While his final four alliance indeed saw him through to that point, his prowess on the island proved to be too dangerous to the others and after failing to win the final immunity challenge, he was unceremoniously sent packing, just short of the final three.
We caught up with the 25-year-old bartender to hear his thoughts on the game and what it felt like to lose so close to the end.
Did you know you were finished or were you sure that Denise would be sent home by Lisa and Mike over you?
"I actually thought - even after I lost the challenge - like I was still in there. Then when Lisa said something about going to the end with who she could win against, I got emotional. That moment was my lowest because I knew I was gone."
Why didn't you stick with Denise a bit longer and perhaps try to get rid of Lisa?
"Good for Denise - she pulled it off anyway and absolutely deserved it. The thing is, I knew I could beat Lisa. If I went with Denise, it would have been much harder. The thought was that no matter what, I could beat the other two and there was no reason for me to make things more difficult by sticking with her because it would cost me the game."
When did things go wrong with your alliance? You'd been working together since the very beginning.
"I mean, in the first episode! I'm kidding. Nothing went wrong - I'm still close with Denise and I still talk to her on a daily basis. The reason we were together initially was because we had the same approach to the game. We played strategically and didn't take anything personal and I think we both realized it was in our best interest not to sit at the end with one another. I really wanted to get rid of her and she wanted to stick together, though once she realized I didn't, she kicked back into her game. We realized towards the end that we didn't need to be at the end together."
You seemed cool and collected throughout the game - do you have any major regrets for things you'd have done differently?
"You know what? No, really. If I'd lasted one more day I'd be a much happier man, but if I went back and looked at all the decisions I made throughout - who I voted for, what I did - I still stand by my logic on every vote and decision I made. If I had one mistake I made, it was my read on Lisa. It was completely off the entire time. She was a totally different person and I didn't pick up. Trusting Lisa was my biggest mistake because she was volatile!"
What did you think watching your game back on TV?
"Everything kind of went the way I thought it was going in my head .I knew all the conversations happening and all. At the end, especially after the merge, that was the most shocking thing for me to watch. I knew Lisa had switched on me and we're still friends - she's a sweet lady and we talk all the time - but I didn't know she was so adamantly against me for so long and ready to get rid of me. That was the most surprising thing in watching back - how hard they all had turned on me."
You were originally placed on Matsing, which ended up dissolving. How hard was it to continue losing your teammates?
"I got emotional after we lost the third challenge straight. I mean, when the first person went home, I was fine. But after the third, I got emotional. I finally got through after thousands of people and it went so horribly those first couple of weeks. I really thought there was no way I could get out of it and that there wasn't a chance because the odds were so against us. But after we dissolved and I got on a new tribe and we won that reward challenge, I felt like I was back in it."
Why were Lisa and Mike not contenders for the final prize?
"What we're seeing on TV is way different from the way it goes on there. You see Lisa and Mike doing their thing, and I was surprised with some of the things they were saying and how strategically sound some of their decisions are. But the difference is in the perception out there. If you get a negative reputation, you're done. Lisa, this Christian lady, was crying all over the place. Skupin... people called him stupid, which was a real thing. He had no strategy. They're both excellent but while they were out there, no one respected how they were playing the game."
Would you have formed a different alliance than the one with Denise if you'd had the choice?
"We had made a final four deal very quickly. We realized we were not on a good tribe. And then it turned out that we got along really well, too. That being said, the way I came into the game and my mindset, I probably would have looked for another alliance rather than dragging along but because of the situation that we were in, we were forced to play together early on. I needed someone smart by my side who had a great strategic game and Denise was the absolute perfect partner for me. Neither of us would have made it to where we did in the game without each other."
You laid into her pretty good at the final Tribal. Why did you end up voting for her?
"In all seriousness, Survivor is hard and Lisa and Mike would never have had a shot. The way they were perceived by the jury... it was just a lock for Denise. When I said congratulations to her, I meant it. You don't get to see everything on TV and of course I'm going to get in her face a little bit. I love talking about her being appeasing and politically correct - it's absolutely true and I tease her about it to this day. But it's great in the game - what a great skill to have if you're playing
Survivor airs on CBS.