Exclusive: Benjamin "Coach" Wade talks about 'Survivor: Tocantins'
By Reality TV World staff, 05/16/2009
Whether was attempting to forge pseudo-warrior alliances, trying to slay non-existent dragons, or just making up alleged super-secret martial arts, Benjamin "Coach" Wade somehow always seemed to find a way to make himself the center of attention.
However after 36 days in the game, his fellow Survivor: Tocantins castaways finally tired of his behavior and voted him out of the game.
On Friday, the self-dubbed "Dragon Slayer" spoke to Reality TV World about how many of his antics were genuine, what his side of some of the season's most memorable controversies were, and whether he still stands by his claim that he never lied once during the entire game.
Reality TV World: You said and did a lot of controversial things obviously during your time of the show. So my first question is how much of what was shown was genuine and real and, given both your brother's apparent indy filmmaker background and your own recent comments where you said you're planning to become a big star in Hollywood, how much of it was just an act that you were kind of putting on for the cameras?
Coach: Wow, there's a little of ground to cover there, I'll try and do it as quick as possible.
I think that you saw a very two-dimensional person out there and there were a lot of different parts of my personality that you didn't see. The encouraging, the motivating, the spending one-on-one with a lot of people. Getting Taj to break down, in a god way emotionally, about missing her son before the auction ever happened. Teaching Debbie how to meditate. I did a lot of things out there.
One of the things that they didn't show [was] the fact that I lost all that weight. You know, in mid-October I was 205 pounds and in mid-December I was 149 pounds coming out of the game. I did that because I gave away my food to everybody. I virtually didn't eat at all -- a couple of bites in the morning [and] a couple of bites at night -- because I wanted the tribe to be strong and it just kind of escalated from there.
But I know I've been controversial. The thing that I would like to say is, yes, the stories that I told down there are accurate. I have no pretense to lie, I wouldn't lie for a million dollars, I obviously wouldn't lie about things like that.
As far as my brother, I've got no control over his website. I said [the Hollywood stuff] out of a reaction to getting fired. I in fact did inform my boss that I was going to be gone for two months and having that come out in the papers as if I had lied was very hurtful to me. So flippantly I reached out [to the press] and said 'Hey, I'm going to Hollywood, I'm going to be the next big thing' and I was really saying it in a moment of vulnerability.
But as far as the act out there, the Dragon Slayer. Obviously I don't believe I'm a Dragon Slayer and the fantasy that I created out of that with the wizard and the warrior was just [me] having some good times out there,
[As far as] the [secret marital arts] and that kind of stuff [goes], I do meditate, but with the [marital arts] I was just trying to create something that everybody would think was memorable. And my goodness, how many scenes did they have of me out there meditating and doing my breathing exercises? It certainly worked and it put me in the better place.
Reality TV World: So you do recognize that you came across as kind of delusional with some of the things you were saying out there?
Coach: Yeah, [but] I wouldn't [call it] delusional. I'll tell you this, I'm not delusional nor am I crazy. [But] I am different than other people and I understand it. You know I don't hold anything against the media or hold anything against the people on the show that want to doubt me. I know what I've done and God knows what I've done and as long as we're straight it's cool.
But it's like if you came up to me, and you were like 'By the way, this Amazon tribe, you thought they were going to cut off your balls and your johnson and they thought you were going to stuff it down your throat and then eviscerate you and eat it in front you because that's what they do down there.' And if you were to tell me that you thought you were in a situation where you thought that was going to happen I would be sitting there scratching my head saying certainly this isn't accurate.
And when I told the story, I knew that it was going to be the subject of ridicule. But something inside of me said that you have to tell this.
Reality TV World: Obviously the thing about those types of stories is they're pretty difficult to prove or disprove either way. But one of the ones that's really seemed to spark the most controversy is this solo kayak world record claim, this 6,000-mile record...
Reality TV World: I'm sure you're probably aware of it by now, but last month Canoe & Kayak Magazine came out and challenged [your world record claim] and said the record is actually held by a guy named Paul Caffyn, who kayaked more than 9,000 miles back in 1980 and 1981.
Coach: Yes, I know this. I know that you're done your research, so you contacted Guinness and you know that the actual world record [they have listed] is 348 miles, which I could break in probably a 48-hour paddle. So you know that [348 miles] is the actual Guinness Books of Word Records [record].
Did I ever say that I thought I had the Guinness Book of World Records [record]? Absolutely not. Am I talking to Guinness, yes, and you can eat your hat they're done declaring me the true Guinness World Record [holder].
Reality TV World: What would I be eating my hat over?
Coach: About the fact that I'm actually going to be the world record.
Reality TV World: So you're saying Caffyn's 9,000+ mile trip didn't happen?
Coach: Well obviously I don't want to get into a verbal match with you but you obviously haven't done your research. I want to contact Guinness, you'll see that... 348 miles [is the] world record. This guy that took a 9,000-mile trip and the Canoe & Kayak [magazine folks], they're not the authority on anything.
Reality TV World: [So] you're expecting Guinness to certify [your] trip from 15 years ago?
Coach: We'll just wait and see on that... I know what I've done. It was in the newspapers from all over the place when I did it. I've got documentation out the ying-yang and if it happens, it happens.
Look, I'm not the one who set out to break a world record, I went out take a record that would get myself closer to God [and] be a great personal challenge and it was actually the media who sat there and got a hold of it and said 'Hey, this is going to be a world record and let's publicize it' and let's do this and let's do that. That's not what the trip was about.
Reality TV World: Do you think in the meantime you should maybe advise your brother not to be presenting [your trip] as a Guinness record [on his petewadeshow.com website]?
Coach: You know what, I don't have any control over my brother's website and I actually told my brother 'There's some things on there that you need to change' but I am not my brother's keeper and I don't have any control what he puts on there. I certainly have not once made the claim that it was a Guinness Books of World Records [record].
Reality TV World: Okay, obviously like I said, you've been involved in several controversial things. Another one was with regard to the philosophy you had in the game about wanting to take the strongest people to the end and how you then immediately turned on Brendan -- one of the strongest guys in the game -- as soon as the merge came.
Coach: Yeah, the reason I did that was because Brendan came after me and I would have been a fool to have let him vote me off, which it was evident that he was going to.
I wanted to keep him [and] if you rewind to the very first episode you'll see that I approached Brendan and said 'Let's change this game together' [and] he turned his back on me. He didn't want to do it and he thought he was smarter and everything than everybody and it was his arrogance that actually got him.
I know I'm being portrayed as the arrogant one but it was Brendan's arrogance that was his downfall. So when he came at me I had no choice but to fight back, obviously.
Reality TV World: So your saying you were aware that he was coming for you?
Coach: Absolutely. Actually, Tyson came up to me a week before the merge and said 'Brendan's gunning for me and he's gunning for you.' He said 'That's just what I feel, I think he's making alliances with [the Jalapao folks at] Exile' [and the show] showed that on that episode. And I fought with Tyson and I said 'Tyson, I can't do it, I want to be true to my word,' I agonized over that decision.
But as soon as we merged and I started getting news filtered [back to me] that Brendan was going to take out Tyson or me -- and especially when Tyson won immunity and it was for sure that Brendan was going for me -- it would have been foolish for me to sit back and let that happen.
Reality TV World: Okay, so just trying understand how these things played out, when Tyson was voted out, weren't you [going around] saying that a 'cowardly move' because they didn't tell him ahead of time or something like that?
Coach: Well, people have different philosophies on letting people know ahead of time.
Do I think it was a cowardly move to take Tyson out of the game? Looking back on the actual gameplay I think it was a brilliant move. [But] did I like it? Of course not. I wanted Tyson and me to be in the Final 2 and I think we would have been had they not have made that move.
But they made the move and it was cowardly as far as the game that I was trying to play -- taking the strongest to the end -- but it was obviously a good strategic move.
Reality TV World: Another big controversy was that conversation you had with Debbie and Sierra about reestablishing the Timbera tribal alliance after Tyson was gone. Obviously, your take on it was that Sierra was lying about the incident even though the footage [that aired] clearly seemed to show [that she was telling the truth].
Coach: Right, I'm glad that you asked that question. You know what the cameras don't show is that two days before that [public conversation where Sierra confronted us], Sierra came up to me in the water and laid the rest of the game out in a surprising conversation of absolute clarity. She talked about everything -- Tyson, me, it was amazing -- and I said 'No, I don't want to get Timbera back together again.'
So that day that Sierra wanted to call me out and made a mountain out of a mole hill, I defended myself vehemently saying 'Hey, you know what, Sierra did come up to me.'
Now, after watching the episode, do I think I could have handled that situation better? Yes, it kind of became this gray area of Sierra referring to that day's conversation.
And was I disappointed in myself? Absolutely. I'm human and I make mistakes.
Could I have handled it better? Yes, but on that day I was referencing Sierra coming up to [me] two days before.
Reality TV World: So you still stand behind your claim that you never lied once during the entire game?
Coach: I lied about saying that I was a Dragon Slayer. I lied about [the martial arts] and doing my meditation in the water. But as far as lying to somebody else in the game, absolutely, I stand by that claim.