It was a bromance for the ages -- Caleb Reynolds and Tai Trang found themselves back on the same tribe on Wednesday night's Survivor: Game Changers following the pair's dramatic separation after Reynolds' near-death heat stroke two seasons earlier on Koah Rong.
The pair's passionate reunion (symbolized by a sweet kiss on the cheek) on the new Mana tribe after an unexpected tribe swap, however, didn't last long, as Reynolds got the boot this week... after Tai voted him out.
ET hopped on the phone with Reynolds on Thursday, where he opened up about the shocking betrayal, his early exit, and who he hopes to see make it to the end.
"There wasn't any hesitation at all. I was excited to get the opportunity to get to play again," the two-time Survivor castaway (and one-time Big Brother player) said of his decision to return after being medically evacuated halfway through Koah Rong. "I wasn't excited about the card I got dealt to play again, but I felt like in a way, I started to really show my strategy and show that I do have some type of strategic gameplay in me, outside of being a physical player. And [just as] I started to warm up, they swapped tribes on me, and then I had to kind of start all over again, and I didn't have the chance to show what I'm capable of."
"I didn't want to go out that way again, and I wanted to show the people that watch Survivor and love the game that there's a lot more to me than just this big, tattooed-up, strong guy. I wanted to show that there was a strategy," he added, before revealing that while he undoubtedly pushed himself to his breaking point on his first season, he was unsure of his new Game Changer title.
"Compared to everyone else playing the game, I did not see myself as a game changer," he said. "When you see people like Sandra, and you see people like Tonyand you see people like JT, and you see people like Malcolm and Cirie and Ozzy, you see all these other people playing the game, you automatically want to put yourself next to them and say, 'What did I do compared to what they did?' I believe I was out there for a reason, and you know, obviously production and [host] Jeff Probst had their reasons, but do I believe that I should have been called a Game Changer? I personally don't think that I deserved it."
Regardless, Reynolds gave the season his all, and seemed to be doing well, until Wednesday's tribe swap -- where he was reunited with his old pal, Tai -- but outnumbered on a tribe with a solid group of four former Nuku players. The vote then became clear: it would either be him or Hali Ford voted out.
"The tribe swap is what messed up my game," Reynolds confessed. "When you have a whole tribe that has been working together since day one, they have not lost one challenge, and you take four of them and send them to a different tribe, they're not going to split up. They're just not. I don't care how good of a talker you are, if you don't find an idol, you're outnumbered."
"I literally had final two deals with dang-near everyone [on my old tribe]," he explained, tossing out names like Jeff Varner, Malcolm Freberg and Michaela Bradshaw. "They just manipulated Tai, saying that I was bad for his game, so he had to do what he had to do."
Viewers might have found Tai's betrayal shocking considering that the refugee from Vietnam spent most of Koah Rong trying to plant a wet one on Reynolds, though the 29-year-old Kentucky native wasn't so surprised.
"I wans't surprised, because I watched Tai play before, [but] I was surprised that it happened so early," he said, before assuring fans that Tai's vote hasn't affected their unlikely bromance."Tai has to do what's best for his game. You have to separate your outside friendship and your outside life from a personal game, and just because he voted me out, doesn't mean he doesn't care about me... And if it were me, I would've done the same thing."
"Tai's my friend, but it's an individual game. He has a boyfriend at home, and he has to do what's best for him and his man, and I was the same," he added."So I'm not upset at Tai at all. I strongly believe that he was manipulated, and he had five other people telling him that if he didn't do what they said, he would go next. So he did what he had to do."
The pair's friendship is so strong, in fact, that Reynolds still hopes Tai makes it to the end.
"People underestimate people like Tai [but he's] very capable of making it to the end of the game. He's done it once, he could do it again. Sandra won once, she could do it again, and she did. It's the same way with Aubry." he said, before adding that Auby could take the whole game. "The thing about Aubry that a lot of people don't see is that Aubrey actually is a physical player. If you watch our season in Koah Rong, she will fight for it. She's tough. And some people, I think maybe they don't see that she can win individual immunity challenges. She's a tough chick."
"Put it this way, everyone out there is out there for a reason, and you could see anyone at the end of the game, [but] I'll say, I don't think you'll see a big, strong physical player at the end of the game. You won't see an Ozzy in the final three. You won't see a Malcolm at the final three. You won't see a JT or a Caleb Reynolds. You'll see, you know, someone that's weak. Someone who just gets along, you'll see someone that has some type of strategizing game," Reynolds predicted, before tossing out Sarah Lacina's name as a possible winner. "For some reason, police officers are really good at this game."
As for whether he would ever play again, Reynolds says "for sure...depending on life."
"I would like to start a family of my own. I have a stepdaughter, but you know, one day I would like to take that next step in my own life, and have a baby one day," he said. "But I feel that there's a lot of strategy still left in me, and I hope one day I get dealt better cards and they ask me to play again. That would be awesome."