By Dalton Ross
March 15, 2018 at 10:49 AM EDT


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He was known for giving pep talks to his fellow tribemates throughout the season, but here’s hoping Brendan Shapiro saved one last inspirational speech for himself. That’s because the PE teacher was voted out of Survivor: Ghost Island last night after Michael incorrectly played his idol for the wrong person (Stephanie).

That left Brendan exposed, and the original Naviti took him out. It was an all-too-short stay for a man who waited 16 years to get on the show (and was also my pre-season pick to win it all — WHOOPS!). Where did all go wrong? We asked Brendan all that and more when he called into EW Morning Live (Entertainment Weekly Radio, SiriusXM, channel 105) on Thursday morning, including how he was tipped off that it was him being targeted and how there was someone you would never suspect who almost went home first. Here are some highlights from our chat.

EW RADIO: You were my pre-season pick to win, so thanks for making me look bad yet again.
BRENDAN SHAPIRO: Yeah, the streak continues! You’re at, like, 21 now, right?

Actually, I should be the one apologizing for jinxing you, but let’s talk about Tribal Council last night. Michael thought they were going for Stephanie. Where did you think the vote was going?
It’s interesting watching the edit and the Navitis going, “Oh, they’ll never suspect we’re going to go for one of the guys,” because they really kind of telegraphed it. I saw it the whole way. They were just making it too obvious in what they thought were subtle ways. And so I told Michael that. And then I had a heart-to-heart that didn’t make the edit with Kellyn.

Kellyn is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet, but Kellyn wears her heart on her sleeve. I told a true story that the next day was my birthday, and I was so hoping that I could be on the island on my birthday. And I saw a tear come to her eye before she turned away really quickly. And, to me, that was confirmation that it was going to be me. And so I went to Michael, and I was like, “Dude, this is it. I’m telling you, they’re going to vote for me. I can just feel it, and Kellyn just confirmed it to me.” And he had a hard time believing that they would put the vote on one of the guys that early, and unfortunately, it happened.

Tribal Council was funny because it was kind of like watching a train come at you from a long way away, and you can’t get off the track. I tried to tell him, but the thing that’s tough is there is a lot of information flying around out there, and he did the best with what he had. Nobody sees all pieces of the puzzle, so it was a tough deal all the way around. Pretty gut-wrenching to watch it happen back then, and pretty tough to watch it again last night.

Especially after it looked at first like he might be giving it to you.
He believed it was Steph the whole time. He threw out my name and his, just because he wanted to gauge reaction. To be honest, I didn’t see Bradley’s reaction because I was too busy looking at Michael, so I don’t know what kind of reaction Bradley gave, but it made Michael go back to his original instinct, which was Stephanie.

Was that Michael’s idea to lie and say his idol could save two people?
That was 100 percent Michael’s idea. Let me say this about Michael, because he’s been getting a little bit of criticism from people out there on social media. This guy is incredible — a great friend of mine, and I can’t tell you how much I respect his game. Super savvy, resourceful, smart. He really is, in my opinion, a great Survivor player. And to be doing it at 18 is amazing. If he had told me out there he was 28, I would have believed it. And he played like it. So that was his idea, and he’s a hell of a player.

Question: Are you like a dad who gives terrible pep talks?
Well, I guess according to Bradley I am! The thing about Bradley is, he went out there, and he would tell you that his whole deal is he likes to roast people and he wanted to be that snarky guy and that’s TV Bradley. It’s alright. He and I are cool outside the game. He’ll probably be mad at me for telling you that he’s a sweet guy outside the game.

Who were you most impressed by in that original Naviti five on your tribe?
It seemed to be at the time, and it still seems having watched it back, that Bradley and Kellyn were the ones running things. So as much as Bradley and I were at odds out there — and I really wanted to smash him the entire time we played together — I respect the fact that he tried to Kim Spradlin his way through those days.

Kellyn, the same. Kellyn is really impressive and talked before the game about how empathy was her superpower, and I think that’s a pretty accurate statement. I think it may also be her kryptonite because she wears her emotions on her sleeve, and I was able to sniff it out. But I think they’re both very impressive.

What were you thinking when Gonzalez made that “one lion, seven sheep” comment that didn’t make it to air but was directed at you after she was voted out at the first Tribal Council?
That first hour — watching it back was a little surprising because what you didn’t see as a viewer is that for much of the day, Jenna was in a lot of trouble. It made it look like it was Donathan or Gonzo, and really Jenna was in a lot of trouble. At the last minute, I moved to move off of Jenna onto Gonzo because I was worried that we’d have chaos if we went for Jenna because Jenna was Steph Johnson’s best buddy, and I knew Steph Johnson would come back, and it would be scorched earth. So I wanted to keep peace in the camp and have everyone coming back on the same page.

So when Gonzo called me out —and she’s savvy, she figured it out — when she called me out, I have to be honest: Part of me was proud and was like that’s kind of a cool thing to be called the lion on TV… or I hoped on TV, anyway. But yeah, I was worried. But the greatest part of the whole thing was that we get back, and I was able to just shed it. Stephanie Johnson even said, “Was she talking about me?” So it was great, because I knew what she was talking about, Gonzo knew what she was talking about, but I think it was lost on some of the other folks on the tribe.

What happened in that immunity challenge? You all had a massive lead, and then you and Sea Bass just could not get those balls up on the ledge. Did you have to give yourself a pep talk after that?
That was a tough one. The edit showed some of the balls just dancing on that framework. It must have happened 10 times before they hit their last shot. So that was a tough one. I was at a point in the game where I had not eaten very much. I was kind of wasting away. I was losing about a pound a day. So I was starting to look like Gollum out there. I was on my last legs and fumes going into the challenge, and I think Sea Bass was the same. We were almost lightheaded looking up and throwing those balls. So it was heartbreaking when we didn’t pull it out. And I’ll own it. That one was on me. I had a chance to close it out, and I didn’t do it.

If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?
I just needed to do a better job of convincing Michael that they were coming for me. Because if Michael had left immunity on me, the whole game would have changed. We would have been 4-4 in the new Malolo camp, and the whole dynamic and narrative would change in that circumstance. I just needed to find a way, and I didn’t do it. If I had to change one thing going into the game, I would have come in a little heavier because I was on fumes at the end there, but I don’t regret too much. I felt like I played it hard, and by and large made pretty good decisions. I just got caught up in the numbers, and that’s the way it goes sometimes.

Also, make sure to check out our episode recap as well as Q&A with host Jeff Prosbt. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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