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November 06, 2018 at 09:00 AM EST

Whether coming up with a crazy scheme to liberate a jacket from a fellow player, almost falling victim to the goofily titled Rock Stars alliance, or defending herself from bizarre accusations from an ousted contestant, Angelina Keeley has been at the center of the Survivor: David vs. Goliath storm. (And she’s even been through two literal storms with the cyclones that landed during filming.)

With the merge finally happening on Wednesday’s upcoming episode on CBS, we checked in with Keeley to get her take on all the insanity of the first half of the season. And much like what we’ve seen on Survivor, the woman came to play — providing fantastic insight and explanations for her actions while revealing a lot that we did not see on TV. Read through all three pages for the entire interview, enjoying exclusive merge photos along the way!

Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, Angelina, let’s start with Jacketgate. When and why did you hatch this plan to somehow take possession of somebody’s — anybody’s! — jacket?
ANGELINA KEELEY: Jacketgate was a moonshot mission that epically and hilariously failed! No one laughed harder while watching my pleas than I did, but the good news is that the jacket was never the primary objective. My focus heading into each tribal was always to vote out the person that advanced my short- and long-term game.

Before I get to why Natalie (and her jacket) ended up being the primary target for that infamous vote, let me start by setting the scene a bit: First, I would have given anything to bring my parka jacket with me into the game, but alas, what we wear is not entirely up to us as contestants. Our clothes are supposed to be a good representation of who we are and what we would normally wear in our day-to-day lives. We start with one pair of clothing, and what you start the game with is what you end your game with, unless you get creative. From the first day of the game when we jumped off the barge and headed to our camps, we started the game drenched, and for many of us our clothes continued to exist in a perpetual state of wetness for weeks. Even when the sun came out, the humidity ensured our damp clothes would haunt our dreams (or lack thereof).

Second, our season has had the most brutal weather of arguably any season of Survivor. Up to this point in the game, we’ve been hit by two cyclones, and wind and rain nearly every night. There are between 10 to 12 hours of darkness at night, the temperature drops significantly, and our shelters did not provide full protection from the elements. Most nights, the rain would get so heavy that water would leak through our roof for a large portion of the night. On top of this, there was essentially a wind tunnel as well, because we are not able to fully enclose our shelter since we are filmed 24/7 and there needs to be space for the camera crew. What all of this adds up to are very cold conditions, and as someone who naturally runs cold, I found myself hardly sleeping. I would lay awake at night thinking about how much I wished I had warmer clothing and how much having it would improve my game because I’d be able to actually sleep at night.

It wasn’t until the Immunity Challenge that I truly started to feel that Natalie was the best choice to go that day. During the challenge, she and Mike started arguing pretty intensely. Natalie had wanted to be the first one to try her hand at the snake puzzle, but Mike told her no, that we couldn’t risk it, and this set her off. I think their arguing was a distraction to Nick on the snake puzzle, and it made Mike really adamant on wanting Natalie out. I had already stuck my neck out once for Natalie in the first Goliath vote. I was working on developing trust with Mike and Nick, and I also wanted to show them that I was flexible and willing to work together. So I proposed a deal: If we get Natalie out this time, we get Lyrsa out next, and continue to work together for the long haul. (More on this in another question below.)

When we got back to camp and decided on voting out Lyrsa, I told Natalie I wanted Lyrsa’s jacket as a way to really make Natalie believe that Lyrsa was the target that night. I didn’t know Natalie would talk to Nick in the way she did, but the way she approached him further motivated Nick to want her out that night and to go along with our plan.

The first version of Jacketgate was actually quite simple: My plan was to try to get everyone to leave their jackets at camp before we left for Tribal Council. I said I thought I saw some rain clouds and we didn’t want to risk getting all of our clothes wet at Tribal. For a part of the afternoon, this worked. Lyrsa and Natalie both stored their jackets along with my thin sweater in a dry area at camp. Unfortunately, people started to get paranoid, so everyone ended up taking all of their clothes to Tribal that night.

It was shortly before Tribal that I went to Lyrsa with my idea. I told her I had a crazy idea that I would only do if she was cool with it. I asked her if she would be comfortable with me writing her name down so as to make Natalie think that I didn’t go against her and potentially get her to will her jacket to me before she left. Lyrsa laughed, and said that she was totally fine with it. I told her I would only do it if she was completely okay with it, and she assured me she was. I told her I would put a heart on it so she knew the vote was mine, and I told her I wanted to work together on the next vote to make sure we both make it to the next stage in the game.

Of course, no one likes to see their name written down, even if it is is a ploy vote, so I knew there was a risk of alienating Lyrsa by doing this, but I wouldn’t have done it if she had told me it made her feel uncomfortable in the slightest. I then proceeded to let Mike and Nick know about the plan, and make sure they were also okay with it, and they were. Then, it was just about executing and hoping for the best. Obviously, it didn’t work out in the slightest.

Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

Did you think you had a good shot at Natalie’s jacket when you concocted the voting-for-Lyrsa ruse, or were you not surprised when she kept it?
After I swung the votes at the first Goliath tribal to be a Jeremy blindside and save Natalie, Natalie told me how Jeremy had asked her for her jacket since he thought she was on her way out. Natalie thanked me for working with her on this vote and told me then that if she ever did get voted out, that she would give me her jacket before she left.

Even though she had said this to me, I always knew Jacketgate was a long shot. Natalie is a tough and smart person, so I didn’t know how it would all play out. I wasn’t planning on getting up to hug her in that moment, and while the feelings of surprise that I expressed were not real, the feelings of sadness were. I know many people saw that whole shenanigan as an act to get her jacket, and that was a part of it, but I was actually sad to see Natalie go. I was one of the few people who got close to her in the game, and who tried to work with her. I felt she was a very misunderstood person on the island, because I saw moments of a very loving, funny, playful Natalie. Some of my biggest laughs out there were with her. Had she shown more levity and less abrasiveness, which I saw glimpses of, I think she could have made it deep in the game.

That being said, in the moment she was leaving what really tipped her off to it all was when I was hugging her goodbye, Nick blurted out, “Hey, Natalie, how about you give Angelina your jacket,” in a mocking tone and he laughed. I think this put her on notice more than anything. That, mixed with being blindsided, led to a silent departure and failed Jacketgate attempt. In the end, I wasn’t surprised that she kept her jacket. I hope my loss was viewers’ gain.

Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

You said at the last Tribal Council that a plan was put in place when you all voted out Natalie and you were hoping to continue that plan. Does that mean there was a deal made with Nick, that you and Mike would vote out Natalie if he agreed to take out Lyrsa next?
I had a strong feeling that Jabeni would lose another immunity challenge, so when I was making decisions out there I was never thinking one vote at a time. I had to play through all the scenarios in my head of how the imminent move could impact the next, and my longer-term game. If we had voted Lyrsa out first from Jabeni instead of Natalie, then across all tribes Goliaths would still have had a 8-6 majority, and that would mean that at the next Tribal Council voting me out would not make a difference to whether or not we entered the merge with a Goliath majority.

Also, despite saying that she was “Goliath Strong” at the first Tribal Council, one night when we couldn’t sleep Natalie and I were walking around and she told me her hit list for the merge, at the top of it were several Goliaths. I never felt Natalie fully trusted me, and I felt she would go after me the first chance she got. I felt she would have been able to get Mike and Nick to work with her to get me out before the merge, especially if she were to explain the strong ties I had to many Goliaths, as well as my ability to flip the first vote.

I knew Mike was a smart and aware player, so once the numbers between the original tribes were 7-7, I presumed that he would not want to lose a Goliath majority by taking me out, since that would potentially ostracize him from the original Goliath tribe. I used the broader numbers between Davids and Goliaths as added insurance of maintaining my place in the game and ensuring I had a better chance of making it to the merge.

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