Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Nate Gonzalez almost got taken out of Cook Islands by fire ants
With Survivor filming for seasons 41 and 42 indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EW is reaching back into the reality show’s past. We sent a Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire to a batch of former players to fill out with their thoughts about their time on the show as well as updates on what they’ve been up to since. Each weekday, EW will post the answers from a different player.
The laugh may be the first thing you remember about Nate Gonzalez. It was loud. It was booming. It was infectious. Whether being joyful about finally hitting land for the first time, or winning a challenge, or catching an octopus, Nate’s laugh lit up Survivor: Cook Islands. Unfortunately for Nate, he got lit up in the game when he made the fateful mistake of keeping mutineer Jonathan Penner around a bit too long. Penner eventually defected back to the other side after being wooed by the power of Yul Kwon’s hidden immunity idol. Nate was then blindsided in one of the franchise’s signature episodes, making him the first person voted out after the merge.
Considering his big, ebullient personality, it is a shock that Nate has not been cast for a return appearance on the show. So all the more reason to have the original Manihiki member fill out a Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire. What is Nate up to now? How does he feel about the edit he got on the show — especially after the infamous mutiny? What is his biggest regret? Nate answers all that and more, while revealing that a harrowing encounter with some fire ants almost took him out of the game.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you’ve been up to since appearing on Survivor.
NATE GONZALEZ: After Cook Islands, I started working for Fox Reality doing Kennedy’s Reality Remix as a weekly field correspondent for the show doing weekly recaps. It was one of the best gigs. After the show was cancelled, I started acting more and continued to host in the field covering music, and non-profits in LA. Took a little break from entertainment over the past few years to focus on the Cannabis industry as a brand consultant.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
Proudest moment ever from playing Survivor was when I caught my first octopus. Hunting octopus isn't easy, takes patience. I was able to figure this out early, which helped me in my approach to the game to be more patient.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?
I let Jonathan stick around too long, should've voted him out before Brad. I was just suspicious of Brad's loyalty at that time — he was playing a solo game. I also had a feeling Yul and Becky might try to align with him post-merge. We felt Johnathan was stuck with us, so we used that and his effort to gain our trust by hunting etc. He was an outsider, but a workhorse. Looking back, I should of never let him get comfortable.
What’s something that will blow fans’ minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?
Ozzy and I were hunting for bananas. He climbed a tree as he does best, and as he was knocking the bananas down, some fire ants came down too. One fell in my eye and ate through my contact. If it wasn't for my contact and that layer of protection, I probably would've had to exit the game.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
I felt it started out good, but right after the mutiny, the underdogs got the love. Then we started getting the young, dumb, and lazy edit, which rubbed me wrong. I busted my ass out there every day.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Yeah, I didn't sleep with a pillow for a while, lol. I didn't like using utensils either. It was hard to see how much we waste food, etc. Lack of connection was the biggest. Going to a restaurant and seeing everyone at a table on their phones and no conversation was depressing s---. I realized how technology had disconnected us. You get a real appreciation for things in the game.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Never. No regrets.
Who do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
Parvati is my sister,
Ozzy and I are homies. Venice locals.
Jenny moved to Venice, so I've gotten to see her.
Adam is my ace too, we def still talk.
Cristina is local, so I see her often.
JP and I have crossed paths many times too.
Billy and I stay connected on social media.
The rest I haven't seen in a while. I miss ‘em, especially Candice, Rebecca, Brad, Stephannie, Sekou.
Oh, and Cai Boi.!! One of my favorite humans. The whole cast is special to me.
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what’s your favorite season you were not on and why?
Yes, I do. I think Micronesia: Fans vs Favorites. I knew a lot of the players. I was covering it too for Fox. I had a lot of emotions watching it play out.
Who’s one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
I would've loved to play with Cochran or Yau-Man. I think being aligned with strategic, yet poised, players are my best fit. I feel their type of play complements my weaknesses.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
They need to cast more diverse groups.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
Yeah, I def would. I would do a lot things different. I've matured over the past 14 years. I understand the game better now too. I let emotions cloud my judgment in Cooks.