Quick Note: I had a chance to sit down with all twenty of the “Blood vs. Water” competitors before the game began. I’ll be posting exclusive interviews with each pairing in the days leading up to the September 18th season premiere. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for those interviews, behind-the-scenes exclusives, and more…
Name: Colton Cumbie
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Caleb’s Fiancé
Previous Season: “Survivor: One World” – medically evacuated on day sixteen due to illness.
Current Residence: Collinsville, Alabama
Occupation: Student Teacher
Name: Caleb Bankston
Relationship to Significant Castaway: Colton’s Fiancé
Current Residence: Collinsville, Alabama
Occupation: Post Office Manager/Farmer
Personal Claim to Fame: Shooting a 12-point buck on my first deer hunt.
Pet Peeves: People who don’t put down their cell phones.
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Gordon Holmes: Colton, you had a rough run of it last time. You were evacuated due to a medical issue…
Colton Cumbie: The reception when it aired wasn’t the greatest.
Gordon: Also true. I don’t know if “Survivor” has ever had such a universally reviled villain before. Maybe Jerri Manthey. What’d you learn from that whole experience?
Colton: I would get tweet after tweet, Facebook messages, even Caleb got messages. My mom would get phone calls in the middle of the night. She got a call from the police department because someone had said that I had been found beaten.
Caleb Bankston: But it was nothing local. Everybody we came in contact with in person was nice. They wanted an autograph and a picture.
Colton: I think it’s easier to be hostile behind a computer screen.
Gordon: Dawn Meehan just went through this after voting out Brenda Lowe.
Colton: Yeah. But, the remarks I made…there’s no excuse for what I said about Leif (Manson).
Gordon: The Bill (Posley) stuff seems to be what sticks with people.
Colton: The Bill stuff was the big ka-bang. The worst of the worst. The Leif stuff was jokes. The Christina stuff was strategy. And the Bill stuff was the worst. That’s where I crossed the line because I just didn’t like him as a human being and that’s never OK.
Gordon: It must’ve been awful for you Caleb, having someone you love become the object of such anger.
Caleb: It was a little unsettling, he’d call me upset. He’d tell me about what he’d read online. I’d tell him, “Shut the computer off. Nobody’s going to bother you. And if they do, I’ve got a rifle up on the mantle.”
Gordon: The best defense against a harsh tweet is a rifle in the face.
Colton: I’m not worried about my personal safety, just my self-esteem. And I guess my self-esteem did need some degrading.
Caleb: But, it’s easy to do that behind a computer screen.
Colton: My initial instinct was to go on defensive, but you can’t win that way. If 50,000 people tweet you and say, “You’re a horrible person, you’re a racist,” then obviously I did something wrong. I need to take a step back. I need to take responsibility. I think people can change. I think America likes to see people punished.
Gordon: I think America likes to forgive. You look at the steroid issue in baseball. The guys that have gotten it the worst are the guys who denied it. Andy Pettitte confessed and people quickly forgot about it. How important is it to you to change people perceptions of you?
Colton: I’m in a different place now. I’m really happy. I have extreme peace going into this game. “Survivor: One World” didn’t change me, but it was the catalyst for the things that changed me; the tweets and things that happened with my family. If it hadn’t been for Caleb and my mom and me being a strong person, it could’ve ended up so much worse. I could’ve easily given everyone the middle finger and said, “This is how I am.” But that’s not who I want to be. He (Caleb) is why I want to be a better person.
Gordon: Alright, Colton…tell me about this guy.
Colton: This is my fiancé Caleb. He is pretty much my rock in life. When they approached me about doing this and sent me a few options, I said, “No, you have one option. One or none.” He’s really the only person that I’m really close with that could even survive the elements. Also, he grounds me. He makes me want to be a better person. Last time when I played, I think that I was strategically sound enough to get far, but I don’t think I would have ever won. I think that him being here will help my mind stay in the game.
Gordon: Caleb, Colton is a huge “Survivor” fan. He dominated Rob Cesternino’s “Survivor Jeopardy.” How familiar are you with this mess he’s gotten you into?
Caleb: I know a little bit about what I’m getting into. I’ve always been a fan of the show, but not as much as Colton. He makes me sit down for dinner and watch. I’m more of a woods type of guy. I camp out, I go fishing. He likes fish, I don’t really like fish. I’ll eat it…
Colton: You rarely do seafood at all. He’s like a steak guy.
Gordon: I haven’t seen many cows wandering around…
Colton: I’ve seen chickens.
Caleb: I’ll eat it, but we always have a freezer full of beef.
Colton: I think he would have done really well in one of the early seasons when it was actually about survival. I think Russell (Hantz) is where it changed because it’s not really about who can survive, you can take Natalie Tenerelli all the way to the end. No offense. Or Phillip Sheppard. It’s more of a social game now.
Caleb: Like “The Australian Outback” was one of my favorites. It was a survival game.
Colton: One could even argue that Jenna Morasca changed it. Because up until her, pretty much everyone who won was pretty good at survival. There were some rough and tough characters.
Gordon: How long have you guys been together?
Colton and Caleb: Three years.
Gordon: Caleb, what’s it like when you guys fight?
Caleb: Usually, it’s me saying, “You’re right and I’m wrong.”
Gordon: Where can I get one like you?
Caleb: (Laughs) We usually don’t fight that much. We’ll argue over stupid stuff. What our kids are going to do.
Colton: Stupid stuff, like I’ll say, “Our daughter will be Miss Alabama.” And he’ll say, “If she wants to play softball, she can play softball.” And I’ll say, “She can play softball if she wants, but she’s going to be a softball-playing Miss Alabama!”
Gordon: You’re going to be like a “Toddlers and Tiaras” dad. You’re going to be hitting the glitz pageants.
Colton: (Laughs) Like “Dance Dads.”
Gordon: This is the first time we’re seeing “Survivor” with pairs. What strategies have you two discussed?
Colton: You’re going to say this is a dumb answer, but you just don’t know. I know one person. I don’t know how this is going to shake out.
Caleb: We could hit the beach and not know what Probst is going to throw at us.
Colton: He could be on one side and I could be on the other.
Gordon: Usually when the press comes out here we know what the big twists are. We’re flying blind right now.
Colton: Really? It’s that locked down?
Colton: That’s crazy. They didn’t even show a real preview at the finale.
Gordon: So, what are your best guesses as to what’s going to happen?
Colton: I think they don’t like to confuse America. As a viewer, I would say what would be easiest for everyone to follow is to divide us Survivors vs. our loved ones. There will be a lot of potential for drama. I think the reaction to someone’s loved one at the next challenge when they see their loved one is voted off is going to be phenomenal television.
Caleb: Or when they see their loved one has made it.
Colton: Also, I think a lot of the loved ones are going to be shepherded by their Survivor, so it’d almost be like ten people walking around with two votes. I don’t think that’d be phenomenal television. But as a player that’s what I want because I want him by my side the whole time.
Gordon: Anyone you’re hoping to align with?
Caleb: There are some familiar faces.
Colton: I’m super nervous because people are showing up out of nowhere. I’m like, “Are Elisabeth and Tim Hasselbeck going to drop in at any moment?”
NOTE: This interview was conducted right after the cast learned that Candice and John were joining the game.
Gordon: Is there anyone you’re wary of?
Colton: I’m wary of everyone! I don’t know how they feel about me. Especially those two that just showed up.
Gordon: Do you recognize them?
Colton: (Laughs) Yes. Have you met me?
Gordon: Sorry. Probably the most insulting thing I could say to you.
Colton: She’s a mutineer. In her defense it was to go back to her original tribe. But then again in “Heroes vs. Villains” she did it again. She’s not very approachable.
Caleb: And we’ve been smiling at everyone.
Gordon: Coach (Wade) was the master at turning people’s negative preconceptions about him into a strength. They’d seen him on TV as wacky Coach, then when he met them he was able to say, “Come meet the real me.” Is that something that could work in your favor?
Colton: I hope so. I hope they don’t realize that I’m good at the game. I hope they just remember me as the deplorable human being who convinced people to go to Tribal Council. I hope they don’t know that I’m really good, and I hope Monica doesn’t inform them. I want everyone’s thought process to be; nobody will vote for him. He’s the perfect person to take to the end. I think that gives me an opportunity for people to let their walls down. If I can get someone to think I’m a good goat, I think I can use my negative reputation to my advantage.
Gordon: Is it your hope to clean up your reputation a little while you’re out here?
Colton: I’m not coming back to put on a persona. I’m not going to say, “I’ve changed! I’ve changed!” I’m going to let them see for themselves. I’m going to walk the walk and talk the talk.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes
Don’t miss the special 90-minute premiere of “Survivor: Blood vs. Water” on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET.