Interview: Nadiya Anderson talks ‘Survivor: San Juan del Sur’

Following two losses to open the “Survivor: San Juan del Sur” season, the Coyopa tribe was faced with voting out its first member.

Would they boot former MLB closer John Rocker, who the show charitably has been referring to as “controversial”? 

Not a chance. John Rocker proved himself a force in the season-opening Immunity challenge, plus only Wes has figured out who he is and Wes is star-struck.

Would they boot Dale, the season's oldest contestant at 55?

Not a chance. Dale made fire by splitting his glasses in two and that sort of effort apparently had to be rewarded.

But Dale had his own opinions on who should go home first and Dale suggested Nadiya Anderson, who achieved notoriety of her own during two appearances with twin sister Natalie on “The Amazing Race.” See, Dale is a big “Amazing Race” fan and he had opinions based on Nadiya's gameplay on that other CBS show and even though nobody else seemed to remember anything about The Twinnies and their two Races around the world — one a reasonably successful fourth place finish, but more recently a swift opening Leg elimination — that was enough to turn the votes against her. 

Nadiya didn't exactly help her cause. Attempting to mobilize Josh to her All-Girl Alliance, she took him for granted and effectively told him that she was taking his presence in the alliance for granted due to his sexuality. That, however, didn't exactly explain why Josh ended up voting for Baylor at Tribal Council or why Baylor ended up turning on Nadiya.

In the first of this “Survivor” season's exit interviews, Nadiya tries to clarify her position on Josh's place in her alliance, but remains confused at why the votes ended up going against her. She also seems disappointed she didn't know who John Rocker was and wasn't able to make an ally of him. And, as you'd expect from Nadiya, she calls a lot of people idiots and fools, which she clearly means with love, or at least amusement.

Click through for the full interview…

HitFix: OK. The final vote we saw on Wednesday. How much had you actually known already in terms of who voted against you and how the votes played out? 

Nadiya Anderson: I didn't know what was going on! Even yesterday I was actually surprised watching it. I had no idea that Josh voted for Baylor. I thought he voted for me. I've been obviously in touch with these fools since then and I still didn't know. [She laughs.]

HitFix: So talk a bit about what you were able to learn last night and what that allowed you to understand about what sent you home…

Nadiya Anderson: Yeah, I had no idea. They had sent me home, but I had no idea that Josh felt some type of way about being grouped in with the girls. To me he came off like a girlfriend. To me, he was a girlfriend at the camp, somebody I could talk to, be real with, more than any of the others. And I know he felt a better connection with the girls than the guys and I felt like we had his back more in the girls. Like I feel like he had to work harder to be in with the bros than with the girls, because the girls accepted him with open arms into our group. So I didn't know he felt that certain type of way about it. And then I also didn't know that these mofos were scheming against me because of “Amazing Race.”

HitFix: And what did you make of Baylor's vote?

Nadiya Anderson: I mean, what can I make out of Baylor's vote? I don't think she can make out anything out of her vote either. It she doesn't know why she's voting for me, how the hell am I supposed to know to know why she's voting for me? She just is any which way the wind blows. So I can't decipher what's going on in Baylor's head!

HitFix: OK, so let's talk about Josh. I understand why you would have felt like he was with the girls out there. But do you feel like you made a mistake in *telling* him you assumed that in the way that you did?

Nadiya Anderson: Yeah, obviously hindsight is 20/20. If I knew that he would feel so strongly about it and that I would be edited to say it all over and over again like a freak, I probably wouldn't have said it, but in the moment, I didn't really think it was that big of a deal and I didn't think it was offensive and I didn't mean it that type of way. So it wasn't a big deal to me. It was a numbers game. We needed him for that all-girl alliance, so I was just trying to emphasize that. Like, “Alright, like it's Girls vs Boys, Josh. And you are the only person that can go either way.” If you think about it, no straight guy can go either way in terms of working with the girls and feeling a part of our group and then working with all the guys and feeling a part of that. I would have never called it an “All-Girl Alliance” if it was all the girls and one of the straight guys. The only way it worked was because Josh is gay and that's what I was trying to hone in on, just grouping him with us as much as I could so he would feel more a part of our group than the guys.

HitFix: In retrospect, again, hindsight being 20/20, how would you put that now that would be different from the way you put it out there?

Nadiya Anderson: Yeah, I would have just been like, “The Gays and the Girls!” instead of “All-Girls!”

HitFix: Do you think it was as simple as that, that he got annoyed by what you said and that's why he voted the way he voted? Or do you think it's more complicated than that?

Nadiya Anderson: Oh, it's more complicated. Josh is too smart of a player to just vote based on those silly emotions, which is one of the reasons I wanted to work with Josh, because he was the only one in my entire tribe I felt like I could talk about strategy and talk about stuff with. So I know he didn't base his vote just on that stupid s***. And, in the end, he ended up not voting for me anyways. So I don't know what the hell is going on, regardless.

HitFix: Out there, it felt like your “Amazing Race” experience was brought up an awful lot. You guys brought it up. Jeff brought it up. Dale brought it up. Were you surprised? And how much would you personally have wanted for that to come up?

Nadiya Anderson: Oh, I wanted it to come up zero times. Like you said, Jeff brought it up first. If you watch any of our pre-interviews, me and Natalie keep saying, “We don't want to talk about 'Amazing Race.'” We wanted to stay low-key, because as soon as we realized that everybody else that was in this cast with us was not returning players from anything… Like if there had been some “Amazing People,” some “Big Brother” people then it would have been fine, but us being the only people that have been on a show? And then we've been on twice? And we have this huge team vibe going on. It's not like, “Oh, we won 'Amazing Race' and we're long-lost best friends.” Me and Natalie are twin sisters. That's a huge deal. It wasn't our intention to talk about it, but then Jeff introduced us on Day One and he was like, “OK. So you girls were from 'Amazing Race.' Why don't you size up your competition based on your experience on 'The Amazing Race'…” And that's the only reason I expressed that with “Amazing Race” in it. I didn't just blab out like, “Hey, I was on 'Amazing Race'…”

HitFix: And then Dale brought it up as well…

Nadiya Anderson: My God! Dale is a super-fan. He's obsessed with “Amazing Race.” He tried to be on “Amazing Race.” He's totally a junkie. He knew everything about it and he's the one who kinda poisoned everybody against me. Evil Dale!

HitFix: Did you have any idea that that would be a possibility as you were having that conversation with him?

Nadiya Anderson: I tried to avoid it. I tried to just keep talking about how I got eliminated first so that people would feel sorry for me. But that didn't work. And then I got complacent in the fact that I was a stronger player than most of my tribe. I was a good asset to have, so I was complacent in that and I figured since we were on a losing streak that they would not vote me off, so I kinda put it in the background and I was like, “I'll worry about this 'Amazing Race' garbage down the road when it's more of a threat,” but I figured while I had people like Baylor and Jaclyn sitting next to me and even stupid Dale, then why would you get rid of me?

HitFix: It seemed funny to me, because as you say, it's not like you guys won “The Amazing Race.” You were the first team out last season. [“Yeah!” she agrees.] So what did you make of the fact that that experience somehow made you a threat out there?

Nadiya Anderson: Yeah, the first time we did go far, but I think my tribe was just evidently very insecure and felt really scared about their own skills in “Survivor,” so they were like, “Oh, hell no. Let's get rid of this bitch.” They were projecting their feelings onto me. So it really didn't have much to do with the fact that I was whatever. It was the fact that Coyopa is stupid. Look at our tribe! It's like one big idiot after the other. They have no hope.

HitFix: Given that, normally when you get to the first elimination on “Survivor,” there's somebody who's obviously weak or obviously causing trouble or obviously annoying. Did you sense that there wasn't really that person on your tribe and did that worry you?

Nadiya Anderson: Yeah, I said that even at Tribal and somebody else said it. Like, “There's not that one person that is either being reckless or being super-lazy” and I didn't think about that and I should have probably, but a lot of the players were just sitting around like houseplants. I figured you'd get rid of a houseplant before you got rid of me.

HitFix: But you targeted Dale, who had made some friends out there with the firestarting and all of that. In retrospect, is there someone you should have targeted instead who would have been an easier out?

Nadiya Anderson: Yeah, I targeted Dale because first of all, he had probably brought all he had to the table. Making fire was probably the best and the last thing he could do for us. And then on top of that, he was the one who was most knowledgeable about “Amazing Race,” so I was like, “He needs to go ASAP, because he keeps talking about this stuff.” It was like, “Shut up, Dale!” But Baylor would have been a great person to vote out, too, first Tribal, looking back at it, because she is such a wild card. She doesn't even have any idea of what she's going to do. So I should have probably maybe honed in on some of the guys' vibes and figured that maybe she could have been on the table, maybe Baylor would have been a good one to get home.

HitFix: You and Natalie had that night together before the split off into the different tribes. What was the conversation you guys had about what your strategy was going to be as separate entities out there?

Nadiya Anderson: Our strategy was, like I said before, to try and stay away from this “Amazing Race” mumbo-jumbo, stay as far away as possible from that. And also just make it to the Merge. If both of us could make it to the Merge, people just gravitate towards me and Natalie, so it would have been really hard if we had both made it to the Merge and we had the numbers on our side, to stop us. So the plan was just dog it out until we get to the Merge and then we'll take it from there together. Me and Natalie are just physically, we can bring a lot to the table. We were just like, “Do enough that they need to keep you around. Be strong players so they want to keep you around.”

HitFix: On “Amazing Race,” we mostly saw how you guys function as a duo. As individuals, what advantages do you think you had out there over Natalie and what advantages do you think Natalie has that maybe will allow her to get further?

Nadiya Anderson: The way the tribes were broken up, I feel like Natalie got a little bit of a better hand in the tribe divide-up. And, from the start, it looks to seem like she has a much better solid alliance with people who are not as wishy-washy as on Coyopa. And also they're winning. They're 2-0 right now, so they clearly have a physically stronger tribe. Our best athlete is this 40-year-old washed up MLB player. Like, come on! What does that say about Coyopa? Not much. So obviously the odds were totally against Coyopa and then you have Dale over here, the frigging “Amazing Race” Wikipedia over here, spitting out all these facts about U-Turns and s***. It was very hard. I could have done something better, but I had a long road ahead of me regardless with my idiot tribe.

HitFix: Since you mentioned John Rocker… Did you have any clue of who he was?

Nadiya Anderson: No, I had no idea who he was. I wish I had, because I probably would have tried to align with him and try a little bit harder to work with him, because he would have been a great distraction from my “Amazing Race” stuff. If there's somebody who's a bigger presence and a bigger lunatic than I am, it's John Rocker. So it would have been perfect, actually, to align with him.

HitFix: Have you read up on him subsequently?

Nadiya Anderson: Yeah, I read up on him after. Actually, they told me… When Val got back to camp, she told me about him and stuff. But I had no idea. I don't watch baseball, obviously. I watch cricket more than baseball. But yeah, I would have liked to have worked with him if I knew his history.

HitFix: So you would have rather worked with him and eventually used him as a shield, rather than turning the target and attention to him immediately?

Nadiya Anderson: Yeah. Obviously because of his history, I would have been like, “Rocker, you need to work with me! I'm a minority, I'm a woman and I speak different languages. Hello! You need to get your stock up and work with me.”

HitFix: I would have loved to have watched that. And just as a last question: Was there any circumstance out there that you and Natalie had discussed where it was gonna be OK for one of you to write down the other's name?

Nadiya Anderson: I think me and Natalie trust each other with our decisions. So if Natalie was put in a position that she had to vote me out or vice versa, I know we wouldn't be on TV crying like, “Oh my God! My Twinnie voted me out! How dare she? Evil bitch!” I would have been upset, but I would have been confident that Natalie did it for a good reason and then I would have been over it as soon as Natalie was was like, “Twinnie, I had to do it.” And I would have been like, “That's fine. Whatever.”