Coach bails on his keep-the-strong strategy; Candace says “he’s full of shit, he’s misogynist”

One episode was all it took for Ben Wade to abandon his “I want to get the four strongest people to the final four because that’s who deserves it” strategy. Last night, he orchestrated a blindside of Candace Smith instead of voting out Sierra, who was the tribe’s initial target because of her lack of strength.

While I actually respected his strategy, if not his ridiculous arrogance about it, Ben/Coach lost me last night by becoming a hypocrite and exactly the sort of player he railed against. Besides his petty rationale, there’s nothing inherently wrong with getting rid of strong players–except that’s exactly what he said he hated about the game.

There was no logical reason to dump Candace, who was one of Timbira’s stronger members, especially after Sierra proved to be useless during the challenge. Ben, who was fired from his coaching job this week for not telling his university where he was going last fall, also said in Brazil that Survivor had “become, in my opinion, survival of the weakest, survival of the manipulative, survival of the dishonest, with some good, honest people sprinkled throughout the game.”

Amusingly, he also said, “I love winning–almost more than anything–but not at the brooking of my integrity and my honesty,” but he back-stabbed Candace anyway. During the episode, Ben offered some weak-ass justification, saying, “I do want the strong people to be here” but saying they could have “addition by subtraction” because “the cancer will ruin the tribe.” That “cancer” was Candace (he seems to have a thing for cancer, lying to the players he coached about being tested for cancer), and she was a cancer because she clashed with him.

I just talked to Candace, who told me that, despite his insistence upon integrity in our pre-game conversation, he lied to her about voting for Sierra. Candace said her ouster was “complete bullshit,” and joked, “I don’t know what would have saved me besides having sex with Coach.” She also said, “My strength, physically and mentally, was intimidating to Coach. … I didn’t play into Coach’s whole manipulating tactics. I wasn’t one of the cult followers.”

She didn’t have any kind words for her tribe except to say that she connected with Jerry–and was hurt by his vote–and thinks Tyson is the only person she’d hang out with. Candace also said it was ironic that “I was there to play and compete” despite being a former model and actor, while others there were there for attention and fame.

Candace had the strongest feelings about Ben, of course, telling me that he would “make his demands but he never did anything,” and “he’s full of shit, he’s misogynist … and he’s physically weak.” Besides the face-licking attempt we saw on TV Thursday, she said Ben was “constantly trying to feel my butt” and “shouldn’t even be working with young women. … You don’t deserve the name Coach. You are a disgrace to every Coach.” Candace said that despite his spirituality, he “talks about being a womanizer and bedding women all over the world.” After their first-day trek, Candace said, “We finally sit down to breathe, the first thing he says is, ‘You know you’re sexy, right?’ Is that at the top of the priority list of our tribe?”

Pre-game, Candace said, “I don’t want my strength or confidence to be blatant,” and admitted this morning that was what hurt her. Over time, she said, “it became a lot of more difficult for me to interact with these people.” While we haven’t seen “how backstabbing that entire tribe is,” Candace said that “America did see that I was a strong competitor and I worked hard, and my tribe didn’t respect that,” and she wouldn’t do anything differently if she had another chance.

By the way, when we talked five days before election day, Candace said she’d refuse to return to the U.S. if John McCain had been elected president; she said they told her at Ponderosa that Barack Obama won, and “I cried, I did. The million dollars would have been nice, but I’m just happy to be in America with Obama” as president.

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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.