Up Close & Personal with Nick Iadanza – Part 1

You guys. YOU GUYS. It happened. After months of occasional check-ins and freak-outs, Nick and I fiiiiinally sat down and had a full, proper de-brief on Survivor Gamechangers following the finale. But first, I wanted to hear all about his experience on Australian Survivor, and obviously live vicariously through him. He was always one of my faves out in Samoa (which you will be VERY well aware of if you read my recaps) and I never once thought there was anything even remotely snake-like about him at ALL. So there. What follows is a very passionate back-and-forth chat (with its fair share of controversy! Oooh!) between two very excitable Survivor/reality TV fans. Part 2 is to come, so stay tuned.

Aph: Hello!


A: Oh…I was going to keep them in and italicise/bold them.

N: That would be horrifying.

A: But as you explicitly requested…I will be sure to edit them. And I will include all of this in my post to keep you *real* Mister-friends-with-Rob-Cesternino.

N: My students will never be able to look at me the same again. Even after they saw me run around an island like a crazy person. THIS will be my undoing.

A: Shit, being an English teacher sounds intense. Okay, I’ve got your back so you can save face in front of the all-powerful teenagers.

N: This is why you are the best Blogger in the Biz. Saving washed up reality stars, one semi-colon at a time.

A: I am flattered!! I accept the title AND responsibility.

Now. This season was nuuuuuuts and I have so many feelings, as I’m sure you do too. We will get to all of them, but first of all – thank you for joining me for a chat and for reading my recaps! As you know, I started off recapping Australian Survivor which you, of course, were on. What’s it like watching Survivor now, as you’ve done forever, now that you’ve experienced it for yourself?

N: First of all, thank you so much for having me. Your blogs were HILARIOUS and we ALL read them. Many contestants agreed they were on point and super witty.

A: Oh shit, that kind of freaks me out. I was pretty, um, open with my opinions. But also you just made my day, so thank you!

N: I feel especially lucky that you never hacked me too bad and I got to bask in the glory of your commentary. Not quite the same for some other contestants… Hahahaha. Being on Survivor does change the way you watch it…I was an avid fan with a freakish amount of insider goss about how it was put together, so it was nice to go through it all and to help connect those final dots.

A: Hahaha you were an immediate fave – I could tell you were a true Survivor diehard and were there to play, which is always appreciated. The others…well, I stand by it. Ummm insider goss…?

N: It helps you understand the logistics of the game and how it becomes a polished and highly edited product. The things you think will make it, don’t, and the things you ever expect them to catch, does!

A: Really?? Any examples at the top of your head? A friend of mine was a producer out there and she told me some stuff but she wasn’t a (true) fan and didn’t understand the dirt I wanted.

N: I had dinner with Bob Crowley back in the day when he and his wife came to Adelaide. I also listen to an unhealthy amount of podcasts and things, as well as being FB friends with a lot of the previous Survivors – so I knew how the sausage was made, per se. It doesn’t ruin the enjoyment, it only enhanced it.

A: Oh I love that. And totally agree. Every detail I find out just reminds me why it’s still so damn good after all these years.

N: The stuff that really gets my Survivor geekiness going is the mundane stuff, like how the interviews are set up, tribal procedure, “what happens if…?” scenarios for filming etc. All super boring for the average person but really fun for me. It really makes you appreciate it as one of the best TV products out there.

A: I’ve always wondered that too – how do the tribes get to challenges, who reorganises the votes before they’re read, etc. Were there any surprises that you didn’t expect?

N: I’d love to tell you those things, but you’ll have to wait until you are on to get the full lowdown. I wouldn’t want to spoil the magic for potential players. The biggest surprise was this… For YEARS I have heard Survivors say ‘It’s soooo boring. There is soooo much spare time’. THAT IS COMPLETE MALARKEY! (Whappud Michelle Fitzgerald)

A: Yeah especially in the older seasons they used to bang on about that all the time! Hahaha “malarkey”. I love it.

N: There was NEVER a time – in 37 days – where I was bored, had nothing to do etc.

A: Was it because you were exploring/taking it all in/being a snake and hustling constantly?

N: If that’s the case, then you aren’t playing hard enough. Ok, clearly I played too hard for my season, but there is always stuff to do, whether it’s for camp or building relationships. I don’t mean in terms of hardcore strategy. That has to be saved for the right time. Despite what people may think and the edit showed, there were DAYS were I didn’t talk strategy at all. But that doesn’t mean you are still not building social bonds, improving camp or planning ahead in your own mind.

A: I don’t think you were playing too hard – I think others weren’t playing hard enough. I would have preferred 20 versions of Nick to be honest. And yep, I think Boston Rob talked about how he was always up at night and early in the morning and planning 5 steps ahead or just struggling to relax.

N: Survivor never stops. You have to hustle. Now, it is harder because in AU survivor we had 3 challenges every four days, whereas the US one has 2 challenges every 3 days. They do have more down time, but for AU survivor it was go, go, go. Hahaha thanks but I don’t think the people on the island would have felt that way!

A: Wowww that’s a lot. It was definitely an epically long season – do you think 55 days is too much compared to the 39 of the US version?

N: Yep. Every day is about making sure you don’t lose sight of your goals. Sometimes I went too far (clearly) but overall I was enjoying the experience so much, that it didn’t feel like a burden to be thinking that much. I am an intense person when I want to be, but I was always having fun out there. And yeah, 55 is really long. Obviously it’s doable, but it does neuter your game if you want to play hard. MUCH longer for your mistakes to catch up with you.

A: Yeah you could definitely tell – it seemed like an amazing gift that you were grateful to have. I can’t even imagine how surreal it as. And I agree. 39 seems to be the formula that works best for plans to evolve/unfold and then vote for the winner.

N: After I was voted off the first time, I lasted another TWENTY-FIVE days. I managed to duck and weave for a long time. In a regular season, I may have been able to make it the real day 37 (which is the final 5ish).

A: I didn’t actually work that out. Holy shit!

N: I do truly believe the hardest part for me was making it through votes 11-7. I had no faith that I could get through those, but if I made it to 7 I think I could have been ok to get further because I could have heavily played the ‘no-one will vote for me card’.

A: And then who knows – you may have been taken to the end because a smart player would’ve known it would be good to sit at the end with you. Okay, yep, we are on the same page. [Note: there’s a few “twin” jinx moments coming up due to the nature of live chatting and also both being Survivor geniuses/genii/whatever]. And then you could have used your skills to dazzle the jury! Argh. What may have been.

N: You never know. It’s so situational, but I always knew getting to 7 was the hardest part. Hahahaha that Nickish quality of over-explaining everything? Not sure how much they would have appreciated it, but I would have given it a red hot go.

A: Lol yes, that way. Ok I think you would have had a hard jury. Do you think every Survivor ever is haunted by every single move or decision they made and “what could have been” for the rest of their life?

N: You know what, I thought I would. I went through a bit of an up and down with that. It went like this…As soon as I was voted out – I did not care less. I was living it up and soooooo happy with how I played and how far I got (I ticked so many things off my list, I could never complain). That awesome feeling lasted the whole time in the jury. I truly was so grateful and not at all upset. When I got home I was still riding high.

A: That all sounds very mature and gracious. I would have been bitter as anything.

N: Then a week after I got home, the “what ifs” started. I didn’t tell my family what had happened so I couldn’t talk about it with them and so it festered. I was running through scenarios and just going “omg I should have done this”, “I should have said this” yada, yada, yada. BUT as soon as the premiere aired, it all drifted away again.

A: Oooh that would have been so hard to shut up about! Did you talk to the other Survivors?

N: I was just so happy, that the “what ifs” left and being 100% honest – they disappeared. I am soooo happy with my game, my portrayal, my Survivor moments. To dwell on “what ifs” would be ungrateful considering how long I wanted to do the things I got to do. And yeah, I spoke with Matt, Brooke, Jen and Sue a lot.

A: I absolutely love that. I’m glad you got to live the dream!

N: Thanks! Me too! I said to my partner before I left – I don’t care if I’m a villain, a hero, I win or I lose – as long as I had an impact on the game I will be happy. And I think I achieved that 🙂

A: You absolutely did! Now I’m almost done dwelling on this but speaking of portrayal and hardcore gameplay… you were infamously labeled a “snake” for PLAYING.THE.GAME. Even when I was watching the series, I got pretty annoyed seeing the hypocrisy of a number of the players. What was it like in Samoa dealing with that every day? I’m sure it was more frustrating for you than it was for us watching at home…

N: It was really strange because I never anticipated the fact that people would sign up for the show WITHOUT HAVING WATCHED IT!

A: ME NEITHER. I honestly think some people were just scouted.

N: That made it hard because I was approaching it from a place where Tony, Sarah, David etc. get rewarded for playing hard. I never in a million years would have thought people would be so adverse to game play. That was disappointing, not the snake thing. I have a tough skin, call me whatever you want, but do it while playing. And playing hard.

A: I could see that that was so frustrating. You can’t make a move when everyone is so resistant to ANY of it.

N: The toughest part was not Sam calling me a snake or any of that. That was more…annoying. The hardest part for me was the episode where Kate went home. I was trying to save her and DID save her the vote before, because I genuinely wanted to play with her. However she vented her frustrations on me because I hadn’t told her about the idol clue back at Vavau.

Camp got pretty intense that night she was voted out and they didn’t even show 1/5 of what happened. That was when I felt the most upset and attacked. And the hard part was that they edited it out because the show was trying to maintain the Hero vs Villain dichotomy, which I understand. It was just a really tough part because Sam and Kate whipped each other into a bit of an “anti-Nick” frenzy to the point where they said they didn’t care if it ruined their game, they just wanted to see me go home after them. And good on them because it worked, but it just felt a little strange. I told Kate about where to find the immunity idol during the fire making challenge (it didn’t make the air) and I wasn’t lying. BUT Craig had a clue and didn’t tell anyone and I’m the bad guy.

A: And you just couldn’t make any headway. It was frustrating to watch. They really did! It was SO bizarre to watch! They had a bone to pick with you and they were completely rigid going forward! So weeeeird. I also got annoyed by the overly-simplified “hero vs villain” storyline, but that’s my issue.

On a more positive note – what have been some of the after-effects of playing the game? How has life changed, if at all? Did it live up to The Dream?

N: Life is great! I am so happy. All the time. I feel so blessed i got to fulfill this 16-year pipedream. I applied for the US season when I was 14 (what a nerd) just because I wanted to say that I had at least filled out paperwork (even though I knew you had to be a US citizen).

A: Hahaha I love that!!!

N: This year I got married to the love of my life! We had the greatest day and now we are starting our life which has been so much fun. We are also going on our honeymoon to Africa in a few weeks and planning renovations to our home, so it’s all systems go since the show.

A: Um, yeah, she seems awesome by the way [she read my recaps too]. And that all sounds amazing! 2017 kinda sounds like your year Nick.

N: One of the main ways my personal thoughts have changed since the show is that I feel this tremendous relief that I got to tick off my number 1 bucket list item. I thought it would remain forever unticked and I got to do it, so I just live this gratitude every day. And Christine is amazing. She was a Survivor Widow for 65 days and she couldn’t have been anymore understanding or committed. Seriously, I don’t know what I would do without her.

A: Not much, probably. Speaking of bucket lists – now you have a Survivor podcast! A really, really good one. So you’re all-round killing it right now.

N: Why thank you! That was never my intention going into the show. I always said out there on the island that I just wanted to slip back to everyday life (and I did – I was back in the classroom 2 days after arriving back from Samoa – talk about a spin out!). BUT getting the opportunity from one of my Survivor Heroes (Rob Cesternino) [to do the podcast] has been so unbelievable.

A: It’s not that unbelievable – I feel like you’re the Aussie version of Rob.

N: He has given me carte-blanche to do whatever I want covering the NZ series and the second Season of AU survivor for RobHasAPodcast.com. I listened to it every day for the last 10 years so it’s crazy to now be contributing to it (on top of my normal life teaching of course).

A: He kind of revolutionised the way to play the game back in the day and met some resistance to it. I love that you guys are now working together! As a Survivor diehard, I’m kind of dying inside now.

N: You know so many people said that [being the Aussie version of Rob] and that is just NUTS to me. He was my hero growing up. He revolutionised the game back in the Amazon and the comparisons are very flattering, even if it is more demeanour-based than game-skill comparisons. JINX!

A: Ahhhhhh! Twins!

N: #twinlyf

Before we left, Kaoh Rong was airing and I thought I would get the inevitable Nick Maiorano comparisons because he was an Italian-looking douche who thought he knew what he was doing and got his ass handed to him/was first member of the jury. Luckily no one said that and they went for Rob instead hahaha.

A: Nooooooo not even a little bit!

N: I liked Nick, but others didn’t, so I braced myself.

A: Ok, I could literally talk about this for days. Hurry up and visit Sydney so we can discuss at length over drinks. And tell me all your insider goss.

N: Lock it in Eddie.

A: Locked.

AND THAT’S THE END OF PART 1! Are you still with us? Are you weirded out by how passionate and obsessive we are about Survivor? Do you know that’s a dumb question because the only reason you will have finished reading this is because you’re as nerdy and weird as we are? Please come back for Part 2 where we get deep into some Gamechangers analysis and end with a rapid-fire final round of questions. And let me tell you…shit gets real. You don’t want to miss it.

You can find Nick over at RobHasAWebsite.com talking all things Survivor right here!

Image: Courtesy of Network Ten