I had a chance to sit down with all twenty of the “Fans vs. Favorites” competitors the day before they left for the Caramoan Islands. I’ll be posting exclusive interviews with each contestant every weekday until we get through all of them. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for tons of updates.
Name: Phillip Sheppard
Hometown: Santa Monica, CA
Occupation: Chief Executive Officer of Enter Software Sales
Previous Finish: Phillip came in 2nd place in “Survivor: Redemption Island”
Memorable Moment: Phillip’s feud with Steve Wright made for some uncomfortable times around the Murlonio campfire.
Fun Fact: Phillip listed Cochran and Andrea as two of the players he is most like.
Note: The “Survivor: Caramoan” pre-game interviews are unlike the pre-game interviews we’ve done in the past. Usually, the interviews take place on location, this time they took place in Los Angeles before the players flew out. At this point, all the “Favorties” know is that they’re flying out in the next few days. They have seen each other, but haven’t seen the new players. They don’t know for sure where they’re going, and they don’t know any of the season’s twists.
Gordon Holmes: I heard you had a feather with you, where is it?
Phillip Sheppard: I gave it up earlier. I thought I was at my last interview earlier.
Sheppard: I apologize for that.
Holmes: This is my takeaway from your time on “Survivor.” Everyone who watches it says, “Phillip’s crazy, Phillip’s nuts.” You talk to Boston Rob, who has an amazing skill for being able to read people, and he says, “Phillip’s a good guy.” Where’s the real Phillip in that?
Sheppard: Well, think about a time in your life where you found yourself extremely uncomfortable and you had to put something on display that got you through that situation. You’re in a bar and you’ve had a drink or two. Some guy in the bar doesn’t like you. You don’t want to have to fight him, you’re trying to figure out a way out of the situation. So, you put something on display so you can walk away from that situation. I found myself in a situation where every single person on the Ometepe tribe was in love with Boston Rob. It was to the point where if he got up to go to the bathroom, the whole tribe would get up with him. I remember thinking, I can’t get these people to talk strategy with me. But, I got to the end. Why? Because I figured out there was something that Boston Rob needed. Whenever Boston Rob played in the past, he put out that he was a threat. He couldn’t hide who he really was. So I said, “I can help you, Boston Rob.” I proceeded to put out this aspect of my personality that was overblown. I went big and everybody in the game and those watching at home perceived something that’s not there. Is he crazy? Why’s he wearing pink underwear? Why’s he yelling at the girls? It’s so the girls would go to Boston Rob and complain about me. They weren’t talking about him, they were talking about me. Perception is everything.
Holmes: Speaking of which, “Survivor” doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Odds are the people you’re playing this game with will have seen “Redemption Island.” How do you use that to your advantage?
Sheppard: As a former federal agent…
Holmes: (Laughs) I missed that.
Sheppard: It’s good to be back. But, counter-intelligence is about putting something on display that other people embrace or not. So, I deliberately came in here to all of these meetings with the contestants and what did I do? I wore a pink band so their subconscious would think, “That’s the guy that wore the pink underwear. I wonder if he’s going to wear the pink underwear again. He’s crazy!” I brought a feather with me which was a foot-long. A good poker player wears glasses so you can’t figure out what’s going on. Because your eyes will reveal the truth. I’m going to give them a little of the old guy, with a twist. I’m going to wear these ultra-shiny, blue Adidas sneakers that you couldn’t give away in a store. They’re going to see me the first time and they’re going to think they can control me just like Boston Rob. But, they’re not Boston Rob and I’m not going to be the same guy.
Holmes: You worked with Boston Rob last time, are you going to lead the pack this time around?
Sheppard: I’m going to make an alliance with some key people. It’s going to be a stealth alliance only you at home will know. I’m working with Andrea, I’m working with Cochran, whoever it’s going to be.
Holmes: Coach did a great job of taking the Coach persona of this wild and crazy guy and spinning it. He’d say, “Yeah, that’s what you saw on TV, but this is what I’m really like.” Is that going to be part of your plan?
Sheppard: Absolutely. I would say the difference in my display is that I’m playing with returning players. Coach was in a situation where he was playing with new people. Those new players are shaking in their boots. There’s an aspect of “Survivor” where if you haven’t played it…whoa! Now it’s a reality. A returning player has it covered. I have to do it a little different. I can’t show the new aspect to everybody. I have to be very selective. There are some people in this game that I have to be…pardon my French…damn…sure that they think I’m that crazy guy. But, I’ve got people on this season like Brandon Hantz. I don’t have to compete with him, I just have to shut up. When he’s on display and he’s doing his thing, I’ll just be quiet until it’s time for him to go home. Francesca? I fully expect her to go home.
Holmes: OK, this strategy is very unique. My question is; how do you get this to translate into jury votes?
Sheppard: Hey guys, you all saw me in Season 22. I’m the guy who played a certain way, came into the final Tribal Council and basically told you that you should vote for this guy and forget about me. That seemed crazy, you couldn’t understand it. I heard many people say that I could’ve said something different and they would’ve given me their vote. Well, I didn’t then because I thought that that jury wouldn’t give me the vote. But, as I sit here today, I look at each of you and you’ve each had the opportunity to play this game with me. You realize I played the game once and got to the end, and I’ve done it again. The difference is, I let some of you in. I let you know who the real Phillip Sheppard is. He’s speaking to you now. He’s a highly functioning and intelligent person who knows how to play the game of “Survivor” in a unique and different kind of way. I think I earned your vote, will you vote for me?
Holmes: So part of your strategy will be letting people in who will end up on the jury?
Sheppard: Right, it’s going to be a tough thing to pull off. But I think there’s a way if I don’t overdo it. I can’t do too many of the old Phil Sheppards. Like the girls, I don’t care if none of them work. You’re not going to hear me say, “Get up and get to work! This is not a beauty parlor!” None of that is going to happen. I have to get the girls to like me better.
Holmes: If there is a twist, what do you think it will be?
Sheppard: If I’m Probst, I’m going to bring out fans and favorites. Then I’m going to mix you up in a pot, then separate you. Now what are you going to do? And this is where the gift of the Specialist, the Stealth R Us Inc.
Holmes: Oh, it’s incorporated now?
Sheppard: (Laughs) Not really. It was an organization that was highly effective the first time. And it is time for it to return. I will create an alliance that is so strong that no matter what happens, no matter what divisions occur, that when the alliance comes together again, it comes together again. Let’s say I get you working with me, then Probst divides us. Then after the merge we come back together. Suddenly, we’re back as Stealth R Us Inc.
Holmes: So, you’re accepting applications?
Sheppard: I’m recruiting. I’ll be recruiting the most effective and the most loyal people that can do the job.
Holmes: What are your first impressions of the cast?
Sheppard: I think I’ve got an excellent chance of winning “Survivor.”
Holmes: Based on…?
Sheppard: Based on John Cochran is a guy who is highly smart. He has a tremendous knowledge of the game. What he lacked was someone to bring him in and keep him in. Anyone that joins my alliance, they’re going to stay very close to me until the end of the game. I look at Andrea. Andrea was a hard worker. She’s young, I have to be sure that she has matured enough. She’s gotta trust me this time. I’m hoping with all the press and that she’s seen me play that she can appreciate that I’m a little different, but I know how to play this game. Corinne, she played in Gabon with Bob Crowley. The girl’s a hard worker, she was very loyal in that game. She’s a little bit of a pistol. If I can contain her, she’d be someone I’d like to work with. I look for what I call a “dispensable lieutenant.” How do you like that? A point guy who’s part of the advance party who unfortunately gets shot. I’d like to see Brenda like that. And then, I’d like to work with Brandon, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do it. I’ve got to have people who are loyal and when I tell them they have to be quiet, they have to be quiet. I can’t have Brandon spilling the beans.
Holmes: I was going to ask why you were brought back, but I’m pretty sure I know.
Sheppard: Why was I brought back?
Holmes: You were entertaining and had unique strategies.
Sheppard: Yeah, I’m entertaining, but also…
Holmes: You’re playing the game right now. You woke up this morning and put on a pink bracelet and a feather in an attempt to gain an advantage in a game you won’t be starting for another few days.
Sheppard: Yes. But I will say to you that Jeff Probst and Mark Burnett are two people who understand me as a man. I’m a guy who is very comfortable in my skin and can pretty much do anything. When I was a federal agent, one of the things they said to me was, “You’re one of those guys you can do anything in life.” I never forgot that quote. I can be a CEO of a company. I can write a novel like I did at phillipsheppard.tumblr.com. (Phillip’s novel “The Specialist” is now available for purchase on Amazon.com.) Once I apply my mind to it I can do anything. I can even wear pink underwear.
Don’t miss the 90-minute premiere of “Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites,” Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.