Randen Montalvo Says It Took Him Weeks to Recover From His Shocking 'Survivor 46' Injury

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Randen Montalvo

Survivor 46 is here! Every week, Parade.com's Mike Bloom will bring you interviews with the castaway most recently voted off of the island.

By the end of the first week of Survivor 46, Randen Montalvo had a good grip on the game. Despite his preseason misgivings, he was a valued member of an unstoppable tribe. And even if he was feeling on the outs, he had a tight ally in Venus Vafa and a Beware Advantage waiting to come to power. Unfortunately, Randen's strategic grip was tightening, his literal grip had gone slack. An overnight injury meant Randen had to be removed for further evaluation, grounding the aerospace tech's chances of flying further.

Perhaps it was the foreboding image of his family's impending "first out" party, but Randen hit the Nami beach and immediately started feeling out his competition. Particularly, he said Venus was playing very aggressively, even going so far as to call her "Parvati Lite." But when he found a Beware Advantage that took away his vote until they'd be facing Tribal Council, he knew he needed someone to confide in. And so, in a manner of days, Randen's worst enemy became his best friend, sharing everything with her. Unfortunately, all that momentum stopped when Randen woke up on Day 7 without being able to use one of his hands. After conferring with several specialists, the medical staff determined that he had to leave the game and get an MRI for the possibility of a bulged disc. Though he turned out to be fine after further examination, it was an unfortunate circumstance that had him suddenly depart the game.

Now out of the game, Randen talks with Parade.com about his reaction to his removal from the game, the timeline of recovery from his injury, and why he wasn't able to pass off his Beware Advantage to Venus before leaving.

Related: Read our Survivor 46 pre-game interview with Randen Montalvo

How are you doing right now, Randen? You've got the purple shirt and background, you'd be forgiven if I didn't think you're a member of Yanu!
[Laughs.] Don't get it twisted! [Holds up Nami buff.] I'm okay, though. I'm much better. I'm healed. I can wave by with both hands as the boat is leaving. I'm in a good place. Thank you for asking.

For lack of a better term, I think all of us are trying to wrap our hand around what exactly happened here. When you see Jeff and Dr. Will come up on the Nami beach, how surprised were you? Because medical has just checked you out that morning, did you expect to get pulled from the game?
100%. So I'm very observant. I started to realize that there was no way. So I when I came out of the challenge, they give you quick medical tests. And I had excruciating pain. You don't see that you'll see it in the edit. If you watch the scene again, I'm not moving my head much. And it's because it was hurting behind my neck, this big swelling. And when Dr. Will and the medical staff pressed it at one of the challenges, I knew with my arm that this was going to take longer to heal than I had.

Even though we were winning, even though I sat out once, I had a Beware Advantage, we had a down day, I felt like we were gonna I was in a good space. But I knew immediately. I crossed the dots. And you could see people looking at you, and you could see things that are happening in the overall aspect of the game. That just gave me a sense of, "Okay, I don't think I'm going to make it." And I kind of had this thing in my head where I was like, "Randen, don't flip out." Because I was so angry because I started to connect dots. So yes, I did feel like something was coming. I was hoping it didn't. But I had in my head that they were not going to allow me to continue like this.

So that being said, we have heard Jeff talk in the past 12 hours about how, in a medevac situation, an idol or advantage can be handed off to someone else until it's officially said that you're removed from the game. So how close were you to actually giving your Beware Advantage to Venus?
So this is a very, very interesting situation. So I had it in my mind to give it to her. What I was asking about, it's never been done before. So I was kind of like, "Okay, I have to physically give it to her." That's what was in my head. Nobody told me, "Hey, you have until Doctor Will [says it]." I've never seen that instance. So my idea was that I was going to hand it to her.

So what you don't see is, throughout the whole time, I'm trying to get to my blazer, because it's in my blazer. And I'm like, "I need to get to my blazer, I need to get to my blazer." And because of all of the commotion with Jeff and everything to that nature. I could not do it. And she's not allowed, I believe, to get it herself. She can look, but she can't pull it out and be like, "I'm good." So in my head, I'm like, "Okay, Venus, this is how we're gonna rock it. I'm gonna go get it. And I'm gonna give it to you slick." Because if I gave it to her in front of everybody, they're gonna target her immediately. Her game is done, toasted. They get to merge, it's just over. So that was the idea. But for some strange reason in the universe, I could not get to my amazing blazer. And that's all she wrote, unfortunately.  

You said that you knew it would be inevitable that you'd get pulled from the game. What was your reaction when it actually happened?
When I was leaving the island, it was really hard, especially looking back at them. Because I felt like I would have made merge. I felt like I would have done a lot in that game. It's pretty devastating. I was really angry with myself, to be honest with you. When I left the game, they were trying to convince me to kind of like "de-plug" from game. They were like, "Dude, you have a serious situation going on." And I'm like, "No, I would have made the merge!" It's hard to leave. Because that could be your only opportunity. And you're watching the island gets smaller, and then everybody's hands are getting smaller, and you're like, "What is going on?"

They take me to the medical and it's very scary. They take me to the island, and I immediately get rushed into an emergency MRI. They tell me that they have a helicopter on standby to fly me to Australia for emergency surgery. If I get on the helicopter, my wife is going to be called. I mean, I'm like sitting there. And you have to understand, in my head right now, I'm like, "But I would have made the merge!" They just had to tell me, "You gotta stop. You gotta talk about what's going on." But when I sat in the MRI for hours, that's when I started to hit me like, "Okay, this is a problem." I had to decompress. I was inside one of those enclosed MRIs. And that's what I had to time to reflect on my life and say, "Okay, whoa, this is serious." And I had a bunch of neurologists on a conference call. And that was pretty scary. When you see neurologists from Australia, that's when he hit me. It was pretty scary.

So how long did it take from getting that MRI to you waving to us in your Final Words that your arm and hand had healed?
They cleared me from that, and [when] I found that I didn't have to get on the helicopter, they immediately started therapy and anti-inflammatories. Because they felt like the swelling was right near the disk, but not pressing on it enough to where I need surgery. So, I immediately started anti-inflammatories. And then I started therapy for my arm. They gave me all kinds of monitoring. And shout-out to Survivor and CBS and everybody for the best treatment I've ever had. I mean, I have really good treatment with the military and my corporate. But this was next level.

They wanted to make sure I was good. Because that was one of my biggest issues was getting poisoned or paralysis because I know I'm hard-headed. I knew I'm gonna take risks. I mean, I took a Beware Advantage. I was gonna take every risk possible. But yeah, it was really hard. It took me weeks to originally get my arm to start getting a lot of good feeling. I could wave and move it. But I couldn't grip a can or something like that. And then my neck swelling started to go away in I would say in about a couple of weeks with the anti-inflammatories.

As much as the medical staff wanted you to "de-plug" from the game, I'm gonna plug you right back in. You told me in the preseason that it would be tough for you to do well in the game, considering how you can come across as rough around the edges. Did the reality of the game meet your expectations in that way?
That's a good one. So I think the initial reaction was not what I thought. It was a little bit different. Here's the reason why, because I had good reads on people. But there were some situations where knew I could not get in. For instance, I immediately understood that--and I think everybody saw if you watched it--Tevin and Hunter had an immediate bond. I could not get into that bond.  I tried, and there was no confirmation of that. Liz at that point is kind of along for the ride. Initially, when I presented myself and were trying to have this social bonding session in the beginning, not knowing each other, people automatically clicked.

And I noticed that Venus and I did not click with everybody else as just an observation. Liz is chilling out and doing her "Life of the Rich and Famous" thing. And I'm like, "We're not cliquing. We're not getting the crowd." And that's what clicked in my head that I need to start changing my game immediately. I need to start adapting very quickly, because people are starting to clique up, and we were kinda background at that point. Soda and Tevin are hyper-social players. I'm like a mid-social player. I can get there, but I have to have a catalyst. And so the first impressions of getting there, I immediately felt like I it was I had to change up what my perceived kind of gameplay was with you, based on what I was seeing with the hyper-social gameplay with my teammates.

That being said, we do see you in the premiere try to throw Venus under the bus, even calling her "Parvati Lite" to Soda. Was that just a matter of "if you can't join 'em, beat 'em"?
I just want to be clear. The "Parvati Lite" comment was not anything superficial. It was a test for Soda. So Soda was selling "trust real estate" to everybody. And I love Soda. Soda reminds me of my sister. She's a very infectious person. So I wanted to bond with Soda first. But she was a social butterfly. She was so aggressive with trying to make sure she was spread out, obviously to her to her advantage. I didn't feel like she was being genuine. So I set up a troll for the only person in Canada that admitted they're from Canada. And I was like, "I know she likes this person. I just connected some dots. I'm gonna set up an easy troll to test Soda to see if she can pass, a good test." And it worked. I told her "Parvati Lite."

And I said it because of her game. The first day we get there, shoutout to Venus. I mean, she looked. I mean, I don't even think I said my last name to her and she was gone. She was in the woods searching. The most aggressive Day One I have ever seen. So I was like, "Girl, what's going on right now? My name is Randen. Hello." And she's in the bushes flipping rocks. So I was like, "Hey Soda. Gotta watch her. I know you're trying to be cool with everybody." I was like, "Let me see who I can trust real quick, Parvati Lit." Boom, comes right back around to me. And I immediately knew I could not trust Soda from that point. So from that point on in the game, you'll notice I don't agree with Soda on anything. And I always had that stance throughout the rest of it.

Another person you seemed to clock is Tevin. In a secret scene from the premiere, he comes back from the journey and lies that he doesn't know if he has an advantage or not. You don't believe him, calling him the "Pied Piper" of Nami and saying, "I love him, but I can't follow him when he's playing that instrument of his." What led to you making that observation?
So I knew Kevin had to be an actor or something like that. I love Tevin, by the way. It's hard not to like Tevin, and that's his biggest weapon. So when he came back, I feel like Tevin sometimes overplays. He does a monologue. He has this beautiful acting talent, I feel. And when he came back, I saw him kind of being a little bit overdramatic, when it comes down to some of the way he was explaining things. And I've talked to him a lot in that game. I've seen his behaviors, and I just felt like he was not being genuine at that point. I got a gut feeling. And I read it immediately.

And the way he said the end part to me, I was like, you know, I gave a Tevin look. I was like, [Gives side eye.] I was like, "Something ain't right with this story real quick." And actually, I approached him about it. I'm like, "I know, you have your extra vote. You're not going to convince me you're not."  I actually did approach him about that. And I loved him, and there was nothing against them. But I just felt like he wasn't genuine. I felt like he shouldn't be; he has no chance of being voted out.

Let's say that you stay in the game and Nami ends up losing a challenge. You're able to do what Tiffany did and scramble to get your idol and vote back. What do you think would have happened at that first Nami vote?
That would have been insane. I wish we would have went, to be honest with you, because the lines were so blurry. But I think the reality of the situation was that my alliance with Venus would be really hard. I would have walked into there trying to maintain that alliance, but I think it would have been impossible. Liz would have agreed with Tevin and Hunter to vote against Venus. It's hard to kind of determine, but I think he was either going to be Liz or Venus at that point. It was really really hard.

But I wanted soda. I specifically wanted Soda because she failed my trust test and I was working on that. And I think I think I got to Tevin before. There's a lot of stuff that happens in the background. But I immediately told Tevin, "You have to go solo." Because I told Venus, "I will work on Tevin to flip him to soda. And I need you to keep Soda in check to stop saying my name." And then Soda had mentioned something about a women's alliance or something like that. And I was like "No, no, we've got to prevent that." So I was like, "We're gonna go Soda," and that keeps everybody in check. That keeps our alliance relevant and that keeps me good graces with the Hunter/Tevin thing going on. So I think it would have been really chaotic. I would have had to vote with the numbers. I would have tried to save Venus, but it would really depend on reading how all of us were going to vote at that time. I would need to really see if they were going to vote Soda. Then I would not play an idol at that point for myself at all, because I don't feel like I was going to be voted out at all. I think it was gonna be Soda or Venus.

One of the standouts from our talk in the preseason was the party your family was prepared to throw because they were so sure you'd be the first one voted out. So what was it like to come back and find out that you did go early, but not in the way they expected?
Here's the thing about that. It was really bittersweet. Because when I came back, they were like, "Well, when did you get voted out?" I'm like, "I didn't get voted out." They're like, "Well, you can where's the direct deposit?" [Laughs.] I'm like, "Oh, well, that's not exactly happening." So they're like, "We're confused. You're gonna have to explain." I was like, "I was medevacced out." And they were like, "What? You jump out of a plane, scuba dive. Medevaced?!"

So it was bittersweet. They were more concerned about my health at that point. But my daughter was really proud of me. So I was super happy about that. People don't understand. My family is very competitive, but they're also super hyper-supportive. So when I came back, it was love. It was appreciation. They felt like I was being a bit hard on them for saying that they were supporting the party so hard in the beginning, but it is true. I mean, it was fun. It was good banter. And I came back to loving arms and in great concern. I'm super proud of them, and they're proud of me. And last night was rough, seeing daddy cry and all that. That's not me at all. But it's humble pie.

Next, check out our interview with Jessica "Jess" Chong, who was voted out in Survivor 46 Episode 2.