Interview: Keith Nale talks ‘Survivor: San Juan del Sur’

Last night, I posted my interview with the “Survivor: San Juan del Sur” fifth place finisher, Baylor Wilson, who admitted that even though she voted for her mother at Final Tribal, she'd vote for Natalie now if she had the chance.

One Jury member who voted for Natalie, but who was a question-mark in my early guesses, was Keith Nale, a 53-year-old firefighter from Louisiana. Keith, who became something of an Immunity machine post-Merge, protecting himself from several possible vote-outs, knew that Natalie had spared him at at least one Tribal, but he also arrived at Final Tribal with some frustration at the remaining Twinie, accusing her of lying to him.

In the end, Keith explains that he just thought Natalie was more deserving than the other two finalists, which is a pretty legitimate reason to cast a vote, I suppose.

A fan favorite for his “Awww shucks” approach to the game, Keith also made one of the more glaring gaffes this season when he outed his secret alliance by telling a badgering Reed “Just stick to the plan” mid-Tribal.

In our exit interview, Keith talks about the “Just stick to the plan” moment, as well as his surprise at becoming such a challenge threat. It sounds like Keith, who wasn't a big “Survivor” fan coming is, has become a fan, but don't worry, he'll never become the sort of strategic threat Jeremy wanted him to be.

Check out the full Q&A below…

HitFix: At the Final Tribal Council you had some annoyance with Natalie but you still voted for her anyway. Did her answer to your question make any difference or was she always gonna get your vote?

Keith Nale: Yeah, When I found out I didn”t make the Final Three it was pretty much Nat. The other two, Nat was a player now, don”t get me wrong, but the other two I didn”t think were near as deserving as Natalie.

HitFix: Well talk a bit about sort of what you respected about Natalie”s game and what made you sort of be able to get over the hurt feelings I guess that you had.

Keith Nale: Yeah, that”s a hard pill to swallow No.4. Golly. I don”t know what to tell you about that. You can win 11 challenges in a row, but it”s the last one that counts. It”s the biggie and I knew I was kind of doomed with four women over there. I got past one of them. I got past Baylor but the other three, they were pretty solid. But I thought I had them. I did my best talking, you know. You talk to Jaclyn and I said, “We got this,” but I think they finally wised up and said, “Man, if we bring Keith over here there”s seven guys over on that jury,” or however many there was,” Keith will win this thing”… and sure enough. But, you know, you win some, you lose some Dan.

HitFix: Well okay, that straw poll that Jeff did on last night”s episode. How much did you hate to watch that?

Keith Nale: Yeah. I knew it was coming. I knew it was coming and sure enough I think it went down 4-3-1 or something like that and I said, “Kiss my butt.” Yeah, it definitely… Hey, I don”t know but I don”t know what else I could have done. I mean I”m not the super-fan, super-player, you know. I looked over there at the Jury and I said, “Good players, look where they”re at. Josh boom gone. Jeremy gone. Reed gone.” I said “I”ve got to be doing something right.” So I”m kind of thinking right along them lines.

HitFix: Had you begun to think of what you were going to say to that Jury if you had been at the Final Jury?

Keith Nale: Oh God no. You know you”re the first one to ask me that. I hadn”t. Maybe I would have dogged my way through that like I had the whole game. I don”t know. Pop up some one-liners or something and say, “Hey, guys, I hated this happened and, you know, vote for me.” But I still, if it would have been like me, Natalie, Jaclyn – I don”t know. I thought it would have been a push between me and Natalie. She was that sharp of a player. A real gamer so, but I don”t know.

HitFix: OK, let”s pretend that it”s you, Natalie and anyone else. It doesn”t even matter at the Final Jury and I”m a Jury member and I say to you, “Okay, so Keith tell me why you deserve the million dollars over Natalie.” What would you have told me? What would you tell me now?

Keith Nale: Well golly Dan, that”s a tough one. I”d have to think up something because I wasn”t the best all-around player, I don”t think. I would have said, “Listen guys, I work hard, you know, I”ve won a few challenges. I did this all without an alliance, a real solid alliance. I didn”t lie every other sentence like some of them did.” I was telling somebody earlier I didn”t even know their names and we went to Exile the first thing and the first thing Val said to me was a lie. And I said, “Look at this. I mean we”re two minutes into this game and I”ve got my first lie.” So I kind of took it from there and tried to stay under the radar, work hard, win a few challenges guys and here I am. I think I had Wesley and I think I had Alec. It was bringing Reed and Josh over. I think Jeremy would have voted for Nat so… It”s a crazy game Dan.

HitFix: Talk a bit about sort of those Immunity wins that you got out there. Were you surprised at how well you did in those challenges?

Keith Nale: I was. I was. You can”t practice for this kind of stuff. I can”t hang on a pole in my backyard for four hours. Looking back at that one I should have stepped down and ate the chicken wings with Wesley, knowing Reed was gonna hang up there for three and a half hours or however long. I couldn”t do that. My feet were turning blue. So looking back… And the ones with the balls, that”s what all them gals, that was the big joke, “Oh Keith”s good with balls.” Because every game I won included some kind of balls. It was a great – there”s a laugh. I knew they were gonna throw a puzzle at me and I just couldn”t get that puzzle. I was getting frustrated up there and Jaclyn had already went down. Nat had went down. I said, “I”m doomed.” Like I say 11 in a row and then you miss the big one.

HitFix: Talk about those wins you had, obviously you needed a couple of them just to survive at all but were you sort of realizing that you were actually becoming a threat out there?

Keith Nale: Well I won the first one and lo and behold Julie ends up and quits. So I don”t even get to use the first one. That was like, “Keith didn”t win this, everybody won this one. Julie quit.” So that one was kinda for naught right there. And but maybe right in there around, you know, Josh is gone, Jeremy”s gone. I”m saying, “Hey, that”s two big dogs right there. Maybe I”ve got a chance.” Then Reed and then that famous “Stick to the plan” deal. That”s the one that sent Wesley home and I kind of struggled with that for about ten minutes and had to get back in the game. But I kind of saw it after Jon left I said, “Oh my Lord, I”m here with four women. How in the world did this happen?” I really didn”t look into the future, I was kind of playing it by every Tribal, you know, “Make it one more.”

HitFix: Okay well let”s talk at least a little bit about the “Stick to the plan” Tribal council. I talked to the other people who were in your alliance at that point and each one of them said the minute those words came out of your mouth they immediately knew they were in trouble. Did you realize as soon as you said it?

Keith Nale: I didn”t. Reed was hammering on me so bad and in Louisiana you just don”t sit around and say “Hey, you know, let somebody hammer like…” I know it was the plan. I knew it was the plan but he was hammering on me so bad that I just wanted to say, “Shut up Reed and let”s just stick to the plan,” which I blurted it out and they all looked at me like, “What in the world did you just say? Now everybody knows there is a plan.” And I wasn”t for sure Jon was gonna play his Idol anyway. So when he played his I said, “Oh Lord, I”ve got to play mine.” And it went downhill from there.

HitFix: Well as you say and Reed told me this as well, he made it clear that he was gonna come after you a little bit. Was there a sort of a breaking point at which he went to that one step too far and you had to respond?

Keith Nale: [He laughs for a while.] I don”t remember his exact words. I just remember him hammering on me pretty good and I”m thinking, “Is he gonna quit it?” You get to thinking, “Well maybe they are coming after me” and I want to say, “Shut up Reed.” Which I did. I didn”t want them coming after me. I knew I had an Idol. That really hurt Wesley and our little, you know, me, Alec, Wesley and Reed. It went down. They were picking us off like flies after that.

HitFix: As you say you had that Idol and your first instinct with the      was to offer it to Wes. How would you have felt if Wes had taken the Idol and you had gone home in that way at that time?

Keith Nale: Well the perfect scenario would have been I guess give it to Wes and just sit there and take my beating. I would have went home but Wesley would have still had an Idol. That was one scenario. And then the other one was me go up there and play it for Wes. But that means we use the Idol and I still go home. So I asked him right there real quick you”ve got about five seconds to make this decision. I said, “Wesley I can tell them to let it work for you.” He said, “No, you want it, you got it.” But I”m thinking, you know, he can run faster, he can jump higher. But looking back now, I don”t know if Wesley would have made it as far as me with the gals and Jon. So he was slick with it. When he said, “No, you do it.” I did. I”m telling you I struggled with that. I said, “You just don”t like to send your boy home.” I struggled with that and I was just kidding, you know, struggled with it for about three minutes, and I had to get over it real quick.

HitFix: Do you and Wes make jokes about that now at all?

Keith Nale: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. People are making me stickers at the fire station, you know. I can”t say anything now. I”m a captain and I”m supposed to be kind of halfway in charge. I say, “Alright guys, let”s get together and go out there and wash the fire truck.” And they”ll say, “Hey, we”re sticking to the plan,” you know. Or anything. “Let”s go mow the yard out there” and they say, “Hey, we”re sticking to the plan. We don”t do that till twelve o”clock.” So it”s a pretty big deal around the station anyway me sticking to the plan.

HitFix: Is there anything else that they make fun of you about from watching on TV?

Keith Nale: They throw in some of the spitting comments. I didn”t realize I did that that much. I don”t know if they had to go through 100 hours of footage to get me spitting so much but there was no tobacco, It wasn”t like I was chewing tobacco out there. I was just maybe clearing my throat or something. That”s funny.

HitFix: Okay, you still did finish fourth on “Survivor” which is pretty damn good. What impressed them about you? The people in the firehouse, what were they impressed by and what did they not think Keith possibly could have done that you did out there?

Keith Nale: They were impressed, being I was 53. Now granted that”s not 93, but that”s not 23 either. And I said man, they were impressed with some of the challenges. They said, “Man I couldn”t have hung on that pole for an hour and a half.” They were all behind me, a great bunch of guys. They wanted me to win it and, you know, bring it home to Louisiana. But that just didn”t happen. But hey, I”ve got a bunch of texts last night and they did. They said, “Fourth place was great,” but you”re so close you can see it, you know what I mean. I want to say, “Well heck, I”d rather come in tenth than fourth or I”d rather come in fifteenth than fourth,” but not really. You just feel like that at the moment.

HitFix: You mentioned earlier that you weren”t a super-fan. How much sort of “Survivor” experience did you actually have coming into the game?

Keith Nale: Well, you know, if I”d walk in from outside and Dana and Wesley were watching it I”d sit down and watch it with them. But I wasn”t there every Wednesday at seven o”clock. And I didn”t have, you know, I knew about alliances, I knew about challenges but I was kind of going in blind. They threw this on us quick and I said, “Man, I”ve got to get my ducks in a row real quick and start watching some episodes or something, you know, something I missed through the years.” But it was fun. You never have an experience like that again. I”m just telling you it”s crazy, crazy, crazy.

HitFix: Having had that experience and now knowing the game are you ready to go back out there? Do you think you”d be a different player if you were sent back out to do “Survivor” again?

Keith Nale: I think I would. People were asking that. I don”t know if I”d go next week, you know. Give me a year or something to put on some weight and get in the gym or something. But yeah, I think I would, but looking back I said, why not be the leader of the pack? The leader of the pack is sitting over there on the Jury. Kind of get you a couple of friends and let”s see if we can”t take this to the end. Which I didn”t do. I had a few of them in there like, you know, I knew I could count on Wesley till he had to go to the house. But I don”t know if I”d do a whole lot different. You”ve kind of got to stay under the radar. The super-fans are sitting over there on the jury. So that”s the way I kind of looked at it.

HitFix: Well do you think you ever could be the kind of strategist that Jeremy likes and respects or is that never gonna be you in a game of Survivor?

Keith Nale: Heck no. Uh uh. I can”t sit down and say, “Okay…” Bo I”m a by-the-moment type guy, you know. Like let”s do this and worry about the rest later. No I”m not a strategist by no means.

Other “Survivor: San Juan Del Sur” exit interviews:
Baylor Wilson
Jon Misch
Alec Christy
Reed Kelly
Wes Nale
Jeremy Collins
Josh Canfield
Julie McGee
Dale Wentworth
Kelley Wentworth
Drew Christy
John Rocker
Val Collins
Nadiya Anderson