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Deal or No Deal Island's First Eliminated Was "Hurt Deeply" By Fellow Competitor's Fake-Out

The first contestant eliminated from Deal or No Deal Island reveals a surprise medical check on set that changed the game.

By Caitlin Busch

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

As the 13 competitors starting out on Deal or No Deal Island crawled through thick, cloying mud to retrieve buried briefcases in the season premiere, several got stuck despite their best attempts at finding solid ground. Competitor Brantzen Wong took one step into the muck and was immediately trapped.

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"I’m stuck there for three minutes and then finally I was like, 'Screw it, I’m taking off my shoes. Everyone’s passing me,'" Brantzen explained to NBC Insider after the premiere episode. Soon enough, he was back in business and even ended up trudging back into the bog to help a fellow competitor, 63-year-old Kim Mattina, when she feared she'd retrieved the lowest-value briefcase. The briefcase Brantzen helped Kim retrieve turned out to be one that allowed her to take the highest-value briefcase — valued at $1 million — off another competitor. And it turned out to be Brantzen's undoing, as he later became the first person eliminated from Deal or No Deal Island.

RELATED: Joe Manganiello Teases Deal or No Deal Island Drama: "They’re Going After Each Other's Throats"

Why did Brantzen choose to help Kim get a new briefcase?

"I finally see [Kim] get dragged up [onto the dock] and I see that she has the lowest case. And she’s like in really bad shape. She’s heaving and stuff," Brantzen said of his decision to throw himself back into the mud to help a perfect stranger. "The medical team comes over and I’m like the closest to her. And they’re with her for half an hour just making sure she’s alive. I mean she’s alive but it’s like she’s not doing well.

"What I knew about her at that time was that she … loved reality TV," he explained. "And then like just seeing some woman so close [to me] and she's just in tears with the medical team. I’m just imagining how much of a failure you might feel like to make it one step in the mud and then you go home on the biggest platform there is — on national television when reality TV is so much of what you love."

Aron Barbell, Joe Manganiello, and Brantzen Wong participate in Deal or No Deal Island Episode 101.

He called the decision "pure emotion." Even with fellow competitors "Boston" Rob Mariano and Dawson Addis questioning his motives as they watched him bring the case closer to the dock so Kim could grab it, Brantzen knew "this isn't that smart. But I felt for her," he said. "She didn’t even have that ability [to go back into the mud]. It’s not fair. And then I was like, 'Well, I’m young enough and I have the ability, so I guess I’ll go!'"

The medical team looked Kim over for half an hour after the challenge

Players were given a set time to complete the initial challenge, yes, but between having to pause for Kim to be looked over by the on-set medical team — which Brantzen estimated took about half an hour — and everything after the fact, they were shooting for "hours."

RELATED: Meghan Markle, Chrissy Teigen & More: The Most Famous Deal or No Deal Models You Forgot Held the Briefcase

So to sit right next to a person who seemed to be in such distress for that long, even a hardened poker player like Brantzen was affected. "I think very strategically, but [I'm] also very emotional ... part of what makes me a good player maybe is people have always been my biggest passion. So I feel like I can know people’s hearts and people’s intentions. But seeing someone in pain or [feel] like a failure right in front of me for like 30 minutes is a brutal thing. I’m like crying for her. And then by the time that opportunity [to help] comes, it’s not even really a decision for me. It’s like I have to help."

Is Kim a Master Manipulator?

In the episode, audiences can see Kim was clearly exhausted by the challenge. (The medical team assisting her isn't a part of the episode, and was strictly behind the scenes.) But then in a confessional, Kim admitted that maybe — just maybe — she was playing up exactly how tired and helpless she was. This, she explained, was her strategy all along.

Brantzen Wong leans on a muddy briefcase in Deal or No Deal Episode 101.

"That was extremely frustrating. That was brutal, not gonna lie," Brantzen said of learning about Kim's manipulation. "I didn’t see it coming. Because afterward, it was one of those things where like that really hurt me deeply because she – not that I was looking for her to owe me or anything, but I would have liked [her] to say 'thank you' to me. That would have been kind. We had a conversation late at night and I was like 'Oh, you know, if no one came forward with the million dollars, who would you have picked? And she was like 'Oh, maybe you.' And I was like 'Maybe? I got it for you!'"

But, he conceded, it wasn't something he did "for a thank you, I just did it to help her. But like you’re gonna look at me and say I’m the enemy? C’mon! What am I doing? I was like 'This sucks!" he added, laughing.

New episodes of Deal or No Deal Island  premiere on Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT. All episodes will be available next-day on Peacock

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