Interview: Dale Wentworth talks ‘Survivor: San Juan del Sur’

Because of travel last week, I didn't get to do my “Survivor” recap until Friday and I didn't get to do my “Survivor” exit interview until Tuesday and I'm only posting it tonight, which probably means that I already need to remind people who Dale Wentworth even was.

It's not that Dale didn't do interesting things. 

Kelley's father started fire with his glasses, orchestrated Nadiya's elimination by referencing “Amazing Race” precedent, bickered with Missy about rice and made a semi-valiant attempt to save his hide with the use of a Fake Immunity Idol.

It's just that when “Survivor” moves on, it's sometimes hard to remember the people left behind. Fans are already on to being up-in-arms about this week's departed castaway and that unapologetic exit interview will be posting tomorrow.

In my conversation with Dale we chatted about his difficulties swaying his tribe to focus on somebody else instead of him, we talked about fire-making and we discussed eating too much rice on “Survivor.” Dale had a lot to say about Jeff Probst's rice deal with Hunahpu and since I'm in total agreement with him, I was happy to let him go on.

Click through for the full Q&A and stay tuned for another exit interview tomorrow…

HitFix: So are you disappointed to have gone home so close to the Merge or are you, in retrospect, kinda still amazed you survived that very first vote?

Dale Wentworth: The worst part was going home that close to the Merge, because I think if I could have made it through — either Kelley or I, I'll speak up for my daughter as well — if either one of us could have made it to the Merge, we could have joined back with some singles and we could have done some damage, because then it'd be singles against couples and we probably could have carried ourselves quite a bit farther into the game.

HitFix: Did you sense that the Merge was as close at hand as it turned out to be.

Dale Wentworth: Yeah. As super-fans, you do the numbers, you know the Jury and the only questions are “Was it going to 12 or 13?” and “Was is Final 2 or Final 3?” So that was all the talk around the campfire. “OK, one vote we're going to the Merge.” So we knew it was awful close.

HitFix: OK, you are, as you say, a super-fan. Several of the people I've talked to have talked about how a lot of the people out there were super-fans, but a lot of the people out there who really just kinda no clue what they were doing. How would you point to those two different groups out there?

Dale Wentworth: There was a lot of… How would I say it? Lighthouses without lightbulbs in 'em? [He laughs.]

HitFix: OK. Continue.

Dale Wentworth: I mean, they were just ricocheting against walls and it's tough to play against somebody without a strategy. If everybody's got a strategy, it's good to play with, because it's “Survivor” strategy, but when you're just kinda bouncing around? Prime example: Val came out and was just, “I've got two Idols. I've got two Idols. I've two Idols.” Well, Survivor 101 says: You flush Idols out. You can't those hidden. So we voted her out. John finds an Idol and the first thing he does is he goes back to the exact same people who voted Val and says, “I've got an Idol” and then he's surprised when he gets voted out. It's just one of those going, “If you're gonna tell somebody you've got an Idol, play it.” So it just baffles you. But that's the beauty of the game, I guess.

HitFix: How quickly did you realize that there were the people out there who maybe hadn't mastered Survivor 101?

Dale Wentworth: You could pick it up by talking to them, just from my tribe on Coyopa. Josh was. Wes. Alec I'm not so sure. Baylor I wasn't so sure. And John and even Val was kinda questionable as far how many they'd watched. Of course, maybe being as how I'm older, I was able to squeeze more in. Maybe they were too young to watch them all? I don't know.

HitFix: What is it like when you realize you may have more knowledge than some of the people out there? Do you want to impart your wisdom, as it were? 

Dale Wentworth: Well, in some ways, like Kelley found out with Drew, that puts a target on your back. Every conversation has gotta be guarded and you just kinda send feelers out and see how the other person's reacting to it and it's the mental game that just never goes to sleep. You can never completely let your personality come out, because somebody's always gonna be watching. One comment, one word at the wrong time and you're the next vote. And if it's right before Tribal, that's usually the person who's going home that night. That's how quickly that game can change and votes can change in it.

HitFix: I thought your deal with Jon for the Fake Idol seemed like a pretty good bluff. How close do you feel like he came to going for it?

Dale Wentworth: I think Jon might have gone for it, but obviously somebody did because they split the vote. But I think Missy and Baylor and Jaclyn, basically Baylor and Jaclyn, knew on my tribe who knew about the Idols and that sorta stuff, how many clues and who'd gotten the clues and stuff. They were just splitting the votes to be sure. I wasn't sold on it. Going into Tribal that night, I had maybe a 5 percent chance/hope that it would be working. The only thing that I thought about doing different was throwing a vote at Keith, because I knew they were gonna split the vote. They weren't gonna break up the two couples. The votes were gonna be split right between Keith and I and if I'd have thrown a vote at Keith, it would have been a tie vote and then they would have came back and voted me out. It would have made great drama for the show, but it wouldn't have changed the outcome.

HitFix: But talk to me about that. Why was Missy the target you thought you could get out? Why weren't you just turning on Keith and going “OK. It's one of the two of us singles, why not him and not me”?

Dale Wentworth: Because Keith and Missy were too tight. I actually had a conversation with Jon and Jaclyn and Keith and I go, “Look guys, I'm gonna play my Idol tonight and I'm not the one going home, so who's going next?” And we were gonna vote Missy out and Jon and Jaclyn and Keith, they all told me, “We're all gonna vote Missy out. She doesn't have an Idol.” That was the last thing we talked about before we went to Tribal. So that's why I threw the vote at Missy, just to prove with my last shot that, “I gave you my word I've was gonna vote for Missy. so here it is.”

HitFix: Why do you think Keith was more palatable or more popular or whatever it was? In both of the last two votes, I guess?

Dale Wentworth: Missy had her fingers hooked in his nose so damned tight and they had a strong alliance. And Missy and Jon and Keith were tight coming over from Hunahpu from the word go and there was nothing you could do to break it up. I spent a lot of time talking to Keith and I'd go, “You know, Keith… You or I are going home tonight. I'm gonna throw three out when I play my Idol. They're gonna throw three at you and you're going home.” And he goes, “Well, I guess you're right. Can I go fish now?” And so we went fishing. At that time I didn't know he had an Idol, but he just knew he had a strong alliance going and I can't say anything else. He's still in the game and I'm not, so he's playing a better game than I was,

HitFix: Given your differences of opinion, as it were, with Baylor, how frustrating was it when you saw how the reshuffled tribes looked initially?

Dale Wentworth: [He laughs.] I was so happy to play with Kelley maybe 30 minutes, 45 minutes, of the game and then once we sat down, I go, “Did you bring any friends over?” She goes, “Noooo.” Kelley looked at me and she goes, “Do you have any friends here?” I go, “Noooo.” [He laughs.] That was pretty much the end of us.

HitFix: She told me the same story and I asked her the same immediate follow-up question: Why was that what happened? How did you get to that circumstance at a shuffle with nobody as a potential alliance-mate?

Dale Wentworth: Well, I had alliances but unfortunately they all went onto the blue tribe with no food. Baylor and I, tried to talk to Baylor in the first three or four hours on the beach. I come up and I go, “Baylor, can we work in an alliance? How are you thinking about the game? What are you planning?” The standard “Survivor” stuff. She looked at me and she goes, “I haven't thought about any of that yet.” She goes, “I'll come talk to you when I do.” And it was basically hand-in-the-face, get-away-from me and now that I've thought about it, I think I reminded her too much of one of her mom's ex-husbands or something like that. And that's the last Baylor and I talked about strategy for 15 days.

HitFix: Do you get the feeling Baylor was talking strategy with anyone? Or was she just floating along out there?

Dale Wentworth: She's talking strategy with Josh. I knew Josh and Baylor were close. She was working with Alec and Wes. She automatically bonded with the two single young guys on the tribe, so I knew she was working that angle. She was also the instigator behind all the votes against me at the tribe swap at the first Tribal. She got all the girls to vote for me and then she swapped back to the guys to put a target on the girls' back and take her out of the spotlight, which surprised me when Jaclyn decided to go with her, because her and Baylor didn't get along. So I dunno, there's a lot of confusing stuff, but that's the beauty of “Survivor.” It's about confusion and deception.

HitFix: How frustrating was it to have to rely on Jon & Jaclyn as the power couple out there?

Dale Wentworth: Well, it's one of those things when your back's against the wall, you make deals wherever you can. And like I mentioned at the Tribal, the toughest thing in the world was after watching the people who voted Kelley out on Father's Day, I had to go back the next day and shake their hands and pat 'em on the back and see if they weren't gonna do the same thing to me. You know? You work with the hand you're dealt. It's not fun, but if you want to stay in the game, you have to do it.

HitFix: For somebody who was on the tribe conserving rice both pre and post Shuffle, what did you make of seeing the Hunahpu rice deal with Jeff Probst?

Dale Wentworth: You know, the first time I ever got wind of that was when I watched it on TV, when I saw the show last week. Coyopa was never aware of that deal until I actually saw it and it's a good thing I didn't know about it at the time, because I would have been steaming for the last three or four months. But it's been burning me up for a week, because I don't know if I'm on “Survivor” or “Let's Make a Deal,” because you aren't support to do that. You're supposed to conserve your rice. I felt sorry for the guys who went over to Hunahpu with the short rice, but if I'd know complaining was gonna do on the Tribe Swap, Kelley and I would have been shouting at the top of our lungs saying, “We don't like our alliance! Put me over there with no food and send one of those idiots over here. I will go without food for three days if it keeps me in the game.”

HitFix: Under the circumstances if there any deal that you feel like Probst could have made with them that would have been fair?

Dale Wentworth: Yeah. “You aren't getting food for three days, ya dumb…” [He laughs.] Because Probst knew going into that… I mean, Wayne Brady on “Let's Make a Deal” couldn't have gave them a better deal than what he did, because there was a food challenge coming up the next day. If Hunahpu won, which they did, they would have gotten a barbecue. So the most they would have done is 24 hours without rice. Then that would have done them for another 24 hours. Then there's a Tribe Merge coming up, which is a feast. So they would never have done without food. I would have walked up and said, “Tough!” and walked away, taken their shelter and their rice and said “No.” It's happened before and with a lot stronger punishment. I think it was in “Survivor: Outback,” where they lost their rice due to a flash flood, not due to overeating. It was a flash flood and he still took their shelter from them. Yeah, for the future guys? Eat all you want, cuz Probst can't tell you “No” now. He's lost his credibility, in my opinion. I'm sorry. I'm a little bit mad about that.

HitFix: No, no, no. I said the exact same thing in my recap, that there's absolutely no reason to go on next season and not just eat as much rice as you want to.

Dale Wentworth: Nope. The worse you're gonna do is be fat, happy and sassy and you're gonna go 24 hours without food. When the show started, we didn't get a flint and if you don't have a flint, you don't have water and you don't have food. And they will not give you a flint for the first three days till your first Tribal Council or you win your first tribal challenge, which means if I had not have started a fire with glasses, they were willing to let us starve for three days with no food or water. Well, how about letting Hunahpu starve for three days without?

HitFix: I'm right there with you, man. So speaking of the glasses, how bad is your actual eyesight and did the loss of your glasses hamper you at all out there?

Dale Wentworth: They're just reading glasses. They're just cheaters. I have a prescription for just reader-glasses and that's really the only reason I took glasses on the show, just because it's not the first time it's been done. I think in “Survivor 1,” one of the people started… I can't remember the name… And the latest one was… Jane? The dog-trainer lady from “Nicaragua”? She started the fire with Marty's glasses. It's been done before. It's a quick-and-easy way. I've started fires all my life with magnifying glasses or something. So it was quick-and-easy, but if you have cloudy skies, you're kinda messed up.

HitFix: As a last question: Kelley told me that if the circumstances were right, she was prepared to write your name down out there, if she needed to. Could you have written her name down?

Dale Wentworth: You know, we talked about that beforehand. Before the game, you always say you can because you know it's a game. Kelley and I talked about it, there's only one winner. In the game, it would have been extremely tough to do, but I think I could have done it, because I know Kelley, at the end of the day it would have been OK. It's in the spirit of the game. It's 39 days and it's just 39 days of your life. I could have done it. 

Other “Survivor: San Juan Del Sur” exit interviews:
Kelley Wentworth
Drew Christy
John Rocker
Val Collins
Nadiya Anderson