'Survivor' 's Spencer Thought He Was 'Extremely Safe'

Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS

As a Survivor mega-fan, University of Florida student Spencer Duhm knows better than anyone that the game can turn on a dime, targets shift and one seemingly small thing can send a player home. Not that the 20-year-old telecommunications major, who spoke with PEOPLE via telephone, ever thought it’d happen to him. Yet one weak challenge performance on Tocantins, and he found himself on the wrong end of Jeff Probst‘s torch snuffer and back in class without a million dollars for tuition. — Carrie Bell

Your elimination seemed to come out of nowhere. It caught me off guard too … I knew going in to tribal that I was possibly going home but until that afternoon I was extremely safe. I had a couple of alliances and I was well embedded in both of them. I was not next on the chopping block in either of them. I even remember thinking a few days earlier that even if we lost the next two immunity challenges, I would be safe until day 21 or a merger.

But you know that no one is ever truly safe. Did the possibility of this elimination scenario cross your mind? I knew that the game could change on a dime and I knew that everyone is in danger at all times, but I never once fathomed that I would end up being targeted because of a poor challenge performance. I have done sports all my life. I’m competitive. I know what the challenges are normally like.

Your performance didn’t seem that bad. Did you really play that worse than the others? I was embarrassed by my showing, but relatively speaking, I wasn’t that bad … To me, it was a little unfair that I was singled out for performing poorly. And I was up against Tyson who has proven to be very strong in challenges. It bugged me but I couldn’t be defensive. That would just irritate them. So all I could do was admit that I performed poorly, but I was not half-assing it. I gave it my all.

Being a huge fan of the show, was it everything you thought it would be? It was everything I expected it to be and I was really happy to find that out. Everybody says it’s fake and that they give them toothbrushes and extra food and that they give the girls hair products. They give you nothing. What you see them give us is all we got. We didn’t have toilet paper, toothbrushes, razors or deodorant. We look disgusting and we smelled horrible. I was excited about that except when I was hungry and was like, “Man it would be really nice if someone could slip me a pizza off camera right about now.”

What’s something that was unexpected about being on the show?The one thing that doesn’t come across on TV is how much downtime you have and how bored you get. At home, you have a computer, a TV, a book, something to entertain you. There, nothing. Not even cards. All you can do is talk to each other and it’s awful. After awhile you just wanted to nap, but you were scared to do that because you have to socialize in the game or you’ll be out.

You didn’t come out to anyone on the show. When did the other players finally find out that you’re gay and what was the reaction?I didn’t tell anyone in the game. Sydney was interrogating me as you saw last night because she had it in her mind that I might be gay. That was intentional. She was trying to pry it out of me but I didn’t tell anyone until Ponderosa. Some of my tribe mates still didn’t find out until after the show was over. When JT found out, he was totally cool. In the episode, I singled him out only because he comes across as a stereotypical Southern conservative who wouldn’t be open-minded about homosexuality. That’s why I talked about him. I didn’t think he would personally judge me based on who he is, but I didn’t think telling anyone in the game would help me. So I just kept quiet in case it would hurt me. But in life, I am always out and open about it.

There is the potential for you to be considered a role model in the gay community because of the public scope of the show. Are you cool with that title? I didn’t assume I would have that position coming off the show but if it helps even one person or changes even one person’s mind, then that’s amazing. Monty Brinton/CBS

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