‘Survivor: Caramoan’ Fan Reynold Toepfer: ‘You Have to Be Cutthroat’


Reynold Toepfer (CBS)

I had a chance to sit down with all twenty of the “Fans vs. Favorites” competitors the day before they left for the Caramoan Islands. I’ll be posting exclusive interviews with each contestant every weekday until we get through all of them. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for tons of updates.

Name: Reynold Toepfer
Age: 30
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Occupation: Sales

Note: The “Survivor: Caramoan” pre-game interviews are unlike the pre-game interviews we’ve done in the past. Usually, the interviews take place on location, this time they took place in Los Angeles before the players flew out. At this point, all the “Fans” know is that they’re flying out in the next few days. They have seen each other, but haven’t seen the returning players.  They don’t know for sure where they’re going, and they don’t know any of the season’s twists.

Gordon Holmes: Alright, how does a guy who lives in San Francisco become a Tom Brady fan?
Reynold Toepfer: My first job posting was in Boston and I grew up in Ohio with losing teams, the Bengals in particular. And then I went there and worked with all Pats fans and drank the Kool-Aid. And, I have a respect for the game, I played. And I think he brings out the best in everyone around him. So many different rosters and he keeps winning.
Holmes: What level did you play up to?
Toepfer: High school, and I played rugby in college.
Holmes: Rugby? That’s a tough sport.
Toepfer: Yeah, I was good in Ohio, but then I played overseas in Australia and got my ass kicked.
Holmes: When did you live in Australia?
Toepfer: Let’s see…I’ve been back in the States for two years. So like 2007 to 2010.
Holmes: They have giant spiders there, right?
Toepfer: Yeah, but they don’t bite you. The huntsman spider, it’s big, it’s hairy, it’s the size of my hand.
Holmes: Screw that.
Toepfer: It’s the little ones that will kill you. The little brown and black ones.

Holmes: Why do you think they picked you to play?
Toepfer: I’ve always been told that I have an energy about me. I was recruited, Lynne found me on the street. I’m a big believer in fate and destiny and things like that. I was watching Season 2 when I was in high school, I was too young to send in a video. And, I was watching Colby Donaldson and I was like, “God, I could be that guy.” And I really could feel this connection. I was like, “That’s going to be me one day, but not yet.” I lived my life, I went to Boston, I went overseas, I traveled Europe, and I lived my life very happily and very fully. And I got spotted in LA.
Holmes: Just off the street?
Toepfer: Just off the street. It was one of those LA stories.
Holmes: For someone like yourself who believes in fate, that’s exactly how it would happen.
Toepfer: It was kind of magical, you know? It was meant to be. So I feel very comfortable.

Holmes: Let’s talk about your gameplay. How comfortable are you lying to people?
Toepfer: I’m not that comfortable lying. But, I have a slew of ex-girlfriends that would tell you otherwise. So, maybe I’m in denial about it. I come from a Midwestern Ohio upbringing. My dad is very big on honesty. So, it was funny talking to them about the game. My dad was like, “Be honest, no lies!” And my mom was like (whispering), “You’ve got to do whatever you’ve got to do.”
Holmes: (Laughs) So you have the cartoon angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.
Toepfer: (Laughs) Yeah, and I’m really a hybrid of the two of them. My mother is a little more cutthroat and my father is a little more old fashioned.
Holmes: How do you feel about being lied to?
Toepfer: It’s a game. I think some people have made it personal, which I’m not cool with. Colton (Cumbie) was making personal attacks and there’s no need to go there. I will never go there. That’s where I draw the line. But as far as lying to play the game and win the game? I’m OK with that. That’s what we all signed up for.
Holmes: The only time lying bothers me in the game is when it doesn’t serve a strategic purpose. I think of “Heroes vs. Villains” where it seemed like Russell Hantz was riling people up without a real purpose behind it.
Toepfer: Saying, “We’re going to be the final two” to people that didn’t even fit his strategy. It was like this shotgun approach of just saying it to everybody. And a huge difference between he and I is that I would only do it for purpose and I’d get no enjoyment out of it. I’m not the “he he he, I really got you” type. I’m going to be more conflicted. I’ve formed a relationship with this person, but this is what I’ve got to do.
Holmes: Is there anything about your personal life that you feel you need to conceal?
Toepfer: No, I’m in sales and I’ve found that in sales people can smell honesty. So, even if I say, “I don’t have the best product, but here’s where I can help you.” People like that better. They like real. And I think the real me is a character that I would create to win this game.

Holmes: You’re a handsome gentleman, if you don’t mind me saying.
Toepfer: Thank you. But, I’ll be on TV looking my worst. (Laughs)
Holmes: Hey, some people get on that show and look better.
Toepfer: I know!
Holmes: Like Christina (Cha)? On day 30-whatever she was looking good.
Toepfer: I know. Chelsea (Meissner) was looking good too.
Holmes: We’re way off track here. My question was, are you OK flirting to get ahead?
Toepfer: Yeah, and I’ve been accused of being a flirt. It’s just my nature. And I do it playfully, usually in regular life without seeking anything. It’s fun.
Holmes: Is there a girlfriend or wife at home?
Toepfer: No wife. No girlfriend…well…it’s complicated.
Holmes: Is there anyone who’s going to be pissed off if they see you flirting?
Toepfer: Probably. But…not really. I don’t know. It’s not enough to stop me. She’d be all about me winning the game.

Holmes: You lived in Australia for three years. Did you take the opportunity to camp out, rough it a little?
Toepfer: Yes, but not to the extent of what I’m about to experience.
Holmes: Few people do.
Toepfer: (Laughs) Yeah.

Holmes: If there is a twist, what do you think it will be?
Toepfer: You’re thinking, one world, one camp, boys vs. girls, heroes vs. villains… I don’t know. All I know is that they’re wildly unpredictable. And within your strategy, you need to be planning for them to turn it on its head. Anytime you think you have the game under your control, they’re going to do something. I have no idea what it is, and I’m not going to try to guess because it will only screw me up.
Holmes: That’s a good attitude to have. One day you’re perfectly comfortable and the next Jeff is handing you a new buff. The person you were a jerk to could be part of the new dominant alliance.
Toepfer: Absolutely. So, it’s a juggle. Alliances are a necessary part of the game, but you’ve got to do your groundwork with the people who aren’t in your alliance.
Holmes: But, you can’t be too obvious about it or your alliance won’t trust you.
Toepfer: Yeah, I know.
Holmes: The game has gotten so complicated.
Toepfer: But a good defense there is, “We’ve got to play the game, we’ve got to keep up appearances. You should be doing it too.”
Holmes: Seems like you’ve been mentally preparing for this.
Toepfer: My biggest fear is being voted out first because they want to blindside someone who looks like a strong character.
Holmes: I don’t know, I feel like it’s tough to be voted out first. Now watch, you’ll be voted out first.
Toepfer: Yeah, thanks!
Holmes:  There’s almost always an obvious first person to target. Either they’re annoying or a big challenge liability. You’re a young guy in good shape, that’s very valuable to a tribe.
Toepfer: I feel like it’s a bit of an insurance policy until the merge. And then by then, I hope I have enough of a social game to carry me. It’s a fascinating game. It’s not like with Colby where you can be honorable. You have to be cutthroat and keep your head on a swivel.

Holmes: What are your first impressions of your castmates?
Toepfer: I like them. I like people. I like different types of people. I think they threw out some grenades in the form of beautiful women that I’m going to have to be careful around. But, I’m excited to meet them. I think that’s part of the fun of the game.
Holmes: What do you think their first impressions of you be?
Toepfer: I think I have my work cut out for me. I’m a bit over the top. I’m a big guy, I create a lot of presence. Like in the finals week in LA I was an embellished version of myself.
Holmes: What were you doing?
Toepfer: I was showing off in the pool a bit.

Holmes: What’re you going to do with that phat million-dollar check?
Toepfer: Being completely honest, I’m a minimalist. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. I live in San Francisco and that’s expensive. So, this will help alleviate some of that pressure. But, the most important thing to me would be to spoil my parents.
Holmes: Especially if you had to lie and upset your father.
Toepfer: Exactly. (Laughs) He’ll change his mind when he’s on a boat on the Mediterranean drinking some nice wine.

Don’t miss the two-hour premiere of “Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites,” Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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