8 Things Neal Gottlieb Wants You To Know Following His Survivor: Kaoh Rong Send-Off

Neal Gottlieb reflects on his Survivor: Kaoh Rong journey.

Neal Gottlieb reflects on his Survivor: Kaoh Rong journey.

A few of the Survivor: Kaoh Rong castaways had the feeling something was up when host Jeff Probst and a doctor surprised their camp at the end of the latest episode. After the medical practitioner examined a concerning infection on Neal's knee, he let the ice-cream entrepreneur know some disappointing news; for fear the condition would worsen, Neal would have to leave the game immediately, much to his dismay.

We were able to catch up with Neal following his unfortunate exit, so find out what he had to say about his love for the game, how he coped with his infection after leaving the show, and who he would've taken to the Final 3, if he had made it that far. 
1. What was going through your mind the moment you walked away from the game?

1. What was going through your mind the moment you walked away from the game?

Neal: "You just reflect. It was extremely emotional. I love this game so much. I had such a glorious experience and then I end up on a boat, leaving while the rest of your tribe is behind having never had a vote against you. It was like, poof, and it was gone.

It was sad but, at the same time, you don’t want to go there, be mediocre, and be the first to get the boot. You don’t want to make it to the end and be a goat. So, it was terrible and sad and it’s something I think about every single day. But I’m also very thankful that I had a glorious experience. I had so much fun and it exceeded my expectations in so many ways. I was very proud of how I did out there."
2. Did you consider secretly passing on your Immunity Idol to Aubry or anyone else before leaving the game?

2. Did you consider secretly passing on your Immunity Idol to Aubry or anyone else before leaving the game?

Neal: "Of course, I considered it. This infection started on Day 15. By Day 18, I was fairly convinced that I was going to get pulled from the game. I asked the producer, 'Can I pass it off? Will I get pulled?' but it came down to a few things.

One, that night with Aubry and I on the beach, she made it clear—and it was the wrong time to say it—that she would slit my throat if need be. It didn’t go over well. I was not in the right emotional state. Second, is that by me going out, it gave her life because she was likely going home that night.

[The Idol] is just one physical thing that I could hold on to and still feel like I had a part of that game that I truly believed I was going to win. It’s a trinket that I will pull out until I’m old and gray and remember those 19 glorious days. But, when I was on the boat thinking about it, I absolutely regret not giving it to Aubry."
3. How is your knee now and was there any damage done to your joints?

3. How is your knee now and was there any damage done to your joints?

Neal: "The weird thing about this is there was never really any pain. It first came up like a pimple on Day 15, but then it just took on a life of its own. When I left the game, I was brought to a hotel and the next morning, I ran four miles. My handler was dismayed with me. You can keep me locked up in this room, but I need to work out or I’m going to make your life miserable.

I had this big open wound, but there was no knee pain. Then, the next morning I ran five miles. I have scars, probably more scars than most from the experience. I have two in my hands, one from a giant clam, another from an infection on my leg, and then the knee and the back are the big ones. So, my souvenirs from the game are my Idol and some scars."
4. Looking back, would you have done anything differently during your Survivor run?

4. Looking back, would you have done anything differently during your Survivor run?

Neal: "I probably would have invested less time looking for Idols and more time getting to know people a little better. Cydney, for example. She’s a hard person to get to know.

Other than that, I had a glorious experience. Our tribe did a whole lot of winning and they were always come-from-behind victories. Every single one of them."
5. If you were still in the game and Aubry was on the block, would you have used your Idol to save her?

5. If you were still in the game and Aubry was on the block, would you have used your Idol to save her?

Neal: "I don’t know. I'd say likely not because if I use the Idol, then, sure, one of them maybe goes home or one of them uses the Super Idol, and I essentially vote myself off. But, if I hold on to it and Aubry goes, well, fine, then you have seven against three, but there’s going to be fractures in a seven-person alliance.

As you go deeper, those fractures become wider. At that point, I was also one of the biggest threats in challenges. If you look at things with speed, agility, and puzzles—I was going to be a contender. I was feeling pretty good about my chances [of winning the game]."
6. Had you lasted until the end, who would you want next to you in the Final 3?

6. Had you lasted until the end, who would you want next to you in the Final 3?

Neal: "I would have felt confident going up against anybody, really, but Aubry was always the one from Day 1 who wanted to be Final 2. I think we both felt we could beat each other, which, of course, is exactly what you want.

And then, if I could have gotten Debbie or Joe and kept the original alliance, that would have been great because I could have beaten them too in a vote of our peers."
7. If you were to create an ice-cream flavor inspired by Survivor, what would it taste like?

7. If you were to create an ice-cream flavor inspired by Survivor, what would it taste like?

Neal: "It would have to be something that’s nuanced because, to me, that’s the real beauty of the game. So, it would be something that looks like one thing but then the flavor isn’t quite what you’d expect and it changes with each and every bite.

It’s all about the unexpected, and it would have to be a very big scoop that would take a very long time to eat. It would give you a little bit of an ice cream headache every now and again."
8. Would you ever consider playing again, if given the opportunity?

8. Would you ever consider playing again, if given the opportunity?

Neal: "In a second. I considered playing again every single day since April 17, 2015. I think about it all the time. I love this game, the format of the competition, the survival elements, the challenges, and the nuances.

If Jeff called me right now and said, 'You need to get to the airport [because] you're playing,' I’m there."

Watch the episode where Neal was pulled from the game, see what he had to say from Ponderosa, and catch all-new episodes of Survivor on Wednesdays at 8/7c.