His evacuation for a medical emergency is one of the scariest moments in Survivor history. When offered a second shot at the competition, Caleb Reynolds said he didn’t hesitate to play again. After nine days, however, his torch was snuffed following a tribal swap that put him at the bottom. We talked one-on-one with Caleb about his early ouster in which he revealed his strategy to flip the game. He also explained why he takes back all the things he said about two-time Survivor winner Sandra Diaz-Twine. Plus, he discussed why he would’ve happily eaten those goats.
SheKnows: Did you have any clue you were going to be voted off or was the elimination a surprise?
Caleb Reynolds: I saw it coming. It was definitely not a blindside. It was one of them things when you just feel it. You kind of feel like you’re being shunned a little bit, and the only person talking to you is your best friend. That’s kind of how I knew it was gonna be me, especially at Tribal Council. Jeff Probst gets people to say the things they say for certain reasons. Halfway through, Sierra looked over at me and said, “Tai went to your wedding, why would we want to keep you here?” That’s when I knew I was going home for sure.
SK: Did Tai, your pal, give you any warning the tribe was plotting to vote you out?
CR: No. He didn’t. The only thing Tai really said was that I basically wasn’t going home. He lied to me, and did it well. He basically said that Debbie didn’t want me to be there, but also said I had the votes on my side. He said everyone agreed that Hali shouldn’t be there, and said I was safe. He never came up to me and said, “Dude, everyone wants you gone.” I still tried to convince him to convince Debbie to vote with me and him since we were all on the same season together. Then, we would’ve pulled Hali in to send Sierra home, but that didn’t work.
SK: So no hard feelings toward Tai for voting you off?
CR: Not any whatsoever. I think I displayed how I felt when I walked out.
SK: When you found yourself at the bottom of the numbers during that tribal swap, what was your immediate strategy?
CR: I knew I had Tai. My other option was getting Tai and Debbie to come with me because we all played together on Kaôh Rong [Season 32.] Hali was with me since day one on Mana. I thought we could send Sierra or Brad home. I wanted to keep the tribe strong, which is why I wanted to send Sierra home. Nuku had been playing together for so long, and had won everything as a tight-knit group, Debbie wanted me gone and Hali didn’t care. As long as it wasn’t her, she didn’t care what happened. I believe the girls wanted power and stuck together. All the girls were also in Brad’s front pocket. I believe Brad got a little scared thinking there was another alpha male and maybe he wasn’t needed anymore. When Brad seen me, he didn’t say, “Maybe I could work with him and do some damage.” He went on the defense and said, “Wow, now that he’s here I have to figure out how to get him out of here. I’m the only alpha male that’s supposed to be here. Without Caleb here, I’m safe.” Although I tried, Tai was telling me that Debbie was so Nuku strong.
SK: In your pre-game interviews, he had argued that Sandra was not a game-changer and didn’t really deserve to be there. Do you still feel that way after getting the opportunity to play with her?
CR: No. I’ve even said on Twitter after the game that Sandra is definitely a game-changer. I said some things about Sandra and Tony that were complete nonsense. Those are definitely words that I have to take back. She’s completely a game-changer. She’s great. After playing with her, she’s just a great person. She’s fun to be around. She was one of the people I enjoyed speaking with out there. She became someone when I think of a game-changer, she is just that. The same with Tony. Obviously, they have two different ways of being changers. When you’re getting ready to start the game, the press wants you to say things like that. They want confrontation. They want a bunch of trash talk. That’s what they want, so that’s what they got. For sure, Sandra is a game-changer. She always will be. I really think Sandra’s great.
“I said some things about Sandra and Tony that were complete nonsense. Those are definitely words that I have to take back. She’s completely a game changer. She’s great.”
SK: Speaking of trash talk, let’s go there for a moment. After spending nine days in the competition with the other castaways, is there anybody who you don’t believe is deserving of being called a game-changer?
CR: Do I think anyone is out there for no reason? No. I believe everyone is there for a reason. They were each hand-picked by production or Jeff Probst himself for a reason. After being out there and watching people play, I question why Hali is there. After watching her compete in challenges, I did not think she was good at all. I just don’t understand it, but people look at me and say the same thing. “Why is he there? What did he do? He went out in a challenge and had heat stroke giving it all he had. Who else doesn’t give all they’ve got in challenges?” I questioned myself. Was I a game-changer? What did I do to change the game? I don’t know, but I was hand-picked for a reason. I guess we’d just have to ask Jeff Probst that. I know the fans are questioning what some cast members had done to be a game-changer, but you weren’t on the island. You don’t know what they did. Production has their reasons for them being there, so I would say everyone is there for a reason. Watching the editing and how that goes, you could say certain people aren’t doing anything. You can question that, but there’s a reason they’re there. You have to look past what the edits are giving you. I will definitely not single out one person and say they shouldn’t be there. Everyone deserves to be there.
“I questioned myself. Was I a game changer? What did I do to change the game?”
SK: Both seasons of Survivor you lasted nine total days each. The first time, you were medically evacuated, the second time you were formally voted off. Which elimination was tougher for you to swallow?
CR: The first one. It’s part of Survivor to be voted out. That is the game. The first time, me personally, I feel like I went out like a champ. I gave it my all and did the best I could for my tribe. Even when you feel like your tribe is falling behind, you step it up a notch. That’s what I did, and I ended up going out the way I did. I still went out giving it everything I had. This time around, I still did the same thing. I gave it all I had in every challenge I did, and I just ended up with bad numbers. I picked a buff during the tribal swap and had four other people against me. I felt like maybe Sierra, Hali and Brad maybe had some pre-game alliances. Sierra and Hali had already played together previously, which made it feel like it was me with Tai. This time going out, that’s the way the game is played. Out of 20 people, only one person can win. The first one definitely got me. That was a healing process. This one’s not.
“Out of 20 people, only one person can win. The first one definitely got me. That was a healing process. This one’s not.”
SK: When you were asked to play again, was there any hesitation?
CR: There was no hesitation whatsoever. I felt like I had some unfinished business. My fans were very upset how I left, and they all wanted me to play again. I wanted to play again. I went out with heat stroke last time. I was looking up the temperatures in Fiji and saw it wasn’t as bad as Cambodia. So why not go for a second chance to hopefully do better? There was definitely no hesitation. I got the phone call and they asked if I was healthy. I went to the doctor and got checked up. They basically said, “You’re fine. Just be careful if you play again. Drink a lot of water, and make sure that you’re hydrated out there.” That was really it. I definitely would’ve never turned it down.
SK: The Nuku tribe captured a mom and baby goat with the initial goal of eating them. The group eventually let the goats free after having a moral issue with killing them. What would you have done if you were on that tribe?
CR: Eat the goats? Of course. Everyone knows I’m like JT. I’m a country boy from Kentucky and there are certain ways of doing things. You don’t torture the goat or let it die slowly. When it comes down to hunger and you’re starving, you could eat off that goat for weeks. I wish we had goats on our island, but we didn’t see any goats. I would’ve been the first one catching them and skinning it up. You do what you have to do for your tribe. You’ve got people saying, “Don’t kill the goat.” But once you kill it and cook it, they want to eat it. I would’ve definitely been there helping eat that goat for sure. That’s part of the game. Out here in normal life would I just go catch a goat and eat it? No. But when you’re out on an island for 39 days with no real source of protein and a goat is all you got, it’s no different than a chicken. Kill the suckers.
SK: You’ve competed on both Survivor and Big Brother. Which do you prefer?
CR: They both have their pros and cons. It’s really tough because I enjoy both. Through both I have made life changes. During Big Brother, I was single. I was playing in a house during the summer hanging out with a bunch of cool people. Survivor, I was engaged. I was with a woman who had a child. My mindset was different. The second time playing Survivor, I’m married with a kid. Life was just different, and I was playing for different reasons. It’s difficult to say which one is better because they’re both fun at the different stages of life I was in. Big Brother I got to play a lot longer, so I got to enjoy that. Survivor is like I get bad cards every time. The first time, I probably would’ve won that season if I wouldn’t have had that heat stroke. In my opinion, I think I would’ve done very well. The second time playing, we had a tribe swap on day six and it screwed me because I was outnumbered. It was the luck of the cards that you get. I had more fun on Big Brother because I lasted a lot longer and I got to play the game. Survivor, I haven’t really gotten to play the game. I like the atmosphere more of Survivor. I like being outdoors in that kind of atmosphere and building shelter and fire. It takes me back to the military days of living in the woods with nothing. I like that. Surviving. I like that. As far as playing a game, Big Brother was fun. Every time you competed you were playing by yourself. No one can lose the game for you. But on Survivor, the first half of the game you have a tribe. In your tribe, you’re only as strong as your weakest player. You can’t do everything on your own. If your tribe is just not capable of being good, you look very bad and you’re probably going to lose. That’s the part of Survivor that I don’t like. If you’re very good at something but everyone else is bad, you’re gonna be bad too, because you’re only as good as your worse person. I like both shows. I do hope that one day later on that I get another shot at Survivor with better cards dealt. If asked, I would definitely rather play Survivor than Big Brother again.
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