Quick Note: We’re going to be bringing you all kinds of “Survivor” fun this season including episode recaps, exit interviews, and Power Rankings with Michael Skupin. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute news and info.
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Between the pink undies, the weird blue shoes, the nicknames, and the imaginary corporation of Stealth R Us, it’s easy to write Phillip Sheppard off as “the crazy guy.” But, that was all by design. His plan was to get to the end, confess that it had all been a ruse, and come out as a nice, intelligent man.
Would that have won him jury votes? We’ll never know.
But the truth is; Phillip is a nice guy. He is an intelligent man. Unfortunately for him, even the most intelligent person wouldn’t have seen last night’s amazing blindside coming.
I spoke to the Specialist the morning after Malcolm’s double-idol shocker and had a chance to ask about his end-game, Brandon’s meltdown, and the Tribal Council people will be talking about for years…
Gordon Holmes: I’ve been doing “Survivor” pre-game interviews since Gabon, and one of the things I’ve learned is that there’s no point in asking “How are you going to play the game?” Because at that point, nobody knows. You knew. The shoes, the underwear, Andrea, Cochran, you called it all. And, if it hadn’t been for two idols, it could’ve gotten you to the end.
Phillip Sheppard: I did go into this game with that strategy. I tried to get myself in a position to hopefully win, I tried to establish my own presence in the game. I want to be remembered as one of the guys who did something uniquely.
Holmes: Stealth R Us is certainly unique.
Sheppard: Stealth R Us gives me a way of not only interacting with the players, but with the fans at home. People Tweet to me and say, “I want a name on Stealth R Us, can you give me a name?” I get stopped on the street, “Specialist! Can you give me a name!” And this season I took it to another level, never believing that it was something that was going to control the game, but when I gave people names they’d get a big smile. They might talk about it in their interviews, but I loved the image of how they’d beam. The only person who didn’t was Malcolm.
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Holmes: Your strategy was influenced by “Survivor” Hall of Famer “Boston” Rob Mariano. Have you had a chance to get his thoughts on your game?
Sheppard: He texted me last night and said it was a great season and him and Amber have enjoyed watching it, and I’ve played very well.
Holmes: Surely he appreciated your implementation of the “BR Rules.”
Sheppard: This season I wanted to show that I actually learned and observed Boston Rob. We never had a conversation about the “BR Rules.” But if you went to the gym and you had to play with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and they schooled you, the next time you played with the fellas you’d try to do a couple of their moves. There’s no way you can do it exactly because you’re not them. I set up an alliance, I had an alliance in the alliance. When I observed a threat in my alliance I got rid of that person.
Holmes: Tribal was nuts last night. The one thing that stuck with me was when they targeted you. It’s one thing to say, “We’re voting for Phillip,” it’s another to say “We’re voting for Phillip because we’re not fond of him.” I’m referring to the “Fun sponge” talk. Were you surprised that they’d go with a personal attack on someone who was probably headed to the jury?
Sheppard: I’m never surprised by anything on “Survivor.” I’m borrowing that from Rupert. I used to love it when he’d say, (in a solid Rupert impersonation) “Anything can happen on ‘Survivor.’” I think if you analyze what he said, you’d say, “Poppycrap.” Because Phillip hasn’t had one vote against him except for Brandon. If Phillip is such a horrible person in the game, then why don’t I have any votes? So, what Malcolm is not able to say is, there’s this guy who’s 50+, who’s a threat in challenges, and I’m going to disparage him. It’s because he viewed me as a threat. Anyone I targeted in the game went home. Our alliance was in control of that game and Malcolm hated that I was running it very effectively.
Holmes: Did you know at that time that Erik was holding a grudge against you?
Sheppard: Yes, on the very first day he walked up to me and his first words weren’t, “Hi, Phillip. I want to play with you.” They were, “Hi, Phillip. My entire family told me I shouldn’t trust you.”
Sheppard: Those were the first words out of his mouth. Who walks up to a guy and says that? Those are words you keep to yourself. I’m not surprised he voted the way that he did. I don’t begrudge him.
Holmes: When the Brandon fiasco went down, there was a lot of talk of “When does it go to far?” My take was, if someone genuinely feels physically threatened, it has gone too far. Did you feel physically threatened?
Sheppard: Absolutely. At one point, I woke up in the morning, Brenda was next to me, you can ask her. It was 3 o’clock in the morning and he was crouched over both of us.
Sheppard: It was so bizarre. I felt physically threatened. When you see me walk off and he’s yelling expletives at me…it’s weird. Was he going to grab the hatchet? It was right next to the rice. Everyone thought he was going to grab something. I feared for my life. I didn’t enjoy “Survivor” at that moment. And if you think about it, Brandon outted my game.
Holmes: To the fans.
Sheppard: He basically did what Russell did. Talk about two peas from the same pod. In Redemption Island when Russell was voted out he outted everything about the tribe that had just voted him out. Then you see Brandon doing what he did. I find them both kind of bizarre in terms of their strategy. But yes, I felt very threatened for my physical safety.
Holmes: Let’s do some word association. We’ll start with Cochran.
Sheppard: Cry baby.
Sheppard: Vanity. Wait a minute, that’s not quite Eddie. I’m trying to think of a word that means focused on yourself…
Sheppard: Yeah. Narcissism.
Sheppard: He’s a tough one. He’s so focused on himself…he’s self-centered.
Holmes: If you had continued until the final three, who would have been your dream two to take to the end?
Sheppard: I would’ve had Sherri and probably Andrea. I would’ve wanted someone who I could’ve beaten and someone who can’t articulate what they did to win.
Holmes: Andrea couldn’t articulate it?
Sheppard: Up to that point in the game. There was a great deal of irritation in terms of her siding up with Eddie. We were looking at her and saying, “She’s talking to Eddie a lot.” I think you saw Dawn speaking about it. There was concern. So, for me, I would have tried to leverage that.
Holmes: Specialist, I want to thank you for your time.
Sheppard: I definitely want you to mention that “The Specialist: The Costa Rica Job” (Phillip’s book) is doing very well, and I’m also going to be doing a project with Diane Burnett.
Holmes: Will do. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for that.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes