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Survivor‘s Charlie on Being Blindsided & Bromance

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Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS

Crystal and Ken strike again! This time New York lawyer Charlie Herschel, 29, was their target on Survivor: Gabon. In a phone interview from his hometown, juror No. 2 dished about being blindsided, why he was willing to starve, the Marcus bromance and his Clay Aiken connection. — Carrie Bell

The players fans expected to make it to the end are falling like flies.It’s depressing, right? I thought I had a good chance. I’m a pretty likable, nice guy who got along with everyone and had a tight alliance and a super strong team for almost all of the game. I thought I was going to get farther.

You looked shocked at tribal council when Jeff started reading your name on the ballots. Did you think you were safe? Was this a true blindside? It was a 100 percent blindside. I thought I was in a position that, should we be given a twist like last week and I was in an alliance that was down in numbers, I would still be okay. I thought I would be the last person that would get voted off given that I was aligned with such polarizing characters who were despised by the other alliance. I wasn’t blindsided as far as my alliance losing a member but I was blindsided that it was me.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that players who rock the boat — like Randy or Corinne — would be the first to go, but it actually made more sense to pick you off in terms of end game. I was counting on that, but as I walked out it made perfect sense that they targeted me. The best move strategically was to take out the person who was most liked or who had more of a chance to win challenges. But I was surprised when I watched the episode that it wasn’t as strategic as it was personal. It was purely based on Kenny’s personal grudge against me. Up until last night, I thought it was strategy. Like of course they are getting rid of me because I’m a threat. But really they got rid of me because Kenny was not enjoying my company.

You seemed to fare okay physically in the game. Obviously you lost weight but you never looked sickly. I’m a marathon runner so I love putting my body through hell. I lost 15 or 20 pounds. Playing Survivor was my dream, so every time I was hungry, I’d be like, ‘I’m starving, but I’m starving on Survivor.’ I was simulating starvation for a million dollars. I knew it would end. I can’t complain about that. There are who are really suffering from that. Mine situation was 39 days if I was lucky.

Unfortunately, being cast off meant you couldn’t win the million, but it did reunite you with your wanna-beau Marcus at Ponderosa. What was the first thing you ate and how did you guys spend your days at jury camp?Ponderosa was great … Marcus and I are really active, interested . We were running, swimming, reading books, playing games, going on hikes. It was a total blast. It was a great segue back to the real world. The who make it to the end have a day before they go back to their real life. They said I could eat whatever I wanted when I got there, but I don’t even remember what I ate. I wasn’t thinking about food. I was shocked after the vote and my adrenaline was sky-high so I don’t think I even really tasted that first meal.

It’s no secret that you had a crush on Marcus from the beginning of the show. How real this friendship is now that the show is over?Marcus is one of my closest friends. The best part of Survivor for me was that I got to meet and befriend Marcus, Corinne, Randy — all these , especially Marcus. He was here last week to do press and we hung out together. We always have a blast together. The friendship that you saw was genuine.

Speaking of friendships, Randy was very vocal about you being the first gay person he’d met, how much he liked your company and how you challenged him? It’s awesome that happened on the show. I didn’t realize I had such an impact on him until I watched the show. It didn’t occur to me that he wouldn’t like me just because of my sexuality because I am so oblivious to homophobia living in New York City. But it’s out there. Randy might have voted yes on Prop 8 if he hadn’t met me and now that he knows me, he might not. If I can change one person’s mind, or two or three minds of watching at home, by being myself, that’s great.

It has come out that you were IM friends with Clay Aiken before he came out in the pages of PEOPLE. What are your thoughts on him being open and becoming a dad? No comment. No, I am happy for him. He is a happy guy and the whole thing is great. He deserves happiness.

Now that you’ve had a taste of fame, are you interested in doing more or have you gone back to practicing law? I’m too normal for reality TV. I returned to the same firm I was at before the show. I still live in New York City. I’m still single. I’d love to play Survivor again, but unfortunately I gotta pay back those student loans so I have to be a lawyer now. Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS