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Exclusive: Matty Whitmore talks about his time on 'Survivor: Gabon'


By John Bracchitta, 12/19/2008 

Matty Whitmore's run on Survivor: Gabon was quite a long one, if not quite a challenging one as well

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After riding numerous strategically placed alliances through his challenging days on the Fang tribe and surviving at least one brush with potential elimination to make it through 38 days in Gabon, the 29-year-old personal trainer from Pacific Palisades, CA was eliminated from the competition afer an ally's surprising betrayal forced a fire making challenge that he lost to Robert "Bob" Crowley, the eventual winner of Survivor: Gabon. 

On Monday, Matty spoke to Reality TV World about how he felt about the betrayal that sent him home, when he decided that he was going to ask his girlfriend to marry him, and why he has no regrets about his time on Survivor: Gabon and doesn't feel he "deserves" $1 million.

Reality TV World: On last night's show, before you left for the Tribal Council in which [Ken "Kenny" Hoang] ended up going home, you refused to tell [Susie Smith] who to vote for.  What was that all about?

Matty: The last Council where I was voted out?

Reality TV World: No, the one where Kenny was.

Matty: Where Kenny was? Everything was up in the air with that and I didn't want to make any definitive moves until I knew what was going on and I was waiting for the day to unfold more before I knew how [I was going to] play that move.

Reality TV World: Before you left for that Tribal Council you also told Kenny that you'd never write his name down without telling him ahead of time.  So did you end up [telling him] before you wrote his name down?

Matty: I ended up telling him, yeah. But it was later that day and it was on the show.

Reality TV World: So you decided to vote for Kenny [later in the day]?

Matty: Yeah, everything unfolded later. Like, everything kinda held out, held out, held out, and then a couple of hours before Tribal Council the decisions were finally made and finalized.

Reality TV World: And you knew that [Jessica "Sugar" Kiper] and Bob would also be voting for him at that point?

Matty: Yeah.

Reality TV World: After Sugar saved you and [Crystal Cox] went home, you seemed to agree with her idea that you two were allying with Bob and Susie and Kenny were going to be the next ones going home.

Matty: (Interrupting) I never really allied with them, I never cornered myself with any of that. I was always open, but my finalists, in my opinion I wanted Susie and Sugar in the end.

Reality TV World: Okay, so you never wanted to take Bob to the Final 3 at any point?

Matty: Never.

Reality TV World: After Susie won that last [Final 4 Immunity Challenge], you were very open with Bob about how he was going to be the one going home...

Matty: (Interrupting) Yeah, I was actually pretty comfortable. I was pretty secure with my spot at that moment because I really, in my heart of hearts, believed that Sugar [and Susie] were going to vote for Bob and I thought I was cool, but obviously I wasn't.

Reality TV World: So you didn't envisioned that Sugar would be willing to force a tie  at all?

Matty: Nope, not at all.

Reality TV World: I'm not sure why she'd have wanted to take him to the Final 3, but last night Susie claimed that she'd been open to voting Sugar out instead of Bob [at that last Tribal Council].  Did you ever discuss voting for Sugar instead of Bob with Susie?

Matty: No I never discussed [it]. I was never gonna vote out Sugar. I was never gonna write Sugar's name down because she helped me out by giving me the idol.

Reality TV World: What was your reaction when you saw Sugar had voted to force a tie [at the Final 4 Tribal Council]? 

Matty: I was shocked, I was completely shocked.

Reality TV World: Did you have any idea that Sugar had apparently come to form such a close relationship with Bob?

Matty: Nope, I had no idea that she and Bob had that kind of alliance.
 
Reality TV World: Sugar tried to spin it like she was leaving things up to chance or fate by forcing the tie, but she had also given Bob a head's up [about what she was going to do] and he got a chance to practice [his fire starting]...

Matty: (Interrupting) Yeah, I had no idea dude! I couldn't even practice. When I saw Bob practicing last night on the episode I was just tripping, I had no idea.

Reality TV World: So that was news to you?

Matty: Yeah, yeah. Total news.

Reality TV World: In retrospect, does that feel like a fair shot for you, or did you feel kind of shorted?

Matty: No, I don't feel shorted. I had a fair shot.

Reality TV World: If [Sugar] had told you what the plan was, would you have practiced? Do you think it would have made a difference?

Matty: If she had told me what the plan was, I might have practiced, It might have made a difference. Or I might have started making other moves to try and scramble. Who knows?

Reality TV World: Again in retrospect, on the reunion show it showed [ if you had made it to the Final 3] that [many members of the jury] would have voted for you. Do you think Sugar basically cost you a $1,000,000?

Matty: No. I don't think I was deserving of $1 million at this point in my life, otherwise I would've won it.

Reality TV World: Did Sugar ever give you an explanation of why she did what she did?

Matty: I knew why Sugar did what she did when [Survivor: Gabon host Jeff Probst] brought up the conversation of me being like a brother figure and Bob being like a father figure. I knew I was in trouble because Sugar had just lost her father that year and I knew that was  a sore subject. So I kinda figured...

Reality TV World: Based on her actions and jury comments it almost seemed like she basically stopped playing for herself and started playing for Bob -- did it seem that way to you?

Matty: Yeah, I think that Sugar realized that her [chance to win] with the jury was hopeless. She wanted a good guy to win the game, and Bob definitely was a good dude to win.

Reality TV World: Were you surprised that Sugar told you she felt voting for Kenny and not you was the most "evil" move she'd made?  I mean it seemed pretty obvious that you were... just looking for her to [cite turning on you]

Matty: I just wanted Sugar to come out with a little honesty, not be afraid to tell the truth, and not "sugar coat" everything, if you will.

But she played a good game man.

Reality TV World: A couple of days before that Tribal Council in which Crystal went home, Sugar had come right out and told you that Kenny and Crystal were her closest allies and you'd be going home unless you won immunity.  Were you surprised that she was that open about the situation?

Matty: What?

Reality TV World: Where you surprised that she was that open with you to say that you were on the chopping block like that?

Matty: No I appreciated that. In Survivor there's lies, so to have a little honesty -- even though it might hurt -- is good.

Reality TV World: And when she said that she would flip to save you, did you believe her?

Matty: That Sugar said she'd flip to save me?

Reality TV World: Yeah.

Matty: You know, I don't really believe anything on that game until it happens because you never know. So I was hoping but I was never convinced.

Reality TV World: Did she ever tell you why she made such a drastic flip?  Do you think it was because of that argument that you had with Crystal or because Kenny was going trying to get Bob's idol?

Matty: Well, Sugar was just trying to figure the situation out. She wanted to know what was happening in the game and she went with her gut I guess.

Reality TV World: I know I'm harping on her a little, but one last thing on Sugar. Do you think the fact that she was so willing to [suddenly] flip on Crystal and Kenny to save Bob might have been, in retrospect, a warning sign that she'd be willing to do the same to you?

Matty: There are a lot of things in retrospect that (Laughs) that I should've checked into. Yeah there were a lot of signs, once she flipped on [Ace Gordon] that was another sign. When she showed her true colors when [Randy Bailey] got voted out [and] she wasn't too friendly, if you will.

Reality TV World: When we spoke to [Corinne Kaplan] last week she said that the reason she Randy had been so willing to believe that Bob's fake idol was real was because you and Sugar had told them that Sugar had found the hidden idol and used it before...

Matty: (Interrupting) Yeah, yeah. We told everybody that.... Nobody in the game except for me and a couple of other people knew that Sugar [still] had the idol.

Reality TV World: Whose idea was it the plan to say that she had used the idol to protect herself during [Kelly Czarnecki]'s elimination?

Matty: The plan was just to hold it out a little longer until we needed it and not let anybody know

Reality TV World: Do you remember who came up with that?

Matty: Who came up with that? I think maybe it was just a collaboration, but I don't remember.

Reality TV World: You were ranked the most important member of the Fang tribe on day 10. Did it worry you that you were being seen as such a powerful player in the game?

Matty: Yeah. Everything in Gabon was hard and scary and challenging. Yeah so to be ranked at the top was just another challenge for me. It made me a little nervous.

Reality TV World: You said during the sixth episode that you were getting increasingly frustrated with Fang's incompetence during the early rounds. Looking back now in retrospect, what was the driving force behind all of that tribe's failures?

Matty: Our failure in the tribe was just that we were a bunch of individuals trying to play as individuals and we never knew how to come together and no one really wanted to bring us together as a leader. We kind of (unintelligible) like the Bad News Bears.

Reality TV World: How do you think you were able to survive it as the only member who rode out their time on Fang from beginning to end?

Matty: Uh, luck. (Laughs) I don't know, probably I was just lucky man.

Reality TV World: You seemed to be pretty offended when Randy was insulting you during his plan to get everyone to not like him and then use the idol to save himself. Were you as angered by his comments as the show made it seem?

Matty: No man, Randy's one of my favorite people out there and I was just... (Pauses) If Randy would have shut his mouth a little bit more and been a little cooler to everybody we could have gotten everybody else to vote out Bob first instead of Randy. That would have helped out my game a lot.

Reality TV World: Obviously you were one of the people that liked him, but did people know he was putting on an act when he was trying to amp up everybody not liking him so he could use the idol?

Matty: No because it really wasn't an act. Randy really hated everybody, or, well disliked a lot of the people remaining so... That was just "Randy being Randy."

Reality TV World: a few weeks ago we all saw that you asked your girlfriend to marry you. When had you decided that you were going to propose to her? Was it spur of the moment or had you planned it beforehand?

Matty: [On] Day 5 I started making a necklace for her out of wood. [I was burning and carving this necklace for her out of wood. It was probably around Day 5 that is started becoming my goal, and it was my driving force to finish the game, you know? Sometimes you have to reach outside of yourself for the strength to go forward in Survivor and that is what I used.

Reality TV World: We saw the necklace briefly, but could you explain what was on it in some more detail.

Matty: It was a piece of wood [that started as] a big piece of wood, I would just sit there every day. And since you're not given any tools or anything on Survivor I would sit there by the fire and I would [repeatedly] burn the side of it, then scrape it off with rock.

After 31 days it kind of worked itself into a little round necklace-like thing.

Reality TV World: When you were eliminated you said how you had learned so much [about yourself] in the game. Was this [marriage proposal] part of that?

Matty: You know what, Survivor taught me to just be in the moment and appreciate every moment that you're given and not reflect, not project, just enjoy the now because that's all you're given. Life is short man.

Reality TV World: Although you were saved [by Sugar] from having to worry about [potentially breaking the promise], did you ever catch any flack for swearing on your girlfriend's life when you made your alliance with Ace?

Matty: Oh yeah, from myself! That was one of my biggest mistakes by making a promise to Ace.  Because before that moment I was very mobile in the game and I could bounce from here to there. But once I cornered myself by making a promise to Ace on [my girlfriend], so that was kind of a mistake. Yeah, I caught some flack on that one.

Reality TV World: Okay, and ultimately, what surprised you the most about Survivor

Matty: The reality of it. The actuality of it. The rawness of it. The intensity of it.

I didn't expect... I thought it was a TV show. I thought it was scripted with wardrobe and makeup and craft food [service] and the whole deal. (Laughs) But I was definitely wrong!

Reality TV World: Was there anything that didn't make it on the air that you wish had? 

Matty: I really wish there had been more footage of me dancing at the Gabonese village. That was probably one of the most spectacular nights of my life. I was dancing, drinking, partying with these Gabonese villagers. It was fantastic and I just wish they would have captured more of it.

Reality TV World: Who did you least want to see win?

Matty: Out of who?

Reality TV World: Well I guess is there anyone over the course [of the competition] that you didn't wanna see win?

Matty: I would say Corinne probably wouldn't have been my most favorable Survivor [castaway] to win money.

Reality TV World: How much weight did you end up losing while on the show?

Matty: 20 pounds.

Reality TV World: How were you cast on the show?  Had you applied previously?

Matty: No, I was actually walking through a [Whole Foods Market] in Santa Monica, CA where i live -- I live in Malibu, CA by the Pacific Palisades -- and I was cruising through a Whole Foods in Santa Monica with my girlfriend and my buddy and this head casting assistant from Survivor came up to me and asked me if I'd ever thought about being on Survivor.

I'd never given it a thought before, I'd seen snippets of the first season when that guy [Richard Hatch] won. I don't even watch TV that much so I hadn't really seen it. The next day I got an interview, and I got a phone call, and a month later I was in Africa.

Reality TV World: So you hadn't really seen the show much?

Matty: Hadn't seen the show, never [had] applied for the show.

(Photo credit CBS)


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