Matt Elrod: I felt like God was literally carrying me through 'Survivor'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/19/2011
Matt Elrod spent 29 days on Redemption Island, won six consecutive duels, fought his way back into the game, survived 10 duels in total, but then failed to re-enter the game a second time after he lost Survivor: Redemption Island's last duel during Sunday night's CBS broadcast of the reality competition's finale.
Matt certainly "outplayed" most of his Survivor: Redemption Island competitors, but his strategic game got him into trouble and he couldn't clench the victory of the game's eleventh duel when it counted the most -- resulting in his elimination and inability to resume competing for Survivor: Redemption Island's one million dollar grand prize.
During a conference call with reporters on Monday, the 22-year-old pre-med student from Nashville, TN, talked about his Survivor: Redemption Island experience -- including whether his winning streak led him to confidently believe he'd eventually rejoin the game again, what his reasoning was behind staying loyal to his former Ometepe tribe members who betrayed him rather than flipping to the Zapatera alliance, and how he suggested God helped him when he felt he "was going to die" on Redemption Island.
You were on Redemption Island for so long. Did you ever reach a point where you basically expected to win and felt it was God's plan to bring you back in the game a second time?
Matt Elrod: It was never necessarily that God was carrying me further along in the game, but I felt like he was literally carrying my actual being as far as getting through each day mentally, physically and emotionally. But yes, I did kind of feel like I was just going to keep winning.
I just kind of got so used to it. In that last duel, when my vase fell, I was in disbelief. I was like, "Wait. How did that happen?" That's interesting. (Laughs) But you know, no. I don't think it was necessarily about God carrying me further in the game. It was more him just giving me the strength to just continue forward. He finally got tired I guess. (Laughs)
What was your final vote based on when deciding who should win the million dollars? Did you base it simply on Rob's gameplay since he blindsided you twice?
Matt Elrod: I'd have to say that my vote was based on Survivor excellence. Even though I played a very different game than Rob intentionally, I still love and respect the game of Survivor. What he did was honestly, pretty incredible, and he deserved the million dollars.
If you played Survivoragain, how would you approach your strategy differently?
Matt Elrod: Well if I were to play again, I probably wouldn't want to divulge my strategy to you know. So, I'm really not sure at this point. I'd love to go back. I'd love to have the opportunity, but I'm not sure if I would or not yet.
How have people reacted to you in the street, especially since you came in second for the fan vote?
Matt Elrod: You know, since I cut my hair -- I cut my hair early on. People on the street really haven't noticed me until this weekend, and around my school -- I got to a small school -- everyone knows everyone anyways, so it wasn't really a huge deal.
I've gotten a lot of love and support from all my friends and family and family friends and everyone seems to be really, really proud of me. It's really humbling just knowing how many people I have behind me and really encouraging.
What was your reasoning when you chose Rob's alliance over Mike Chiesl's when you re-entered the game, and how much thought did you actually put into joining the Zapatera alliance?
Matt Elrod: You know, they didn't really show this, but me and Mike actually had the exact same plan without talking to each other. Yeah, when I was on Redemption Island, I was constantly concocting all these different things that I could possibly do and Mike was the guy I wanted to do it with.
But then he came to me and I was like, "Wow this could be too good to be true," and I hadn't had the chance to talk to [Andrea Boehlke] yet. I just knew in my mind that Andrea was going to want to flip, but what I didn't see or expect was Andrea thinking that she was so high up in the Ometepe alliance. She thought she was No. 3.
So, thinking No. 3 -- probably going to end up in the finals -- that's when I saw there was no chance she was going to flip, and after that happened, I was like, "Well, I know there's still a target on my back because I don't think there'd be too many left of us after winning six duels."
That was when I went and tried to get the target off of my back by talking to Rob and trying to earn his trust, because there's a tangible unrest that was there with the former Ometepe tribe and myself, and I was trying to rid myself of that.
I kind of out-dumbed myself there and ended up putting an even bigger target on my back, (laughs) and I screwed it up for Mr. Mike. So, I guess if I had one regret, it would be that I messed up Mike's game.
If you made it back into the game, do you think you would have had a chance to win based on surviving so long on Redemption Island?
Matt Elrod: I think I would have had a good a shot as anybody, you know? Winning 10 duels, I think I could have probably carried that moment with me, and maybe done well in the two Immunity Challenges and found myself in the final.
I really don't think that I could have gotten people to vote with me had I gotten back into the game, but I think it would have ultimately come down to me winning two Immunity Challenges. I think those were within my grasp, but I just fell a little short and found myself leaving the game in good company.
You basically attributed everything that happened in the game to God, was there any outcome you would not have attributed to him?
Matt Elrod: Oh, see, that's a really tricky question, because I'm not God. I'm a 22-year-old silly boy with long blonde hair, or at least it used to be. I don't know the will and purposes of God, but I was just doing the best that I could. For me personally, I really loved my unique Survivorstory that I had. I played with my heart.
I gave it everything that I had and I don't think I could do anything but hold my head up high. I'd say honestly, my biggest regrets would be maybe messing up other people's games with my big mouth, but I can't really fully answer your question and I apologize for that. But I'm very proud of the way that I played and thankful for the people that I got to play it with.
Do you think God plays a direct role in a reality TV competition show?
Matt Elrod: You know, the thing about Christianity is it's not like God works here and there in this situation and that. It's our lives. It's our very lives, and I believe he has a hand in everything. It's like, once again, where do you draw the line while there's all this pain and sorrow and tragedy in the world? Where's God in that?
So why is he helping out this goofy kid on Survivor? It's like all these questions start coming up and I just don't understand it, but I know that I had to fully depend on him with my being, not to advance myself in the game but to keep going on Redemption Island.
Because there were times when I remember laying in my shelter and I was just like wanting to die or just like thinking that I was going to die right then and there. He really gave me the strength to keep going, to keep living. That's really what the strength that I was trying to convey was where I was getting it from. It wasn't necessarily progressing in the game, but yes.