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 Reed Kelly, who played with Natalie Anderson back in Survivor: San Juan Del Sur. While Reed and Natalie were on the same tribe the entire season, they never could quite get on the same page when it came to gameplay. The deathknell to any potential working relationship came at the second merge vote when Reed joined the majority to blindside Jeremy, who at the time was Natalie’s closest ally. Natalie would seek revenge two votes later when voted out Reed before continuing on her path to the million.
Inside Survivor reached out to Reed to get his thoughts on Natalie’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) Hey Reed, thanks for doing this! You and Natalie spent 29 days together on San Juan Del Sur and were rarely, if ever, on the same side. What was your initial opinion of Natalie, and how did it change, if at all, through the season?
Natalie and I were ALWAYS on the same side when it came to working towards food rewards and challenges lol. They called us the common denominator because we would always pick each other to try to win things and come out victorious regardless of who was with us (Jeremy was part of this too) — but in the game, not so much. I really liked Natalie’s vibe right out of the gate. She was loud but fun. Day One, we actually toyed with working together, but ultimately, that didn’t pan out because she felt safer aligning with Jeremy because both of them had lost their counterpart-loved-ones in the game, and Jeremy and I just didn’t gel well at all.
2) We saw that Natalie could be quite vocal at times, particularly at challenges, like when she argued with John Rocker. Was this fiery side of Natalie common? What was she like around camp day-to-day? How was her personality/interactions with tribemates?
Natalie is vocal. Period. If she doesn’t like something, you’re going to know about it. But she’s just as generous with her laughter and hilarious sense of humor as she is her strong opinions. She’s brash — she swears like a sailor with Tourettes (honestly, I don’t know how they got usable footage of her talking that literally wasn’t just one giant BLEEP). But if you can get down with that, she’s super fun to be around. She’s also a workhorse around camp: she loves dragging in the biggest logs for the fire, is always down to go get water (which is great for strategy), and she can braid palm fronds like no one’s business. For all the loudness and joking, Nat is actually a great listener. She is super engaging to talk to, and when you get a quieter moment of downtime with her (on the island or off), she has a very sweet, caring, empathetic and enthusiastic heart.
3) On TV, it seemed like the first half of SJDS was dominated by the Jeremy vs. Josh storyline. Natalie didn’t properly emerge as a player until after Jeremy’s elimination. Is that accurate to how you saw things out there on the island? Did you notice a change in Natalie’s gameplay, and if so, in what ways?
I think all of us castaways always find it interesting what makes the storylines and what doesn’t. There is so much happening all the time. I wouldn’t say that “Natalie didn’t properly emerge as a play until after Jeremy’s elimination” because she was playing hard the whole game, even if that didn’t come across when things aired. That doesn’t mean she was talking strategy every five seconds — a lot of Natalie’s gameplay success was built on cultivating an incredible level of trust with a few people from day one. I think we only got to see more strategy talk out of her once the Jeremy story-arc had played out. She no longer had that big shadow to take cover under.
4) You voted for Jaclyn over Natalie at the Final Tribal Council. What were the flaws in Natalie’s game that kept her from receiving your vote? Or was it just that you felt Jaclyn played a superior game?
Honestly, in my opinion, Natalie was by far the deserving winner out of the remaining three at Final Tribal, and I felt that way both then and now. To me, Natalie had by far exceeded anyone’s requirements to be our Sole Survivor, so I simply foresaw her winning. I then decided to use my vote to instead dictate the second and third place positions.
5) What is Natalie’s secret weapon as a Survivor player, perhaps something that we as viewers might not realize?
Like I said previously, that for as much as Natalie is loud and larger than life, don’t let all the cursing and cross-fit talk lull you into thinking she’s just a meathead. She is super attentive, very aware of what’s going around her, and she can also keep her mouth shut about important things. People looooove to talk when they have something that they think makes them powerful. Natalie has great self-control to keep things quiet until they actually benefit her, and she can act on them.
6) You’ve played with another winner on this cast, Jeremy. How do Jeremy and Natalie compare — not necessarily in terms of who is better, but more in terms of how they play the game and their strengths and weaknesses?
I like Jeremy in real life, but out there on the island in our season, he came across as grumpy, sullen, and pretty arrogant. That was part of his downfall in our season. He’s actually super loving, has a great sense of humor, and has the best heart-warming laugh. From what I could see in his most recent season (Survivor: Cambodia), it seems like some of those less pleasant attributes that we encountered may have been corrected. Jeremy is a huge fan and student of the game, so I see him as a person who is willing to course-correct things that could potentially hinder him from winning.
While Nat and Jeremy could almost be considered as the same male/female version of an alpha jock archetype, they have very different personalities, different ways of approaching and interacting with people, and different ways of engendering trust in relationships. All of which could either work in their favor or against depending on how people receive them. I think it’ll be a very case-by-case basis for how they do with the other players out there.
7) On a similar topic, do you think Natalie and Jeremy, as former allies, will try to work together this season? Would that be a smart move? Who else on this season’s cast do you see Natalie gravitating towards?
I can see them watching out for each other as long as it suits their own individual best interests. But both Nat and Jeremy are highly competitive and are focused AF on winning (rightfully). So, I wouldn’t imagine either of them thinking twice about cutting the other loose if it meant that they would continue advancing toward the prize, then buying beers after the game is over and teasing each other mercilessly about it.
8) On the flip-side, who on this season’s cast poses the biggest threat to Natalie? Is there anyone you see her butting heads with?
Natalie can potentially rub some people the wrong way simply because of how larger-than-life her boisterous personality is. So, I’m really curious how she’s going to get along with other big personalities, like Tony. I can see that getting pretty volatile pretty quick if they get off on the wrong foot or on opposite sides of a competition, lol. (Grabs popcorn). I cannot wait to see how she fares with Parvati. I love that girl, her gameplay is legendary, she’s captivating to be around, and I cannot wait to see what their chemistry ends up being like within the confines of a game in Fiji.
9) Before I let you go, what is new in the world of Reed since we last saw you on Survivor?
Me in a nutshell since SJDS:
I have worked on three Broadway shows since our season, then ran off and joined the circus [Cirque du Soleil]. Actually … if you want to watch me sweat, struggle, and try to overcome obstacles both physical and mental (while NOT on a desert island), you can binge-watch a short, eight-episode docu-series online that Cirque du Soleil has produced. It’s about my transition from Broadway dancer to an aerial artist called “Going Full Cirque.” Check it out @GoingFullCirque on Facebook. What else? Hmmm, I am also no longer with Josh. (Nothing bad there, we just weren’t the right fit for forever.) I am, however, now married to an incredible man … and yes, having sex. lol. Also, I need to say that I CANNOT WAIT for this particular season of Survivor. So excited. Hit me up on social media @thereedkelly. Survivors, ready?! GO!
Thanks again to Reed for taking part. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more Playing with Champions interviews.
Survivor: Winners At War premieres February 12, 2020, on CBS.