Natalie Anderson basically won the unofficial title of Queen of the Edge of Extinction on “Survivor: Winners at War.” As the first past champ to be cruelly banished to the EoE after being voted out on Day 2, she managed to fight her way back in by relying on her brains, physical strength and stamina along with a motherlode of fire tokens that she used both for herself and to also change the fates of other players.
With three advantages in her pocket to ease her path to returning to the game, Natalie was able to do so after winning the Season 40 finale’s get-back-in challenge that featured all of her fellow Edge dwellers. She also brought along an immunity idol to the main island that was still valid. She used that during the first Tribal Council to save herself.
Then Natalie found an immunity idol in a tree that protected her from being voted out during the finale’s second Tribal Council. Then she triumphed in the second immunity challenge that featured the dreaded ball chute. She did almost everything right but somehow failed to claim that $2 million prize and become the Sole Survivor a second time.
If the now runner-up of “Winners at War” has any regrets, it has to do with what Boston Rob Mariano said with his usual Godfather-ish brio as he voted for Tony Vlachos to win the season. Before revealing his choice, he looked into the camera and delivered a message to Natalie: “You’re right. I said if you got back, you have to play perfect. You almost did. You should have taken this guy out.” That’s a burn right there.
It also hits on a touchy subject of why she chose not to follow Season 38’s Chris Underwood‘s blueprint of how to impress the jury after coming back from the Edge and then end up taking the prize. He gave up his immunity and decided to make fire against fan favorite Rick Devens, boldly defeated him in the process and got him kicked out the game. In a post-finale interview, Entertainment Weekly asked Natalie why she didn’t follow the same game plan.
“I’ve been dinging myself ever since I saw Sarah (Lacina) and Tony make fire. I was cringing, because that moment was so … I wanted to vomit. It was so over the top and yeah, I get it, it’s emotional. But at the same time, it’s like, literally Sarah was just acting to make everybody want to vote for Tony. So I was just sitting there like, ‘Oh my God, barf.’ And so I haven’t made peace with the decision to not make fire, because I know if I went to the end with Sarah and Michelle, I would have totally won. That is a Tribal I would have walked away thinking like, ‘All right, yeah. Pretty much in the bag, Natalie.’ So, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get over it. I don’t know.”
Regrets? Natalie has a few now that the heat is off. She knows now that she made a mistake of recruiting Sarah to go against her best buddy Tony in a head-to-head.
“I put in Sarah, but Sarah was too close to Tony. I just thought she was all about the girl power. And I thought she could pull it out and we’d have a final three women, but Sarah didn’t look like she would go ahead with it either. So I don’t know. Michelle was freaking out. That’s why I didn’t want to put her in, but now in hindsight, I wish I just made Michelle go to fire. Or me.” To her credit, Natalie did win four votes from the jury.
Well, let’s hope that she stops being haunted by the image of Tony perching in a tree-top spy nest to gather intel and perhaps even gets another chance in a different season to return and become “Survivor’s” third two-time winner. As she tells EW, “If ‘Survivor’ calls me back, I would definitely to back. If I’d won this season I think I would have retired from the game … but now I just feel I have something else to prove. So, listen, if ‘Survivor’ comes knocking, you know I am answering the door.”