Ask the members of the Villains tribe if they should have been categorized as Heroes for the current season of “Survivor” and most of them agree with a wink and a nod and a tacit acknowledgement that they probably deserved to be where they were.
One exception would almost certainly be Benjamin “Coach” Wade. If Coach tells you he belonged on the Heroes tribe, even if you aren’t necessarily convinced, you know with absolute certainty that he’s convinced.
Coach first attracted attention during his fifth place season on “Survivor: Tocantins,” a season he dominated (or domineered) with his outlandish stories and his grandiose interpretations of gameplay, dubbing himself the Dragonslayer. He also earned plenty of sound-bytes with his professed interpretation of proper “Survivor” gameplay, which required honor and principles.
On “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains,” Coach appeared to keep the stories to a minimum, as he was somewhat overshadowed by Russell and Boston Rob. After pledging his metaphorical sword to the defense of both men, he effectively cast the vote eliminating Rob last week, and on Thursday’s (April 8) episode, he was betrayed by Russell’s alliance and sent packing.
HitFix caught up with Coach on Friday to talk about Honor in “Survivor,” his relationship with Jerri and how he felt about Boston Rob’s post-elimination anger…
Click through for the full interview, which is slightly shorter than usual, but still pretty darned good…
HitFix: You’ve now played two seasons of “Survivor” talking about principle and honor, but you haven’t made it to the end either time. Now we know that it’s possible to *play* the game with principles and honor, but is it possible to *win* playing that way?
Coach: I was so close last time. I think that it can be. Hope springs eternal in the mind of a fool and maybe I’m a fool. But geez, I think that it could. I really do. I think that the game can be played with honor and integrity and it just is a matter of being on the right tribe and with the right group of people. If you put me on the Heroes tribe, I could see myself getting Colby and Rupert and getting JT straight so that he’s not squirrelly like he is this time. Imagine those three on the same tribe and myself, which makes four and two other people. If you get those people on the right tribes and I think that you could do it. It’s a matter of, when you cast the die at the beginning of the game, who you’re playing with, especially on an All-Stars season. If I played it again, though, I’d have to play it like that. I’d have to play it just like I played it in the past.
HitFix: Given that you knew that you were on a team that was specifically called the Villains, surely you had to know from the very beginning that playing it your way was going to be difficult?
Coach: I knew that I was screwed in the very beginning, yes. I mean really. What can I say? I’m almost speechless, because I don’t want to say anything negative, but it’s almost like, “Thanks, guys. You’re gonna make this almost impossible.” That’s why I said, “Pray for the merge,” because I wanted to merge so that I could play with people that only are going to play with honor and integrity. I knew it was going to be tough in the very beginning. To tell you the truth, when I first got out there and I saw my tribe, I was like, “Oh crap. I hope I’m not the first one to go.” Because I could have very easily been.
HitFix: If you were in a corner from the beginning, do you think that maybe you got tied too closely and too quickly to Jerri?
Coach: Yeah, I think so. When you’re out there, you don’t really look for romance, but when it finds you, it’s just kinda like “Wow!” It’s a great respite from the game and it’s a great way to just be normal, even if it’s just for 10 or 15 minutes. But yeah, Jerri and I got really really close and then we had to get unclose and we had to basically say to ourselves, “We’ve gotta have space between each other, because people are going to start gunning for us now.”
HitFix: So there was a psychological advantage, but maybe not a strategic advantage?
Coach: Hmmm… Very good way to sum it up. I wish I could have said that. Exactly. Thank you. Wait. I think that emotionally it was an advantage, but strategically it was not. And you can quote me on that.
HitFix: At different points in the game, you pledged your allegiance to both Russell and to Boston Rob. Could you talk about your different relationship with each of those guys?
Coach: What I was really trying to do, was I was really trying to get both of them to put down their egos. Who would have thought that I’d be on a tribe with not one, but two people who have bigger egos than me? I really didn’t think that was possible. So for them to be out there with these big egos, I just wanted them to set aside those egos and make the tribe strong. I was tired of not winning.
I’ll tell you this, every single person on our tribe, from Courtney to Tyson to Russell to me, loved the fact that we were kicking the Heroes’ butts week after week. And we relished in that fact. We took pride in that fact. We said, “We’re the underdogs and we’re proving everybody wrong.” And that’s what I was trying to do, was to get them in a new alliance, but they wouldn’t do it. Basically, I saw the power and the ferociousness of Russell and I saw the leader in Boston Rob and that’s why I wanted to bring both of them together. The relationship with Boston Rob was iron sharpens iron, loved every minute of it. The allegiance with painful and I thought that it would not be something that would last for long. My ultimate goal was to get them to be in the middle and to see each other.
HitFix: And there was just no way that was going to happen?
Coach: [Rueful chuckle.] I tried. It wasn’t. I tried with my last breath in Tribal last week. I said, “Wake up. We’re in a downward spiral. I’m begging you guys to reconsider.” But they were two trains ready to meet head-on and I was begging them to reconsider. I said that at Tribal Council, “Vote off the weakest player.”
HitFix: Do you understand, though, why Rob came away feeling like you betrayed him?
Coach: I do. I was sad with the words that he said to me. I was sad with how he treated me in his interviews. But what can you do? That’s the way that he feels. For me, I’ve always left the game as a gentleman. I’ve always left the game saying, “You guys, good luck,” even though I wanted it to rain on them every night after I left. I left with my head held high and I was sorry he couldn’t do the same. Do I understand his point of view? Yes.
HitFix: Could you go through your logic in the vote last week?
Coach: First and foremost, if you think about it rationally, forget about thinking about it with your heart, which I did and is what ruled my vote, but if you think about it rationally, for me to tie the vote out, that meant for me to possibly be voted out myself. I asked the producers, “What’s going to happen if they tie up? Will they build fire?” and they said, “No. The remaining six people will draw rocks and if it’s a black rock, will be sent home.” So for me to tie it up and then have a one-in-six shot at going home? That would be stupid. So that was the rational side of it. The heart side of it is that I really wanted the team to keep winning and I wanted to keep the strongest players. I thought that with with me, Russell, Boston Rob, Danielle, Jerri and Parvati, getting rid of Courtney and then Sandra, I think that we would have been very strong and I think that we would have turned it around and kept winning. So those were my thoughts going into that vote. I begged the tribe to vote out the weakest link and they obviously did not.
HitFix: And you cast your vote for Courtney hoping that you’d successfully swayed people?
HitFix: How surprised were you by the vote to eliminate you and watching the episode on TV last night, did you get a new insight into what went down?
Coach: I did have a better understanding of what went down, but I was just totally blown away when it happened. I had thought that Russell had turned against me. I’d though maybe Parvati… You never know. When you watch it, it’s very enlightening. So I watched and it was just like, “Oh. OK. So that’s how it went down.” Again, I have a great respect for the game and everybody that’s played the game. And everybody who’s in there right now, obviously, is a better player than me.
HitFix: And, last question, would you do it again?
HitFix: In a second?
Coach: In a second. Tell me where to go and I’m going.
Previous “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” Exit Interviews: