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Survivor: Neal reveals why he did not give Aubry his idol

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Robert Voets/CBS

WARNING: The following contains some pretty graphic discussion of Neal’s injury.

Getting medically evacuated from Survivor is a painful way to go out of the game. Especially when you don’t even have any pain.

That’s what happened to Neal Gottlieb, who was pulled from Survivor: Kaôh Rōng — even though he insisted he felt fine — due to an infected cut on his knee that the show’s doctor was worried would end up getting into his joint, causing lifelong damage. What was it like getting that devastating news? We asked the ice cream entrepreneur when he called into Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105).

More importantly, we wanted to know one other thing: Why the %&$# didn’t he give island BFF Aubry his hidden immunity idol on his way out? Neal discussed that and more, and you can now hear the entire interview on the Inside TV Podcast by clicking on the audio player below. Among the highlights from our chat:

On if he knew he was a goner when Jeff Probst showed up on his beach:

“Oh, without a doubt. I knew based on the fact that the doctor had squeezed Mount St. Neal earlier in the day. The hole in my knee was almost down to the bone. When I saw Jeff, it was clear that the executioner was there for me. He put on a little charade of checking on Aubry and Scott and Tai, but he was there to slit my throat unfortunately.”

On when and how his knee got bad:

“On day 15 it popped up after one of the challenges, I think it was a reward challenge. And it popped up real quickly and it really hurt. So I had the doctor come out and they tried to squeeze it and nothing came out. It went from a thing that started as a really painful little pimple to cleaving open and just getting wider and deeper and it just didn’t stop spewing pus. It was incredibly disgusting, but it didn’t hurt and it didn’t limit my mobility.”

On how much he pushed back when they said they were pulling him from the game:

“Earlier that morning I had found the Beauty idol box without a clue so I knew that had been found and somebody was in possession of the idol. I understand the decision, but I was begging to get at least 12 more hours to stay in the game and see if it got any better. I was literally begging. Earlier in the day a big chunk of the pus actually had come out so I truly did feel like it was getting a little better, but I’m not a medical expert. So I was down on the ground hysterically crying — they didn’t show that, thankfully — and just begging for 12 more hours. But the decision was clearly made.

RELATED: Ranking Every Season of Survivor

On if he had been giving warnings along the way that he was close to being pulled:

“They never said to me, ‘Your game is at risk. We’re going to consider pulling you.’ But you know. You know from watching the game.”

On what happened after he got on the boat:

“We got on the boat and [went] around the corner to a bigger boat. As we’re going there, Matt, the producer, realizes that Jeff never said ‘Hey, guys. We don’t have Tribal.’ So Jeff says a four-letter word, hops back in the water, goes back to camp, says ‘Hey, guys, no Tribal.’ That was the second half of the scene you saw and was obviously edited together.

“They bring me to the boat, Jeff says sweet little nothings to me, they say goodbye, and then whisk me back to land. And then it’s a four hour drive across the country to the hospital. I ended up that night around midnight staring at the ceiling of a hospital and the doctor dug into my knee and dug into my back. And then I was in the hospital for two days on antibiotics. I was terrible patient because I just wanted to get back to the island. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”

On his decision to not give Aubry the idol:

“That’s a decision that I will probably go back and question for the rest of my life. But in the moment it was the one physical thing from the game that I love very much that I could hold onto. And the night before when I let her know that I had the idol she also made it clear that if she had to, she would have no problems slitting my throat. And in the moment, knowing there was such a good chance that I was going home the next day because of an evacuation, that wasn’t funny to me.

“So it was kind of a combination of factors. I thought on one hand, I gave her life by my life being extinguished in the game and it got her at least three days further. And sometimes the threat of an idol can be as powerful, if not more powerful, than an idol itself. What you didn’t see was me giving her a jacket, and people didn’t know what was in that jacket.”

On if there was a moment in the days after when he regretted not giving Aubry the idol:

“Oh, about 15 minutes later. I don’t think I was in the bigger boat yet. But I can’t describe the mental state that you are in when it just gets ripped away from you like that. I’m still convinced I was going to win that damn thing.”

On what his plan was with the idol at the next Tribal Council:

“I was undecided. Because it looked like it was gong to be the four Brains voting for somebody. I think we were probably gong for Jason. Then it was going to be them splitting the votes, four on Aubry and three on me. Then it would have been a tie and ultimately Aubry would have gone home. So if I use the idol, Aubry doesn’t go home but it just kind of delays things one more day for one of us and then they know for sure we don’t have the idol. So I was undecided. I think the likely scenario is that I was going to take a bet and not play it, and then use it a little deeper in the game.”

Listen to the whole chat below, including Neal’s thoughts on his lack of airtime and whether he will play again. (The Neal interview starts 36:30 in.)

But we start things off with the man at the center of the big Walking Dead cliffhanger, Norman Reedus. His Daryl Dixon was shot at the end of the episode and Reedus tells us all about Daryl’s emotional journey as well as his costly misstep. He also previews “the most hardcore episode we’ve ever done.”

After that, we welcome Golden Globe winner and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star Rachel Bloom, who shares the stories behind some of the show’s greatest songs. (The Rachel Bloom interview begins at the 16 minute mark.) Even if you’ve never seen the musical-comedy, you’ll want to listen to some of the hilarious tunes and then get Bloom’s take on them. Truly a must-listen segment.

You can listen to the whole podcast above. Or, since we’re on iTunes, you can subscribe for free and take the podcast with you. No iTunes? No problem. You can also download the entire podcast right here. To send a question to the InsideTV Podcast team, follow us on Twitter @InsideTVPodcast. And to hear more interviews and television discussion and debate, check out Entertainment Weekly Radio on SiriusXM, channel 105.

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