‘Survivor’ Castaway Nina: “I Don’t Use My Hearing as a Crutch”

"Survivor: Worlds Apart" (CBS)

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“I think Nina is overwhelmed and it doesn’t have anything to do with her hearing. She’s quite capable and a strong woman. I think sometimes you get out here and it becomes too real and you realize you’re not going home. I’m going to be eating bugs and sleeping with snakes. I think Nina probably already wants to go home.” – Jeff Probst

Well, Jeff was right that Nina would be an early exit, but she definitely didn’t want to go home.

I spoke with the latest castaway and asked about Probst’s assessment, how her disability affected her tribe life, whether or not Hali and Jenn were acting like bullies, and Joe’s odd challenge strategy…

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Gordon Holmes: Do you think you would’ve done better if you were a bigger St. Louis Cardinals fan?
Nina Poersch: (Laughs) I don’t think so, Gordon. Believe me, I have already caught flak for that.
Holmes: Well, that was just a little more flak for you.

Holmes: OK, how did the Cochlear Implant perform out there?
Poersch: It performed very well. It performed as well out there as it does in my real life. Anyone who has it is going to have a little bit harder time communicating because it’s not 100% the same as normal hearing.
Holmes: Were Hali and Jenn being bullies?
Poersch: I’m not sure I’d say “bullies,” I don’t know. I think for both of them they really didn’t know how to react to someone who had a disability. Coupled with the fact that I’m thirty years older than them and maybe they couldn’t get that out of their head. Including me would be like including their mothers. When I was out there I didn’t feel like I was being bullied, I just felt like they were being mean. Not understanding. When you’re young and you haven’t dealt with someone with a disability, I guess it was tough for them.
Holmes: Jenn said last night, “We get it, you’re deaf…stop using it as an excuse.”
Poersch: I don’t use my hearing as a crutch. I’ve never, ever once told any of them I can’t do something because I can’t hear. All I did was ask them to look at me when they talk so I can hear them and watch their lips. And a lot of them struggled with that. And that gameplay is what you do when you get to the individual game. In the beginning it’s a tribe. You need to have everybody feel like they’re an important member of the tribe. That’s how you win challenges. You start making someone feel like an outsider? The emotions start to take a toll. It’s tough to be out there and think nobody wants to keep you around.

Holmes: It seemed like you, Will, and Vince had a solid plan to have the kids split the vote. Then it looked like Will flipped when he learned that Vince was worried about his challenge abilities.
Poersch: Vince asked me to talk to Will about it.  We had a long conversation. There was a lot that wasn’t shown. When it got to talking about his health and stuff, it got to a level where I was trying to be a friend. “Will, you need to not look like you’re struggling and don’t talk about being exhausted so much.” And the reason I talked to him about it is because he was in my alliance and I needed him in my alliance. I didn’t want Will to be voted out. In a way I was nervous that Vince might vote him out.
Holmes: Did you ever go to Joe, Hali, and Jenn after that vote and tell them how close they’d come to having Will betray them?
Poersch: Yeah. I did. I told them straight out that I would be much more loyal than Will. And as far as the physical part, I could swim better than Will and felt like I was stronger. I just felt like I had a better chance at helping them win challenges than Will along with the loyalty part.

Holmes: Jeff Probst didn’t think you’d do well with the elements out there. Was he right?
Poersch: I was having no problem with the elements. I’m not sure where he got that from. I’m an avid hiker. I go out all the time. I run, at one point in my life we had 30 tarantulas living in my house. I had friends that didn’t want to come over. I’m into all those creepy crawly things. We had snakes, scorpions, lizards, which is why I wouldn’t eat the lizard. I don’t eat my pets. If there’d been a gross food challenge I would’ve eaten a lizard. So no, the elements don’t bother me at all.

Holmes: Tell me about Joe’s challenge plan last night.
Poersch: When we first got on the beach, Joe asked me if I would be able to do the challenges. He was like, “You can’t hear. What if we have a calling challenge?” And I said, “Joe, I’ll be the caller.” And he said, “What if we’re yelling and you can’t hear us?” I said, “Joe, I can do that challenge. I have every confidence.” So, right off the bat he planted the seed that he was holding it against me.
Holmes: How did he pitch the strategy to have you basically not do anything?
Poersch: He looked at what we were going to do and he said, “Nina, we’ll put water in the bucket and you wait for us to come. You’re going to help us lift the bucket over.” And when they got to me and we had hardly any water, I knew I needed to help plug holes. When I said, “Let me help.” Him and Jenn were like, “No, no. Just go.” If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t even listen to them. I’d plug holes.

Holmes: Let’s do some word association. We’ll start with Vince.
Poersch: Loving.
Holmes: Will?
Poersch: Nurturing.
Holmes: Joe?
Poersch: Cocky.
Holmes: Jenn?
Poersch: Loud.
Holmes: Hali?
Poersch: Neutral. Because she was really hard for me to figure out.

Holmes:  Have you heard from people in the hearing impaired community who were inspired by your time on the show?
Poersch: I have so many stories. They’re inspired and they’re going to go out and do things that they didn’t think they could do or they were afraid to do. Watching me on TV has made them want to do it. I had one dad tell me that his nine-year-old daughter has always wanted to do “Survivor.” And after she saw me on TV she said, “I can do ‘Survivor!’” I don’t think you should let anything hold you back. And one of the things I took away from the experience is I don’t care what other people think about me. This is who I am.
Holmes: So, no matter how much I try to pressure you into being a Cardinals fan, it’s not going to happen.
Poersch: (Laughs) I’m not a baseball fan, but if I had to pick my favorite baseball team it would definitely be the Cardinals.
Holmes: I’ll take it!
Poersch: (Laughs)

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

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