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Interview with Cliff Robinson: 'I should have stayed with my gut'

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Cliff "Uncle Cliffy" Robinson is the latest super-star to play the game of "Survivor" and, unfortunately the last person to get voted out of the game. The 6'10" giant and former NBA All-Star was an immediate presence in the game and he seemed to fit in very well amongst his Brawn Tribe. But being well-liked can often times be a recipe for disaster in "Survivor," and even though Cliff saw his Brawn Tribe stay mostly intact following a tribal shake-up, it was one of his own - Tony - that ended up doing him in. Today, I interviewed Cliff Robinson to talk about his time in the game following the blindside that sent him out of it on last night's episode (in case you missed it, here it the full Episode 5 recap).

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There haven't been tons, but there have been some celebrities and/or former athletes that have found their way onto the show: Ex-NFL quarterback Gary Hogeboom, NFL coach Jimmy Johnson, actress Lisa Welchel, to name a few. None of them have done incredibly well and the scuttlebutt around camp is usually that nobody is willing to award a celebrity another million dollars.

Cliff is a nice, physical man who wasn't going to blend in, let's face it. Even those close to him, like Woo, were shown admitting that they wanted him out of the game eventually. He was going to have a tough road ahead of him in the game, even though he (unknowingly) survived an Immunity Challenge that his tribe had tried to lose on purpose...just to try to vote him out of the game. Luckily for Cliff, that challenge consisted of shooting hoops, an activity that Cliff had built a stellar career around. There was no way Cliff was going out that easy.

But after the tribe switch, Cliff could instinctively feel the ground shifting below him. His tribe mate Trish - who annoyed the heck out of him and most everyone else - was getting awful close to new tribe mate, LJ. He knew that even with Trish's vote, LJ was dead in the water unless he was able to sway one other person, namely Tony. Even though Cliff called for Tony to seek stability, Tony ultimately decided to blindside Cliff, sending him home as the fifth person voted out of the game, and the first of his fellow Brawnies.

I spoke with Cliff today about his time in the game, his thoughts on his tribe attempting to throw a challenge in order to oust him, and even a bit of basketball.

Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: Hello Cliff! Great to talk with you sorry to have seen you go so early.

Cliff Robinson: Thank you, thank you.

Tom Santilli: So how did you feel watching things back on TV and discovering that your tribe had tried to throw a challenge to get rid of you?

Cliff: You know, I was disappointed at the beginning, but for me I understand it's a game. Those kind of things happen. I would try to vote somebody out too, so somebody gunning to get me out, that parts of the game.

Tom Santilli: I'm sure it sucks either way to get voted out of Survivor, but how much worse would it have been had you left the game after losing a challenge that your tribe tried to lose on purpose, and that would have featured you losing a basketball-type challenge against a skinny white kid (Spencer)?

Cliff: It would stink either way, but for me as far as the basketball challenge, there were moving parts to that challenge. We had to count on people to dive down underwater and release buoys and that took much longer than I thought it was going to take. They were able to get their buoys up a lot quicker than us. I would have only taken it personal had I been sitting up there neck and neck and I didn't beat him, or had I had a big lead and he would have came back. Yeah, I would have probably been a little disappointed from that.

Tom Santilli: It was sort of odd watching it play out on TV with you this season. On one hand, almost everybody out there made comments about how much they liked you and how good of a person you seemed to be. But almost unanimously, even among your allies like Woo, there were shown plotting against you and/or making comments like they can't let you get very far in the game. You had a pretty rough road ahead of you in any scenario, didn't you?

Cliff: Of course. I think at the end of the day, Woo was a part of my alliance. He might have had conversations about someone else deserving to win, or this, that and the other. But when it came down to it, I don't think Woo was able to throw the challenge. I think he did a great job of diving down to get the buoys, he voted with me to vote LJ off. He was genuinely shocked when he saw my name come up there as the fifth person voted off. Woo was always with me. It was always Tony and Trish that I was primarily concerned with and I had some concerns with Sarah too. She also had an issue with me with the money, with the whole thing about me being a former professional athlete who has already made money. I felt strong with Lindsey and Woo but the other three I was shaky with.

Tom Santilli: That whole "money thing" comes up over and over again with former pro athletes or celebrities who play the game. Do you ever think we will see a former pro athlete or a celebrity win Survivor?

Cliff: Yeah, if they put me back on there! (Laughs) I think you will. At the end of the day, whether you are a professional or former professional, you're putting yourself out there just like everyone else is. Everyone's plaing the game. I don't think the fact that you've had success outside the game of Survivor should factor into it. If you played a good game, you played a good game.

Tom Santilli: I saw on your CBS.com day-after interview (to the left of this column) that you regretted not trusting your gut when it came to Tony. What did you detect with him and were you surprised at all watching him on TV, just how much he's been lying and playing the game?

Cliff: No I'm not surprised with what he's doing. He's doing what he set out to do. He was lying right from the beginning, that made me worried about him. He started off the game telling a lie about his name. It didn't make any sense to even do. Who are you? Nobody even knows who you are so why are lying about your name? And Sarah kept saying he's a cop. He kept saying he wasn't a cop. Something told me to keep an eye on him, but we never had a chance to go to Tribal and we weren't put in a position to test each other's alliances. 14 days is a long time for things to change. So I think that I should have stayed with my gut and just kept a better eye on him.

Tom Santilli: Trish mentioned in last night's episode that you didn't even speak one word to her out there from the very beginning. Any truth to that and if so, what prevented you from wanting to or getting to know Trish?

Cliff: That's not true. That wasn't true. After a while I stopped talking strategically with her because I didn't feel there was any need. I felt I had a strong alliance going on and if we had an opportunity to get rid of Trish, we would do so. So I didn't feel like I needed to massage that relationship. But looking back on everything, I wish I would have done a better job of doing that.

Tom Santilli: While I got you here, I have to ask you some non-Survivor questions. I know you are most closely associated with the Portland Trailblazers, but I know you also spent a few years in Detroit. What are your thoughts on the city of Detroit and on the Detroit Pistons organization?

Cliff: I think the city of Detroit gets a bum rap. Detroit's a good town, it's just had a really tough financial go of it. As far as the city and the people, it's a great town, it's a great sports town. I really enjoyed my time there with the Pistons. Right now they really have a lot of good, young talent. It's just a matter of those guys coming together.

Tom Santilli: So any predictions on the NCAA Basketball Tournament?

Cliff: You know what? I don't even fill a bracket out because I usually just pick UConn to go all the way. And I don't think they're going to go all the way this year. Yeah, it's not going to happen this year, so I didn't know who to pick.

For even more, be sure to watch Cliff's day after interview to the upper or left of this column. Also be sure to subscribe to this column (above by my name) to receive email alerts of new postings and you'll want to follow me on Twitter too, @tomsantilli, and at tomsantilli.com as well!

Also, make sure you check out one of my favorite Survivor sites, Survivor Fever.

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