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Editor’s Note: The players were separated by gender and didn’t officially know the theme of the season when this interview took place.
Another Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted across from the giant “Boston” Rob and Sandra heads at the Island of the Idols.
Winner of “David vs. Goliath” (2018)
Name: “Kentucky” Nick Wilson
Hometown: Williamsburg, Kentucky
Current Residence: Williamsburg, Kentucky
Gordon Holmes: It’s been decades since you’ve set foot on a “Survivor” beach.
“Kentucky” Nick Wilson: (Laughs) I know.
Holmes: What’ve you been up to since then?
Wilson: Pretty much the same. I went back to work after I won, I got engaged.
Wilson: Thank you. I feel like I might’ve lost my accent a little bit. Maybe it just sounds thicker on TV.
Holmes: People aren’t going to trust you if that accent keeps coming and going.
Wilson: (Laughs) Yeah.
Holmes: What do you think stands out when people think about you and your time on the show?
Wilson: They probably remember me as the country boy David that ended up winning. I think the most memorable thing I did was when I split the minority vote and blindsided John (Hennigan). We also used the idol nullifier and the steal-a-vote advantage. We used it correctly. I think that David alliance of us five putting our advantages together to take out the mean Goliaths.
Holmes: If you’re known for teamwork, is that something that can work to your advantage now?
Wilson: I was always worried to come back because a winner would have a big target on their back. I think I might be pretty lucky this time. So, I may find myself in the same spot as last time where I’m not the big target on everybody’s mind. It could be a lucky season for me.
Holmes: We haven’t officially been told any themes or twists. So…what do you think is going on here?
Wilson: Well, obviously it’s a tribe of all-winners vs. a tribe of first boots, right?
Holmes: Interesting theory.
Wilson: (Laughs) We haven’t seen everybody yet, but I’m assuming it’s all winners. That’s what I mean when I say I shouldn’t be the biggest target. I might be OK this time.
Holmes: Do you think it’s just ten guys here?
Wilson: Obviously I have to assume the other ten people are female winners. I know Sandra will always play no matter what. She says it’s easy money. I’d imagine, Sarah, Michele, Natalie…I hope Tina (Wesson) is here. We have Ethan, but we don’t have Richard (Hatch). So, I’d love to have Tina here. She just seems like a sweet lady. I’m not sure who else. I can come up with six or seven names, but then the other people…maybe they can bring Parvati? But, I know she just had a baby. I’m going to be excited to see the other ten people.
Holmes: Some of these people here have played in returnee seasons, you haven’t.
Wilson: I’m sure there are a lot of pre-game alliances. Some of these people have been friends for years and years. I don’t really know anybody yet. I won like six months ago, so I haven’t really met anybody yet. So, hopefully there’s more people in my position where either they recently won, or they won years ago and haven’t been a part of the “Survivor” family, or took a step back for some reason. Hopefully there are people that need me. I think it’s a huge advantage for people who have pre-game alliances, but I hope it’s also an advantage to me that I don’t have any connections. I’m a free agent.
Holmes: So, no pre-gaming from you?
Wilson: I don’t know very many people. I don’t want to reach out and look super sketchy. I’ve been able to talk to a couple of people.
Holmes: Who’ve you been talking to?
Wilson: Does this go to the producers?
Holmes: This won’t be made public until next February.
Wilson: Oh, OK…so they won’t be able to pick tribes based on this?
Holmes: That ship will have sailed.
Wilson: OK, I have a pre-game alliance with Yul and Michele. So, if I end up on the same tribe as them, I’ll be super happy. Davie (Rickenbacker) is friends with Wendell, so I’m pretty sure I can connect with him. So, if I get on tribe with them, I’ll feel really good about that.
Holmes: Is there a part of you that feels like you’re playing with house money and whatever happens happens, or have you got that eye of the tiger?
Wilson: There’s a part of me that’s just happy to be here. I won before, it’s an honor to be here, whatever happens, it’s all good. I’m just happy to be invited. And you know, I want to have fun and enjoy the experience. But, the major part is I want to show that I deserve to be here. I want to show that I’m one of the best winners ever. There are some people that think I should’ve been voted out first last time. That’s not true. And there are people that thought I had to win immunity necklaces at the end to get there, that’s not true. I want to show people that I’m one of the best players ever. That fires me up more than the check this time. It’s more about the honor, the respect, the title. We’ve won the check and unless you blow it, it’s still there.
Holmes: “Boston” Rob is a legend. “Survivor” Hall of Famer on the first ballot. That doesn’t happen overnight. But, a two-time winner? That person is a legend.
Wilson: Exactly. One of my favorite winners ever is Sandra. She won twice! That’s the most respect in the world. I could go from super fan, reading your articles, listening to podcasts, to sixteen months later being a “Survivor” legend? That’d be crazy.
Holmes: You’re in lockdown now, you’re not allowed to talk. But, people nod and wink at each other. Are you seeing any of that?
Wilson: I can’t sit still. I try to sit still and watch, but I end up walking around and talking to the producers and stuff. I’m trying to pay attention to other people interacting. I think people are normally cordial. So, I’m trying to figure out who’s intentionally ignoring each other. It seems like they’re hiding it. I think it’s obvious that Rob, Tyson, and Jeremy are probably…they’re friends. So, they’re probably already aligned. Tony is off to himself. Ethan is interesting because he played so long ago. I’m not really sure if I’m on to anybody too much.
Holmes: We’re gonna play some Align or Malign. Here are the nine guys you’ve been hanging out with.
Wilson: OK, Adam…it’s funny because I really like Adam. I met him at our finale. He’s nice and he’s really good friends with Angelina (Keeley). But, he kind of worries me in the game. I could see him having pre-game alliances with a lot of people. Tyson is one of my favorite players ever. I hope I can talk to him and get in good with him. It’s just scary because he has a lot of friends out here. Him and Rob and Jeremy are friends in real life. They’ve played poker with Kim. Jeremy is close with Natalie…there’s just a big circle that Tyson is in. Rob is scary, of course for the same reason Tyson is. This is his sixth time, even though he didn’t play last time. Tony…this line-up is stacked. Tony left too early last time. I think he might not be as scary this time. I’d go to the merge with Tony. I like Ethan, I’d like to align with him. Yul is my pre-game alliance. I told him I’d go to the final three with him. But, if I was sitting next to him at the end I’d be very happy. He’s very smart and very detail oriented. He won’t forget anything if you tell him. I’ve tried to model my game after Jeremy. He had the big shields around him. I’m afraid if he does that this time, I’m not one of those big shields.
Holmes: You’ve got to puff up.
Wilson: (Laughs) I should’ve worked out. He’s so likable and charismatic. I think he could be the big target that goes out early because everyone’s so afraid of him. Kinda like Tony was last time. Ben…I’m so torn. I’m paranoid about there being the Extinction Island. Part of me wants the weak players to get voted out and the strong players to stay in the game. So, when I get voted out, I can win the challenge to get back in. Tyson, Ben, Jeremy, I want them to stay in the game so they won’t beat me. I don’t know when we’ll learn if there’s an Extinction Island. So, Ben is one of the guys that’s a straggler like me who doesn’t have an alliance. I’ll work with him, and if there isn’t an Extinction Island, I’ll try to get him out. Wendell is the guy I want to align with more than anybody. He took Domenick (Abbate) to the end. That’s one of the most trustworthy things that anyone has ever done. Take someone to the end and then tie. They had to have known that the other was a big threat.
Holmes: Alright, give me the four you’ll align with and the five you won’t.
Wilson: OK, align with Wendell, Ben, Yul, and Ethan. I think Yul and Ethan are pretty trustworthy. They played a long time ago and probably aren’t as savvy with idols as I would be. They might not be able to find idols. Wendell and Ben, I think I can trust, and they’re probably better at idols and challenges than me. So, if someone wanted to take a swipe at our alliance, they might take out Wendell or Ben first. I think if I was at the end with Ethan and Yul, I could beat them because I’ve played more recently and I can be more flashy.
Holmes: Alright, who are your maligns?
Wilson: Tony and Adam are maligns because I think they’re really good liars. I don’t think I can trust them. The other four I think I’d know when they are lying, or they’d be more truthful. Tyson, Rob, and Jeremy are friends. I’d be the odd man out. If just Tyson or Jeremy were here, I’d love to work with them. But with Rob here, I think they might just follow his orders.
Holmes: Of these four, who’s your ride or die?
Wilson: I think Yul because…it’s tough between Yul and Wendell…but I trust Yul to keep me in the game to his own detriment. I think Wendell is trustworthy, he’d take me as far as he should, but he’d vote me out if it was in his best interest. Which he should. I think Yul played so long ago that he doesn’t grasp the killer instinct.
Holmes: Of the bottom five, who’s first out?
Wilson: Rob. (Laughs) He’s a legend, he might hate me after this. He’s had his time, you know? This is his sixth time. He’s been to the end twice. Should have won both times. But, it’s our time now.
Holmes: Some of these guys have never played the modern game. That’s got to work in your favor.
Wilson: I think it definitely works in my favor as far as the evolution of “Survivor.” But, it also works in my favor that I’ve played in Fiji. Wendell, Ben, Adam…we’ve played on these exact beaches. We’ve found idols, we know where to look. But, the game has changed so much since some of these people have played. The concept of having a strong alliance and going to the end? It just doesn’t exist anymore. There’s no way a group of five forms on the first day and then they’re the final five. You have to really have yourself in a bunch of different plans and scenarios with a bunch of people. I think now the game is more about alliances of two than alliances of five and six. I’m not going to panic if a strong alliance takes over and I’m not a part of it because I know it doesn’t last anymore. And, there are so many tribe swaps, so many idols, so many twists. I never got paranoid in my season except for one time and I wasted my idol. So, I won’t get paranoid. I’ll be calm and go with the flow of the game. I think the people who are used to controlling everything, I think they’re going to be at a disadvantage compared to the people that have played lately. And nowadays? You can’t control every vote. There are too many good players and too many variables out there.
Holmes: An alien lands and you have to explain to them why “Survivor” is awesome using one clip. What do you show them?
Wilson: I think you’ve got to show the strategy and how likable people are. I’d pick Adam’s season when they go to rocks over a vote out. It just shows how everyone has relationships with each other and people were willing to risk it. It also shows the strategy of you want more numbers than the other side. You’ve got to risk it all.
Holmes: If Jeff let you choose a twist, what would you go with?
Wilson: I’d take Extinction Island. I want it. I think I could win if we have it. But, I want to know ahead of time, because it changes strategy.
Holmes: We’ve got to make sure you’re ready for this fiasco. We’ll play Best Defense. I’ll give you a reason someone could use to target you. I need you to argue against it.
Holmes: This guy was aligning with everybody, can’t trust him.
Wilson: These people know each other. I was doing it in my season, but I’d never met any of these people. People are going to say that for the next three weeks. If we don’t take out these people that are friends? They’re never going to break.
Holmes: Nick’s an attorney. I don’t want to square off against an attorney at final Tribal.
Wilson: Oh…well…I did do well at my final Tribal Council. I don’t think being an attorney mattered. I was going to win no matter what. People vote for who they like. Honestly, most jurors have their minds made up before the final Tribal. Attorneys have lost in the finals before.
Holmes: Nick didn’t get a vote the entire time. He’s wily, he’s under-the-radar, he’s doing something right.
Wilson: There’s no way that can happen two times in a row. Everybody knows I didn’t get a single vote. I’m sure I’ll get some this time. I’m on people’s radars now.
Holmes: It’s interesting when we’re talking about what a killer line-up this is; you’ve got to feel like a David again.
Wilson: (Laughs) Yeah! Actually I do feel like a David again. It’s so crazy, if I win again, that’s my story again. David is the shepherd who becomes the king. Hopefully I can become the king.
Don’t miss the premiere of “Survivor: Winners at War” – Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at 8 pm ET.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @GordonHolmes