Tribal Storytelling with “Coach” Benjamin Wade of Survivor Tocantins
After 18 seasons of Survivor, it’s hard to say there’s been anyone more unique than “Coach” Benjamin Wade, a soccer coach, a man of adventure, a conductor of a California orchestra, a musician, and one of the most contentiously entertaining tribe members in Survivor history. Early in the season of Survivor Tocantins, “Coach” became a dominant tribal force when he and his Timbira tribe mate, Candace Smith, clashed in a battle of egos in the Brazilian Highlands. From then on Coach, the self proclaimed Dragon Slayer of Survivor, earned a reputation as an eccentric and strong philosophical presence that rubbed a lot of tribe members the wrong way while also earning the respect of some of the strongest players on Survivor Tocantins.
While most of his tribe mates came from the conventional and seemingly “normal” 9 to 5 world, Coach has led a life that most people would find unbelievable. And when Coach told a story mid-way through Survivor Tocantins about getting kidnapped and beaten by Pygmies in the Amazon, no matter how true it was, could you blame anyone for thinking Coach was telling tall tales outside of the orchestra?
But with all of the controversy surrounding Coach’s adventure stories, his life philosophy, his warrior spirituality, and his open nature, plus what many perceived to be overly dramatic theatrics in the most recent episode of Survivor Tocantins, there’s an interesting, multilayered man underneath the tattoos.
As we found out when we talked to Coach the morning after his torch was extinguished by his Tribal Council sparring partner, Jeff Probst, Coach has a unique world view but he’s also a humble guy at the same time. After getting to know the “on-screen” Coach Benjamin Wade, we also got to briefly know the “off-screen” Coach after chatting about where he felt the game starting to slip away from him, how he feels about his Survivor portrayal and public Tocantins reception, whether it was easy to manipulate his tribe mates, and what it was like to go toe-to-toe with Jeff Probst at Tribal Council.
THE DEADBOLT: When did you feel your hold on the game beginning to slip?
COACH: Without question, when Tyson was voted out. That was a shock to me. I don't know if you watched the deleted scenes, but I actually choked up the next day thinking what a great and noble warrior he had been. It hurt, you know? He was my best friend in the game, and when he left I realized that things were going to permanently change.
THE DEADBOLT: How frustrating was it for you to know that most people think all of your stories are just tall tales or exaggerations?
COACH: Yeah, you know, it is tough. I think that I am a unique individual and I think that if you guys were telling these stories and I was on the flip side, I think I would be a little bit incredulous as well about them. It's hard because I don't tell those stories to edify myself. Actually, I know at the beginning of the game I came off as a little bit arrogant. That was my way of psyching myself up, because I knew people like Brendan would be stronger. I knew people like Tyson would be faster. I knew Debbie would have a better social game than me. And so it was actually my way to just kind of psych myself up. I don't think I'm better than everybody. And if I wouldn't lie for a million dollars, why would I lie about anything else?
THE DEADBOLT: In your opinion, what's the biggest mistake you made in terms of gameplay?
COACH: [laughs] Well, honestly, I think my game play was horrible. I mean, I look at myself and I see everything crumbling around me and yet here I am this noble warrior that is saying I will be loyal to the people that I said I was going to be loyal to. And meanwhile everything is crumbling around me and I'm too set in my ways to make any changes. But again, I'm comfortable with that. I wouldn't have played the game any different. As far as my gameplay, I'm probably one of the most harmless, worst Survivors in history as far as just the game play itself. And I look at myself and I'm like, 'Oh, my goodness! I can't believe it. You can see the writing on the wall.' And I'm just like a lamb led to the slaughter. 'No, I'm going to be loyal to the end,' and it was to my detriment.
THE DEADBOLT: Actually, with that being said, you appeared as a master manipulator. Were you surprised at how easy it was to steer most of the tribe mates in the direction you wanted?
COACH: I don't know. I mean, as far as being a master manipulator, “mani” talks about your hands and “pulation” talks about moving, so if you look at moving with your hands and you look at “manipulation” as a good thing, directing with your hands, like I do with the soccer team and with the orchestra, then I guess that you can say that. But manipulation in a negative connotation, I don't think so. I think if you look at each one, Candice, everybody saw that. Brendan, that was a great coup. Really, Brendan was really my only strategic move in the game, which Tyson of course obviously helped pave the way for that one. So I don't think I'm this master manipulator. But if it's a positive thing, sure, I'll take it.
THE DEADBOLT: What did you think of Jeff's persistent questioning? Did that screw up your game at all?
COACH: I love Jeff. Not in a sexual way, I’ve got to clarify that, like what I said with Tyson. No, Jeff's the man, and I'm not saying that to be sycophantic. I'm just saying he has very good intuition, he likes to get to the bottom of things, and he likes to push your buttons to see how you'll react. I loved it. You know, it would be great to come out with - this sounds very egotistical, but it's not - but I think it would be very cool to have a Tribal of Jeff and my interactions from the whole game, because you guys saw just the tip of the iceberg. He and I would go back and forth and it was a great sparring match that I think both of us looked forward to going to Tribal.http://www.thedeadbolt.com/news/105699/survivor_tocantins_coach_interview.php