Keith Nale and Kimmi Kappenberg could have both been considered Survivor “long-shots” coming into Wednesday’s Finale of “Survivor: Cambodia.” Heck, both can be considered long-shots in the game as well. Keith knew very little about the game when he played his first season, and Kimmi had not played since Season 2. Yet both of them made it all the way to the Finale Episode, falling just short of the end. In an ironic twist, they both would have had a decent shot to win had they been able to make it just a few days more.
In case you’ve missed anything, get caught up on the Finale Episode.
Kimmi is definitely an “old school” player, famous for her argument with Alicia Calaway in “Survivor: The Australian Outback” over some chickens. She flew pretty low under-the-radar this season and wasn’t seen or heard from much through the pre-merge episodes. But Kimmi – quietly or not – had put herself in a very solid alliance next to Tasha and Jeremy, and had she been able to pull off her “big move” – the blindside of eventual winner Jeremy – she very well may have earned the respect of the jury that would have made her the winner. As good a game as Jeremy played, it was Kimmi who he was blind to. But Jeremy was able to play an Idol, aided by Spencer and Tasha by convincing him not to split their votes, and Kimmi ended up being the victim of one of the absolute craziest Tribal Councils in the history of the show, when two Idols were played, and after a series of votes, re-votes and tie-breakers, she was unanimously ousted from the game.
Keith was involved in the craziness too, and like Kimmi, Keith had mostly played a quiet game but had put himself in a good position. Down the stretch, he showed that he was a real physical threat, and of course people love Keith socially, and those two things made him quite the target. Just having learned how to play his last season, Keith once again found himself up against a learning curve when the game changed yet again this season to involve “voting blocs” over the normal alliance strategy. He came up just short again, lasting one less day than his last time out, but all the while cementing his legacy as one of the funniest, likable players ever to play the game.
I had a chance to speak with both Kimmi and Keith, on the phone at the same time, about their experiences this season, the final vote, and of course, that insanely complex Tribal Council.
Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: So let me start first with you Kimmi. Last night was an awesome episode for you I thought. In making the big move against Jeremy and Spencer, what was your thought process on the timing of that move? Why turn on Jeremy when you did, why not earlier? How long did you know you were on the bottom or when did you realize you were?
Kimmi Kappenberg: I knew I was on the bottom of the alliance for a long time, but there were so many people that were not only in that game, within that alliance, that it would have been just too hard to trust. Like Joe and Abi had relationships with Jeremy, and it was just hard to figure out who I could talk to who wouldn’t go back to Jeremy and say hey, this is what Kimmi wants to do. Because if you upset the apple cart, surely your name is going to get written down. There were just no guarantees that someone wasn’t going to run and tell Jeremy what I was up to. In the end, you need other players around you willing to make the big move too.
Tom Santilli: Keith, the first time you played you admittedly were no super-fan of Survivor. But then you get voted in this season and you held your own against some of the best of the best former players. What did you learn from your first time out there that you used this season to try to help you in the game?
Keith: You’re absolutely right, the last time I wasn’t a big fan, I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. Wesley sort of informed me a bit. I made it to number four basically by myself. But this time you know, I’m learnin’ about these alliance deals, and then all of a sudden there’s building blocks, or voting blocs or whatever, and I said, man, I was just learnin’ the old way and now they’re switching on me, so I was still kind of out of the loop, you know?
Tom Santilli: To both of you, why did you cast your winning votes for Jeremy? And what was it about the other two that made them unworthy in your eyes?
Kimmi: Well I really liked Jeremy. Jeremy and I had been on Bayon beach for 36 days. In all of the tribe swaps, we had never left each other. So I had formed a genuine relationship with him and an understanding of who he was. He’s got his family and kids, and on Day One when I talked to Jeremy and Savage I said look, I just want to make my boys proud, play hard and I want a good guy to win. That’s what I said on Day One and that’s what I still believe.
Keith: When it Spencer, Tash and Jeremy, it was a no-brainer for me. I loved his speech about having Val and his babies and all that good stuff, but heck, it didn’t matter, Jeremy was going to get my vote whether Val was pregnant or not.
Tom Santilli: What was the vibe at Ponderosa in the short time that you were both there? Was there much debate that Jeremy was the winner, or was it pretty much everyone sold on Jeremy over the other two?
Keith: I didn’t really talk about it that much, but heck nobody ever talks to me so I didn’t really know what the sense was. But I knew the route I was going.
Kimmi: When me and Keith and Kelley got to Ponderosa, we didn’t have a lot of time to digest what had just happened. Whereas people who were there longer were talking more. For me and Keith and Kelley, the day I got voted off, the next day Keith gets voted off. All of a sudden its the next day and Wentworth gets voted off, then the next day it’s Final Tribal Council and then six hours later we’re headed home. You know, we didn’t really have time to process what happened to us, let alone mourn our position in the game or whatever. So we weren’t really talking to a lot of people over at Ponderosa.
Tom Santilli: Let’s discuss that crazy Tribal Council last night. Lot of complicated tie-breakers, lots of rules, lots of discussion. Kimmi, you had decided to go all in on your plan to get rid of Jeremy. But by the end of that Tribal, you find yourself out of the game! It was just so bizarre. Looking back on all the votes and re-votes, is there anything you feel you could have done differently or wish you would have done differently?
Kimmi: I mean, there really wasn’t anything I could have done. You know, to quote Keith, we needed to just “stick to the plan,” and we were sitting at that Tribal and Jeremy is telling me we’re good, we’re good. I was supposed to be voting for Keith that night. So had I just done what I was supposed to do, Keith would have went home but I wasn’t doing that because I was just tired of Jeremy having his run with the game. I was just such an old-school player, I didn’t pay attention to the fact that there could have been two Idols. And had I just paid attention a little more to clues earlier on, like I should have realized that Jeremy would never have played an Idol on Stephen if he didn’t have a second one in his pocket.
Tom Santilli: Keith, you seemed pretty close to throwing in the towel during that Tribal to let Kimmi stay. How close were you to doing that?
Keith: (Laughs) Oh man. That Tribal Council was so long, so many twists and turns, I’d like to say, I just thought they were out there makin’ up rules, because it had never went that far. And man, I’m thinkin’, I’m done with this. Send me to the house, let Kimmi take it on out. But that’s the mental and physical part of it. And I didn’t want to have people say oh, Keith’s quitting, Keith’s quitting. I wasn’t quitting, I was just tired of sittin’ there, is what it was.
Tom Santilli: That fake Idol Kelley gave you was pretty impressive looking. Do you think you misplayed that at all? I know you didn’t want to play it, but do you regret maybe not flashing it at least at Tribal and making the others think you had a real one?
Keith: Yeah, it looked good, and looking back, I should have flashed it. But I had made the decision I wasn’t going to play it. Now flash it? Yeah maybe. But I wasn’t going to play it because I didn’t want to go out like that. I’ve seen them not work before, I think it’s cheesy, I think it’s cheap. I don’t want people to say, oh good ole Keith, he’s grasping for straws. I didn’t want to look desperate. Shoot, I told them I ain’t been a millionaire in 54 years, I can sure hang in there another 54.
Tom Santilli: Kimmi, the last time you played was nearly 15 years ago. Before you were voted back on this season by the fan-vote, were you worried that nobody would have remembered you?
Kimmi: Yeah, there was definitely that. But I was also on the most-watched season of Survivor, so I was hoping that out of nostalgia that I would hopefully have a chance. And then I did have a couple memorable moments out there. Maybe people voted me in because they remembered me, maybe people voted me in because they thought their favorite could beat me. I really don’t know. I have a lot of friends and I have my dad who is like my biggest cheerleader and my campaign manager (laughs). But it was very exciting to get voted back on, I was very flattered. They must have remembered me from back then. This season, I’ve been accused of flying under-the-radar, but they’ll remember me after last night’s Tribal, that’s for sure.
Tom Santilli: Yeah, you weren’t really shown too much leading up to the merge…
Kimmi: Yeah, it was the Spencer and Tasha show.
Tom Santilli: …do you feel that was an accurate portrayal of the game at that time, or were you not playing a low-key game?
Kimmi: I don’t think I was playing a low-key game, I was being a little bit more conservative with the things that were going on. I mean, we had a big alliance. There were ten of us that started out on our tribe, and I made the relationships that I needed to and I always gave my opinion, but what I learned this time was, give my opinion and then back off and be too pushy. I can’t really stand there and be adamant about what I want, because then you’re perceived as bossy and it’ll probably get me voted off. I had to learn to play the game differently than the first time. I knew there were enough other people to make chaos there, that just like Keith, we could just sit back and watch the trainwreck unfold. Make moves when it made more sense. Like when Ciera was like, make a big move, make a big move, play the game! I was like I am playing the game. I’m playing the game that worked best for me. Because I didn’t have any pre-existing relationships this season, there were too many pre-existing relationships between people who had played together in just the last couple of years.
Tom Santilli: Keith, you said in your Ponderosa video that this was your last Survivor hoorah…
Keith: Oh, I hadn’t seen that yet! What’d I say?
Tom Santilli: You said this was your last time playing Survivor, not to call you up next year.
Keith: Yeah, I think I’m done. I mean yeah, I’m going in the wrong direction with where I’m finishing.
Tom Santilli: And how about you Kimmi? Has this experience rekindled your love of Survivor, would you want to play again?
Kimmi: I hadn’t tried to get back on since I played, but it was always something that I wanted to do. This is the first time they called me back. I feel like this was just like a practice run, since it has changed so much. But I don’t know, maybe they’ll want me for number three. Who knows? I understand the dynamics of the game now and how it’s played. It’s different when you’re watching it on TV, you can see the evolution of the game. But when you’re out there playing it, you know, it’s a little bit of a practice run that you need. So I feel like I’ve got this now, this was just my little warm-up. This was the scrimmage, now I’m ready to go to the Super Bowl.
Thank you for a great season, be sure to check out the other exit interviews today!
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