What Happened to Randen on Survivor? His Injury Required Months of Recovery

Medevacs are a necessary evil of ‘Survivor,’ but Randen Montalvo’s evacuation was controversial in Season 46.

Jamie Lerner - Author

Mar. 20 2024, Updated 9:34 a.m. ET

Tevin and Randen on the Nami tribe in 'Survivor 46'
Source: CBS

One of the biggest risks that comes along with playing Survivor is the risk of getting hurt. While no one has ever died playing the game — we imagine production would shut down immediately — there have been some near-death instances in the show’s 46 seasons, such as Russell Swan’s unconsciousness in Samoa and Caleb Reynolds’s heat stroke in Kaôh Rōng. In Survivor 46, producers added another player to the list of medevacs.

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Randen Montalvo was pulled from the game because of a potentially life-threatening injury, but it happened so suddenly and randomly that fans watching at home are wondering what exactly happened. He seemed to be alright in his post-game confessional, so did he need surgery and why couldn’t he go back into the game?

Randen Montalvo on 'Survivor 46'
Source: CBS
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What happened to Randen Montalvo in ‘Survivor 46’? He was medevaced from the game.

Everything was going perfectly for Nami after coming in first place for every challenge so far. However, when Randen wakes up unable to move his hand, the reality of the game sets in for the Nami tribe. Randen talks to the medical team, who explains he probably pinched his radial nerve by sleeping on it.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “[The radial nerve] runs down the back of the arm from the armpit to hand” and “helps you move your elbow, wrist, hand, and fingers.” According to Dr. Will, a radial nerve injury should clear up relatively quickly on its own. However, Randen’s pain increased to his shoulder and back of his neck.

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The Nami tribe completes the "Persistence" immunity challenge
Source: CBS

This became a red flag for the Survivor medical team, who consulted with a neurologist to check on what type of injury Randen could have. Through research and consultation, Dr. Will explained that one of the worries is that Randen could have a bulging disk in his spine pressing on a nerve. Unlike a pinched radial nerve, this is an injury that could cause paralysis if not treated with surgery.

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So, Jeff and Dr. Will show up on the beach, which is never good news, to pull Randen from the game. They explain the fear of the bulging disk and book him in for an MRI the next morning. Because of this, the Yanu tribe was spared a third tribal council, and seemingly Bhanu or Kenzie were both spared an early elimination.

Jeff Probst in 'Survivor 46'
Source: CBS
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‘Survivor’ fans thought it was unfair that Randen went home, but it actually took him "months and months" to fully recover.

In Randen’s final confessional, he revealed that his “worst fear” didn’t happen and that he had fully recovered. This initially made some fans think that after the MRI, he should be allowed back into the game. However, because of the way Survivor is set up, once a player is pulled from the game, they can’t go back in, no matter what.

Fans pointed to the medical rules of Australian Survivor (the Australian version of the show), which allow for contestants to receive medical care and reenter the game if they're deemed healthy enough to continue. There is a 24-hour grace period for players to exit for medical concerns. Players can even skip a tribal council and come back into the game.

That rule seems to have served the show well, although it should also be noted that there are differences in the access to medical care between Australia and Fiji, where Survivor US is filmed.

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As it turns out, Randen's injury was more serious than we saw on the show. In an interview with Rob Cesternino, Randen provided a few more details about what he experienced. "I was in massive pain, trying to act like I wasn’t. I was delusional, I was having a lot of pain behind my neck and I didn’t really understand what was happening," he said, adding that he also was suffering from migraines. "I had no function of my right arm… I couldn’t even clench my [hand]."

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The MRI showed that Randen did not need to fly out for emergency surgery, but he still had a long road to recovery that involved anti-inflammatories and physical therapy on his arm. He says that it took several months for his arm to fully recover, and admitted that there was no way he could have continued playing the game (as much as he wishes he could have!).

New episodes of Survivor air every Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.

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