Charlie Herschel: “every second that I was out there, I was in heaven”

Charlie Herschel was voted out of following yet another tribe shake-up. As a fan of the show, he told me he “expected the worst” on Survivor Gabon but “every second that I was out there, I was in heaven. It was amazing.”

Besides being part of the dominant tribe and alliance that eventually got crushed by the twists, Charlie may be best known for his friendship with Marcus, which CBS is milking on the Ponderosa web episodes, but which doesn’t have a future on CBS reality shows. When we talked a few weeks ago, before my conversation with casting director Lynne Spillman, he acknowledged going on The Amazing Race with his new friend was probably not going to happen. “We’re close friends and we live in a dream world and we try to think of all this crazy fun shit we can do together in the future,” Charlie said, but “I’m a lawyer and a realist, and the fact that I got Survivor once is like a dream come true; I doubt I’m going to have two dreams in this lifetime.”

Charlie revealed that he and Marcus bonded long before the game actually started because “even the fact that he was reading was beyond everyone else,” and “people were doing very absurd things before the game, and we rolled our eyes at each other.” In addition, Marcus was reading The Five Love Languages on the plane to Gabon, and Charlie realized, “this guy’s got to be a nice guy.”

Marcus fit with Charlie’s “strategy to have a very strong relationship in the game and probably one that people wouldn’t expect to see,” and he Charlie told me that it was unexpected: “we were a secret alliance; no one knew” and other cast members “didn’t realize we were friends and that we had an alliance” until after watching the show on TV.

He says he agrees with Marcus’ assessment of the editing of their relationship, because producers “often made a joke out of relationship sometimes, which I didn’t appreciate. It made it look like I wasn’t strategizing, I wasn’t playing the game, and all I was doing was lusting after Marcus, which certainly wasn’t the case.”

I asked him flat-out if he had a crush on Marcus, and Charlie said, “Literally, every interview I had with a producer–every interview, even ones when he was gone, they would ask me, ‘Do you have a crush on Marcus?’ And in every interview, I would say, ‘I do not have a crush on Marcus.’ … I’m used to building a wall in my mind between me and people I cannot date; Marcus is a straight man, and it never even crossed my mind. I just don’t go there when it’s not a possibility.”

As to their alliance and its downfall, Charlie said, “I think it’s boring to watch an easy, predictable win, and we were tossed a twist that was impossible to overcome.” He said they “hadn’t prepared well enough for those twists, and we just weren’t up to the challenge.” He added that he “had a really strong alliance, and even the layers of my alliance were fiercely loyal” so I “felt very protected in my alliance,” but realized “this is too easy; something’s going to give.”

Ken targeted Charlie because of the faux-merge feast incident with the immunity idol clue, and Charlie said he “was oblivious to” the fact that Ken spotted it first, so Charlie felt like it was Ken who was being absurd. “Although I do understand where he’s coming from, I think that’s a really trite and silly” reason to vote for someone, Charlie said, adding, “I never really imagined that it was a personal grudge that Kenny had against me. … I think it was the right decision for them strategically, but probably for the wrong reasons.”

Ironically, one of Charlie’s key strategies may have worked against him. “My whole strategy all along was to be as non-threatening as possible. So, I tried to be silly, I tried to be goofy, I tried to show that I was not a threat athletically or in any way, but I think they saw through it.”

He said that Corinne’s “strategy is that she wore her emotions on her sleeve” and while “she never really understood how being herself and being honest about her feelings would affect her game later on,” that “actually helped her later on because, in the case of Corinne versus me being voted out last week, my being cautious and calculated was more of a threat than Corinne alienating people was.”

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.