As many of you know I happen to be a pretty big fan of Coach Benjamin Wade aka Dragon Slayer, undeniably the star of the 18th installment of Survivor, Survivor Tocantins. During the season of Tocantins, Coach was to me rather larger than life. His stories of epic adventures in distant faraway lands and the persona of COACH as The Renaissance Man appealed to me as a viewer of the show. It was the image and the allure. Mainly because it was real and not created for tv. He has lived a very cool life.
So who is Coach Wade? What does he symbolize to me as his supporter?
For one, he presented himself to me, the supporter; as a symphony conductor and a soccer coach who can travel comfortably between two polar opposite worlds and extremes. He brought that ability of dealing with extreme opposites to the show. This surreal experience that Survivor is, coupled with wanting to take an at it's core nasty game and make it ethical, would be a rather daunting effort. In my eyes, definitely an attempt at a polar extreme.
He is a man who took pride in his Native heritage, as I take pride in mine as well. He spoke of the ways of the Native ancestors on the show. He wore a feather to Tribal Council as a representation of that part of himself.
A man who put honor above all else.
A man who stated boldly the first day of the game to Brendan during the trek to camp: "I want to change the game...take the strongest to the end". I live by honor and will play this game with integrity.
A man who gave his word and kept it. Even if in the end that cost him.
All but one ally eventually turned on him. The sole one who did not was Tyson, whom Coach Wade will again play alongside in Coach and Tyson's Big Adventure, aka Survivor 20 Heroes vs Villains. The blindside of Tyson would slowly render Coach Wade's downfall in Tocantins.
At the onset of the season, what I saw as a viewer was a man who attempted to lead the Timbira Tribe, but later conceded that leadership title to Brendan Synott, whom members of Timbira felt could offer solid leadership. Personally I saw signs of leadership. Albeit quiet leadership.
Myself as a viewer, I saw a quiet underlying leadership from Coach more so than Brendan. He often took part in the preparation of food, would root on his tribe mates during Challenges.
He along with Tyson often were the go to guys on voting and strategical decisions.
An early example of strategical leadership being the ousting of Candice. Knowing that Candice would possibly cause tensions amongst the tribe and upset the delicate social balance. He stated she is a snake and has to go. He called out Erinn as being a snake in the grass also, which she did flip on Timbira at merge and align with Stephen, JT and Taj.
As an unacknowledged leader he did to me, appear to want what was best for Timbira's success. Like any intellectual player, he knew for him to succeed, his tribe must succeed first.
He was often times funny, arrogant but in a cool way, motivated, competitive Case in point, who can forget the guttural scream after the loss of one challenge by Coach Wade? The scream that said I am done losing! Plus he won an Immunity at a necessary time. But again challenges were not always his forte and at times he did come up just short. However I could sense that fierce competitor in him.
But above all he was honest. JT stated post game that he never caught Coach in a lie.
I would peg him the Intellectual Survivor. He had quotes upon quotes. Shared inspiring stories of survival in the Amazon Forest. He was shown meditating on several episodes. A method he uses until this day on a daily basis. He walked to the beat of his own piper and never strayed from a path that he himself set out surely to walk.
He set out to change the game, pit best vis a vis best and in a quiet way he did, as in the end, he did go up against the best but came up shy. But he did give JT a run for his money, in the process standing on a small foothold for around an hour. This is after having been on Exile Island and not eating or drinking for two days and his body suffering the effects.
To me that is something pretty big. The moral character part, of his hopes; for his own allies to play with integrity alongside him, however did come up shy. He was never made aware of Tyson's or Debbie's vote offs.
He was called a liar by former ally Sierra publicly (actually BOTH told the truth when you think about it) Sierra did make an attempt to rejoin with Coach but nixed the idea once Coach decided to stand by his word given to JT and vote against her. Plus Coach did for a bit have a conversation about putting old Timbira together to go up against the Jalapao 3. Controversial and made for good TV. Yet for someone like Coach Wade, the attacks on his character were pretty difficult to bear. His detractors sullied his name all across the net in many forums. But for every ten detractors, there were about as many pro Coach fans so that does say a lot about him personally as a man.
In the end, Coach Ben Wade came out with respect. You gotta like a guy who never backs down from his principles not even for a million bucks.
Another important and decisive part of his epic Survivor journey was when he pitted himself up against Brendan Synott (aka The Dragon) who at merge possessed not only the ability to win a challenge if necessary, but also a Hidden Immunity Idol (HII) and an attempt at a cross tribal alliance with Taj and Stephen.
The setup actually started pre merge when I myself noticed how Coach turned and looked at Tyson when Brendan selected Stephen to go to Exile with him after having taken Taj twice. Brendan was trying to be low under the radar about it. However Coach sized it up as did Tyson, that Brendan was cultivating multiple relationships for merge. A dangerous strategy for a tribal mate to do. He spoke of feeling Brendan was "squirrelly" and thinking that if Brendan were to pull that off--that would spell his. meaning Coach Wade's personal doom. So I do believe a plan started surfacing on how to go about it by counterattack. All pre-merge. Possibly between he and Tyson.
At merge he singled out JT.
One thing I have personally found out about Coach is he is truly very intuitive. He can size up anybody.
He knew that JT would play competitive , which he desired to have in an ally. By competitive I mean play to win. JT would realize that to go with Brendan would not be a smart move.
By reining in JT and then Stephen and creating The Warrior Alliance which also boasted Debra Beebe and Tyson Apostol, they were able to match Brendan ahead of time as Brendan did not approach his cross tribal alliance until plans were well underway to blindside him.
Through strategies the Alliance decided to split the votes between Sierra and Brendan, just in case of the HII being played. It did stand to reason and I am sure Coach knew this also, that the Warrior Alliance was the best route for a numbers down Jalapao contingent to go. Were Brendan to vote say a Jalapao at any point, their hold on the game would be pretty slim. JT and Stephen were not about to see that happen - not possibly at merge or in the distant future.
So the emergence of a larger than life character in Tocantins thus began.
Coach dubbed Brendan the Dragon. Then dubbed himself the Dragon Slayer.
Putting a mythical yet heroic spin on a rather intelligent game moment.
At the end of that showdown, Coach won decisively with just two votes being aimed his way (Brendan, Sierra). The mixture of the majority of votes being split between Brendan and Sierra. In the end a confident Brendan did not play the HII. In the end..Brendan became first member of the Tocantins jury.
The next epic journey happened at the bitter end. His journey to Exile Island.
For Coach it summed up his journey in a bittersweet spiritual way. While on Exile, Coach knowing his time was drawing near, summoned up the inner strength through meditation and challenging himself physically through fasting. Challenging a body that was physically breaking down. Still Coach possessed a spirit that was ready to be challenged to the bitter end.
As a pro Coach viewer, I found Exile heroic. It was the epic struggle of the season and a virtual masterpiece cinematically. I would even go as far as saying the best edit he received all season.
After taking part in the showdown of showdowns versus JT, Coach Wade was then voted off that very night he returned from Exile. Exit Coach from Tocantins to Survivor Villaindom and Return to play Heroes vs Villains...
The theme of Survivor 20 is
Return ...that he is and as one of Survivor's most prolific villains ever in history. In my polls he was second to Evil Russell Hantz as most biggest Villain.
Revenge ...he stated and stated firmly on an interview trust no one...slay all!
Redemption...can this game be played with honor, integrity, character and strong vs strong in the end?
The answer to that is we shall see.
I asked a wonderful cast member for her thoughts on Coach Wade to add to this blog. Thinking because Survivor 20 is a return of stars from past seasons, why not get past season stars involved with my blog. Rita Verreos has graciously agreed to give her thoughts throughout this season. As has Sarge Masters plus Coach's brother Peter Wade will also at some point in the season add his thoughts as well. There may be other cast also featured on my blog at various points of the season so please keep your eyes pealed. Thank you beautiful Rita for kindly consenting to share your views. Below was sent to me by Rita via email:
Rita Verreos (Survivor Fiji)
"So, my thoughts on Coach. My initial impression was that I found him to be very handsome man with a natural elegance.I approached him to introduce myself. From what was portrayed on Survivor,I was expecting an unapproachable man who would be over the top and ALL into himself.I was more than pleasantly surprised to find the total opposite! Absolutely approachable and very down to earth.He was very sweet to me and respectfully admirative of the dress that I wore to the event;a gentleman at all times. The day after the event, I got a chance to sit and chat with him at the Renaissance Hotel and found him to have a very calming aura, very interesting and easy to talk to. It'll be interesting to see how he's portrayed second time around. Stay tuned;)"