Settle yourselves in and grab a few snacks, dear readers, for here is another marathon interview with the one and only Coach Ben Wade. Love him or hate him, you have to admit he's one of a kind. This season seemed to show us a more likeable Coach, and he's quick to tell us it was the editing that did him in during Tocantins. Read on for Coach's insight about the game, the players, and how hurt he was by the backlash against him. I honestly felt sort of bad for the guy.
Your exit speech was kind of un-Coach like. How did you rationalize the vote to keep your rage and bitterness in check?
[laughs] I saw that last night and actually laughed out loud. I was like, "I can't believe I said that." I was just so distraught, you know? I wish I wouldn't have said it. It was kind of a funny thing to say and I said it kind of jokingly, but it was very un-Coach like. I really think that I was so upset and in shock that I just couldn't believe that they were continuing to cannibalize themselves voting out the people that score points in the challenges.
I mean, I really came into this trying to be one of the strongest physical competitors and I was scoring points in challenges, except for basketball, almost every single time. So I was really distraught and I just was like, "I can't believe that they voted me out." It was pretty rough. I'm not mad at all now and I wasn't even mad a couple of days after. But at the time, it was just like, "What were they thinking?"
It seemed like the Villains couldn't get over their own egos to see that Russell was playing everyone. Was ego a factor in blinding the tribe?
I think that for me to go out there and say there are going to be people with bigger egos than me - I couldnít believe that there would be one, much less two, maybe even three or four. The tribe had egos. When Tyson was there, he kind of bridged that gap with everybody. When he was gone, the egos just became an all out war. And it did get in the way, because I begged Rob and Russell to meet with me on the beach and figure out a way to win challenges and to kind of regroup and maybe even form a different alliance. You know, they just - especially Rob - wouldnít have anything to do with him. I begged them to do that and they wouldn't.
In your opinion, why is Russell so good at manipulating people?
Well, I think first and foremost, it's because we didn't see him. As you know, we filmed in August and September, so we didn't know how he played. But I will give him his credit, he's a very ferocious player. He's very vicious and he is a pitbull out there. Nobody's really seen that. I mean, I had to just admire him when he said ďOne of these two,Ē when Boston Rob asked him who should be voted out next. That was crazy! He's got this bold brashness and very aggressive style and (he's) politically incorrect, that people haven't really seen before. I think that's part of the reason why he's able to be so successful.
Did you get a chance to speak with Rob after the vote?
I didn't speak to Rob obviously after the vote. I tried to give him a hug and I was really just distraught about that, because I fought for him all day and Jerry voted him off and she got the hug. I got the "little man". At first I thought he was talking to Russell, so it was hard. Have I talked to him since? Yes. Have we patched things up? Yes. Do I understand how he feels? Yes. But you put yourself in my position, I'm not going to tie it up and weíre gonna draw rocks and I might go home. I've got a one in six shot at going home after that. But definitely I think I did the right thing, because I wanted to keep the tribe strong. That is my mantra, survival of the fittest. Take the strongest players to the end. Fortunately this time, unlike Tocantins, I feel like I was one of the strongest players out there and I was justified in saying that.
When you met up with him at Ponderosa, did he say anything?
No, we didn't. He left because they were pre-jury. So I didn't get a chance to meet up with him.
Had you come up with any sort of medieval nicknames for the Heroes?
Man, you know I had names for everybody. I had names the whole time for everybody and I was spouting them a bunch of times. So, yeah, I had nicknames for everybody out there - from JT to Rupert - everybody out there was going to get their own nickname. I had it all lined up and ready to go.
How did it feel to defeat Colby, one of the biggest physical threats in the history of the game?
I really think the most satisfying thing about this time was the fact that I went out there, and I said Iím gonna do X, Y, and Z. And it goes back to the first one, too, in Tocantins, I said Iím gonna go out there and try to change the game, and Iím gonna be polarizing, and Iím gonna be one of the biggest characters to ever play the game. And I feel like I did that. Of course I looked at myself and said ďGee, I'm a little bit over-the-top, let me come out next time and be more humble. Let me be a warrior in challenges, and let me be more chivalrous to the ladies.Ē I think that I totally did that this time. So, to go out there again and to say that I wanted to be a warrior in the challenges and to be one of the top competitors and then doing that was very fulfilling.
Speaking of warriors, if you had made it to the merge, would you have joined up with JT?
You know, I think the thing is that if I'd made it to the merge, I think you'd see me there on the final day. I think if they had put me on the Heroes tribe, youíd see me there on the final day. I had so many people on that side, even in the very beginning, that I felt like I could play with because my gameplay would parallel theirs. So did I think JT? Yes. Did I think Rupert? Yes. Did I think Colby? Yes. Did I think earlier than that, Tom? Yes. Did I think Stephenie? Yes. Those were the kind of people that I wanted to play the game with. I gotta tell you honestly, when I got out there the first day and saw what tribe I was on, I was like ďHoly crap, I might get off first, they might vote me off first!Ē [laughs] It was definitely tough. I think it was an uphill battle from the beginning.
What was tougher on you, being in the weather this time or Exile Island on Tocantins?
You know what? I know that they told me they could have done a whole hour long out of what I was doing on Exile. I did a heck of a lot more...I loved Exile. I'm going back down there, maybe this fall with Debbie, just to go down there and just to be in that place. It was such a magical, spiritual place. The first time? Pure magic. The second time? Pure hell. So definitely the second time was harder, just because of the circumstances. Not the weather, not the surroundings - I really just kind of block that stuff out. I know it sounds weird and people think Iím delusional and all that kind of stuff. But like I was telling Jerri early on in the episode, (she said) ďI can't go on!Ē and I was like ďYeah, you can.Ē ďNo, you donít understand, I haven't eatenĒ ďYeah, you can.Ē Itís like mind over matter. If you tell yourself youíre gonna do it, then you can do anything. So it was more playing with people who wanted to slit your throat on day one vs. people from Tocantins wanted to slit your throat on day twenty. It was a totally different mentality in the game.
What was the deal with you and Jerri, it seemed like you there was a budding romance there but it kind of fell apart towards the middle of the season.
Yeah. You know, it made us a target early in the beginning, and Tyson and Boston Rob and a bunch of others came up and said ďYouíre putting a target on your back.Ē One of the worst things you can do is go out here is have an open ďrelationshipĒ with somebody because people are gonna want to break that up. So Jerri and I agreed early on that weíre just gonna downplay it and not really talk to each other that much. Itís kinda like what Tyson and I did, you didnít see Tyson and I having a lot of bonding time, just because we didnít want to have that obvious target on our back.
What about now - are you and Jerri an item?
You know, weíre not an item, but I havenít seen her, and Iím looking forward to seeing her at the finale. Sheís a great woman, a lot of character, a lot of spunk, a lot of independence. Iím looking forward to seeing her, we canít see each other until the finale. But...looks like thatís coming up in another month, so weíll see what happens!
When we talked to Boston Rob, he said you were supposed to be a man of your word, but felt like you wimped out with your vote for Courtney. How do you respond to that?
He called me a liar?
I believe so.
Then the gloves are off. Let me tell you about the real Boston Rob. [laughs] Nah, Iím just kidding. I could tell you about the real Boston Rob but Iím not going to. I think itís sad that he said that. When Jerri voted him out, I fought for him all day. It really bothered me. A good quote for you guys if you want to use it: ďYou meet the warrior when in battle, but itís not until victory is over that you meet the gentleman.Ē Iíve always said that thereís honor in defeat, more than thereís honor in victory. You see the true character of somebody when theyíre in defeat. And for Boston Rob to say that unfortunately shows that heís not necessarily a gentleman outside the game.
I donít have anything bad to say about him, I can see why he felt that. But it would have been foolish for me to tie up the votes and cast rocks and have myself voted out. In addition, put your ego aside, stop acting like the man, lose your hard-on for Russell, and get into an alliance - I mean, look, what is the ability of all great Survivors? To adapt strategically when a curveball is thrown. Rob didnít do that. And neither did I [laughs], Iím the worst strategic game player thatís ever played. But he didnít adjust and he let his ego get in the way. Maybe it stems from that conversation they had at night that showed Russell saying ďWatch your backĒ and Rob saying ďWatch your back.Ē Maybe it was from that, but unfortunately Rob slit his own throat and what should have happened is we should have gotten rid of Courtney. Then we wouldnít have kept losing challenges.
Did Russell reveal anything about his previous season, or his personal wealth, to you guys?
He alluded to some things. But he was trying to be very cryptic about things, obviously, which I think is good. Heís definitely somebody that is a force to be reckoned with, and whether he tells you that heís got a million dollars or not, it doesnít really matter. But he was being very careful not to spill the beans about what happened in his season because we hadnít seen it yet. We were all questioning him and he was pretty good about not saying anything to anybody. So I think he was just kind of hiding in a cloak of mystery for most of the time.
In previous All Stars seasons weíve seen people target previous winners, the ones who already have a million dollars. Did that ever come into play at all?
Thatís a good question. I think that really, there were so many of them. If you include Rupert winning the fan favorite, and you got Sandra and Parvati, we didnít know Russell, how far he went. You look at Rob, he essentially won a million dollars because his wife, fiancee at the time, did. Thereís just too many of them. I think if there was just one on each tribe it would have been easier. We did talk about it, it did come up in conversation, and I think it was something that was in the back of everybodyís mind but sometimes thereís bigger fish to fry.
So whatís with the numbers you were writing on your votes?
Thank you for asking, itís about time somebody asked me this! I came into the game with a lot of different combinations that I could have the numbers work in my favor. So I had all of these combinations and I totally wanted to have it be like, three different meanings. So the obvious meaning is that I wanted to spell out dragonslayer, and the Ďdí stood for a, b, c, d, for 4. A stands for 1, so I started spelling out dragonslayer, That was the first thing. But it gets a little bit more complex than that, Iím sure youíve heard of gematria, where you take numbers, adding and subtracting like in the movie with Jim Carrey in it, 23.
Look at the numbers I wrote down, youíve got 4 minus 1 plus 8, that equals 9, minus 1 plus 1 equals 2 minus 7. So that comes up with the numbers 4, 9, 2, 7. Genesis 49:27 - Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning he destroys the prey and in the evening divides his plunder. So thatís the second meaning that it meant. And then the third meaning was, I tried to group the numbers as I went along the way to the wisest of the wise. I love quoting philosophers, so King Solomon for me, writing proverbs, is the most famous wise king. So I grouped them in pairs. The first one was Proverbs 4:18, the second one was Proverbs 1:7. I meant to do that through the whole course, to pair them up like this. If you read 4:18 youíll see that it talks about the righteous man, and it talks about shining as a bright star, and it talks about the righteous man leading out to the end. I had all those hopefully, that I could have the whole game and just continue to come out and (unintelligible). So those are the three meanings for it.
How do you think they could justify you being on the Villains tribe? Do you think it was more of an editing thing from Tocantins?
I think so. I really also think that when you look at my actions and my words, that Iím a hero. I know I sound egotistical when I say that, but I really think that I was a hero. I think I did a lot of good things out there. But when you look at the public perception, which is what itís all about, [laughs] - I mean, Survivor is all about the game, and itís about publicity and ratings and if you look at how many people that just got irate at me in the first game...I think it was the public opinion that swayed them to put me on the Villains side.
You know JT pretty well - what are your thoughts on the possibility of him giving the immunity idol to Russell next week?
Dude, if that happens, thatís number one. Well itís not necessarily number one, but it could be number one. It depends on the ramifications of what happened with that idol. But I think itís a pretty big bonehead move, as they foreshadowed. I just canít believe it. Russell was very prophetic when he said in the first game - what did he say, something like the idols just come to me, or something to that effect. Itís true, they just have a way of making it into his greedy little hands.
Again with JT, heís definitely changed up his game. What are your thoughts on how heís playing this time around?
I think that he has, and he hasnít. I think that there was part of that in the first round, you just didnít see it because Stephen was the scapegoat. And Stephen took all the hit, and JT came out as the hero. So itís not surprising, but Iím surprised at the extent of how much theyíre showing, so to speak.
Is there anybody else from past seasons who you would have liked to be on this season with you?
I would have liked to slay Brendan a second time, since thatís the only real strategic move I ever really did. And Tyson had a big thing to do with that. Yeah, it would have been nice to have Debbie out there. Natalie and Corinne, I really wanted to see on the Villains side, but they didnít make the cut. You know, just one of those people out there...could have been a much different story.
You mentioned returning to Tocantins with Debbie - are you two still really close?
Yeah, we have a bond - and we had a bond out there - that was very special. Sometimes maternal, sometimes like a sister. But yeah, weíre definitely very close. Itís like a big fraternity that you join, and itís pretty neat to have those bonds that you have with people going through an experience like that, that youíre going to have the rest of your life.
Did you have any idea that your vote for Courtney was going to seal Robís exit?
Um...hope springs eternal in the mind of a fool, and I seem to be the biggest fool sometimes on Survivor, doing the way of the noble warrior and nobody really respecting that. So given my speech, I didnít say ďHey guys, letís think about voting out a weaker player.Ē I said weíve got two trains meeting in the middle, on a collision course - Rob and Russell. And if you put aside your differences, and you put aside your egos, then we could really make a go of this and turn this ship around. As it is, weíre just going to sink into the black hole of nothingness and continue to lose. What sealed Robís fate, I think, was his ego and his inability to change in midstream and to say ďOkay, Iíll put aside my vendetta against Russell and play the game until the merge, and then the gloves will come off and weíll openly duke it out as men.Ē
How frustrated were you with Jerri during that whole process of deciding who to vote for?
She broke my heart. You know, every decision. One thing that youíve got to remember is when youíre out there, every day you talk about who youíd vote out next. Every day. You donít know if youíre going to Tribal or not, you donít know if youíre going to have an immunity challenge. And you talk about it every day. We had made very decision together, and for her to just immediately - whatever happened, bullied, browbeaten, cajoled, pleaded, reasoned, or just wowed - I donít know what Russell did to her. But it really saddened me because I thought that we were a team and when she did that, that also sealed Robís fate because there was really nothing I could do once she drew that line in the sand.
What do you think is the biggest problem with the Villains tribe right now? A four game losing streak - what was the cause of that?
Tyson being voted out. And I think just an overall disrespect for the game. Not wanting to build shelter, not wanting to collect coconuts as a team, eating half a coconut and throwing it away right next to where we sleep. Camp life. You take any of these people out on a real expedition and theyíd get shot and left for the crocodiles, because they either didnít know how to survive or didnít respect it enough to put in the effort to do so. I think that thereís a myriad of factors, and the fact that if you donít want to survive and you want to keep the weakest players because you donít care about winning the challenges, all you care about is your own little power struggle with your alliance - yes, I know thatís what the game is about - but you know what? Itís not Big Brother. Youíre not in a house where you have everything given to you. Youíre out in the elements, thatís what makes Survivor such a great game. Youíre supposed to be out surviving, and it was a little bit embarrassing, how we played the game and how poor our shelter was.
Is there a secret girls alliance that we donít know about?
Could be. Anything is possible out there. Iím really curious to see what happens next week because you never know. And for somebody to even think about an all girls alliance at this point in the game is not shocking. If they do it, those people that are left right now? Iíd say every single person that is left right now, with the exception of maybe one or two, are ready to claw out their grandmotherís eyes to get one step ahead in the game. [laughs] Go for it!
I just wanted to get into your head a little more about Russell. Did you trust him?
I wanted to trust him so bad. For me to go out there and to tell people that Iím a Christian, and for somebody to tell me like Russell did that he wanted to play this game as a Christian man, for us to say that to each other...I wanted to believe him. I needed to believe somebody out there, because I was a man without an anchor. I trusted Tyson, I trusted Randy, I trusted Jerri, because I didnít think that she would ever put my name down, and if they started talking about me I think that she would come and tell me. I trusted Debbie in the first season. I never really completely trusted Russell, but I wanted to. Because with a player like that, if he wanted to use his natural abilities at playing Survivor for good, and he wanted to use that force to keep the strongest, and keep the honorable, youíve changed the game.
How about that scene where you broke down with Tyson, what was going on there?
Yeah. That was a pretty tough moment for me, itís tough to relive again, too. There was a lot of things going into that, Iíll just give you the long and short of it. When I got done with my season in Tocantins, obviously a lot happened. I lost my job, and honor and integrity were the two main things you...type in Coach Wade on the internet, those were two things that people made fun of me. They say Iím a crackpot, a crook and a liar, and Iím none of those three things. So, my reputation took a beating, I lost my job, my parents and I were not getting along, they didnít come to the finale. They didnít support the show, they didnít support me doing it again.
So Iím trying to come to terms with all that, then all of a sudden here I am, Iím off on another one. When I went down there, just going to Tribal Council and having Jeff roll his eyes and smirk at me and say ďYou know, Coach, looks like youíre going to be doing the same thing you did last time, a failed leader!Ē And for Sandra to say it, that kind of stuff. It just hit me. I hadnít grieved for everything that I had lost in that previous season. I can never take that back - thereís 20 million hits on my website that say Iím a liar, itís like, I can never really undo that damage. Itís permanent damage that the media has done to me.
It just hit me all of a sudden, all that I was trying to do out there - the chivalrousness, the humility, the humbleness, everything - trying to be stronger in challenges, it just came to me in a second. I didnít grieve for the first season, and then I also, no matter how hard I tried, I figured I was going to be painted the same jackass I was on the first show. And I was trying so hard to change that, to find redemption, that it just kind of hot me. I got really, really angry. You didnít see that part. Then I got really, really sad. It just broke my heart. All Iíve ever done, guys, I just try to go out there and do good. The things that you didnít see in Brazil, I just tried to help people and I tried to coach people, and Iíve tried to help them get past their barriers. You know, with Stephen going to Exile and telling him to be the Wizard - thatís what I wanted to do, I wanted to make an impact on the game and the people around me. I got crucified for it. If I had evil intentions, like Russell does, I could understand it. But when all I wanted was to see the good in people around me and to bring out the good in people around me - for me to get crucified like that was pretty unjust.
So I was kinda grieving for myself and what I had been through, and for what possibly I would go through again. Itís a terrible thing to be estranged from your parents because of how youíre portrayed on the show. Itís tough. So, thatís it in a nutshell, and Tyson was great. He listened to me, and started coaching me, and it gave me more resolve than even in the beginning of the game that I would change for nobody. That even if Iím ridiculed, even if Iím made fun of, and even if things donít go my way, Iím always going to stay the course and Iím always going to walk the way of the noble warrior because God created me to be different, and different Iím going to be, no matter what the outcome is.
Has anybody talked to you about having your own tv show?
Go to my website, coachbenwade.com, thereís going to be a movie coming out. Nobodyís talked to me about a tv show, thereís a movie coming out called 180 thatís coming out later this year, so go to the website and itíll have updates and different kinds of stuff that Iím gonna be part of.