One of the season's biggest characters defends his game

By Steve Helling
October 25, 2013 04:35 PM
Monty Brinton/CBS

Brad Culpepper understands that you either love him or hate him, and he’s fine with that. As one of the alpha males on Survivor: Blood vs. Water, Culpepper’s big personality rubbed some of his tribesmates the wrong way. He was blindsided on day 10, when his tribe sent him to Redemption Island. After losing a challenge on day 14, he was sent home – much to the dismay of his wife, Monica.

It’s not Culpepper’s first time in the public eye: The 44-year-old Tampa, Fla., lawyer was a defensive tackle in the NFL for nine seasons. Here, he talks about being blindsided, his puzzle prowess and what he really thinks of women.

You took a lot of heat this season, Brad. Here’s your opportunity. What do you want us to know?
Probably the worst thing that people said about me was that I was a misogynistic person. I’m not. So I want everyone to know that I am not a sexist. I am not a pig. I am not a tyrant. I am a good guy who was playing a game.

Why do you think you got that reputation?
It mostly came from people who weren’t with me for very long, if at all Candice [Cody] accused me of being sexist because of something she heard secondhand. Here’s something you didn’t see on TV: After she said that, we went around to every single person in the arena and asked if I was sexist, and every single one of them said I wasn’t.

So where did she get it from?
It’s misinformation that Candice was getting. She wasn’t my biggest fan to start with; she wasn’t happy that Monica voted her out. Monica voted Candice because she was good-looking, athletic and a threat. That rubbed Candice the wrong way. And then, as other contestants threw vitriol my way, that added fuel to the fire. And I voted out her husband. But I’ll say it again: I am not a sexist.

So you think women are equal to men?
Absolutely. Look at the way Monica is playing the game. She’s very shrewd and smart. She is a real threat in the game. She’s in a good position, and I think she’s doing a fantastic job.

Who’s her biggest threat?
Tina Wesson. She’s the most threatening person left on that tribe. She’s a former winner; she’s smart. She gets along with people. She’s there with her daughter, and they’re a powerful twosome. Monica needs to be very leery of Tina, because she has what it takes to go very far.

So how disappointing was it to be voted out so soon?
My No. 1 goal was to give Monica a chance in the game. The last time she played, an alliance started within five minutes of the game, and there was nothing she could do. I made moves that weren’t in my best interest, but may have been in the best interest of Monica. And she’s still there, so I feel like I’m still there. In my math, I think one equals two. We’re both still playing.

Yeah, but surely you wanted to go further.
Absolutely. I wanted to make the merge at least. I would have loved to sit at the end with Monica. But if it had to be one of us, it should be her at the end.

You make seven figures, and you talked about yourself to your tribesmates. Was that a mistake?
No. There was a lot of downtime, and we all talked about what we do. I didn’t hide who I am – what you see is what you get with me. I told them that I was a lawyer and that I played in the NFL. I wasn’t going to lie about that.

So what did you do wrong?
I took Caleb’s feelings for granted. I should have told him he was safe. At the 11th hour, he got scared. I should have pulled him aside and said, “We’re still with each other.” I didn’t do that, and it cost me.

Are you mad at him?
No. A lot of people who get voted off are Bitter Betties. But we were playing a game, and I can’t be angry at anyone for doing what they had to do to go further.

After your notorious confessional about counting, it’s sort of ironic that you lost the game on a simple puzzle of putting tiles in order from 1 to 100.
[Laughs] The thing that really got me was the balancing. Laura Morrett was going to win that from the start, because she can balance all day long. I’m a 44-year-old man, 6-feet-2 with bad knees. She’s 4-foot-nothing, like a wood nymph! She didn’t even have to bend her knees. I didn’t stand a chance. I never fell off, but I was slower than anyone else.

But then there was the counting.
I graduated from law school with honors. I’m not a dummy. I’m a successful attorney. I can do puzzles, but the counting was not a puzzle. I wish it had been more of a thinking puzzle. But that’s the way Survivor goes sometimes.

Would you ever play it again?
Yes, but not Blood vs. Water. I would love to play the game without having to worry about anyone else. I think it would work out a lot better for me.