If you missed last Wednesday’s episode of “Survivor: San Juan del Sur,” you missed one of the craziest Tribal Councils in quite some time. With fragmented allegiances at every turn, two different Immunity Idols were played while a third was found but not played. The result of the chaotic vote was that Wes Nale, the 23 year old firefighter from Shreveport, LA, was sent out of the game. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, my exclusive interview with Wes was pushed back until today.
Wes was a likeable character from the start, but the show seemed to keep him at an awkward distance from us. He shared that same melodic, Southern-twang in his voice that his father Keith had, but we never really heard much from Wes from the beginning. Mostly, he was portrayed as comic relief, or at least as the kind of player that didn’t seem to pose any sort of strategic threat.
Early in the game though, he found himself on the right side of the numbers with the guys of Coyopa. He never really bonded with the girls, like Jaclyn or Baylor, and that lack of early relationship-building may have cost him dearly in the game. He seemed closest to Alec, who is equally clueless when it came to game strategy.
It took until the merge for him to finally be able to play the game with his father. Keith clearly cares for his son a great deal, despite ribbing him often and providing him with a little bit of tough fatherly love. Wes was a part of the “boys” that made Jaclyn feel unwelcome and disrespected around camp, but even with his ally Josh getting voted out post-merge, Wes came incredibly close to once again finding himself on the right side of the numbers. At Tribal, Natalie urged Jon to play his Idol, which in turn prompted Keith to play his. Both of them were saved, leaving Wes exposed, even though Keith made a last minute offer to give the Idol to Wes. He refused. Two votes were enough, and Wes became the third member of the San Juan del Sur jury.
I spoke with Wes today about his time in the game, his relationship (or lack thereof) with the women of Coyopa, and if he has any regrets about not taking his father’s Idol.
Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: Sorry to see you go!
Wes Nale: Oh, no worries.
Tom Santilli: So your dad offered up his Idol to you right before he played it to save himself. Had the two of you previously discussed how to use the Idol, or that he would give it to you? Was your dad willing to give up his game for yours?
Wes: Yes he was. I had told him, hey, it’s your Idol, play it how you want.
Tom Santilli: Was there any thought to take it from him? Any regrets?
Wes: Yeah, I mean I did, but I would have probably just been the next to go. They’re trying to get rid of all of us. I felt I may have had a better shot at the challenges and they’d probably take me out next. I figured if he hung around they might have kept him a little bit longer just because they wouldn’t have seen him as such a threat. So I thought about that. I also thought about keeping the Idol and not playing it, he’d have gone home, and then I’d still be in the game with an Idol. So we had a bunch of scenarios, but he wanted to play it and I couldn’t stop him, it’s his Idol, so I just said play it how you want to play it. I figured he might have played it and then told Jeff to play it on Wes, but he didn’t do that. So, that’s it.
Tom Santilli: Your dad seemed to make a huge mistake when he said “stick to the plan” at Tribal Council. How do you think Tribal goes down if he doesn’t say what he said?
Wes: If he wouldn’t have said that I would assume that Jon wouldn’t have played his Idol, he would have felt safe just like we planned on, and he would have went home and it would have been a game-changer. But that’s not how it went. You got to take the good and the bad, I guess.
Tom Santilli: What went through your head when you heard him say that at Tribal?
Wes: Oh, as soon as it came out of his mouth, I knew one of us was going home. I knew we had the Idol, it was just a matter of who was going to be safe from it. He was the one that was safe from it.
Tom Santilli: You were in an all-guy alliance before and after the merge even. Why weren’t you able to create stronger relationships with the women in the game, like Baylor or Jaclyn, who were both on your original alliance?
Wes: Well Baylor, she did whatever her mother said once they merged. And there was no turning Missy, Missy thought she had it all figured out. So Baylor was going to do absolutely whatever her mom wanted to do. My dad had also found out that Missy and Baylor had voted for him, so he didn’t want to work with them either. And Jon and Jaclyn, I thought Jon wanted to work with us, he looked me right in the face and said he wanted to work with us, and bold-faced lied to me, didn’t even wait to be behind my back to lie. And Jaclyn, she just laid in the shelter and was lazy, kind of like Baylor, and she never talked strategy with anybody. And she’s going to turn that on us and say we never talked strategy with her, well, she never once talked strategy with almost anybody. That’s kind of why we didn’t work with any of them. I would have worked with Natalie, definitely, but she already had a solid alliance that she didn’t want to flip against.
Tom Santilli: Speaking of Jaclyn, we saw on TV that a huge part of why she didn’t want to work with you guys was how she felt disrespected around camp. Did you know that she was feeling that way while you were out there and just didn’t care, or do you feel like Jaclyn was overblowing that a little bit? Or what was your take on Jaclyn and how she felt she was treated?
Wes: She acted like we disrespected her because we never talked to her while Jon was at Exile. But she never talked to us anyways, even when Jon was there. All she talked to was Jon. Why would we change that just because he’s gone now? She never wanted to talk to us so why would we want to talk to you? I guess she felt disrespected by that, when we would talk strategy with him and then he’d tell her about it. That’s the whole take on that.
Tom Santilli: Especially compared to many other players this season, you weren’t really shown as being all that strategic of a player. Were you happy with how you were portrayed on TV?
Wes: Yeah, definitely. They made it look like Josh was the ringleader, but me and Alec had a bunch of say in it. Me and Alec talked maybe the most out of everybody and they don’t even show me and Alec really even talking that much. They didn’t show that part, they just showed us laying back and laying low, and going with the flow. Me and Alec had a bunch of ideas that we threw out there and people took, but they don’t really show any of that. So yeah, I also feel like I’m a lot funnier than they showed. Keith is getting all the good one-liners out there, that everybody is eating up, and I thought that my one-liners were even better, and they’re not showing those.
Tom Santilli: Speaking of your dad, the two of you shared some really nice emotional moments out on the island this season. What has this experience done for your relationship with your father?
Wes: Oh, it’s definitely grown. I had never seen him cry but only once ever, but I seen him cry on TV now. I didn’t think that it would be that emotional out there. We’re two tough guys, you know, I thought it would be just go out there and get the job done. Do the best we can. I didn’t know that it would lead to so much emotion, but it did. And we grew closer from it.
Tom Santilli: Has your dad surprised you at all with his gameplay? From coming into the game with him, not knowing how he would do, what do you think of how your dad has done so far?
Wes: Oh yeah, he’s definitely hung around a lot longer than I thought he would. He hasn’t watched much Survivor…I mean, he’s watched a few seasons, but he doesn’t really know the strategic side of it. But he’s picking it up quick as he’s playing. I feel like that’s helped him a lot. I’m hoping he’s still learning and that he gets even farther in the game.
Tom Santilli: Who did you want to go the very end with, had you stayed in the game? Obviously your father would be one of them…
Wes: I would have definitely liked to go to the end with Alec, no doubt. But if I was playing strategic, I wasn’t too sure I could beat Alec. I might have beat Alec, I might not have beat Alec. I would have taken Baylor, I would have take Jaclyn and I would have take Missy. That’s who I would have wanted to take. Because I knew for a fact that one of them wasn’t going to beat me. Or anybody. If Baylor, Jaclyn or Missy all end up in the Finals, they’re not going to win. That’s what I feel like. I would have taken two out of those three to the Finals with me.
Tom Santilli: So you would have voted out your dad then?
Wes: Yeah, he would have beat me, no doubt. I told him at the merge that if we go to the end, he’d beat me, so I’d have to probably take him out at some point. And he was like, aw, BS! But I would have!
Tom Santilli: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you that we didn’t learn from the show?
Wes: Nah, everyone I think has a pretty fair perception of me from the show, and I’m good with it!
Be sure to join me on Wednesday for a special double-episode preview, full recaps and instant analysis, and of course, the next exit interviews on Thursday.
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