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Plus: His reaction to bonding with Bret
Wednesday's episode of Survivor was the show's semiannual opportunity to tug at viewers' heartstrings: the loved ones' visit. After more than 30 days on an island, most people would describe a reunion with their siblings, spouses or parents as "priceless," but for Zeke Smith, a visit from his father may have cost him a million dollars.
"Honestly, seeing my father distracted me from the game," Smith, who was eliminated at Wednesday's Tribal Council, tells TVGuide.com.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
"That was such a huge moment for us as father and son," he says. "Survivor changes your life, and it certainly changed my father and I's relationship for the better."
Read our full Q&A with Zeke for scoop on his big bonding experience with Bret, his rivalry with David, and the "epic soap opera" we didn't see between him and Hannah.
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You and Bret had a really nice moment during your reward challenge. What was your reaction to his big revelation?
Zeke: I was so touched that Bret would share this experience with me. Coming out on national television is a tremendous feat, and I feel very privileged that Bret chose me to accompany him on this journey. I am so proud of Bret. We're still drinking buddies. Find us at a gay bar near you.
All of a sudden, in the past couple of weeks, the game turned into a battle between you and David. How did you guys get to that point?
Zeke: David and I respected the heck out of each other. We're both massive fans of Survivor strategy and saw the game through the same lens. A great quality in an ally, until, of course, you realize that you'll need to come for each other. We both saw each other as our greatest impediment to winning. Once we realized we'd turn on each other at some point, it became a race to the to get him before I "got got."
Do you have any regrets about the game, either specific moves or your overall strategy?
Zeke: I have no regrets. I'm very proud of the game I played.
What was going through your mind at Tribal Council? Did you expect the vote to go the way it did, or did you think that Will was going to stay with you guys?
Zeke: I remember sitting down with Will and saying, "Will, you know I need you much more than they need you. I'm your shield. I'm the one you can get out at any time and everyone will always be happy to vote me out, so I need you. You're the most important person in my game. Do you really want to flip and be on the bottom of someone else's alliance? Ken is already throwing you under the bus. You really trust these guys?" And I actually thought that I flipped Will back by the time we went to Tribal. Obviously Adam thought there was enough of a chance that I flipped Will, since he played the idol.
We thought David might have another idol (little did we know Adam had the idol), and that Hannah would be the person he least likely suspected would receive votes, therefore he wouldn't play his idol for her. Will, like me - and like a lot of us out there - is a massive Survivor superfan. I think he saw his window to make a mark on the game closing and wanted to act. I understand where he's coming from, because I had the exact same impulse.
Walk us through your thoughts when Adam stood up and announced he was playing the idol for Hannah.
Zeke: My thought was very simple: how long until I get a margarita?
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Were you surprised by any of the other castaways' reactions to seeing their loved ones?Zeke: No surprise. We all cried. It was beautiful. I'm crying just thinking about it.
Do you think the people Jay picked to go on the reward were good choices? Why or why not?
Zeke: Jay picked the exact same people I would've picked. You have to let the high schooler see his mother. You have to let Sunday see her husband. And after he agrees not to play his advantage, you have to let Adam see his brother.
Would you play again if given the chance?
Zeke: No question. Put me back in, Probst!
Was there anything on the episode or in the season in general that viewers didn't get to see that you wish we would have?
Zeke: America missed the epic soap opera that was me and Hannah. We instantly connected over our shared membership in the cult of the Upright Citizens Brigade. Every night we spent two to three hours having "cocktails" - talking strategy and telling jokes. She would betray me twice, and that cut deep. But, today, I consider Hannah a dear friend.
As a juror, which contestant(s) do you think have the best "resume" at this point to be named the Sole Survivor?
Zeke: David. No question. No one even close.
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)