‘Survivor’ Brad: “I’ve Never Played Real ‘Survivor,’ I Had to Play with My Loved One Which Is Totally Different”

Brad Culpepper (CBS)

QUICK NOTE: The good folks at XFINITY sent me deep into the Fijian wilderness to bring you an exclusive look at “Survivor: Game Changers.” While I was there I conducted interviews with “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and the entire 20-person cast. I also captured exclusive photos and other behind-the-scenes tidbits. So, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.

Name: Brad Culpepper
Age: 47
Hometown: Tampa, FL
Previously Played On:
“Survivor: Blood vs. Water” – Finished 15th
Best Known For: Being cursed out by Marissa Peterson

Gordon Holmes: So, what’ve you been up to since “Blood vs. Water”?
Brad Culpepper: Well, I played 1/22 of “Second Chance.” And I’ve been a dad since then. Of course I got sued because I was on “Blood vs. Water.”
Holmes: And that’s been worked out?
Culpepper: Worked out? (Expletive deleted) no, the judge threw it out. I won that. It was (expletive deleted). My oldest son got a full scholarship and is playing quarterback at Syracuse. That’s the hat I’m going to be wearing this season.
Holmes: Congratulations.
Culpepper: Thank you. My other one is going to be a junior, he’s been recruited by a bunch of places. But I’ve just been being busy being a dad. Now I’m trying to follow into Monica’s wake.
Holmes: She made a run for it last time
Culpepper: She sure did. As difficult as it is for me…and we can get into that scenario as if you want. I wouldn’t change anything because she got a full run at it. She stayed the full 39 days and played awesome.
Holmes: Did she give you any advice?
Culpepper: She did. I live with a Survivor, so we talk “Survivor” all the time. She said, “You need to wake up every single morning thinking you’re going home. And at the end of the day, don’t be the guy on the bottom. Don’t ever get complacent.” And quite frankly, when I got voted out, one of my alliance turned at Tribal Council. He didn’t go in there thinking he was voting me out, and if I had been more cognizant of his worries and made sure he was confident that he wasn’t going home, I’d wouldn’t have gotten voted out. I’m going to be more dogged on thinking I need to reassure who I’m with that I have their back.

Holmes: The theme this season is Game Changers. How did you change the game?
Culpepper: I don’t know. It’s 19 Game Changers and Brad.
Holmes: (Laughs)
Culpepper: I almost made the jury. Does that count? I’d say this; our whole season was a bit of a Game Changer. “Blood vs. Water” was all Culpepper from beginning to end with myself and Monica. When you’re playing with your wife, it’s harder than playing with your brother or your boyfriend that you’ve had for two weeks. The dynamics that I had to go through so as not to upset my wife’s tribe and yet try to propel myself was a whole other kind of concept. The game has morphed from where it was to where it is now and that whole “Blood vs. Water” concept added a whole new layer. And I was a big part of that. And, I eliminated the Codys so Monica could get to the end.

Holmes: What do you think of the cast so far?
Culpepper: A lot of alpha people, which is OK. I think it’s a situation where, even though I’m an A personality, I don’t know that I’m out-of-the-box the threat that everyone else is. There are so many people who have won, who have won twice, that are named Ozzy, that are named Malcolm…there are so many guys and girls who are big-time players. And if I was one of them, I don’t know if I’d necessarily be worried about me. Which is good because I’m going to play that card. And I’m definitely going to play the card that, “You guys have forgotten more about ‘Survivor’ than I know.” I don’t think that, I’ve never played real “Survivor,” I had to play with my loved one which is totally different. It’s a little bit intimidating, but I can play indian for a little while. I couldn’t do that in “Blood vs. Water.” I had to be a chief. I was the oldest one there and everyone else was in their twenties. I’m not trying to be the chief here, but eventually I’ll have to be.

Holmes: Is there anyone you’re looking forward to working with?
Culpepper: There is nobody I would rule out. My biggest thing is; I’m going to reach out to people who wouldn’t think I would reach out to them. I think it’s obvious that I’d work with athletic male types. That’s not going to be the first person I’ll approach. I’d go to a Crazy Debbie or a Sandra or a Cirie. I’d go to a Michaela…a Varner. I’d say to Varner, “Hey, I know you make your decisions so fast. You don’t know me. Don’t judge me based on what you’ve seen and what you think I’m all about. Judge me on the next three days and see what kind of person I am. And if you want to play with me, I’ll play all day long.” If you’d have asked me before “Blood vs. Water,” “You’re going to get voted out and Monica is going to go to the end with two people, who do you think they will be?” The last people I would have said are Tyson and Gervase. In hindsight, I know both of those guys. Gervase is great, Tyson is one of the funniest guys I know. I’m kind of a little bit like both of those guys, so I see why Monica gravitated to them. I think for me to get to the end, I’m going to end up with two people I never expected to be with. Talk about a Sandra, who can Sandra sit next to and really win? I’m going to convince her that she can sit with me and win. If she goes with Ciera who has never won, there’s going to be a sympathy thing. Where with me? I’ve got a million dollars. I’m not the Jeremy effect of, “I’ve got a pregnant wife.” I don’t think it’ll come down to that, but that’s how I’ll sell it to her.

Holmes: Speaking of Ciera, you and her have been on the same tribe before. What’s your relationship with her like now?
Culpepper: I went home the night she was supposed to go home. I’ve watched her play, she seems very devious. She should have gone home. She upped her game after that, but up until that point she was a little bit milquetoast. I’m immediately going to go to her and say, “You think I’m bitter towards you, I’m not. Let’s bury any kind of hatchet. You’re a different person, I’m a different person and it’s a different game.” I would try to build an alliance with her, but then again, she seems very slippery.

Holmes: Monica played with Troyzan. Is there any kind of relationship there?
Culpepper: A little bit. They didn’t play much together. I’ve met him at finales and stuff like that. We’re friendly. I like Troy. I would definitely team up with Troy. He seems pretty straight. But, she never was on a tribe with him.
Holmes: They were on the same beach.
Culpepper: Yeah, but they might’ve only said a couple of words to each other. And she was gone after 15 days.

Holmes: Alright, you and I arrive on the beach and I’m looking to send you packing. I’m going to give you the arguments I’m going to give to other people. You need to defend against it.
Culpepper: Sure.
Holmes: Culpepper voted out John Cody who was totally loyal to him. Looks and physique and personality aside, I don’t want to be the next John Cody.
Culpepper: (Laughs) It was a different game. My number one loyalty was my wife. John Cody was not connected to her tribe. And at that point, everyone was coming back from Redemption Island and they were blaming me for voting their loved ones off. It was at that point that I was worried that I was going to get Monica voted off. I had to vote off someone who would not effect my number one. John Cody’s wife was at Redemption Island, so he was the only one not connected to my wife. I couldn’t vote out someone whose loved one would send Monica to Redemption, because then I’d have to take her place. It was a tough move and I never would have made it if I was playing by myself.

Holmes: Culpepper played in the NFL. That’s a higher level of competition than most people can imagine. It’s been a while, but I don’t want to face that kind of guy in individual immunity challenges.
Culpepper: I’m 47 years old. I’m the least of your worries in challenges. I’m probably fifth or sixth or seventh on the totem pole. You’ve got a lot bigger problems than me. You want me to show you my knee, my lower back, my shoulder, I’m tough and I’ll give it 100%, but I’m not 30. There are plenty of other challenge beasts out here.

Holmes: Brad Culpepper played in the NFL, he’s a lawyer. He doesn’t need the money.
Culpepper: Why would you want to send me packing? I don’t need the money, you do. You want to be sitting next to me at the finals and be able to throw that out there. Jeremy did it. He needed the money. There isn’t going to be any sympathy for me. Nobody is going to say, “Let’s give Culpepper another million dollars.”

Holmes: Anytime there is a returning-player season, there is talk of pre-game alliances. Are you a part of any? Have you heard of any rumors?
Culpepper: Not really. I heard more on “Second Chance.”
Holmes: Yeah, there was a rumor about a get-together at the Culpepper house.
Culpepper: That was (expletive deleted). It made me furious. I didn’t hear about it until afterwards. There’s no (expletive deleted)…find one person that came to my house. Nobody did. Not one (expletive deleted) person.
Holmes: Nobody admitted to being at this event. What I kept hearing was, “Brad had all of these people over to his house, but he didn’t invite me.”
Culpepper: Correct! Did you ever find anyone who was there?
Holmes: I don’t believe so.
Culpepper: Because there’s no (expletive deleted) way! If Varner tries to bring something like that up, I’ll say, “I don’t know who started that. Nobody came to my (expletive deleted) house.” I don’t do Twitter, I don’t do Facebook, I do nothing. Ciera texted me, but I don’t know how much I trust her. I nod at people, I’m a friendly guy. I’ll break the rules and try to talk to people, but it’s all just, “Hey, can’t wait to see you on the beach.”

Holmes: A fifth of the cast is from Kaoh Rong.
Culpepper: Doesn’t bother me. It’d bother me if I was them. You look at Tai and Caleb, Tai was in tears when Caleb left. He got to the final three with Aubry. I don’t know if I’d be that jazzed if I was them because you immediately want to split up couples. I think it puts a target on Tai’s back. Crazy Debbie, maybe not. She’s someone I’d go up to and buy what she’s selling even though I think she’s full of (expletive deleted). I’d buy her juggling, I’d buy her being a model, I’d buy her being a pilot. I’d say, “You live your life, baby. I get you. Me and you, we’re real similar. I’m a pro football player, lawyer, Eagle scout. We’re the same.”

Holmes: What about these two unknown quantities from season 33?
Culpepper: I think Michaela is very pretty. Just seeing her at Ponderosa, I think she’s one of the prettiest girls they’ve ever had on “Survivor.” I don’t know her at all and maybe she’s hell on wheels, but she seems very approachable. I would go to her because I wouldn’t want her to think, “He voted out Marissa.” Everyone voted out Marissa! It was nine to (expletive deleted) one! Don’t blame me! And Zeke, don’t know him, seems like a friendly guy. We sat across from each other at lunch and we made small talk. He seemed nice. Jeff introduced them to us and brought up a name when he introduced them to us. He said, “Guys, I want you to meet Zeke and Michaela. They are holdovers from last season just like Russell was.” I was like, “Why the (expletive deleted) did he mention that name?” I’d be so mad if I was Zeke and he brings up Russell’s name in connection with being held over. I immediately started thinking, why’d they bring up Russell’s name? So, neither one of them won, and just like Russell, they’re back. All things being equal, if it’s a first-day vote out, I might vote for Zeke.

Holmes: So, you chatted briefly with Zeke during lockdown. Who else have you been trying to communicate with?
Culpepper: I’ve been doing it the whole time. Can’t hurt to smile at everybody. I’m an open book. I’ll work with anyone. It’s OK if someone pre-chooses to not like me, so I can write them off. But, I’m going to the beach with open eyes and open arms. Now, I’m sure after five hours I’ll be thinking something else. Now, maybe everyone has been pre-gaming and has alliances, but I don’t want to do that. Tyson didn’t do it. There was some pre-gaming that season and it boxed people in. It boxed Monica in with Colton and it was horrible. Best thing that ever happened was him quitting. She was boxed in with him and she did not want to be with him, but he’d done so much pre-gaming that it was bad. Tyson did minimal if any pre-gaming. It gives you the freedom to find yourself a better scenario.
Holmes: There are just too many variables to commit yourself to someone before the game starts.
Culpepper: Exactly. And I just want to dispel the notion that I’m a misogynist. If I can be married to Monica for 25 years, I can’t be any kind of (expletive deleted) misogynist. I’m as left a liberal Democrat as there is. The perception is that I’m a bro-down guy. It just happened that way. But, that’s not what I’m looking for. My best friend out there was Vytas, and he’s a quirky guy. California Vytas!

Holmes: I have a deck of cards here. Each player except for Zeke and Michaela, because you don’t know them, are in here. I’ll hand you three cards at random. You tell me who you’re voting out first, who you’re working with but eventually eliminating, and who you’re taking to the end.

Round One: JT, Ozzy, and Tony
Culpepper: I’ll work with Ozzy, but I won’t take him to the end. Wait, I can’t go to the end with JT. This is hard. I’d align with any of these guys but I don’t want to take them to the end… Alright, I’ll take Tony to the end because I can beat him… You gave me hard ones!
Holmes: It’s random!
Culpepper: OK, I’ll work with Ozzy and won’t take him to the end. He can catch me fish. Tony goes first and I take JT to the end. I can make a better move than JT.

Round Two: Ciera, Malcolm, and Andrea
Culpepper: I’ll align with Malcolm, but I won’t take him to the end. Wait… I’ll take Ciera to the end because I can beat her. I’ll vote out Malcolm first to prove that I’m not a bro-down guy. And I can work with Andrea.
Holmes: What the argument to beat Ciera?
Culpepper: I’m smarter than her. I know her. I know how she thinks.

Round Three: Debbie, Caleb, and Sierra
Culpepper: I’ll take Caleb to the end. He’s not going to make a big move, he’s going to ride my coattails. I’ll vote Sierra out first. And I’ll work with Crazy Debbie.
Holmes: Why Sierra first?
Culpepper: It’s because of the cards you gave me. I really want to work with Crazy Debbie.

Round Four: Jeff, Hali, and Troyzan
Culpepper: I’d get rid of Jeff because he doesn’t like me. I’d try to convince him, but I can tell that he doesn’t like me. I can’t take Troyzan to the end, but I’ll ride him to the end and then cut him. And I’ll take Hali to the end because I know I can beat her. She’s not going to be the lynchpin to cutting Troyzan, I am. She’s going to go along with it.

Round Five: Cirie, Sandra, and Aubry
Culpepper: This is a hard one too. I don’t want to go to the end with any of these people, but I’m going to take Sandra to the end because she’s going to do her thing of not being the person who is voted off. She isn’t going to make any moves. Aubry’s tired. I’ll send her home first. She just got done doing this. And I’ll work with Cirie.

Holmes: Alright, two left. Work with one and boot the other.

Round Six: Tai and Sarah.
Culpepper: Tai…he seemed a little flighty. And Sarah’s a cop, she’s solid, I think I can trust her. So, keep Sarah and boot Tai.

Don’t miss the two-hour season premiere of “Survivor: Game Changers,” Wednesday March 8, 2017 at 8 p.m. ET.

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

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