Survivor's [Spoiler] Details Multiple Torn/Broken Body Parts, 'Laundry List of Surgeries' Endured After the Show

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

You never want to see Survivor host Jeff Probst pulling up to your beach in a boat… unless you’re on the Tika tribe, that is.

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After losing its second immunity challenge in a row, Tika — which had been whittled down to just Carolyn, Yam Yam and Josh — were scheming hard to figure out which member to oust when Probst pulled up to the beach with some big news. Due to Matthew’s increasing shoulder pain, he had decided to bow out of the game. Luckily for the Tika three, Tribal Council was cancelled, guaranteeing them each another couple days and a new life out on the island. (Read a full recap here.)

Matthew’s original injury occurred in the season’s premiere episode, where his sense of wonder and excitement for the game led to a nasty fall of a large and very jagged rock formation. But at first, as Matthew details below, his shoulder wasn’t even his primary concern. The morning after his exit from the show, TVLine talked to him about his decision to leave the game, what we didn’t see on TV and whether he wants to return for another season.

Survivor 44 Recap Episode 5
Survivor 44 Recap Episode 5

TVLINE | First off, how’s the shoulder doing?

The shoulder is great now! I had surgery this past November. Survivor was very generous in not showing my suffering. They don’t allude to how much pain and damage I actually did to myself. So I dislocated it in Day 2, and then in the third episode, I dislocated it again in the challenge. You hear me say, “Ow, my shoulder! Ow, my arm!” I put it back in the socket in the challenge and finished the challenge with Kane, not knowing that I had fractured my humerus, fractured my scapula, tore my rotator cuff, tore my labrum and my subscapularis muscle had to be reattached. The laundry list of surgeries, it was basically three surgeries in one. I was in a tremendous amount of pain and that’s ultimately the decision that I had to make, to listen to my body and leave the game.

TVLINE | I was surprised they didn’t show footage of you leaving or saying bye to your tribe, but I guess what you’re saying is that was done on purpose?
There was a large conversation that happened between me, Jeff and Dr. Will. Obviously, they edit it down to the portion that they do. Dr. Will basically wasn’t going to give me an option to stay in the game, my injuries were so bad. We didn’t know the extent of my injuries. He couldn’t give me an X-Ray or an MRI out there. All he knew is it was bad. There was a conversation where he was like, “Your injury is so bad I’m going to pull you from the game.” So me, wanting to be in control, I said, “This is my journey, I have to do the right thing for myself, and I’m going to pull myself from the game. I need to seek medical attention and I can’t heal out here.” So that’s the portion that you don’t really see, is us coming to a joint decision. That this is what needs to happen. It was heartbreaking for me, obviously, but at that point I couldn’t raise my arm over my shoulder. I was in so much pain that sleeping wasn’t an option. It was really difficult. I couldn’t lay down. It was not the route I wanted to go, but it was the route that I needed to go.

TVLINE | It’s one thing to get injured during a challenge, but you were injured by your own longing for adventure. How long did it take you to really process the whole thing and come to terms with that?
Actually, after I fell and you see me getting back to the water well in that pool of blood, that was when I got scared. I wasn’t really worried about my shoulder because initially it was a pop-out, I popped it back in, I was like, “OK, it’s tight, it’s sore, but it’s OK.” But when I got to the water well, I had so much sand impacted into my foot that I didn’t know I was cut the way that I was cut. When I saw the giant gash in my toe, I was like, “This is probably what’s going to take me out of the game.” I thought I needed stitches, and I didn’t think that the placement — it being on the bottom of my foot — I thought that was it for me. That was really scary to be like, “OK, you’ve spent years preparing for this and it’s Day 2 and you just took yourself out of the game.” It was like, “Oh s–t. How do I deal with this? Can I salvage this?” It just goes to show how adaptable I was. I had to deal with this hurdle and move forward. I used it the best I could. The tribe saw me as injured, which was true, but it allowed me to act in a way that they didn’t suspect that things were going on. You have to deal with the cards that are dealt to you, and make the best of it. I think I really did the best I possibly could with that scenario, and it allowed me to make some big moves in the game.

TVLINE | You go through the entire casting process, you finally get out to Fiji… and you’re sitting out of a lot of challenges. How did that make you feel?
I came to compete. I spent years preparing for Survivor and dissecting individual portions of a challenge to say, “OK, if I can run through something once, at least put my foot in the pool, then I’ll be better at handling it twice when Survivor actually gives it to me.” I can break it all down and dissect it, so that was the route I went, to try and prepare for everything.

Survivor 44
Survivor 44

So here I am spending years preparing and I have to sit out of these challenges, and it wasn’t a fun place for me to be. One of the things I think I’m strongest at is swimming. We have the challenge where Brandon has to do a leg twice. Had I not been injured, I would’ve 100 percent said, “I’m doing the swimming twice,” because I’m such a strong swimmer. I learned to swim before my memories. I was swimming as a toddler. Water is a place where I feel so natural. That challenge, I would’ve ate that up! There were so many situations where I was like, “Gosh darn, I could’ve done this!” You shoot yourself in the foot — or, the shoulder — right at the beginning? It was painful. Then I have to rely on my tribe mates to get us through and not put us in that dangerous spot at Tribal. The confidence level I had in myself knowing what my abilities were, it was very difficult to sit out a lot of those challenges.

TVLINE | Had you stayed and made the merge, did you have any plans you wanted to enact? Who did you want to play the game with?
Obviously, Jamie and I, I’d given her a fake idol to create trust between the two of us. She and I were close personally and had a lot in common, but strategically it wasn’t meshing. So, I needed to create that trust. At this point, Ratu had buried the hatches. Lauren and I were very strong, so I very much would’ve been Ratu strong. We were trying to pick up Tika to try and take out Soka. That was the plan, to try to knock off Soka members one by one. Tika was seen as this ragtag group. They were only three to our five, so we had the numbers to do that.

TVLINE | So we know you built that snake maze contraption at home. What other games or puzzles did you build while prepping for Survivor?
There’s the tree puzzle, I did that one. There’s the hanging fish puzzle, I’ve got that one. The circular puzzle we see in Winners at War that Boston Rob struggled on, I had that one. I purchased many of the puzzle recreations, but there were so many things. I would break down challenges and make portions of them for myself just to train. There was an obstacle course near my house, and I used that a lot, so crawling underneath things, going through sand, balancing, over-unders… you name it, I was going for it.

Survivor Matthew Exits
Survivor Matthew Exits

TVLINE | Did you ever regret sharing with everybody that you built these things and practiced so much?

Not at all. Some people go out there with the intention of hiding and I don’t understand that. Survivor is a game where you can hide, but I didn’t want to hide. I want to show you, “I’m here to play.” I was confident in my abilities, my social game was going well, so yeah, absolutely. I want you to know I’m a threat. That’s fine to me. There are other things you don’t even see, so in a game where there’s nowhere to hide, why hide?

TVLINE | Probst has already invited Bruce back to the show. If he gives you that same invite, what are you going to say?
My bags are packed. Tell me what color to wear and I’m ready to go. My Survivor journey ended in a way that it’s got that dot dot dot. There’s still story left to be done. This chapter of my journey is what it is and I’m happy to have experienced it, but there’s so much more out there and I think I’ve shown I’m a very capable Survivor player. I have a lot of knowledge of the game, and I tried new things. I played my Shot in the Dark differently, and I’m approaching the game in a new era in a new way, and I think that’s exciting. I love that!

I hope they ask me back. If they do – or when they do hopefully [Laughs] – I’m going to be marinating on how I can raise it up next time. That second chance season, it’s going to be epic. The people they’re going to pull from, it’s going to be a battle. I know I have to step up my game because what people have already seen from me, I can’t do that again. I’ve got to do something different. I’ve got to raise it up. I’ve got to be more. So when that call comes, know that I will be heavily prepared.

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