Sifu Alsup goes inside his 'gut-wrenching' pre-jury “Survivor 45” ouster

Sifu also reveals that Drew is not the only one who left his back at camp.

That may neatly sum up the experience of Nicholas "Sifu" Alsup on Survivor 45, but there are mysteries that still lie right beneath the surface of Sifu's game. Why did everyone on his Reba tribe always seem so insistent on getting rid of him? Why did they all believe he had an immunity idol (especially after his less than convincing lies that he had one)? And just how many hours of machete air guitar can one man play?

Sifu indeed was a mystery wrapped inside an enigma hidden under a question mark, so we attempted to unravel it when we spoke to the 30-year-old gym owner and Push Hands champion the morning after he was voted out of Survivor in a double elimination. Making his ouster even more painful was the fact that Sifu was voted out just before the jury — even though he had already made the merge. We asked him all about that, finding out that Dee (and not J Maya) had voted for him, and why folks from his own Reba tribe kept wanting to get rid of him. And Sifu also reveals Drew was not the only person to leave his bag back at camp. You can watch the entire interview above or read it below. (Also make sure to read our exit interview with Kaleb Gebrewold.)

Robert Voets/CBS Sifu Alsup on 'Survivor 45'
Robert Voets/CBS Sifu Alsup on 'Survivor 45'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How tough is it to make the merge and then not make the jury, which we heard you say was a dream of yours?

SIFU ALSUP: I know, man. So watching it back as a fan is truly beautiful. I'm enjoying every second of that part, but being actually on the cast and seeing my dream one step away being yanked from me was tough. I want to say that I'm so grateful that I made the merge and I put everything out there and I had that beautiful merge feast, but to not make the jury, man, that was a really gut-wrenching feeling. But I'm just going to learn from those mistakes and move forward.

Did you have an inclination it might be you when you walked into Tribal Council?

In my day-to-day life, I like to read energy and just feel off of stuff. And man, it was like a gloomy darkness. I was like: No one's talking to me, no one's looking at me — those sorts of feelings. And it was just one of those things I was like: It's do or die. I have to fight for my life in this game. And I felt no one wanted to really talk to me. And that just started putting these emotions in my head and my brain and I'm like: I'm sitting here, me versus them, and no one's wanting to look my way and talk to me about stuff. We had conversations, and those conversations I could feel were not as honest as they should have been. It just didn't feel right in those moments. So I just had a glooming feeling the whole day.

Robert Voets/CBS Sifu Alsup on 'Survivor 45'
Robert Voets/CBS Sifu Alsup on 'Survivor 45'

Walk me through why your Reba tribemates kept seeming to want to get rid of you. Other than the spying thing, what was the issue?

I think in the beginning for sure, it was really spooky to have someone like Tony Vlachos looking around and being crazy. And I think we kind of mended that a little bit on the beach, but I think it just created enough suspicion and uncertainty in this game for them just to paint an easy target on me.

So Drew and Austin, when they were looking for stuff, they were like, "Oh, Sifu probably did this or that." It just made it easy to be like, "Hey, he's doing this, he's doing that. He already was sneaking around." I was listening into certain conversations and having a blast, being a big kid, but listening in trying to get pertinent information. And it did turn out to be a suspicion, but I think that they painted the target on me because it was an easy target and they could run with it. I didn't understand it because I was loyal and I would've been a strong number, but that's how it rolls.

What was your reaction when you finally found out that it was Dee, not J Maya that had voted for you at that Tribal Council a few weeks back?

Yeah, that was kind of a funny moment. I don't believe they showed this, but my suspicions were actually on Dee and J. I had them pegged equally for that because I don't know if you saw that awkward Tribal coming back where Dee's just not even looking at me, no eye contact. So from that moment I was like: Okay, she's probably the one who wrote my name down. And then I looked over at J and J was not looking at me either. I knew Mama J didn't do it. Me asking Sean before he left gave me the clue: "Oh, it's one of you guys." And so I was really suspicious of both of them, and I think they painted it more towards J, but it definitely was equal.

Were you shocked when you found out that J was the one who concocted the plan to take the blame for your vote?

Yeah, that was interesting. As a fan, I can see a lot more stuff, but when you're there, it's hard to really make plans and think of other things at the same time that you don't know about. So when she does that, I think it was just one of those moments, it's painting more of a target on you, whether you realize it or not. And then Sifu's over here going to flip it around with this fake idol and all this other uncertainty.

Robert Voets/CBS Dee Valladares and Sifu Alsup on 'Survivor 45'
Robert Voets/CBS Dee Valladares and Sifu Alsup on 'Survivor 45'

J told us last week that she made a pinky swear alliance with you early on in the game and wanted to work with you but that you then immediately told other Reba people that she wanted you out. Is that true and how did that go down?

So we talked because we bonded over music, and J is an incredible vocalist and musician. I listen to her music on Spotify, so I do love it. So yeah, we did, and I just had my suspicions because after she got back from her journey, I just was like, "She's lying. I need to check this out." I wanted to paint more of a target constantly on her because I just didn't think that she was telling me the whole truth. Again, talking to people, you feel the honest connection. You feel that trust, and then one thing in this game can kind of twist everything. So we did have a good bond, but it definitely fizzled as we went through the game together.

You seemed pretty happy when Kaleb's Shot in the Dark worked. Were you secretly pulling for that to happen the entire time so J could go instead?

So they did not show this, but I also had an inclination to work with Kaleb and I mentioned to him that he should play his Shot in the Dark. I know Emily got to him first, but I mentioned it too, and he kind of got a sixth sense to play it. I'm not saying that me or Emily were the deciding factors for him to do that, but I definitely was like: I want him back. We're going to play hard together. We would be a great dynamic duo.

If there is no tribe split this week and all 12 players are on one beach together and voting together at Tribal Council, what do you think happens?

Whoa, that's a good one. I honestly think with the way things are going, if we all went to Tribal Council, no split, I think it would be Emily or Kaleb, I really do. Kaleb was a really straightforward player, and what you see is what you get. He was very in your face, smiling, lovey, happy and all that, and had a great sales pitch. But you could feel that it was a sales pitch in those game moments.

And so I think it would've painted another target on his back and it would've been him or Emily. And I only say Emily because she was sitting right in the perfect spot to be able to go any way that she wanted to. So getting her out would get us back to the game with the Reba, Belo, and Lulu kind of thing. And you would make Kaleb a free agent.

Robert Voets/CBS Sifu Alsup on 'Survivor 45'
Robert Voets/CBS Sifu Alsup on 'Survivor 45'

What's something that happened out there that didn't make it to TV that you wish we'd had a chance to see?

There's a lot, but some defining moments were me teaching Tai Chi every morning and doing Tai Chi every morning myself or with the Reba tribe. And even when we merged, I would go out there and just lead Tai Chi and breathe and meditate. And it was a moment away from the game where you just know that there's high anxiety, there's high stress. If I can give this to you and if I can help you out with this, I feel better because as a human being, I have that compassion.

We're on this island, we're starving, we have nothing going for us right now. Let's come back to ourselves. Let's meditate, let's breathe together, and let's move. They didn't show a lot of that, but we definitely had a great bond over that and I was happy that I got to do that and share that with those people.

And we had a secret scene here on EW of you doing that morning Tai Chi on the beach with the beautiful sunrise. And you talked about how it helped you get through a rocky period of your life. How was this experience for you in terms of that?

Survivor and the emotional aspect inside of things dug deep in me. It was a time for me to really search for what I want, who I am, and all these things. You're stripped of a lot of the things that you have day-to-day, your comforts and all that. And through many of the adversities that I've faced, I found that being stripped of all that stuff allowed me to really look introspectively and find myself.

Two of my best friends I lost when I was younger — going out there, I found that they were flooding my mind and I was thinking of them. And then that really fueled me to keep going to push on for them and for myself to continue their journey through me. So there was a lot of moments like that where you just sat under the stars.

And I'm living every day for 24 hours out there. You guys are seeing 90 minutes. So it's like: What am I doing with my time? So I'd sit under the stars and I would just think about some of those hardships and work through them and just appreciate what they've given me in this life.

Robert Voets/CBS Sifu Alsup on 'Survivor 45'
Robert Voets/CBS Sifu Alsup on 'Survivor 45'

That's awesome, man. So, how's Bruce at Push Hands?

Oh, Bruce. Bruce is not great at Push Hands. That was a fun time on the beach. I've worked with some minor league football players, and I think Bruce teaches his son and is a coach for a little league team. And I was talking to Austin and showing him some of those moves that I worked with the football players, and Bruce came right up in and we started having a little battle back and forth, which was fun and harmless. But it was hilarious.

If you could go back and change one thing about your game that maybe would have taken you down a different path, what would it be?

I know this is going to be all over the internet when I say this, but I also did not bring my bag. And so that was the defining moment in my game because I didn't bring my bag either, and I had my fake idol in that bag, which I would've played. Whether it worked or not, it still would've been another piece of information that could have really, really excelled my game. So that's definitely something I reflect on.

What would you have done with it? How would you have used it?

A lot of people believed I had an actual idol. So I would've just said, "I'm packing tonight. I'm going to bring it. I'm playing it. I have other chances. Let's go Bruce. Let's vote Bruce. And that way it's going." I think my name still would've came up, but at least it would've been way better of a fight.

Well, it's interesting because the last Survivor episode of season 44 you all watched before leaving for Fiji was the episode before Matt left his bag on the beach in a very similar instance. So maybe if you had just seen one more episode, you would've known to bring that bag with you.

Yeah, I definitely will reminisce on that for a little while, but I never sour from those things. I just learn from them. It's a preparation, be prepared in life, have everything you need, and move forward.

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