“Wait. Survivor is still on?” That’s how Cole Medders reacted when he said a casting director approached him about being on the show while at a Chipotle restaurant in Hollywood. Sure, he had seen episodes years ago, but Cole admitted during our one-on-one interview that he had no idea what he was getting into. In fact, he thinks he may be the worst castaway this season. We also asked his thoughts on Chrissy Hofbeck being consistently slammed by other contestants as a villainous liar. Plus, he revealed why his final-two alliance with Mike Zahalsky was being compared to Game of Thrones.
SheKnows: Was your elimination a true blindside or did you know it was coming?
Cole Medders: It was in no way a blindside at all. I was 90 percent sure I was going home unless something crazy happened. I expected it. I had people come up to me that day at camp and tell me that it was nothing personal, but everybody was coming for me because I was a physical threat. They said, “We’re voting for you tonight.” I had no Idol or Immunity, so I was an obvious choice.
SK: Some people have been saying you played the game very selfishly and strategically weak, including Ben and Jessica. What’s your response?
CM: Selfish? There’s a little truth to that. Here’s the extent of my food stealing: I helped myself to two bites of peanut butter. When it came to the fish, I was catching everyone fish every day. There was one instance where I only came back with one fish. To replenish my energy from fishing, yeah, I ate it myself. I didn’t think that was too wrong. I definitely did everything I could around camp to make life easier. Come the merge, I was cooking for everyone for every meal. Me and J.P. were out fishing every day. It’s just that Ben made my cooking out to be a bad thing. He told everyone I was cooking extra portions of rice for myself, which was not the case. He did a masterful job of turning me into a villain.
SK: Were you aware how hard Ben was playing against you?
CM: Most of the time, no. Toward the end, it finally dawned on me that Ben was out to get me. Mostly because he told me to my face. “I am coming for you, Cole. I am making sure that you go home because you’re a huge threat.”
SK: During our interview with Jessica, she expressed her personal adoration for you, but she also said that you’re the worst player this season. Do you agree with her that your strategy wasn’t that great or were you misrepresented?
CM: [Laughs.] I think it was pretty accurate. I will be honest. I did not watch much Survivor before I went out there. I think I have all the right ingredients to be a good Survivor player. I think I have what it takes to get to the end. It’s just that I didn’t know how to put it all together. When I would go back and study the show, I would fast-forward through all the important day-to-day social things. I would just watch Tribal Council or Immunity challenges, which was a huge mistake. I also think some of that secrets I was telling at the time made sense to me. Looking back, it was just a total miscalculation. I think I’m the best worst Survivor player this season [laughs].
SK: You and Jessica had a flirtatious relationship during the game, so what’s going on between you now?
CM: We’ve had the chance to hang out a few times outside of the show. We have some future trips planned as well. Now we’re just friends. We talk all the time, but we’re just really in different places right now. We’ll see what happens.
SK: Many contestants we’ve interviewed have expressed their disgust toward Chrissy. She’s been labeled as a liar and a villain. Did you see that side of Chrissy too?
CM: I just want to preface this first by saying that everyone in this cast is an amazing person. Everyone has such huge hearts. There’s a reason we’re all seen as a healer, a hero or a hustler. Chrissy just did some things in the game that some people’s moral compass had a problem with. Me, personally, I see it as a cutthroat game where you need to be manipulative and lie to get to the end. She did not rub me the wrong way. People claim that Chrissy swore on her children’s’ lives or something along those lines. I never heard it, personally, so I can’t attest to that. After we finished wrestling for the Idol, Chrissy told the whole group that I came out of nowhere and tackled her while she was dealing with a migraine. Since she was in the majority alliance, most of the people believed her. Desi really took issue with those lies because it seemed to cross the moral line of playing a game and just being mean. I don’t think Chrissy is a mean-hearted person at all. I think she’s a very sweet-natured person. She’s a great wife and mom. I think she was just playing the game very well.
SK: Did you call her out for telling that lie about you?
CM: I was like, “That’s not what happened. You were digging for an Idol.” She just went, “OK, Cole. It’s your word against mine, and I think we all know how that’s gonna go.”
SK: What was your end-game strategy?
CM: Me and Mike from the very start had a final-two pact going on. We were on the same page almost all the time. He told me that he was gonna vote for me that night because he came to me kind of asking for permission. I essentially gave it to him. We called ourselves Jaime and Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones. He saw himself, I guess, as the short, uglier younger brother [laughs]. I wanted to go to the end with him and J.P. because I saw myself beating J.P. on the count of having more personality. I saw myself beating Mike because if it had gone the way I wanted it to, I would have the social game. I also was able to catch fish and do all the survival things. I was also winning challenges. Mike had only strategy, and that was it.
SK: What was it about Mike that you connected with so early in the game?
CM: If you hang out with Mike for even just an hour, you’ll love him instantly. He’s just the most likable, personable guy. He makes you laugh immediately with all of his sex doctor jokes. They’re a little outrageous, and even though he’s well my senior, he still feels like a little brother to me. He’s a little clumsy, and I love that. You just have to hang out with him. He’s a blast to be around.
SK: Since you weren’t a big fan of Survivor, how did you get on the show?
CM: I was in a Chipotle in Hollywood at the time visiting a friend. A casting director was in there at the same time. She came up to me and asked me if I wanted to be on the show. I was like, “Wait. Survivor is still on?” I didn’t even know it was still on anymore [laughs]. I got really excited about it because I remember it for what it used to be when I watched it way back when. It was mostly just a survival show. There wasn’t a lot of the strategy involved then, and that made me really excited. Little did I know what I was getting into.
SK: Have you been recognized by any fans?
CM: Yeah. It’s been happening quite a bit. I was actually at a very big football game this weekend with Auburn vs. Alabama. It was almost exhausting how many pictures I had to take. I’m not trying to say that in a bragging way at all, but I had no idea that many people still watched the show. Yeah, it was something else.
SK: Would you play again?
CM: I would 100 percent do it again. I know that I could be really good at this if I prepare myself mentally for what the food is gonna be like. I could be in control of those impulses and be a lot more self-aware. The biggest thing is no one has really seen what I’m capable of. They’ve just seen me pretty much be a goober and mess up. I have a lot of surprises waiting.