"Coach" Benjamin Wade: Ozzy Lusth was a "whiney little b-tch"
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/21/2011
"Coach" Benjamin Wade finished Survivor: South Pacific in the runner-up spot, just falling short of claiming the series' $1 million grand prize during the live portion of Sunday night's finale broadcast on CBS from Hollywood, CA.
Coach was beaten by champion Sophie Clarke, a 22-year-old medical student from Willsboro, NY, but edged out Albert Destrade, a 26-year-old "baseball/dating coach" from Plantation, FL, in the season's final jury voting results, which Survivor host Jeff Probst revealed during the broadcast. While the ninth and final jury vote was not revealed on-air, Coach received three votes and Sophie received six votes.
During a Monday conference call with reporters, Coach, a 39-year-old former Survivor: Tocantins and Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains castaway who currently resides in Susanville, CA, talked to Reality TV World about his Survivor: South Pacific experience -- including who he had expected to vote for him but didn't in the end and whether he was surprised about his loss or anything else that occurred during the jury vote.
To read our exclusive interview with Sophie, click here.
Reality TV World: Did the jury vote surprise you at all one way or the other? Had you been expecting to get more than or less than three votes, or was it exactly what you were anticipating?
"Coach" Benjamin Wade: No, I mean, any fighter and any competitor will tell you that they go into that final round -- that national championship game -- hoping to win and expecting to win. So, I thought that it was going to be close. I thought that it might be 5-4, so it was tough.
But you know, you look at the questions, and I think that kind of the sad thing is -- well for Albert and I obviously, because it wasn't a sad thing for Sophie -- I think that if you were to question the jury and they weren't allowed to talk to each other, then I think that you're going to get a different outcome.
You look at the questions like -- people love to postulate, and there's a chance for them to grandstand, there's a chance for them to say, "You know what?" In their minds, guess what? I failed at this game, because I've been on that jury twice. I failed at this game and now it's my chance to postulate and try to justify why I'm not there in the Final 3.
Because really, I want to be there in the Final 3. And so, you look at the questions, you look at [Dawn Meehan]'s questions -- well, she didn't ask me or Albert a question. So obviously, how are we going to get her vote? How are we going to sway her mind? [Keith Tollefson] asked me, "Hey Coach, was the immunity idol for you or was it for the tribe?" And my answer was, "It was for the tribe."
Sophie said it was for the tribe; Albert said it was for the tribe. So, okay Keith, thanks for your vote. But he didn't vote for me. So, I thought that it was going to be closer. I had a feeling in my gut when we left Tribal that night that Sophie won and there it was. I obviously expressed very real emotion. I was disappointed, but at the same time, I was happy that Sophie won.
Reality TV World: So did your opinion about how the vote was going to be change after the jury questioning or had you felt the same way before the final Tribal Council session, and if so, was there anyone in particular whom you thought was going to give you his or her vote but didn't?
"Coach" Benjamin Wade: You know, I think that going into final Tribal, I think that all three of us thought that we were going to win. I thought we all thought that we had a way to win. That was the beauty of our alliance -- that it wasn't me, [John Cochran], and [Edna Ma]. It wasn't whatever. So we all thought that we had a legitimate shot to win.
So, it was interesting going in there -- that we were all really fired up about competing against each other. Again, I just wish it would have been more fair in terms of people not always making up their minds when they got there. I was surprised at [Ozzy Lusth]'s vote just because I feel like if you look at the game, I did -- and people will agree -- I had to overcome more than anybody.
I came in as a character. I came in as somebody that didn't add any value except for TV time to a tribe, and I came in and tried to build the right shelter and I tried to help the team win challenges and I came in losing that first challenge and being ostracized by my tribe.
So I think that I overcame a lot and I think that as a returning player, if Ozzy would have gotten to the end, I think that even if I didn't like him, I still would have voted for him. But you know, he's a whiney little b-tch and what can you say? He's going to be a waiter 10 years from now. I don't think that Albert, Sophie or myself will be waiting tables 10 years from now or playing card games in our spare time.
Reality TV World: During their final jury statements, Albert and Sophie both basically said that they only let you think you were in charge of the alliance and that they had actually carried you to the end and not the other way around. What's your comment on that?
"Coach" Benjamin Wade: I think it's great. I mean, everybody at that time is going to say things like that because think about it. Did Albert think that he was in control of the game? Yeah. Did I think I was in control of the game? Yeah.
Did Sophie think she was in control of the game? Absolutely. I think that it didn't bother me at all when they made those comments. We all carried each other if you think about it. The three of us -- through good times, bad times -- Sophie wanted Albert off at one time. Albert wanted Sophie off at one point.
I'm just glad that neither one of them really wanted me off, because if either one of them would have voted me off, they would have gotten their way. So I think that it was like a mutually-benefiting alliance. We all helped each other. I mean, if we all look at it honestly, all three of us helped each other all the way until the end.
Reality TV World: Besides how you prayed for the hidden Immunity Idol when you had already found it, something else that bothered viewers was when you voted Brandon Hantz off after he gave up the idol and you told him that God had made that decision for you. Can you talk about that a little bit? Was that the truth or was that an example where you seemed to admit later during your jury questioning that you had lied and stabbed people in the back?
"Coach" Benjamin Wade: First of all, at the last jury, I think that I -- they didn't want to hear anything. I tried to use how I played and I wanted to talk about the times that I did make a mistake, which was pretty few and far between. Everyone says, "Oh, well you lied to people" when really, I didn't.
I told [Rick Nelson], "Yeah, I'd vote for Sophie and I wouldn't vote for you." But in other times, I made a contract with people and they broke those contracts by lying to me, and I felt like I could legitimately get out of those contracts. Like with Ozzy, when I met him on Redemption, I did feel compassion for him and I said, "You, me and maybe somebody else."
Ozzy and Sophie or Albert -- but then Ozzy lied to me and I was pulling over again. So, there was really no chance in hell that I was going to let him get to the end with us, because he continued to lie to me. In terms of that day with Brandon, I told him he wasn't safe. "If you give up the idol, you're going home." And he was like, "Coach, you can't do this. You can't do this to me."
And I said, "Brandon, if you give up the idol, you're going home." And I was worried about it. At that point in time, I was probably down to 160 pounds that day and I walk around at 200 pounds, so you know, you're losing 40 pounds and you're pretty anguished. And I did, I got down on the beach and I prayed. I just said, "I want to do the right thing."
And it might seem shallow or hypocritical with people watching, but man, you don't know. Go out there and starve yourself for 30 days and let's see how cohesive your thoughts are. But it was definitely something that was sincere. I was at peace with it. I'm a pastor of a church, so I'm at peace with it. I don't think that I did anything subversive and hypocritical in terms of my walk with God.
Also in the call, Coach told reporters whether he felt he had received redemption from playing his third time on Survivor and how he responded to criticism suggesting he had used religion to manipulate his tribemates.
After your first two experiences on Survivor, did you feel like you needed redemption and then do you believe you received it on Survivor: South Pacific?
"Coach" Benjamin Wade: Well being the grandiose guy that I am, I think -- just kidding -- no, I actually... The thing is, I played three times and all three times I played different. I feel it's just really a celestial experience. The first time, I wanted to be the biggest character. Sophie thinks I'm grandiose now, holy s-it. I'm glad you didn't meet me in the first one because you would've hated me.
The second time, I just really wanted people to see that I had a sensitive side. I am a gentleman -- and Sophie told me right. I am grandiose because I like to do things different. I like to do things big -- not always great for the end game of Survivor, but this time, I came out and I said, "Guys, I'm going to be a legitimate threat. I'm actually going to play the game."
And so to do it three times, three different ways, it was really fulfilling. Do I think that I needed redemption? You know,Survivor does not identify me. That's a problem with a lot of the past Survivor[castaways], is that it becomes who they are. You saw [Russell Hantz] there last night still trying to cling onto the identity that has been molded around him and Survivor.
For me, it's a great experience. It's a great chapter in my book. I actually think Sophie's going to be the same way, you know? She's like, "Hey, this has been a great chapter in my life. Maybe I'll come back again, but I'm totally cool with who I am." And so, I feel like coming out here and playing redeemed me in the eyes of the audience.
And so in a way, I feel like I did win because I connected with the audience like I never have before. So that was cool. I think I did find redemption and I'm good with everything -- from everything in the first episode back until the last episode when the jury was hammering me and Sophie was rising above -- like the true dragon slayer that she is.
You claim you held true to your beliefs, so how would you explain the situation when you had found the hidden Immunity Idol yet pretended to pray with your tribemates that you could find it?
"Coach" Benjamin Wade: Well, go back and watch that episode, because obviously you weren't really listening properly. If you go back and watch that episode, we blew a victory in that challenge and then Brandon said, "Please let us find the idol," and then they showed a clip of Sophie saying, "Well you know, Coach is a little suspect about the prayer."
I never prayed for the idol. That would be pretty foolish to do. I mean, I'm not perfect and I certainly make mistakes, but go back and get your facts right and watch that episode again.
Would you say you were certainly suggesting that you were praying for the idol?
"Coach" Benjamin Wade: I never prayed for it. I never suggested we should. We prayed to win the challenge that day, and when we found the idol, ask Sophie and Albert. I told them everyday, "Man, I really think that we need to tell people." It really weighed on me, and when I saw Brandon walking around like Russell Hantz, then it did scare me and I was like, "I'm glad we didn't tell him."
But my initial thought was to share it with everybody. Well, guess what? I shared it with the two people who we said on Day 13, or whatever day that was, "Hey, we're going to make it to the end with these people." And we did, so I don't feel bad about that. I mean, yeah, I made mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes out there.
I think it's just that the prayer thing did escalate to a point where we were praying about things all the time, but it's something that you cling onto. I answered this question last night during the live reunion pretty well. It's like, "Yeah, it became a prayer-palooza because everybody was praying everyday like in the past."
I pray every day in my normal life. I prayed every day in Survivor. I played 97 days of Survivor. I prayed 97 of those days. The only difference is this time, people wanted to pray in public and Brandon was a big catalyst of that. So, we ended up praying in public. Albert probably wanted to pray with the tribe once a week -- maybe I'd want to pray once a week.
Brandon wanted to pray three times a week, so you combine all three of those, and it seems like we were praying every single day. But I don't think anybody made a mockery of it. If you would have been out there, you would have seen that everybody was very genuine and sincere every time we prayed.
There has been a lot of criticism that you used religion to manipulate some of the castaways, especially Brandon in order to remain in control of him. How would you respond to that?
"Coach" Benjamin Wade: Yeah, well if you're asking me if I used religion to manipulate people, the difference in my game this time than in the past was that in the past, I said, "This experience, when you're stripped from the shackles of society, is something that will change your life for the better if you want to forge your character," and that's why you need to be out there.
Well guess what? That just gives everybody a hub and nobody wanted to do that. Everybody said, "Well we don't want frickin Coach out here." This time you've got 18 people and all 18 of those people are out there for different reasons, and I really wanted to just seem compassionate and I wanted to meet people where they were at and figure out why they wanted to be out there.
And so, with Brandon, absolutely. He was out there for his own agenda, partially to clear the Hantz's name, partially to struggle and kind of like figure out who he was. I'm not sure if he did that, but maybe he did. And so, did I talk to Brandon about the thing that connected us? Yeah, absolutely. Am I a bull rider? No. So am I going to talk about that? No. Did I use to be in a gang? No.
So what do we have in common? We had our belief in Jesus Christ. So did we talk about that? Yes. Did I use that against him? No, but it was common ground. I'll tell you what I did use against him, and that was his word. I made sure that he promised all of us things that we could count on.
He was a wild card, but Albert, Sophie and myself all knew that Brandon was a loose cannon but we believed he wasn't going to compromise who he was. That's why, really, we were going to take him to the Final 5 -- unless he really just blew up and made a mess out of everything.