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Survivor Reject Roundup: Phillip Was "Acting," Natalie Played to Win (LOL) and Matt Is Good People

Everyone loves a winner, especially when his name is Awesome Rob Mariano.
/ Source: E!online

Everyone loves a winner, especially when his name is Awesome Rob Mariano.

But he's not the only Survivor: Redemption Island castaway we spoke to today. We powwowed with the losers, too.

Read on for our in-depth interview with lovable sweetheart Matt Elrod, who went to hell and back on his 30 days on Redemption Island but never quit. (Because Mark Burnett and Jeff Probst wouldn't let him. Kidding! Sorta.) But wait, there's more! Runner-up ("Phile" got one vote!) Phillip Sheppard says he was acting the whole time--to help Rob and to further his career in drama--and finalist Natalie Tenerelli insists she was playing to win.

Seriously, folks...

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Why do people have such trouble separating the game from reality? It's such an unnatural concept. At least growing up in the South, for me it's unlike anything you're taught to do. You're taught to be kind to other people, respect people, treat people the way you would want to be treated. But on Survivor, you get your green card to just do what ever you want. So it's just completely unnatural for to be living a certain way your whole life and to have your life be governed by certain rule and then get put into a situation where there's a completely different set of rules. I think that really comes with experience, Rob's obviously great at it. [Laughs.]

What's your relationship like with Rob now? Rob is a great dude and I have a lot of respect for him as a player and as a person. He really loves his family and has a lot of admirable traits. I'm good with Rob, I really am. I feel really fortunate to have gone through this with the cast that I did. I think everybody from our cast is really great. Just really nice people, they are good at playing normal rules of life.

Does that include Phillip? Phillip is...huh...he means well. I can see he's just got this big ole heart. He really really does, he's just got this huge heart and he wears his emotions on his sleeve. Whenever his emotions don't get the best of him though, he has a pretty wise insight on things. At least he makes it sounds like he does. That's still up for debate with me. But I think Phillip's a great guy too.

How many times did you think about quitting the game? There's times I didn't think I had to worry about quitting because I just thought I was going to die. [Laughs.] No, it was really tough. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, way more difficult than I ever expected it to be. But before the season Mark Burnett and Jeff Probst gave us all pep talks and were talking about how America hates quitters and how we should never ever quit and all this stuff. Quitting just really isn't in my blood. And I had so many great friends and family who I know wouldn't quit, and obviously the example of my Savior, who never quit. I had some good people to look up to and think about when out there.

You've been called Robo-Matt because of your performance in the later duels... That's really funny. It was really interesting because the first time around I was really excited, I wanted to get back in the game...but the second time I was over it. I wanted out. I wanted to get out of Dodge and never look back. [Laughs.] I knew it was important to keep on going and I did the best that I could in each challenge, but I didn't care if I lost. And because that pressure was off of me and I didn't put that pressure on myself, I think that's why I continued to succeed.

I'd like you to respond to some comments by our readers who might have misinterpreted some of your remarks during the game that seemed to equate your faith with your performance in Survivor. For example, one reader wrote last night: "Matt did good but lost me as a fan when he said God was right there with him the whole way and it was His will to help Matt get further (would have been nice if God had been with my 10-year-old when she was dying, but I guess according to Matt, He has more important stuff like helping people play games instead)." That's definitely a misinterpretation. That was not my intention at all to do that. My main motivation for playing the game of Survivor was to honestly try and encourage people by trying to emulate Jesus the best that I could to the best of my ability to encourage people. I'm just a man--a 22-year-old kid at that. I make mistakes, and I'm not the most articulate guy in the world. And that's such a tough subject because God's ways are so much higher than ours. My heart breaks for that poor woman who said that, "Where was God when my child was dying?" That literally breaks my heart. But no, I don't think if God was trying to help me win Survivor. I was trying to stay on Survivor as long as I could so that I could, in my mind, honor God and encourage people who saw it. I really wanted people to see the peace and the joy and the love that I found in my Savior. That is definitely a misinterpretation, but I don't blame them for that misinterpretation. If you don't know me it's kind of hard to tell what I'm thinking. It really breaks my heart that some people think that and that was not my intention at all.

While Matt is insightful and eloquent, his Ometepe tribemates' words are best heard in brief soundbites. (You're welcome.)


On Acting: "I decided that I was going to go big or go home. So all of it was pretty much an act--once I realized that Boston Rob needed someone like me to take the tension off of him, it gave me the freedom to explore other parts of my personality, thinking, If you want to have a career in acting one day or to get some other opportunities out there, show the world what you do that's different--create your own drama out here!"

Phillip Fans (Oh, They're Out There): "They love me. [People tell me,] 'You're an amazing entertainer. You're brilliant! How'd you come up with the idea to do that?' They could see it. After the fourth episode, people got what I was doing that I was playing the game that I was going to outwit, outplay, and outlast those competitors."

Rice Wars: "When I approached Steve, I didn't realize it was going to immediately escalate to 'You're a f--king lunatic.' I misjudged that. I decided, You've got to do the right thing. You got to give that guy an apology--for 14 years in the NFL he deserves better than that. You have to do the right thing, and I did."

Pink Panties Not Optional: "You don't necessarily know that [I had the option of wearing my swim trunks all the time]. Yeah, I had a choice. [Sarcasm.] Yeah. I will tell you this. I embraced it because [I thought], the camera's going to love me."

Gorillion for Good: "I'm currently working with Diane Fosse International Gorilla Fund to help save 480 gorillas in Rwanda. I'm asking Survivor fans to participate and help save those gorillas." [Find out more here.]

On Coach Ben Wade's Legacy: "Coach told me, 'You're the new legend--you've replaced me as the legend of all-time! Where'd you get some of that stuff?'"


Did So Play the Game! "No way you can make it to the final three and not do anything. I think I played one of the best social games."

Was So Expecting Jury Votes! "I thought maybe there were a lot of people that were so hurt by Rob and his betrayal, I thought that maybe we would have a bitter jury, I kind of went into it thinking we would have a bitter jury and I would have the vote."

The Million-Dollar Question: "You know I thought of [reminding the jury about Rob's backstabbing], but I figured it would hurt me...I played the nice girl. Rob and I made an alliance and that's how I played the game, to stay true to my alliances. I figured at this point in the game, why should I backstab him and throw him under the bus?"

Phillip Shut Jeff Up: "Phillip helped us get to the end, because at Tribal Council Jeff is really good at pulling information out of you, and Phillip would come up with these crazy stories completely not having anything to do with the game whatsoever, so Jeff couldn't ask any questions. So he did a good job of taking the pressure off of us so we could get through Tribal and not have any information spilled."

Women's Work Is Never Done: "I think that's really funny [that people think I was lazy]. It came off that way, but in reality I was the homemaker. I sewed an entire blanket together, and it took me forever. I sewed Grant's shirt back together. I sewed Rob's picture of Amber to the back of his shirt. I made the rice every night. Ashley and I took out the blankets every night and lined up the clothes. Maybe I wasn't that attentive to the fire, but I felt that was kind of a man's job."

MORE: Did Boston Rob Outwit Wife Amber About Survivor Win? And Will He Ever Face Russell Again?