Natalie Tenerelli: I was hoping for a really bitter 'Survivor' jury
By Reality TV World staff, 05/18/2011
Natalie Tenerelli survived 39 days in Survivor: Redemption Island and made it to the competition's final Tribal Council session, but came up completely empty in the subsequent jury vote.
While she "outlasted" Survivor: Redemption Island's nine jury members, the ousted castaways unanimously determined that she had done little to "outwit" or "outplay" them -- resulting in four-time Survivor castaway "Boston" Rob Mariano being crowned the game's winner via a 8-1 vote during Sunday night's live finale broadcast on CBS (Phillip Sheppard, the third final Tribal Council castaway, received the remaining vote).
During a conference call with reporters on Monday, Natalie, a 19-year-old professional dancer from Acton, CA, discussed her Survivor experience with Reality TV World -- including exactly when she and ally Ashley Underwood learned Rob had found his hidden Immunity Idol, why she never attempted to vote him out of the game despite numerous chances, and what behavior Andrea Boehlke's "borderline creepy" characterization of Natalie's relationship with Rob may have referred to.
Reality TV World: I want to clarify [what was said on the reunion show] -- exactly when did you learn Rob had the hidden Immunity Idol?
Natalie Tenerelli: Um... that was... hmm... there was a scene where I came in and we met on one side of the beach, and I'm trying to think what was actually shown there...
Oh, we had a discussion about blindsiding Matt for the first time! And that's when I found out.
Reality TV World: [Blindsiding Matt] for the first time?
Natalie Tenerelli: Yes, for the first time. (laughs)
Reality TV World: So you knew basically from... I'm sorry, was that the third Tribal Council vote you had?
Natalie Tenerelli: Yes, it was the third, yeah.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Matt was actually blindsided at the Ometepe tribe's second Tribal Council session, not third. However, Survivor: Redemption Island's broadcasts showed Rob finding his hidden Immunity Idol on Day 10 after Matt had already been voted out of the game on Day 5, leaving Natalie's comments unclear.]
Reality TV World: And your take on it is that you guys could never come up with a chance to blindside Rob?
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Natalie Tenerelli: Exactly.
Reality TV World: Can you elaborate on that a little bit? Because there have obviously been plenty of other castaways that have hidden Immunity Idols before, but not made it to the end of the game because everyone else still found a way to either flush it out or blindside them. You seem to be saying that somehow wasn't feasible in your game -- can you explain why?
Natalie Tenerelli: Well I think that I wanted to play a safe game. And you could say it's a good thing and you could say it's a bad thing. But I felt that there were always other options to vote out somebody else and not risk myself being voted out.
So that's kind of where I came from. I figured by that end I'd hoped that people would see that I'd stayed loyal to my alliance with Rob, and yeah!
Reality TV World: So said said your strategy at the end was to hope for a bitter jury, but bitter in what sense? "Bitter" in that they resented Rob's gameplay, or were you putting your stock in the "Rob doesn't need the money, his wife already won a million before" argument, or was it some combination of all those?
Natalie Tenerelli: All those! It was a combination of all those, and somebody asked me, "Why didn't you elaborate on that at the final Tribal Council?" And my answer to that was I played a pretty nice game and I don't think I made too many enemies and I didn't want to change that.
That's pretty much what I had going for me! [That] I didn't have to hurt people's feelings, and I didn't have to lie to people -- I mean it was Ashley that didn't want acceptance. But really, at the time that I was lying -- or supposedly lying, I wasn't actually.
Because I thought we were voting for Phillip, until the end, so I wasn't lying. (laughs)
Reality TV World: The jury was obviously pretty harsh on you. Andrea called your relationship with Rob, "borderline creepy at times." Did she ever elaborate on what she meant by that, or give any examples of what she thought was creepy? Because that's kind of thrown some viewers.
Natalie Tenerelli: (Laughs) Somebody said something about trimming Rob's beard, but it's funny because if you look back on it, it was actually Ashley that was doing that! So, I don't know, I think it was just a lot of people just kind of hurt by Rob not taking them to the end, which is understandable.
Reality TV World: During one of your interviews right before the Tribal Council where you voted off Ashley, you said you "would honestly rather lose the game" than lose a friend in Ashley. So what happened there, where you not being literal? Because you obviously did vote for Ashley.
Natalie Tenerelli: Right... I'm sure it was just something that I had said and then it's kind of a little bit of editing, just trying to make you think that it's going one way and then it's going the other.
But I did really feel that way. It's hard, you're so tired and you're so hungry and by that time in the game, it's just like you get to the point where you just want to be done. You just want to be done!
And I think Rob had an advantage there, because he's done this four times. He knows all those feelings, he knows it's going to end. For me, I was just so exhausted and just I felt really bad about the whole situation.
Also in the call, Natalie told reporters why she decided to turn on Ashley, what her strategy to beat Rob in the final Tribal Council vote was, and whether she has any regrets.
Ashley seemed to take your decision to vote her out personal, do you think you should have voted with the girls and got Rob out?
Natalie Tenerelli: Well, the only thing I could have done is voted for Phillip with Ashley... and it would have been a tie. And therefore we would have had to pick rocks [as a tiebreaker] and then I could have jeopardized my chances of even being in the Final 3. So that's clearly what my decision was based off.
There was really no other way I could have gone besides doing [what I did].
In between the final Tribal Council and the live show, what was going through your mind at home? Did you feel you had a chance to win?
Natalie Tenerelli: Yeah, I thought that [I could get] really maybe a couple of votes. But I know that Rob played a really awesome game and it's hard not to see that. And so I'm happy for him and I think, you know, in every situation, the best player wins.
Do you regret anything you said during your jury speech at all that may have suggested, "Okay, Rob really did just get her there." Or anything that if you'd said different, may have gotten you another vote or two?
Natalie Tenerelli: I think it was a such a tough game to play with Rob, seeing that he has done this four times and has so much experience. And I look back on it and I probably -- I don't regret anything, I really don't.
Is Phillip out of the game easier to deal with than Phillip in the game?
Natalie Tenerelli: (Laughs) No!
[Survivor host Jeff Probst] asked you during the reunion show if you ever considered turning on Rob and you only answered with regard to that final [Tribal Council] vote [where he played the hidden Immunity Idol]. What about turning on him prior to that?
Natalie Tenerelli: No one thought about that, and there really was no chance for me to do that. And I think that has a lot to do with [that] we knew he had the idol.
And I'm glad that was clarified in [the reunion show] because that's huge! There's no way that -- like he would know if we were going to vote for him, he's a very smart player. And it was easier for me and less risky to just play with him than against him.
And so if I would have went another direction -- say it was the girls, or something like that -- Andrea had made a lot of friends on the other side, Ashley as well.
So the way I played was just a like very loyal game and I didn't try to make friends with the other tribe. So therefore, I don't think that my chances would have been any better if I went with the girls. So I didn't think that that was something I should do.
So since you kept Rob around, what was your plan to try [and beat him] and win?
Natalie Tenerelli: Well I figured that Rob played a really aggressive game, and I had just hoped -- a lot of people had hoped for a not so bitter jury, but I'd hoped for a bitter jury! (laughs)
So that's just kind of where I was and I just hope that people would understand Rob has played four times and I am so young. I just hoped that maybe they would see that, and yeah.
But if anything, the jury was bitter to you. How did it feel to be trashed more than Rob?
Natalie Tenerelli: Yeah... it's hard, it's hard because I am so young and it's hard to take that criticism and everything. And I think I said something about the whole Julie [negative comments] thing -- "Just take it with a grain of salt and move on, because you can't hold on to all this."
You know, people that that I didn't do anything, people thought many things. (sighs)
It's all part of the game -- it's two different strategies. One is aggressive and is really coming up with these strategic plans, and one is just kind of being smart about it and seeing who you should trust and just socially just playing the best game that you can.