He was a Thoroughbred. He was a Mason and a Dixon. He was a Rock Star. And now Nick Wilson can add one other moniker to his collection of titles this season: Sole Survivor. The 27-year-old public defender won Survivor: David vs. Goliath Wednesday night when he defeated Mike White and Angelina Keeley to take home the million-dollar prize.
What sealed the deal for Nick? Did he think he was going to win or not? And is it true that he would have been the first person voted out of the game had Pat not been injured in an off-camera, out-of-game boat accident? We asked the newly crowned champion all that and more when we spoke after the big three-hour finale and reunion. And he also revealed one big thing they didn’t show at the final Tribal Council. (Also make sure to check out our chats with runner-up Mike White, Angelina, Kara, Alison and Davie as well as our full episode recap.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations on winning Survivor! How does it feel, sir?
NICK WILSON: Wow, thanks. It’s so weird to hear that because you never know.
How were you feeling about your chances going into that final Tribal Council because I’m sure you were doing some jury math in your head?
Yeah, I was doing the math and running through the numbers, but I felt good because I felt like I played a good game and I deserved to win over anybody. But you’d be a fool or a Survivor novice to not try to figure out which jurors were going to vote for which person. I felt good the whole time, but I still did the numbers.
Was there ever a point at that final Tribal Council where you saw the way things were going said to yourself: I got this?
Actually, no, not at the final Tribal because all three of us did a really good job pleading our case. The jury was a fantastic jury and did a good job of not showing any emotions one way or another for who they were thinking played the best game. I almost felt like they were being mean to us because I really couldn’t get a grasp on who was going to vote for who.
Did any of the votes surprise you from the jury?
I think I was a little bit surprised by Christian’s vote, but I don’t blame him. Mike played a great game. Everything was fine.
Whom did you want to win the fire-making at the final four? Were you rooting for Mike?
Yeah, I really was in the moment. Watching it back now, Mike played such a good game but then I was relay hoping the Jabenis would be the final three, and maybe that was a misread on my part. It’s so funny. I’m a fan and a critic as well, so I understand when you watch the show you think who they should take to the end and who the jury is going to vote for and stuff. But out there it’s really hard to get a good grasp on what the jury is thinking. And Kara was such a sweetheart and Mike was such a good player and I thought that either one of those was going to be a threat to me.
If Pat does not get injured on that boat on day 3, do you go home first? Because some people from your tribe have told me that.
That’s such a good question. Actually, [exec-producer] Matt Van Wagenen and I had a slight debate about that. I don’t know. I’m so glad we didn’t go to that Tribal Council. I think it wouldn’t be me, but I’m just glad we didn’t have to go there.
But there’s a good chance it is you, especially if Matt Van Wagenen is saying it! And to go from potentially worst to first shows you the unpredictability of this game.
Absolutely. And there’s luck involved.
And there’s your skill to turn that around.
Well, I appreciate that. And that was probably more our debate. He said Survivor is a third luck and I said, “I think that’s too high.” But then he said, “Well, look at you. You would have been the first one voted out!” But absolutely there’s certainly luck involved. And if you have another breath left in your Survivor life, you never know what’s going to happen. Like, I really could have been the first person out. It is a real possibility. I’m not denying that. And look now, I ended up winning!
If you had not won those last three immunity challenges, do you think you make it into the final three?
It’s so hard. I don’t really know, but I’m glad I didn’t have to find out. At final Tribal Council, that question was asked. People asked “What if Nick didn’t win these immunities? Would he still be here?” And Mike said yes, that his final three was me and Angelina. But Mike is a player. If he is sitting there at the final five and say Alison wins immunity — I don’t see how he wouldn’t consider voting me out.
I talked to Angelina about that. She was really wanting to play her idol in an effective way so maybe if Alison wins there, they gun for me and Angelina plays her idol on me. It’s such a fickle game, you never know what will happen. I’m glad we didn’t have to find out, but I think I would have made it.
Speaking of Angelina’s idol, were you shocked when Angelina asked you to help her improve her jury management so she could beat you at the end of Survivor?
[Laughs] I was up for it. I love a good show at Tribal so I was like “Alright, that’s fine by me.”
When you were climbing that ladder up the rock wall, and Angelina asked you to get down so she could retrieve that hidden immunity idol, was there a part of you that thought about not getting down and just grabbing it for yourself?
No, I genuinely was going to climb it, grab it, and give it to her. She found the clue, she found the ladder, she put the work into getting it. I was going to grab it and give it to her. But she asked to do it and I was like, sure. I don’t care.
The season truly was a rollercoaster for you. We saw crazy highs and a few lows. What was your lowest point in the game?
I think my lowest point was when Davie got blindsided. That was my best friend from day 1. They only had so much time to show everything, and they didn’t show how close Davie and I were. And when he was blindsided it was like my best friend was taken away for me. And Mike and Angelina wrote his name down. So I felt lonely and, who can I trust?
It’s been around seven months since you left the island, and you all talk and stuff so I imagine you had a pretty good idea that you had won. But at the same time, what has it been like waiting those seven months to hear those magic words and officially confirm that you had won Survivor?
It’s a relief. I felt like I won and was pretty sure that I had won. But I was more sure that I didn’t get every single vote. I knew it wasn’t 10-0. Mike played a great game, no doubt. Angelina, she was good too. So I knew I didn’t have every single vote, so it was a huge relief to see the votes read and I’m so glad I didn’t pass out or something.
Had you shared the story of your mother with all the contestants before that final Tribal Council or was that the first time some of them were hearing that?
That was a struggle for me early on. Since we were assigned the David tribe, everybody felt a connection because of our struggles. So we would go around and say “So what’s your David story?” And everybody would share their personal life stories and struggles, but that was one thing that was off-limits for me going into the game. I said, This is personal to me. I don’t want to talk about what happened with my mom. That was where I drew the line, so the first couple of days, I wasn’t able to bond with everyone because I wasn’t willing to go there.
And then, after a couple of days I had time to process and grow closer to these people, and once I opened up in that first episode it almost freed me from this burden I had for years. It really allowed people to see the true me. And I think if that hadn’t of happened, I probably wouldn’t have won and I probably would not have had the experience I had. So for me to feel so comfortable with my struggles in life and my story, to be able to sit there at the end and just bluntly say what happened — I definitely wasn’t trying to get jury votes for that. I was just trying to say, “This is what this game has done for me and this is the personal growth that I have experienced and it’s a part of my Survivor story, no doubt.”
Well, you used it in the perfect context in terms of how it weaved into your life and your story.
Yeah, I felt really bad afterward. And one thing they didn’t show is I said to the jury, “Look, I am not looking for sympathy or nothing like that.” And Carl interrupted and was like, “No, man. Don’t even think that for one second. That’s just part of your story.” Everyone on my cast has been so supportive, and they really made the experience what it is for me.
They’ve had winners back before, as you know. Which leads me to ask: Would you do it again?
Yeah! Any time, any place. Find 18 to 20 people willing and I’m there. I’m a fan. I don’t care what happens next time. I don’t feel I have a legacy or anything. I just want to play Survivor. It’s the greatest game in the world.
Also, make sure to read our full episode recap as well as intel from the host and four returning players on NEXT season of Survivor and our chats with Mike White, Angelina, Kara, Alison, and Davie. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.