As Wednesday (March 20) night’s “Survivor: Caramoan” episode began, Matt Bischoff may not have been in a position of power, but he was in a position of relative comfort.
Part of the numbers majority on the Fans tribe, but also accepted by Pretty Kids Reynold and Eddie, the Cincinnati-based bearded BMX fan looked ready to weather any voting storm.
Then a tribal shuffle left Matt and his alliance-mate Michael on an absurdly weak new tribe composed of oddballs and misfits, forced to wage war against an apparently random assemblage of every challenge powerhouse in the game this season.
After an inevitable defeat, the new Gota tribe seemed prepared to vote out weak-link Julia, until they decided to consider the threat posed by a Matt-Michael voting block. That suddenly made Matt a target, because all of the Favorites were convinced he wasn’t lying when he said he didn’t have an Immunity Idol.
And that’s how Matt, a likable and reasonably strong player seemingly playing an admirably balanced game, came to be this week’s exit interview.
In the conversation, we talked about the ill-fated tribe-swap, his ability to make alliances with everybody and, of course, his beard. Click through for the full Q&A.
HitFix: Were you blindsided at that Tribal Council?
Matt Bischoff: You know, I knew that one of the three of us was going home. I was hoping that it was gonna be Julia, so I wasn’t completely blindsided. I knew there was a song chance, but it definitely was somewhat somewhat surprising and really, really a bummer that I had to go out like that.
HitFix: Watching Wednesday’s episode, did it sorta fill in some of the gaps you might have had about how the vote went down?
Matt: Yeah, I would say so, to really see what their strategy was as far as who they were gonna send home. Corinne, obviously, was a big fan of Michael’s. I had a great relationship with Corinne, but she was gunning to keep Michael around, obviously. Dawn and I had a great relationship, so I knew Dawn was wanting to keep me around. I thought I was was in with Phillip’s hilarious Stealth R Us stuff and whatever. But at the end of the day, it was me that they chose and it is what it is. Maybe my honesty of me telling them I didn’t have the Idol was my downfall, but my cards that I was deal was, “I’m gonna try to be honest and up-front with these people to try to gain their trust, to make them want to keep me in the game,” but I guess I was looked at as a threat and it probably smart for them to get me out of the game.
HitFix: You mentioned the cards you were dealt, but have you thought about any ways that you could have bluffed out there and made things easier for yourself?
Matt: I think about it every single day, the “What ifs?” One thing that I maybe could have done was not show how close I was to Michael. It was apparent and obvious and I was admitting it that him and I were playing the game together and, you know, looking back maybe I should have kept that more on the down-low and tried to just tell Julia and Michael, “Hey, let’s go into this like we’re not in an alliance together.” But it’s hard. When you’re out there, it’s mentally taxing and you’ve just kinda gotta roll with the punches and do what you think is best at that time and at that period of time, I was making the decisions that I was making and thinking that they were the right ones, so I can’t really be pissed off at myself right now about it.
HitFix: When you’re out there, what is the balance you have to strike between having an ally out there who you know you can trust, like you had with Michael, but also realizing the potential threat that the two of you might be seen as?
Matt: It’s a definitely a potential threat, but the thing is that the majority of the game, Michael and I were strategizing on the down-low. We were going in the jungle and doing our thing and working really tightly together and then providing information to the other people. The one difference that I feel like I had out of anyone in the game is the whole time I was on Gota, I had an alliance with multiple people, because everyone liked me and trusted me and I was basically playing different people. I was using that to my advantage because, technically, if we would not have been continually losing challenges, I was literally the only person that had an alliance with Eddie and all them. They thought that I was with the Cool Kids alliance. I truly wasn’t, but at the same time, had we kept winning challenges, Michael and Sherri were very strategic. So it may have played out completely different. Eddie really didn’t have a clue what was going on in the game, strategic-wise. Shamar and that whole deal was just a bunch of drama and he was not into strategizing and playing the game of “Survivor.” I was there to play the game 100 percent of the time and Michael and I played a great game together and when the tribe swap happened, it led to my demise.
HitFix: Well, both Allie and Hope told me that when they were out there, they were sure that you were part of their alliance. But in retrospect, should you have been, do you think?
Matt: Here’s the deal: Hope and Allie made bad decisions by basically being with Eddie and Reynold as that power couple. So Eddie and Hope wanted me to be in a Finale 3 with them and same thing with Allie and Reynold. However, I’m looking at it as this: The four of them are a kinda strong two couple and technically maybe Matt is on the bottom of this alliance. So I knew that I had to break up those couples and Eddie and Reynold were so strong I knew that the girls had to be the first ones to go. So I can’t regret or think like, “Should I have gone with them or not?” I do know this, although I blindsided and lied to Eddie and Reynold to get out Hope and Allie, I still feel that I remained really cool with Eddie and Reynold and could have worked them possibly later in the game. I think I could have definitely regained their trust, man. It’s a game and I think they eventually realized, “Wow. This is a game. You’ve gotta lie and maneuver.” You know, that’s the name of the game in “Survivor,” man. You’ve gotta play it and that’s what I was doing.
HitFix: If people thought you were in their alliance and then you were voting them out, what would seem likely to have alienated you, but you don’t think it did?
Matt: At the beginning, I just had to literally talk my way back to them. I had to regain their trust by just talking to them. I got along great with those guys and I don’t know, I just have a good way in life of people trusting me and I think I was regaining their trust. The thing is, is I think Reynold knows that I pretty much saved him in the game, because we could have just as easily voted off Reynold the night we voted out Laura and I think Reynold realized that. I was just like, “We have to win challenges.” And Reynold was a badass in the challenges. They were very, very close and a lot of it was due to the fact that Reynold was an unstoppable force in challenges. So I think I could have easily been psyched to work with him. Plus we’re from the same town of Cincinnati, so we kinda had that bond of being from the same town and different things like that, so I think it could have worked to my advantage down the road.
HitFix: As you kinda indicated, it seemed like the tribal swap really screwed you and Michael up most of all. Does that seem right in your head?
Matt: Yeah, basically the tribal swap is what ruined my game. It was just bad luck. “Survivor,” luck is majorly involved in the game and literally because I smashed a purple egg and went on the freakin’ tribe that I did is what did it… That’s what happened. That was the end of it and it’s really, really, really disappointing, because I feel like I was playing a great game that I was very proud of and very stoked on and I had so much more gameplay and then it just ended way too quickly.
HitFix: I know viewers at home were stunned by the way the random split went. What was your reaction in your head when you saw the two new tribes?
Matt: The very second I saw Mike and I and Julia, we’re in an alliance together, so I was like, “Aw sweet. We’re together.” But then immediately I was like, “Oh my God, dude. We’re screwed.” Because look at it. Erik, Reynold, Eddie, Malcolm, Andrea and Brenda were so strong, they were the dominators of challenges. And I looked at my tribe and I’ve got the older people and Cochran and it was just definitely we had a disadvantage as far as challenges go. And challenges are part of “Survivor” and we just kept losing and it just sucks.
HitFix: Were you at least as pleased as you pretended to be with the Favorites you actually ended up with?
Matt: You know, I really enjoy Phillip, John Cochran and Corinne. I was psyched to play the game with those people — Playing the game meaning strategizing and just playing the game of “Survivor.” I truly was excited to play with them, but the reality of it is that I knew that it’s four-against-three and they’re sticking together no matter what and if we lose challenges, I’m screwed. And we lost challenges. We were so terrible in that last Immunity Challenge. We thought Cochran and Julia were going to work on telling us where to put those blocks, but it was just a total mess and it was pathetic. And that point, I just put my head down and I was just like, “Wow. This could be the end of the line for me.”
HitFix: In your last interview, you talked about how you were pleased that nobody judged you out there and you were just able to be yourself. Did you have a contingency plan for if people looked at the tats and they looked at the beard and maybe they judged you in a different way? Did you have a Plan B?
Matt: I never had a contingency plan, because here’s the deal, dude: The difference between me and most people that go on “Survivor” that have tattoos or whatever, within two seconds of anyone I ever meet in my entire life talking to me, they don’t even pay attention to the beard and the tattoos. I had no worries whatsoever going into the game that I was gonna have a problem with that and I had zero problems with that. The second we got on the beach and I started busting my ass on the shelter, everyone was coming up to me, they were psyched. “Wow, dude. You’re working so hard” and this and that. So I didn’t feel like it was going to be an issue at all. I didn’t have a backup plan, because I didn’t feel like I needed one.
HitFix: As a last question: I know you put a lot of care into your beard. What was the impact of the “Survivor” experience on the beard?
Matt: [Laughing.] Actually, I don’t put much of anything into my beard anymore. It’s a long, dreadlocked, matted mess of hair and I think that being on “Survivor” just made it that much more awesome. It’s now longer and fuller and more beautiful from the sand and the fleas and all the bugs that are probably nested in my beard right now. The bugs from the Philippines are now living in America inside my beard, probably.