Erik Huffman, <EM>Survivor: China</EM> Erik Huffman, Survivor: China

Even though everyone liked him and he never really seemed that big a threat, 26-year-old Erik Huffman was sent home on last week's Survivor: China (Thursdays at 8 pm/ET, CBS), the latest former Zhan Hu tribe member to be sent packing. The musician and part-time model spoke with TVGuide.com about what he desperately craved in China, learning to appreciate the small things in life and his relationship with fellow Southern cutie Jamie.

TVGuide.com: You seemed to have a really tough time out there. What was the hardest part for you?
Erik Huffman: There were a lot of hard things, honestly; showing up in a place where there's really no food, having to build a shelter, feeling like our team was an underdog from the beginning. It always felt like we were in an uphill battle. Life around camp was hard because we kept losing. It got even harder after the merge, when we were outnumbered. I just felt like I was [scraping] the whole time.

TVGuide.com: Why do you think Zhan Hu had such difficulty as a tribe?
Erik: We seemed to be physically less strong than the other team, and a lot of the challenges were physical. And any time you're losing, it isn't good for your morale. We kept a pretty positive attitude for the most part, but then we also had a few personalities on our tribe who were at each others' throats. Dave and Ashley didn't mesh well, Dave and Sherea didn't mesh well.... Really, I guess it turns out Dave didn't mesh well. [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: How hard was the lack of food? You seemed to be wasting away.
Erik: I knew going out there that was going to be one of the hardest things for me. Day after day not having food at all or very little... it was really demoralizing, because you'd have no energy for the challenges. I lost at least 30 pounds. And we talked about food constantly. [Laughs] We talked about every food under the sun at least three times — what we would eat right now if we could, anything from a fudge sundae to Oreos crumbled on peanut butter with chocolate syrup and Nutella with a cherry on top. I really like sweets.

TVGuide.com: Did being there make you appreciate the little things about normal, day-to-day life?
Erik: Absolutely. When I was out there, I was thinking, "I will never take food for granted again, or a comfortable bed." I do live a pretty privileged life, as most Americans do. I was really hoping that that would stick with me a lot longer. It's so easy to slip back into normal life, expecting a certain way of life. That's just a reality of our country and it's a blessing. I hope I can continue feeling grateful for it, because we really are very blessed.

TVGuide.com: What was it like to see your mom in China?
Erik: That was nuts. I was so happy; here, finally, was someone who loves me and knows me and I don't have to play a game with. I could just be myself. When you're out there playing the game, you get really paranoid, you don't know who you can trust, you're always on your guard. It was great just to have the comfort of her presence.

TVGuide.com: It seemed like the only chance you and Peih-Gee had was turning Denise. Why do you think she didn't go along with your plan?
Erik: I think Denise got a little spooked, unfortunately. Todd and Amanda had a lot of power in that tribe; I think Denise just got scared. I don't know if she was going with what she knew and was comfortable with or if she felt like she was being noble and loyal to her original tribe. My argument was, "Are they going to be noble and loyal to you?" [Laughs] It's the game of Survivor; you have to be willing to consider switching sides if it's going to get you further in the game. It was all in Denise's court — we gave our case, we thought it was a good one. If we kept harping on it, I guess it could have been annoying. Peih-Gee and I put it out there pretty clearly; it was like, "Here are the facts, the likelihood of what's going to happen; choose it or not."

TVGuide.com: Who do you think is going to win?
Erik: Based on everything that's going on, I keep thinking that Todd's going to get voted out, but he's made it this far. He seems to somehow have all this power. It's going to come down to who can maintain the most power without being too much of a power hog, which, in my opinion, Todd is.

TVGuide.com: Do you think Peih-Gee has any chance at all?
Erik: Her best selling point is that she has been a bit of a pain to a lot of the other people; Peih-Gee annoys them. The good news is that sometimes that's a good thing; if they think that it's a big enough deal that she'd be unlikely to get jury votes, that could be a reason to keep her around.

TVGuide.com: Any favorite moments from being there?
Erik: Seeing my mom. And the merge feast was unbelievable because I was literally starving. Even though I was scared of what would happen with the merge, I was like, "First things first. I'm going to eat." We got to go on some amazing rewards. The Shaolin Temple was really incredible; we got to fly on that private jet, and I got all the pistachios I could eat, which was a lot. [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: You and Jaime seemed to hit it off. Do you see a potential relationship there?
Erik: I will say that there was a definite connection between Jaime and I from the get-go. We hit it off and we had a lot in common — we were almost born in the same place. It was so easy to get along and we trusted each other right off the bat. She was one of the very few people on the show I felt I was building an actual relationship with, as opposed to a Survivor relationship. She's really special to me; I think she's an awesome person. We'll see what happens in the future, but I really hope she remains in my life.

Catch up on all the Survivor drama with our Online Video Guide.

Check out the latest issue of TV Guide on newsstands now, featuring CSI's "big shake-up" and a Survivor showdown! Try four risk-free issues of TV Guide now!

Send your comments on this Q&A to online_insider@tvguide.com