"I'd rather be myself. I'd rather run wide open, take risks, and learn from my mistakes."
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

When it comes to Survivor 41, Brad Reese was kind of like Spinal Tap — he went all the way to 11. Whether he was sprinting down beaches to go hide by the water well, telling people to their faces that he was thinking of voting them out, then telling some of those same people all about every advantage and idol he had found, or just fantastically flubbing a line about broccoli, Brad went full tilt seemingly every single second he was out there. But Brad's time came to an end on day 7 as his tribe voted the 50-year-old rancher out after he shared all the power he had in the form of a potential idol and his extra vote.

We spoke to Brad to get the scoop on his zany antics and unique strategy of dishing out so much information. Does he regret telling everyone everything? How come he messed up his broccoli line? And were there any other spy sessions we missed out on?

Brad Reese on 'Survivor 41'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you have any hint at all that you were going home either before or during that Tribal Council?

BRAD REESE: Yes, totally. I thought I had my alliances built and thought I had things going, but you always see the other side. You know, "Me, Shan, and Genie — okay, we got this figured out." But then you see Shan and Ricard and JD go the other way and you go, "I hope I can trust my alliance. I think they're doing good." But then things get quiet and you look at JD and he's not nervous. He's not a wreck. When Sara was going home, she kind of knew, and she was hurting, and you could tell JD wasn't hurting. I'm like, "Oh, JD, he's not feeling too bad." And so my trouble was, my powers were gone. I had no vote. So I couldn't get actively involved and really get to strategize. I knew there was trouble on the horizon.

So what happened when you completely flubbed your broccoli line at the challenge?

So when you're up there, you have this plan in your head. And I practiced that line a hundred times. I had nothing else to do. "I didn't know it till now, but broccoli's just a bunch of small trees." But then you think about setting it up and you're like, "Okay, I got to talk about being skinny. I got to talk about being a twig." And when it actually came time to recite it, it was gone! G-O-N-E, gone! And I'm like, "Oh, ba-ba-broccoli is trees with small limbs and branches." And I knew I had to just stop it. Right? It was like, "Okay, this ain't going to work, but I'm close enough I hope?" And I don't know if I was.

Had Luvu said their "goat on AstroTurf" line, do you think they would have let your mistake slide and given you idol anyway, even though you messed up the line?

I think they would have 'cause I put myself out there. I made the statement. We talked about the ridiculous broccoli. We will never know for sure. But in my gut, I felt like I had done it — at least I'd taken the big effort and did it. Xander, of course, just nailed his perfectly. Dude, you nailed that. But if Luvu would've come up with it, I'd have been full bore ahead.

Let's talk about the dummy Brad you made on the beach to sneak away on your little nighttime island adventure. Did it work?

Yes! Now that was fantastic. I don't know that my tribe ever woke up and looked, but we had a little fire on the beach, and that fire had been stoked while I was gone. And so it's like, well, somebody got up to stoke that fire. And so when I was gone on the trip, Tiffany and Sidney were nervous. Like, "Hey, we gotta get back, man!" And I remember just thinking, "Dude, I don't got to get back. I got this handled! They get up, they're going to see that. And I'm fine." So it helps just knowing, "I think I can stay here a while."

So why tell Shan about both the idol note you found and your advantage?

At my watch party last night, my friends were like, "What are you doing? Don't do it!" And then I pulled out the steal-a-vote and they were like "Noooooooo!" So yes, I definitely am second-guessing it, but I wrestled with that for at least an hour laying on my bed, going through it. Because I had Genie, and I knew Genie was with me. She was with me when I found the idol — Genie was a hundred percent — and I'm like, "Genie, I don't have a stinking vote here. We need more people. We can't do this alone." Because it didn't have any power. And so I said, "I need Shan, and I've got to just open up to her and at least give her the shot to say, 'Whoa, Brad has a lot of power and I can go with them. Or Brad has a lot of power. We need to cut his throat.'"

So it was a calculated risk. Maybe my only regret is not telling Shan that I was helpless. I would've just said, "I found this idol. Look, Shan, I got the idol, man. This is good. It's for all of us. And I'm not going home tonight because I got an idol." Maybe that would have turned her to say, "Oh, maybe Brad has enough power. I've got to just go with him."

You were really close with Genie. And that's something we didn't realize as viewers until this episode. How did that bond happen?

Yes, it started early. So in my pre-game stuff, I said, "I'll probably make an alliance with whoever works the hardest." And we got in there, and I immediately started working on that shelter, and Genie just immediately starts making salads with whatever papayas or whatever she could find. And she was just a workhorse, man. And I'm like, "Genie, you're amazing."

We just grew together quick. Maybe we grew together a little too quick and strong and almost became a little bit of a power couple. I know the show didn't show it much, but we were tight quick, and we were actually like, "Whoa, let's back off." You might not expect us to bond that quick, but we bonded on a pretty deep level very quickly.

Even if I can go back to that first vote with Sara, when Genie dropped it on Ricard, when the whole Tribal Council blew up and they were talking and trying to turn the vote onto me… I said, "Genie, they're trying to turn it on me. Let's just drop the hammer on Ricard right now. Let's just get Ricard. And I had JD and Genie and I said, "Let's the three of us get Ricard." And that's when JD jumped up and ran over to Shan and Ricard. And I'm like, "Oh, Genie, we're in trouble."

Shantel, Ricard, Brad, and Genie on the third episode of 'Survivor 41'
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

We saw you sprint down the beach to go spy on JD and Ricard. Were there any other spy sessions?

That was the only one. And that was a very spontaneous, And to set that up a little, I had started having a feeling. I said, "I think JD got a clue from his trek, and I think he's after the idol." And I shared this with Ricard. I was trying to pull Ricard over to my side. I said, "Where's Ricard? I think JD is after this idol." And I kind of spilled my plan with him, and it was kind of a sincere plan. And Ricard's like, "Yeah, yeah, maybe so." And so I laid down and I see them go into the water and I'm like, "Dude, don't anybody need water. We know what you're doing." And they start walking. So it just hit me.

It was kinda like Tony Vlachos. But I wasn't thinking about Tony. I was thinking, "They're going to talk, and I need to hear this to see how much Ricard is on my side or how much he's on JD's side." I thought Shan was with me. And so everybody got rid of killing me, like, "Shan saw the whole thing!" Yes, she did. That was my mistake, but I thought Shan was on my side. And so it's like, "Well, my alliance is here, so I can blaze on it." So I just dove into it and hunkered. It was so close that I was nervous. That's when I was looking away. 'Cause there's cameras everywhere. And so you're kind of hoping that the camera isn't on you, because JD and Ricardo might be like, "What is that camera pointing at?"

Why back at the first vote did you tell Shan and Sara right to their faces that you were thinking of getting rid of them? That is a very unorthodox strategy.

So I'm catching heck for that. Because I mean, that's rule number one. It's like year 2000 Survivor. Sara nailed me on that great line. I love it. But what they didn't show [is that] I spent four hours dodging that question. "Who are you voting for tonight?" I'm like, "Oh, yeah, we'll see wherever it goes." And so I come around the corner, and they're all there, and they get me. I wanted to hammer Ricard, so I didn't want Ricard.

So they already had me scrambled a little bit. And then when they're like, "Well, who do want out"? I'm struggling, 'cause you look at Sara and she just looks at you with those beautiful little brown eyes. And I could not lie to her. I just couldn't. I could say, "I think we'll go with JD," or just divert again. So I've replayed that a lot. I made some mistakes, and that one almost caught me. I think I almost went home because of that one. I gave Sara the firepower to turn it against me, but I didn't. And I don't think that hurt my overall game because Shan was with me. And so when I said, "Oh, Sara or Shan," Shan knew that I wasn't really throwing her name out there. I was just offering, to help her feel better. It could be the two people who messed up in the challenge.

I'm asking you about all these specific events and miscues, Brad, but there's something really appealing about someone who goes out there playing so fast, so hard, so frenetic, and also maybe at times not well and making mistakes. That made you really relatable as a player. I've seen people on social media saying, "Oh my God, I really like this Brad guy. He's crazy. He's out there doing all this stuff," and they love watching that energy on the show. What's the reaction you've been getting from people?

Oh, exactly! They're like, "You're playing the game! We get tired of seeing people doing the, 'Anybody but me. I'm just kinda feel it out, not throw out a name and play conservative.'" And if all 18 players were playing like that, it would water down the show. But it's also not who I am. If I played like that, I could still get eliminated, right? You can play a perfect game and get eliminated. And so it's like, I'd rather be myself. I'd rather run wide open, take risks, and learn from my mistakes.

One of my mottos is: It's easier to go from failure to success than excuses to success. So let's play, let's make a mistake, let's adapt. Let's go, "Oh, that wasn't the smartest thing. I get it. But I'm going to change that." And people see that weakness and go, "You know, Brad is pretty predictable. He's going to tell the truth." And I was hoping that people could say, "Hey, he is who he is. And I think I can use that on my tribe."

So much doesn't make the show. Did something happen out there that was either really fun or really important that didn't make the episode that you wish had made it to air?

One of them is when I dove off that boat and hit the water and swam over to get in on our little raft and we looked around and somebody said, "JD is drowning." And I mean, literally, he was not swimming good at all. And I immediately dive right back in the water, swim over to him, grab him, and start pulling him. And I lifted him onto the ramp. It was a great moment for me, but they've got a million things to show.

If you could go back and change one thing about your game, what would it be?

I thought about that a million times. I would be a little more flexible. That first vote I'd be like, "JD is on my tribe, he's in my alliance. And when I stepped into that thing with Ricard, Shan, and Sara, I think maybe I should have been a little more flexible to go, "You know, I really want JD to stick around, but if you three want JD gone, I'm here with you." I think I was a little bit inflexible. Even in this boot episode we just had, I was like, "Nope, JD flubbed up at the immunity challenge, so JD should go." But maybe I could have been a little more fluid.

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