Admittedly terrified of being dragged to the end as a goat, Survivor contestant Will Wahl was determined to make a big move. On the November 30 episode he did just that, voting out Zeke Smith. His glory didn’t last long, as Wahl followed Smith to Ponderosa after the next tribal council, which aired on December 7.
“My biggest regret is voting out Zeke at final nine,” the 19-year-old exclusively tells Us Weekly. “I think I should have waited a few more tribals for that. I feel like if I waited one more tribal, it would have been a good opportunity if I could have gotten Jay [Starrett] on board with it.”
Wahl had been itching to make a big move, as he felt like he wasn’t being taken as seriously as his competitors, given that he was only 18 at the time.
“Some of your fellow players look at you kind of like a little kid, like their little brother that they want to try and protect; not as a serious competitor to play the game. The reason I went out there in the first place was to prove that a young person can win this game. So that was definitely a huge fear running through my mind, especially as the days progressed and I’ve started running out of time.”
So Wahl took advantage of the divide in the tribe to get Smith out. However, it was a risky move.
“I kept thinking about the different swing votes who were just voted out from past seasons, and I thought that was definitely a potential, but the two sides — Zeke vs. David [Wright] — were so profound that I felt confident that there would be no way for the two sides to work together. They were just so at odds with each other that it just wouldn’t happen,” he says. “And part of that was arrogance because it kind of happened the next week, but it was something that in my mind I thought could never happen.”
Obviously, it did happen, and as he headed into next tribal council, Wahl began to feel anxiety for only the second time in the game.
“I had this sick feeling in my stomach like, ‘I’m a little nervous right now,’” he says. “I was nervous at the rock draw tribal, but the rest of the tribals I felt pretty confident. But this one I had this feeling that I was about to go. Part of that is just arrogance. I was very arrogant out there and it was to a point where I think it ended up being my downfall.”
The Long Valley, New Jersey, native shares more with Us.
What was the best part of being the youngest?
The best part was the fact that I could kind of hide in the beginning, like, people did not look at me as somebody like, “Oh, we have to get him out, like, right now. He is a big threat,” because I could hide behind my age. But as the game progressed, that advantage turned into a disadvantage and people didn’t really see the game that I was playing and that really affected me during the merge and jury phase of the game.
Has it been frustrating watching the show as you have these regrets about making the Zeke move too early?
It’s been frustrating. I actually have not watched a lot of the show — I watched last night, but aside from that I have not seen the majority of the episodes. I struggled to really get through the season. It’s your life being watched back on TV and then having to relive your choices, your decisions and your mistakes and also your triumphs, and it really is something that is very difficult to watch. Even when you are going through a positive experience, it’s very difficult to see that played back on TV and knowing that millions of other people are watching you have this experience.
Was it awkward at first between you and Zeke on Ponderosa?
Not at all. He was the first person to hand me a Sprite when I first got into Ponderosa. We really bonded quickly and him and I still have that bond to this day.
You said that you left a tribal a man — can you explain?
I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a person. I feel like, overall, this experience has changed me and especially watching just last night’s episode back, it really did make me realize that I am a changed person. I feel like I am more mature and that I do have more empathy for people and that I do have more humility and that I’m not nearly as arrogant as I once was. I like to think that I have grown as a person since Survivor.
As such a huge fan of the show, what was the experience of being on the jury like for you?
The jury was an insane experience, like walking back into the game on the jury bench and seeing people lined up and Jeff Probst there — it was like I was watching Survivor from my TV. It looked like a TV show to me, sitting up there on the jury. And it was like, ‘Wow I have front row seats to Survivor, this is insane.’ It really was a completely different, but also surreal, experience.
Are you getting recognized at school?
Yeah, actually, a lot more than I thought I’d be. But yeah, a lot of people recognize me. Just the other day, I was walking on the street and a group of people recognized me and asked for a photo. It’s been surreal.
What do people ask you most often?
People always want to know if the show is real, like if you’re actually living out there, if you’re actually eating such little food and if you’re sleeping on bamboo. And yeah, it’s all real! I can tell them that for sure!
Looking back, what are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the immunity win. That was a definite high moment in my game and I feel like to win that challenge — I never in a million thought I could win an endurance challenge, let alone any Survivor challenge. But it really was just such an amazing experience.
Would you play again?
Oh absolutely, if I ever got the opportunity. My bags are already packed! I’m waiting for the phone call!
Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X airs on CBS Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.
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