Randy Bailey: “If you carve a strategy in stone, you’re fucked from the beginning”

In Africa, members of the press were given copies of the Survivor Gabon contestants’ bios (drafts, it seems, since some have changed slightly) to read before interviewing them, which gave us something to talk about. After all, it’s a bit odd to talk to someone about things they have not yet done. Randy Bailey’s official CBS bio clearly wanted to establish him as an asshole: “He considers himself a ruthless bully who enjoys picking on those that were not blessed with his strength or intellect.”

That alone made me dread talking to him, never mind having to watch him on the show, at least until everyone voted him off. But listening to our conversation again, I’m not quite sure why I ranked him in the lower third (again, I created that list immediately after meeting them all for the first time, long before I saw them interact during the first episode). My lingering impression of him then was negative, but listening to our 15-minute conversation, he now strikes me as more of an astute player and less of an asshole than he did then.

Randy is outrageously honest, saying that the experience up to that point was “ups and downs. The ups are, it’s unbelievable to be here. The downs are asking permission to take a shit. We’ll be turned in a few days, so it’ll be all ups then.” Late in our conversation, he said, “I was going to say that I get laid every now and then, but that’s not true. It’s been last century, probably. Make sure you write that down—if there’s any Survivor-chasing girls out there, groupies, I’m available.”

Also in the honesty department, he said that, if he wins, he plans to “put it in the bank, invest it, give nothing to charity, and not work another fucking day in my life. That’s the truth.” But he also admitted with that question and in general, he plans to conceal his true feelings to all except the confessional cameras and producers.

Randy has applied for Survivor a lot, has “been called a time or two in the past,” and actually got into his current profession, wedding videography, when (and because) he first applied seven years ago. After paying $300 to have his first (ignored) audition video professionally shot and edited, he said he “bought all the equipment, the software, [and does] that now for a living.”

Having watched the show since the first season, Randy clearly understands the game. “If you carve a strategy in stone, you’re fucked from the beginning,” he said, and cited two cast members’ comments on their respective seasons about effective strategy for people like himself. First-season star Rudy Boesch taught Randy that “there’s more of them than there are of me. I got to get along, not them. I’m taking that to heart and I’m going to try to wake up thinking about that.”

And from Ami Cusack (of both Survivor Vanuatu and Survivor Micronesia), Randy learned “you don’t have to do anything. People will do things on their own to get voted out. So I am going to try to be cool and if I make it halfway, I’m not really going to start aggressively playing the game until the halfway point—or not—hoping that Ami’s right and people will do stupid things to get voted out. If Ami’s wrong, Ami, if you read this, I’m going to kick your ass.”

I think that’s the kind of statement that turned me off of Randy, because he says those kinds of things with a flat, deadpan seriousness that comes off as genuine, but now it seems more obvious that he was trying to be—and actually often is—funny. Maybe that’s also true of when Randy referred to his fellow cast members derisively as “bozos.”

Speaking of the bozos, Randy said, “My biggest challenge is getting along with the 20-somethings. I do have the ability to do that because I think I am a very young 49. But I was not expecting the cast to be like it is. … They could easily bond together on the first day and I’m gone.”

Still, he also respected some of them, and planned to work with them. “The young, hot blondes seem to have their eye on the ball better than two or three of these stud guys, because I see them checking out butts in the swimsuits. I may be wrong, but it appears the game is the furthest thing from their mind,” he said. Randy said he planned to be in the “fatherly role” with the women and align with the younger men “so the target is not on me,” but kept acknowledging, “I could be first to go.”

Hear him talk about the “two levels of the game,” casting, and his strategy “to surround myself with some protection”:

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