For the second week in a row, a castaway from the Vesi tribe met their fate on Survivor 43. Unlike last week’s contentious Tribal Council, this episode was much more straightforward as another poor Immunity Challenge performance led to Nneka Ejere’s torch being snuffed by a unanimous vote.
With that being said, it still did come as a shock to see Nneka get eliminated so early, especially after all of the work she, Cody, and Jesse put into last week’s Beware Advantage bead fiasco.
With Nneka leaves the heart of the tribe, but with two pairs remaining and multiple advantages in play, fans have much more to look forward to from the Vesi tribe; the next vote-off will surely be one to watch in the event they find themselves back at Tribal Council.
Pop Crave caught up with Nneka to chat about her experience in the game, what it meant to see her missionary work highlighted in the series, how she feels after being voted out by Cody and Jesse, and more. Keep reading for the full exit interview!
You are clearly a huge fan of the game. You even had a moment in Episode 2’s tribal council where you described watching the show with your family back home. What inspired you to play Survivor?
What inspired me was watching a lot of things: seeing people just compete, seeing social games at play, and knowing that was my wheelhouse. I knew it was going to be an incredible opportunity. The more I watched, the more I was just stoked and inspired. We binged on it. That was all we did! I was like, “I want to do this! I want to do this!” Yes, I wanted to challenge and play it differently. I wanted to do it, and so it was all of it. I don’t know that there was any single episode, but just the thought of being out of your element, having this new tribe, and competing in various ways.
Hearing your story about working with the mission team in northeastern Nigeria was incredible. How did it feel to see that story shared on national television?
Last night was a very touching episode for me, a very emotional one. I’m just grateful for how well they were featured. I could not have asked for more. They were a big driving force and part of my “why?” for getting on the show. To hear their story told just hit all the chords. I was a crying mess [laughs]!
Your performance in last week’s immunity challenge was a topic of discussion among your tribemates, specifically Dwight and Noelle. Knowing that, why did you ultimately decide to compete in the puzzle portion again for this week’s challenge?
The first two puzzles, I did not choose to do the puzzle. The very first time at the immunity challenge, I did not want to do the puzzle. I was going to be the second person who went out to get the boat, but no one on my tribe wanted to – same thing with the second one. No one wanted to. This last one, I did not want to jump off a 10-foot platform. I knew that the tribe had stronger swimmers who would do a better job there, so I will say that was the one puzzle that I picked. I don’t regret choosing it, because I still think that those who did the swimming did a fantastic job on there.
We saw Noelle successfully manage to earn a Steal-A-Vote during her journey with Owen and James. What was the chatter like back at camp once she returned and explained her version of what happened?
You know, for instance, when Dwight returned, it was the second day of the challenge. We had downtime to really talk through it, and yes, it was the first time anyone was going on the journey. For Noelle, there was not a lot of time to talk through it. We were getting ready to leave for tribal. There were differences in her journey than what Dwight’s journey was. I remember thinking at that point, “Someone’s lying,” you know? Now seeing it, they actually had different journeys, but we really did not have time to sit down and kind of talk more about that, because the scramble for our tribal [council] was on.
Did you believe Noelle?
You know, it’s one of those things where in the moment you’re like, “Huh… I did not really believe that.”
Jesse had a confessional where he struggled with the idea of voting you out; he said it would almost be like voting out his own mother. How would you say your relationship with him grew throughout your time together on Vesi?
Jesse and I had so many ways to connect while we were on the tribe together. Hearing Jesse’s story, I wanted to know him more. Jesse is a very complex, interesting character. It was fascinating, so I wanted to really get to know him. Hearing how much influence his mom had on his life… we got to share our stories, our lives, what motivates us. I had shared with him about the mission team that I support. When he told me his mom was a minister, I kind of just shared the things that I’m also passionate about, that drives me, so we found so many ways to connect there. Hearing him talk yesterday was just the greatest honor, and that meant so much.
Now, to get into that tribal council… Cody and Jesse ultimately decided to vote with Noelle and Dwight, and they betrayed your alliance with them. Do you think this was a good move for them going forward?
I do not think it was a good move. I mean, I understand the move. You know, there’s a lot of talk about keeping the tribe strong. Many times, we’re talking about keeping the tribe strong physically, but I understand the move. Both of them would have had an ally for life. I’m a very loyal person. Coming into the game and saying I will not lie, when I give them my word, I would have stuck by it. I would have had their back no matter what, but I feel like it’s just one of those things you also expect on Survivor. The fact that I said I was going to do that does not mean that everybody was doing what I was doing.
You and Cody had an especially tight relationship which was noticed by your tribemates early on. How much did it surprise you to see him throw your name out to Jesse as a potential target?
I know that we all hate losing. Jesse and Cody hated losing. I know sometimes when we’re frustrated that things can be said, so I understand that part. But also, even while we were on the tribe, everyone thought “Nneka and Cody are so tight.” I also knew Jesse had a lot of influence over Cody, and that was not lost on me. I saw that and I knew that, even though the others didn’t seem to notice it.
Looking back at discussions before the vote, do you now recognize any signs that you were going to be voted out?
Yeah, there were signs that I recognized. At first, it seemed like a consensus. Like, “Okay, yes, we’re voting Noelle.” I remember at that point thinking, “This is too easy. It should not be this easy.” Even when we’re leaving for tribal and we’re all kind of packing up our stuff – you want to take everything – I know Noelle had left a bunch of stuff behind, and I remember kind of thinking, “Huh…” It’s just all those little things here and there.
Jesse’s loyalties have been pretty unclear to multiple members of the Vesi tribe. Did you ever doubt where his loyalty lies or recognize him as a dangerous player?
Yeah, so when we came back from the first tribal, I was wondering if they were going to show some of the conversations that happened after tribal council. I was wondering if that was going to be shown on yesterday’s episode. Dwight had pulled me aside to talk to say, “I was so sure you were going home. This is what Jesse was thinking.” Jesse was saying, “Hey, I would have gone to rocks,” so this conversation is going on when you know Dwight has said that. Yes, warning bells went off with Jesse to say, “Hey, he’s having conversations with both sides of camp.”
You were the third consecutive woman to be voted out of the game. Did that pattern ever cross your mind while in the game, and what are your thoughts on it?
It was something that I will say yes, I was worried about. When time for tribal comes, a lot of talk is on tribe strength. When we talk about strength, there are different kinds of strength, but the strength that was being talked about was more physical strength. So yes, sometimes when those conversations were had, does it put women on the wrong side of the vote? Yes, it happens.
As a viewer, it felt like you got most of the blame for not being able to complete the puzzle. Was there ever any conversation about Jesse being the target instead?
It seemed that he did not get any whatsoever. Part of the blame for that would be me just being distraught when we came back. I feel like I let my tribe down. That was the one puzzle I chose to do; the other two I did not. I was asked to try to do it, and then feeling like, “Hey, I went out to do this and I did not do it well.” Already kind of saying, “Guys, I let y’all down. Put the attention on me.” I know that yes, I could have shifted that. In real life, it is a strength as far as accountability, as a value. In Survivor, it is a flaw because you just put an unnecessary target on your back. Jesse and Cody talking about, “Oh, the puzzle sucks!” Friggin’ you know, Jesse and I did the puzzle together, you know [laughs]? Like, he should have taken the blame there too! But, you know, that’s how that played out.
New episodes of Survivor air Wednesday nights at 8/7c on CBS.