‘Survivor’ Castaway Caleb: ‘That Wasn’t How I Wanted to Leave’


Caleb Reynolds (CBS)

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Eight years ago in Gabon, I got to test out an immunity challenge that involved digging. We were maybe at it for ten minutes and the temperatures were probably in low ’80s…

And it was probably one of the most exhausting things I’ve ever done.

So, when the Caleb went down after 45 minutes in the excruciating heat, I wasn’t surprised. I was just glad he was OK.

I spoke to the “Beast-Mode Cowboy” the morning after his medical evacuation and asked him what he remembers from that horrific afternoon, what’s going on around the Brains tribe, and if he ever got that kiss from Tai…

Gordon Holmes: Beast Mooooode.
Caleb Reynolds: (Laughs) How are you doing?
Holmes: I’m alright. You?
Reynolds: I’m doing much better.
Holmes: I’d hope so, I couldn’t imagine you doing much worse.

Holmes: I was watching it last night with my wife and she said she couldn’t imagine what your loved ones must be going through watching that and feeling so helpless. You’re engaged, correct?
Reynolds: Yes.
Holmes: What was her reaction to last night’s episode?
Reynolds: She was pretty teared up. She wasn’t sobbing because she was sitting next to me on the couch knowing I was OK. For her to know that there was nothing she could do while I was gone and knowing that I went through that, it was emotional for her and my mom who was sitting to the right of me, and my brothers and their wives in the house. They were saying, “Gosh, we hate that you went through that.” I couldn’t imagine what they’d be thinking if it was live. They’d have  bought a plane to Cambodia as soon as I fell over. Even for me it was emotional. I’m better now and I’m very healthy now, but the thing that made me emotional was that I gave it my best. I gave it my all. I worked my butt off until we won, then it happened. I left it all out there. I stayed true to myself.

Holmes: Watching it back, you’d roll a ball and if it’d bounce off the course and you’d sprint to get it back. You’re well enough to do that and as soon as it’s over you drop. It had to have been adrenaline carrying you.
Reynolds: That’s what I’m guessing. I see Cydney, she’s digging and they’re rolling balls. After we win, it was the same thing with Debbie. They had won and then all of the sudden it hit her. That body response also happened to Cydney and me. I guess I was pushing myself a lot harder or it hit me worse. The adrenaline was keeping me moving and keeping my mind on track. As soon as it was over there was a quick flash and I fell on my back. My eyes started getting blurry, I got real dizzy. I wasn’t sweating. My skin was really dry. I thought, “This can’t be good.” I found the nearest shade and went over there. And the moment I fell, I don’t really remember anything except opening my eyes here and there.

Holmes: What do you remember after they took you out of the game?
Reynolds:  I remember Jeff had put his hand on my head and he said, “Can you hear me?” I didn’t have the energy to respond. He asked me again and I nodded. I remember he said, “We have to take you out of the game.” And I said, “No.” I shook my head no. He said, “I know you don’t want to, but we have to.” I remember waking up in the helicopter once and Doctor Joe’s hand was on my chest. And he was like, “I’m sorry.” I asked, “What’s wrong?” And he said, “I have to take you out of the game. You’re in bad shape.” And I just started crying. That wasn’t how I wanted to leave. I remember waking up in an ambulance a little later on and then I remember being in the hospital where I was for five days.

Holmes: Your tribemates were very emotional. It’s clear you were well-liked. You and Tai were adorable. My pitch is you and Tai for “The Amazing Race.”
Reynolds: (Laughs) It’s really crazy because that’s the show that I applied to from the beginning of this journey. I could totally see Tai and I doing “Amazing Race” together! I really enjoy Tai’s company. He had us laughing every day. I connected with Tai because of his story. I grew up pretty rough as well. Tai’s story seemed similar to mine in an emotional way. You wonder how someone could make it through all that and still be happy today. Tai and I really did connect. At the same time, he was a big asset. He knew everything. I was constantly hearing something new from Tai everyday. More than anything, he taught me things. I learned being around him. I didn’t learn much from the other people. Everything that they talked about or did, I’ve done that, or we talk about that too. I got to hear new things, new adventures, and new wisdom from Tai.

Holmes: I wanted to ask about Nick. I feel like we haven’t seen or heard much from him. How does the tribe feel about him?
Reynolds: At first, Nick did a lot around camp. He seemed strong, he seemed a bit manipulative. He seemed like he was very quick to tell someone one thing and then tell someone else another thing. I connected with him because we both work out, we’re fitness trainers, we live the same lifestyle. When you’re the muscle of the team, you connect. We were like, “We’re going to be here a while. They’re not going to send guys like us home.” So, we wanted to work together. But other people thought he was sly. They weren’t sure about him. As far as I know, Nick was cool with everyone when Tai started looking for the idol. We thought Nick is good and Tai will be the first one to leave. The girls and I, we connected. They didn’t like Nick. They felt uneasy around him. They said that his laugh was fake, his smile was like the Grinch. I’m pretty sure it was because he told Tai one thing and then he told one of the girls another thing. And then they talked, of course. Next thing you know…we didn’t want to blow him up. We didn’t want him to know that we knew what he’d done. But that was Day Two.

Holmes: What were your alliances out there?
Reynolds: I had me, Nick, and Tai. We were good. I had me and the girls good. Me, Michele, and Anna with Nick. It was all over the place honestly. But from what I know from when I was out there, he was in an OK position until Tai found the idol. And then he was in a bad position.
Holmes: So, you knew Tai had the idol?
Reynolds: I wouldn’t say we knew he had it, but when he came back with his fingers full of mud…we pretty much knew that he had been digging. And you know, in past seasons you dig for the idol. And, he straight up told us that he was looking for an idol. We had suspicions that he was lying and he had it. We were playing as if he did.

Holmes: Alright, word association time. Let’s start with Nick.
Reynolds: Strong, athletic, untrustworthy.
Holmes:  Anna?
Reynolds: Bubbly, outgoing, flirty.
Holmes: Julia?
Reynolds: (Laughs) Funny, goofy, young.
Holmes: Michele?
Reynolds: (Laughs) All the girls ring the same bell to me.
Holmes: (Laughs) Let’s finish with Tai.
Reynolds: I could give you a thousand words for him. Tai is one of a kind. He is very admirable.
Holmes: Good kisser?
Reynolds: He did try to kiss me. I thought he was kidding. I didn’t really know he was going in for a kiss!
Holmes: How can you blame him, Caleb?
Reynolds:  (Laughs) It threw me off guard because the night before he was telling us that he’d been with his boyfriend for nine years. They’re in love, they just haven’t gotten married yet. The next day he tried to kiss me and in my mind I’m thinking, “He’s got a boyfriend at home, so he had to be just kidding because his boyfriend is going to see that.” I hope he tells his boyfriend that he’s just kidding or he’s going to be in trouble.
Holmes: What happens on “Survivor,”…gets broadcast to America.
Reynolds: (Laughs) I Facetimed him and he said, “My boyfriend doesn’t like you.”
Holmes: (Laughs)
Reynolds: I said, “That was all you, Tai!” And he said, “I know, I’m in so much trouble!” He should have watched that episode all by himself.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

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