SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

He never saw it coming. Jack Nichting was on the receiving end of a gnarly blindside on the latest episode of Survivor: Island of the Idols after his tribemate Kellee snuck an immunity idol over to the opposition while securing the target squarely on him. It was a tough way to go, but at least Jack took solace in the fact that he will get to continue on as the first member of the jury.

How does he feel about Jamal giving his idol to Noura, who then voted out Jack? Who did he think had turned to help vote him out? And where did he think Dean’s idol come from? We asked Jack about all that, but also about all the bigger conversations that have been taking place on the island. What was it like to be there during that Tribal Council chat on women’s alliances? And what was the actual aftermath of his durag comment directed at Jamal? We got into all that more and now present for your perusal.

SURVIVOR: Island of Idols
Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How safe were you feeling when you first walked into that Tribal Council?
JACK NICHTING: Ever since that first blindside with Molly, that was where my eyes were opened to how much you never really actually know what’s going to happen. And going into Tribal, I felt good because I knew it was the right thing to vote out Dean. I knew it made sense for all of us to stay together because going into the merge, why would someone flip and immediately put a target on their back? Why would someone deviate from this five Vokai when we don’t really know what’s happening on the other tribe? We don’t know how close they are. We don’t know if they’re making deals. Because we got Karishma pretty easily under our group.

So I felt good about the idea, but of course I was pretty nervous. I know before Tribal, I spoke to Jamal, and was like, “Jamal, should we split the vote? Should we deviate? Should we put two votes on someone else just in case Dean plays on idol? And we both decided no, it’s not worth it because he doesn’t have an idol. He would’ve played it at the previous Tribal Council ‘cause he thought he was going home.

And so why would we then put votes on a Karishma or Noura, who then gets two votes, we get to the merge, she immediately flips, and then we are even further down in numbers? That’s a big part about this point in the game is we all know the merge is the next day. So it’s not just thinking, how do I live another day? It’s how do I live another day knowing that tomorrow everything changes?

So when Dean does play the idol, then what are you thinking when Jamal walks up and plays his idol for Noura? What’s your reaction to that?
That’s a crazy moment. I think one of the big things I kicked myself for it is I had an inclination that they’re probably gonna go after Jamal or me, and I wish I would’ve said, “Hey, Jamal, you should play the idol for me.” But I didn’t want to risk that happening. And then Jamal going home, I would’ve felt horrible. I think him playing it for Noura with the information that we had made sense.

The episode really highlighted that Dean was convinced that we were going to vote with him and vote for Noura until Kellee told him otherwise. So based on what we understood, six of us were going to go for Dean, then one of us going to go for Noura, Jamal insured his relationship with Noura by playing an idol for her. So then we can confidently say that we’d probably vote for, I don’t know, maybe Karishma next, or I don’t know how it would have really played out, but I think salvaging our relationship going into the merge was great for Jamal to do that. But that’s why the biggest kick in the face moment for me is like, dang, I should have said “Yo, Jamal, play it for me.”

Who did you think had laid the second vote on you? Were you pretty sure it was Noura or were you confused?
It’s funny. I knew instantly, as soon as I saw that second vote, I was like “Kellee betrayed me.” Because Kellee and I had of those relationships where it was so hot and cold strategically. I trusted her, and then I didn’t trust her. There was so many confessionals where I was like, “I don’t trust Kellee at all.” And the next day I’m like, “Dang, Kellee and I had a really big heart to heart and I feel like I can actually trust her. And the next day it’s like, “Oh, I just don’t know how to feel about Kellee.” And the next day, “I think I actually really do want to play with her.” But as soon as I saw a second vote, I was like, “Kellee.” I thought Kellee voted for me. I didn’t realize the whole complexity of the plan, but walking away, I was definitely like, “Damn, I know Kellee just did something.”

Did you know Jamal had an idol?
I had no idea that Jamal had an idol. I’m pretty sure that was the one secret that Jamal kept because Jamal and I were extremely tight for the entire game. I think on day 3, I made a final four alliance saying like, “Hey, you and me, we go to the final four and then we try to tear each other apart.” I felt very strongly about having one person that I could rely on that I could be with, that I could play the game with and bounce ideas off. So that was the one secret that Jamal kept form me. And I understand it. You don’t tell people you have idols.

While we’re talking about Jamal, this is a good opportunity to get into the whole durag conversation that you guys had. When did it first hit you that you had said something that upset him and that there was an issue?
Oh, immediately. Absolutely. Immediately. To give background to this back relationship with Jamal, like I said earlier, Jamal and I were best friends in the game. We were inseparable. We kind of made this alliance together and then we were both blindsided and that sealed the deal together. And so I felt very comfortable with him from an ally standpoint, but even more so as a friend standpoint because in this kind of environment you really cling onto the relationships that you have, and I had a very solid one with Jamal.

So I made this comment, and it was so interesting to watch back and experience myself from how everyone experienced it because cause I know myself, I feel very in tune with these types of conversations and it really doesn’t come through in that moment. And I think it kind of shows how complicated that moment is. I felt very comfortable with Jamal as a friend, so I felt comfortable making what I thought would be a joke, and I knew immediately that it was not a very tasteful thing to say. I’m grateful that CBS highlighted the moment, but I’m also grateful more specifically that Jamal didn’t define me through that moment. And it shows that, regardless of how aware I feel, based on my personal living experience, we, specifically myself, can always be learning things and move forward. And that was it very human moment.

One thing that I definitely do want to emphasize though — because I’ve seen this online and I’ve read about it — is that this wasn’t a strategic thing. Like this was very much removed from the game. This was me making sure that my friendship with Jamal remained the same. Not because he was my closest ally, but because he was my best friend and I wanted to make sure that he viewed me as this mature young adult still, and not this immature young adult.

What do you think this entire situation — including the conversation that happened afterwards when you guys were on the beach and with the apology and that discussion, which obviously clearly meant a lot to him — what do you think it ended up doing for you guys in terms of your relationship and friendship and your alliance? Did it momentarily put a little distance between you two or did it bring you closer together? What was the ultimate sort of result of everything?
Absolutely it brought us closer together. I’m very confident in that. This was an entire day, This happened in the morning, and then I said my apologies in front of everyone because I wanted everyone to know that I was acknowledging my fault. And then we were walking to the beach, and I was like, “Hey Jamal, I would love to sit down with you later and have a one-on-one conversation so I can really apologize to you more intimately.” And there was not a single moment where I thought it compromised our alliance.

I took a step out of the game for this. But I guess reflecting on it now, it absolutely brought us closer together because again, we spent 24 hours together. We’re not always going to be talking about game, and as much as you want to be strategic and go along with the people you think will be best for your game, you also are going to be emotional in your decisions. And so us having this more of an emotional connection brought us closer together and you could see when I get voted out the way Jamal looks down, like, the dude’s devastated that I got voted out because he just lost not only his biggest ally but also his best friend in the game.

There have been a lot of these sorts of conversations we’ve been seeing this season, so what was it like for you being there at this last Tribal Council during this conversation that went down about women’s alliances that started with Jamal and Kellee.
I thought that was so interesting to listen to, especially with this specific scenario because I absolutely understand where Kellee’s coming from with this mindset of, like, all-girls alliances is a stereotype and a thing that is talked about all the time when in reality, it doesn’t happen very often. But, in this specific instance, we have Noura, who is very much so — and, it’s not a secret either. We’re all very aware that Noura wants to have a woman’s alliance, and you get Janet, as you saw from the episode is fervently saying “No all-girls alliances, we don’t want to do that. Especially right now.”

And the show didn’t highlight it as much, but Janet and I are also inseparable. Like, she’s my mom. I’m her son. I call her mom, she calls me son, we snuggle, we talked about everything. And so she’s always reporting back saying, “Hey, this is happening, but I’m not going to let this happen. Boys, do not worry about it. An all-girls thing is not going to happen.” So it was crazy. to see this very real moment happen, especially in the context of our tribe at the time. An all-girls alliance was a concern, because there were four girls and there was one girl specifically — or one woman, Noura — really pushing for this to be a thing.

We have an exclusive deleted scene at the top of this article of you doing some singing about going crabbing. I guess you were doing a lot of singing out there, weren’t you?
I sang all of the time. I was always getting yelled at for singing because I would just do it nonstop and you can’t always be doing that on camera and stuff. I was always making up my own songs. There was actually one moment that I wish was shown from original Vokai, and it was about to start raining and we’re about to get drenched and we know we’re about to get drenched. And then me, Jamal and Lauren started. Jamal started doing a low base tone, Lauren was clapping, and I started a big song about how it’s going to rain on Survivor.

And the entire first 12 days after that moment, we started singing that song nonstop. And once we were on Lairo, we lost everything on that tribe. We only won one time and we had no food. So morale was always super low and anything to kind of bring a smile to the other tribemates was definitely the goal.

You seemed very excited to make the jury. Why was that so important to you?
My one big goal in the game was to make the jury, and the jury’s synonymous with the merge. So it was always like, I want to make the merge because I want to make the jury. And so to be able to still make the jury, even though I didn’t make the merge, was just like the icing on top because you always want to be a part of the game, right? If you’re in the jury, you still get to go to every single Tribal Council, you get to be there for everyone that’s voted off. And then, at the end of the day, you get to vote for the winner. And so although I didn’t make the merge, and didn’t make the family visit, I still get to be a part of the entire story of Survivor and be there until the very, very end and see exactly what happens from a first person perspective.

You mentioned your plan was get to the final four with Jamal and then battle it out. Were there any other people that you were looking at like, :Hey, these are the two people I want to be sitting next to at the end?”
I think Survivor is a very stage-like game in that you can’t plan that far in advance because you have to get there. And that will always be my big critique of Kellee’s big move on me. I’m like “Kellee, you were so concerned about me at the end,” because that’s kind of what she was talking about. You didn’t see it, but I learned later on that was what she was worried about it. I was like, “It’s step by step.” So Jamal was my final four. Besides that, honesty, all the deals I was making were very much like “Let’s get to the family visit, and then once there we’ll tear each other apart.”

My mindset was that I will comfortably sit beside anyone at the end of the game because if I get there, I know I did it the right way and I know I will be able to articulate myself better than the other two people to win the game. Send me there with Elaine, this person with a beautiful, beautiful story. I’ll go with her. Absolutely. I’ll go against anyone at the end because I will be able to say why I deserve a million over them.

You had a lot of stories from people that came back from Island of the Idols. What did you think was happening on Island at the idols?
Island of the Idols from my perspective is a crazy concept, because we truly have no idea of what is happening. That being said, everyone that comes back tells the exact same lie, the same story. So based on the information that we have, we have no reason to believe that that’s not the truth. We knew when Noura came back and she was not telling the whole truth. And I’m actually the one who deduced what happened. We were all together one night and I was like, “Wow, what if she gets a reward for winning and being the caller?” And so we’re all like, “Oh, that is definitely what happens. We can’t let her be the caller. We can’t let her get an immunity or whatever advantage it is.” So we knew there was something fishy, but we were had no idea.

And on top of that, from my perspective, until I saw Dean and Jamal play idols, we didn’t know if idols were in the game. We knew there was an Island of the Idols. So we assumed if you got an idol, you can only get it from the Island of the Idols. I believed Kellee didn’t have an idol. So, we never really looked for idols. No one that I knew looked for idols besides Jamal, because we just thought they weren’t things. We were like, “This is a new season. It says Island of the idols, which is a decoy, to say, like, ‘Oh, you’re gonna think there’s idols, but in reality there are no idols.’ It’s like a paranoia kind of game.” There were so many theories about what was actually happening at the Island of the Idols that we had no idea what to really think or believe about it. So when I found out what it actually was, I was just flabbergasted.

Enjoy an exclusive deleted scene of Jack singing above. Also make sure to check out our full episode recap, weekly Q&A with Jeff Probst, tribute to Rudy Boesch, and Boston Rob sizing up the cast so far. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

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