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Alec Merlino: What up, Gordo!
Gordon Holmes: OK, just so you know, there are only two people in the world who are allowed to call me “Gordo.” I’ll give you a pass this morning.
Merlino: Who are they?
Holmes: My friends Dina and Sean.
Merlino: And now Alec.
Holmes: You are in rarified air, buddy.
Holmes: So, last night’s challenge was epic. Take me back there, what caused you to throw in the towel?
Merlino: Christian is a beast. There was this tiny perch, you stood on it with your heels. It’s like a two-inch little thing. It was really uncomfortable. It was a mental toughness thing. And three, four hours in I thought I was golden. And then Christian just crushed it. He was talking it out, he got in my head, he was telling all of these stories. I was exhausted, but Christian killed me. It was weird, when you let go, in that time, it was devastating, it was like a million-dollar challenge for me. It was just sad because I really wanted to get my mom out there for the loved ones. I feel like I let her down. I can beat myself up about it now, but in that moment I was exhausted. It sucks, but no worries…no stress.
Holmes: If I took you back to day one and pointed out Christian and said this guy is going to take you to your physical limit, would you have believed me?
Merlino: You know? With the history of “Survivor,” we both know that an immunity challenge is anyone’s game. I knew the time would come when it wasn’t going to be something physical like racing over things and balance. I excelled in those. But this one? Christian was just a beast. He got inside my head. He’s an animal. He would have stayed up there for ten hours.
Holmes: Did Alison or Kara tip you off that they were going to vote for you?
Merlino: I had an inkling in my stomach. Everyone who gets voted out, they say, “I woke up and the ‘Survivor’ gods were speaking to me.” You wake up and you have this feeling like, “Yeah, it’s my time to go.” I was scrambling all day on the beach. Alison came to me and she was in tears and she said, “Mike says you have to go.” Mike didn’t want to throw a wrench in the system trying to save me when I wouldn’t further his game. Once I knew Mike was voting for me, I knew that was it. I told Alison and Kara, “Look, write my name down so you can show good faith to the Davids.”
Holmes: You had been building this Strike Force alliance with some of the Davids, and it never really showed up as far as a vote. Did you have plans for that down the line or were you just testing the waters?
Merlino: I did! I thought it was the most epic alliance ever. People have other plans. That’s something I failed to realize is that going into a merge you can make an epic Strike Force, I wish it panned out, but other people have their final three. During the merge, not only are you making new alliances, but other people are rejoining their forces. Like Alison and myself, I was joining the Strike Force, but she was still my biggest ally. I think it just came down to other alliances were stronger. And it was three Goliaths and three Davids, I think it got lost in translation. I had every intention to work with the Davids. It’s what I wanted to do from the get-go. I just really dug Christian and Gabby and Nick. I dug their personalities.
Holmes: Somebody floated this theory by me, and I wanted to get your take on it. You told Nick when Christian was being targeted and the reason given was that you wanted to stay honest with Nick. The theory is that you did this to tip Christian off. Was that the real reason?
Merlino: The reason I told Nick was because I wanted to be 100% transparent with him. I trust this kid. And, I didn’t want to get on his bad side. Am I going to say I’m mad that Christian found out? No. When Christian was saved, I was stoked. I wanted to play with Christian. He’s smart. He’s going to think through things I can’t, and he’s a way bigger threat that I am. It wasn’t directly to save Christian, but come Tribal when Christian was saved, I was stoked. I totally wrote his name down. I thought he was going home.
Holmes: The Natalia vote was a bit confusing in that she was going to be replaced by Carl, a David, which would put you down in the numbers. What was the thinking behind that?
Merlino: It was three to two and we knew Carl was coming back. When we were talking at Vuku camp, Davie told us that Elizabeth and Carl don’t get along. I had these pieces of information, I knew they didn’t get along. I knew there was a chance that Carl could find an advantage. That’s something I told Kara and Natalia. So, I wanted to get Davie out. That would break up any potential alliances between Davie and Carl. So, when it’s him and Elizabeth they won’t work together. I was back and forth. Then I thought Natalia, because everything was her way. She was a strategic and strong player. I didn’t feel like I had the trust with her and Kara. So, it kind of scared me and I went with my instincts. I was afraid of getting to the merge and being in the minority of the Goliaths. I didn’t know where I fell in that mix. I was close to Mike and Alison, but I was afraid that Natalia would throw my name out there.
Holmes: Alright, word association time. Let’s start with Alison.
Merlino: Confident, smart, super rad.
Merlino: Gentle giant.
Merlino: Sweet. Most kind-hearted person ever.
Merlino: Stud. All those idols.
Merlino: Sly, sneaky…mastermind.
Merlino: Christian…that’s what I think of when I think of Gabby. (Laughs)
Merlino: Social threat.
Merlino: Stud, beast, brother.
Merlino: His laugh comes to mind. Good ol’ country boy.
Holmes: Let’s finish with Angelina.
Merlino: Negotiator…and nachos. Honestly, the last image I have of her is sitting at the challenge eating nachos. That’s what I was staring at the whole time.
Holmes: I’m talking to Carl after I talk to you. Can you give me a guesstimate of how many beers he drank when he arrived at Ponderosa?
Merlino: (Laughs) I was stoked when he came. We enjoyed a nice bucket of beers on the dock when he got there. So maybe ten?