Everyone survived the merge — but not everyone made it to tribal. HollywoodLife.com chatted with the latest castoff after Wednesday’s shocking episode, and he filled us in on his injury, the gameplay we didn’t get to see on television and more!
This season of Survivor is like no other: Jeff Probst must be really forming close relationships with the medical staff. After the merge, a medic was brought to camp to examine multiple infections that the cast had — and one unlucky injured tribe member was sent home. But even though his name was being thrown around before tribal, Neal tells HollywoodLife.com he was pretty confident in his position in the game before being medically evacuated. Read our EXCLUSIVE interview here!
What was it like watching this back so many months later?
It was crazy! It’s one thing to live through it, but then to watch yourself crying and just see that passion and that love of the game come out — to relive that was sad, but at the same time, it was also a relief to get to show the fact that I’m on Survivor with the world. The reaction has been absolutely incredible.
Did you know people suspected you had the idol?
Yeah, I mean, look at the situation: It’s clear that Peter and Liz didn’t have it. It was also clear that Joe didn’t have it because, typically, you’d have to leave camp to find the idol. Debbie never really went off on her own…if she goes off on her own there’s no one to tell stories to! So people knew she didn’t have it. So they thought, does Neal have it, or does Aubry? And I think there’s a bias in Survivor that if you’re female, you don’t have it, so they thought I did, and they were right. BUT, they were wrong about my bulge! That bulge was not the idol! The idol never went in that pocket, so they punched their way through that one.
Before being evacuated you mentioned you might play the idol for yourself or Aubry at tribal, but the Brawn tribe seemed to think their targeting of Aubry was a blindside. How did you know she might be on the chopping block?
Word gets around camp — people don’t keep secrets. They were absolutely over-confident in that situation. We knew what was going to happen. Was I actually going to give Aubry the idol? Probably not. I was playing to win, not to go out. It would’ve been interesting.
How do you think it would’ve played out if you stayed?
I was not confident in Nick and Michele. It was the typical signs: The body language, the eye contact, the choice of words. I was not confident it was going to work out the way we wanted it to work out. I’m sure Debbie was, but I wasn’t.
But I don’ think I was going to play the idol. You have a choice: Do I use it now, then get to be one of 10 and they still have seven and know I don’t have it? Or do I roll the dice and hope that I don’t go out and maybe win immunity the next week, or use the idol…or not. There’s a lot of possibilities from that point out. There’s always going to be a fracture in a seven person alliance. It’s always clear who’s on the outs, then those people get a better offer. So I think I was in a really great position, actually. Sure, I was targeted, but the targets have ways of moving to other peoples’s sides.
Did you consider giving Aubry the idol before you left?
I had a pretty good idea I was going out as the infection was getting worse and worse. They take infections very seriously. I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it! I probably would have, but the night before when Aubry and I were talking on the beach, she made it clear that she would slit my throat given the opportunity.
I was still considering it and ultimately it was a difficult thing — it was also one last part of the game that I could hold onto. It’s something that I can pull out and think about those 19 glorious days for the rest of my life.
Was there anything we didn’t see that you wish was shown?
I was a much bigger presence in the game and at camp than you would think based on the edit. As you know, I was present in the first episode, but we were winning challenges and we weren’t going to tribal, and I wasn’t causing drama. I had a strategy: Stay muted. I didn’t need to be cast as a jerk that I usually am. Don’t alienate people, just be calm and be quiet and keep your head down and work hard. I was catching a huge amount of food, and in the challenges, I was really strong. It’s hard to tell in the group challenges, but I was super strong. That didn’t come across, but that’s okay, that’s the game. Sometimes the quiet winners fall into the background.
What’s the Brains’ best chance in terms of strategy now that they’re another man down?
You have to look at those fractures — you have to look at that alliance of seven and make it clear to the people on the bottom that they’re on the bottom. Make them see it because they probably don’t see it and get them to come over to your side.
Who’s the biggest threat left at this point?
Scott was a big force out there. Finding the two guys that are suspected to have idols [Jason and Tai], and it turns out they do have idols, that’s a scary thing, especially when it’s a super idol. You figure nobody’s going to vote for Scott to win the thing in the end, but that was a powerful little group.
What’s the update on your injury?
I went straight to the hospital in Cambodia and they dug it out in what felt like a medieval experience. I was staring up at the ceiling as they were digging into my knee. They numbed it, but it’s really unpleasant when they got at your knee. But except for the first day, there was never any pain. So I stayed for two nights, they brought me to a hotel, and the next day I ran four miles on the treadmill. I had a big, open wound but I was feeling fine and I wanted to be back out there. That’s the weird and frustrating thing about it — it wasn’t affecting my ability. The obstacle course challenge: The infection was well on its way, but it didn’t slow me down. Not at all. Not for a second. I was begging, just begging for 12 more hours in the game because I don’t think it was getting worse, but at that point, they can’t take that chance.
Would you play again?
In a second. No hesitation. If Jeff [Probst] told me right now you have to be at the airport in 45 minutes, I’d show up with the clothes on my back and get out there.
Were you upset Neal was sent home, HollywoodLifers?