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Interview with 'Survivor' Garrett: 'I wouldn't have played the Idol either way'

The premiere episode of "Survivor: Cagayan" was just about as night and day as it could be for contestant Garrett Adelstein. His first three days on the island were a roller coaster that he was skillfully able to navigate. But his last three days were just that: His last three days in the game. Today, I spoke to Garrett about his fall, rise and fall again in the game of Survivor. In case you missed the episode, here is the full Episode 1 recap.

Garrett Adelstein.
Garrett Adelstein.
Monty Brinton/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Garrett, the second person voted out of "Survivor: Cagayan."
Monty Brinton/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

For a season themed as "Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty," Garrett was perhaps a triple-threat and could have been categorized as any of the three. He is a professional poker player but from the looks of him, he could have been a professional body-builder, MMA fighter, or just a super-fit accountant. He was ultimately placed on the Brains Tribe, consisting of people who we would soon find out had a hard time living up to that name.

Sticking out like a sore thumb, Garrett was immediately targeted as the "weakest" member of his tribe by appointed tribe leader, David, at the very beginning of the game. Of course, he was by far the strongest from a physical perspective, but David felt threatened by him. Being the weakest had benefits though, as Garrett was tasked with deciding between a hidden Immunity Idol clue or getting a second bag of rice for his tribe. Without hesitation, he went for the clue and found a hidden Idol on Day One.

Seemingly in a great position, he still was being targeted by David but David was unable to convince any of the others on his tribe. Instead of going with J'Tia, who had been rubbing people the wrong way, he orchestrated a blindside of David, to exact revenge and to get out a player he perceived as a strategic threat. After David went home, it seemed Garrett was on the top of the world.

But the morning of Day Four, everything seemed to change for Garrett. He woke up miserable and admitted that the game was no fun at all. He was having an incredibly rough time adjusting to the lack of food and the rough nature of the game. When J'Tia blew the challenge, he decided to call an "open forum" discussion with his tribe mates to discuss who was going home next. These types of talks never work and it didn't here either.

But his public targeting of J'Tia led to J'Tia self-destructing. She poured the tribe's rice into the fire, all but securing her exit in the game. But don't expect the Brains to think logically. In a wildly shocking blindside, Garrett found himself out of the game when Kass, Tasha and J'Tia wrote his name down. Garrett was so confident he wasn't going home, he had not even brought his hidden Idol with him to Tribal Council.

So in the course of two hours, Garrett blew in and blew out of Survivor like a chiseled maelstrom of testosterone and bravado. Here is my exclusive chat with Garrett Adelstein, a day after the airing of the premiere episode:

Garrett Adelstein: Hey Tom, how are you doing today?

Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: Doing good man! Sorry to see you go so soon! You were the star of the first episode but you, me and everybody wouldn't have predicted you'd be gone so soon. So what ultimately happened? What do you attribute as the reason you went home?

Garrett: What it really comes down to is a lot of very intricate Survivor strategy that I'll try to condense for you. But to try to keep it short, when David went home, Spencer and I knew that our best play strategically was to pull Kass in. Unfortunately Tasha recognized the same thing for her own strategy. So everything you saw with the open forum and Tasha being all upset about that and that sort of playing any sort of role whatsoever in why I went home, it's just not accurate. What is accurate is Tasha outplaying Spencer and I, and convincing Kass that it was in her best interest to vote with her. Obviously I'm a little biased but I think that Kass's decision really was illogical and really unsound. The real unfortunate thing about it is J'Tia's actions. J'Tia was just like a sideshow, clearly. J'Tia's behavior that day, what it did allow, very unfortunately for me, was to make me and Spencer feel even more comfortable. Kass did not like J'Tia at all, that's something you didn't see on camera. I mean, she almost got in a fist-fight with her after the rice was dumped out. They were both arguing and verbally atttacking each other all the way up until right before Tribal Council. All of those things made me feel that it wasn't necessary to use the Idol as leverage to pull Kass in and all of those things led to my demise.

Tom Santilli: Do you feel like it may have been a big mistake to keep Kass in the dark about blindsiding David? It seems like her distrust for you may have began there and had you have included her, she may have felt more loyal to you.

Garrett: Hmm. I like that question, that's the first time I was asked that question today. I think it's a real interest one, it's certainly reasonable. I could have even just whispered to Kass at Tribal that we were voting David. Here's why that's even more interesting than it even seemed on the surface. I established a very close relationship with Kass on Day One, none of which was shown at all. So telling her certainly...would have helped and would have answered some big question marks for herself.

Tom Santilli: Now I know you're a smart guy, you're a successful poker player, etc. But do you feel that you were unfairly placed on the Brains Tribe given your physicality? You stuck out like a sore thumb over there, as opposed to maybe having blended in a bit better had you been put on either of the other tribes.

Garrett: I don't want to use the word fair. Survivor isn't fair. All kinds of crazy things happen that are out of your control. What I'd say is that it's unfortunate. I feel very strongly that if I would have been on the Beauty or the Brawn tribes, there would have been much fewer real Survivor strategists on either tribe. I think I would have had a much easier path. You know, a lot of things had to go against me and unfortunately, I made a few mistakes myself that have led me to be talking to you today (laughs).

Tom Santilli: David pegs you as the weakest on your tribe right off the bat. But had he selected someone else, what was your read on David up until that point? Is he someone who you felt threatened by or was he someone you thought you may have been able to work with?

Garrett: Looking at David from the beginning, I never really got the best vibes from him. I would have been willing to work for him though. I mean, me and David are good friends now so it's easy to say. But I think it was pretty clear what his intentions were as to why he picked me. But in Survivor, anyone who isn't with you is against you. But without question, everything would have been different had we worked together, but I guess we'll never know.

Tom Santilli: When you go to Tribal Council without the Idol, was there ever a moment at Tribal Council that you regretted not bringing it? Or was it a true and real blindside?

Garrett: I clearly think that I made a mistake in not bringing the Idol with me to Tribal. You see five minutes of Tribal Council and those are clearly the worst five minutes. But there are 90 minutes of other things that go on. I can comfortably say that I wouldn't have played the Idol either way. Going into Tribal, I thought there was a zero percent chance I'd get voted out and before the vote I would say I thought there was between a zero and maybe three or four percent chance of me leaving. Just not enough doubt to use the Idol in that moment.

Tom Santilli: Is there anybody left on your tribe that you think has any real chance at all of winning the game?

Garrett: I would vote Spencer and Tasha. Spencer I think is the superior strategist, I just have concerns about his game socially. Not because he's egotistical or diabolical like he was portrayed in some of the pre-season video clips and things like that. But it might be hard for him to relate to some of the older people. I think Tasha has a legitimate shot as well. Obviously I'm a bit frustrated that Tasha was the mastermind behind me being ousted, but I have to give her credit, she outplayed me.

Tom Santilli: Well sorry to see you go, Garrett. You came out guns a-blazin' and it was a very entertaining premiere to say the least.

Garrett: Yeah I guess that's filler line, huh? I guess I make for at least one good episode, right? (Laughs)

For even more, be sure to watch Garrett'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 as well!

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

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