Survivor: One World - Nina's exit interview
As a retired Los Angeles Police Department officer, Nina Acosta is used to challenges, both physical and mental. She even tried out for the LAPD's SWAT team twice, a gruelling experience if ever there was one. So who knew the 51-year-old Clovis, Calif., resident would be torpedoed by a bunch of dysfunctional women on the latest edition of Survivor? Here's an edited version of my chat with Nina on Tuesday.
DY: Were you surprised when you got voted off?
NA: No, the short answer is no.
DY: There was a lot of tension around the camp that day, I'm guessing.
NA: It was interesting; after we got annihilated in the second challenge I finally had to say something about our performance. I know that Kat was making a pitch that she was trying hard and 'Give me another chance' and 'I want to do well for my tribe' ... I finally had enough. Let's face it, there's not a lot of time out there. Since I was on the outside of the alliance of five, every mistake that was made put me closer to leaving, so it was either say something or just go out without a fight.
DY: Fighting was the more dignified way to go out, I suppose.
NA: I think so. It also was really a last ditch effort to at least make my case. And if you watched the last show, if I’d had a couple more hours I think I could have brought Kim and Chelsea around. That would have meant they would have brought Sabrina around. It would have been nice to see how it played out.
DY: It's funny how everybody tends to do the herd thing on these shows.
NA: I think women, well, I don't know if it's women. I think they had decided early on that they were going to stick with their alliance. I guess you could argue that maybe I should have argued for Christina. Let’s face it, there was a lot of tension between her and Alicia. And I think Alicia would have been happy to get rid of Christina, so that was probably an option I could have looked at to try work a case for Christina getting voted off, but I was so disgusted with Kat's performance and so tired of having her around. She was just a liability to the tribe, so I really thought I could have made the case to get rid of her
DY: Didn’t Christina vote against you?
NA: Yeah, she did, but she was voting the majority. I think she was hoping that would put her in good graces with the majority so who knows?
DY: Myself, I kind of doubt that, but as you say, who knows?
NA: I got along with Christina fine. She was a little bit irritating at times. She seemed like a pretty nice person, but she was definitely watching out for herself; she had a target on her back early on, so I can't blame her for trying to save her own skin. I had never formed an ironclad alliance with her at all.
DY: Did you have an ironclad alliance with anybody?
NA: Ultimately, yes, Monica and I were pretty tight and we had a lot of mutual respect for each other. And I would not, under any circumstances, have voted against her.
DY: Yet she voted for Christina (instead of Kat), which was kind of weird.
NA: No, it's not. I think if you think about the strategy, Monica is a competitor and a fighter, and I think she wanted to prove to the alliance of five she wasn't going to go against them, so I think really it's a good strategic move on her part.
DY: When I looked at your bio, you mentioned having tried out for the SWAT team. Who do you think was tougher to get along with? The members of Salani or the SWAT team?
NA: It’s a little difficult to compare the two. I got along with the guys great. It wasn’t so much that individually, the guys, I didn’t get along with them; it was more an institutional thing on the part of LAPD. They didn’t want me in the SWAT unit.... I always got along with my co-workers when I was with the police department. It's very, very different than women and, in particular, this group of women. I have a great group of women friends: they’re fun, they’re leaders, they’re confident. So if I’d had those gals with me we could have kicked ass and taken names, definitely.
DY: What do you think is the main problem for this group?
NA: Where do you want me to begin? Immature, self-absorbed, self-centred, collectively not very bright, although there’s some shining spots there. And they’re working against each other, with absolutely no concept of what teamwork means. And really that's what needs to be the focus, at least early on in this game, and they are not bringing it.
DY: Do you think if teams had been mixed up, men with women, it would have made a difference?
NA: It would have made a difference for me, if that's what you're asking.... Men, they don’t look at each other and go, 'Oh, that dude's old.' They 're going to let people's strengths speak for themselves. Women tend to judge other women by first appearances.
DY: Speaking of appearances, you had to walk around for a while with a pretty banged-up looking face.
NA: That's not one of my best moments in life, that’s for sure, but I'll tell you what: I'm gonna own that look. I'm owning it. It is what it is. I thought the worst thing that could possibly show up on television for me was, OK, a few wrinkles here and there, no makeup, my hair looking messed up. Ok, I'm dreaming for those days. The face plant was not pretty and I had no idea what it was gonna look like until I saw it on TV. It looked worse than it felt, let me tell you that.
DY: Do you think there’s anything you could have done to get along better with those women?
NA: Short of losing several thousand brain cells, no. It was mind-numbing the conversations that went on and I just honestly didn’t get it. You can call it a generation gap, call it whatever you want. I felt like we needed to focus and discuss, 'Hey, let’s talk about a strategy. How about that for a change?' It was very difficult. And there were ... little groups of conversations, very gossipy discussions. And I just remember thinking, 'This is the exactly the kind of stuff my little girl tells me about that goes on at school.' And I felt that was exactly what was going on. I was back in elementary school. It was terrible.
DY: I'm gonna go out on a limb and say the social part was for you probably the toughest part of the game.
NA: I don't think that’s going on out on a limb. It absolutely was the hardest part of the game and I had an idea that the soical part was going to play a big part in it. That’s what Survivor is. But I really felt that my physical attributes and my mental toughness and my work experience and just life experience would have brought something to the game. But in this particular set-up of the tribes, with men vs. women, that wasn’t the case; it didn’t matter. I don’t think anybody would have cared if I told them I flew to the moon and back.
You can find out whether the dysfunction continues on the Salani tribe. Watch Survivor at 8 p.m. on Global TV and look for the recap here.
(The photo of Nina is by Monty Brinton for CBS.)