The fan favorite also explains why he's ready to 'retire' from the game

By Dalton Ross
Updated December 17, 2015 at 12:00 PM EST
Credit: CBS

God bless Keith Nale. Make no mistake, the guy made two absolutely infuriating moves on last night’s Survivor: Cambodia—Second Chance finale. First, he tried to quit so another player would not get voted out by a process he did not understand. And then he refused to try to use a fake immunity idol created by Kelley Wentworth that may have possibly saved him at the following vote.

But as maddening as these moves were, it’s impossible to get mad at the absurdly likable Keith — a down-to-earth guy with no pretension whatsoever who only made these moves because he is simply too decent a human being for this game. Still, we had to find out what he was thinking during these critical junctures in the game, so we got him on Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) this morning to ask him. Keith called in to talk to Jessica Shaw and me about his time in Cambodia, and whether he has hung up his buff for good.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: At that first Tribal Council you tried to quit so Kimmi would not get voted out. What the hell were you thinking, Keith Nale?!?

KEITH NALE: Yeah, I don’t know. I think that thing walked along so much, I thought they were back there making up the rules. They never knew it went this far, and I said finally “Hey, get rid of me. I’m tired of sitting here.” It was sorta something like that. But in the long run I’m glad they didn’t. I made it one more spot — you know I went home the next go-around but still… I think I was just fed up with it, and every little thing told me to get on down the road. I never got a vote that night. Never got a vote and I was the one going home? So that was kind of strange. I’m not one by the rulebook, but heck, I just didn’t realize it had come down to me and I never got a vote.

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Kelley Wentworth made you this incredible-looking fake immunity idol and the next Tribal Council and you never tried to use it as a bluff against the other players. Why?

Looking back, I should’ve flashed it a little bit anyway, put it around my neck, but I wasn’t going to play it — I didn’t want to go out, saying “Oh Keith, boy, look how desperate he was right there.” And I thought it was cheesy, and it’s happened in previous seasons, but seems like it never works. But I could’ve put it in their heads a little bit, you know, but I decided I wasn’t going to play it.

We saw you reaching for your bag a little bit and I kept screaming, “Take it out Keith! It’s not desperate and cheesy, it’s strategy!”

Yeah, well, you know how my strategy goes, too — there ain’t much of that. Like you said, I just said, “Aw, Kelley, heck.” The edit pretty much said it. I think they had their mind pretty made up; I don’t think it would’ve made much of a difference. I guess you could’ve tried, but still.

You’ve always sort of struggled with the lying and dishonesty aspect of the game, haven’t you?

Yeah, you’re exactly right. I thought I did a little bit better this time than the first go-around — I was really clueless the first go-round — but here I am with 19 more people who are just as good, or just better, a lot better, strategists than me, and everybody gets better with a second go-round. I hooked up with a few people, but it seems like I’m going in the wrong direction; you know, 4th place one time, 5th place this time. It’s hard to get over that hump.

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What made you get so emotional during the reunion when talking about giving up your spot for Kimmi?

Golly, I was kind of flashing back to that night, and it was 36 days or something — that takes a toll on you anyway, not only physically but emotionally. Just thinking back to that I said, “You know, that might’ve been another one of my stupid moves,” and that’s what got to me, and I’m kinda sad I didn’t go home that night.

I just love that your very first meal at Ponderosa was pancakes and beer!

Yeah, I think Ciera had told me, “Man, the pancakes are good.” Well you know, I really would’ve liked to have had a pizza or a cheeseburger or something like that that goes better with that, but it was good. So we wolfed it down and I think I got the cheeseburger and all that after that.

What did your son Wes who played with you last time on San Juan del Sur have to say about your performance this season?

Oh yeah, he enjoyed it. They were my campaign managers when this whole thing started, because I didn’t know how to. They said, “You’ve got to campaign for yourself; America’s going to vote.” Him and momma kind of took that over and they ran with that. Oh, he’s proud, and he still tries to give me little advice; I told him “Lookie here, your advice got you this far and my advice got me this far, so we gotta do it like that.”

You don’t need anyone’s help, the viewers love you.

I don’t know about not needing some help. I mean, it’s a tough game. I mean, golly! Luck and all that can only get you so far.

You’ve said it’s not fun and this is probably then end of your Survivor journey. So would you do this again or not?

If you would’ve asked me that when I was 28, 38, or 48, maybe yeah, but I think I’m pretty much done. I think the fans have seen enough of me and I’ll go down the road and retire.

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