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'Survivor' post-game: Phillip talks insanity, Natalie defends her strategy

May 18, 2011 |  7:14 am

100554_0035bc(1) They’re this season’s “Survivor” runner-ups, but did anyone think they really had a chance at besting Boston Rob? They certainly did.

Phillip Sheppard and Natalie Tenerelli, both living in Southern California, outwit, outplayed and outlasted 15 other castaways, placing second and third, respectively (second place on “Survivor” still gets you $100,000, while third and every rank down from there gets an unreleased amount that drops with each position). A lot of fans have been vocal about Phillip and Natalie having played horribly, and I’ve said my piece before, but the two players shared their side during a joint conference call with me.

Phillip has said before how he had a perfect strategy going into the game that had to be completely reworked once he saw Boston Rob get off of the helicopter. He backed off of it being perfect, but illustrated said plan for me.

“It was having a better understanding of ‘Survivor’ by someone who’d never really been into it, playing with others who hadn’t either,” Phillip said. He read executive producer Mark Burnett’s book, “Survivor” fan books, everything he could devour, all while reflecting on his growing up in the outdoors, in the Army.

“I also thought I was pretty charismatic, but then Rob’s there, a celebrity,” he said. “All the girls and Matt and Grant thought he was a star.... It made it very difficult.”

Natalie’s been called naïve for doing everything Rob told her to yet still thinking she could win, but she thought she had a chance for several reasons.

“He’s played the game four times, he’s got more life experience, he betrayed everyone,” she said. “While this girl’s never been camping or anything ... let’s hand her the money.... Look at the past, it’s happened. Rob and Amber, she won. Russell and Natalie ... ”

She said she knew Rob was playing her all the way, but she got to the end because she never let on to him that she knew, as others did before being voted out. Phillip jumped in to say that people aren’t giving Natalie enough respect.

“They say she rode Rob’s coattails, but Grant, all he had to do was go to me, Ashley or a Zapatera and make a big move in this game,” Phillip said. “I’m surprised he didn’t do that, he could’ve pulled it off.”

Now Phillip’s been called just about every iteration of “crazy” you can think of on the show. But he doesn’t care too much for the blog commenters.

“It’s a very, very, very, very, very small audience,” Phillip said. “Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again, and expecting a different result. So why did [his fellow Ometepe tribe members] waste all those votes on me when they could’ve come up with something new? I find it interesting that people thought I was crazy.”

Like Mike, who also served in the military, Phillip said “Survivor” is both similar, with the physical challenges, and different thanks to the lack of meals at regular intervals. But now all that’s over for him, and he’s looking to get into acting.

“My focus is on trying to get some opportunities with CBS, see if I can get some guest appearances as well as some other reality shows,” he said. “From what I’m hearing, people already have interest in me.”

Phillip went on to add that some major director wants to work with him. But for Natalie, it’s back to school and dancing and “taking life day by day,” although she has some big dreams too.

“I’ve danced for the L.A. Matadors (boxing team), and I previously worked with the AVP [Assn. of Volleyball Professionals],” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be a Laker girl. I’ve got so many thoughts, I just need to organize them and see what happens.”


'Survivor' post-game: Rob elaborates on his difficult path to victory

'Survivor' reunion recap: Love! Valor! Resentment!

'Survivor' recap: And the winner is... Boston Rob

— Anthony Williams / anthonyw_ent

Photo: The final three Natalie, Rob and Phillip await the announcement of the winner of this season's "Survivor." Credit: CBS