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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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Utahn Rick Nelson has gotten over "Survivor" rage

If you got the idea that Utahn Rick Nelson wanted to punch out Coach on "Survivor: South Pacific" in Sunday's episode - you were absolutely right.

When Nelson was betrayed by his supposed ally, Benjamin "Coach" Wade, the Aurora cattle rancher was not pleased. Particularly because Wade had lied to his face and assured Nelson he was fine.

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"I was hot. I was ticked," Nelson said in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. "I was about as mad as I could have ever got without just grabbing him and choking him. "Man, I wanted to poke him. I was ready just to drop his ass right there.

"And when I got home, it took me a while to cool off."

He has long-since cooled off, however. Nelson even has a lot of nice things to say about Wade.

"I think he's a heck of a good guy and I consider him a friend," he said. "I mean, you take ol' Coach and sit him off to the side and the cameras are off, he's a pretty decent person. He really, really is. But when the camera's on, he's Coach."

Nelson is, of course, disappointed that he made it to Day 37 (of 39) and finished fifth. (Sophie Clarke went on to win the million dollars.) But he's sanguine about it.

"It is a game and there is one winner," Nelson said. "What happened, happened. If you hold a grudge your whole life, you're going to have a pretty miserable life."

He does, however, have one regret. He knows he was too trusting when he got to Day 37 and was convinced by Coach and Albert Destrade that they were going to vote Sophie out.

"Day 37 - I've wanted that thing back for four months now," he said. "When I went home, I seriously thought Sophie was going home. They all made me promises. 'Oh yeah, it's her.' But, guess what? It wasn't.

"But that's why they call it 'Survivor.'"

And it wasn't like he was eliminated because he was disliked. Nelson was ousted by people who feared he might beat them in the final vote.

"Ozzy [Lusth] said, 'Nobody's going to take you to the end. Everybody likes you. You do all the work around camp. Nobody's taking you to the end.'"

The Utahn is hoping for another shot. And you never know - Coach and Ozzy were each making their third appearance on "Survivor."

"Hopefully, I get another chance,"Nelson said. "I would love that.

IT'S THE EDITING: Nelson barely showed up in several episodes this season, which was partly his doing and partly the editors' doing.

"At first, that was my strategy," he said. "I was going to try to keep my big, dumb mouth shut and do 150 percent of the work and try to get to know the people.

"But I did a lot of stuff and they didn't show any of it. Especially after the merge, I was having a great time. We were making alliances and we were having big to-do's, and none of it made it on. It's editing."

STRATEGIC THINKING: While some have criticized Nelson for not playing strategically, he begs to differ.

The first day on the island, he formed an alliance with Albert. Then Albert brought in Sophie. And Coach and Brandon Hantz joined.

"I'm thinking, 'Hey, this is a no-brainer. We've got five standing here, there's four over there. Five beats four all day long," Nelson said.

And that alliance did make it to the end.

"I was amazed that we did stick together," he said. "Then we had to turn on each other. And at that point, I trusted way, way too much."

Still, he feels good that he never lied to anyone.

"I thought I'd just as soon lose it as be a liar," Nelson said. "Dang, it would be nice to pay some bills, but I didn't lie."

HUNGER STRIKES: Nelson said the deprivations that accompany "Survivor" weren't that bad.

"The living part was tough, but I actually kind of enjoyed it," he said. "And I know now that you can live 37 days with not much to drink and not much to eat."

But toward the end, "You feel like you've got a nail from your belly button to your backbone because you're so hungry."

Late in the season, he looked completely lost on one immunity challenge that involved repeatedly climbing a steep wall to retrieve puzzle pieces and then putting the puzzle together.

"I just had to keep hanging onto that table because everything would go black," Nelson said. "I was getting ready to pass out.

"I just kept thinking, 'Man down! Man down!'

LOVE HIM, NOT HATE HIM: Nerdy John Cochran polarized viewers this season. But Nelson has no mixed feelings about him .

"That Cochran, he's a stinkin' hoot. You've got to meet him," he said. "He's a genuinely good kid."



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