Naseer Muttalif on how he tried to flip the vote on Survivor
Naseer Muttalif was living the Survivor dream. He was on a tribe that absolutely dominated the pre-merge portion of the season. He found a clue that procured him a hidden immunity idol. And he appeared to be surrounded by enough allies to keep him safe after the tribe was split into two separate groups. But appearances can be deceiving, as Naseer learned when he was voted out on day 17 of Survivor 41 after Ricard and Shan decided to get him and his idol out of the game when he least expected it.
Even a diabolical blindside could not wipe the smile off of Naseer's face, however, as the 37-year-old sales manager announced after being sent to the jury, "It was my dream to be on Survivor and enjoy Survivor, and I did it every single minute I was here." And we enjoyed watching every single minute he was there.
We chatted with the fan favorite the morning after his televised ouster to get the full scoop on his Survivor journey — and learned that he actually tried to vote Ricard out. (Also make sure to read our exit interview with Evvie Jagoda.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In your final words after being voted out you said, "It was my dream to be on Survivor and enjoy Survivor, and I did it every single minute I was here." Does that pretty much sum up your experience?
NASEER MUTTALIF: Absolutely. So that's obvious, right? You can see how I enjoyed my game. I really played hard. I was able to provide and keep my positive mentality always, and maintain [it] no matter how much deprivation and starvation we had out there — you know, it was one of the hardest seasons — but that is Nasser. I appreciated every single moment.
How surprised were you when you saw your name come up three times at Tribal?
I'm like, "Okay, my day's gone." Because they had to revote because me and her [Heather] had the same number of votes. So I'm like, "Okay, done deal."
So at that point why are you thinking it all went wrong?
I know I'm a huge threat there, and if they let me stay one more day, I have an idol in my pocket too. But I'm thinking the other way, right? I wasn't naive. I know exactly what's going on. But on that day, I got maybe a little overconfidence. You will never get too confident on Survivor. So maybe a little more trusted? But this is Survivor. Anything can happen at any time, right? You have to have thick skin and face it, be happy, keep moving forward.
Let's get into some of the other stuff that happened. How was your right hand feeling after that immunity challenge?
Well, I couldn't feel it completely for at least a week. I had to go for therapy until a couple of weeks ago. So now I'm fine. I can start to do pull-ups and push-ups totally fine. I used to do push-ups nonstop before I go on Survivor. Then, when I came back, not a single push-up I can do, but now I can. I'm already getting back to my normal routine.
Wow, so it took six months for your hand to get better.
Yeah, but now it's fine. I can do pushups. I can do pull-ups. So that told me no fractures or anything in my bone, tendon, muscles. But it was pretty bad.
Let's talk about another big moment for you: when you found the clue about the "confused as a goat on AstroTurf" line to get an idol. Did you tell anyone about that?
Nope. First of all, I don't know what does it mean either? So the producers asked, "Do you know what does it mean?" I'm like, "I have no clue. Come on, teach me. I know goat, but AstroTurf? I never heard that word." Then they told me and I'm like, "Wow, this is so interesting." Did I tell anybody? No. That was my dream: One day I will be on Survivor, and I'll find an idol. I will keep it as secret to the entire tribe, because you know what? Everyone says that if I found an idol, I will keep it for secret. There are some great players. I would say they did not disclose to anybody. I'm like, "Yeah, I'm a great player. I'm not going to show them. I know exactly what's going on. So if I tell them that, there's another opportunity for them to vote me off earlier. So I'm not going to tell."
I never told anybody until I told the phrases right before the challenge. Instead, they were confused as a goat. [Laughs] They don't know what's going on. So the only problem was you can't hide the idol right after that. So when we went to the merge feast, I asked Ricard, "So who has the idol?" He said Shan has it. She said the phrase. And Xander has it. I'm like, "We are already merged. We are going to go back." Now I had to open it up. Xander already told his tribe. Shan and Ricard, they're very close. Those are the only two left in Ua. So I had to bring it up. I can't keep hiding anymore.
Everyone needs a partner in this game. Danny and Deshawn have each other. Shan and Ricard have each other. Even Erika and Heather seem to have each other. Who was your partner?
See, I try to play a loyal game from the first day when I told them, "Hey, we don't have to have any strategy talking immediately. Let's wait for the boys to come after the challenge. Then we talk." But, of course, we are on Survivor, right? The minute you go onto the island, the minute you started playing… I would say the minute you are on the plane, you start playing the game. You know? So I told them, "Hey, this is what's happening." So that backfired on me. I know that from that minute, from the first day, first minute, I was on the bottom. But am I going to show that? No, I ride the act like I'm the happiest one. And I was the happiest one. I do everything possible to try to keep it.
I try to work it out with Erika, but she doesn't want to talk for 11 days — not strategy talk — so I can't approach. Heather, hmmm… They were so close. Then I try to build the relationship with Danny and Deshawn, and we had a good relationship. But at the same time, I can't trust them. I know I can't trust them because I saw what they did on the first day. I couldn't find an ally immediately in my tribe.
So I'm like, "I work hard, keep providing them. I'm not going to throw a tantrum over there. I'm not going to say that I'm not going to provide you." That can hurt you more. I'd rather provide everything and show them I get everything on that island without anybody. So everybody is thinking, "What is this dude doing? He's on the bottom." But [they started] thinking a lot. Like, "Maybe he has an idol he can play after the votes are read." You know what I mean? So I created that atmosphere.
So when Evie and Tiffany came, yeah, that's great, but at the same time, they're still trying to work out their stuff from Yase tribe. So they're confused as a goat! [Laughs] Then I do not trust anybody in Luvu, so finally I felt like I was connected with Shan because I had a pretty good relationship with [my] religious leaders. She talked about religion a lot. So I'm like, "You know, that is how I grew up. Religious leaders sometimes have to have a little bit of [loyalty]." So I'm like, "That's a great person to trust." But I think that was the biggest mistake. But we are on Survivor. Anybody can do anything, right? So you had to take it as fun, enjoy, and keep moving forward.
Once they broke the merge tribe up into two groups, did you ever consider siding with Erika and Heather against Shan and Ricard?
Even before we went to Ua, Erika came and talked to me on the beach. Cause she was always on the bottom too. Like Danny and Deshawn wanted to throw the challenge. Not only once, but twice! I saved her! Literally, I saved her. And me and Evvie and Tiffany and Erika, we were talking on that beach and Xander was kind of in between, like, it's kind of hard to trust. [He's a] very friendly guy, but everybody [was] trying to stay one more day.
So then after the challenge we went to Ua. I pulled Heather and Erika and said, "Okay, let's vote for Ricard." Erika and Heather were not giving me a clear vote. So then, of course, I realized a little bit later, "Oh, that's a classic blindside though." But still, I tried to get Ricard out. Then I'm like, "No, finally I have someone I can trust. We can work together." Because I know I have a target on my back because I'm a huge threat over there. But I have an idol in my pocket. I was thinking, "No, they're not going to blindside me. I want to stay one more day, so then the next day I can play my idol. Then I can work my way up. I can just maneuver that way." So I think with Shan and Ricard, that wasn't the smart move because I was a solid loyal number to them.
So what was your reaction when you heard Heather putting your name out there at the Tribal last week?
I'm like, "Heather, what are you doing?" Heather and Danny, they were not really good friends either. Of course, Deshawn was really close to Heather. Erika [was] very close to Heather too. Sometimes we would try to vote Heather out, but at the same time, no, let's keep her for the numbers. So when she threw my name out there, I'm like, "Heather don't do this. Why?" Then I was ready to play my idol too. Then Liana came back and Shan came back and told me, "No, she's the one that created this drama. Let's go back and vote Heather out." Then she became quiet.
Then I asked Shan again. She was really playing good with me. But Danny and Ricard kept saying, "You play your idol. They try to flush it." By the end of that conversation, [after] having all those dramas, I'm like, "No, I'm fine." So I did not play it. [Danny and Ricard] were still trying — like, "Do it, do it, man. They're still writing the name." I'm like, "No, I'm okay. I want to try one more day to see if they are going to really put my name."
Heather told you she didn't vote for you, but you didn't seem to believe her. Did you know it was actually Xander?
I know this now — I know she threw my name under the bus.
So much doesn't make it on air. What's something we didn't see that you wish could have made it into an episode?
I was looking at the journey when they went on a different island to get [an] advantage or whatever. Brad, Tiffany, and Sydney went. I knew exactly what's going on. On that night, I didn't sleep. I waited and waited, and I can see Sydney start going, "My stomach is hurting and all yada, yada, yada." I'm like, "Okay, that doesn't sound real, so I'm not going to sleep today." Then I know Danny and Deshawn know that she's going 'cause they were so close. And Erika and Heather don't know, but I know, and I've been telling Danny, "Hey, something wrong." I know Danny knows, but I want to tell him that I know what's going on. "Hey, something wrong. Sydney's going out. She's disappeared."
So on that night, I walked through the entire island. I told the producers, "I want to find an idol," but I'm looking for Sydney. And when she came back — maybe around 2:00 a.m., or I don't know, she was gone almost half of the night — immediately I told Sydney, "I did not see you for a long time. Where did you go?" She's like, "What the F? I was sleeping on the beach." I'm like, "I walked on the beach like four times, and it's stars and moonlight. I didn't see you." The beach is pretty open and clear. It's white sand. I'm like, "All right, thank you so much. And I want you to know that I know you [didn't go] missing. So definitely you went on a journey." I wish that was there!
Well, now people will know, Naseer!
I know exactly what happened! I know exactly what's going in my tribe.
Your wife, Diana, has been low-key trolling you on Twitter. How do you feel about her sharing stories about you on social media?
Everything she said, it's true. And so she's having a great time. Happy wife, happy life, right? I don't get offended. She's the love of my life, so she can tell anything she wants. She's not going to throw me under the bus. She's going to make me more happy.
Well, I have a feeling we may see you again on the show. If Diana lets you go do it, that is.
We signed a contract that for 10 years I can get out and play Survivor, The Amazing Race, whatever it is — as long as it's a family show.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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