Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Coach explains what really happened on Exile Island
With Survivor filming for seasons 41 and 42 indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EW is reaching back into the reality show’s past. We sent a Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire to a batch of former players to fill out with their thoughts about their time on the show as well as updates on what they’ve been up to since. Each weekday, EW will post the answers from a different player.
If there is one thing we know about Benjamin “Coach” Wade from his three seasons on Survivor it is that the dude definitely knows how to spin a yarn. On Tocantins, Heroes vs. Villains, and South Pacific, Coach weaved amazing death-defying tales with inspirational quotes to incredible effect. So, would you like to know another one? Of course you would!
We sent Coach a Quarantine Questionnaire, and the Dragonslayer definitely did not disappoint with his answers. What is Coach’s proudest moment from playing? How does he feel about his edit on the show? And what would he change about the game? Coach answers all that and more, and takes you behind the scenes of his epic visit to Exile Island on Survivor: Tocantins. Prepare yourself for enlightenment, people! Iron sharpens iron! (Also make sure to read the greatest oral history in the history of oral histories about the time Coach became a reality TV rock star.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you’ve been up to since appearing on Survivor.
BENJAMIN “COACH” WADE: The biggest change that happened actually began as a seed planted in my mind while I was on Survivor: South Pacific. I realized then isolated from my everyday life that I couldn't live another moment without the girl I was dating, Jessica — and, probably, more importantly, her two-year-old son. I would wake up in the middle of the night in the shelter in Samoa and I would see his shining face looking up at me with outstretched arms saying "dad, dad...Daaaad!" and that melted the ice and changed my heart forever.
Since then, I've had two more kids (ages 3, 6, 11) and we are now a happy family of five living in seclusion in northeastern California. Being a family man has brought me more peace to enjoy than anything I could have ever imagined in life and I can't believe that I almost missed out on this, the greatest life adventure.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
I'd say there would be two: the first would be going to Exile Island (Tocantins) and immersing myself in an exquisite and beautiful environment. to be honest with you, I didn't actually think that I could go with that dozen sips of water and no food. At that time, I was down to 149 pounds, down from 205 in casting, but those glorious moments from sunrise to sunset will be forever etched in my mind.
The second proudest moment would be turning my back on a million dollars by not breaking a promise to four strangers and an alliance of five that I made on day one in South Pacific. Would I make that decision again? Some people ask me if it's my biggest regret on Survivor. No spoilers for the next question, but the answer would be a resounding no. I would make that decision four times out of four.
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experiences?
Making a promise on day one. LOL
What’s something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in one of your seasons but never made it to TV?
Most of my shenanigans made it to the final cut, but one story that I shared recently online happened on Exile in Tocantins. While we are headed out to Exile, the producer is giving me the rundown on just how wild this place is. And let me tell you, I've been all over the world. I've had the privilege growing up to live in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, southern India when it was really a third world country, Budapest, Hungary, in the ’80s, and many more countries and there is NO PLACE like the Dunes at Exile. Think Louisiana swamp meets Sahara desert meets Tanzanian Grasslands meets Argentina Pampas.
Anyway, I digress, as usual. So the producer is giving me a rundown on all the dangerous from the anacondas in the swamp to the big cats that are prowling around pissed off because we've invaded their territory. And remember all of this is within a hundred yards of each other. So I'm told that I can't leave the producer site, and then if I have to go to the bathroom I need to ask for permission blah blah blah.
So, of course, the first thing I do is tell him I need to go to the bathroom. I walk over the hill notice some cat prints and start running away from him to get deep into the bush. At this time, I was in such a highly meditative state that I had actually lost sight of being on the television show and all I wanted to do was explore this incredible area. I heard him start yelling for me, but I kept running… or hobbling, should I say. He tracked my prints in the sand and finally caught up with me and gave me a severe scolding, but that's not the half of the story.
That night, I laid down and the center of a circle that I had made out in the open away from the trees, totally exposed to the elements. The circle was made up of ashes from previous fires that the contestants had made, as well as my urine that I had gleefully covered those bits of charcoal and ash in.
While the rain is pelting my body in the middle of the night, I heard the producer’s walkie-talkie go off. He was in a tent about 20 yards away from me and it was the local snake and game guru talking in quite a frantic voice saying “Those two big cats are coming right for you. The cats are coming!" My producer responds in, dare I say, a slightly panicked voice "What do we do?!" I've been in the bush before and a similar incident happened to me like this on the Orinoco River in '99..... So, needless to say, I went back to sleep.
The next morning when I woke up, there were two huge sets of cat prints that circled around and around where I slept literally 12 inches from my head. It was both terrifying and exhilarating. "Courage is not the absence of fear but the fortitude to push thru it." #Coachquote
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
LOVED IT!!!!! It was a bitter pill to swallow at first just because I was completely clueless to all things Survivor when I played the first time, and I guess I thought I was just going to get a hero's edit every episode, LOL. But looking back, I feel that the producers really captured the essence of my inner soul, turmoil, heroics, absurd and outlandish shenanigans to their finest.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
I have emerged from deep within the jungles outside of Survivor on many such occasions, but that was an easier adjustment in some ways then Survivor was. Coming out of the Amazon, the Orinoco, the Congo....that's an adjustment where you wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat screaming into the night because you think that something or someone is going to attack you.
On Survivor, it's a different adjustment because the very reality and morality and trustability of your heart has been compromised. You look at people for several weeks afterwards and wonder if they're plotting against you. The one beautiful adjustment is living a life in society where you don't really want to have a cell phone to network with people like you do before you go on.
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
There are no regrets in life, my man. People that live with regret need to suck it up and realize that the decisions we make right or wrong, good or bad, shape our character, our destiny. Looking back and regretting are certain actions take away from the destiny that is laid out in front of us.
Was I fired for going on Survivor? Yes. Am I still blackballed from the NCAA because of it? Yes. Is that a bitter pill to swallow? Yes. But if I were still on the soccer coaching ladder, slaving myself away to a division 1 soccer program, then I sure as hell would not have a family, and that deep resonating happiness that I experienced every day would not be a part of my life, and those important qualities that matter to me most would be wrapped up in the next one, never the last win.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your seasons?
I talked to Cochran almost every day, at least in my mind. As I do with Albert and Tyson and Phillip and Edna. But at the end of the day, I chose to move to a very small town and isolate myself. I choose to not go to any events and consider myself a hermit of the reality world.
I guess I was like a lot of people that went on the show and the fact that I thought big doors would open up and I would be the next hot ticket in Hollywood. Well, those doors that open up, I got an agent, filmed a couple of terrible movies, and realized that I was not strong enough to handle Hollywood, and if I continued "adventures in Hollywood" it would be to the detriment of my soul. So I moved to Susanville, California, to continue to better the community, focus on myself, the symphony I conduct and my family.....
I feel that Chrissy H. said it best in her interview with you: There is a Survivor and reality world fraternity that you become a part of after going on the show that you had no idea existed before, and are certainly humbled to be a part of it now.
Do you still watch Survivor, and, if so, what’s your favorite season you were not on and why?
Of course, I will still watch Survivor, it's the greatest show on television! And this question I will have to disappoint everyone. I have no favorite seasons after season 23 because they have all been so enjoyable to watch.
Coming into Survivor I was very naive because I had only crammed a season and a half before I played, but now I have had the chance to go back and watch from the beginning and that was a fantastic treat. I'd say that my favorite season was Africa because of the raw environment and the reward challenges were truly culturally immersible, plus the characters are so original — from big Tom to Ethan.
Who’s one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
I say this in every interview, but it would have to be Tom Westman. The one full season I watched before I went on the show was Palau and so he became my hero in this world.
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
The evolution of Survivor, although many people b---- about it, has kept the show with top ratings and on the air. The twists and turns that they come up with have continued to grab people's interest, but I think an old fashioned season of 18 survivors with Exile Island and two hidden immunity idols for the entire show would be a treat for one and all.
Finally, would you play again if asked?
I'm retired. But like every great superhero and NFL retired quarterback, the Dragon Slayer just might reappear at the appropriate time and place for the Survivor gods.
To keep track of our daily Survivor Quarantine Questionnaires and get all the latest updates, check out EW's Survivor hub, Also make sure to check out the oral history of Coach's Survivor rock band, and follow Dalton on Twitter.