Usually getting a nickname on Survivor is a sign you’ve made it far in to the competition – but that was not the case for contestant Mark Caruso.
After losing his duel against Christine, Caruso, 48, became the second contestant eliminated from Survivor: South Pacific, but not before his cuddly disposition got him the nickname “Papa Bear.”
The retired NYPD detective, 48, spoke to PEOPLE after his elimination and explained what it was like on Redemption Island, how his ally Jim was the reason for his demise, and all about his aspirations to do commercials for Dunkin’ Donuts.
What was it like on Redemption Island?
It’s weird because you get thrown in a situation where you are truly alone. You don’t have anyone doing anything [for you]. You do all the work, get the fire, start the fire, get the food. It’s 10 times worse than with the tribe. Plus with the psychological thing of, “What did I do to get voted off?”
Your tribemates said they voted you off because you were weak in competitions.
It’s really funny. I was stronger than most of them and still am.
So why do you think you were voted off?
I had an alliance with Jim, but Jim was the one who put my name under the bus. I found out later that the real reason I was [voted out] was because I was friends with Ozzy, so they needed to get rid of that blocked vote – which was amazing to me because I never knew I was in anything with Ozzy.
I mean, Ozzy and I shook [hands] that we weren’t going to vote each other out, but people do that all day – “I won’t vote you, I won’t vote you” – and then two seconds later we’re throwing targets at each other.
Were you mad at Jim?
He uses whatever he can to move forward, God bless him. I can’t be mad at him. I mean, the human part of me is like, “I can’t stand him! What did he do this for?” But the reality is, when you think it out – and I think everything out – I really can’t blame him because if the tables were turned, I would do the same thing.
Is that attitude what makes you Papa Bear?
I’m always a cool guy who likes people. I make friends very easy and I do well at my jobs and school and everything. I couldn’t believe I couldn’t connect with these people [on my tribe], which was frustrating.
I tried my real best to connect with them and it came down to the point of old versus young.
Would you go back and change anything?
I’m really happy how I played the game. I’m really happy how it played out even though obviously I wanted to win. I’m just happy I went in there as a warrior and I left as a gentleman.
You were very dignified in your departure.
Jeff Probst – an awesome guy who knows the game in and out – shook my hand and said I did a good job. How much more can you ask for? And then it was time to put my buff in the fire I said, “This is not the ending to Papa Bear. This is just the beginning.
So what’s next then?
Maybe going on TV. Do commercials for Dunkin’ Donuts? I’m a New York City police detective. Where do we eat? Dunkin’ Donuts.