Interview: Candice Cody talks ‘Survivor: Blood vs. Water’

Candice Cody had a strange third time playing “Survivor.”
The “Cook Islands” and “Heroes vs. Villains” veteran arrived on the beach with the assembled castaways and was immediately sent off to Redemption Island, with her fellow returning players using the excuse that they didn’t know her well enough.
For four weeks, Candice was a Redemption Island force, winning two Duels and then finishing second behind behind her husband John, who joined her after being blindsided by Brad Culpepper who, in turn, joined the couple on Redemption after he was blindsided. 
Candice’s Duel streak came to an end on Wednesday’s (October 16) “Survivor: Blood vs. Water,” as she lost to John and Brad and had to burn her buff.
In her exit interview, Candice discusses her peculiar 11 days of “Survivor” in which she didn’t spend a second on a tribe, spilling on the best and worst Redemption Island guests. She also discusses how this season made “Survivor” more about the heart than the head and why that’s a good thing. 
Click through for the full Q&A.
HitFix: It seems like playing the game just for a Duel every couple days could be a drain. How did the Redemption Island drain compare to the regular in-game drain?
Candice Cody: Actually, Redemption Island, you’re on cruise control, because you’re not constantly gaming and constantly strategizing. You only have one other person to strategize with out there and you only have about 30 seconds when you go into Redemption Island to say whatever it is that you wanted to say, so it was actually not as draining as the regular Tribal dealings.
HitFix: What did you miss the least about not playing the regular, full-tribe version of “Survivor”?
Candice: The least? Probably the doling out of food amongst 10 people. It was nice to be able to go out and catch fish on your own and catch different things like crabs and stuff on the island and only have to share it with one other person.
HitFix: And what did you miss the most?
Candice: I missed playing the game and strategizing. That is so much fun and it’s so much a part of the show, so I think definitely it was sad to not be able to have that and be a part of it, but I was grateful for having the chance in the first place.
HitFix: You talked about the catching of fish and crabs. Was this a much more self-sufficient version of the game for you?
Candice: Yeah, absolutely. When you’re on a tribe, you have to worry about going out and catching fish for hours at a time, like “What are they saying about me back at camp?” You’re giving people time to strategize against you, whereas on Redemption Island, you leave one person back there and they don’t have anybody to talk to but a coconut. So you’re much more free to go out and provide for yourself. You know, it was peaceful.
HitFix: You’d been there the longest of anybody. Did you begin to feel a sort of ownership over Redemption Island?
Candice: Yeah, I definitely felt like it was my island, especially when John came and Marissa left. It was like, “Alright, well, this is Cody Island.” Before John came, Marissa and I were like, Marissa was calling it “Candissa Island.” We had our little system going. You kinda have to roll with the punches and figure out a new system with whoever’s there when they show up. But yeah, I definitely felt like, you know, “This is my spot and I’m staying here for good and anybody who comes in is gonna have to come through me.” Obviously that didn’t work out so well in my favor last night, but yeah.
HitFix: Other than John, who would you say was the guest with you on Redemption Island? Who did you have the most fun with out there?
Candice: Other than John, I would have to say Marissa. She is a tough little cookie. To be 21-years-old and come out there? She really impressed me. She hadn’t had any experience with the survival aspect and she wanted me to show her how to do things and I did and she took it and ran with it. She was catching fish and helping with the fire and we had a little system out there. We had a lot of fun. We both graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill, so we talked about that and our roots in North Carolina. She’s just a bright, energetic girl with a great attitude.
HitFix: And you know I have to turn it the other way. Who was the worst guest to share Redemption Island with?
Candice: [Laughs.] Take a guess. Brad Culpepper!
HitFix: Why?
Candice: You know, I wanted him there because I wanted to be able to take a crack at sending him home and getting him out of the game, but kinda for the reasons that Marissa and Rachel were complaining about when they came to Redemption Island, he is just a constant chatterbox. He does not stop talking and when you try to give an opinion, he’s like, “No, no, no, no, no” and tells you why you’re wrong and doesn’t listen. Everything has to be done his way. He showed up and wanted to do everything his way on Redemption Island and it’s like, “Look, dude. I’ve been here for 11 days. You’re on my island. Pipe down a second.” But he’s not a bad guy in real life. He’s just very animated and there’s only so much room for character in one conversation.
HitFix: How much did you feel like the people coming to visit you were actually giving you a real picture of what was happening at Tadhana?
Candice: It’s interesting because I know, as someone who’s been voted off, you have hurt feelings and obviously if it was a blindside, you really don’t know everything that happened, but it was interesting to me that, out of everyone who came through Redemption Island, they didn’t have anything bad to say anyone on the tribe, other than Brad. So it kinda started to feel like, “Well… if nobody else has anything bad to say about anyone on the other tribe, then it’s starting to seem kinda true.” I saw him, he sat up there in the corner before John got voted out and during the Redemption Island Duels and would say to me, “I’ve got him. I’m protecting him. He’s fine.” And, to me, I’m sitting there thinking, “Why do you feel the need to say that? Like that you are the Godfather protecting John? John can protect himself.” So I kinda got a bad feeling about that. And his wife voted me out. So I was definitely going on what I was told and I only have so much opportunity to get information about what’s going on in the game. And once he voted John out, the gloves were off for me. It’s a game for a million dollars and I’m do what I can to paint Brad with the stinky stick [NOTE: I’m only 50% sure on that “stinky stick” part.] and see if I can get him closer to going home. It was definitely part strategy, trying to get rid of a strong player in the game and a player who, himself and his loved one, had both shown their hands that they didn’t want to play with us or with threatened by us, so I thought, “It helps myself and my husband’s chances in the game to get rid of someone who has already shown that they don’t want to play with us.” So they Culpeppers, to me in the game, were dead, dead to me. But in real life? I’m sure they’re nice people, family-oriented. But it’s a game, so I had to do what I could to influence the game in whatever small way that I could. I know that it was part strategy and part hurt feelings.
HitFix: I’ve been talking to everybody about this. When you guys talked before the season, you and John, was there a point at which you agreed that either one of you was prepared to write down the other one’s name, given that it’s a game for a million bucks?
Candice: You know, I said before the game that I will write John’s name down and the only way I’m gonna write his name down is to vote to give him a million dollars. I’m not gonna vote for my husband. That’s crazy. These people are strangers to me out here. There’s no reason to vote for my loved one. If the majority alliance is gonna vote for my husband against my will, I’m not gonna give them an extra vote. I’ll throw it away or vote for someone else or try to fight to keep my husband in, but absolutely there’s no way I’m gonna vote for my husband. I live with the guy. I’ve gotta go home. You think I would live that down? Voting for my husband? No way.
HitFix: How do you feel about the way that’s impacted the strategy this season? Has it become a more heart-driven game than brain-driven?
Candice: Absolutely. I think that there’s so much emotion involved in this season that we haven’t seen before and, I think, from a viewers’ standpoint it makes it that much more exciting, because you people making kinda crazy moves that maybe they wouldn’t step out and make otherwise, but they’re going crazy because their loved ones are there. I think it adds a lot of dimension to the game, because you’re not only thinking strategy. You’re not thinking just about yourself, you’re thinking, “How can I protect someone else?” As far as Brad, I think, is a good example of trying to play too hard, because he’s trying to predict what the other team is doing and he really has no idea. He shot himself in the foot voting out his closest ally, John, and then got voted out himself. He proved to his tribe that he’s not trustworthy and then he bragged about it say, “Oh, I can get John to trust me again” and “John should never have trusted me, I’m not a trustworthy guy.” You know? I think you kinda lose some of your ability to keep your mind in the game strictly on the most objective strategy when you have a loved one there.
HitFix: You’ve had a few months to mull over this, but what do you make of the returning players who voted against you initially, the people who said they didn’t know you even after the two times you’d played before?
Candice: I think that when you say, “I don’t know this person,” that’s just a cop-out. I said I didn’t know Laura Morett. I knew her the least out of anyone there, but it’s just something to avoid having to say, “I don’t like you” or “I don’t don’t want to play with you” or “You’re a threat to me” in front of everyone in the game, because they’re talking about me and my husband’s still in the game playing with their loved one. These returning players are savvy. They’re not gonna say anything to put their foot in their mouth in front of everyone in the game.
HitFix: Best laid plans and all, but what were you coming into this season hoping to change about your performances from your first two seasons?
Candice: I think the prior two times I played the game, they were very different. “Cook Island” was a season of complete strangers playing together, which is the most pure form of the game, where your history and  your past and your real life are not involved and you can kinda be anonymous playing the game, so that was a good season for me. I think “Heroes and Villains” was difficult because I think the Heroes had already decided who they wanted to play with and I wasn’t part of it, I kinda followed the rules and I’m not part of all the “Survivor” reunions, so I don’t really know all these people that well. I live in DC and I work in the hospital every day and I just lead a regular life, so I was frustrated after “Heroes and Villains” and I kinda felt like, you know, very few people get a first time, a second time and now a third time to play, so I was like, “I’m gonna make the most of this. I’m never gonna stop flighting. I’m never gonna sleep until I win.” So I was like, “I’m going all out. I’m not gonna leave anything on the table and this is all-or-nothing for me.”
HitFix: And has the itch begun to play a fourth time?
Candice: Oh, it’s always there, you know? It gets in your blood. It’s a crazy game and it’s such a challenge and it stays and eats away at you. You can’t turn it down. You can’t turn the opportunity down.