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Survivor 44 Episode 7
Courtesy of CBS

The following contains spoilers from Wednesday’s episode of Survivor.

Survivor‘s showmance has officially been dismantled and there were so many tears.

On Wednesday’s episode, a gazillion twists rained down on Fiji, as Probst split the merged tribe in two for this week’s immunity challenge. When all was said and done, a whopping seven out of the 11 players were immune (including challenge winner Frannie), leaving just Yam Yam, Jaime, Lauren and Matt vulnerable to the vote and abandoned on the old Soka beach. Having left his bag (including his Shot in the Dark and fake idol) behind and having lost his Hail Mary play, not even Heidi’s Control a Vote advantage could help Matt survive the night, and he was voted out of the game on Day 14. (Read a full recap here.)

Below, TVLine talks to Matt to get an update on his island love, plus break down the episode’s many twists and turns, and that emotional Tribal Council.

TVLINE | Alright, Matt. The people want to know, so we’re getting right to it: What’s the update on you and Frannie and what happened after you both left the island?
MATT BLANKINSHIP | I think it was evident for the world and also for everyone on Soka that our chemistry and our magnetism is so, so strong. So things are still on with me and Frannie. The “Frankinship” is going strong! We went out for Ethiopian food as soon as everything was over and we were done with the whole experience. So yeah, we’re still dating. We’re crushing it right now. [Laughs]

TVLINE | I love to hear that! You both kept saying, “We can’t be seen as a duo. We’ll be a target,” but we also kept seeing scenes of you two frolicking together alone in the jungle. At some point, was there a sense of, “Well, everyone knows we like each other, so why bother hiding it?”
We honestly did tone it down a lot. I think that when you crash land on the island, you’re going through so much. You have all of this built up anxiety, but also excitement. I was just grasping for any support out there and Fran was that support for me. But we toned it down over time and I think that people didn’t actually know how deep our relationship really was, unless they were on Soka beach. I didn’t talk with Frannie that much post-merge. I swear they put every single shot of the two of us together in the show. I mean, I loved it. It was beautiful. I was eating it up.

Survivor 44 Episode 7TVLINE | Was it frustrating that seven out of 11 players in the game were immune at this Tribal Council? How were you feeling?
Yeah, and more than that, there were only two real possibilities, right? When you see the tribe split, it wasn’t even like there were four vulnerable people. It was literally just me and Yam Yam. And honestly, at that point, I was very, very sure it was me because everyone I knew and everyone I trusted was on the other tribe. I really got screwed over by the random draw. I think any other group of five, I would have been in a much better position. But that’s the way it goes on Survivor. You can never know what’s coming. I literally left my freaking bag like a chump! It just shows you’ve got to be prepared for everything. There are so many other universes for how that rock draw could have gone. I think in most of them, I’m totally fine, but this one in particular, I knew I was screwed.

TVLINE | And so crazy that Jeff wouldn’t accept your offering of a papaya for your life in the game! Rude! What was up with that, man?
I know! [Laughs] Honestly, papaya is gold. We worship the shrine of papaya out there. It’s the most sincere gift I could possibly have offered him. But he didn’t accept it. Someone has to go home. Honestly, at that point, the papaya was my best shot at staying in the game, so that says a lot about my status in that moment.

TVLINE | Tell me about leaving your bag behind. Did you normally take all of your belongings with you to challenges?
This was the only challenge where I left my freaking bag! It’s the one moment where you start to relax… because in my mind, we are merged, right? They’ve never split people on two different beaches and not had them talk to each other until Tribal. So in my mind, regardless of what happens at the challenge, I’m coming back to this beach. There’s no universe where that’s not true. But it’s one of those things where you slip up just a little bit, just once and it ends up spiraling.

And for the record, I was not the only person who didn’t bring their bag. I look like a chump here, but it was not only me. What were the chances?

TVLINE | So you definitely would’ve used your Shot in the Dark then?
It was unambiguous. I knew I was going home. I knew there was nothing I could do to save myself. We knew Lauren had an extra vote. Even if me and Yam Yam tried to work together, there was no way we could work the numbers to save us… until this advantage situation, which I didn’t know about at the time. But yeah, I saw the Shot in the Dark as genuinely my only chance of staying in the game, and I would have played the fake idol too! I don’t care if I would’ve looked like an idiot on television. I’m gonna throw everything I’ve got at the wall and see if it sticks! There’s no world in which I would not have played my Shot in the Dark.

Also, this is sort of dumb, but I was fascinated with this idea that I would leave without ever having voted. I thought that would be sort of funny. Like, look how far this guy made it without literally writing anyone’s name down! But alas, it was not meant to be.

TVLINE | I’d have to check the books, but I think that would’ve been a Survivor first?
Yeah, I think I would have made Survivor history there.

TVLINE | Had this split tribe twist not happened, who do you think would’ve been next?
They showed Danny creating the foundation for a Lauren vote. She had an extra vote, which we all knew about, so that made sense. At that point, I knew my idol was fake and I was very sure Danny had the real one. So in my mind, I had this window of opportunity where I knew he had the real idol, but he didn’t know that I knew. And so, I was thinking about maybe a little Danny blindside situation.

I also felt good about the some of the bonds I was making across tribes. Kane and I had started working together. Me and Yam Yam had a couple of good conversations. Brandon and Carson, same deal. In my mind, the tribe stage of this game was totally over and I was making individual relationships, and I felt really good about that honestly. So I was thinking a Danny blindside might have been right, but who can say?

Survivor 44 MattTVLINE | When Heidi revealed her advantage, did you think, “Hey, I might have a shot here?”
I thought I was saved! I had gone through the lowest low point, right? And then she opens up the paper and says “I control the vote,” and in that moment, I’m convinced that I’m saved. Of course, Heidi wants to save me! If she puts a vote on any Ratu [member], me and Yam Yam take the queue, we’re both safe, it works out. I was convinced that I had achieved a second life. And then when she said Lauren on Yam Yam, I was like, “This changes nothing. I’m screwed.”

TVLINE | Frannie could have thrown the challenge and kept both of you safe. Any thoughts on that?
Of course! That challenge was probably an hour long. They make it seem really quick, but we were standing up there with those poles for a very long time, so you have a lot of time to crunch these numbers in your head. Of course I was like, “Frannie just drop the freaking ball, [then] you’re fine, I’m fine!” But I also can’t blame her. We all dream about that moment of Jeff putting the necklace on you and I would never in a million years take that away from her. Just the vision of this little girl from Minnesota standing on the balance beam with Brandon, the freaking NFL player… that battle and then her coming out on top. I would never ever take that away from Frannie. I think that’s a moment that she should be proud of for the rest of her life regardless of the strategy, regardless of all that other stuff. Do I wish she had thrown it? Probably, yeah, I’d still be in the game. We would both be in a better position, probably. But do I blame her for it? Absolutely not. I’m proud of Frannie and I’m still proud of Frannie.

TVLINE | I listened to Jeff’s podcast [“On Fire With Jeff Probst”] this morning and he called you one of his favorite players of all time! How does that feel?
I haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but that’s huge! I had no idea, genuinely. This is the very first time anyone has said that.

TVLINE | Yeah, he’s got some deep feelings for you!
I have deep feelings for Jeff, too. The casting process was really scary. This is maybe teetering on the edge here, but it’s very scary. But from that first conversation I had with Jeff, he was the one who made me feel really comfortable with myself and going through the whole thing, so I owe this all to him.

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