Matty McLean bowed out of Celebrity Treasure Island in one of the show's most dramatic and emotional farewells, but says his time in the competition fulfilled a near lifelong dream.
The Breakfast weatherman was left shattered upon receiving his marching orders from host Matt Chisolm, after he was beaten by Team Kahu's Jodie Rimmer in the elimination battle.
McLean was overcome by emotion as the realisation he was heading home began to sink in, but insists he is proud of his efforts and honoured to have competed on the show he has loved since he was a child.
"It honestly was incredible," McLean told the Herald. "I'm so pleased that I got to live out that dream of mine and I learned a lot about myself out there.
"I'm really proud of what I was able to achieve even though I didn't make it as far as I wanted to. And I'm really proud of some of the things that I learnt out there as well.
"I started watching the show in the first season, so 1997, so we're talking 22 years ago.
"So a lot of my life has been dedicated to watching these kinds of shows. I absolutely love them. They have brought great comfort and joy to my life so the opportunity to get on one of these shows was honestly a dream come true."
McLean's exit was made all the more heart-breaking when Team Mako captain Gary Freeman spoke up at the last second but neglected to use the mercy card to save him from elimination.
Earlier in the competition, former captain Barbara Kendall had made it clear she would only use the card to save either Shane Cameron or Moses McKay, due to their perceived physical prowess.
Once Freeman claimed the captaincy, McLean hoped he might be thrown a lifeline. But 'The Whiz' had no intentions of helping his teammate and was merely telling him not to forget his hat before leaving the island.
"I absolutely had my hopes up," he said. "I really thought that I'd built enough of a rapport and relationship with Gary that he would use that card on me.
"So when Gary calls my name literally moments before I step on to the bridge, of course that's the thought that goes through my head. Of course I think he's using it, because wouldn't you?
"So when he gives me my hat back, I just thought 'you moron!' I don't want that hat back! I've been wearing it for nine days - it stinks! Keep the hat, Gary. I don't need it!"
The disappointment on McLean's face was clear and once he stepped foot on the bridge to leave the island, he broke down in tears.
Speaking to co-host Bree Tomasel, McLean explained how his attempts to prove himself to his teammates had brought back feelings of inadequacy that he had struggled with throughout his youth.
But despite being eliminated, McLean was proud of his efforts and satisfied that he was leaving the competition with his head held high.
"The hardest thing is that I've just come through so much of my life not feeling like I'm good enough," he said.
"I don't need to prove myself to Barbara Kendall, I don't need to prove myself to Sam Wallace. Because the people that matter to me are people that see me for who I am.
"That, believe it or not, means more to me than winning this game."
Reflecting on his time on the island and his emotion-charged exit, McLean hopes it shows viewers that anyone can go through times of self-doubt and that you should always be proud of yourself regardless of what other people's perceptions might be.
"I think it goes to show that we're all human and we all go through the same trials and tribulations.
"The wealthiest man in the world I'm sure has things that they struggle with. That's something I only really appreciated I was still carrying with me while being in this game.
"It was tough but I came out the other side with this renewed sense of belief in myself and the realisation that actually it doesn't matter about anyone else."
Having competed on behalf of the RainbowYOUTH charity, McLean hopes his experience can help reassure and inspire queer and gender diverse youth around the country that they will find their place in the world.
"I know a lot of young people struggle with their sense of worth, their sense of identity, and feeling good enough in this world, especially when you're struggling with your sexuality.
"I grew up in a small town struggling with my sexuality and it was tough at times. I didn't have the easiest run of things at high school and a lot of it had to do with being undervalued and underestimated, especially from men, thinking I wasn't strong and that I was weak because of who I was.
"So I've always really felt this need to prove myself and I felt it so strongly in this environment, especially being in a team where it really seems that a lot of my strengths weren't valued.
"But I just thought of a young me - a young kid sitting somewhere In New Zealand struggling with their sense of identity and struggling to come to terms with who they are and their value in this world.
"If they can look at me on this show and see me giving my absolute all and working my ass off and proving myself, that means more to me than me winning this game. That would be amazing."