Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains comes a decade after Colby and Jerri competed in the Australian Outback. Tocantins was just last year. So why do I get the feeling that "Coach" Ben Wade has changed more than anyone?
Coach ruined Tocantins for me in a way few single contestants ever have. But as soon as Coach started talking about the new show I thought, "Is there something different about him? Did he get a haircut? Has he been working out?"
I asked Coach how he became the person he is today, from childhood on. I tried to get him to tell me he was a changed man.
Did you grow up with philosophy?
I came from a very philosophical family, both parents of which were Christians. My father loved history and would often read to us from the encyclopedia mind that he had, telling of the Arabian Nights, or the Hanging Gardens, the Lighthouse at Athenia. This shaped me in a very profound way, as I began to think of life not only from the present, but from the past, and certianly in a more spiritual light.
How did writers like Nietzsche and Sun Tzu first become central to who you are?
Nietzsche and Sun Tzu are both warriors, one in word and the other in deed. I found myself drawn to these two historical figures and knew that if I were to plan a philosophy and strategy for Survivor, I had better draw on other profound writers instead of just myself.
You have argued that viewers saw only one side of you in Tocantins. I'm not disputing that. But, did Tocantins give you an opportunity to reflect on how you can come across to people and why?
I have argued this - That CBS did an incredible job showing one part of my personality. It is normally tempered as the forge is with water, and steam with kindness, gentleness, and encouragement. However seeing that side of me on TV allowed me to reflect and see that maybe I could push forward to be an even better man, one who was more humble, who
showed more chivalry to the ladies, and let his Christian side shine through more.
Can Survivor contestants have a truly authentic experience with nature, given that their lives are being mediated by a reality television production?
Very few people can have a truly authentic spiritual experience with nature and the creator of the universe given that there are so many people trying to vote you off, etc. But there are a few of us that truly get it, and we are forever changed. I think that Erik the Viking from the last season got it on day 20.
You succeeded in Tocantins by building a loyal core alliance. But some of your fellow Villains have shown in the past that they're only loyal to themselves. Given that, did you feel like you needed to play a different strategy?
I debated on whether or not I should have a different strategy. For me to make it out of the first round will be a miracle, because I am with a tribe who do the opposite of what I did - loyalty, respect, honor, integrity. But after thinking about it, I knew that I had to be true to myself, therefore true to my strategy.
I have heard several people suggest that players should take you to the end because you can't win Heroes vs. Villains. Are they right?
People never see the inside of the game. Perhaps it is delusional, but if I had gone to the end in Tocantins I think I would have won if I had been in JT's place. There will be a new game in
Heroes vs. Villains, and I think that the well-rounded side of me could possibly win.
-Interview conducted by Henry Jenkins