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November 29, 2018 at 10:50 AM EST

Alec Merlino kept telling himself (and everybody else) that he could win. He would outlast them all — at least in one immunity challenge. But when he was finally bested by Christian after five hours of painful balancing, he lost any chance of continuing and was voted out of Survivor: David vs. Goliath.

What was harder: losing the challenge or losing his spot in the game? Why wasn’t he out there looking for idols? (Or was he?) And why the hell was he posting pictures on social media with Kara before the cast was even announced? We asked the bartender all that and more when he called into EW Morning Live (SiriusXM, channel 105) Thursday morning, and here are some highlights from our chat.

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EW RADIO: First off, let’s get right into that epic immunity challenge against Christian. They made it seem like you were taunting the other players in that, but I have a feeling a lot of that stuff you were actually just mumbling to yourself. Is that right, or were you talking smack to them the entire time?
ALEC MERLINO: The immunity challenge was the toughest thing I have ever done. That perch is going to haunt me forever. It was my demise. If I had won that, obviously I would not have been gone. I took this approach stepping on to the perch from literally minute one that I wouldn’t say anything and that I would kind of try to get into that mental focus. And then if I could put in this façade that I was not stepping off that I could get in the minds of other people. But Christian was a beast and he crushed it and he ended up getting in my head and I was like, “I can’t do it” and I just stepped off.

It was brutal. It was the pain. You have a tiny perch for your heals. It’s super painful right there and then your hands are even farther back then behind your ears so it puts this weird strain on your shoulders. So 30 minutes in, my arms were falling asleep and I was like, oh boy, this is bad. And then it kind of goes away and you have this wave that goes over you.

Everyone lasted a lot longer than I expected. I think Tai had the record or something. Jeff mentioned it was like 43 minutes for the Cambodia one. It was a lot of pain and agony and then Christian, I don’t know what came over that kid but he started telling stories like three-and-a-half or four hours in, and it lasted for two hours.

What was harder, losing that challenge or losing your spot in the game?
I always say there’s a silver lining to everything. The challenge sucked. I can beat myself up and be like, why did I step off? But in that moment in that time you’re so mentally broken down. I let go and I was absolutely devastated after I did, but I was stoked for Christian. He crushed it and beat me fair and square and was a beast. But there’s a silver lining. To this day, it taught me in life, don’t quit. That perch seriously keeps me motivated in my day-to-day life. I’m like, “Don’t quit, dude. Don’t quit. Don’t let go of the perch.” I always say that in my head.

Did medical have to take a look at you after that challenge?
Yeah, I spent time with medical. I was just in a fog. I had to take on this persona where I was not talking and I feel like I should have been talking it out with people. I should have told people I was struggling but I had taken on this personality from the get-go where I was like, I’m not going to say anything. I have to be mentally tough. And then I stepped off and I was just in a haze. I think Jeff at one point was like, “Do you even remember stepping off?” I was like “What just happened?” And then Dr. Joe spent some time with me and gave me some hydration, because you’re up there for six hours in the pounding sun and you’re dehydrated. I’ve never been so mentally exhausted form anything in my entire life.

You were clearly working hard there, but we kept seeing the Davids get up early to go idol hunting while you all slept in. In that respect at least, they just seemed to be working a lot harder than you all. Was that an accurate portrayal of what was going on out there?
Yeah, totally. My parents got on me, like, “What are you doing sleeping?” And I’m like, “Dude, it’s not like I have an alarm clock out there. I’m a heavy sleeper as it is.” When I would pass out, I was out! Had I woken up at like 4am I would have been out there searching for idols, but I would wake up and be, like, the second to last one up and I’d pull my buff off and it would be sunrise and everyone was out on the beach and I’d just be like “Dang it! Dude!” And the other people would tell me “You know the Davids were out looking for idols.” I was “Crap!” Because the Davis weren’t going to wake us up. That was just me being a heavy sleeper.

Listen, you got a little active on social media, posting a picture of you and Kara before the cast was even announced with the caption “F— it,” so clearly knowing you weren’t supposed to be doing that. What was that all about?
Alright, so… just to kind of say my peace. It’s been the main bone of contention for my entire Survivor experience. The thing is, with social media, I feel things can be misconstrued, but I have nothing but the utmost respect for CBS, for Survivor, for Jeff. I went out there and I had the experience of a lifetime. My biggest dream was to be on Survivor, so to go out there and have the experience, that’s what I’m going to hold close to my heart and that’s what I’m going to cherish.

To go out there and meet Jeff and have the opportunity to be a part of such an awesome show, it was so rad. So that picture, it was unfortunate. I take 100 percent ownership of it. It sucks. But I think things can be misconstrued and that’s all I really have to comment about that.

Also make sure to check out our exit interview with Carl, our episode Q&A with Jeff Probst, and full episode recap. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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