On the first hour of Wednesday night’s Survivor: David vs. Goliath episode, we saw the elimination of Alec Merlino who was one of the strongest competitors in the game. He was well-liked socially, he had a number of allies, and he performed really well in challenges. Unfortunately, he really was too much of a threat for his own good. He was voted out more or less unanimously, including by his fellow Goliath tribe members once Angelina flipped on them over the contingency plan they formed at the Dan vote.
In our exit interview with Alec, he opens up in part about his experience playing the game, including his experience being voted off, that epic immunity challenge, and also the origins of the plan to target Angelina at the Dan vote.
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CarterMatt – So in your mind, what is the iconic Survivor moment for you? Is it the immunity challenge from last night?
Alec Merlino – You can say that. For an iconic moment, yeah; as for what I want people to remember me for, I would just say the good vibes that I always tried to have.
What I appreciated with you early on in the game was that you were willing to make a move against Natalia, who I’m guessing you thought wasn’t going to go to the end of the game with you. Why did you decide to make that move then?
That move was really hard. There were so many ways you could cut it, but in that moment I felt like Natalia was the right person to vote out based on all of the information that I had. It wasn’t me trying to make a big move as much as me trying to do what I thought was right, and me trying to protect my own butt later on. I didn’t feel like I was really close with Natalia. I thought that she would gun for me and that she would spearhead a vote-out towards me.
That moment was me showing that I wasn’t there to play based on the buff; I was just there to play based on people and personalities that I dig. At that time, I dug Elizabeth and Davie and I knew I could trust them and they would vote with me. Then, at the merge I really wanted to play with people who I had good vibes with. David and Goliath for me wasn’t something that I was thinking about all that much.
But after the Natalia vote, were you worried at all about the blowback when the other Goliath members saw that Natalia was gone?
They were really surprised and I knew that going in, that they were probably going to be like ‘huh?’ after the fact. But, I knew that I would be able to mend things if I made it to the merge. It was vote 5; the dust would have settled by the merge because the game ramps up. It goes from gear 3 to gear 10. A move pre-merge doesn’t really matter; people don’t think about it. I would say that the move helped me because it showed that ‘if Alec is down to work with us, he really is. He’s the only one who made a move.’
The only person who continued to talk about it was John, who was a little bit leery of my loyalty. But, other than that, I wasn’t worried. I knew we would win the next immunity challenges. I know a lot of people said ‘what if you got voted out on the Vuku tribe?’ — well, then so be it.
I got the sense throughout the game that you were someone who, if you had a chance to win something, you felt you were going to win and you were confident about it. You reminded me a little bit of Joe Anglim in that sense, but then also in that you had a good social and strategic game. Do you think you were just viewed as too threatening all the way around?
Well, first off, I’m honored that you would compare me to Joe Anglim. He’s a stud. After the game, people would tell me ‘you were strategic. You were a social threat. You were fun to be around.’ Christian and I had talks on the beach throughout, because I was gunned for early on. I remember at the John vote that I was a potential name. He said to me [at that time my name was out there] ‘Alec, I never thought I would enjoy your company so much and I’m so thankful for our friendship.’ I said ‘I get it. I know I’m winning challenges and I know I have a strategic game.’
It’s cool. I’m honored to be a player that brought those three assets to the table.
Was there a general feeling on your part that you had a better chance against the other Goliaths in the end, just because the Davids have some sort of inherent underdog story?
I never wanted to play David or Goliath, and I felt like I just had the best advantage forming alliances and relationships and trying to pave my way to the end of the game and playing an honorable game where I’m sitting next to people like Christian or Alison or Nick or Kara who have great social and strategic games. I could actually name everyone, because everyone played a killer game.
The thing here is that yeah, Davids may underdogs, but there were a lot of Davids that were Goliaths. Nick found all of those advantages, Christian killing me on that post … Everyone has their own David story and Goliath story. In my head, if I make it to the final three, I want to sit next to the people who are the best and who can probably beat me. I figured I would try to use that to my advantage and say that we’re all underdogs and we all have our own David story. Perception is reality out there — it’s all about how you plead your case and what you make them perceive as the truth.
Can you put into words what it was like going into hour five of that immunity challenge last night?
I can recall all of the things that were happening, like that I was really confident going in and that I needed to have this air of confidence about me and needed to get into the heads of the other people. I tried that and Christian just came out on top. Christian started talking and it got into my head; also, it all started to take a toll on my body.
I’ve been saying all day that there is a silver lining to everything and I don’t want to dwell on it. I played a hell of a game and it was a hell of a ride. I’m just glad I got to go out there and sleep on bamboo and see Jeff every single day. It’s taught me a lot, dude.
I’m glad Christian won that challenge. It reminded me to never give up and to see things through to the end. It’s pushed me in other ways in life. It’s pushed me to start my own business. It’s a good reminder and something that I will always have.
How did the plan come about to vote for Angelina at the Dan vote?
That was our way to show loyalty to the Davids. Myself and Kara had the opportunity to vote for Angelina to show that we were loyal after Nick stole Alison’s vote. A lot of people could argue that this was us just saving face, and if I told you I wasn’t, I would be lying. We were totally saving face. The original plan was to vote Christian out. We went back and forth on the beach about it. We genuinely did want to play with the Davids, but Survivor is such a tricky game. There is the timing aspect of it and you forget to factor in all of these little things like advantages and that you don’t know who has what advantage.
It was tricky, but when it came down to that vote we knew that we had to vote Angelina.
Are you interested in coming back again in some capacity?
Anyone who has played Survivor before knows how epic it is and how much of an honor it is. When you get there, it’s insane the amount of work that goes into it. Whether you are first out or if you win, it’s an honor to be there.
For me, if I was asked back, I would be flattered. Of course I would play again! I loved every second of it.
You mentioned earlier that you’ve started your own business. Want to say anything more about that?
I’ve started my own clothing company called Head and Hart that was birthed from my Survivor experience. It always takes two things to birth an idea — it takes the passion that lies within your heart and then it takes the willingness to never give up that lies within your head.
Survivor is such a bigger experience and a great thing and it’s taught me so much about myself. It taught me what to cherish and value in life. It’s taught me that you’re capable of a whole lot more when you, as Jeff likes to say, dig deep.
Were you rooting for Alec to win Survivor: David vs. Goliath? Be sure to share right now in the attached comments. (Photo: CBS.)