The third time was not the charm for Benjamin “Coach” Wade on Survivor: South Pacific. An outcast at the start of the game, he socially and strategically worked his way into an alliance of five that took him all the way to the end. But once he got there, the jurors resented all the “honor and integrity” talk from a man who ended up deceiving them. Coach is clearly shaken by his loss, as I discovered when he called in to chat about what went wrong at the end.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I thought you had it, man.
COACH: So did I. I really did.
You are a man who goes by many names: Benjamin, Coach, the Dragonslayer, the Zenslayer, the Maestro, Zeus. How much did you want to add the title of Sole Survivor to that list?
I do not care about the title of Sole Survivor, but I did want to win because no competitor enters the final challenge expecting or hoping to lose. So it was a tough pill to swallow, but it is what it is.
How comfortable were you going into Tribal, and then how comfortable were you after the jury questions when they went up to vote? You were feeling good at first, I imagine.
Yeah. You know, here’s the thing. I’m going into final Tribal and I’m feeling really good because I felt like I had the most to overcome in this game. I had a target from day 1. Psychological studios show that if you think someone is a jerk-off before you meet them and then all of a sudden they’re not and your first impression is wrong, they say psychologically you’ve bonded deeper with that person. Obviously that’s not the case with these people. But I came in with everything stacked against me and I overcame and I really controlled the game from start to finish. And I did it in a compassionate way. I really wanted to lead with respect and appreciation and kindness and I feel like I did that. You’re going to have to eviscerate people at a certain point in the game and it’s just unfortunate that the last few people that were voted off were so bitter. You know you watch the Ponderosa clips and it looks like I’m going to win in a landslide. You take all those jury people and you sequester them and they don’t talk to each other and feed off each other and get into a feeding frenzy, then I think I would have won nine to nothing. So I felt pretty good going in. After the jury, I was really asking myself, what could I have done differently? And that’s a question I struggled with for several weeks coming back. I thought there was still a chance I would win. I knew when I was at Tribal exactly what they wanted to hear. They wanted to hear me say, “Look, guys. I played you. None of the connections were real. I did it for a million dollars.” That’s what they wanted to hear, but in the eleventh hour, Coach was not compromising, and of that I’m proud.
What was the fatal flaw in terms of you not getting the win: Was it over-promising things to people? Was it not bringing people like Rick and Edna to the end whom you could have beaten, or was it your final Tribal performance?
It was not the final Tribal. That whole thing was just for show and a chance for people to postulate and articulate their inadequacies in not being in the final three. I know it, I’ve been there. So it’s kind of a chance for them to grandstand. So it’s not that. I mean look at Ozzy’s question: “Sophie, you’re a pretentious bitch, but oh well, I’m bitter because I think I should have been the last man standing and I’m a whiny little bitch so I’m actually going to say, Sophie, you deserve to win.” The whole thing was bogus. I will tell you this as a fact: I take Rick to the end, Rick wins. I take Brandon to the end, Brandon wins. And I take Ozzy to the end, Ozzy wins. That is fact. I don’t care what anybody else thinks. I could have taken Edna and Cochran to the end but if I did that who is going to beat Ozzy in that final challenge?
Look, Coach. You know I have no problem with doing whatever it takes to get yourself farther in the game, because it is just that: a game. But was your problem that you put out this honor and integrity thing, and when you hold that up as the shield for what you and everyone else should strive for, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of criticism at the end?
I know at the final Tribal Council Ozzy said, “Honor and integrity — what a bunch of crap,” and Cochran said, “You have to answer my question without saying the words honor and integrity.” It does become a safety blanket out there. I wanted to explain it. I wanted to say, “Ozzy, we got into a deal and you lied to me over and over again so that deal was revoked. Brandon, you and I got into a deal and you lied to me.” I’m not perfect. I made mistakes. I did try to ply the game like that. But I agree — especially if you say it over and over again — and I’m watching the game and I saw it three weeks ago on the show when it was airing and I was like, “Please don’t ever say the words honor and integrity again, because you say it so much and it almost becomes like you’re trying to hide something. Which I wasn’t, but that’s the impression that it gives off. And I’m telling myself “Stop using those words. Why are you using those words so much?” And it’s kind of like a safety blanket. But who’s to say that maybe if I hadn’t used those words — maybe I would have been cut off. People really did trust me out there and that’s part of the reason why I got to the end.
What are the odds you get invited to a Hantz family Thanksgiving feast?
The chances of me getting invited back to Survivor are pretty good. The chances of me getting invited to a Hantz family feast is zero percent.
What did you make of Russell’s comments at the reunion?
I don’t want to criticize people, but he said it and I can just use his words. He wants to be identified with Survivor, and I’ve always said Survivor is a great experience, it’s a great adventure, I love it, it’s opened up doors for me, but it’s not something that’s going to identify me. And I realize that the public identifies with me on Survivor, but it’s not going to be my identity. I’ve got a lot of other great things going on in my life. I thought he was somebody that wants to hang on to those 15 minutes and stretch them to 30 and 45 and without question he’s a very prominent player. He’s a great player. I think his ship has kind of sailed — and he’ll be reading this interview I’m sure — but his ship as far as Survivor is considered has sailed because everybody knows his game and nobody’s going to want to play with him. And that was obvious the third time he played. The only reason he got away with what he got away with in Heroes vs. Villains is that we didn’t see him play.
Where’s the hidden immunity idol you didn’t use?
I will say there was a moment of vanity. I put that necklace around my neck on day 30, and I was like, man, this necklace is sweet! It would look awesome if I wore it back home. Now I’ve never worn it, but really thought, I want this as a souvenir. I didn’t want to turn it in and have it go back into the Survivor cog where I never see it again. So it sits in my living room, hanging up.
You should have worn it last night!
That’s funny. I should have.
Sooooo, will the fourth time be the charm? It was for Boston Rob.
It was just a joyous season for me and I don’t want to taint that. I don’t want to come back again and have this relationship of 97 days — the last 39 which were completely idyllic — tarnished. You’ve seen the last of Coach on Survivor. But 180 [Coach’s feature-film debut] is coming out, and even more exciting than that is I’m gong to have my own show this next year and you can look for that in the fall. You’ll see Coach back on television and maybe it will be Coach 4.0.
To read our interview with winner Sophie Clarke, click right here. To read our interview with Ozzy, click right here. For Dalton’s finale recap, click right here. To enjoy our finale Q&A with Jeff Probst, click right here. Also click on the video player below to see an exclusive deleted with Ozzy, as well as our pregame interview with Sophie. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.