Matt and Mike both played as honorable of games as you could ever ask for in Survivor. Matt was the 2nd person voted out of the game, but due to Redemption Island found himself as one of the biggest underdogs in Survivor history, surviving a record 10 Duels on Redemption Island, return briefly only to be blindsided for a 2nd time. The 11th Duel would have sent him back into the game, but he finally lost to Andrea, a person that he had developed quite a bond with earlier in the game.
Mike on the other hand, was the hero. The Iraqi War vet was the last Zapatera member standing, and was the biggest threat from his tribe heading into the merge. He nearly was able to flip Matt after he returned in the game, but was unable. They shared the same fate, both losing out in the last Duel of the season. They also shared the same faith, that in God, who was overly present in their lives before, during, and after the game was over.
So Matt, now that the game is over, what would you say was God's Plan for you?
Matt: I feel like he wanted me to trust him and take a risk. To trust him enough to try to allow him to use me in the game to encourage people. I wanted to show people peace, love, and joy that I found in Jesus, my savior. And that's what I was trying to do and that's what I think God's Plan was. My vision is still kind of limited, I'm still fresh out of the show, and I may never see the full effects of it.
You were on Redemption Island for so long, did you ever reach the point where you sort of just expected to win Duels, according to God's Plan?
Matt: Well, it was never necessarily that God was carrying me further along in the game, I just thought that he was carrying my actual being as far as getting through each day, mentally, physically, and emotionally. But yes, I did kind of feel that I was just going to keep winning, I just go so used to it. In that last Duel, when my vase fell, I was just in disbelief, I was just like, hey how did that happen? Hmmm, that's interesting! It was just about God pushing me forward, keep fighting the good fight I guess.
Matt, your final vote, what did you base your vote on? You voted for Rob even though he blindsided you twice.
Matt: I'd have to say my vote was based on Survivor excellence. Even though I played a very different game than Rob, intentionally, I still love and respect the game of Survivor and honestly what he did was pretty incredible, and he deserved the million dollars.
Mike, you were the last Zapatera member standing, and with an all-Zapatera jury awaiting you. Talk about how difficult it must have been for you to know that you were 1 or 2 challenges away from a million dollars.
Mike: Great question, and it's hard. It's hard to go back and go through the "what-ifs." If I could go back and would have lasted a little while longer and taken that last challenge...you know, had I gotten back into the game, I probably wasn't going to be able to rally votes, I would have tried my darnedest, but you know, then it would have come down to winning 2 Immunities. Rob is great in challenges as is Ashley, Natalie and Phillip were mostly a non-issue. So going back into the game had we won challenges, any of us: Grant, Matt, myself, or Andrea, we all had a really good chance at the million. It is disappointing, it's not the outcome that I wanted, but I'm totally OK with it. I was honored to have the opportunity to play.
Speaking of honor, you played a very honorable game some would say, and were often referred to as a "hero." Talk about how you feel you represented and what you would like people to take away from your gameplay.
Mike: I'm humbled to be called a hero, even though I don't feel that it's deserved. The real heroes are the men and women serving us in the armed forces right now. There's never again going to be a greatest generation like there was coming out of WW II, but there is an incredibly great generation...maybe the greatest generation part 2...that is coming out right now as we speak. Afghanistan is our nation's longest conflict, and there's more wounded warriors returning from overseas than in all of Vietnam. The men and women serving now are the ones we need to appreciate. Because of them, it allows us back home to play in a game like Survivor.
Matt, you became quite popular this season and there is talk of wanting to have you play again. What would you do differently with your strategy next time, if anything?
Matt: Well if I were to play again, I probably wouldn't want to divulge my strategy to you now. (laughs) I'm really not sure at this point. I'd really love to go back, I'd love the opportunity but I'm really not sure if I would at this point.
A big turning point in this season was when Matt had an opportunity to jump over to Zapatera after returning to the game. How close did that come to actually happening?
Matt: We [Matt & Mike] actually had the same plan without having talked to each other about it. When Mike finally approached me, I was like wow, this is too good to be true. I hadn't had a chance to talk to Andrea yet, and there was no doubt in my mind that Andrea would want to flip. But what I didn't realize or expect was Andrea thinking she was so high up in the Ometepe alliance. She thought she was number 3. So thinking like that, she thought she'd probably make the finals, so there was no chance she was going to flip. So after that happened is when I went to talk to Rob and get the target off my back by earning his trust. I kind of out-dumbed myself there and ended up putting an even bigger target on my back. (laughs) Not to mention screwing it up for Mr. Mike. So my one regret is that I messed up Mike's game (both laughs).
Mike: I wish that I would have pushed the deal a bit harder. We would talk and I know that he wanted to stay off of Rob's radar as much as possible. I just wish I had grabbed Matt and just pushed the issue harder, and re-iterated where we all stood. Matt, God Bless him, he made the decision that he made, and it's totally fine because we ended up getting some time to spend on Redemption Island together winning some Duels, and that's one of the best things that I take from the experience. But it would have been great to rally Matt. Rob just played a masterful game, he was always just one step ahead of us. We just didn't see it coming when they voted for Matt. I would have loved to tell Ralph to play the Idol for Matt and wipe out there votes. Had we done that, it would have been an Ometepe going home, and Matt would have been a Zapatera for life...probably would have even gotten the tattoo (both laughs)
Mike, another big turning point earlier in the season was throwing the challenge to get rid of Russell. Any regrets?
Mike: Throwing the challenge with Russell is the one thing I would change playing the game. I really wanted to take Russell out, but I think our eagerness to get rid of Russell probably was our demise. You know, we needed to lose 3 challenges, to get rid of Stephanie, Krista, and Russell. They all had to go going into the merge. [The girls] basically said that they were going to be jumping to the other side. So, we needed to lose 3 and we ended up losing 4. In Survivor, sometimes you're just a hair away from having a totally different outcome. Looking back, I don't know if it was best for us to throw that challenge, I would have loved to take out both Russell and Rob, and chuck grenades uphill all the way to the finish, but other than that, it was difficult losing there at the end. It is what it is, and it's a game, and the experience and how it has helped me in my own personal journey and my faith, and my relationship with God, has been an absolute blessing.
Matt: Mike, you're my hero.