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Exclusive: Cole Medders talks 'Survivor' -- I went into Tribal Council almost 100% sure I was going home


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 11/28/2017 

Cole Medders was voted out of Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers' merged Solewa tribe during the latest episode on CBS.

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Cole, a 24-year-old wilderness therapy guide from Little Rock, AR, became the ninth person voted out of the game and the second member of the Season 35 jury on Night 24 of the game through a 7-2-1 vote at Tribal Council.

Mike Zahalsky, a 43-year-old urologist from Parkland, FL, received two votes, while Ben Driebergen, a 34-year-old U.S. Marine from Boise, ID, earned himself one vote.

"I was hoping that it would be [Joe Mena] instead of me, but that's not what happened. Everyone was gunning for me because they see me as a physical threat," Cole said following his ouster. "I'm just so grateful to have been here. I played hard. I'm proud of what I did, no regrets at all."

During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Monday, Cole talked about his Survivor experience. Below is the first half of what he had to say.

Reality TV World: What did you walk into Tribal Council thinking was going to happen? Whom did you think was voting for Ben with you?

Cole Medders: I walked into Tribal Council not thinking that anyone was voting with me. I walked in there almost 100 percent sure that I was going home. I had gathered all my things from camp. I had collected souvenirs. I was ready to head out at that point.

Reality TV World: What made you feel that way? Did something happen back at camp, or did someone say something to you?

Cole Medders: Yeah, it was a culmination of a lot of things, like, clearly the food stuff that started with Ben way back on Yawa had just snowballed, and he had built that into something much bigger.

And I told everyone else about that and it made me out to be a bad guy. And the vote when [Desi Williams] went home, it didn't turn out the way that I wanted it to for myself, and then the wrestling for the idol.

And then [Devon Pinto] came up to me that day and told me, "Hey man, I like you and I think you're great, but everyone is voting for you tonight, and I just wanted to let you know. Because I think it would suck to show up to Tribal Council and not know."

Reality TV World: Oh, so Devon actually told you that.

Cole Medders: Yeah! He actually just came up to me and said, pretty much, "I respect you and I think it would suck to be blindsided, so this is the deal. Save yourself if you can, but everyone is voting for you tonight."

Reality TV World: Prior to that, had you thought Joe might be going home before you? What had your thought process been?

Cole Medders: I thought there was a small chance that Joe could go, but everyone had made it pretty clear that they were going to keep Joe because they could get rid of him whenever they wanted to, so he was kind of like their hostage in a way.

Reality TV World: Do you think it was just a matter of wanting to keep Joe because they knew he'd be an easy vote whenever they wanted, or do you think it morphed into a desire to take Joe to the end because he'd probably secure few jury votes?

Cole Medders: I think it was mostly that they could get rid of him when they wanted to. They didn't think he had a chance of winning either, but they did know he was a strategic player and could be dangerous, potentially.

Reality TV World: Did you know that Mike had a hidden Immunity Idol since he had found it with Jessica Johnston? Was there any talk of that before Tribal Council?

Cole Medders: I was not sure that Mike had the idol. I informed Jess and Mike where they could look for it on Yawa beach because I did not want it to fall into Ben and [Lauren Rimmer]'s hands. And I had dug a lot, and I could not find it.

So Mike and Jess obviously went and found it, and when I asked them about it, Mike told me "no." But Jess could not keep a straight face. (Laughs) I don't think she could tell a lie to save her life. So she started giggling and broke a smile, and that's when I knew that they had it.

Reality TV World: So did you ever approach Mike about whether he had the idol before Tribal and try to use that information as an advantage, either by asking Mike to play it for you or threatening to let everyone else know that he had it?

Cole Medders: Yeah, we had a conversation before Tribal where he came to me and he asked me, like, "Cole, tell me 100 percent, do you have that idol that everyone was digging for?" And I didn't 100 percent trust him at this point, so I did not say yes or no, but he did tell me that he may have an idol, and that if I had an idol, we could make a move that night.

Reality TV World: So it sounds like you weren't able to pursue that plan any further?

Cole Medders: I did not have an idol, so Mike said he was probably going to play it for himself. And I actually told Mike at that point, "I think it's pretty hopeless for me. I don't see myself getting out of this," especially since I lost immunity that day.

I basically told Mike -- he asked me if it was okay if he voted for me because he felt bad voting for me. He didn't want to betray my trust.

And I specifically told him, "If you don't see a way out of this at Tribal Council, I don't care man. Save yourself and go win this whole thing for the both of us."

Reality TV World: Ben seemed to be making all the decisions despite resistance from his alliance. Why do you think Chrissy Hofbeck and the rest of his allies followed suit with his plan when they all seemed to want Joe gone first instead of you? Was Chrissy really as strong-willed and outgoing out there as she comes across on TV?

Cole Medders: Yeah, Chrissy has a very strong personality, but I think Ben's is a little stronger. Ben does come across as a natural leader at times, but also, I think people just didn't want to go against -- or make conflict over something -- when they all knew they were safe anyways.

It would've been different if some of their names were on the [chopping] block, but since they were all safe, they were all like, "What's the path of least resistance here?" And that path was just to follow Ben.

Reality TV World: So how much of a dictator would you say Ben really was out there? Was he as strong of a player as viewers have seen on TV?

Cole Medders: I think possibly even stronger. There's this whole part where he -- basically ruined my game single-handedly, besides the stuff that I self-sabotaged myself. Once we made the merge, he told everyone about the peanut butter I had taken, which was the extent of my food, and he also made up some more things.

I was trying to cook for everyone every morning, and he would basically tell everyone that I was adding in extra portions of rice, which wasn't the case.

And so, it turns out that me trying to help by cooking was actually making things a lot worse for me, because people thought I was up to something. So, he was out to get me, and he did! He told me he was coming for me, and he got me.

Reality TV World: So it sounds like watching the season back, you're not surprised to see how much of an issue Ben really had with you. You had full awareness of this while you were playing the game, right?

Cole Medders: Yes. It was very clear that we had a bit of a rivalry going on. He was always nice enough to my face, like, we were always laughing and cutting up. We enjoyed ourselves around camp, but I could see he had a real issue with me when it came to the game.

Reality TV World: In hindsight, what's your take on your eating habits and food intake on the island? I know you said you require 8,000 calories a day, but did you go on the show thinking that was going to be feasible given the show's format?

Cole Medders: Yeah, I was actually not aware of how little food you actually got on the show. When you watch the show, they don't really focus on that. They focus on more of the gameplay and strategy.

So I was going out there thinking we were going to get, I don't know, some kind of food off behind-the-scenes or off-camera, but that's not the case at all. It's completely real, and I think if I ever went back -- or if I could've changed anything -- it would've been my mental preparation.

Because there's no way I could have changed my diet plan; it's just not possible for me. But I think if I had prepared myself mentally for what was going to happen, I could have controlled those impulses to steal food.

Check back with Reality TV World soon to read more from our exclusive Survivor interview with Cole Medders.



Robert Voets/CBS

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