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Two titans fell in the latest episode of Survivor, a two-hour slugfest in which the Goliath tribe’s star challenge performer Alec Merlino and the David tribe’s most prolific drinker Carl Boudreaux were voted out of the game.
The first hour culminated in surfer bro Alec’s unanimous elimination from the season, due to the combined threat of his challenge prowess and his charming social game. Alec nearly earned immunity, ultimately losing in a head-to-head endurance matchup against the David tribe’s robotics expert Christian Hubicki. Christian and Alec competed for over five hours in a challenge tasking both men with standing on an uncomfortable perch for as long as humanly possible. Throughout the battle, Alec insisted he would not step off until he earned the win, but the tides turned once Christian implemented an unexpected tactic: psychological warfare, by way of hours and hours of useless commentary.
“I’m starting to look at this as a different kind of opportunity: you’re kind of my captive audience,” said Christian, speaking specifically to executive producer and host Jeff Probst, before eventually launching forth a series of exhaustingly mundane questions: “Do you know what a reuben sandwich is, Jeff? Do you know what a macaron is, Jeff? They’re kind of tiny little beautiful sandwiches. I never grew a beard before, by the way. Jeff, now you know what it’s like to live with me. You hear my voice for hours. It’s torture.”
The torture was ultimately too much for Alec, who stepped off the perch, cementing his own demise at the next Tribal Council. In his defense, Alec turned what should have been a slam-dunk vote against him into a tougher question, after he made the compelling case to be kept around as a meat shield for other threats in the game, like Christian. The plea didn’t work out, but credit where it’s due: Alec said he wouldn’t go out without a fight, and he lived up to his word.
“Things can go a million different ways on Survivor,” Alec recently told The Hollywood Reporter during one of our active player interviews. “You never know what the next minute of the game will bring.”
In the second hour of the Survivor double-header, the David tribe lost one of their own: Carl, voted out after becoming drunk with power, literally and figuratively. The hard-driving trucker was drunk for much of the episode, thanks to the copious amounts of beer he consumed during a reward, as well as during the aforementioned immunity challenge. Carl proceeded to shot-call the action on the beach, a driving force behind the decision to vote out Alec.
For his second target of the night, Carl aimed high: Alison Raybould of the Goliath tribe. In order to vote out the good doctor, Carl arranged a plan that included Goliath’s Angelina Keeley (who had a separate hero moment this week in forfeiting her shot at immunity in order to bolster her tribe’s food supply) and excluded David’s Gabby Pascuzzi, who was perceived as too close with Alison. Thanks to her tight alliance with Christian, Gabby ultimately found out about the plot, joined together with Christian, Alison, Mike White and Kara Kay, and flipped the script on Carl, the man she identified as season 37’s very own “godfather.”
“Ding,” Gabby and Alison shouted as Carl’s torch was snuffed, a callback to the veritable cowboy’s now infamous catchphrase: “Bing!”
Carl’s elimination comes one week after he played a key role in knocking out Daniel Rengering. Earlier in the season, Carl was banished to Exile Island, where he discovered a new advantage: the idol nullifier, which can negate the powers of a hidden immunity idol, if used correctly. Carl played the nullifier successfully against Dan, destroying his idol and contributing to the Goliath’s fall from the game, and leading to a well-earned humble brag from Carl on social media. (“For those of you who had no faith in me playing the nullifier correctly well just ok I won’t say it,” he tweeted.) There’s less to brag about now, following Carl’s exit from the game.
“When he walked in, he did something that only somebody who truly believes in themselves can do: he walked in with an ‘I don’t really [care] about this show’ attitude,” Probst told The Hollywood Reporter about Carl in the preseason, speaking hours after the truck driver first landed on David beach. “What he meant was, ‘I watch every week, and I love it. But jumping over hoops? No, I don’t care. I have a wife, I have a truck, I have kids, I have a great life. I’m awesome. I smoke cigars. I do my whole thing. If you think I’m going to be somebody for you on your show …’ And we said, ‘Whoa! Where’s this coming from? We don’t want you to be anybody! You’re awesome!’ But his attitude was, ‘I know who I am. I always struggle. I’m a black man riding a truck. I ride horses. This is all incongruent stuff. I do just fine.’ I love Carl.”
With Alec and Carl gone, eight players remain on the hunt for the million dollar prize:
• Four members from the old Goliath tribe: Alison Raybould, Angelina Keeley, Kara Kay and Mike White;
• Four members from the old David tribe, including Nick Wilson, who found a hidden immunity idol this week;
• Davie Rickenbacker, the only other person who knows about Nick’s idol;
• Christian Hubicki, himself in possession of an idol;
• and Gabby Pascuzzi, who will join THR soon as the subject of our next active player interview.
First, let’s say goodbye to the two most recently eliminated players in the game, beginning with an exit interview with Alec. Earlier this season, Alec already provided huge amounts of insight into his time on the beach; read our full interview with Alec for all the events leading through the merge. Ahead, we discuss Alec’s final 24 hours in the game, as well as the events that occurred after the game, when one of Alec’s Instagram posts catapulted his name onto TMZ, landing him in hot water with CBS.
Talk me through the challenge, from your perspective.
Alec Merlino: I’ll start from the beginning, bro. Hats off to Jeff for giving us one of the toughest challenges in the season, and the most insane thing that I’ve ever done in my entire life. They’ve done this one before… I think it was Season 29, Blood vs. Water. You have this tiny little platform to stand on with your heels and then your hands are cocked back behind your head, and it’s this really uncomfortable spot. And then my big butt was [up against] the board, so it’s pushed out. My back was uncomfortable and uh, just from the get go, dude, I took on this attitude: “I’m not getting off of this perch. I’m not stepping off until I win, and I’m not saying one word to anyone. I’m just going to go into this mental zen, and zone out.”
Four hours in, a wave came over Christian. Then he just started telling stories to distract himself, and then it started to get in my head. I’m like, “Dude! This kid is killing me right now!” It was hard. I remember looking at him: “Oh my god, bro. Come on.” I think we were like six inches apart, so Christian was pretty close to where the other players that dropped out were sitting. I was almost the furthest one down, but I could hear it. It was just in my ear. It was really, really frustrating. (Laughs.) But you have to hand it to Christian. He honestly would have stood up there for twelve hours, no doubt.
When you stepped off, Probst was shocked, and said it came out of nowhere…
Alec: Christian just outplayed me. He played that challenge better than I played it. He got in my head. And it was hard! It was devastating, because I felt like I let go of a million bucks. I felt like I let go of bringing my mom out to Fiji and making it to the loved one visit, and it haunts me a little bit. [Note from Wigler: Alec’s mother visited him on location anyway, as seen in Carl’s Ponderosa video.] There’s a silver lining behind everything, right?
But mentally, dude… I was exhausted. It’s a really weird thing. How do I explain it? It’s like this: you’re standing up there with your hands clenched on this thing. You’re in complete agony, and then your feet are hurting and in your head, you’re going over it, over and over. Christian was talking so much, so he was distracted, and I’m sitting there quietly, and I’m thinking to myself the whole time: “Dude, I can literally just let go of this right now.” And it’s such a weird thought to have in your head, right? So I just remember that there was zero chance of stepping off, but there was nothing going on inside my brain, and suddenly I hear: “Just let go.” Then I just stepped off. I immediately regretted it. He 100 percent deserved the win. Like I said, he’s a beast. But it was hard. It was really hard.
You then have a little more than 24 hours before you’re voted out. What was your last day in the game like, from the moment you stepped off to the moment your torch was snuffed?
Alec: The moment I stepped off, it was, I would say the feeling was devastation. And then I was also happy. Like, dude, I was so stoked for Christian. But there’s this feeling when you wake up, bro… if you were to maybe one day play the game of Survivor, you’ll see that when you go home, you have this feeling inside your stomach. It’s just like, “Oh my God. It’s me. It’s me tonight.” So I knew I was in trouble. Am I the primary target? Everyone wants me out. This is a disaster. What can I do? What name can put out there? I couldn’t throw out a Goliath other than the Angelina, but she was with the Davids at this point. So I decided I needed to go for Carl. And it was perfect. Gabby and Carl weren’t getting along. It was mainly me just scrambling, going and making these pitches to Christian. I guess there should have been a little more ego-stroking to some people. I should have made sure to have some conversations. By the time we got to Tribal, I knew it was going to be me. I gave some people the blessing. I was like, “It’s all good. Write my name down. I get it. Stay in the good graces of the people you’re about to play with.”
Two of those people, I assume, were Alison and Kara. What was your experience, playing with them?
Alec: They’re both super impressive players. They both had something in their game that I wish I could have emulated. With Alison, the girl just exudes confidence. She was a threat from day one. But she was also my ally on day one, while taking a hold of the shelter. She came up to me: “I like you, I want to work with you.” She knew she wanted to align with the surfer dude. That’s what she told me, after the game. I’m so glad we did, because Alison is so smart. She would think through like all these different things, and it made me think, “I need to think about more than just this one plan.” She played a great strategic and well thought-out, confident game. It was amazing to watch her play.
With Kara, she and I really didn’t start jiving until Vuku beach. I didn’t like Kara. I did not get along with her on the first day. I didn’t like this showmance with her and Dan, and then people kind of paired off: Kara and Dan, and then Angelina and John, and then I guess it was myself and Natalia, which I wasn’t really aware about. So I was like, “Hi, I’m kind of at the bottom of this!” I just feel like I felt like I was on the outs. With Kara, I felt I needed to get this girl out, because she was so charming. And then she and I had a really cool talk on Vuku, and we were able to really connect. It was a really cool conversation, just talking about family and talking about home. I was like, “Dude, I dig this girl. She’s super sick. I feel like I can trust her.”
I feel like there’s always that moment in Survivor that any Survivor player will tell you about, where it’s like, dude, they just let their guard down and they just told me everything. It was the thing I was looking for in a person where I knew I could trust them. I found that with Kara. I already had that with Alison. When we all combined forces, it was very beautiful. I thought it was going to blossom. Unfortunately, it didn’t. I was the rose pedal that fell off. But Kara played like one of the best social games I’ve ever seen. She was always inserting herself into conversations. She was always making sure it wasn’t her. She was a beast in the social game.
Your best line of the season: “Angelina, you slime ball.” What was it like playing with her?
Alec: Oh my god, dude. (Laughs.) Dude, it was all in good fun. When I said that, I said it with a smile on my face: “You slime ball!” That was one of the moments where the game really kicked in for me [with all the drama around the Elizabeth vote]. Like, really? Jury management? I didn’t even know that existed! (Laughs.) Angelina was great to have around because she was a big target. People were talking about Angelina and, you know better than I do, on Survivor, when people are talking about anyone but you, it’s good news. But Angelina was a sweetheart. We had good talks on the beach and we’d like to chill there and watch the sunset or whatever. She wasn’t terrible to be with on the beach, but come game time, and every time I saw her talking [to other players], I was like, “Oh god.”
The game ends for you, and within days of being home, your name is on TMZ…
Alec: Honestly, it’s unfortunate. My main point of contention has been centered around this TMZ thing. But you have to look at the good. And the good part is… well, let me start with this: social media sucks in a way, because things can be misconstrued. I’ll say that. The other thing I’ll say is this, and you know this: I have the utmost respect for Survivor. I have watched this show with my family since I was in middle school. It’s been a dream of mine to be on the show. Having fricking Jeffrey snuff my torch? Like, how many people get to say, “Jeffrey! Snuff my torch!” I was so stoked on that opportunity just to go out there, even if I [ended up as the first one voted out]. Being part of Jeff’s show and meeting all the producers and all the cast, the film guys, and seeing how much work goes into it. Dude, it was freaking rad. I enjoyed every second of it, every single second. So, it sucks that I came home, and this happens. I take full ownership of it. It sucks. But the one thing that I’ll always remember, and the one thing that I hold near to my heart, is the experience I had out there with Jeff, the experience that I have to this day, that I was a part of something so awesome and so much bigger than myself. It’s a bummer — it really is — but I love Jeff. He’s such a rad dude, and I was just so fortunate that I got to be a part of such an amazing show.
Next, our exit interview with Carl, the man who made Survivor history by being the first player to find and use a new advantage known as “the idol nullifier.” What’s the story behind Carl finding and playing the nullifier? Why did he know he was in trouble with Gabby before his demise in the game — and why is he a little bit raw about the way he went out? Read on for the answers to those questions and more.
Take us through the journey of the idol nullifier, from finding it to playing it.
Carl Boudreaux: The nullifer, man… so, I get to Exile Island, and as soon as I walked up on the trail, I find the clue. I read this clue and first thing I think is coconuts and the water, obviously, with the tides. I run back out to the beach and run down there and, man, there’s coconuts everywhere. I’m like, “Holy crap. There’s no way I’m going to find this thing,” you know? I immediately jump into the water and start chucking coconuts back onto the beach. Finally, after I chuck as many as I can, I get up there and start going through them — and I spot the one that had the nullifier in it. It just went on from there.
As far as playing it, when we got ready for Tribal that night, Gabby didn’t want me to play the nullifier that night. They wanted to go with the steal-a-vote. I was like, “Well, everything has to align perfectly for this steal-a-vote to work and for a Goliath goes home.” If you go back and look at it, it was six votes for Dan, three votes for Christian, and two votes for Angelina. If I don’t play the nullifer, Christian goes home, you know? So, basically, the steal-a-vote was useless at that point, in my opinion.
So, we talked about it, and we knew that Dan was going to play an idol. Everything lined up perfectly. I went up there and gave my vote and wrote Dan’s name on the back of it, put in the urn. I mean, it’s history from there. First time ever being in the show, and I played it correctly. I go down in Survivor history, you know? First time there’s this new twist to the game, I get it, and I play it correctly. I mean, surely the production couldn’t have asked for nothing better.
Once you got the nullifier, how much time did you spend thinking about how to use it?
Carl: I mean, I kept going over it. What’s funny is I hid the nullifier in my boots, and my boots just sat by the flag the whole time. I never ever paid attention to it, you know what I mean? I just never said, “Nobody ever mess with my boots.” So, it was like I never had to be worried about, “Oh, is somebody going to find it?” Because that thing was very bulky. It wasn’t like I could just stick it in my pants. It would have been like, “Oh, wait a minute. Something ain’t right with you!” (Laughs.) So I just hid it there and let it be.
But it was a lot of work as far as having that nullifier, because it wasn’t just something that you could play, you know? If I didn’t play it correctly, it would have never even been discussed, right? It would have just vanished and no one would have ever known about the nullifier. So, playing it correctly, like I said, I’m sure Jeff and everyone enjoyed it, because they introduced it into the game. It got played correctly and now they get to use it, hopefully, in future seasons and, hopefully, it works out for whoever comes across it. If not? Then maybe I’ll stay the Sole Nullifer.
This week’s double-header was the Survivor version of The Godfather Part I and Part II, which was a surprise. Did you have any sense that this was the perception of you, as a godfather or a shot-caller, or was this a surprise while watching it back?
Carl: It was a total surprise watching it back, because I had no clue that that’s the way that they were viewing me. This whole season, I haven’t gotten the best of the edit, you know what I mean? I was kind of always in the background, you know? So, people didn’t think that I was really playing the game, but the whole time I was playing. It’s just I played the way that I am: I lay low and keep an eye on everything, and I’m always watching everything. When I talked to people, I talked to them, in a sense, to where it’s secretive, you know? It’s not going to be where I want to be shown doing this or shown doing that, you know? When I saw the whole thing about me being the godfather… and it wasn’t just one person. It was multiple people seeing me as the godfather, you know? I was like, “Yeah, that was cool,” but at the same time, it’s not cool because I went out, you know? (Laughs.)
Why did Gabby come for you?
Carl: I kind of knew it was coming. I felt it that Gabby was about ready to flip on us, you know. I knew that Gabby and Alison had gotten real close. I kind of knew it, I just didn’t know it was coming that soon. I knew she was ready to flip, but I didn’t know it was coming that soon. With Gabby, I never thought I had any issues with Gabby. I always thought me and Gabby were cool. For Gabby to flip, it hurt, but it wasn’t as bad as seeing Christian flip. Because myself, Davie, and Nick, I mean, we used every freaking advantage we had to keep him in the game, you know? For us to go about it that way, try to keep our David five and get the numbers and then that we can pick [the Goliaths] apart because, obviously, that’s what they were trying to do to us. We played so hard, and we got the numbers, and then Christian flipped on us after we had saved him multiple times… that one hurt more than Gabby flipping on us.
What were your relationships like with the other Davids, beyond Christian and Gabby?
Carl: I mean, it’s funny. If you go back to the very first episode, I wanted Nick gone. When we first got there, for me, it was all about, “All right, guys. Let’s work. Let’s get us a shelter.” You know what I mean? “Let’s try to get things going.” And Nick wasn’t working, so my first impression of him was, “Oh, man. This cat here is kind of lazy. I don’t know if I can deal with him being around.” But then, after Pat went out, all of that changed. Me and Nick became close. Again, what a lot of people don’t know is, even me and Nick had an alliance name. We were The Rattlers! It’s funny. Nick had alliances with everybody.
Me and Davie connected from the very beginning. We didn’t even really have to say much to one another. For me and Davie, it was just an automatic connection. I don’t know what transpired it, but it was just automatic. Even after the merge, every single move that took place, me, Davie and Nick talked about it. Every single move. On some moves, we brought Christian in, because we had to, but we kind of left Gabby in the dark. We brought her with us, but we kind of, sort of left her in the dark, because we all knew that Gabby was real close with Alison, so we didn’t know how far we could go with her, but we knew we needed her as far as getting the numbers.
Angelina joined your alliance this past episode, and there was also the great negotiation scene… what drew you to her?
Carl: Me and Angelina connected soon as we merged. I don’t know what it was, but it was something that drew me to her and something that drew her to me. And me and Angelina, we were connected the whole time, although I was still voting with the Davids and she was still voting with the Goliaths. We still had that connection and we talked about it, and we were both waiting on the right time to get with one another and make moves in the game. When she did finally come over, she helped with the Alec vote, obviously, but then at that point, she was with me on the vote to try to get Alison. It just so happened that Gabby and Christian flipped on me.
As far as the negotiations for the rice? Man, let me tell you. Angelina is a very, very smart girl. Very smart. She literally sat down on the beach and went through everything we had and counted literally with a shell how many scoops of rice we had left — everything. She literally organized everything. We all discussed this. You know, we said, “Hey, if you’re willing to do it, then go ahead. What can he tell us? Either yes, or no.” Now, we had no clue that he was going to ask someone to give up their shot at immunity for it. When he did that, we were all shocked, and I was even more shocked when she sat out, but that just goes to show you that she has nothing but fight in her. She’s very great.
Let’s close out with the immunity challenge, in which you’re tasked with unscrambling a word puzzle and delivering a specific word. You found a word, but not the one the show was looking for.
Carl: That part sucked, man. If we’re under the impression to spell an 11-letter word, well, I spelt an 11-letter word! I had no clue that it was a certain word. Yeah, that sucked, man, because if I would have won that of course I wouldn’t have went home, you know? The thing that got me on that is when I spelt my word, Jeff said it out loud, and everybody heard it, and the minute he said my word, it’s like it automatically triggered them, because the letters were there and it was like they just had to move a few letters around to get the correct word. Davie was right to my left. I was glad to see Davie win it, obviously, because I was gunning for Alison. When Davie got it, I was stoked about it, but I was upset at the same time because it was like… I spelled a word, you know? I got a word — it just so happened to be the wrong word.
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