I Was ‘Totally and Utterly’ Blindsided

He wasn’t long for this game. Daniel StrunkHe knew what he was doing with his time SurvivorAfter his performance at the tribal council, season 42 would be short-lived.

30-year-old law clerk made it clear that he didn’t want to go to the rocks. Hai GiangAll he had to do was stand his ground in a deadlocked election. Daniel was able to upset his closest friend in the midst all the chaos. Chanelle Howell.

“Everyone wants to focus on that moment because it’s the most salacious moment, but the real analysis begins way before that,” Daniel exclusively explains to Us Weekly. “The real analysis begins with an understanding that Chanelle and I were – at least I thought – very tight. I shared everything with her.”

The Cincinnati native goes on to say, “I lost the game the moment Chanelle comes back from the summit and says she lost her vote. At that point, the game was over. I lost the game, not because she lost her vote. I lost because it was on Hai. Lydia [Meredith] and just said, ‘Look, Chanelle’s playing you. She lost her election. She’s lying. Let’s vote her out.’”

But he “trusted her so much,” Daniel tells Us. “I was all in on having her as my No. 1 ally, which in hindsight is probably a mistake. But I was 100% in Chanelle as my No. 1.”

Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

And what ensued was what he calls “a human, emotional response to what basically felt like I was left in the lurch by people that I had trusted and shown loyalty to.” Daniel adds, “And that upset me. And I responded probably in a very bad way, strategically, but I’m not a robot. I’m a human being.”

After another immunity challenge was lost, Hai quickly became a target. He went to tribal again on Wednesday, April 6. Still, Daniel admits Hai had him “totally and utterly convinced” it would be Chanelle to go. “I was blindsided, which is the way to do it,” he jests. “Isn’t it so much better to go out on a blindside than to cast some silly little die and be like, ‘Oh, my God. One in six!’ For my own Survivor bucket list, [it’s] so much more fun to be blindsided.”

Daniel, a survivor of leukemia, continues to absorb the series and has yet watch an episode. “This journey began for me decades ago when I was sick in a hospital bed watching the show with no hair and couldn’t run.” he explains. “And so when you watched me snorkel last night, sure I’m a human being snorkeling, but there’s also a big story arc there for me in my own personal life. The story arc here is that I was a very ill child who longed to do something like this one day. When the time came, I did it. All right. Was it a good idea? It was probably not. I thought I was safe. But, I was living in the moment, and at tribal, when I realized that it was time for me to go, after the votes were shown the first time, I didn’t care about the Mike vote. I didn’t care about whatever. At that moment, I said to myself, ‘This is it. It’s time to take it in. It’s probably going to be the last few minutes of Survivor you ever play.’”

SurvivorAirs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS ET.

Scroll down to read our full Survivor interview with Daniel…

Daniel Strunk and Jeff Probst Survivor 42 Daniel Strunk Exit Interview
Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

Us Weekly: How are YOU feeling this morning?

Daniel Strunk: I feel great. I feel like a weight’s been lifted. It’s wonderful to have everything out there. The SurvivorThe journey to season 42 is over and it feels good.

Us: How did it feel to go into tribal last night? What was the plan you were given?

DS:I was convinced that Chanelle would return home. I was swindled. Blindsided is the best way to go. Isn’t it so much better to go out on a blindside than to cast some silly little die and be like, “Oh, my God. One in six!” For my own Survivor bucket list, [it’s]It’s so much fun to be blindsided. I mean, that’s the way to do it. You might as well be blindsided if you have the courage to go out. Hai was the only reason I was blindsided. I thought Chanelle was returning home. Hai thought I was his. Hai and me had a conversation at the beach. I remember that we talked about the game, and I told Hai how happy it made me to be out there. I told him that I wanted the opportunity to play as a representative for sick children. It was very touching. I thought in that moment, like, “I’ve really bonded. I’ve had this human moment with Hai. I’ve bonded with him. I can trust him.” I trusted him so much I went fishing. We can talk about fishing if we wish. I was completely snookered. Hai is a very deceptive player and a very, very good gamer of the game. Very good player.

Use: Do You think he would prefer you to stay? Or did he just convince you otherwise?

DS:No, I was toast. I was toast when the first tribal occurred. I think Hai is a very … I think he forms deep relationships with people. That’s part of the reason I trusted him after the tribal, is I thought that I had formed a deep relationship with him. He felt betrayed after the tribal, and he should have felt that way. I’m not begrudging him that. I believe he felt more betrayed than Chanelle. We can talk about why. I believe he felt betrayed after the first tribal. And if I’d gone fishing or I hadn’t gone fishing, the result would’ve been same. It’s a good idea to go fishing.

Daniel Strunk Survivor 42 Daniel Strunk Exit Interview
Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

Us: Let’s talk about that first tribal. You kinda called out Chanelle and then you said you didn’t want to go to rocks, effectively telling Hai he had the power there. In the moment, were you thinking, like, “Oh, no. I may have messed up here”?

DS: Everyone wants to focus on that moment because it’s the most salacious moment, but the real analysis begins way before that. The real analysis begins with an understanding that Chanelle and I were – at least I thought – very tight. I shared everything with Chanelle. I used Mike losing his vote as an example. I gave her the power and authority to get rid me. Had she allied with Hai or Lydia, she could have voted me out. And then be in the middle of two pairs of 2. That would’ve been a great move on her part, but I told her anyway because I trusted her so much. I was all in for her being my No. I was all in on Chanelle becoming my No. 1.

I shared everything with her. Then you come to the immunity challenge that we fail, and Chanelle and me have a conversation in which we both agree and look at each others. We both agree that neither of us will risk our vote if we attend the summit. We both knew that it was important that neither of us lose their vote. So then when she comes back from the summit and says that she’s lost her vote, I felt betrayed in that moment. I had a decision. Seven days, you’ve consumed 600 calories and you’ve got half an hour to an hour – at most – before tribal. What are you going to do? Are you loyal to Chanelle? Do you not? What are you going to do? I decided, Chanelle’s my No. 1. I’m all in on Chanelle. Chanelle is my only choice.

I wanted Lydia to return home for my purposes, too. And so for that reason, I decide I’m going to vote for Lydia at tribal council. So you vote Lydia at tribal council. I don’t back down at the re-vote. I have always been loyal to my alliance at all points up until now. Then you have the rocks draw moment, which everyone wants to talk about. The key thing to remember when you go into the rocks draw analysis is that I didn’t view it as a one on one situation. I clarified this with you. Jeff [Probst]It was decided in advance who would draw the rocks. I’m like, who would draw rocks if we drew rocks. Do you recall his answer?

Use: I can’t remember. It feels like years ago!

DS: The answer is that four people would draw rocks – Mike [Turner]Hai, Chanelle and me would draw rocks. In that moment, my thoughts turn to me and I realize that I control the fates of my two allies. I have Mike’s fate and I have Chanelle’s fate. They might return home if we go to rocks. So it’s on me. I’m responsible for one in four of their fates. In that moment, I must make a decision. And it is a terrible decision. And my decision is that I’m gonna communicate to Mike and Chanelle that I’m loyal to them and I have their back, and I will not force them to go to rocks. And I do that by saying, “I don’t wanna go to rocks. Let’s have a discussion.” And what I hoped to communicate by doing that is Mike, I got your back. Chanelle, I got your back. You’re not gonna have to draw a rock because of me. Let’s team up on Hai. The three of us, let’s together team up on Hai.

And yeah, I was totally wrong about that because as soon as I needed help and I turned to Mike and I turned to Chanelle, and I say, “Hey, like, help me out here” – which I probably didn’t do well to be clear. Again, very tired, very hungry – but that’s my thinking. They ran for the hills together. It was both, “We don’t have anything to do with this. Go away, Daniel,” sort of moment. Then, I was screwed. I was screwed. I felt as though I was being left behind by people I had loved and trusted. That upset me. And I responded probably in a very bad way, strategically, but I’m not a robot. I’m a human being.

Mike Turner, Chanelle Howell, Daniel Strunk, Lydia Meredith and Hai Giang Survivor 42 Daniel Strunk Exit Interview
Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

Use: I mean, we’ve seen people say before, “I don’t want to go to rocks.” That’s not necessarily out of the ordinary. Hai being a very skilled player and the circumstances that led to them not being on your side were just some of the reasons why.

DS:We won’t know what kind of world Mike and Chanelle would create if they joined the discussion. If the two of them had joined, I don’t think there’s a good chance that Hai backs down. I think there’s probably not a good chance. However, I believe there’s a chance. That was probably Jenny’s best chance of saving her. Also, the thing to know is, after the inflection point where I realize that Chanelle and Mike are not gonna join me in any way, at that point, I would’ve gone to rocks had I not thought that there would be a swap the next day. I thought there would only be 14 of us after this. They’re gonna swap us into two tribes of seven. Things are a shitshow right now, but everything changes when there’s a swap. So don’t risk a one in four chance when you can just have a swap. I was wrong about that. I was operating off of premises that at every point were basically wrong, but you can’t say I wasn’t playing, at least, correctly given my very bad premises.

Use: You didn’t play your Shot in the Dark last night because you thought you were staying. What did you think when Chanelle didn’t play hers either? And what were your thoughts when Mike’s name came up in the votes?

DS: At that point, I’m like, “I’m screwed.” This journey began for me decades ago when I was sick in a hospital bed watching the show with no hair and couldn’t run. And so when you watched me snorkel last night, sure I’m a human being snorkeling, but there’s also a big story arc there for me in my own personal life. I was a very sick little child who longed to do something like this one day. When the time came, I did it. All right. Was it a good idea? It was probably not. I thought I was safe. But, I was living in the moment, and at tribal, when I realized that it was time for me to go, after the votes were shown the first time, I didn’t care about the Mike vote. I didn’t care about whatever. At that moment, I said to myself, “This is it. Take it all in. It’s probably going to be the last few minutes of Survivor you ever play.” And I don’t know if they showed it cause I actually didn’t watch the episode. But I mouthed to myself when I went to grab my torch, I mouthed to myself and said out loud actually, I said something to the effect, “Soak in this moment, Daniel.” That’s basically what I said to myself.

Chanelle Howell, Mike Turner, Lydia Meredith, Hai Giang and Daniel Strunk
Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

Us: Before Jeff took your torch, we heard you say something similar. Then, as you were about to walk away, you said that it was heartbreaking.

DS:Oh, did I really say that? The “take in this moment” thing, that’s me taking in the fact that, like, this is it. This is a decades long thing for me, going back to when I was like 15, and I wanted to take in the moment because there’s only one time in your life where Jeff Probst snuffs your torch. And there are very few moments in life where you know in the moment that it’s a big moment. A week and a quarter ago, I proposed and this is a very big moment. And it’s a bigger moment than getting your torch snuffed, to be fair. But there are other really big moments in your life that you don’t know when they’re happening that they’re big moments. You should take in every moment that you see. When the votes were read, it was irrelevant what Mike voted for. I was just enjoying the moment.

Us: Would You Like to Play Again?

DS:The No. My significant other would be my biggest obstacle. This was a difficult thing for her. To be blunt, I love her dearly and I don’t think that I would prioritize Survivor over her. That’s what it would come down to. If I were a single man, then yes. I would love to play again. I would like to, but I’m not gonna plan my life around it. Right now, the rank order priority is being a good partner to my fiancé, being a good future father to kids that I can’t wait to have one day, and being a good lawyer. Survivor is a thing I did, but it’s a thing I did. And let’s move on in life.

Us: That is what I love. You have to go. But, to wrap it up, do your thoughts on what you could have done at tribal Council that night to save yourself, or do you think it was a done deal as soon as you walked in?

DS:I was toast, not null. I think I lost my game when Chanelle returns to the summit and claims she lost her vote. I lost the game at this point. I lost the game not because she lost her vote, I lost the game because it was on me and I should have in that moment gone to Hai and Lydia and just said, “Look, Chanelle’s playing you. She lost her vote. She’s lying. Let’s vote her out.” And that would’ve put me in a bad spot because then there would’ve only been four votes after that. And Hai and Lydia would’ve been two of those votes. It would’ve been me, Hai, Lydia and Jenny. So it wasn’t ideal, but I would’ve gotten tighter with Hai and Lydia. I’m not sure I could have even convinced them to do that. They might not have done it. They might have said, “All right. Let’s vote Daniel out. He’s been deceptive as well.” So, you know, shoulda, woulda, coudla.