‘Survivor: Blood vs. Water’ interview: Brad Culpepper on gameplay, Redemption Island (exclusive)

Meet Brad -During the early part of “Survivor: Blood vs. Water,” there was probably not a more polarizing guy out there (at least for viewers) than Brad Culpepper. He was certainly a character, as he spoke his mind often, angered many over at Redemption Island, and also ended up taking on a leadership role at camp. He was the sort of guy who is just naturally a leader thanks to who he is, and that doesn’t always work well in the game when you have to handle a myriad of other personalities who also want to be fighting to also have their own voices heard.

But just as he was at Redemption Island (a place that was not always kind to him) following his elimination on the show, Brad was very introspective and honest about the experience in our exit interview with him today. He recognized that it was just a game, and he also explained that he would love to come back on the show someday … but with a caveat.

CarterMatt – I don’t want to ask you about the difference between the NFL and this game, because I feel like that is something that you have been asked a million times. What I’m more interested in is this: What was it like for you a few years ago, being the person on the sidelines while Monica was playing the game?

I was very proud of her to be able to get cast to play on ‘Survivor: One World.’ I was really sad that she didn’t get a chance to play like she wanted. I never really thought that, but she felt that way. And having to watch it with her, and she wasn’t part of the alliance when it first started out, and then had the tribe switch, and Colton went after her and blindsided her so quickly. She is the only person on this show who was voted out pre-merge. (Note: We’re assuming that Brad means this only in terms of people who have played one time prior to this season, and not people like Tyson or Tina.) My #1 goal was for Monica was to really get a chance to play ‘Survivor.’ I was extremely proud of her on ‘One World,’ but I wanted her to get the opportunity more so than me to play the game.

And as time transpired, she was getting to play because we kept losing. But unfortunately at Redemption Island, the few with the least amount of knowledge were screaming the loudest, and I was feeling that my positioning in my tribe was affecting her and that was no good. Therefore, decisions that I was trying to make were to put her #1 rather than myself.

So if I’m playing ‘Survivor’ like she was playing ‘One World,’ I would never go against John or go against the guys. However, John was the only safe move I could make and not jeopardize her position with somebody that she was connected to. Candice was on Redemption Island, she wasn’t with Monica. That was the answer to a lot of my decision-making: I have to help Monica, and I can’t injure my position. How can I do this? It was like playing 3D chess in that everything changed almost every second with all of the twists and turns.

As you pointed out, one of the big twists was family, and you had to have an opinion when you realized that Colton was on her tribe, and that you had his fiance Caleb. So what was your thinking when it came to him, and being with him early on? Were you trying to keep your enemies close?

Today’s a new day. You can’t have such Bitter Betty moments about something that happened a long time ago, and Colton made his decision for whatever reason before. It wasn’t Caleb’s decision, and had nothing to do with it.

I got along with Caleb really well. Had I not gotten along with the guy I would have targeted him, but we got along. My mistake was not nurturing him before that final tribal council before I went out. He was unsure; I didn’t know that, and I think all of the guys kind of took him for granted. Quite frankly, it was probably a good position for him to be in.

He made a very shrewd move getting me out, and we’ll see how that works because he went from a very good position of being very under-the-radar, which is a very good position to be in ‘Survivor,’ to being very much on the radar. At Redemption Island I pointed out to Monica and her tribe that the ‘guy with funny shoes was a player. Don’t sleep on that guy. We slept on him and he popped me last night.’ He not only got rid of the shield for our tribe, he put himself out there as a major player. You gotta make big moves to win ‘Survivor’ and it was a big move, but we gotta see if it was a smart move.

I will give you some credit, as you handled your exit really well when you went to Redemption Island, and seemed to understand that this was just a game. Where did you get that almost sense of Zen after being such a competitor out in the actual game?

It’s all perspective in life. I’m 44 years old and I’ve got three children 16, 14, and 12. They matter. My career as an attorney, my career as an NFL player, that matters. The older you get, wisdom is probably realizing what you don’t know. In putting everything in perspective, taking anything that happens in the game so personally seems to be small. And I realized that from the outset; I got voted out and got tricked, it was a shock to everybody. If I was a tyrant or a bully or any of the things that the few were calling me, there would have been decisions to vote me out a lot earlier than what happened. Caleb didn’t want to vote me out until that last second. So it wasn’t like there were plans to get rid of the ‘bully’ Culpepper.

I knew it was a game, but I also knew that there was a chance that I could get back in. And I had some good will left with my team, and I wanted that good will to carry over to Monica. If I was a jerk in getting voted off, they would automatically think ‘I’m not going to be friends with Monica because I can’t stand him.’ The cooler I can be, the better that it is for Monica.

Going into this game, you clearly had a huge target on you since you were both a football player and a lawyer. Is there any way that you can not be a leader, or is that a natural part of who you are?

You gotta own it. I’m too old to act like I’m a bike repairman or anything else. People already knew me because of my wife … I’m much better at being who I am rather than trying to be somebody who I’m not. Maybe if I had went before Monica was on ‘Survivor’ I could have went on as a lawyer and not a pro football player, but I’m better off being who I am.

And, quite frankly, we gotta along swimmingly. They didn’t show the bellyache laughs that we had every day and every night. We had great times out there. I embraced my role as a leader; I’m 44, and the next oldest was Vytas at 33, then John at 30, and then the rest were in their twenties. Sometimes, you kind of fall into a leadership role whether you like it or not.

So finally, I have two quick questions. First of all, do you have any ill will towards Vytas over the move that he made to flip?

No hard feelings whatsoever. I love Vytas. We were very close within the game. I’ll tell you this: In watching the show, I don’t think that Monica knows that Vytas turned on me, but I know Monica, and she is extremely loyal. And if she finds out what happened … I don’t know what’ll happen, but she could be a silent assassin.

And as for you watching the show now, is there anything that you are surprised by, and what have been your feelings of going through watching it now?

Well, there’s one thing worse than people talking about you, and that is people not talking about you. All I can say to the haters is ‘spell my name right.’ I had a lot of fun out there. The weather was tremendous, the fish were plentiful, there was a ton of fruit, and I really enjoyed the people I played with.

I would never want to play loved ones again, especially with my wife. If I was playing with my brother, that would be a little different since I would put him #2 and not #1. But if I ever play ‘Survivor,’ I would want to play regular ‘Survivor’ where I can just play for myself and not give a crap about the other tribe. But the experience was tremendous, and I LOVE right now that I can watch the rest of the show not worrying about my edit and watch Monica play. She’s doing well, and I’m very proud of her.

If you want to read more “Survivor” news, click on the attached sidebar or here to see a discussion on some of the show’s recent ratings woes.

Photo: CBS

Love TV? Be sure to like Matt & Jess on Facebook for more updates!