At 18 years old, Will Wahl is the youngest person ever to compete on Survivor, but he most definitely did not want to be seen as a “kid” in the eyes of his competitors.
“They didn’t look at me like I was a player,” Wahl tells PEOPLE of why he began playing hard in his final days on the CBS reality show. “I wanted to prove to them that I was worthy of winning.”
Now back home in Long Valley, New Jersey, after being eliminated on Wednesday’s episode of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, Wahl reflects on the blindside that sent him home, what really motivated him to start making big moves and how the rest of the game would have played out if he’d survived elimination.
What happened to light such a fire under you those last few days?
It all started at the final 10 tribal council. I looked over at the jury and I see their faces — especially Taylor‘s — and they looked at me with sympathetic eyes as though I was a little kid. I started to freak out and decided I needed to build up my Survivor résumé and make some big moves so when I made it to the end people would feel like I deserved to win. And then the loved ones’ visits really reinvigorated me. Seeing my mom after so much time out there definitely put me over the edge and I knew I had to start playing 110 percent.
What was your big game plan?
I wanted the final five to be Bret, Sunday, Adam, Hannah and myself. I felt comfortable beating any of them and I thought I could take either pair to the end. I probably would have gone with Bret and Sunday for my final three.
Was it difficult going against your alliance to vote Zeke out?
It wasn’t hard for me to vote Zeke out there because I knew he was a big fan of the show and would understand but it was something where I struggled with Ken telling the whole tribe about it and it was out in the open and Bret and Sunday and Jay were trying to guilt me into voting with them. I was fine with it until everyone started pulling me in different directions. That was really strenuous mentally.
What surprised you the most watching the season at home?
You know, I actually didn’t watch a lot of this season. It was hard to watch it and know that the rest of the world is watching something I lived through. But I was surprised about Adam’s elaborate plan to get me out. I had no idea that was going on. And getting to see how the Gen X tribe worked out in the beginning was fascinating.
Did you have any idea you were going home?
I did not know I was going home during the day but I had a weird feeling during the day. I knew David should be going home but I just felt something was off. And I had felt overly confident other than the rock draw tribal and my last one. I just had a feeling and that should have been a red flag. But I also didn’t want to seem paranoid. I wasn’t ready to go. I feel like I had a lot more game to play and I hope I get another chance to get out there.
The finale of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.