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Nina Tells the Inside Story on Why She's a No Collar No More: Cochran delivers all the Survivor details from their interview
Posted on Mar 12, 2015 08:00am

John Cochran, simply known as "Cochran" to Survivor fans, competed on the show during Season 23 and walked away as Sole Survivor on Season 26. After the most recent castaway Nina Poersch had her torch snuffed by Jeff Probst, Cochran sat down with the former No Collar tribe member to touch on the moments we've all been lookng for more details on. Read on to hear how the interview played out.

By John Cochran

If last week saw the departure of this season’s most unapologetically free-spirited No-Collar castaway, this week saw the exit of a player who seemed far less comfortable with her tribal designation. Nina Poersch’s Survivor journey was rocky from the very start — despite some fleeting moments of hope, she always ended up stuck on the periphery of her tribe, never finding herself in a secure position of power. I talked to this fellow hardcore Survivor fan about her social-game struggles, her strategic regrets, and — oh, yeah — skinny dipping.

Cochran: Let’s start with the beginning of last night’s episode, when you returned from tribal council and told your tribemates, “I know I’m going home next.” In that early stage of the game, players are eager to latch onto any reason to vote somebody out, so it seems like acting resigned to going home isn’t necessarily the smartest approach: it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. What was your rationale behind saying all that?

Nina: Telling them I knew I was going home next was an entirely emotional reaction. At that point in the game, I did not feel the love from my tribe at all. With Vince going, I just knew that was it for me. Still, I wasn’t going to give up — I knew we needed to win challenges, and I felt that if we could just make it to the merge, I’d be able to blend in. But at that point, yeah, it was all emotions, not strategy.

Cochran: If I had to identify what seemed like the biggest turning point in your game, it’d have to be you approaching Will in last week’s episode and telling him about Vince’s concerns for his health, which ultimately resulted in Will voting out Vince. In retrospect, do you wish you could take that conversation back?

Nina: I do regret that decision. At the time I was talking to Will, I didn’t think that small sentence I said was going to have such a big impact on who he was going to vote out. And it was really just my true concern for his health; he was saying he was exhausted from the challenge, and I was trying to give him a pep-talk and tell him he needs to look strong. But seeing what happened, yes, I would definitely take that conversation back.

Cochran: At one point in last night’s show, you said you felt like your tribemates were “a little more free-spirited than me,” and even Jeff suggested that you weren’t necessarily a true “no-collar.” Let’s say you could have been on one of the other two tribes: which would you have wanted to be on, and who do you think you would have aligned with?

Nina: I really would have liked to have been on the White Collar tribe — White Collar is more my core being. And it’s hard to change your core. If I’d been on that tribe, I definitely would have aligned with Max, since I would have known he was a big Survivor fan and someone who really knows the game. I also would’ve aligned with Carolyn, and maybe even Shirin, since she’s such a big fan. On the other hand, sometimes being a fan and knowing too much can hurt you — you end up overanalyzing everything.

Cochran: Throughout your time on Survivor, you seemed frustrated that your tribemates were alienating you, but we didn’t see many attempts from you to ingratiate yourself with them. Did you view it as a lost cause? And what do you think the reason for your “outcast” status really was?

Nina: Well, the thing you don’t see as the audience is that I did try to work my way in with them. There were several times when I would talk to Hali and Joe and offer to help them around camp, and they’d just say they didn’t need my help. I’d go into the ocean to strike up a conversation with some of them and try to be social, but they would look at me and walk away. And it happened right from the start. When we first got to the island, Joe asked me whether I would even be able to participate in Survivor challenges, and I said “Yeah.” Then he asked, “But what if we have a challenge that involves calling out?” I told him I’d be the caller. I was never able to recover from that — he put the seed in my head that he doubted me, and that it was because of my hearing. Even going into the game, though, I figured they either weren’t going to like me because of my hearing, or they’ll vote me out because they’re afraid I’d get sympathy because of it.

Cochran: You mentioned Joe’s uncertainty about your value in challenges; this obviously calls to mind last night’s immunity challenge, which Joe had you sit out. What was your reaction to being told you shouldn’t participate? And was there a reason why, once you saw your tribe struggling, you didn’t hop in and try to make the best of the situation?

Nina: When Joe first suggested I sit out the challenge, I actually thought his plan might work. When I saw it wasn’t working, though, I kept telling Joe, “Let me help you! Let me help you!” But Joe and Jenn just told me to “Go over there” on the sidelines. I tried helping, but figured that — since I’m already on the outs — I might be better off just doing what they say and following their orders. When they finally said I could come over and help them plug the holes, it was too late.

Cochran: While we’re on the subject of not participating, let’s talk about an earlier moment in the game for you: the skinny-dipping snub, when Hali and Jenn went off for some No-Collar (and No-Shirts, No-Pants, etc.) fun in the sun without inviting you. One Twitter user wanted to know: had you been invited skinny dipping, would you have accepted the invitation?

Nina: No, I would not have gone skinny dipping on national television. I have two sons, granchildren…. No. I had been sitting in the shelter and got up and asked if anyone knew where Hali and Jenn were, and it turned out that they’d gone off into the ocean. It wasn’t a matter of me wanting to go skinny dipping; it was more, why couldn’t they have at least invited me?

Cochran: Do you feel like you just had bad luck when it came to the tribe you ended up on, or do you feel like — if you could go back and do it all over again — there are certain things you’d be able to do differently?

Nina: I’d like to be able to say I played the game the best I could and that I wouldn’t change anything at all, but if I were to play again, I would go into it being a little more aggressive and not so passive. I wouldn’t be afraid to push myself more onto people. So, yeah, focusing on having more of a social game.

Cochran: You’re a longtime fan of Survivor. As someone who’s watched every episode from the comfort of home, what aspect of the experience surprised you the most?

Nina: When you watch Survivor on the couch, it seems so much easier. You get to see everything that’s going on, and you’re privy to all the important information. I knew that going into the game, and I knew that there would be talking going on behind your back. But I always thought I’d be the one who would be privy to that information. I thought I would be a leader, and it just didn’t work out that way. It’s real; it’s cutthroat; it’s every man for himself. I just wish my tribe would’ve known we’d have to work together, even if they didn’t like me. I had to feel like I was part of that tribe. I had the physical strength, but they really knocked me down emotionally and I wish they could’ve realized “We need to stop beating this girl down — she needs to feel like part of the tribe.” I gave it everything I had, but watching at home doesn’t prepare you for everything.

Cochran: Given that your Survivor story ended a little earlier than planned, how would you say your experience impacted your feelings about the game?

Nina: Oh, I love Survivor more than ever. I had an absolutely amazing experience — it was very positive. It may not have seemed that way, with all my emotional breakdowns and everything. But aside from that, it was very positive and up-lifting. And I think within the deaf community, especially the cochlear implant community, I’ve left a huge impact and inspired a lot of people to go do what they want to do — to live their dreams. It may not turn out the way you wanted it to, but that’s okay; you have to go out there and do it.

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