On last Thursday's Survivor: Guatemala, the Nakum and Yaxha tribes merged to form Xhakum. But the merge was really in name only, since the Nakum members, outnumbering the Yaxha six to four, remained loyal to their tribal alliances and sent home Brandon Bellinger. The 22-year-old farmer was given a bit of fair warning and made it his mission to find his one saving grace: a 6-inch-tall immunity idol hidden in the jungle. Though he has some experience with haystacks, that didn't help him find what was basically the equivalent of a needle in one. TVGuide.com caught up with Brandon after his torch got snuffed to ask how he managed to stay calm, cool and collected even in the face of losing.
TVGuide.com: How did you maintain your laid-back demeanor during the game? It amazes me!
Brandon Bellinger: Oh, really? That's just the kind of the person I am. Heck, I don't know.
TVGuide.com: Everything Jamie said got on Bobby Jon's nerves, and you just shrugged it all off.
Brandon: For some reason, Jamie and Bobby Jon didn't get along too well. I guess their personalities clashed or whatever. It looked like maybe Jamie was talking bad to me around the campfire, but really he was just leveling with me. He was actually trying to help me out with the whole deal. He helped me look for the immunity idol because he wanted me to stay or something, which was really weird. We had a respect between each other.
TVGuide.com: Why was it you who got sent home instead of Bobby Jon?
Brandon: I don't know, I guess I was just a bigger physical threat. Stephenie was running the show, because she felt like she "owed" Bobby Jon. She was going to keep Bobby Jon around and have everybody get rid of me.
TVGuide.com: Were you happy with how far you made it?
Brandon: Yeah, I suppose. I was shooting for the million dollars. I made it a good ways, at least I made it to the merge. Didn't make it to the jury, though. I guess I get to be that guy.
TVGuide.com: Before the switch-up, you were in the Nakum tribe with Lydia and Cindy. Why didn't you try to work something out with them?
Brandon: I thought about that and kind of talked to them, but I never made alliances with them in the beginning. That may have led to my demise. Maybe I should have aligned with them from the start. I had other alliances they weren't part of, and they knew it. They weren't going to give me their help, so... whatever.
TVGuide.com: Do you think they took advantage of you after the merge?
Brandon: Of course. You knew they would.
TVGuide.com: The very first day you were the only guy who wasn't sick. Do you have some magical powers?
Brandon: I sabotaged everyone, actually. [Laughs] No, not really. It was weird, out of all the guys I felt pretty good. I was cramping up a little bit — I wasn't 100 percent — but I wasn't feeling as bad as some of the other guys.
TVGuide.com: Why did you go on the show? Were you a big Survivor fan?
Brandon: It was kind of a weird deal. My grandma was going to the casino to do some gambling and they had an open casting call there. Grandma called and asked if I wanted to go and I said "Sure, I ain't got anything better to do." Before I knew it, it blew up to all of this.
TVGuide.com: Your grandma's cute. I liked her Febreze family commercial.
Brandon: Yeah, she did look good on TV. She's a nice lady.
TVGuide.com: And you didn't have to lie about her dying to make it to the merge!
Brandon: [Laughs] Yup. That thought had crossed my mind, but I knew it had been done already.
TVGuide.com: Did you have a strategy going in?
Brandon: My main strategy was to make a lot of alliances [with] people who aren't going to flip on you. The second part of my idea was to win immunity and go into the merge with more numbers, with my strong alliances. Then I bet I could have made it to the bitter end.
TVGuide.com: So... are you dating anyone now, or is there someone special?
Brandon: Nope, I'm a lone wolf.
TVGuide.com: Was there a particular tribe mate you were hoping to cuddle up with on the show?
Brandon: Oh, you know, all of them. I don't know. You're open to that, but there's nothing going on. There wasn't any chemistry out there this season for some reason.
TVGuide.com: You called Danni your "little sister."...
Brandon: Danni's way out of my league.
TVGuide.com: How long do you think you spent searching for that immunity idol in the woods?
Brandon: I'd say about three hours.
TVGuide.com: And it was hot, mosquito-ey and gross?
Brandon: Oh man, you get away from camp and mosquitoes would come from all directions and practically rip you apart. It was nasty.
TVGuide.com: You had all those scars on your shoulders.
Brandon: I know. It looked real attractive, huh? But now if somebody asks me, "Oh, is Survivor real?" I'm like, "Did you see the scars or those festering sores? Yeah, it's real."
TVGuide.com: Was it what you expected, or way harder?
Brandon: It was what I expected, maybe a little tougher. One of the things I didn't expect was to form such strong bonds with these people. You're out there and you go through hell with these people, just hell, and it sucks out there. These are the only people you socialize with, so you make good relationships with them and then you have to vote them off. [That part] shows how ugly the game really is.
TVGuide.com: Would you ever do anything like this again?
Brandon: Oh, yeah — in a heartbeat. It may have been bad out there, but I have never felt more alive in my life.
TVGuide.com: What are you up to now?
Brandon: I'm back to work on the farm pretty much. I want to get out and do some more traveling. I think I got the travel bug after going to Guatemala and seeing all that stuff.
TVGuide.com: Do you have a dream place to visit?
Brandon: Not yet.
TVGuide.com: Are you taking Grandma?
Brandon: I don't know, she might be getting a little too old to be traveling the world and trying to conquer countries!