Back in June last year, while the Survivor: Winners At War cast were battling it out on the islands of Fiji, I reached out to a selection of former Survivor players to get their thoughts and predictions on the returning castaways. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting those interviews here on Inside Survivor.
Today, we’re talking to Natalie Tenerelli, who played with Rob Mariano back in Survivor: Redemption Island. Natalie and Rob spent the entire duration of Redemption Island together, from the early days on the Ometepe tribe, all the way to the Final Tribal Council. At only 19 years old at the time of playing, Natalie looked up to Rob as a sort of guardian figure, relying on his advice as a Survivor veteran. The pair worked together until the very end, often looking out for each other when their name came up as a target. While they made it to the FTC together, it was Rob who reaped the rewards, as some jurors criticized Natalie for being a follower.
Inside Survivor reached out to Natalie to get her thoughts on Rob’s return to Survivor: Winners At War.
Disclaimer: This interview was conducted in June 2019 while Survivor: Winners At War was still filming in Fiji.
1) Hi Natalie, thanks for doing this! You and Rob spent 39 days together on Redemption Island, what was your initial opinion of Rob and how did it change throughout the season?
I was a little intimidated by Rob at first. That shifted very quickly, and we became friends. We had a brother/sister connection in the game and outside the game. I remember one of our first interactions, I could sense everyone on my tribe showboating a bit when we first hit camp, we were trying to build shelter, get firewood, and become acclimated. Rather than acting like I knew what I was doing, I told Rob, “Hey, I know you have done this many times, so please, just tell me what I can do to better the camp.” I think this was crucial in building my relationship with Rob.
2) The cast of Redemption Island is often criticized for “handing the game” to Rob. How do you feel about that? How did you view your working relationship with Rob?
I believe that everything lined up perfectly for him on Redemption, although he was absolutely deserving of the title. I do think most of us on the Ometepe tribe had an incredible amount of respect for him and his many attempts at this game. There’s no doubt that his experience playing a fourth time showed tremendously. Most of the challenges he was well equipped for which was an advantage.
3) You were loyal to Rob until the end, but was there ever a point where you considered voting him out? If so, when? And if not, why?
Yes, I thought about voting him out many times, although I believe what stopped me was everyone’s love for Rob. Anyone who toyed with the idea of voting him out was soon to be voted out. He used fear to control the tribe. I actually used this to stay safe in the game. Anytime someone would mention voting him out, I’d tell him. I’m a huge tattle tail! Haha! He trusted me, and I trusted him.
4) Not only is Rob on this season’s cast, but so is his wife, Amber. How do you see that dynamic playing out this season? And how will the other players perceive it?
I hope the rumors are true! What a dynamic season it will be. I don’t think having a husband and wife competing on the same season is an advantage, but knowing Rob, he may find a way to change that. He’s smart, and we all know that! That is if he’s not voted out right away as there will be a target on his back. EVERYONE will have a target on their back, which will make for a very exciting season.
5) As a now five-time player, Rob will be entering this season with a huge target on his back. How does he avoid becoming an early casualty? What can he do to diminish that target?
He needs to stay under the radar or succumb to being an avid idol hunter. Idols seem to be endless these days, so he’s got a shot!
6) There are people on this cast who Rob has played with in the past, including former allies Tyson & Sandra, and former enemies, like Parvati. How do you see him handling these relationships this time around?
I know that Rob is close friends with Tyson outside of the game. This means the only emotional connection will be with him. I see them working together for a little bit, and then I can only envision a heartbreak at some point. This is a wild guess! It’s impossible to predict the outcome!
7) Who on this cast poses the biggest threat to Rob? Is there anyone you see him butting heads with?
I could envision Sandra butting heads with Rob. They both have really strong fiery personalities.
8) What is Rob’s secret weapon as a Survivor player—something which maybe we as viewers might not have seen on TV or something his fellow competitors might underestimate?
I mean, didn’t you read his book?! All the secrets are known, right? Haha! I just think that Rob has the ability to win people over and connect. This cannot be underestimated.
9) On the flip-side, what is Rob’s biggest flaw as a Survivor player?
I have never played a second time, so I don’t know how important or unimportant it is to have existing relationships with your cast. To my knowledge, Rob isn’t all that close with anyone other than Tyson. I could be wrong! That could be his downfall in the game.
10) Before I let you go, what is new in the world of Natalie? How has life been since Survivor fans last saw you on Redemption Island?
I can’t believe it has been 9 years since my Survivor debut! Holy smokes! I have done a lot of growing up since then. Shortly after the show, I moved to LA and danced on the Clippers for three seasons. We had a show on E! called LA Clippers Dance Squad. I recently moved to Hermosa Beach and now do a lot of modeling. Life is good! I hope all is well! Thanks for reaching out!
Thanks again to Natalie for taking part. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more Playing with Champions interviews.
Survivor: Winners At War premieres February 12, 2020, on CBS.