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Aron Reveals Stephanie's Unaired Beef with Him (& More) on Deal or No Deal Island

Deal or No Deal's underdog hero, Aron Barbell, assesses the good and bad of his game. 

By Tara Bennett

This story contains spoilers for Deal or No Deal Island Season 1, Episode 10.

At the start of Deal or No Deal Island, who would have imagined that Aron Barbell, a mild-mannered accountant from Champaign, Illinois, would not only muscle out Boston Rob Mariano for screen time but also test his game over and over.

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Watch Deal or No Deal Island on NBC and Peacock.

Unfortunately, Aron's run on the show was cut down during his second appointment with The Banker. With his open vulnerabilities and strong strategy play, he clearly won the hearts and minds of audiences — and quite a few of his fellow players. 

RELATED: Nick Grasso Defends "Fiery" Amy & Talks His Record-Breaking Deal or No Deal Island Shocker

In this week's Deal or No Deal Island exit interview, Aron revealed to NBC Insider the difference between his friendships with Rob and Alyssa Klinzing, post-panic attack, what he learned about his gameplay, and who he would have wanted to take to the final two. 

When you walk into this brand new game and Rob takes you under his wing, that puts a spotlight on you. Was that exhilarating or overwhelming as you were trying to get your bearings?

It was overwhelming for a little bit. Even when I wasn't talking to Rob, I could still see the cameras on me. And it's crazy because they don't tell you like to take your hand up off the break. There's none of that. From the first day, they need as much as they can. So you're put into the ring and it's trial by fire. I got used to it pretty fast and I think that was the case for everyone. It was just simple reminders of positioning yourself like it's a play, to open up to the camera and that kind of stuff. I wasn't thinking that, "Oh, this is gonna be more screen time."

I have a very big chip on my shoulder so I was like, "If I'm gonna get more screen time, I want it to be me." And it worked out that it was a little bit of both. 

Joe Manganiello stands next to Aron Barbell sitting with the Banker Ledger in front of him on Deal or No Deal Island Episode 105.

Let's talk about your alliance with Rob. While you were in the game, did you have a clear sense that Rob was using you to do what he wanted you to do for his game?

It was on and off. At first, I was super aware. Like the first night, everyone is trying to game talk without Rob. The worst-case scenario is if I need to eliminate Rob, so be it. We're all like it's Rob Mariano. It's not like some Survivor [winner]. It's like the Survivor winner. So, I was aware of it.

But to me, the reason that Rob is the best of the best is because despite his target and despite his name recognition, he has a way to bring it all back down. He told us, "I know I'm not gonna win. I'm just here for a vacation," which we kind of all knew was B.S., but it calmed us down to an extent. He really had a way of toning it down and talking to you one-on-one. Eventually, I let my guard down a little bit. 

RELATED: Yes, Boston Rob & Aron Barbell Are Friends IRL After Deal or No Deal Island [Interview]

And it wasn't Stephanie's claim at the end — I'm skipping ahead to last night's episode — it wasn't the lie at the end that got to me. It was this idea that I'm not playing as a team and not building the pot. He's out for himself. I felt bad that I was out for myself, for some reason. I got my own head. But my point there is that with Stephanie, I was always aware that Rob, at any point, will not make an alliance with me unless it benefits him. What I was trying to find the line of was that all the moves he makes are benefiting me as well. I felt like that for most of the [game]. And Stephanie's point made me second guess that. I realize now that the moves he made all benefited him. But almost all of them benefited me so it can be both.

You both went very far into the game together. But the last two episodes were essentially forcing everyone to mentally pick who they would want to go to the finale with. Who was your best-case scenario?

I knew that game-wise, Amy was my best bet and we both knew it. Then for me, the middle ground was always Jordan. Jordan and me were super close. She's a great friend of mine. She teared up when I left. She's very even and a very calming presence, so her tearing up takes a bit. I always wanted to be in the end with a friend that I could beat. I could have beat [Rob] but he's the hardest one [to beat].

Jordan Fowler and Aron Barbell chat on a deck in Deal or No Deal Island Episode 106.

Let's go back to your bestie, Alyssa. My impression was that she was the yin to Rob's yang. Rob was your strategy buddy, but she was your "I can turn the game off" friend on the show, yeah?

That's exactly right. You nailed it. Everyone else was a blank slate and Alyssa and me really bonded over personal things. We talked personal things first and then got into the game. Me and Rob started the game like we could be the numbers guys. Alyssa and me were blank slates ... She became a support system.

I always go back to the argument in the jungle with Claudia and Kim, which is great television now, but I hated it. Was not fun. Alyssa was the one who said, "You gotta go back. You've got this and it's OK. Don't worry about it. Don't get in your own head." Rob was always going to struggle ... even when he was telling me the truth and being honest, he knew that I was gonna doubt him at the time. Nowadays, I wouldn't doubt him at all. And Alyssa didn't have that Survivor pedigree, obviously. 

When she left the show at the end of Episode 7 and you had a panic attack, I think a lot of people really understood how this game can get into your head. What did you have to say to yourself to keep going? 

Yeah, you could see it. I was in my own head. Rob said 100 times, "You gotta get out of your head." You're really leaning on everyone and the culmination of that [Temple] argument really felt like toxicity. And in credit to both of them, they realized they needed to be separated so that's good.

For me, I just held a lot on that moment. I remember the last thing I said to her was, "I'm sorry, I didn't defend you." Stephanie was yelling at her during Temple and I didn't say anything. And she whispers under her breath — which she didn't mean for me to hear — she said, "No one defended me." And I was like, "Oof...that hurts." Credit to her, she knows that game-wise, it was a tough place. You can't throw yourself in front of this argument. To answer your question, I learned that I had to go through that part. People say, "What would you change?" I had to have that panic attack and freak out because I let that get to me and eat at me. Now I feel like next time...like Rob and Stephanie had that argument in the end [of this episode] and I handled it.

RELATED: Watch the "Night Owls" Form a Deal or No Deal Island Alliance to Take Down Boston Rob

They didn't show it but Stephanie and I got into a small argument after the most recent excursion, and I just handled it like a champ. So the context for that one is that I had thrown him and Alyssa under the bus when it came to Miranda's truth bomb. She was under the impression that it was completely not my idea. It was Rob's idea. My impression was that it was my idea but Rob kind of influenced me. Her point was, "Oh, you lied to me!" She called me the master manipulator. "You've been pulling the strings. You got Rob and me to fight." I mean, not really. You guys were oil and water to begin with, even without that. So a little part of me was like, "OK, alright." But part of her is right. I think I pitted them against each other. I didn't realize until too late that maybe I should have owned up to it earlier. 

It must be hard to second guess yourself when you're in it and everything is so heightened?

You can't dwell on the mistakes, which is something I struggle with a lot. And that's why I think I made more mistakes because you dwell on the earlier ones. 

Aron Barbell flexes as Joe Manganiello smiles in Deal or No Deal Island Episode 110.

Coming into your second go with The Banker, how did you feel?

I was very confident. I could feel it. Production could tell I was confident. The first thing that Joe [said to me] is, "Your chest is more puffed out?" They clued into it immediately. I'd been there, done that. I call myself a statistician, so I was kicking myself. But at the end of the day, I'm a huge TV fan and this is a full circle. I felt like I put myself in a great position for this, and I'm gonna get myself out of this.

How's it been watching the show unfold with your family? And are you still with your girlfriend?

Yes. And it's been crazy. My family is just through the roof. This is like the only thing they talk about. My dad and my mom, everyone was obsessed with this when I was cast. But then the episodes came out and they're like, "You're the star of the show!" It was crazy.

People recognize me from TV sometimes. I'm not Rob yet. I live in a college town so Deal or No Deal Island isn't their jam. But it's been great. Honestly, even emotionally, I feel like I grew a lot from it. I'm a lot more confident. And then people in my family, this is something they really look forward to. I know a family member who's struggling with something and said to me, "I'm a little lonely but every Monday night, I get to watch Aron and that's amazing."

Aron Barbell and Joe Manganiello shake hands in Deal or No Deal Island Episode 110.

Has this ignited your reality competition spark to do more?

Rob was like, "If you want to do this, just put it out in the world and the world will listen." I definitely want to do more shows. He started CBS and you don't flip-flop all the time. Rob going to NBC is a big deal. So people ask me, "Survivor? The Amazing Race?" I love those shows and they would be a lot of fun someday. But for me, NBC gave me my chance and I'm going to stick with NBC. So the obvious ones are The Traitors. I'm gonna guess House of Villains is not going to call me. But definitely, I would love to do another reality show. Here's what I'll put out there: NBC should create a new partner show because there's no competition. The only one is The Amazing Race. CBS had Amber and Rob, so me and Rob? I don't know if I'm Amber level, but I would pair with Rob.

RELATED: Traitors & Deal or No Deal Island Contestants Talk Gaming Strategy with Joe Manganiello

I also want to see "I will avenge you!" shirts printed and you wearing them from now on.

I have no memory of that. When I saw that, I was like, "I said that?" But it was a great moment.

New episodes of Deal or No Deal Island air on Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.