Even though he didn’t win Survivor: Game Changers, it is still easy to come away from Brad Culpepper’s second time at the game feeling impressed with what he did. This is a guy who went out pre-jury his first game, and then figured out this time how to win people over and make it far into the game. When he needed start winning immunity challenges, he did — and on five occasions, no less.
In our Brad Culpepper interview today, we went through some of the changing perceptions of him across two seasons, his challenge wins, and if his own success outside the game hurt him in any way.
CarterMatt – How have you felt the reaction and opinion of you change from the first time you played? Your edit and story was obviously very different this time around.
Brad Culpepper – A lot of people who [had bad things to say about me last time] didn’t really play with me. Redemption Island made things different in Blood-Water — you get rid of people, and then they come back and yell at you. In previous Survivor, it didn’t happen.
I just wanted to go out there and play the game. The last time I was out there, I played with my wife and it was very different. We spoke about this before. Playing with my wife, who I love more than myself, makes it a very different game. She’s my #1, so when people asked ‘why would you vote off your #1 guy John Cody,’ I would always say ‘he’s not my #1. I wasn’t worried about me; I was worried about her.’ It was just frustrating, and people thought I was a terrible Survivor player even though I hadn’t really played yet. That was the biggest reason why I wanted to play, for lack of a better term, ‘regular’ Survivor. It’s a selfish game, and you’re by yourself. I finally got that opportunity and I’m really happy.
I got my full enchilada. I got to go back and play again. I’m satisfied and I don’t really want to go back and do it again.
Is there a little bit of fun back-and-forth going on at the Culpepper house now that you’re both 2nd-place finishers?
Not too much (laughs). I’m still second place in my house. I don’t think she wants to go back, but if she did go back she could probably win. If I went back, I don’t think that I could ever win. She’s definitely the better player.
Did your success outside of the game hurt you at all at the end?
Not really. Maybe some people want to say that you want to reward someone who supposedly has less, but I think the jury was just looking at the game from their perspective. They appreciated hard gameplay and they weren’t bitter. Especially someone like Zeke. If I had known Zeke’s game-bot behavior on the jury, I would have known that he was not going to be bitter and he’s going to go with someone like Sarah even though she got him out.
I don’t think the decision hinged on anything outside the game. I just think that she played a great game.
Going into the game, how worried were you that you would be seen as this huge challenge threat like Ozzy was? How did you try to stay under the radar before winning so many at the end?
Absolutely. At the start of the entire game, I was really worried about that, or that I’d be thought of as a bear to be around because of everything that happened in Blood vs. Water. Monica, she wouldn’t be married to someone for 24 years who was a real jerk. I really tried to play up that, and I really tried to stay away from puzzles because I didn’t have a reputation as a ‘puzzle guy’ when I’m actually pretty good at them. I do crosswords every day and I’m really good at jigsaw puzzles.
I tried to stay low-key, and after the merge with the pole challenge I knew I wasn’t going to win it. I knew I wasn’t going to beat Ozzy or Tai, so as soon as Cirie went down after five minutes I just went ahead and went down.
By the time they sort of wrapped their minds around me being pretty good in challenges, I think it was too late.
One of the funnier moments for you this season was when you showed your love of antiquing and decorating out there. How much of that was you just being yourself, or were you making a real concentrated effort to show that side as strategy?
That’s just who I am, even on the last season of the show. There is a LOT of downtime, so why not make your house a home? They had a lot of props lying around the beach with the bulbs and the whole shipwrecked theme, so I just thought it would be fun. I built a kitchen and I built a tool shed, and JT kind of built the shelter.
Maybe there was a perception of me that I was fun to be around that came as a result of all of that, but it was incidental.
Further Survivor finale coverage
If you do want to get some other CarterMatt exit interviews from the finale, plus some reviews from the show and a look ahead to next season, head over to the link here. (Photo: CBS.)