Survivor's Coach slams critics
Infamous Survivor contestant Benjamin "Coach" Wade has defended his controversial behaviour, and says claims that he made up outlandish stories to tell the tribe are "humiliating".
Wade, a football coach at a girl's school in Missouri and symphony orchestra conductor, was eliminated from Survivor: Tocantins after a rough episode that saw him spend several barren nights on Exile Island before collapsing during a failed attempt to win an immunity challenge.
At Tribal Council, a poetry-spouting Wade sparred with fellow contestant Erinn Lobdell, before Stephen Fishbach helped blindside him. Four competitors are left in the running for the show's US$1 million prize: Lobdell, Fishbach, Tamara Johnson-George and James "JT" Thomas Jr.
Wade become a Survivor fan favourite after telling his tribe a tall tale involving an escape from cannibal pygmies while paddling down the Amazon river. In separate interviews, evictees Tyson Apostol and Sierra Reed questioned the story's authenticity.
But the 37-year-old told Stuff.co.nz it happened about 13 years ago and that all his stories were true.
"I think those that have not done like to throw stones at those that have done," he said. "Of course it's going to happen. You put yourself out there on the front line in the environment, what's going to happen?
"You think I'm going to shake hands with the natives, pat the crocodiles and let the piranhas tickle my belly on the way down while I'm floating on the river?"
Wade, who labelled himself "The Dragon Slayer" after helping blindside Brendan Synnott out of the game, said he was sick of having to defend himself against accusations he was lying.
"I'm tired of people trying to shame me. I'm tired of people rolling their eyes at my stories. I didn't tell them so you would think that I was a man. I told them at a time when I thought it would help the tribe.
"It hurts me and it bothers me. The ridicule and humiliation that I've faced was atrocious and unnecessary most of the time."
Wade - who also claimed he practiced a form of meditation that was so rare it wasn't on Google - said he was never interested in winning the show's US$1 million prize.
"I didn't care about the million dollars - I've never been motivated by money. I wanted to go down there and put my stamp on the game and try to show everybody that you can be a real man and have values and not play this game like a snake.
He was happy with his performance but admitted he had been humbled by the controversy he had caused. Despite this, Wade said he walked away as a "noble warrior".
"The night that I left, my first comment was, 'I don't understand why they would keep someone like Erinn over me.' But I left when I needed to leave. To have the biggest impact, it had to culminate in the hero, or the warrior, or the villain, or whatever you want to call me, exit.
"So looking back on it, the timing was perfect. I never compromised my loyalty with anybody, I always voted for who I said I was going to vote, I never told somebody a lie. I'm very happy with how I played the game."
He admitted he had a "larger than life" personality and said he had become popular among Survivor fans for that reason.
"There are various things I did for the cameras. I do not call myself 'The Dragon Slayer,' but I do give people nicknames. I like to be different. I like to be the salmon that swims upstream and is different from the rest of the pack.
"So I think people liked that. People saw this character that they could either love or they could hate.
"But as they say, 'Love me or hate me, but don't ignore me'."
Survivor: Tocantins screens at 7.30pm every Thursday on TV3. Stuff.co.nz will interview every contestant as they are eliminated.
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