Interview: Nina Poersch talks ‘Survivor: Worlds Apart’

All you need to know about the “Survivor: Worlds Apart” White/Blue/No Collar twist can be summed up in Nina Poersch's reaction to initially finding herself on the No Collar tribe.

“I thought in my head, 'Holy crap. I am on the wrong tribe,'” Nina told me in her “Survivor” exit interview. “I am not and have never considered myself to be a No Collar person. You might look at my lifestyle right now and think that, but that”s not me. That”s never been me.”

By that standard, we probably shouldn't be surprised that Nina's “Survivor” run was a brief one, with the only surprise being that she escaped one vote for her No Collar tribe. 

Not only was Nina a spiritual outlier on her tribe, but she also was quickly on the outs with what last week's bootee Vince called The Barbie Block, a young alliance featuring Jenn, Hali and Joe. Did that trio dislike Nina because she's deaf or because she wasn't free-spirited enough or because she was older? Probably a little of each.

As Nina is quick to note, she made have disclosed her deafness to her tribe, but she has cochlear implants and hears fairly well. Other than asking me to repeat a couple questions, Nina's exit interview was entirely business-as-usual over the phone, as she discussed her distance from her tribe, especially with Joe, who announced he had special understanding of her deafness, but then squeezed her out in a key challenge.

Click through for the full Q&A, minus only a little trimming of the couple repeated questions: 

HitFix: Going into that final Tribal Council were you 100 percent sure you were done or did you actually have any reason to hope that you could maybe sway people on Will?

Nina Poersch: I was pretty much 100 percent sure I was gone. And hoping that I wasn”t.

HitFix: Who did you figure you were most likely to be able to sway towards your cause to keep you around?

Nina Poersch: Well I was really hoping I could convince the three young kids that Will was not a loyal player to them, that he really was suffering and couldn”t do challenges. He was. He was physically exhausted. He struggled in those last two challenges, that was my talk with them of they really should get rid of Will and keep me around because I am a loyal person. In the beginning days I told Joe, I said, “You know if you want someone in your alliance that”s gonna be loyal to you, I”m the person. I will be loyal.” But that”s not the way it went.

HitFix: How big realistically do you feel like the gap was between you and Will in terms of strength and usefulness around camp?

Nina Poersch: Well it was big. I did a lot of work around camp. I mean you don”t see it on TV but I did a lot of work around camp and I was out collecting firewood all the time. In the beginning I was out collecting all the supplies. And I”m not saying no one else did because everybody did. Will didn”t do a lot of that and he did suffer in the last two challenges that we had. They were really exhausting for him. And I could see it and I wasn”t the only one that could see it. Vince could see it. The others could see it. They told me that they knew Will was suffering and he was having a hard time with the physicalness of the challenges. So it was a decent-size gap and I”m a physically fit person. You don”t see that on TV, but I am.

HitFix: What do you attribute, then, the bottom line reason for the vote being?

Nina Poersch: Well let me tell you. The thing that you don”t see is the first day we were out there Joe approached me and said, “Hey Nina, are you gonna be able to do these challenges?” And I said to him, “Yes, I can do the challenges. Why would you even ask me that?” And he said, “Well, you know, because you can”t hear.” And I said, “Well what does that have to do with anything?” And he”s like, “Well what about if we have a calling challenge? You”re not going to be able to hear us.” And I”m like, “Joe, if we have a calling challenge I”ll be the caller. Don”t blindfold me.” And he”s like, “But what if we”re doing challenges and we”re yelling out at you and you can”t hear us?” And I said, “Joe, it won”t be a problem. It”ll be fine. I can do the challenges. There”s no doubt in my mind.” So right in those first couple of days I knew that I was being singled out because of the fact that I was deaf. And then I had Vince telling me pretty consistently that the girls were making fun of me behind my back, they were wanting to all vote me out because I can”t hear. And hearing that just reinforced my idea that Joe wanted me out because I couldn”t hear.

HitFix: Well Joe made the big deal last night about how he had a particular understanding because of his mother and all of that. Where is the gap between what he said about his own background and the way he actually treated you out there?

Nina Poersch: Well the comment that Joe made in a conversation we had did not surprise me at all. I don”t know if you can see it in my face but I wasn”t believing what he said. The thing of it is is that with Joe”s background and the fact that his mom works with deaf people, he knows the struggle that deaf people have in the hearing world. So he knew right off the bat that I was gonna have those struggles. Now he may have been understanding and all of that, but on “Survivor” you”re out there to win challenges and you”re out there to win the game. And him knowing the struggles that a deaf person is gonna have yeah, he may understand that. He understands it to the point of “I know you”re gonna struggle so I need to get rid of you.”

HitFix: Does that make his behavior to some degree more frustrating to you than Jenn and Hali?

Nina Poersch: Well yes, it was very, very frustrating because I don”t look at myself as deaf. I have cochlear implants. I can hear. I don”t hear as well as a hearing person hears but I still can. And so it was really frustrating that I wasn”t given the chance or that, you know, maybe my tribe mates when I told them, “I just need for you to look at me when you talk so I can read your lips a little bit.” And they weren”t doing that and that”s fine. I mean I know it”s a game. I knew going into it that it was gonna be hard. But in the same sense I”m human and it is frustrating.

HitFix: But I mean specifically did you feel differently about Joe because he should have understood as opposed to Jenn and Hali who just might not have had any experiences because of how young they are.

Nina Poersch: Well I don”t know that I really did. While I was out there it was tough because Vince was telling me all these things. They were making snarky comments. They didn”t like me because I was deaf and all these things. And he was directing that more towards the girls. So it was hard and I couldn”t see the fact that they were young and they just didn”t understand what it”s like to be around someone who”s deaf. I don”t know. I mean I honestly have to say it was equal in the way that I felt about all three of them. And just the fact that they prejudged me because of my hearing. And I don”t know, Joe could have even told them, “Hey look, my mom works with deaf people. They struggle. She”s gonna struggle.” So I don”t know what he told them.

HitFix: When you got to the beach in the first place and you saw the tribal division, the No Collar, Blue Collar, White Colllar. What was your reaction to that as a twist and to where you found yourself?

Nina Poersch: Well I”ll tell you exactly what went through my mind when I first landed on that mat and Jeff told us. I thought in my head, “Holy crap. I am on the wrong tribe.” I am not and have never considered myself to be a No Collar person. You might look at my lifestyle right now and think that, but that”s not me. That”s never been me. I”ve always been more White Collar, held management positions, had people who worked under me, worked with budgets, worked with councilmen, worked with mayors to get projects done in the community. I”ve always been a White Collar person. I”m not a No Collar person. So when I landed on the mat I was really, really concerned about how I was gonna spin it and blend in with them. And had there not been such a huge age difference between me and the rest of the tribe it might have been a little bit easier, but they did look at me as the older person and then the older person and having the fact that I was deaf on top of it, you know. It was kind of a double whammy.

HitFix: Did you feel as if there was any sort of No Collar level on which you were, I guess, relating to these people personality-wise or were you really totally just on the wrong tribe out there?

Nina Poersch: Well no, I do have a No Collar personality in me. I do fly by the seat of my pants a lot. I can be free spirited a lot of kind of maybe 50-50. I love to have fun. I would have loved to have gone surfing. I would not have gone skinny dipping but, I would have loved to have been invited. I would love to have been involved in all of their conversations and had fought and joked and not appear to be so rigid. But, you know, again it was just really tough. It was a tough thing.

HitFix: You had that conversation with Will that we saw where you told him that Vince was concerned about his health. Did you realize at the time that that might have been a mistake, a misreading of Will?

Nina Poersch: No, I did not realize that. The conversation Will and I had was a really long conversation and you really only saw a small part of it. And I was really concerned about Will, and me talking to him about it was more on a caring-and-friendship level because he was struggling out there physically and he was talking about how he was exhausted after the challenge and all of that. And it was just my way of warning him, “Will pull back a little bit. Don”t appear to be so exhausted and tired. If you can, just cover that up. You need to appear to be strong.” And the reason I talked to Will about it is I honestly felt like he was part of my alliance and I didn”t want to lose him. I knew if he got voted out that I was gonna be gone. I knew if Vince got voted out I was probably going to be gone too because that just crumbled our three person alliance that we had. And it really was just out of the concern that I had the conversation with him.

HitFix: And did you realize when he flipped that you might have pushed him or did it only just appear that way on TV?

Nina Poersch: When I talked to him I did realize that maybe I should not have said those exact words. But we continued to talk about it even after what you saw the conversation continued. And I thought for sure I had assured him, “No, Vince doesn't wanna vote you out. We”re not voting you out. I just want you to be a strong member of our alliance and not appear or talk about being tired or talk about being exhausted. You need to put up the façade that none of this is affecting you at all and you need to put up this 'I”m a strong person' front.” So no, I mean he completely told me, “No, Nina, it”s fine. I”m voting Jenn out. I”m voting Jenn out. Don”t worry about it. That”s what we”re gonna do. We”re gonna get rid of Jenn and break up that three-person alliance they have and we”re gonna get the control.” So I was utterly shocked when he voted for Vince.

HitFix: When Joe made that call to basically squeeze you out of the challenge, what do you, in retrospect, wish that you'd done?

Nina Poersch: I”ll tell you what I would have done different, because going into that challenge he said, “This is what we”re gonna do, okay. You”re gonna do this Nina and we”re gonna do this.” And I”m like, “Okay, that doesn”t sound really good but all right, I”m gonna do it.” I already knew I was on the outs with them and I knew I needed to at least go with the plan and be a part of the tribe. So I thought, “Okay, we”ll try it.” Well after that first run and we had hardly any water in the bucket by the time they reached me I knew that this whole strategy wasn”t working. So we get back to the water well and I say to them, “Here, let me stay back and help you plug holes.” And they”re like, “No, no, just go.” So being a member of the tribe taking my instructions I went. If I did it again, I wouldn”t. I would have stayed back. I would stay back and said “I don”t care what you guys say. I”m helping you plug holes.”

HitFix: And as you left, in your last interview, you called it a life-altering eight days. Months later does it still feel like that? Do you feel like you”ve changed as a result of the eight days on “Survivor”?

Nina Poersch: It was awesome eight days. Do I feel like my life has changed? It”s so hard to say. It has in a way. It opened my eyes to the fact that even though I don”t feel like my hearing affects me and the people around me I”ve kind of come to the realization that I guess in a way it does. But even though it does it doesn”t stop me from doing the things I want to do. And there”s a lot of things that I could just not do because I can”t hear very well, you know. But being on Survivor really reiterated the fact that, you know, you can”t give up on your dreams. You can”t give up on your goals. The things that you want to do, don”t let anything that might hold you back – don”t let it hold you back. Go for it. And so I think basically that”s kind of what I learned is that yeah, that”s what you have to do. You have to go for your dreams. You have to go for your goals no matter what.

Other “Survivor: Worlds Apart” exit interviews:
Vince Sly
So Kim