As in control as she seemed going into the two-hour finale of Survivor: San Juan del Sur, Natalie Anderson was never sure she’d go on to actually win the $1 million prize.
After all, her sister was the first to be voted out, and as “twinnies” on two different seasons on The Amazing Race, they had annoyed vast audiences and flubbed a number of challenges as they bickered like sisters.
But twinnie turned to winning Thursday with the big prize for the 28-year-old Crossfit coach and physical therapy student from Edgewater, NJ.
In an interview from a car in L.A. the day after the win, Anderson told The TV Junkies she wasn’t going to split the $1 million with her twin sister Nadiya, though she’ll certainly get something. “I don’t’ know how much I’m going to give her,” she says, “but she’s got a cheque coming her way.”
Things were touch-and-go on the finale, when Keith won the first immunity challenge, and then, perhaps to show how much power she did have, Anderson played her hidden immunity idol on behalf of Jaclyn, who others were voting for, only after she got a verbal assurance that Jaclyn voted out the person they had privately discussed–Baylor–for Anderson’s third straight blindside.
But that left Anderson open in the next tribal, when, with Jaclyn winning her first immunity, she could have easily been a target instead of Keith. After all, Anderson had just engineered the blindside of Jaclyn’s boyfriend Jon.
“I knew all the things I was doing could either go really well with me or really go bad for me,” Anderson says. “I was nervous during the Jaclyn move with the immunity idol. I was nervous about that move but I wanted to do it anyway.”
Eliminating Baylor meant splitting up the last remaining couple before the final three, Anderson says she was hoping “Jaclyn would feel like she owed me a little bit to take me to final three.” It worked.
As for the gender makeup of the final three, “I was really happy it was all women, because it gave the guys no option to vote for a guy because he was a guy,” she said.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a season where it started with an uneven amount of males and females in the beginning, so to be sitting up there at the end with three females was pretty badass.”
Badass was how she played the game, but by the time of the final challenge, she was wiped out, even though she led at one point.
“I was exhausted, but I was moving fast,” she says. The physical part, she adds, “was easy compared to the puzzle for me. And obviously Jaclyn was far behind. Jeff had counted her out and then she comes back and was winning, all because of that stupid puzzle. My puzzle skills are not up to par.”
But she won her share of challenges during the season as well as, of course, eventually winning. Which gives a whole new image to the twinnie.
“On Amazing Race, we were a hot mess,” Anderson says. “But even though people hated us on that show, they can still appreciate my Survivor skills.”
That kind of respect helped on the jury as well.
““I was a little bit worried only because Jon, Alec and Baylor were all, because of me, the last people voted out just because of something I had done or had organized as a blindside. But they were all really good. It didn’t really seem like they were holding a grudge. Reed did, but it was for Missy and not me,” she says, referring to his instant classic evil stepmother speech.
For Anderson, “Jury was really cool because I feel like they were honestly excited to vote for me and I was honored that the boys respected me as a player and as a person. So that was the best thing ever.”
One thing that helped her–and made it a strange season for the show–is how few other people seemed to be really strategizing or playing the game.
“I feel like I got away with a lot of things that I shouldn’t have gotten away with,” she says. “I didn’t know if it was because I was such a good player or that the people I was playing with didn’t have a clue, or if it was a combination of both.”
Part of the fun of finale night for her was having her parents there. “They flew in from Sri Lanka the night before, and then we all flew out to L.A. together. I didn’t tell them anything. So they were watching it and they had no idea that I was going to be in the final three or anything. So it was really cool joining them and watching them watch it.”
After two stints on Amazing Race, Anderson says she was used to keeping mum about what transpired after taping and before broadcast.
“I didn’t tell anybody anything,” she says, though she admits, “I told Nadiya everything–because it’s impossible for me to keep anything away from her.”
That didn’t violate any contract, she assures, “because she was also part of the cast.”
And now that she’s won there’s one thing she’s going to splurge on–taking her parents out to Vegas for a couple of nights.
She promises not to bet the full million there, but adds “If I bet, I’m betting on brown. And you should do the same.”
Survivor returns for Season 30 in 2015.
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