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‘Survivor 44’ is coming to a close, and if these last few tribal councils signal anything, we may be in for an endgame for the books.

After holding the Tika tribe’s caged idol for most of the game, fan favorite Carolyn Wiger decided it was time to go big or go home in an attempt to save “Three Stooges” alliance member Carson Garrett. If things went as planned, Wiger’s longtime target and NYC firefighter Danny Massa would be sent home in a blindside, leaving herself, Carson, and Yam Yam in a tribe majority going into the final six. The move, albeit successful, could have been made without the idol. Still, it seems to have shifted Carolyn’s game, bringing her straight into the spotlight, for better or worse.

For the character role some fans may believe Massa played this season, the Bronx native went impressively far into the game despite being Tony Vlachos-levels out there and a fierce competitor. Danny is surely one of the new era’s most memorable male players, and he made sure to cement his spot in a future season with a Robert De Niro-inspired exit that Jeff Probst will reference for years to come. He now heads to the jury, where his vote for the winner of ‘Survivor 44’ will be revealed on finale night, airing on Wednesday, May 24th.

Pop Crave spoke with Danny following his elimination about why he stands by his move to turn on Frannie, his reaction to Heidi voting for him, who he’d like to play with in a future season, and more. Keep reading for the full exit interview!

What a way to go out! What was going through your head when Carolyn whipped out that idol?

I was just impressed and bummed out. I was like, “Oh man, some plans are being foiled.” And yeah, I was like, “Man, she had it the whole time.” Obviously, it’s on your mind: “Where are these idols?” And there it was. So I was impressed. I thought it was actually the one Heidi found, and then when it was the Tika idol, I was really confused about what the deal with the Tika idol was.

Were you surprised to see the move come from her?

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. A ton of stuff Carolyn did impressed me and everybody else, so yeah. To not give credit there would be silly.

The Tika three managed to get Soka and Ratu to split their votes, with you and Heidi on Carson and Lauren and Jaime on Heidi. What were those last conversations at camp like, and where did you expect the votes to lie going into tribal?

At the time, I thought it was going to be Carson. I just had so much respect for Carson and how intelligent his gameplay was. I knew gunning for him would be a “kill or be killed” kind of thing. And we actually had conversations about it, and I was like, “That’s gonna be fun when we go after each other, right?” because me and Carson were kind of like-minded in our approach towards the game. Like, to go at someone, it’s not personal. So I knew it was kill or be killed. I think I made that pretty clear in tribal with the way I spoke, and the way I approached everything was like, “You go out on your shield.” And that certainly happened.

Courtesy of CBS

Let’s talk last week’s tribal council. Do you still stand by your decision to take out Frannie at that point in the game?

Yeah, absolutely. I think Frannie could have won every single challenge there. I mean, we can dissect it and talk about how, yeah, it might have been smarter here or there, but my brain just doesn’t operate like that. It doesn’t go back and say, “You know what you should have done?” We’ll find out next time I play what I think I should have done [laughs].

You were considered a threat from the start of the game, with members of Soka being wary of you for idol hunting. Not to mention, you also proved yourself to be a major threat in challenges. Did you think you would make it as far into the game as you did?

Yeah, I thought I was gonna make it further [laughs]. Obviously, with that being said, if I had gotten taken out pre-merge, I would’ve been surprised, or if I got taken out earlier in the merge, I would’ve been surprised. This is a game where just because you’re a strong player does not mean you’re not going pre-merge. I think that’s something that gets lost on you as a fan. And that’s something I lost as a fan until I actually played, where I’m like, watching the skill set of people pre-merge, you see that these are players. Just because you’re out early does not mean you’re not a gamer.

Relationships seemed very disgruntled this week, especially with Soka and Ratu being a bit apprehensive about voting together. What did you and Heidi view as your path to the end?

The path to the end would have been to infiltrate Tika. My ultimate plan was to infiltrate Tika, and I thought it would have been a logical argument to be like, “Okay, you guys know that if you do get to the final three, it’s gonna be a toss-up, and if one of you takes the other out and pulls a Jesse, that would solidify you.” And, like, kumbaya is great, but I like to win, so that would be more important to me. But yeah, that was my game plan, which did not come to fruition [laughs].

Heidi had a confessional, talking about trying to lie her way out of admitting that she voted for you in last week’s vote. How surprised were you to find that out?

I was surprised, but I wasn’t overly committed to trying to figure it out. To me, it didn’t matter either way. I went up to her, and I was like, “Hey, we’re getting back on the same page now?” And I believed her because I didn’t see the logic of why she would. Also, I saw more upsides to voting Yam Yam. I had a lot of respect for Yam Yam’s game. I was thinking about him a lot, like, “This dude is really likable, has super high emotional intelligence, is really reading the room, and is really getting people to say things.” He sets traps. I feel like with Yam Yam, even if he knows somebody’s lying, he’ll try to get them to repeat the lie a few times to see if he can get their tells. So I was like, “Man, this guy’s playing chess. That would be a good move to try and plot me and Heidi against each other.” But at the same time, I wasn’t overly connected to try to figure it out. Like, the vote happened already, so move forward.

Courtesy of CBS

The jury looked absolutely shocked at your blindside. What was their reaction to it like at Ponderosa?

Oh, yeah, it was fun. I think I’m a player who’s very fun to root for, and I’m even more fun to root against because I do kind of give off, I guess, a bravado or whatnot of confidence, whatever you want to call it. So it’s fun to see a dude who’s all smiles like that. They were laughing, and I think they were pumped to be able to party with me. I had a very warm reception. I got to see all these people who I have a lot of respect for, and, like, all the negativity that I had and the feelings I had of losing really got washed away because I’m now in the midst of these game players who I have so much respect for. I was like, “Okay, if this is the company I’m with right now, I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t leave any cards unturned.”

We’ve got to talk about the De Niro face when you got voted out [laughs]. Did you have any other impressions prepared?

Nah, I didn’t really have that planned too much. I had a feeling that it was going to be me or Carson. I knew, especially once the idol came out. I was like, “It’s definitely gonna be me now.” And then I was surprised that I saw Heidi’s name so much. I just did a DeNiro, and Jeff is a guy that just has an awesome sense of humor about everything. That dude is so much fun to banter with. He loves giving people the attention. When you watch him and see him interact with a character like Carolyn and a character like Yam Yam, you see he’s genuinely a fan of people like that who put on a show. And so he got to let me do my little show, and it was really cool.

Was Carolyn’s time in the voting booth really as long as the edit made it seem? What were you thinking at that moment?

Yeah, it was long. What was I thinking? I don’t know, what are you gonna think? I’m like, “What the fuck is happening? Is she okay?” But yeah, it was a long time.

The latest secret scene showed Carolyn talking more about how she feels that you don’t like her and that you both don’t click. You also had a bit of a tense moment with her at tribal council. What was your relationship with her like out there?

First things first, and this comes across beautifully on camera, she is a really sweet person. Wait, let me take it back. Sweet is not the right word. She is a very kind person. She’s super empathetic, compassionate, and she likes to do things. Like if she goes to the puppy orphanage and sees a golden lab that everybody loves, she would be like, “I want the one missing a leg and an eye because everyone deserves love.” That’s the kind of person she is. I did know she wasn’t too big of a fan of me, but she was always nice to me. She doesn’t really have, like, a meanness in her. But I knew she didn’t like me. Totally. Not even didn’t like me; I wasn’t her cup of tea. But I definitely didn’t… Watching the interviews now and seeing how much that affected her voting, I was surprised by that. I never really gave it too much thought. I was kind of indifferent towards her, like, “Oh, she doesn’t like me? Alright.” What are you gonna do about it? Not everybody likes each other.

Courtesy of CBS

You spoke about your “bravado” earlier. Did you ever try downplaying your threat level in immunity challenges after realizing how people viewed you in the game?

No. I tried my balls off to win, man. I just played against people who were really, really good. And that’s something that I knew I was gonna experience. It’s ‘Survivor.’ They don’t pick weak people to go on the show. And, like, anybody could have won and gotten to the end, and I tried. I mean, you saw it, the times I lost… I wanted to win really bad. And the reason I didn’t is because every time I lost, someone was better than me. And it’s not a lack of “Danny wasn’t good enough,” it’s that those MFs were good, man. So what can you do? I would love to see Yam Yam against anybody in that ‘Last Gasp’ [immunity challenge]. I’d love to match them up. Like, we were yelling at him to come out!

Yes! I didn’t know what was happening there with Yam Yam.

I jumped in to get him because I’m like, “Yo, bro. You won, man!” It’s fucking awesome.

Are there any moments that weren’t shown on screen that you wish we had seen?

Yeah, when me and Frannie are like clashing, and obviously this wouldn’t be particularly important to anybody but me and Frannie, but we were super tight throughout. No matter what. Even with gameplay clashing hard, we did breath work every single day and meditated together. We had a very cool routine. But again, it really wouldn’t be important to anybody but me and Frannie. So it was really cool to be able to bond and kind of have our 10-15 minutes where we just shut the game off and just enjoyed being in beautiful Fiji.

Courtesy of CBS

I definitely see you playing again. Are there any ‘Survivor’ greats you’d particularly like to compete against in a future season?

Yeah, I’d like to whip Brice and Wendell’s ass in everything under the sun [laughs]. Nah, I’d love to play with Brice and Wendell. Jeremy Collins is like my ‘Survivor’ hero. And… Christian (Hubicki).

‘Survivor’ is moving to 90-minute episodes for Season 45. I have to ask, are you jealous? [laughs]

Yeah, I’m peanut butter and jealous, dog. I wish we got that. But I’m really happy for ‘Survivor.’ I’m really happy for Season 45 to get that. We’re all pumped. Who wouldn’t be? It’s just a great thing, I think.

You’re officially juror #5! What are you looking for in the winner of ‘Survivor 44’?

I want people to play hard, play to win, and take calculated, intelligent risks. And leave no doubt. Look at Maryanne’s final tribal. That is probably the greatest final tribal of all time. And I think that’s awesome. I think that you should strive to have final tribals like that. But I also think you should strive to have your gameplay reflect that. So I would respect an incredible final tribal, but I also want it to be like, “I don’t even have to sell this. This is what I did.” And then that being enough. So that’s what I’ll be looking for.

New episodes of Survivor air Wednesday nights at 8/7c on CBS.