Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers interview: Cole Medders reflects on what he would do differently

Cole MeddersCole Medders found himself in a very tight spot on Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers on Wednesday night. He was on the outside looking in of the dominant alliance, he was a challenge threat, and he had been a target here and there during the game for stealing food.

So what did he have to say about his game after the fact, and are there any moves he wish he could have done differently in retrospect? We go through some of this and more in this latest CarterMatt exit interview. (Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, this interview is coming your way a little later than usual.)

CarterMatt – So what’s more satisfying — getting a food reward on Survivor when you’re good and hungry or Thanksgiving dinner?

Cole Medders – That’s a close one. My grandma’s a good cook, so I’m gonna have to go with her.

So how did you feel about your own journey out there playing the game, and then also the journey as it’s been presented on TV?

I feel like I started off really good on the show when I was doing really good and I was still well-fed. It definitely dipped in the middle, but a lot of my fans have been reaching out to me and saying that after the merge it got better for me until I got voted off.

I know you’re pretty used to being out in the wilderness, but I imagine the main difference there is that when you’re going out you’re either bringing with you food or going to places where there is some.

Yeah, exactly. When I’m on my own personal trips — even when it’s in extremely difficult conditions like negative-thirty weather — we’re still eating very, very good.

Did you underestimate going in what that feeling of starvation was going to be like?

100%. I had no idea that Survivor was going to be so difficult going [into it] in that aspect. I was not a huge fan of the show before, so I didn’t realize that food was going to be a problem. I just thought it was going to be like any other reality TV show and they were giving us candy bars behind the scenes or something, which is not actually the case.

Were you happy that you were able to go out on such a big Tribal Council, or does it just suck to leave no matter when it is?

It always sucks to go, but I feel like I went out well — I went out with grace and kept my head high. I wasn’t [too upset] about being able to go to Ponderosa and get some good food.

I know you’ve talked about this in other exit interviews, and it sounds like Mike also played a fake idol for Joe in addition to the one that he played for himself. Is that accurate?

I’m not sure if Mike actually put it on his neck, but he definitely pulled it out and showed it to everyone. He handed Joe the fake idol and he pulled out his own idol and everyone saw it.

When Tribal Council started, did you feel at that point like you were the target?

I did. I thought everyone was coming for me, but I thought something could happen because of Mike’s idol and what he chose to do with it. I know he had it.

That’s one of the things I’ve been trying to think about. Did anything Mike do at Tribal Council actually help him? Or, was it just all theater and he lost an idol in the process?

Before Tribal Council even happened Joe told me he was going to vote for me because it was either me or him. I said ‘I understand that’ and that I would probably do the same. Then, Mike came up and asked me if it was okay if he voted for me because we’d been in an alliance of two since the beginning at Healer beach. I told him ‘if it goes south at Tribal Council, vote for me and then win this thing for both of us.’

I’m not sure why Mike even played his idol. He should’ve kept it. It’s all confusing. I guess he was just calling an audible like Eli Manning and just went for it.

I don’t think anyone should be doing anything like Eli Manning this year. Just saying.

(Laughs.)

Losing Jessica at the point in the game when you did was really bad because of how close you were with her, but also because it felt like she was the glue who was keeping so many people together. Was losing her what caused the Healer tribe to become so isolated?

I think so. Honestly Jessica was such a light and bright personality. Everyone loved Jess. I’m not even sure why they even picked her to go first — I guess just because she was the least likely to have an [idol]. When Jessica went you had crazy Joe, who was loud and can be annoying — I didn’t find him that way. Then, you had Mike who was a little neurotic, me who ate all of the food, and Desi who is a huge threat intellectually and physically.

How much time did you guys spend trying to see if there was a crack within the other alliance, seeing if there was some way to turn things around?

It happened a fair amount, but not as much as you would think. Most of our time was just spent sleeping in the shelters, trying not to use any extra energy. I tried to spend most of my time fishing with JP.

Can you provide any insight into JP then? The guy is coming across almost like a ghost out there.

He doesn’t talk a lot. He’s a really great guy — very nice, very personable. We had a lot of great conversations. He also didn’t want to say anything that would look bad on his fire department because he was wearing their shirt on the show.

What was your long-term plan to get you to the end?

By that point I was kind of flying by the seat of my pants. I was in over my head with so many things against me, but I definitely wanted me, Mike, and JP there at the end.

Do you think that you would’ve beaten them?

I do. I could definitely beat JP and I think with Mike, he only had one strong aspect of his game — the social, strategic side. If I had gotten to that point, I feel like I would’ve had all of the aspects of gameplay in social, survival, and physical.

You mentioned earlier that you didn’t know the show all that well. Do you wish that you had watched more in retrospect? It could’ve helped you, but maybe it also would have put more pressure on you and expectations to live up to.

It was fun being able to go into it and trying to figure it out as a challenge. I would’ve preferred to have watched more because when I did go back and watch it and study for the show, I fast-forwarded through all of the small, day-to-day stuff when the game is actually being played. I just watched a lot of the challenges and the Tribal Councils. The big stuff. That’s not where the game is played at all.

Let’s look ahead. I’m assuming a guy like you is interested in going back.

Absolutely. I would kill for another shot.

So what are you going to do prepare this time? Are you going to watch more of the show or improve some aspects of your game that you thought were weak?

I’d definitely watch more of the show, but I don’t think that it’s that crucial anymore now that I’ve been out there and played the game. I think that the mistakes I’ve made are easily fixable and I can prepare myself mentally for what the food situation is actually going to be like. Having an ounce more of self-awareness and self-control can go a long way.

Last thing: Is there anything that happened over the season where you say ‘if I change this, I’m still in the game right now’? Does anything qualify, or was this just where you were destined to go?

No, there were two very different points where I could’ve changed the whole game. On the Yawa tribe, if me, Jessica, and Mike had thrown those two challenges we could’ve saved Roark and in the process gotten rid of both Ben and Lauren and had the numbers going into the merge. Also, not hiding the plate of spaghetti [containing the immunity idol clue] at the merge. That was my next biggest mistake.

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