On Wednesday night's Survivor: Blood vs. Water, this season's most controversial player, retired football player and current lawyer Brad Culpepper went home after losing a Redemption Island duel. ETonline catches up with the 44-year-old from Tampa, FL, to find out what he has to say about the attacks made on his character, as well as how he attempted to help his wife Monica go further in the game.
ETonline: You had experienced Survivor through your wife's eyes, but what surprised you the most when you played the game yourself?
Brad: I don't think much could prepare me for the 'Blood vs. Water' theme. It was much different than when Monica played, or I think the 26 prior [seasons of] Survivor. Normally when you play Survivor, you're only worried about your own tribe and your own self, you could care less about basically anybody on the other tribe. … [From the day] they split us up, it was totally different than anything I expected in regards to how she played the game or how Survivor was played in the past.
At that point, it was like, 'Wow, my No. 1 alliance is on the other tribe and now I need to be thinking about her, every move we make over here is going to potentially affect her.' As the game moved on, that fact was getting dramatically increased as we kept getting rid of people that could potentially be affecting her. And it was a very difficult position to be put in. And then you get to Redemption Island and all the dirty laundry gets tossed out, a lot of which was untrue dirty laundry, but it was what it was and I thoroughly enjoyed my time.
ETonline: Do you think that, since everyone was out there with a loved one this season, that it made everyone take things way more personally than they normally would have?
Brad: It seemed so. And I can understand that. You know, obviously Candice was quite upset when I kind of got John out of the game, and did take it personally. But you know it's different -- it's one thing when someone attacks or votes out your own self, you get angry. But when somebody votes out someone whom you are married to, or hold in high regard, it stings even worse. So yes, it became really personal for a lot of people.
ETonline: When you went to Redemption, were you surprised by the strength of the animosity that Candice had for you, and some other things that people said about you, did that surprise you?
Brad: A little bit. Because first of all, I never spent any time with Candice on the island. And she seemed to have some pretty firm thoughts about me. … And the other person, I only spent roughly three days with, and really had very little communication with, and unfortunately they were both fairly bitter. And quite frankly, the show played down how emotional it was … it was crazier than they showed on TV!
ETonline: Wow, is there more light you can shed on that?
Brad: No, I mean, it's hard for me to justify a lot of the things that were said. They were just flat-out lies and untrue. I mean, I'm not misogynistic, I'm not sexist, I'm not racist. I'm not any of the things that were said. Even explaining myself almost gives credence to the accusations. All I can say is, ask the people who were on my tribe when I got voted out. They all had an opinion of me, and when I went to Redemption Island, I opened up the floor to any of them to speak, and they all spoke out on my behalf. How much they missed me, and how much I did, and how much I was not a tyrant and not a bully. … And those were the real people who were with me who could give insight in regards to how I am as a person, not the person who didn't spend any time with me, and the person who was obviously Bitter Betty and spent three days with me. I don't know what to say, I mean, those people had their opinion but I've been called a lot worse than what they were doing.
ETonline: It seemed like you fell into a leadership role in your tribe naturally, it just seemed like that's just your natural personality. Do you regret being in that role since it did kind of put a target on your back?
Brad: I fell into a leadership role, I mean I'm 44 … [and] I was on a very young tribe. I'm a father of teenagers. I relished the role, that's just kind of who I am as a leader. There were no votes against me at any point until the very end, and Caleb got scared for himself. Had I been a tyrant or a bad leader, there would have been many more conversations about getting rid of Brad Culpepper than there were. I mean, there was no plan going into Tribal Council to get rid of me at any time.
And here's the other thing -- reserve judgment on how well I played or bad I played in regards to how well my wife does. My primary goal in this whole adventure was to get her a chance to play. She never got a chance in Survivor 24, she was underneath the whole time. She wasn't a part of an alliance and then there was a tribe switch and she got blindsided and went out. Every move I made was trying to help her situation, or not injure her connections. If I was playing regular Survivor, I would never have voted John off, I would never have gone against the five guys, but I knew that getting rid of John was not going to adversely affect my wife. And I ended up going on Redemption Island and I got rid of Candice, so she's no longer a threat to Monica. We'll see if John makes it out or not, but reserve opinions. Because, how good my math is, to me, one equals two and I'm sure Monica feels the same way.
ETonline: I've asked a lot of the people who've gone home so far if they them going home actually helped their loved one? And I think in the game, that it might be true, that it might help your loved one when you go home.
Brad: It depends. At the outset, I was trying to make the merge with Monica. And if that were to happen, I wanted to make the merge with more connected people, more loved ones than not. … My No. 1 alliance from day one was on the other tribe. And if you can make the merge with your loved one and you have the majority numbers, then I think you're at an advantage being connected. However, if the merge happens and there are more people that are disconnected, then maybe they have the advantage and will target the loved ones. So, it depends. … The whole game was like a 3-D chess match. … My mistake at the end – I wasn't planning on voting Caleb, I should have reassured him of that before Tribal Council. I didn't do that well enough, and while he didn't go into Tribal Council planning on voting for me, he got nervous and he made this 11th hour change. It was a very shrewd move, we'll find out if it was smart of not, because he clearly went from under the radar, which is a pretty good position to be in, to on the radar. When I went to Redemption Island, I said, that guy wearing those funny boots over there, he is a player. Do not sleep on him. This game is interesting, I mean sometimes it's better to not have anybody recognize that but I clearly made sure that everybody knew -- he's dumb as a fox. Do not sleep on Caleb.
Survivor airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on CBS.