Pat Cusack became the first castoff from Survivor: David vs. Goliath on Wednesday, September 26, after a freak accident sent him home. The maintenance manager suffered a back injury when the boat that was taking his tribe back to camp after a challenge hit some choppy waves and knocked him down.
The medical team evaluated Cusack back at the beach and ultimately decided that he needed to be transported to a hospital as a precaution. He was visibly emotional as he told host Jeff Probst that he did not want to leave the game in that way before saying goodbye to his fellow castaways.
“It turned out that I compressed my lower spine and had some deterioration in between a couple of my vertebrae,” the 40-year-old tells Us Weekly exclusively. “But everything’s well now. I’m back to 100 percent since physical therapy and all that. … No surgeries needed, so I’m grateful.”
That said, watching the episode back was not an easy task for Cusack.
“It was very emotional ‘cause I don’t have any recollection of anything from the time the actual accident happened in the boat until I woke up in the helicopter,” he explains. “But I had my wife and kids next to me last night at my premiere party. They were right there to support me and hold me ‘cause, you know, I’m a big guy, but I have feelings and I have a big heart. Yeah, I cried like a little schoolgirl last night.”
The upstate New York native says his early exit would have been easier to swallow had he been voted out rather than evacuated.
“Unfortunately, Mother Nature reared her ugly face and ultimately had me withdrawn from the game,” he tells Us. “But the whole experience was truly amazing.”
It helped that Cusack’s tribe mates showed plenty of support as he waited to hear his fate in the game.
“[That] made me feel really good just because we’d only known each other for a few days and we were complete strangers,” he recalls. “They looked at me as somebody that they cared for, and ultimately that’s what keeps me going at the end of the day.”
Read more of Us Weekly’s interview with Cusack below.
Us: How long were you actually in Fiji? Did you go to a hospital? Did you even go on the pre-jury trip?
PC: Yeah, I went on the pre-jury trip. I didn’t come for money, so traveling and seeing a beautiful place like Fiji was never in my cards. … I spent three days in the hospital. … I had to take it easy. I was stiff and sore for probably two to three weeks after I got out of the hospital and [then I went to] Ponderosa. But I know my body, I know what I’m feeling. So I just put myself through a small rehab of my own before the pre-merge trip and got to go and see some more parts of the world. I wanted to get as much of the experience as I could even if I wasn’t in the game. … I’m truly grateful for the opportunity that I had to go play the game. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way that I hoped, but in the same breath I [may one day] get the chance to go back, and season 37 will be the prequel to my sequel.
Us: Had you gone to tribal council, were you in danger? Did you guys talk about who you were possibly going to send home?
PC: We did. I had a core five. It was myself, Davie, Lyrsa, Jess and Carl. We had a solid five and we were hoping to bring the nerds in — which were Gabby and Christian — and that would bring us to seven. Nick was going to go home. At least that’s what I gathered from it. What other conversations were going on behind my back, I don’t know. Watching the show last night and a couple of the confessionals, Christian was saying that I was maybe rubbing people the wrong way because I was a little on the bossy side. But from my game-point, Nick was going home.
Us: In terms of that scene where you seemed to rub people the wrong way, did you realize that at the time?
PC: I’m a contractor by trade. I’ve swung a hammer my whole life. When we won the shelter-building kit from the opening challenge … I just took charge ‘cause I do have the construction background and I know what it takes to support. I gotta make a shelter big enough to house 10 people. Unfortunately, I can’t collect the materials, cut the materials and install the materials. So I was just trying to delegate, ‘Hey, why don’t you go get some wood? Why don’t you go do this? Why don’t you go do that?’ I didn’t intend to come off as a bossy, push-around guy. It’s just how I am in an everyday life. At the time, no, I had no idea that people were having the feelings that they had. If I had the chance to stick around, maybe I would have caught on more to it. But like I said, Survivor is a game of deception. … I’m not the guy that takes the easy road. If there’s something that’s gotta be done, I put my feet to the ground and I go for it.
Us: What are you most disappointed about? What kind of game did you want to play?
PC: I wanted to play a truthful, honest game. It’s who I am. … I didn’t go into the game to make friends. I went there to win a million dollars. Obviously, I had to kind of sugarcoat a lot of things too. You gotta lead people on, you gotta put strings on ‘em and use ‘em as puppets. And that’s the kind of game I intended to play. I intended to make big moves when they had to be made. I wasn’t going to be afraid to make big moves. But at the same time, I didn’t want to be somebody who I’m not. I wanted to be truthful, I wanted to be honest. But also, if I had to lie, I would’ve. For a million dollars, I probably would’ve sawed somebody’s hand off if it made me win a million dollars.
Survivor: David vs. Goliath airs on CBS Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.
With reporting by Sharon Tharp