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Exclusive: Ken McNickle - I would love to show a different side if I play 'Survivor' again and make drastic changes


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/19/2016 

Ken McNickle tied for the runner-up spot with Hannah Shapiro on Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X's finale.

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Adam Klein was instead revealed to be the winner of its $1 million grand prize on the two-hour broadcast. Ken, a 33-year-old model from Denver, CO, and Hannah, a 24-year-old barista from West Hollywood, CA, both received zero votes to win in the season's final jury voting results.

Adam, a 25-year-old homeless shelter manager from San Francisco, CA, won Season 33 of Survivor in a clean-sweep jury vote. Ken, however, was the tribe's main provider and stayed true -- until the final vote off -- to his belief that trust, loyalty and integrity conquer all.

During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Thursday, the day after the finale, Ken talked about his Survivor loss and overall experience. Below is the concluding portion.

Reality TV World: When I talked to Jessica Lewis earlier this season, she had told me she was incredibly close with Adam throughout the game. So were you surprised she gave you her Legacy Advantage and that the advantage was as big as it was -- immunity, and not say, a head start in a challenge.

Ken McNickle: Exactly. No, I'm not surprised about it. I love Jess dearly. I now consider her a very close friend and she's someone I care deeply about. And during the game, that was definitely there and that was definitely -- I wasn't surprised with how that went down, because [David Wright] and I stuck in an alliance with her.

Yes, Adam and her got along and they had a friendship out there as well, but you know, I put my neck on the line and really jeopardized my game to try to save her ass in that [Lucy Huang] vote. And I think on top of our friendship, she also respected how Dave and I stood in an alliance right next to her.

Reality TV World: Do you feel you made any mistakes this season, or do you have any regrets? Because when you blew up Will Wahl's game for example, you called it a "test," but everyone else seemed to think it was a big betrayal and Will was really upset with you over it.

Ken McNickle: Yeah, but what they don't show are the conversations that Will and I had afterwards. And part of my intention was blowing up not Will but the other side of the game. He was working with a group of people who -- when he was around -- didn't respect him, and when he wasn't around, didn't respect him.

Part of why I was pulling [Will] in and needed him for the next chunk of the game was convincing him of that, and you know, there were obviously better ways to handle things and better ways I could've communicated that.

But for the most part, what I think about is you see a guy like me who's got a really high metabolism and has almost no body fat. Thirty days into the game, you're not thinking clearly.

I jokingly posted something online last week when people were poking fun of that -- I was just having fun with them and said, "Yeah, remember that time when you missed breakfast, and by lunch time at work you swore you couldn't function properly? You were hangry and couldn't communicate your feelings and thoughts and the world was just a mess because you missed breakfast?"

Think about that for 30 days straight, and tell me how you're going to respond to things. And maybe that's me being a highly-sensitive creature, you know, someone who wears my heart on my sleeve and it's kind of hard for me at times to even hide it.

I actually don't even try anymore because I find it -- it's just something I can't do. That came out, and I think that was part of it. Starving, hungry, emotionally upset, scared because I had heard it was my name on the block.

And I go, "Hey, I'm going to blow this out of the water and get my name as far away from that block as I can. It was [Justin "Jay" Starrett]. Jay didn't want to keep me around, and so, there were a couple of [castaways] who still saw me as a threat just because of what I can do at Immunity Challenges and whom I was aligned with.

Reality TV World: How big of an impact do you think Adam's disclosure of his mom's illness in his closing jury comments had on the jury vote? Do you think it impacted the vote at all?

Ken McNickle: I have my own thoughts on that whole thing but I prefer not to mention that, just my thoughts on the whole [thing]. How that came up, when that came up, that part of [Adam]'s story, yeah. I'd prefer just not to talk about it.

Reality TV World: Do you think Chris Hammons' decision to campaign on Adam's behalf played a role in his victory?

Ken McNickle: I do feel Chris' stepping up and saying that stuff did have an impact. Chris is a guy that when he speaks everybody listens. And he came up to me last night after [the finale], and he watched the show and said, "Hey, I had no idea. I swore it was Adam who convinced you [to vote out David]. I didn't realize you did it on your own."

And that's also one of the things that's difficult, is people have all these perceptions and assumptions and judgments that they base their decisions off of. But they don't get to see the game.

And some of my millennial friends watched the game and said, "Wow, I had no idea you were pulling the strings over at Gen X. I had no idea David was about to have a neurotic breakdown and leave the game and you kept him there. I had no idea." They didn't know the part that I played in creating my alliance and the group around me heading into the merge.

And then explaining to them that I had to hold back once I got to the merge because the bullseye on my back was growing, and as a challenge threat and everything I was going into this game, a guy like me, you've got to constantly be thinking about that bullseye on your back, and is it getting bigger? What can I do to keep it somewhat hidden?

Reality TV World: It sounds like your experience on Survivor left you with mixed emotions, especially when it comes to the evolution of the game. Would you want to play again or are you thinking, "Maybe this isn't the right game for me and what I value?"

Ken McNickle: No, I definitely want to play again. I actually really, really want to play again. I love a challenge, and I went into it as a game I needed to play to succeed and get to the end. But I see that there are some things I could've done differently, some subtle changes and some big changes, that I think drastically would've impacted how I finished up in the game.

And I like a challenge. I like proving people wrong and I know people still have a lot of respect for my game but there's a side of me that people haven't seen that used to come out on the football field and in other aspects of my life that I would love to be able to show people.

And that's the side of me that's more aggressive, and if people don't respect the person who supports them and takes care of them and they literally want to bite the hand that feeds them, that's fine. If you want people who are going to be aggressive and on-the-attack, then (laughs) I definitely have that side and I would love to show people that.

To read the first half of what Ken McNickle told Reality TV World in his exclusive Survivor interview, click here.



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