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Exclusive: Brendan Shapiro talks 'Survivor: Ghost Island' (Part 2)


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/21/2018 

Brendan Shapiro was voted out of his new Malolo tribe on Survivor: Ghost Island's latest episode on CBS.

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Brendan, a 41-year-old physical education teacher from Herndon, VA, was voted out of the game on Night 12 at Tribal Council through a 5-4 vote instead of Bradley Kleihege, a 26-year-old law student from Haslett, MI.

Brendan's closest ally, Michael Yerger, an 18-year-old real estate agent from Knoxville, TN, wanted to save the four original Malolo tribe members -- who were together prior to the tribal swap -- when they were up against five original Naviti members.

Michael therefore played the idol for Stephanie Johnson, but she was the wrong choice and Brendan went home. Going forward, Michael, Stephanie and Jenna Bowman will be on the outs.

During a recent exclusive interview with Reality TV World, Brendan talked about his time on Survivor: Ghost Island. Below is the concluding portion of what he had to say.

Reality TV World: Put yourself in the original Naviti members' shoes on your tribe: Would you have made the same decision to stay five strong? Do you think Chelsea Townsend and Sebastian Noel made the right decision given you said they were the bottom rung of that ladder?

Brendan Shapiro: There was a lot of noise from us, and we hoped we would inspire some action, but the reality is, if they had come over to our side, the likelihood would be that they'd be the bottom two on our side. (Laughs)

So, they probably made the right play, and if I were in their shoes, I probably would've made the same play. I think it was some sound decision making.

I'm just so shocked at what was going on over at the other beach, because my original Malolo people went over there, and they thought it was like Christmas morning, you know, when they get there and within five minutes they're being recruited to help destroy the original Naviti.

It was incredible. I would've paid everything I have to be in that situation. But no, I think the Navitis on our side, they locked it down pretty well.

Reality TV World: Okay. I was wondering if a Naviti really could have penetrated your alliance, because Michael made the comment at Tribal Council how your four original Malolo members only appeared tight because you were forced to be that way from a lack of options post-swap...

Brendan Shapiro: We tried to flip them, and there was [no use]. They were really solid, and I give credit to them for that. And my perception at the time was that Bradley and [Kellyn Bechtold] were leading that effort, and I still think that's the case when I watched it.

I think they were doing s really good job of trying to keep the reins on everybody. And I think [Desiree Afuye], Chelsea and Sebass, staying solid was their best chance to move forward in the game and it worked for them last night.

Reality TV World: So you think both Bradley and Kellyn were running the show? The episode made it seem like you guys thought Bradley was definitely "the ring leader" -- or maybe you were just trying to paint a huge target on his back?

Brendan Shapiro: Yeah, we were painting a target on Bradley pretty hard. At the time, I think we believed Bradley was running things with an assist from Kellyn, and now, watching it back, I think it's more of an equal share between Bradley and Kellyn, if I had to guess. But at the time, no, we did actually believe that Bradley was kind of the chief over there.

Reality TV World: Was that the only reason your side wanted to target Bradley or was there more to it than that? I think it was said he complained a lot around camp? (Laughs)

Brendan Shapiro: Yeah, I think of the new Malolo crew, he was more vocal than others, and so it's kind of easier to pick on the guy that is the most vocal. So I think that's why he was kind of an easy target.

It seemed like he was running things, and when you challenge a bunch of alpha people and say "are you going to let this guy run things?" sometimes you get a reaction, and that's what we were hoping for.

Reality TV World: Although original Naviti already had the numbers and was kind of sitting pretty, was your group of original Malolos concerned anyone on the other side might have an idol or advantage, like Kellyn for instance? What did she say once she got back from Ghost Island?

Brendan Shapiro: Yeah, so she had told us what happened at Ghost Island, and she actually told the truth. And we believed her! We believed there was not an idol to be had over there, you know, and maybe there is -- or maybe there was -- but we didn't think there was.

We thought it was more about there being other types of advantages. So we were not terribly concerned someone from the original Naviti on our beach had an idol.

We were disappointed that, I will tell you, before the challenge, we thought, "Okay, well, if we lose, at least somebody is going to Ghost Island for the vote. And if it's one of the Navitis, then it's a 4-4 split and that's a great situation because we'll go to rocks if we have to. And then we've got a 50-50 shot of changing this game."

And if one of the original Malolos had gone to Ghost Island before the vote, then there are three Malolos and five Naviti, but that just makes it easier for Malolo to guess right.

We had a 1 in 4 shot of guessing right as it was. If one of the four of us was at Ghost Island, we'd have a 1 in 3 shot of guessing right. And we still would've had the votes if we put them all on one person to knock out one of them if they put them on the person whom we protected with the idol.

So any way you look at it, for the first time in the game, having nobody at Ghost Island for the vote was a bad thing for us.

Reality TV World: If you had made the merge, what were your plans? Which castaways would you have stayed with or tried to reunite with? Did you predict it would be original Naviti vs. original Malolo for the most part?

Brendan Shapiro: It's very hard to answer that question. I was trying to play a very fluid game. I was very team-oriented in the beginning because I think it suited what I needed. I needed to keep order and make it feel like, "Hey, we're all on the same side here."

Obviously once you get past the merge, it's every man for himself. It's kind of a whole new game -- a game I wish I had gotten to experience, by the way. I can't say I would have played it the same way because the whole dynamic changes, and so it's impossible to know how I would have played it.

Reality TV World: Overall, do you feel you were a victim of the tribal swap and bad luck, or do you think there was more you could have done to save yourself? Looking back, what would you have done differently?

Brendan Shapiro: You know, I've thought about that a lot, and I think the one thing -- a key, kind of, decision point -- was, "Should I have flipped on my Malolo crew and carved out a few more days for myself with Naviti?"

But the reality -- I believe now what I believed then, which is if I had done that, I may have earned myself some more days in the game, but I would've put myself in a really bad spot in terms of winning the game.

So even if I got to the end, you know, my thoughts were always like, "What's the point of getting to the end if you can't win it?" Right? So I was playing to win, and I think that move, you know, if there was a move where I could've done something differently, that was it.

And I don't think I would've done it differently again if I had to do it over again.

I regret minor things, like I wish that I had closed out that Immunity Challenge or I wish I had been more convincing to Michael to get him to play that idol on me, and things like that. But those are things you can't change. I think from a strategic standpoint, I played the game I needed to play.

Reality TV World: When did you find out Michael was actually only 18 years old at the time he played the game? What was your reaction, and had you known that while playing, do you think you might've thought twice about teaming up with him?

Brendan Shapiro: Yeah, so, I didn't actually find out until I got home, like, literally to my Virginia home. And I was really surprised! He told us he was going to turn 24 soon, but if he had told me that he was 27 or 28, I would have believed that!

The guy just carries himself with a level of maturity and sophistication that's super impressive.

And yeah, if I had known he were 18, I would have teamed up with him all the same. He and I kind of saw eye-to-eye out there. I think we were a pretty good team.

Reality TV World: How were you cast on Survivor? How did you end up on this season of the show?

Brendan Shapiro: Oh no, no! It was a long road. (Laughs) I started applying in 2001 and I applied 15 times. I got a little bit down the path a few times, and I actually got pretty far down the path for the last Blood vs. Water with my wife a few years ago.

And that didn't work out. And then I was in a Survivor 35 casting group, so I was in a casting group with [Chrissy Hofbeck], and [Mike Zahalsky] and [Ben Driebergen], and all these people! I thought I was going to play Survivor 35, and then I got pushed to 36. So yeah, it's been a long road for sure.

To read the first half of Reality TV World's exclusive Survivor: Ghost Island interview with Brendan, click here.


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