Survivor: Blood vs. Water was the first season to see loved ones competing against each other, and two of those loved ones pairs were married couples Brad and Monica Culpepper and John and Candice Cody. The castaways were divided into two tribes: Galang, comprised of returning players, and Tadhana, the returning players’ loved ones. John’s wife Candice was booted from Galang in an immediate vote-off and sent to Redemption Island. Despite this initial setback, John quickly got himself into the majority on Tadhana as part of Brad’s all guys alliance. John trusted Brad, even going so far as to share idol clues with him, but as Tadhana continued to lose, Brad became paranoid that Candice would return to the game and take John away from him. Brad’s paranoia led to him blindsiding John and sending him to Redemption Island; this move saw the end of the all guys alliance when at the next tribal council the tribe voted out Brad. Both John and Brad eventually lost at Redemption Island, leaving the game pre-merge.
Inside Survivor reached out to John to get his thoughts on Brad’s return to Survivor: Game Changers.
Disclaimer: This interview was conducted in June 2016 while Survivor: Game Changers was still filming in Fiji.
1) Hey John, thanks for doing this. In Blood vs. Water, it was presented on TV as if Brad was in control of those first few votes. Was that true? If so, how did he gain such control?
Brad was definitely in control for the first vote, since he quickly went around and got all the guys together. Everyone was on board with not being the first to go home, so we let it ride. He definitely was less in control the second vote. At that point, Vytas Baskauskas really took over until the swap in my opinion.
2) He came across to viewers as a bold, in-your-face type character. What was he like to live with day-to-day? Big personality all the time? Or did he have a chill side too?
Brad is a very entertaining guy. He’s very much a “talk first, think later” kind of guy which is great for entertainment purposes. He had a ton of stories and jokes and was generally well liked. That’s not to say that his personality isn’t off-putting to some people. He would definitely fill the air if it were vacant, which means a lot coming from a loud, talkative guy like me, and I think that bothered some people. So I guess he’s a big personality all the time. Even his “chill” side is intense and high energy.
3) Brad seemed to be all about the “bro down” in Blood vs. Water. What was his relationship like with the women on the tribe?
I don’t know what most of the women (except Marissa Peterson) thought on the whole about Brad, but he didn’t make much of an effort at all to include them in strategy. I do know that a few people felt like he talked “at” them a lot and not “with” them.
4) Brad blindsided you because he didn’t trust that you’d stay loyal to him at the merge. Was Brad right to make that move? What was your plan moving forward?
No, it was an idiotic move! We’ve talked about it since, and he agrees, but always defends it in the context of worrying about his wife, Monica. Ultimately it led to his downfall. Before I was voted out by Brad and Vytas, we hadn’t talked about breaking up the five guys alliance at all. His concern was that if Candice came back in (which she very likely would have), that she would not want to work with Brad and Monica. That is probably true, but that was many many moves ahead. He had no idea if Monica would even make it that far. He made a move that fractured our alliance and made people not trust each other, and basically helped keep the tribe weaker and going to tribal council over and over again.
At the end of the day, at a really early time point, he turned on the one person who said they would look out for him because I needed people like him around to keep the target off of me. It didn’t work out for either of us. I would have kept working with Brad and even Monica if it suited my gameplay, but if I had the opportunity to vote Monica out, I absolutely would have done it after she voted for Candice. The family dynamic was pretty suffocating in our season from a gameplay perspective.
5) What is Brad’s most positive attribute and his most negative attribute?
Brad is a likable guy, very good at challenges, and really helpful around camp. Honestly, if he can lay low, he probably can do really well and make it far. He’s helpful and good enough at challenges to avoid the early vote off, and he probably won’t be seen as the biggest threat for individual immunity since he’s a little older.
6) Who on this cast are his biggest threats and why?
As a big fan of the show, I hate having the cast spoiled, so I have no idea who is definitely on this upcoming season, and I haven’t tried to find out… check back with me later though.
Added 02/13/17: One of the great things about returning players is getting to see how castaways from different seasons interact with each other and in many ways can have different successes and challenges being with different people. It’s hard to say how someone like Tony Vlachos will like Brad. He may be keeping an eye on him from the spy shack if they both make it that far. From the initial tribe standings, I could see Ozzy, JT, and Brad forming a solid “we are awesome at challenges” bromance. They would be wise to try and work with Cirie, Sarah, and Zeke, all of whom demonstrated pretty shrewd game play in their respective seasons. I wouldn’t want to be on any of their bad sides.
7) Putting you on the spot, how far do you think Brad will make it this season? And who is your overall pick to win?
Brad shot himself in the foot last time. If he can avoid that sort of a scenario, while building (and keeping) some trust in people, he could go far. He also would have to overcome the stigma that he betrayed his closest ally. I can see a scenario where he gets voted out early if his tribe doesn’t trust him or he offends some people. Honestly, I think he will learn from last time. I can easily see him making it to the end based on some of his strengths, so that’s my story.
8) There was certainly no love lost between Brad and your wife Candice during Blood vs. Water. Is it safe to say Candice won’t be rooting for him this season? Or have those old wounds been patched up?
That’s true; the wounds have been mostly healed with time. Candice was especially angry because of the double hit – Monica voting her out, and then Brad voting me out (especially after he insinuated to Candice at Redemption Island that we were together and I was safe). Candice isn’t a bitter person, though, and if Brad were to do well, we would both be happy for him.
9) Lastly, before we let you go, what’s been happening since we last saw you on Blood vs. Water? How is the family? And do you have any desire to play Survivor again?
I completed my orthopedic residency at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and a fellowship in joint replacement, now I’m stationed back at Walter Reed as full-time staff doing hip and knee replacement. Candice finished her residency as well, is now a staff anesthesiologist, and loving her job. We also welcomed our daughter, Beatrix, in September 2015. She’s been an unbelievable addition to our family!
I have a lot of game left in me, and every time I watch the show, I think about how I could have done things differently. I would love the opportunity and ability to play again!
Thanks again to John for taking part. For more on Brad, you can check out his cast retrospective and official cast bio. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more Playing With Game Changers interviews. Survivor: Game Changers premieres March 8, 2017, on CBS.