate being dry and being healthy.
NaOnka: There were moments that got really hard because during the game, at least at the very beginning, these are strangers and you guys all have the same exact goal and that’s to get a million dollars. So what’s so hard is trying to befriend people who you later have to stab in the back or forming these alliances and then as soon as that person walks off in your alliance, you think that they’re talking about you. You get schizophrenic. You get paranoid. The hardest part about the game is being paranoid and just reaching the million dollars. The million dollars is within reach and it’s all about knocking these ducks down, which are the castaways. It’s just all about knocking them down and getting to it, but you don’t really see the entire obstacle you’ve got to go through to knock all of these people down and go to it. The hardest part of it is the game. You guys don’t see the blood and the sweat and the tears. They don’t zoom in on scars and real-life tears. They don’t zoom in on how hard your heart is beating. We’re scared. We’re always scared. We’re always nervous, because we all have the exact same goal. So ultimately, the hardest part of the game is just getting to the million dollars. You’ve gotta outplay, outwit and outlast for 39 days and it seems like a year. It doesn’t seem like 39 days. It seems like eternity. One day can feel like an entire week.
HitFix: Watching that Tribal Council, the reactions from the members of the jury to your decision, it was like nothing I’ve ever seen on the show before. People were swearing. They were crying. They looked genuinely enraged. What was the reaction to you guys when you got to Ponderosa?
Kelly: When we showed up at Ponderosa, we really just had no idea what to expect. I know I can speak for myself and I think I can speak for NaOnka too, but we were nervous. I didn’t know what to think or what they were going to think. We showed up and Marty and Brenda greeted us with warm chocolate chip cookies. Alina was not there to greet us. Right now, I can’t blame her, but I appreciate Brenda and Marty for that. I’m not going to say for their “support,” because I know that they wanted to be back in that game and they were not happy with us, but their willingness to listen to NaOnka and me talk and just being there for us, that meant a lot to me. But unfortunately, Alina was nowhere to be seen. I don’t know if it was the next day or two days before she’d even say anything to us.
NaOnka: It was definitely two days.
Kelly: It was kinda ugly.
HitFix: Following up on that… Kelly, in your exit speech, you apologized to the people on the Jury and acknowledged their right to be angry. NaOnka, you did not. You said you weren’t going to apologize. Do you understand their position better now? Or do you still feel the same way?
NaOnka: I still don’t care about how they felt, because it’s a game and if you’re on the Jury, you’re on the Jury for a reason. I didn’t know Alina was crying, because I wasn’t paying too much attention to the people on the Jury. Like, “You’re there. You put yourself there. Just like how I am. Man up. It’s done.” But Alina crying when I washed up? Oh my God. Are you serious? For real? Are you serious? She was a one-woman army. What can you do? I was like, “You’re there for a reason. You’re obviously the first one on the Jury for a reason.” So her tears meant nothing and they still mean nothing to me. Marty? Marty was just a playing in the game and it sucks to be voted out, especially to go out how he went out, but to me he was just somebody who got on the Jury and he deserved it. Brenda was the one I was really worried about, because I threw her under the bus. She was the person who I was really concerned about, what would her reaction be? It was like, “I could have given you the Idol the night before, but I kept it and gave it to Chase *and* quit.” So that was like a double-whammy for Brenda and I was like, “Oh my God. How is this gonna be? I bet she’s gonna hit me with a ton of questions.” And my reaction would still be, “You know? I just don’t regret it. I’m glad I did what I did and I’m content with it.” And Brenda’s very strong-minded. She was just like, “OK. It doesn’t make sense to me, but that is your opinion, but you’re so close to the end.” So being at Ponderosa was refreshing. I was excited to me there. I was ready to just enjoy it and take it all in. I was just ready for it.
As far as I was concerned, they weren’t going to get *any* apologies for me and they never *will* get any apologies, because you were voted out *before* Kelly and I left. You were voted out. So don’t be mad at me because I left the game. That was my choice. You didn’t have a choice. You were voted off.
HitFix: My last question: The two of you got VERY different edits this season. NaOnka, you were pretty much the season’s villain, start to finish. But you, Kelly, you went whole episodes without appearing on screen at all. What was your reaction to the way you ended up being portrayed? And is there anything you’d like to tell me now about your “Survivor” experience that you wish had been represented on the show?
Kelly: I think that for the time I spent out there and what I went through that I maybe got two minutes of airtime, total, in the whole 28 days and that is *so* upsetting. That’s ridiculous. You know, up until Day 28, I went through everything everyone else did and really just baffles me. Now people say, “Oh they must have edited you like that because you walked away from the game,” but at the same time you look at NaOnka, who got more airtime than anybody and she did the same thing. It’s just really frustrating to me.
What I do want people to know is that I was there. I may have vanished and they may only show a couple moments of me — and they’re all Blonde Moments that they chose to show — but I am an intelligent woman. I can carry on intelligent conversations. And I’m so sad that they chose to show what they did. For what I went through, for the pain and for the stress — and that’s an understatement — that’s just sickening to me.
NaOnka: The edit to me was hilarious. It was funny and it was gold to me. That is not how I am in real life. But that’s what you get. If you put a million dollars in front of me, I will act a fool to get it. I think it was a fair edit, because I did all of that crazy stuff. I was actually a villain. I really was a villain, though my intentions weren’t to come off that way. I was just doing some crazy things, which I think is really funny. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry if people are against me liking it, but I loved it. I thought it was funny.
What I wish that they would have shown was not just me being mean and looking like I don’t want to be there and I hate it and I’m just not happy. I laughed a whole bunch of times and cracked a whole bunch of jokes. Purple Kelly, me and her were making faces at each other even when we were on opposite teams. I had to a blast and I wish they had shown all of the positives I had. I had more positives than I had negatives. When you break me down, I am so sensitive. I’m very very sensitive, I’m outspoken. And on Day One, when my interviews first started, I said that I would lie, I would cheat and I would steal. I said, “I could be a star or I can be a rainbow” and I think I gave everybody exactly what I said. I played hard and I played with my heart. Yes, I played with emotions, but it’s because I’m broke and I need the million dollars! And who isn’t gonna do what they need to do to get a million dollars? So that’s exactly how I feel about it. But I wish they would have shown me really enjoying the experience and laughing. It wasn’t all about strategizing and stealing and being a villain. It wasn’t all about that. I love everybody and to this day, we all get along. I just wish they would have showed more of my laughter than just me fighting to get the million. There is a different side to me.