‘Survivor: Blood vs. Water’ interview: Caleb Bankston on Hayden, making moves, and jury plans

Meet Caleb -Caleb Bankston has had a pretty good run on “Survivor: Blood vs. Water.” Despite being the fiance of one of the most-notorious players ever in Colton Cumbie, and therefore going into this game with an enormous target on his back, he was basically a good 30 seconds or so away from making it to the next round at Redemption Island. He fell victim to the wrath of Ciera Eastin, who is currently the master of flip-flopping between alliances in this game.

But we touched on way more than just him being voted out in our exclusive one-on-one interview today, including how he tried to distance his strategy from Colton, his friendship with Hayden Moss, and how he wouldn’t have necessarily tried to throw him under the bus over his “Big Brother” money had the two of them made it to the end of the game.

CarterMatt – Let’s dive right in here just by talking the issue of Ciera. As someone who flipped on your own alliance [with Brad], what did you think about the move [to get rid of you]?

Caleb Bankston – It’s kind of bittersweet. I respect her for trying to make a move, I really was hoping it would work out for her in the end when it happened, and maybe it will, but as bummed as I was about it, I was glad that she was actually going to be able to try and do something. She was in my final three with Hayden, so if either one of them made it to the end, I’d be happy.

Well going into this game, you obviously knew that you and Colton had big targets on your backs. What did you try to do early on to try to assimilate into your tribe?

I’m kind of a quiet guy. Colton’s more of the social and outspoken one of the relationship. I’m a provider, I build whatever and hunt and fish. With that, I just thought I would play to my strengths and keep a low profile and let everybody get to know me and try and not feed off my relationship with Colton so much. I tried to distance myself until they got to know me. I didn’t want them to judge me based on his gameplay the first time around, and think that we may be similar and play the same kind of game.

So I was just like ‘I’ll build the shelter and get to know everybody and keep a low profile, and make some alliances.’ I just tried to distance myself as much as possible.

And you were especially close with Hayden. When do you think that bond really started to form?

It was day two when we got really close, and realized that Brad and John were walking off to the waterfall together and doing stuff, and they were the alpha males who were going to go at it at some point. So we figured that we’ll go ahead and get to know each other and hang out. We decided that we were pretty good if we could trust each other. It was an instant trust.

I watched Hayden on ‘Big Brother’ and he tried to go the end with four guys … well, he got pretty close. He had [three] and then Britney. But I knew I could get Hayden to stick with me and Vytas.

The thing that really surprised a lot of people was that when you were voted off, you were perceived as this much bigger target than Hayden, which was interesting because he won ‘Big Brother.’ Do you think it was because you were perceived as so likable and a big threat at the jury?

I think so! I want to think that. The Brad Culpepper vote may have come into it, and going into the game, I had a target like Colton on my back. The fact that I’d make it all the way to the end [is impressive]. And then with Hayden making it to the end of ‘Big Brother,’ it’s kind of a thing like ‘do you really want to give this guy a million bucks, because he’s already won one show and does somebody deserve it more?’ For me, it’s all about gameplay, and me and Hayden made a lot of decisions together.

Since you bring it up, is there a chance that you would have tried to use Hayden winning another reality show against him, had you two made it to the end?

I would probably just try to highlight some of my own [achievements]. I graduated from Alabama with a political science degree, and I would never try to run somebody into the dirt. But, I wouldn’t be above trying to make a little joke about it, like ‘this guy doesn’t need the money, he’s already won Big Brother!,’ and try to just play off of that. If I was in the end I would try to focus more on my [own game].

One of the things that was kind of a bummer for us was that we really didn’t see much of you or Hayden immediately after the merge for a little while. When did the idea to start to go after Tyson and Gervase come from, and was that something that you were considering with Hayden for a while?

We actually heard a rumor from Ciera that she had heard Monica, Gervase, and Tyson talking in the middle of the night, and Monica was a lot higher up in the hierarchy than we thought. At the point when all of us had decided to vote Laura Morett out, including Tyson and Gervase, and that’s when we told Ciera that the plan that this was what we were going to do. I think that’s why she thought we were the ones who decided to do it, and Tyson kind of played into it and said that we weren’t trustworthy, and that is probably why she flipped.

But anyways, it was the Laura Morett vote when I asked Hayden if we trusted Tyson enough to keep him, or if we should pull something right now and get Tyson out while [we could]. Hayden trusted Tyson and thought he was being real with him, and so I went with Hayden’s gut there rather than my own and we ended up voting Laura Morett out. I think that was the point where it would have worked out if we had just done it then.

Have you lost any sleep at all over what happened at Redemption Island? You were so close to moving on, and that’s the sort of thing that would give me nightmares.

I have not lost any sleep at all. Out there on the Parvati Shallow aftershow Vytas made a comment that I slept the entire time that I was out there and never got hungry or anything, and I didn’t. I got to Ponderosa, and Vytas and Aras were not at peace at all about [the game], but I came in and brought a bit of peace to it, telling them it wasn’t a big deal and they needed to let this go. It’s a game, and you did what you did and everything happens for a reason. I didn’t have any thoughts about it. I went 30 days, and that’s no small step and further than a lot of people have made it. I’m not going to over-think it or ‘coulda woulda shoulda’ it. You never know what’s going to happen.

So two last quick things. First of all, what was it like for you going home and having someone to share this whole experience with in Colton? That’s so rare, since usually survivors go home and have nobody who really understands what they went through.

It was definitely different to be in a setting with family and friends, and they are rooting on two people. But then, when one of them drops off, you get all of that support. Fans of both of us really all came over to one of us and I really appreciated all the support that I got.

This has been a pretty rough week for you. What was harder: Seeing yourself get eliminated from ‘Survivor,’ or watching that Alabama – Auburn game?

The Alabama – Auburn game was definitely the worst thing! It was an awesome game, and I was proud of Auburn for doing it. I made a comment that it was time that they invested in a coach rather than investing in a player (laughs), and I’m glad it worked out for them.

It was a hard thing to deal with. I get voted out, I eat too much on Thanksgiving so I’m miserable then, and then Auburn pulls it out in the last second. It was freaky, but it was a good game.

Are you going to miss Caleb, and do you think he would’ve won had he made it to the end? Share your thoughts below, and click here if you want to read some more “Survivor” coverage. We’ve got all of the latest updates to the right!

Photo: CBS

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