Benjamin “Coach” Wade has to be up there with Russell Hantz when it comes to “Survivor’s” most polarizing characters. You either love the guy or you hate him.
Me? I love him. And I didn’t really know how to explain that to people who’ve never met him until I heard this quote in a trailer for a recent movie…
“If I could love something as much as Ned loves everything…” – Miranda in “My Idiot Brother”
That’s how I feel about Coach. The man doesn’t half do anything. Even when we did the Power Rankings for “Survivor: Nicaragua” he always showed genuine enthusiasm and was constantly coming up with creative ideas.
Too bad he isn’t going to win “Survivor: South Pacific.”
My money says some combination of the anti-all-star sentiment that’s been building up and the fact that people probably won’t take him seriously are going to be too much for him to overcome.
I had a chance to chat with the self-professed Dragon Slayer in the days before “Survivor: South Pacific” to find out how he’s going to deal with a deck that appears to be stacked against him, his thoughts on his all-star counterpart Ozzy, and how XFINITY TV’s Power Rankings competition made him a stronger player…
Gordon Holmes: How would you describe your previous appearances on “Survivor” to someone who might be new to the show?
Benjamin “Coach” Wade: My first season in Tocantins, it was a great season. Epicness abounded. I was definitely the type-A Coach personality. I hit you right between the eyes. I polarized everybody. A lot of people loved me, a lot of people hated me. I got asked to come back as a villain. It was season twenty, “Heroes vs. Villains.” And there I took a softer approach. And things didn’t work out so well for me there, I was the first person on the jury. But I think the third time’s the charm.
Holmes: And what’ve you learned from your first two appearances?
Coach: There’s an old Arabian proverb that says, “Arrogance diminishes wisdom,” and I think coming out here and appearing arrogant has hurt my game. And so one of the things I’ve learned is to be more humble. But I really think that my biggest problem is that I’ve come out here and I’ve had this destiny to become one with the universe, to strip away the shackles of society and to really have this journey of self discovery. But everyone’s out here for a different reason. There might be two girls sitting on the beach who may not be doing anything around camp and that’d normally drive me crazy. I’ve got to relate to them where they’re at. Instead of being rigid as a rod, I’ve got to be able to bend and see that everybody has their own unique experience out here. I have to blend with their journey. I can’t say “If you don’t want to be a true warrior out here, get off the bus.”
Holmes: Odds are all of the new contestants will have seen one of your previous seasons. What do you think the reaction is going to be when they first see you?
Coach: I think if I were coming here after one season people would’ve seen Coach and rolled their eyes. They’re thinking, “This guy’s delusional.” But I think having that second chapter, that second season that I played, I think it helped soften the edges. But some people are going to say, “We need to get rid of this guy right off the bat.”
Holmes: How do you counter that?
Coach: There are two things on “Survivor” that are important, across the board; number one is having numbers into the merge. And number two is finding somebody that you can trust. So, to combat the tribe from voting me out immediately I want to win challenges, I want to be an animal in the challenges. And I always want them to know they can trust me. One thing that’s been consistent about my game is I play with honor and integrity.
Holmes: Returning players have squared off with new players three times. Of those three times, the returning players have won twice and reached the finals once. And to shine more of a spotlight on that, Boston Rob won it all last season. Does this put a bigger target on your back?
Coach: I know there’s going to be a big target on my back, but I’m not going to worry about that. I’m going to make myself valuable to the tribe, I’m going to be my typical gregarious stuff. Maybe I’ll tell a few stories out there, entertain the troops so to speak. But I just want to be myself and be genuine and let them know that I’m here as an asset, not necessarily as a coach. I think if I make that understood they’re going to want to keep me around.
Holmes: One of the big crimes that took place during “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’ was the fact that they never showed any of the Arthurian legend-themed nicknames you’d prepared for the cast. Will we be seeing anything like that this season?
Coach: Being the slayer of dragons, I of course have to come in with some type of alliance/nemesis/warrior history at my belt, so I think this time I’m going to do something with Greek mythology.
Holmes: How do you feel about the Redemption Island twist?
Coach: I like the twist because it gives you a chance if you’re voted off, and I’ve never had that luxury. The thing I dislike about Redemption Island is if there’s somebody you want to get off who’s really good at challenges they might come back to haunt you.
Holmes: “Heroes vs. Villains” was shot in Samoa, what do the new contestants have to look forward to in this specific location?
Coach: I like the coconuts; that was a nice change from beans and rice. But the contestants can look forward to a lot of rain, a lot of dampness. It’s hard to build fires out here just because it’s so wet. Hopefully there’ll be good fishing. I think the main thing out here is that it’s very humid, and because of that you sweat a lot and need to keep hydrated.
Holmes: What was your reaction when you learned that Ozzy Lusth would be the other returning player?
Coach: When I looked across the beach and saw that Ozzy was going to be my competition it threw me for a loop in the beginning. I thought it was going to be Phillip (Sheppard). So I thought; do I want to work with him? Yes. Do I want to compete with him? Also yes, because he’s a great competitor and I want to fight with the best. But I was excited to see him because he’s one of the best all-time competitors in this game.
Holmes: Will your experience as a “Survivor” Power Rankings player help you at all in the game?
Coach: Having been unable to slay the dragon that is Gordon Holmes in the past, I think it did give me an insight into the game itself. I really didn’t watch the game for the strategic value. But it allowed me to look at the game as a strategy and to figure out who’s going to be on the outs. So, I think that will definitely help me.
Holmes: So when you win, I get an assist, right?
Coach: I think you will be the power assist leader. I’ll have to give you at least half of the credit.
“Survivor: South Pacific” premieres Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.
More “Survivor” Fun: XFINITY TV sent Gordon Holmes into the heart of the South Pacific to get a first-hand look at the filming of the latest edition of “Survivor.” Be sure to check back for exclusive interviews with Ozzy Lusth and host Jeff Probst, behind-the-scenes photos, and more.
Any Questions about “Survivor: South Pacific”? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes