Survivor: Nina Poersch on Playing the game deaf

Monty Brinton/CBS
Monty Brinton/CBS

Nina Poersch never seemed to fit in on the No Collar tribe. Whether it was because of her hearing disadvantage or her age, her tribe didn’t even let her contribute in the latest immunity challenge leading to her being the third contestant voted off Survivor: Worlds Apart. In an exclusive interview with The TV Junkies, Nina addresses how she was treated by her tribe mates, that disastrous conversation with Will and tells us some of her favorite Survivor players of all-time.

The TV Junkies: When did you realize you would be the one going home?

Nina Poersch: Honestly, I knew it as soon as Vince was voted out. It wasn’t that I didn’t fight to stay but I knew that they had it in their minds that they wanted me gone. I had that feeling from the beginning.

TTVJ: What was going through your mind during the immunity challenge as Jeff was constantly commenting on your lack of participation?

NP: It wasn’t my lack participation; it was my tribe not letting me participate. I was more than willing to participate but Joe made a decision on how we should do the challenge. It wasn’t working but when I went back to the water well, I kept telling them I need to stay back and help plug holes but they were like “ no, go over there and wait for us.” So it was on Joe, and he took the blame for it. He even told me it was a bad decision and that he felt bad that he sidelined me on that challenge.

TTVJ: How big of a factor do you believe your hearing was to you being voted out?

NP: Joe keeping me out of the challenge didn’t have anything to do with my hearing. It was the fact that he thought I would get in the way and fumble the whole challenge for him. When we first got to the beach as a tribe, Joe immediately asked me about my hearing. He viewed me as somebody that wasn’t going to be able to perform well on challenges because I couldn’t hear AND the fact that I was 51 years old. So I knew how he viewed me, that he didn’t have confidence in me to be able to perform well in challenges. So that’s on him, not on me at all. I knew I could do well at challenges but he took that role upon himself to keep me out of the challenges.

TTVJ: Take us back to the pre-tribal conversation you had with Will before Vince was voted out. Do you believe that was the tipping point as far as your alliance is concerned? Do you regret that conversation at all?

NP: Yeah I think that conversation definitely played a part in why Will changed his mind. I didn’t realize that at the time because the conversation was a lot longer than what the viewers saw. They only saw a couple of sentences but it was a very long conversation he and I were having. It got to the point in the conversation that I felt I needed to let Will know that his looking exhausted and telling our tribe that he felt exhausted, was going to hinder the vote. I was afraid he may get voted out because of all that.

Vince’s concern about his health, made me nervous but I didn’t want him voted out he was part of my alliance, I didn’t want Vince voted out either. It was just a slip up on my part in a conversation I was having where I really concerned about Will.

TTVJ: There were many comparisons between No Collar and White Collar this episode. Do you think you would have don’t better on the White Collar tribe?

NP: I know I would have done better on the White Collar tribe. The thing is, I really am not a no collar person but with that said, it doesn’t mean I can’t work with no collar people, I can. I have lots of friends who are no collar type people and we get along great. I’m not trying to use my hearing as a crutch, because I don’t. I have never said I can’t do anything because I can’t hear. But first arriving on the beach, I had Joe tell me he doesn’t think I can do challenges because of my hearing.

Then I had Vince as well repeatedly telling me “Hey, those girls don’t like you because you can’t hear, they want to vote you out because you can’t hear.” Hearing that repeatedly and knowing what Joe said to me on the first day just reinforced everything I heard and I felt everything Vince was telling me was the truth. There were several times when I trade to make conversation or help out in a project and they would tell me repeatedly, “that’s ok we don’t need any help.”

There was a point I went into the ocean when the girls were out there and I looked at them and was like “Hey girls” and they looked at me, turned around and walked away. I knew at that point I wasn’t in that clique, it was tough. In the early days of the game you need to be united and have everybody in the tribe feel important, like a member of the tribe. That’s the way you are going to win challenges, when there is a fracture in the tribe you lose challenges and look we lost two challenges. It makes it tough out there when you feel like people don’t want you around. Then to have someone in your alliance telling you they don’t want you around because of your hearing, I trusted Vince and felt like he was telling me the truth. I still feel like he was telling me the truth and maybe he just embellished a little bit.

TTVJ: How did you get cast on Survivor in the first place?

NP: My hairstylist also does Natalie Tenerelli’s ( Survivor: Redemption Island) hair. She was helping look for people that wanted to play the game and happened to ask my hairstylist if she knew anyone. She told them “yeah, I have a client who would love to do the show and she would be awesome, she’s a long time fan.” So she gave my number to Natalie, who passed it on to casting and I got called and it kind of took off from there.

TTVJ: As a fan of the show, what is the biggest difference between watching Survivor and playing Survivor?

The biggest difference is that when you are watching Survivor, you get to see everything that people are saying, behind each other’s back. You get to see all the strategies that people are coming up with.

Also that the audience doesn’t see everything that’s going on. There are 72 hours of footage going into a 45 minute segment for TV so when people are basing their opinions on what’s going on out there they just need to remember in the back of their head that they aren’t seeing everything.

When you are out there playing it, it’s real. It’s cutthroat, every man for themselves but at the end of the day it’s a game.

TTVJ: Do you have a favorite player from the past?

NP: I have many, I’ve watched it since Season 1. I have a lot of respect for anyone who’s played the game. Some of the winners are my favourites. For example, Richard Hatch (Survivor: Borneo), Bob Crowley (Survivor: Gabon) and Denise Stapley (Survivor: Philippines).

Survivor: Worlds Apart, airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS and Global.