Erik Reichenbach, a 27-year-old comic book artist from Santa Clarita, CA, finished fifth after being medically evacuated from the game during Survivor: Caramoan -- Fans vs. Favorites' finale episode Sunday night.

John Cochran won Survivor and the $1 million grand prize. He beat out Dawn Meehan -- who, with Cochran, previously competed on Survivor: South Pacific and returned this season as "Favorites" -- and "Fan" and newbie player Sherri Biethman in the season's final jury voting results, which Survivor host Jeff Probst revealed live during the reunion special.

Cochran received every single vote from the jury members comprised of previously-eliminated Survivor: Caramoan -- Fans vs. Favorites castaways. Therefore, Dawn and Sherri tied for second place and Edward "Eddie" Fox finished fourth.
During a conference call with reporters on Monday, Erik talked to Reality TV World about his Survivor experience.

Reality TV World: You've said you thought you had a good shot at winning if you had made it to the end. Could you elaborate on that a little bit? What made you think you would've been able to get the votes? Why do you think you would've won and whom did you think you'd be in the Final 3 against?

Erik Reichenbach: Well at the end, I mean, I don't think even Cochran played an excellent -- like a perfect game by any way. If I would've been towards the end more with maybe a Sherri next to me, I would've had a good shot against Sherri. It might've been more even because people would've been like, "No, they basically played the same game."

But I thought, to some extent, I was liked enough that people would say, "You know what? Erik deserves to win some of it." The way it was shown on television, it looked like, "Wow, this is a very strategic season." And it was. But what ended up happening was kind of Dawn and Cochran and then whoever else they decided to or planned to use for votes, they just started taking out strategic threats.

And so, what ended up kind of happening was the people at the end were strategic enough that they knew the timing to take out people, but they weren't exceptionally strategic. And I think that the editing showed a ton -- it kind of over-showed how strategic Cochran was, and he was, he was very strategic.

But he wasn't, I don't think, like a [Rob "Boston Rob" Mariano] type or a [Parvati Shallow] type. So I think I would've had a decent shot because I would've been in the same league as them, but again, you just didn't get to see that kind of stuff.

Reality TV World: Was it more the infection you've mentioned, than what seemed to be a dehydration issue [on the show], that you got you medically evacuated?

Erik Reichenbach: Right.

Reality TV World: Were you fully recovered when you were participating in the jury questioning or did you still have lingering physical issues?

Erik Reichenbach: Well, the way that it appeared, it was shaped more like a mental issue. I mean, you saw me climbing the coconut tree, screaming for food. And then you saw me breaking down, talking about how this is like a prison and all this other kind of stuff. When I was on the jury, I was a lot -- I had a pretty good medication going on.

You saw actually, at the final Tribal Council, I had a pretty big bandage on my leg. After I had technically recovered out of that kind of daze, things started to look up for me. And at that point, it was just ridiculous.
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It was like maybe a 12-hour period where I was in bad shape, and then after that, I was more or less completely back to normal -- at least mentally. My leg still hurt for a little bit, but I mean, after you get some crazy antibiotics going, it started to get a lot better.

Reality TV World: Many castaways have said they never understood you during the game and had a hard time respecting your gameplay. They criticized your strategy of, for instance, just letting Andrea Boehlke point to someone on the Tribal flag whom you should vote for and you listening. What's your response to that and how would you explain what your strategy was out there?

Erik Reichenbach: Well it was kind of simple and it was kind of complex at the same time. When I started kind of playing the game, I mean, this kind of evolved on the new Gota beach after we became the new Gota tribe. I was thinking about it more and more, and we had all these gamers out there of people who were playing the game.

And I was thinking, "You know what? All these people just want someone to be their pawn." And so I said, "You know what? I don't like to scramble. I don't like to lie straight to people's faces, so I just kept telling people, "Listen, I'm not playing strategy. I don't want to talk strategy. Just tell me who to vote for. Just tell me who to vote for. I just want an answer."

So a lot of that was just managing information, so there was all this information flying around all the way up until we go to the vote, and I don't want to know that information. I want to know up-to-date information. So I would just basically say, "Look, tell me who to vote for in the end."

And that's where you have Andrea pointing at the flag and that's where you have [Malcolm Freberg] coming to me at the last minute, saying, "Hey, vote with the boys. Vote with the boys." It actually gave me some control of the information in that I didn't have to sort through it all. I just said, right before Tribal, "Tell me your proposal and who you have on your side, or who you think you have the votes for."

And basically, I was trying to simplify all this information that was coming in into something I could use. So for instance, someone would come to me and say, "Hey, for this next vote, this side's voting Brenda." And then the other side would come to me and say, "We're voting Andrea." And then at that point, I could make my decision, like, "Hmm, who do you think will vote which way?"

And I would actually have a lot of time to think about it prior to going to Tribal Council, which way I would like to vote. It actually helped me a ton just because I didn't want to sort through all that information.

And other people I know online have said, "No, Erik was just being lazy. He didn't want to do that stuff." Well, I would've done that stuff, but I don't think I would've been very good at it and it was better to manage the simpler information -- kind of minimize the information coming in.

Reality TV World: I want to ask you about the confrontation you had with Sherri during the jury questioning in which you said she was just like a seashell lying on the beach all season and such. What were you hoping to accomplish with that? Did you just dislike her and see it as an opportunity to unload on her? Because we hadn't seen much of you having any type of problem with Sherri prior to that moment.

Erik Reichenbach: Right. With Sherri, at times, I was like, "You know, Sherri's not that bad" out there. I just thought she was like out of place, like, "Maybe she's a mom that was like -- you know, maybe she's never done anything like this before. She doesn't belong out here. Give her a break."

And then other times, I was like, "Sherri's miserable. Sherri's horrible. She has no idea what she's doing. She's eating way too much food. She's just miserable." So I kind of went back and forth with that. And then seeing her at Tribal Council, people didn't want to talk to Sherri.

People would go up to ask Sherri a question and they'd say, "You know what Sherri? Ugh, I got nothing." And then they'd go and sit back down on the jury bench. And they'd do that just to show that they didn't want to talk to Sherri.

So I actually just wanted to talk to Sherri and say, "Do you know why people aren't talking to you?" Because she wasn't really aware, like she didn't know why people didn't want to talk to her, and it was because she didn't do anything and she kind of drove people crazy. And if you remember, after that question was asked, she said, "You know what, Erik? Why don't you just go sit down."

I actually didn't go sit down. I had a question for Cochran that you didn't end up seeing. And I said, "You know what Sherri? I can't go sit down. I have to actually ask Cochran a question and then I'll probably sit down." So I didn't actually sit down after Sherri told me to sit down and I wouldn't have anyway, because that's just stupid that she would do that -- especially at a Final Tribal speech.

Reality TV World: A controversial topic that's come up this season with you was the incident in which you went looking for an Immunity Idol after Andrea had received a clue to where it was hidden during the Survivor auction. You ended up finding it and just passing it right off to Andrea. Some viewers wondered why you didn't just keep it since you were the one to find it. What was going through your mind at that point?

Erik Reichenbach: Basically, I had never -- the entire season, I didn't want a hidden Immunity Idol at all because I thought it would put a target on me. I felt like if I was playing with people who were returning players, and everybody knows you have a hidden Idol, you might as well play it that night because if everybody knows you have it, it's going to put a target on your back anyway.

It was kind of worthless in my eyes to have it. It kind of was a detriment to my game more than something that I could use. I didn't want it. It would put a target on me and I was trying to play under the radar. I did not want that at all. Also, Andrea found the clue. I felt obligated to give it to her. I would not have found that Idol had it not been for her clue.

So I was fine with giving it to her and then it actually worked out pretty well in that she was voted off with it in her hand. I don't know why the hell she didn't play it that night. She should've. Everyone knew she had it. That was just a silly move on her part too, but I had no problem handing it over.

Reality TV World: Another big decision of yours was deciding between joining "the three amigos" potentially with Sherri or sticking with the remaining members of your "Stealth R Us" alliance, which you ended up doing. You were kind of the swing vote there. Could you talk about what your thought process was? It sounds like you thought you had a tighter alliance with Dawn and Brenda?

Erik Reichenbach: Yeah, I thought I had a very strong bond actually with Dawn and Brenda just from being friends out there. I know Brenda wasn't playing much of a strategic game as she did before, and she had said, "I'm just out here to have fun and meet some fun people and try to do it." So I think she liked Brenda for that reason.

And also, I did not trust Malcolm at all. I had no trust for Malcolm. I mean, he's a cool guy. I love Malcolm, but I did not trust him out there because he didn't come off as genuine to me. So I had a general distrust of Malcolm, and I didn't think I could beat him in physical challenges towards the end of the game.

Above is what Erik had to tell Reality TV World during a Monday conference call with reporters. Earlier in the call, Erik had also elaborated more on his illness that cost him the game. Below is what he had to say.
Could you go into detail about what happened to you physically out there when you got medically evacuated?

Erik Reichenbach: Yeah, I'll try to tell the short version of it because it was kind of a long story, but my brother came to visit on the family visit and he was checking me out, like seeing how skinny I was. And he said, "Dude, something's wrong with your leg." And I checked out my leg where I had a scar from a couple days previous and there was actually an infection.

You could see underneath the dirt and all the stuff that was on me. So I was all of a sudden really concerned, like, "Whoa, this is bad." The infection was pretty gnarly. Flash forward to the vote in which [Brenda Lowe] went home. The Survivor medical team had been telling me, "You need to hydrate. You need to eat as much food as you can."

But I mean, when you're starving on an island, there's not much of either of those things. But I sort of felt dizzy at the Tribal Council where Brenda was. I was aware I was at a Tribal Council, but I was not aware of much else other than that.

And I remember when the votes came through, I remember that -- according to what I saw -- there were seven votes and half of them were for Sherri. So I thought Sherri was actually voted off at that point. I was just trying to stay on my stool because I knew if I fell off the stool or if I showed any sign that I was really starting to crash, that I would probably go home in sixth place instead of fifth place.

Brenda ended up getting voted out. We walk off from Tribal Council and immediately I said, "I need to see a doctor." I got down on the ground and said I needed a doctor. They started to take my blood pressure, saw that I had a fever, and I got really bad from there. And so they were forced to pull me from the game.

Visit our Survivor: Caramoan -- Fans vs. Favorites homepage for more interviews with this season's castaways. 

About The Author: Elizabeth Kwiatkowski
Elizabeth Kwiatkowski is Associate Editor of Reality TV World and has been covering the reality TV genre for more than a decade.