09/23/2012 at 09:00 AM EDT
Zane Knight earned the dubious distinction of being the first contestant to be eliminated from Survivor: Philippines
. What did he think of being voted off – and of competing against former Facts of Life
star Lisa Whelchel? Knight, 28, opened up to PEOPLE about his ouster.
What did you think of the fact that there was a celebrity playing the game?
I didn't recognize her. I saw Lisa [Whelchel] and thought, 'Oh, she's the soccer mom.' I didn't know she was famous at all. If I had been on her tribe and knew she was famous, I would have gone after her.
You made alliances with every single person on your tribe. Wasn't that a mistake?
No! I would do it the same way again, given the chance. It was the right move. But then I told the other guys that I had made alliances with everyone, and they took it the wrong way. They thought I couldn't be trusted.
You quit smoking right before going to the island. Was that the hardest part?
Actually, the hardest part was being away from my wife. When you're used to lying down beside somebody and then they aren't there, it's a hard thing to replace. I missed her a lot. That was harder that not being able to smoke. But I'm back to smoking now; I have a pack of cigarettes with me right now.
Russell Swan took a leadership role immediately. What did the tribe think of that?
He was pretty abrasive at first, but that's just how he is. So I wanted to take him out fast. We didn't need his leadership.
It looked like you were safe, and then you asked people to vote you out. What was that about?
You can't win this game without big moves, and I thought it would work to blindside Russell. He wouldn't try to save himself if he thought I was going home. But when we got to tribal council, Russell pled his case. He's an attorney in real life, and he out-talked me. He said, 'Don't get rid of me. I'm changing my ways.' He threw himself on the mercy of the court, and it worked!
So you made it three days. What are your regrets?
I don't have any regrets. It was a life event, something that not many people get a chance to do. It was an amazing experience. So the positive will always outweigh the negative.
And you got to meet Jeff Probst!
He's intimidating when he's looking in your face during tribal council. He has a snarl about him when he says 'the tribe has spoken.'