"I definitely thought I got more votes than I did," says the queen of Extinction.

By Dalton Ross
May 14, 2020 at 08:16 AM EDT
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While Sandra Diaz-Twine may be the self-proclaimed queen of Survivor, Natalie Anderson earned her own title during her run on Survivor: Winners at War as the queen of Edge of Extinction. After being voted out of the game first on day 2, Natalie dominated the action of the island of the losers… I mean, Edge of Extinction — scoring Fire Tokens as well as advantages, disadvantages, and extortions that could be sold for Fire Tokens seemingly every episode.

She used that bounty of tokens to purchase three advantages in the battle back competition — and the effort paid off. Natalie won the challenge, then used an idol she had purchased, another one she found, and a win in the final immunity challenge to get all the way to the final 3.

Ultimately, however, she could not get the votes to win, losing to Tony by a 12-4 margin. What does Natalie make about one of the wildest rollercoaster rides in Survivor history? What does she make of Boston Rob’s comments that she isolated herself socially too much on the Edge and should have taken on Tony in fire? And why did she buy an idol for Tyson and not her island BFF Jeremy? We asked Natalie all that and more when we spoke after the big season finale.

Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations on a remarkably wild run this season, Natalie.

NATALIE ANDERSON: Thank you, I'll take the congratulations, but I am the first loser. But whatever.

Listen, I was out there. I watched you get voted out of the game on day two. You came all the way back, you made it to day 39. Did you ever consider raising the sail?

Yeah, I don't think I ever actually thought about quitting. I mean, I feel like I would have to be medevac-ed before I quit Survivor. But, for me, I made a decision day one that my head was going to be in the game, and I was all in. There was no pumping the brakes on me and you can see on Extinction, there was no kind of breaks. I never slowed down, and that's how I am with everything. I'm just either full speed ahead, crashing into everything, or I'm just not going to do it. And the motivation to keep going was just to get back in the game, and then once I was in the game, it was like, "Here we go." And I get to eat rice and do this? F--- it, I'm good.

When you walked out of that final Tribal Council 10 months ago, did you think you had won?

So, I definitely didn't think it was in the bag, but I definitely thought I got way more votes than I did. I definitely thought I got Danni's vote and Amber's vote, which I didn't. I also thought maybe Kim and Sophie might've swung my way. I shared some peanut butter with them, which they didn't show. And I really confided in them those last couple of days and was able to bond on what was going on with the beach. I was also trying to get some information from them about what was actually going on in that weird alliance that was going on, on the main beach. So, I definitely knew it would have been a challenge to win. I thought maybe I would tie, but then once the weeks went by, months went by, then, now a year has gone by, I knew I didn't win, but I definitely still thought I got more votes than I did. I was really surprised with the fact that Danni didn't vote for me. That is so bizarre.

The jury was generally very complimentary of all three of you, but you did get dinged by Boston Rob on a few things. The first thing he dinged you for was sort of isolating yourself socially at Edge of Extinction. What did you make of that?

So, he's not wrong. I definitely kind of withdrew from the collective of Extinction. The collective of Extinction was this like zombie mode walking around the beach, like a damn White Walker kind of status. And if I'm going to be around that, that's going to rub off on me. And so, my motivation at the end was, "Listen, I got to get back in this game. My head, it cannot be in the same place as some of these other people." People like Adam, Wendell, they literally just lulled around the beach all damn day from morning to night. And that kind of energy to me, I feel rubs off on people. So, I was just doing my own thing. I was gallivanting on the island, I was exploring, I was fishing, and I definitely withdrew from the collective because I was just focused more on myself.

And that was a conscious effort I made because Extinction became really crowded really quick, and it's really easy to lose focus of why we were there. And you can just use each other to laugh and have this dark humor, because everybody was miserable. And listen, I had to do what I had to do to get back onto the beach, and obviously I didn't realize it would make people feel a certain type of way because I felt like all of us knows how much it sucked — that all of us wanted to get back on the beach, but that's who I am. Maybe I wouldn't have gotten back into the game if I had done things like wanting to make everybody happy. For me, I knew what I had to do, and I knew the head space I needed to get into to do the battle back. And that's what it took. And it did end up alienating some people, but I can't apologize for that.

And the other thing Rob dinged you for was the decision to not take on Tony and fire, because obviously you knew that people were going to compare that to Chris Underwood giving up his immunity, but you chose not to do it. Tell me about the decision.

So, that ding is something that I've been dinging myself with ever since I saw Sarah and Tony make fire. I was cringing, because that moment was so... I just wanted to vomit. It was so over the top and yeah, I get it, it's emotional. But at the same time, it's like, literally Sarah was just acting to make everybody want to vote for Tony. So I was just sitting there like, "Oh my God, barf." And so I haven't made peace with the decision to not make fire, because I know if I went to the end with Sarah and Michelle, I would have totally won. That is a Tribal I would have walked away thinking like, "All right, yeah. Pretty much in the bag, Natalie." So, I don't know if I'm going to be able to get over it. I don't know.

That decision was a back and forth all day between Michelle and Sarah, and even myself. And it was actually supposed to be Michelle until the end, but then Michelle was crying at some point and I was like, "Oh my God. Girlfriend is not in it right now." And I put in Sarah, but Sarah was too close to Tony. I just thought she was all about the girl power. And I thought she could pull it out and we'd have a final three women, but Sarah didn't look like she would go ahead with it either. So I don't know. Michelle was freaking out. That's why I didn't want to put her in, but now in hindsight, I wish I just made Michelle go to fire. Or me.

The big question I've had, that I'm sure lots of people have had, is you had all those extra Fire Tokens before the battle back challenge and then you used them to buy an idol for Tyson. Why Tyson and not Jeremy, considering how close you and Jeremy are?

Okay. So Tyson, one, he's a fricking challenge beat. It was really hard for me to admit to myself that, "Hey, if somebody can beat you in this challenge, who's it going to be? It's going to be Tyson. And do you want to give him extra motivation to even beat you and give him an idol?" That was one of the hardest things I've had to do, but at the same time, I did not want anybody going back into the game without an idol. If I could have kept that second idol on myself and just handed it off to whoever won, I would have done that, but those weren't the rules. You had to walk into the battle back with the idol and that idol stays on you and you couldn't pass it off. Jeremy came to Extinction and he looked a little bit defeated and Tyson and me, we were still out for blood.

Tyson had already tasted the blood going back in the first time. And me, I'm a fricking pit bull, so that taste of blood never left my mouth since I got voted off day two. And so, Tyson and me were the ones with the most fight on day 36, and Tyson had also just proved he’s amazing at challenges. So, my second immunity idol wasn't going to go to somebody that I just had all the feels for. It was going towards somebody that I knew could get back in the game the best. And if I'm not going to bet on myself, who would I bet on? It would be Tyson.

Did you put any conditions on that? Like, "I’ll give you this idol, but I get to the end, you're going to vote for me to win, right?" Were you making sure before you bought that for him?

No, no way. Tyson is a good dude and that scene was hundred percent authentic. He didn't ask me for that idol. And nobody knows this — but you might know it actually — when I had a concussion, what was it, 2016? I was in Provo at a concussion camp, and Tyson lived in Provo at the time in Utah, and he opened up his house to me and he let me stay in his daughter's room for a week while I was getting concussion treatment. And I didn't know them and this was so, so, so long ago. There was no game even on the horizon and that was something he did out of the kindness of his heart. He and Rachel put me up while I was suffering with this concussion. And obviously, that had probably had something to do with the fact that I chose him to get the idol, but he's also a challenge monster. So, I didn't care if I didn't make it in, and if I had made it in, I kind of knew he would vote for me. But those words were not even spoken.

Tell me about what was going on there at the water well when you were talking to Sarah at that final five and she noticed the idol in your buff. What was that idol doing in your wrist buff?

Oh my God. I was so paranoid. I'd be hiding it anywhere because everybody was psychopath on the beach and I was going to hide it by a shelter, but I decided not to. And then, I don't know, I just ran away somewhere. And then I think she thought it was fake and I should've just gone with it, but it was literally such a Survivor no-no. I just put it on my wrist and started walking around like an idiot.

And did you and Michele ever have any thoughts about trying to take Sarah out?

So, me and Michelle, we had an option to take Sarah out that day when it was a tied vote. I don't know why we felt that Sarah was more inclined to work with us than Denise, because Denise was so loyal to Ben that she would never flip on Ben. I mean, I wish I did, but Denise was also just super stubborn. There was no way we were ever going to get her to flip on Sarah or Ben. So Sarah seemed a little bit more inclined, but she also could have just been way more cunning and a better actor, you know?

What's something that happened out there that didn't make it into an episode that you wish we could have seen?

Oh my God, the Edge. There's so much that you guys don't see. Well, the most interesting thing was when I got there, day one, I was, first, I was like super depressed. So for like half a day, I just laid on one spot on the beach and I didn't even get water. And I think producers were a little bit nervous ‘cause I literally just didn't move. I was in one spot on the ocean laying there to die, basically. And then that's when I kind of flipped it out and I was like, "You know what? I've never been on a tropical beach by myself." So I spent a nice chunk of time completely naked. I just got completely naked and swam around in the ocean. And I was like, "This is like mermaid fantasies!”

That's one thing that nobody knows. And then the second thing is they just didn't depict how hard the Edge was. We would fall asleep every night and rats would be biting us. We'd wake up to rats biting our fingers and our toes. And how much we ate. It was literally stabbing, sleeping in the dirt, rats biting us every night. If anything, I wish that they had time to show the extreme conditions of the Edge because it was so difficult. And for me to say that, you know it's hard, because it was hard for me and it was extreme. It made a regular Survivor season seem like a luxury beach vacation compared to what we dealt with this season.

You've now done The Amazing Race twice. You've done Survivor twice. Will we see you on the island again if you get that call?

Well, I was hoping for a win. And then I'd be two out of four CBS shows, which would have been a pretty nice resume. Now that I'm one out of four, I want to go back. I feel like at this point I just need to go on Big Brother because I've done both shows twice in a row. But listen, if Survivor calls me back, I would definitely go back. If I'd won this season, I think I would have retired from the game of Survivor, but now I just feel like I have something else to prove. So, listen, if Survivor comes knocking, you know I'm answering that door.

Don't go on Big Brother, Natalie. Those migraines are going to come back on day one if you do that.

As long as they have a gym, Dalton, I'll be good.

Watch an exclusive deleted scene above, and make sure to also read our full finale recap as well as finale interviews with winner Tony Vlachosfinalist Michele FitzgeraldSarah Lacina, Ben Driebergen, Denise Stapley, and host Jeff Probst. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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