Interview: Wes Nale talks ‘Survivor: San Juan del Sur’ and Thanksgiving overeating

In a Thanksgiving Eve episode of “Survivor,” 23-year-old Shreveport firefighter Wes Nale was voted out after primary target Jon used an Immunity Idol. The remaining votes would have been split between Wes and his father, Keith, but Keith opted to play an Idol of his own, rather than using it to protect his sone.

It was appropriate for Wes to go home around Thanksgiving, in an episode in which he gave up a shot at Immunity in exchange for hot wings and beer, because so much of his game persona was edited around eating to excess. When he wasn't boasting about his chicken nugget-eating prowess, Wes was overeating at a Reward and then graphically regretting that decision.

Wes' “Survivor” depiction was so one-sided that it was almost surprising that his exit interview, delayed till the Monday after the holiday, had to be pushed back because he was actually on-duty at his firehouse. 

While waiting to be called out to a fire, Wes talked about expecting Keith to use the Idol on him, whether or not he made a mistake in not talking with Jaclyn and the challenge of playing “Survivor” with a life-long authority figure. 

And yes, I asked him about his Thanksgiving eating.

And no, he didn't disappoint.

Click through for the full Q&A…

HitFix: So you”re actually on active duty right now at the firehouse?

Wes Nale: Yes sir.

HitFix: Okay. Has it been a busy morning or a quiet morning?

Wes Nale: Oh it”s been real quiet. I ain”t done nothing so far.

HitFix: So I guess my first question is if people who think that they know you from “Survivor” were to watch you when you”re on duty, would we recognize you? What would sort of surprise us about seeing you actually at your job, in your element?

Wes Nale: What would surprise you?

HitFix: Yeah.

Wes Nale: That it definitely wouldn”t be food because I eat about the same amount like I did on the – heck, I don”t know. That”s a good one. I mean I never even would speak to that. I have no idea.

HitFix: Well I guess what I”m saying is is the Wes who we saw on Survivor, do you feel like that”s, you know, sort of that”s who you are, that”s what you”re like out in the world?

Wes Nale: Yeah. I feel like I talk a lot more. Maybe they just didn”t show it on the show, but I really do talk a tone and I talk a bunch a-head and act like I”m pretty much the baddest around and, but I jokingly do it. Like, “Hell, I could do that faster than anybody else” and stuff, being cocky but joking as I do it. But they didn”t show that on the show so I guess that would surprise people. I don”t know.

HitFix: No problem. Now let”s sort of go back to that last Tribal Council obviously. There was roughly that 10 seconds at the end of Tribal Council when the Idols were coming out and your father offered you his Idol. What was going through your mind at that moment?

Wes Nale: At that moment I was thinking, you know, he said, “Get the Idol out” and I got the Idol out and he said, “Here, go play it.” And then my initial thought was, “No, I”m not gonna play your Idol that you found.” And he said, “Play it.” And I said, “No, it”s your idol. Play it how you want to use it.” And as he was walking up to give Jeff the Idol I figured he was gonna say, “Hey, I”m gonna use this for Wesley” and then he gave him the Idol and didn”t say nothing. He goes, “I ain”t even opened it yet. I just think it”s an Idol.” And I thought, “Okay, he didn”t play it for me. I know they split the votes” and as soon as he did that I knew I was gonna be the one going home. Natalie looked at me and said like, “What the heck, man?” And I shrugged my shoulders and, “I said I guess it”s time.” And then I rolled out.

HitFix: Okay, so as soon as Jon played his Idol you knew you were in trouble, right?

Wes Nale: As soon as Jon played it I knew I was just because he wasn”t supposed to play it. He said he wasn”t gonna play it until my dad said, “Stick with the plan Reed,” which made it all chaos and everybody”s heads started turning and as soon as he said that I knew it was over kind of too.

HitFix: Huh. So what you”re saying is that you expected when your father took the Idol to Jeff that he was still going to use it, like even in that moment you thought you still had the chance of getting saved?

Wes Nale: Yeah. Even in the moment that he was walking up to give Jeff the Idol I figured he was gonna say, “I want to use it for Wesley.” So the whole time he”s walking up there I still thought I was gonna be saved, yeah.

HitFix: Well but given those circumstances you would have known also presumably that if he did that he was going to go home, right?

Wes Nale: Right. And if he would have gave me the Idol and played it for me I think that would have been stupid. I think if he wanted to go home, which I”m sure he wouldn”t have thought of it at the time, but if he wanted to go home he would have said, “No, just hold onto the idol,” They vote him out, I had the Idol still in my bag. They don”t know I have the Idol. They think he goes home with it. He goes home, I”m still in the game and have the Idol still.

HitFix: Well if you guys had actually had a full conversation about that moment before going to Tribal Council, you know, “Okay if something absurd happens and this has to happen, et cetera, et cetera,” what do you guys think you would have decided if you”d been able to actually talk the whole thing through?

Wes Nale: I feel like he would have said, “If it comes down to it you just keep the Idol, we don”t play it and I go home.” And I feel like that would have left me in the game still with an Idol. I felt like that”s what he would have wanted to do if he could talk about it before it all happened and we knew what was gonna happen. I feel like that would have happened.

HitFix: The whole Tribal Council seemed like it initially started off very quiet and normal and then got pretty much totally chaotic. What was it like being in the middle of those conversations and sort of seeing the way things were going crazy?

Wes Nale: I thought the Tribal went great because Reed was acting like he was with Natalie and Jon and Jaclyn and Baylor and Missy. He was acting all with them like he was voting with them and I felt like Alec was on board too with them acting like, “Hey, we”re voting for you all. Three votes Wes, three votes Keith and we”re just gonna play it out.” Which little did they know they were gonna be voting with us and I felt like it was going great and I was keeping my cool and not saying nothing. And Keith was spooked a little bit until he broke loose. He said he got nervous, got scared and he blurted out, “Stick with the plan Reed.” And that”s when I felt like it went bad and people started talking and I figured that forced Jon to play the Idol, something like that maybe. But it was good. It was a good one.

HitFix: Well okay, so when you heard your father say, “Stick with the plan” did you immediately know that that was gonna cause a problem?

Wes Nale: Yes. As soon as he said that I figured everything was about to change. Then I figured our whole plan just went down the gutter when he said that.

HitFix: Do you blame your father in part for your elimination or do you just figure this is one of those things that happens in “Survivor”?

Wes Nale: Kind of both. I mean you know the blind sides are coming and you think you”re safe and you think you have the best plan in the world and it doesn”t work out in your favor which that is “Survivor.” But I felt like if he wouldn”t have slipped up for that one second and said that, I think maybe the game would have been changed still.

HitFix: So out there how much did you feel like you were in control of your own destiny and your own strategizing and how much did you feel like you were following your father and other players out there?

Wes Nale: I felt like I controlled it pretty much until the Merge and I felt like, you know, we came to agreements on who to vote out and stuff whenever we did get a tribal with the whole group and stuff. Once we merged I felt like it was just a downhill spiral eventually and we didn”t have the numbers and I was kind of going with whatever was gonna get me farther in the game and I really had kind of no say so in who got voted out and who was gonna stay once the Merge kicked in. So before the Merge I felt like I was sitting good and we were making decisions as an alliance and we were doing great. And then as soon as the Merge hit I just felt like the wind get taken out of me and then I had no say-so left in the game pretty much.

HitFix: Well as you”ve been sort of thinking back over it for these past couple of months have you thought of anything you wished that you had done differently to have more control after the Merge?

Wes Nale: Yeah, yeah. I mean I felt like I could have made better alliances I guess you could say and been more open to what people say, “Hey, what if we did this and you come with us.” I probably could have been more open to the suggestions that they were making. But I was dead set on who I was with, who I told I was playing with and felt like that they were gonna be the best way to go and I just kind of wasn”t open and I felt like I really, I gave them my word. I figured I was gonna come in there and lie. But once I gave somebody, “Hey, it”s my word, I”m voting with you all for sure. I”m with you all. Y'all are my alliance.” I felt like that”s the way I needed to stick at the time and figured it would work out best in my favor, but obviously that does not work.

HitFix: So much of the direction the game has taken in the post-Merge came in that vote when Jon and Jaclyn went against Josh. And so much of that came because Jaclyn felt like you guys were not, I guess, strategizing with her enough. In retrospect do you sort of agree that maybe you could have done more to have kept Jaclyn happy? And does that matter to you?

Wes Nale: No, that does not matter at all. Jaclyn didn”t talk strategy with one person in the whole game I felt like other than Jon. She never talked strategy with anybody from the original Coyopa. And I”m sure she didn”t talk strategy once we swapped tribes unless it was with Jon. She said, you know, that her and Jon made the decision together but I felt like that Jon was the only one making the decision because no one ever talked to her and she never talked to no one either. So I felt like she was just kind of a vote before the Merge and when the tribe swapped, people would tell Jaclyn, “Hey, do this” and she was gonna do it because she had no alliance with anybody because she never approached anybody to talk to anybody else about strategy either. 

HitFix: It seems to me like you and Baylor had a particular challenge out there because you were both among the younger contestants but you were also out there with a parent. You were out there with sort of an authority figure. Did that make it harder for you to step up do you think?

Wes Nale: Yeah it does in a way because, you know, your whole life, you just become an adult, I mean a few years ago and you take your orders from your parents. At least you”re supposed to. And dad says, “Hey, do this” and I know he”s not the smartest player in the game but, you know, it”s your father, father figure, your authority figure that you always listened to your whole life and worry about what he says to do and stuff. So yeah it is harder but sometimes you do need to strike out and make a name for yourself and become the adult. So it is harder in a way and in another way, you”ve got to think about it, “Hey, you know, you”re living your own life now. You”ve just got to roll with it.”

HitFix: Was there a point in the game at which you would have been prepared to have written Keith”s name down if it had come to that?

Wes Nale: Yeah, after the Merge I knew that they knew to get Keith out and if it was to save me in a way, I was willing to do it just because hey, you know, we don”t have the numbers regardless. When Josh went home and if Reed wouldn”t have went through my dad”s bag, it would be me, Reed and Alec and if they say, “Hey, we”re voting for Keith” and you knew that they weren”t trying to blindside you in a way and everybody was gonna vote Keith, there's nothing that you can really do but Keith. So I felt like I was ready for it. I just didn”t know at the time they were gonna come or not.

HitFix: And out there you told several stories of heroic eating challenges in your regular life. We just had Thanksgiving. Tell me your best Thanksgiving eating story.

Wes Nale: Best Thanksgiving eating story is we didn”t really know what we were doing at our house for Thanksgiving. It was kind of spur of the moment and I ate at 11:30, biscuits and dressing, you know, turkey, pork loin stuff. I mean we had it all and my girlfriend wanted me to come over for their Thanksgiving too. And we ate about 11:45 and I showed up over there, stuffed full and had to eat over there too about 12:20, 12:30 and stuffed my face again was not feeling too hot. I had two of the biggest meals of the year and all in about 45 minutes. And you”ve got to finish your plate or it”s just rude. 

Other “Survivor: San Juan Del Sur” exit interviews:
Jeremy Collins
Josh Canfield
Julie McGee
Dale Wentworth
Kelley Wentworth
Drew Christy
John Rocker
Val Collins
Nadiya Anderson