Exclusive: Caleb Reynolds talks 'Survivor' -- Brad Culpepper was scared to have another alpha male in his tribe
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/22/2017
Caleb Reynolds was voted out of Survivor: Game Changers at Tribal Council after a three-tribe swap during the latest episode on CBS.
After losing Season 34's third Immunity Challenge, the new "Mana" tribe voted off Caleb, a 28-year-old from Hopkinsville, KY, at the third Tribal Council session via a 5-1 vote on Night 9 of the game. Caleb -- who previously played on Season 32, Survivor: Kaoh Rong -- Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty, but was medically evacuated before the merge -- cast his vote for Hali Ford.
Due to Caleb's pre-existing friendship with Tai Trang, Mana viewed them as a power couple, and it didn't help Debbie Wanner had also competed on Kaoh Rong. Caleb therefore became the target since he'd be a huge threat come the merge, and Tai -- seemingly thanks to Brad Culpepper's manipulation alone -- decided to betray his best buddy.
During a recent exclusive interview with Reality TV World, Caleb talked about his Survivor experience. Below is the concluding portion of his interview.
Reality TV World: Tai mentioned in the episode he wanted to play the game this time with his head instead of his heart. So do you really think he believed taking you out was best for his game at the time, or did he simply fall victim to Brad's manipulation and make a big mistake?
Caleb Reynolds: It was the manipulation. Getting rid of me that early has nothing to do with hurting Tai. Now, I get it, seeing him and I together. It's one of those things where you're like, "Ohh, wait a minute. Those two..." and yeah, in reality when you look at it, he did go to my wedding.
But that's not why you send me home! You can't bring outside lives into the game and say, "Oh, well [Tai] went to his wedding, so that means he's [Caleb]'s right hand man." No.
Now granted, I love Tai. I love who he is and he's great, but if it came down to it, I would do the same thing because it's a game for a million dollars! You've got to play your own game. But it comes down to [the fact] he was manipulated, I feel.
But I also feel he tried to do what I asked. He and I did try to put our heads together and come up with a strategy, like switching somebody's vote to at least have a tie vote -- or if not a tie vote, 4-2. Because I figured I could convince Hali to work with me and Tai, and then if Tai can convince Debbie, we were good.
I was like, "We can send [Sierra Dawn Thomas] home," and Tai was like, "I'm down for that! I'm down with that. I wanted to move forward with you." And, you know, I guess he did his best, and I think he did his best without hurting his own game.
Because from what he told me, Brad told him basically, "Tai, when you write your vote down, if you don't vote Caleb, it's going to tell us where you stand." And that to Tai was, "Okay, if I don't write Caleb's name down, I'm next." And with that being said, that's his game on the line. That's his life in the game!
And no, Tai, please, if it comes down to that, please write my name down because you'll be the only one not writing it down. So, just write my name down and get it over with. But we did. We tried that method [of forcing a tie], and I believe Brad Culpepper really got in all their heads and told them that I'm a huge threat in the game, and I'm this and I'm that.
But in all reality, he only wanted me gone because he was afraid that if I was there, they wouldn't need him anymore. And I think that scared him, that there would've been more than one alpha male there. Because with him being the only alpha male there, [the tribe] would never get rid of him because they need him, the only strong person on the tribe. That's my thought process behind it.
Reality TV World: Looking back on things, are you pretty shocked the tribe sent you home in general?
Caleb Reynolds: I understand sending me home. It's the same thing with [Tony Vlachos]! I didn't want Tony to go home. I thought it was stupid, but at the end of the day, you've got people that are Survivor gurus going, "Oh, there is going to be a switch soon! There are too many people. There's going to be a switch. We won't need Tony! We're going to switch anyway."
So the next thing you know, everyone was like, "Tony is going to go home." And I was like, "No! We need to keep Tony for strength." And they were like, "We are going to switch. We don't need Tony." So when you have stuff like that that's going to happen, when you have people who know the game well, what can you do?
They were like, "We are switching [tribes]. We are switching in two days. We don't need Tony. We won't have another challenge. We're getting rid of Tony because his strength doesn't matter to us."
And that's I guess what they thought of me too, was my strength didn't matter: "His strength doesn't matter with us." And it seems like that's going to be a continuous thing this season, is, "We don't need your strength. We don't mind losing." (Laughs)
That's almost what it looks like, and it's kind of odd that they're sending home strong players so early. And I feel like this time, people got to see some strategizing with me this season, but they didn't get to see a lot. They didn't show a lot, like my [conversation] with Tai.
I had done my best to try to get Hali and Debbie. Tai was going to talk to Debbie and I talked to Hali. For one, they didn't even show it. And for two, they just weren't doing it. I don't know why I was such a huge threat to them when everyone in that game made it further than me every time they played.
I don't know why I was such this huge threat, like even on Day 1, [Ciera Eastin] wanted me gone. And I'm thinking, "What do you mean you want me gone?! You've got Tony here, you've got [Sandra Diaz-Twine] here, you've got all these people here who made it further than me, so why am I such the big threat?"
I still question myself now, "What have I done outside of being a big asset to this tribe? Why am I being seen as such the big threat?" But I guess, I don't know, I still question myself and why everyone was coming after me. But then when you have a tribal swap and you're just outnumbered, it really doesn't matter at that point because you're outnumbered.
Reality TV World: Viewers saw Troy "Troyzan" Robertson and James J.T. Thomas desperately looking for hidden Immunity Idols since they knew the numbers weren't in their favor, but we didn't see Hali or yourself looking for one. So did you attempt to find an idol or were you afraid to look for one since Tony's aggressive gameplay clearly cost him the game?
Caleb Reynolds: Well, I'm going to be honest with you -- and I'm not going to talk about production -- but I looked for an idol for hours. I looked, and that's the only thing I'm a little upset about, is because I fought until [Jeff Probst] called my name.
I fought and fought and fought to stay in that game, and they didn't show any of it. I was running around looking for idols and I couldn't even feel my fingertips. I was climbing trees and I was looking all over the place for a long time before Tribal Council.
They just didn't show it, and in reality, they have a storyline that they want to show. And I'm not sure why they didn't give me that -- at least a chance to look like I was fighting to play the game. And even at Tribal Council, I did not -- it wasn't how it looked. I didn't just sit there. I didn't mope.
I literally was on my feet saying why I should be here. And even me and Sierra got into it because she said, "Well, Caleb, Tai went to your wedding! It would be dumb for us to keep you here." And I said, "Okay, you have matching tattoos with Hali! Ya'll played together before and ya'll went out and got matching tattoos!"
So does that mean we separate you two? Maybe one of you two should go home tonight. And so, there was a lot of stuff that happened that wasn't shown. And me fighting for my life in the game was one of the things that wasn't [shown].
And that would be one thing I must say they kind of left out and bothered me, was I did fight to stay in that game. And a lot of stuff that I'm seeing on Twitter is, "Man, Caleb, you just gave up! You didn't even look for an idol. Man, Caleb, you didn't even fight to stay at Tribal!"
And yes, I did, I did both of those things. I did both because I did want to be there, and I wanted to fight. I wanted to stay. And so, I did look for idols for hours. I just couldn't find one.
Reality TV World: After what you went through when being medically evacuated fromSurvivor: Kaoh Rong, did you have any hesitation at all to compete on Game Changers? And would you be interested in playing again if given the opportunity?
Caleb Reynolds: I had no hesitations whatsoever. I just wanted the doctors to say that I was healthy enough to go. And once I got the "go" from the doctors here that I was healthy, I had no second guessing at all. I wanted to play and I wanted to finish what I started.
I wanted to finish what I started, and if they ask me again to play later on -- which would be nice -- because you can't help when you get dealt a hand of cards, you can only play with what you get. And that's exactly what I did, and I ended up with a bad tribe swap and I was outnumbered. And when you're outnumbered, it's like a miracle to get yourself out of it. I couldn't pull that miracle off.