Matthew Grinstead-Mayle has no memory of scary Survivor fall

Matthew Grinstead-Mayle has no memory of scary Survivor fall

He came. He saw. He fell.

Of course, it wasn't quite that simple for Matthew Grinstead-Mayle. His journey to even get on Survivor 44 was long and arduous. He applied for years. He studied the game. He built challenges in his backyard. When Matthew finally did get on the show, he set out to aggressively embrace the adventure — perhaps too aggressively.

While Matthew proved himself an able gamer by figuring out a new way to use the Shot in the Dark, finding a hidden immunity idol, and constructing and planting a fake idol that Jaime found soon after, all of that came undone when he decided on day 2 to climb a dangerous rock by the tribe's beach. When Matthew fell, his chances tumbled down with him.

The Ratu contestant tried his best to fight through the pain, but after another medical evaluation on day 11 — and with the discomfort increasing rather than decreasing — Matthew determined that the agony was simply too much to bear and left the game.

Did Matthew ever get an opportunity to say goodbye to his tribe? What happened after he left the game? And how is the shoulder now? We asked the sixth one out of Survivor 44 all that and more, including what happened to his immunity idol, what we didn't see, and if he's hoping for an invitation back à la Bruce Perreault.

Matthew Grinstead-Mayle on 'Survivor 44'
Matthew Grinstead-Mayle on 'Survivor 44'

Robert Voets/CBS Matthew Grinstead-Mayle on 'Survivor 44'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The last we saw you on the show, you said you had a big decision to make in terms of whether to continue in the game or not, and the next thing we knew you were gone. So when and where was that decision made?

MATTHEW GRINSTEAD-MAYLE: That decision was made just basically on the severity of my injuries. Survivor did a great job of portraying me in a really great light. One thing that they didn't really allude to was how much pain I was actually in. And the extensiveness of my injuries that I was suffering really were the reason that I had to bow out. I had to have shoulder surgery, months and months and months of PT. The laundry list of things that had to be addressed with my surgery is quite long. So it was the right decision to make, and [unfortunate] for me, but it was the right decision to make.

You made that decision at the examination after the challenge?

Yeah. They don't show it, but Dr. Will and I were talking, and I couldn't raise my elbow more than shoulder height. I was impaired. I could not move my arm. At that point, I had dislocated it twice in the game. We didn't know the extensiveness of my injuries, but I had fractured my humerus and had a piece of that broke off and had to be removed. I fractured my scapula that had to be reattached, my subscapularis, and that also had to be reattached. I tore my rotator cuff, I tore the lining of my shoulder. The extensiveness of my injuries [was] really, really wearing on me.

Did the pain get progressively worse over the 9 days, or did you tweak it again at some point? Were you just hoping you could tough it out for a few days and it would get better and then it never did?

After the initial fall on day 2, the extent at that point was I had just dislocated my shoulder. I was feeling a little loose, but that's why you could see me in and out of the sling. I wasn't really listening to the doctor's orders. But then, in the third episode, we're digging in the sand, and you hear me say, "Ow, guys, my shoulder!" My shoulder had popped out of the socket during the challenge.

So I gripped my arm and put it back into the socket in the challenge, climbed underneath the wooden log, and then helped Kane complete the challenge after putting my arm right back in the socket in the midst of all of that stuff. The adrenaline's going and you're just like, "I want to finish this. I'm not gonna stop."

Did you get a chance to say goodbye to your tribe?

I did not get a chance to say goodbye to my tribe. And I was sitting on an idol — like, literally. I think that had I had the opportunity to meet with my tribe, that idol probably would have exchanged hands, because I really was Ratu strong. We bonded after our first Tribal and there was a kumbaya sense of unity. I really would've loved for one of them to see it through the end. So I would've pushed for one of them.

Matthew Grinstead-Mayle on 'Survivor 44'
Matthew Grinstead-Mayle on 'Survivor 44'

Robert Voets/CBS Matthew Grinstead-Mayle on 'Survivor 44'

You're saying that idol would've changed hands, but to whose hands?

At the time, it probably would've gone into Kane's hands. Kane and I at the time were extremely close. He was what I would've considered my number one. At that point in time, Brandon and I had formed a very loose alliance during the coconut challenge. [Laughs] It was the nuts that dragged us all down! But that alliance was very loose. When we got into the actual day-to-day, he and Lauren were connecting very, very strongly.

That led up to the first Tribal and me playing my Shot in the Dark. All those things all came together. But the tribe kind of changed a little bit [after] the first Tribal Council, with me being closer to Kane at that point in time. I would have given Kane the idol subtly if I could. if I had to do it in front of everyone, I probably would've given it to Lauren or Carson.

What happened next after you got on that boat out of the game?

Unfortunately, after I get boated off, we were still in Fiji in a Survivor COVID bubble. So when Bruce had to leave the bubble and then come back, he had to go through the quarantine process. There was that conversation — do I make the trek all the way to the other side of Fiji to get an X-ray knowing that they can't really do anything for me? They can't reset anything. They can't do surgery. None of those things are going to happen.

So, the conversation was, knowing that there's nothing they can do for me, do I want to wait until I get back to the U.S., see my own doctors, and get the ball rolling on that end? Or do I want to leave the bubble, come back, and then have to be quarantined? It was really just a conversation of when do I want to get medical care?

Did sleeping and eating better at Ponderosa make you feel a little bit better?

Absolutely. The cuts and the scrapes and all those things like that... that was the first thing I could notice was that the health of my skin came back. I had massive cuts on of my feet from my fall. And once I saw that my skin was starting to come back and starting to heal, I was like, Okay, this is a good thing. I know that the rest of my internal things — the things that I cannot see — those things are getting addressed right now. It was to a point [during the game] where we were not eating anything. There were days when we didn't eat anything, and trying to recover from an injury that's not the best place.

They kept showing that footage of you falling down off of that rock. What was it like seeing that, because I could see that being pretty traumatic to watch?

We, as a cast, have access to a psychologist. We check in regularly, but if we are feeling high anxiety or need a need to talk to a psychologist, we have that ability. I took advantage of that, because I'm not a person that watches FailArmy or people falling or skateboarder falls. Like, I don't want to see that. Watching people get hurt is not something that I seek out.

So, watching myself get hurt on a loop was not anything that I was looking forward to. It was definitely a traumatic experience for me. To be honest with you, the actual fall, I have no memory of it. It's completely blacked out of my mind. My memory is walking to the rocks and then my memory picks back up with me being in that pool of water. I've seen it a thousand times, but it's almost like watching someone else because it's completely blacked out of my memory. I see that is me, but I do not remember the fall.

Matthew Grinstead-Mayle on 'Survivor 44'
Matthew Grinstead-Mayle on 'Survivor 44'

Robert Voets/CBS Matthew Grinstead-Mayle on 'Survivor 44'

What's it been like for your husband to watch it?

He doesn't want to see me get hurt. He obviously had to deal with me with surgery, post-surgery, sleeping in a sling sitting up for six weeks. It was a rough recovery. He never wanted to see me suffer, but he had to go into the role of caretaker and make sure that I was not only physically okay and he could help me that way, but also help me mentally, because it was a rough struggle.

So much of my mental health is tied into my physicality and my ability to be outside. Sitting on a couch is something that's going to send me into a negative space. He knew ahead of time, "I have to help Matt through this process because this is going to be something that is going to be devastating to him personally, physically, mentally — all of those things." And it truly was. But I'm very grateful that he was there for me and he knows me really well. He helped me navigate through one of the roughest times that I've ever had.

Let's talk about some non-shoulder-related issues. Was your plan going into the game to always use your Shot in the Dark at the first Tribal so you didn't have to put a vote down on paper, or was that something you came up with as the situation developed?

We were on the boat driving to Tribal Council and I'm like, Okay, if everyone has told me the truth, I know where all the votes are going. I know that Lauren has this advantage. I know that she needs to not vote to bank her vote. Jaime was the original target and she had said, "I'm playing my Shot in the Dark" long before Tribal. Maddy and Kane were both voting for Brandon, and Brandon knowing about that was like, "I'm voting for Maddy."

I knew where everything was going, and I wanted to vote with Maddy and Kane. I wanted to vote with them, but I got thinking about it and I was like, I want the idol more. So I told Brandon that they were going to vote for him, and then it became a thing of, what's gonna happen after Tribal?

I knew that Kane was going to be on the outs because he's going to vote for Brandon. Jaime is scared and is not really strategically aligning with anyone. Brandon and Lauren are getting close at this point, so I see them as a power couple. And so if I vote with Kane and Maddy, Brandon's going to be pissed at me, right? So if I abstain from voting, then I'm kicked out of the whole situation so I can pick up Kane because I know Kane's going to be on the outs. Jaime's scared, so I can pull her in. And then Brandon's not acting all cagey because people are after him. He still thinks that I'm aligned with him. It allowed me to act in a very subtle way and it kept my hands clean. My goal was to flush that idol and find it. And that's exactly what I did.

What's something that happened that never made it to TV that you wish we had gotten a chance to see?

It was day 9 on the island, and I was scavenging for food. Our island was completely decimated. There just wasn't anything. We had maybe about two to three acres of area that we could live on. So, I am on the outskirts looking, and I have six coconuts for my whole haul. And I'm walking so slowly, and I see a piece of candy on the ground. [Laughs] Literally a piece of candy in a wrapper. It was yellow. And I dropped all my coconuts, looked around, and I grabbed that piece of candy, and I ran all the way to the other side of the island, hid under some brush, and I ate that piece of candy.

I told myself: Do not chew this, do not chew this, do not chew this. I hid until that candy dissolved in my mouth. And it was the best piece of lemon candy I've ever had in my entire life.

Hey, there's been other stuff that's washed ashore. In Panama, they found cocaine!

There was no cocaine on the beach! I promise my nighttime antics would've been very different [Laughs]

The Soka tribe on 'Survivor 44'
The Soka tribe on 'Survivor 44'

Robert Voets/CBS The Soka tribe on 'Survivor 44'

Any other challenges you built in your backyard to practice besides the snake maze?

Well, here's another thing that you don't know is that I was originally supposed to be on Survivor 41. I was cast and COVID hit, everything went bonkers. So that gave me this huge amount of time to prepare. If I went on 41, I would not have been the player that I was for 44. I wouldn't have been, there's no way. I built every single thing I could make. If I couldn't find it in my world, I made it. I would break down challenges into pieces. It was like, "Okay, I need a balance beam, and I need a bag of sand. Okay, got that part. Okay, I need to spin around and then I [need] to run this way. Okay, got that part."

It was just breaking it down into individual pieces and saying, "If I can try this at least one time, that will give me an advantage over everyone else." Because oftentimes in my life, if I have the ability to do something once, it kind of gets the the cobwebs out and I have the ability to then start working on efficiencies and working on ways to just navigate it. My plan was to give myself as much exposure to every single possible element that I could of Survivor, because if I can try it once, then I can get through it.

When you saw Bruce get an invite back to play again were you like, "Hmmm… Is there another one of those invites out there?"

[Laughs] I'm telling you, right now my bags are already packed. Tell me what color to be and I will make it happen. As a super fan, I got a lot of those big Survivor bucket list items, but the one that I didn't get was to see it through to the end. My biggest regret was obviously hurting myself, but I still had the journey of a lifetime even with a broken wing. I still affected the game. I still was an impact in the game. I still rose above it, like with the snake challenge. I have to take my arm out of my sling because I know I can do this and I'm not going to shy away from the preparation that I spent.

So I know that when the call happens, I am going to be even more prepared for that next round because if it is a second chance season, I already know Bruce is there. The people in this new era, if you go back even in the thirties, whoever they pull, it's going to be epic. It's going to be legendary. So I've got to step it up. Training for me next time started months ago. I'm already back in the gym, full training sessions. I'm two months ahead of where my PT wants me to be, so I am back to full body weight movements and being really aggressive with my training.

No rock climbing this time, though. Okay?

Not without gear! [Laughs] Not without gear and shoes. But if I go back, I will sign a contract to whomever that I promise I won't climb anything.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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