Add Matt Quinlan to the list of early “Survivor: One World” exit interviewees lamenting the ramifications of the season’s gender-split tribes.
As one of the game’s core Alpha Males, Matt would have at least been a temporary asset in most “Survivor” seasons — a potential challenge boon and perhaps a provider — and the Alpha Male alliance he formed at the start of the game would have been valuable, at least until it became blindside time for the more smartly strategic players.
Instead, in our conversation after he became the season’s first evicted man on Wednesday (Feb. 29) night, Matt insists that he formed his Alpha alliance because he sensed an immediate target on his back from Day 1 in this unusual format. In addition, the 33-year-old attorney says he tried telling many of his fellow castaways that Idol-weilding Colton was a bigger threat, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
Matt also offers insight into his tribe’s decision to take the win in the season’s first Immunity Challenge and whether he felt, as Jeff Probst stated on Wednesday, blindsided by his snuffing.
HitFix: So how have friends and loved ones responded to what went down on Wednesday’s episode?
Matt Quinlan: People are obviously really disappointed. I didn’t tell anybody what was coming. I didn’t want to ruin anybody’s excitement. Of course, I knew the result, but I didn’t want to take that excitement away from other people and, of course, that set up a lot of disappointment. I wanted the people that like me and know me to be able to experience that swing of emotions like I did out there and so they’re bummed, you know? They’re upset and they’re disappointed and so am I.
HitFix: Have you been getting any consistent questions from people? Like “Why did… happen?” Any recurring themes?
Matt: Well, it just happened last night, so I haven’t had an opportunity to interact with anybody about it, but I’ve gotten a lot of tweets and text messages and phone calls that I’ve missed and whatnot, but I’m sure a lot of these conversations are gonna come. People are probably going to want to know what went wrong and what happened and it just kinda is what it is. You saw how it unfolded. I felt pretty vulnerable from the first day and I fought my damnedest to try to stay in the game and that worked for eight days. I feel confident saying that I did everything that I could do, but that doesn’t mean, looking back, that I wouldn’t do some things differently maybe, but at the time? All of my effort and focus and concentration was there, so I’m at peace with the result.
HitFix: Jeff Probst described the vote on Wednesday’s episode as being a blindside. It didn’t really seem that way to me. Did it seem that way to you?
Matt: No. It didn’t seem like a blindside to me. It was me or it was gonna be the plan that I’d hatched to try to get out Colton and that was it. When I went into Tribal, I thought my plan — which you saw a little bit of, which was to realign the game with me, Mike, Jay, Troy and Jonas and we were gonna target Colton — either that’s what was gonna go down at Tribal, or I was probably gonna go home. So you saw me get agitated and frustrated last night and, Jeff picked up on it too, is because it became obvious to me once we all started talking at Tribal, was that my plan didn’t take and that I was probably going home. When my name kept coming out of that bucket, I wasn’t shocked. I was really disappointed, of course, but I didn’t feel blindsided.
HitFix: The game was only eight days in and you guys hadn’t been to Tribal Council a single time. Why did the game need realigning in this way? What had gone wrong with the first bit of aligning you’d done?
Matt: When I first got out there, the Men vs. Women format, everybody realized really quickly that that changed what a normal game would be and that it gave the opportunity to get rid of some of who was perceived to be the stronger contributors to a team game, because the challenges would be based on balance and puzzle-making and coordination and that type of thing. So I think some of the guys who may be less athletic or physical felt like, “So there are these athletic types, well I can balance as well as them and I can make a puzzle as well as they can or better” or whatever their mentality was. So it allowed for these people who would have been valuable to a team game traditionally, to be expendable, so I think that everybody wanted to take that opportunity to get rid of a player like me. Initially I was aligning with the guys who were also vulnerable in the same way I was and that was Mike and Jay and Bill, to a lesser extent. We were also working with Colton, initially, for the first few days until he got that Idol. But the game is changing so much, right? You’re always in a position where you’re trying to create safety for yourself. I felt safe, pretty safe, for the first three days. When Colton got the Idol, he kinda drifted away and was in the middle kinda wanting people to woo him and to court him. Troy and Jonas were were aligned tightly and then Leif and Tarzan were kinda floating and Bill was floating a little bit. It was just about trying to get the numbers and so ultimately I realized I had lost that battle, that the group that’s been labeled “The Misfits” on TV had the numbers and intended on being in control and I wasn’t a part of that control, so obviously I was very, very vulnerable at that minute and felt it and so that’s why I wanted to try to shake up the game, which was to put myself in a better situation. I was gonna do that by talking to Troy and Jonas and keeping my original strong three and then we’d have five like that. I needed to shake up the game, because as it turned out, as I was standing there on Day 6 or whatever, I was as vulnerable as anybody and I didn’t like that, so I wanted to change that reality.
HitFix: The way we saw it on TV, Colton only showed his Idol to his alliance. But everybody on the Tribe knew?
Matt: Yeah. It was a big deal and gossip travels fast out there. Everyone kinda knew that Sabrina had found the Idol and needed to give it up, so I knew that Colton had the Idol on Day 3, I think, and everybody in our Tribe knew shortly thereafter. So yeah, people knew Colton had the Idol. It was very obvious Colton had the Idol. He wasn’t being super-sneaky about it. He was actually talking about it quite a bit, building up his case. He kept saying he wasn’t going home because he was going to play the Idol, so we all knew he had the Idol.
HitFix: You also just mentioned that in the initial round of alliance-building, you had Colton in your alliance, which we didn’t see on TV. What was that about?
Matt: What you did see is that the four guys — Me, Mike, Jay, Bill — were together and that was the case on Day 1 or Day 2. Bill kinda ended up being more in the middle than tightly with us. But Colton was also kinda a fish out of water out there and we were working with Colton as well. Nobody really galvanized except for the four, my four, until probably Day 5 or 6. You saw that on TV last night, when Colton said, “OK. So this is our five. This is our five.” I think also when Colton showed the Idol around the campfire to Troy and Leif, that also cinched it to them. In my opinion, he had to show them the Idol, because I think they were still viewing him as the first to go and so when he did that, everything kinda changed at that minute. Colton went from somebody I was playing with, who as I viewed as just a vote, to a guy who got the Idol and put himself out kinda in the middle and wanted to be courted and nobody knew which way he was going, to being head of what’s been labeled The Misfits and when that became obvious to me, that’s when I needed to shake up the game, because I realized that I was not in a majority at all.
HitFix: Do you think that Colton has control over what he’s doing? Do you think he’s playing a good game? Or do you view him as lucking his way along to some degree?
Matt: I think everybody that plays “Survivor,” you have to rely on some good luck. There’s good luck and bad luck out there at every turn, so of course everybody’s lucky or unlucky. But I do think that there’s a method to Colton’s madness and I can say, for myself, that I underestimated Colton initially and felt like he was just this kid who was emotional and in over his head and that would allow me to control him, but ultimately as I learned, I don’t think Colton is the type of guy that you can control. He’s way more Alpha Male than people want to give him credit for because he’s gay and pretty flamboyant out there, but he really is trying to control this game. Colton was not a tag-along and I guess initially I viewed like that, like a weak player that would just do what he was told to do to save his own skin, but once he got that Idol, it allowed kinda his true game to come out, which was that he wants to control the game. At the end of the day, I think that Colton is a good player.
HitFix: You mentioned earlier that the One World twist rendered the more physical players less powerful and less strong. Was there any way that you could make your strength an asset in the game after it had been taken out of the asset equation for challenges?
Matt: You know, I think I did perform well on the challenges and all that did was to further solidify the thought that, “We should get rid of this guy, because when the game goes individual, he’s gonna be pretty good in the challenges.” So I don’t know what I could have done except for maybe thrown it and tried to act like I didn’t bring a lot to the take in that regard, but I also wanted to win, win the challenge. It was a pickle. It was a spot to be in. I don’t know if for me there was a good solution to it. I just think I had to be way more creative than I ultimately was able to be and to try to convince people that their initial thought — “Let’s get rid of Matt because he’s a threat” — didn’t make sense. So I tried to use Colton in that regard. I tried to make Colton be viewed as the biggest threat here, not me. I understood that that kinda ran counter what people initially felt about us, but the reality, I think, was that I don’t believe I was the biggest threat out there. I think Colton was. I tried to sell that to them and ultimately they either didn’t agree or they were just too intent on getting rid of me.
HitFix: You’re the first guy I’ve gotten to talk to this season, so let’s go back to that first challenge. After Kourtney’s injury, what was the conversation like regarding continuing the challenge versus just taking the win and walking away?
Matt: It was discussed, and I think you saw some of it on TV, about what to do. I think that was our first real opportunity to try to circle back to this concept: Do you play “Survivor” like a game? Or do you bring your Real Life kinda feelings into it? That was it. In Real Life? We play on, you know? But in “Survivor,” you can’t play on. I think we all kinda got that. I think, at least for myself, I was trying to, in that little discussion that we had, let the girls know that it was internal debate for me. You work every angle you can to try to gather goodwill. But I think, at the end of the day, that was a no-brainer. You have to take Immunity. You can’t give it up. That balance beam that we were in the process of trying to cross? If any one person can’t cross that balance beam, you lose. Any one. So it may have seemed like we had a lead or whatever, but the way that was set up with that balance beam, it was easy to catch up fast. I think, just generally speaking, women would have an easier time crossing that balance beam than some guys. So, for us, I think ultimately it was a no-brainer, something we felt bad about on a human level, but it was an easy strategic decision on a “Survivor” level.
HitFix: As a last question: Because the teams shared the same beach, you may have gotten a better sense of your opponents than you might have in a normal “Survivor” season. Who on the Women’s side do you have particular respect for based on what you saw?
Matt: I have respect for everybody out there who was braving those elements like I was. Those Women are actually braving them a little more than I was. So it’s a blanket respect, really for everybody who was out that and everybody’s that has ever played this game, given that I’ve done it now and know what it is. It’s hard. You really are tested physically and mentally and emotionally and it is every bit as hard as it might look on TV and there are no tricks. There’s nothing out there that makes it easier that viewers don’t see. It’s really, really hard. So I’ve got tons of respect for all of those Women and everyone else.
HitFix: No particular respect for any individual?
Matt: Nope. I just give respect generally.