Nicholas "Sifu" Alsup
Survivor 45 is here! Every week, Parade.com's Mike Bloom will bring you interviews with the castaway most recently voted off of the island.
Nicholas "Sifu" Alsup has made a living keeping people on their toes. As a devout follower and teacher of martial arts, he has spent decades studying the art of not projecting your moves. Unfortunately, though, that "box of chocolates" attitude was not a sweet treat to the Survivor 45 contestants. Though entertaining, Sifu's behavior was perceived as erratic and threatening. And so the newly-merged tribe chose to remove the wildcard from the deck, as he just missed out on his dream of making the jury.
A musician and devotee to metal music, Sifu came into Survivor with a song in his heart and a dance to boot. He showed how light on his feet he was when he immediately began running around the Reba camp, searching for idols and spying on his tribe members. Unfortunately, his behavior quickly made him a red flag for the red tribe, and he was on the outs. Though Reba won out through the first stage of the game, the swap allowed his tribe to finally address Sifu's sketchiness. Luckily for Sifu, his blindside was avoided with a last-minute swerve when Sean Edwards chose to leave the game. Sean not only granted him a second life in the game, but also some key intel on his way out: The vote for him came from one of the Reba women.
Sifu was not pleased returning from his first Tribal Council, and the Dragonball Z fan immediately put on his scanner to suss out who had voted for him. He settled on Janani "J. Maya" Krishnan-Ja, lightly intimidating her with his "push hands" accolades and declaring that he had an idol. Through challenge wins, Sifu remained safe the next two rounds, and even got to exact some "revenge" on J. Maya. Just when the castaways thought the individual game had begun, it suddenly turned tribal again. Sifu found himself on a tribe of six once more and, for the first time, felt his "mortality." He saw a Belo bloc in front of him, and tried to encourage a blindside on Bruce Perreault. But, despite Bruce's allies' increasing displeasure of him, they chose to stick together. The two men faced off like they did in the beach earlier that day, and Bruce was the victor. Sifu was sent out unanimously, heartbroken for just missing the jury, but still letting out one more holler for the world to hear.
Now out of the game, Sifu talks with Parade.com about why he didn't play his Shot in the Dark or fake idol in last night's vote, his perception as a wildcard, and his reaction to getting to express the importance of meditation on the show.
Related: Read our Survivor 45 pre-game interview with Nicholas "Sifu" Alsup
So let's start with where things ended. You talked about feeling your "mortality" for the first time on the day you left. And you seemed almost uncharacteristically morose throughout your time on Lulu beach. Did you have any inclination to play your Shot in the Dark at Tribal Council, especially since you just saw Kaleb's hit last time?
So that was that was quite the emotional roller coaster. And that's why you saw a Sifu that was different. And his energy was a little bit shifted. I just lost that individual Immunity Challenge. I'm on the beach with people who don't really know or necessarily want to side with me. So there's a lot against me. And, not shown on TV, I didn't bring my bag either. So I didn't have my bag of tricks with me. So I would have played a Shot in the Dark, or I would've even played my fake idol that I made to some degree. But, again, I can't place blame on those things. You have to come prepared. You have to do your thing. I fought to the very end and did what I could. But that's definitely the circumstance that prevented me.
So, with your bag left behind, what was the afternoon like? We see you pitch getting rid of Bruce and trying to get Emily, Drew, and Kendra on board. Was it that simple, or were there other things afoot?
Well, I was definitely in everybody's ballcourt that night. Playing the field, enjoying that feeling of trying to fill other people's energy and where are we going with this. I got good reads; I got bad reads. So I did pitch Bruce, and I was even on board to whatever they wanted to do. I was like, "I would be on board to do whatever that you wanted to do." Obviously, that's the obvious pitch, because you don't want you to go. But it made sense because Bruce had brought a lot of animosity to some of these people. So I was like, "I don't see why they wouldn't want to get Bruce." But he is Belo. So it just was a hard fight.
It was clear to us that there was a foursome on Reba, and you were on the bottom. And one of the reasons why you were voted out, as Kendra expresses, is that you were an "easy vote" and at the bottom of the tribe. Did you get a sense as to the dynamics and your position when you were out there?
Yes, and no. In the beginning, when I was going Tony Vlachos, when I got caught, it was more of a fun moment on the beach. It didn't look as great watching it back. But I think that just was an easy target to paint. "He's sneaking around, so we can do this." Even when Drew and Austin found the idol, they were like, "Oh, Sifu was digging around." It was easy to paint that target. So I just think that there were some great relationships. And we had talked individually; a lot of those people I love. And I think it was just easier to paint a target than just show some of that closeness.
To that point, you definitely did a lot of shenanigans this season, whether it was hunting for idols, trying to spy on others, sneaking up on people. Katurah even said last episode you asked her how to spell her name! Were you aware that these were making you come across as such a "wildcard" to the other castaways?
Oh, for sure. I mean, what you see is what you get. I'm just like that. I'm crazy. I'm fun. I just pull that energeticness out, because I always believe that everybody should be able to pull from the inner child and just enjoy the moment. Take it for what it is; learn from everything around you. But I think the perception that from other people, I believe, was, "He's just kind of cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs." [Laughs.] And some of them liked it. Some of them were just kind of tipped off; they didn't really enjoy it. But I could sense all of that. And the thing is, I enjoyed being out there and having the adventure of my life. Asking Katurah how to spell her name was honestly just a fun thing, and I was messing around with her. But she came back to me, that wasn't shown, and she's like, [Leans in.] "Man, you can't be asking people their name!" [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] Let's talk about J. Maya. Again, from our perspective, it was clear you two were on the outs of Reba. And she told me last week that she had actually come to you saying as much, and you proceeded to throw her under the bus to the others. In the swap, we see you pin the one vote against you on her. And it culminates in you targeting her at mergatory. Talk to me about your relationship.
Well, firstly, J. Maya is a phenomenal vocalist, musician. I love her music, and she's an amazing person. We did talk. She came to me, and we talked a little bit about, "Okay, we are kind of on the outs. What can we do together?" But, being on an island, you get one suspicion, it could change your entire perception of someone. I got a few things of, "Oh, maybe she's in with these other people. And I'm the person being dragged along. So now let me try to flip it on her and see if I can paint more of a picture or target on her." Especially when she got back from the adventure. I was like, "Oh, she's got something!" And so I just started painting these different pictures of her. And I think even making that fake idol really helped flip it onto her, too, as we progress throughout it. But I think J's a great person. And I think we should have done more work together, for sure.
Talk to me more about that fake idol. When did you decide to start making that, and how aware were you that the idol had already been found on Reba?
I got a suspicion that there was an actual idol that had been found. And so I just was like, "I'm not gonna find it. I'm going to keep looking if I can. But I'm gonna make my own." And I'm glad I did, because it created enough suspicion for them to start painting a target on J. And it was something I was going to keep in my back pocket, in my bag,one of the two. I should have kept it in my back pocket. [Laughs.] But, yeah, it would have been a defining turning moment for me, because I could have at least pulled that out during my final Tribal.
Let's say you were able to survive that vote and Bruce goes. At the point you left, who were you eyeballing for your endgame. Would you have stuck with Reba, despite knowing you were on the bottom?
So, if I was not voted out, moving forward me and Katurah would have linked up immediately. Me, Katurah, and Kaleb, if he's hypothetically still there. I started great relationships with them. And something that many people may not know is me and Katurrah are 10 minutes from each other. Literally, she lives in St. Louis. I live in O'Fallon, Illinois, which is 10 minutes from each other. So we were going to call our little connection "St. Lunatics." [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] "I want to know how to spell your name, but I'm never going to write it down!"
[Laughs.] Yeah, it's just funny how things work. This game, as a fan watching back, this season is beautiful. I think they've done an amazing job. This editing is crazy. The twists and turns. I'm a student of the game for sure.
Who would you say you were closest with on Reba?
Mama J and I were the closest. And you don't really see her and I talk very much. But each and every single night, we would go to the beach, and we would check. And that is least how she started fending for me, whenever she's like, "Without Sifu, we'd still be in the water waving!" So she at least had some gumption there to where she could fight a little bit for me and tell me a few things here and there. But she would be the closest that I was with, and I would talk to [her] quite often.
How truly blindsided were you when you found out that the vote was initially on you rather than Sean at that first Reba Tribal Council?
I was pleasantly surprised. I mean, everybody suspects that their name is going to be written down at some point. You have a little bit of wavering suspicion. So I had a little bit, but it was definitely a shock. I could've said goodbye to Sean and be like, "Gonna miss ya." But I was like, "Who voted Sifu?" [Laughs.] And so after he told me, I was like, "Well, that eliminates him off of it. So now there's only three people that could have written my name." And equally Dee and J was on my mind. I mean, did you see how that Tribal, afterwards, they were sitting there, and they were just like...[Looks sheepishly side to side.] Crickets, crickets, crickets. I'm like, "Guys! You guys always talked to me. And now it's nothing." So it was just it was very obvious Dee or J were on my list.
We got to see a very different side of you in the secret scenes this season. In one, you try to make fire for eight hours, only to come up short. In another, you talk about the anxiety you feel about other people, stemming from being adopted. In both, you speak on how meditation helps you get through those moments of negativity and adversity, and how that informs who you are. Talk to me about getting to showcase that mindful side of yourself.
I review my trials and tribulations as something to be learned from. It wasn't always that way. I used to delve more into "why me" and this and that. But then I found a way to find strength through those things and find clarity through meditation and Tai Chi and martial arts, because it grounded me. So when you see Sifu being crazy or being outgoing or wild, that is honestly who I am because I choose positivity and happiness over the alternative. I would rather be that all day every day than soak in the negativity and the bad stuff and all the stuff that you can see on social media, all that blah, blah.
I allow myself to flourish internally and positively. Whether that's taken great or not, I still want to be that guy who has an inferno of positivity and love inside. From everything that I've been through, whether it's me losing two of my best friends, me being adopted, and just kind of trying to figure out who I am growing up. Having wonderful parents that have helped me, figure out who I am, but just not knowing the truth. All that stuff like inside, then finding the gumption to just drill out eight hours to make fire. Then I realized like, "Oh, we don't have wind! We need to take this down to the beach." So all these things are just a combination of meditation, happiness with myself, and true peace within. And I want to teach that to the world. [Leans in.] To the world!