Brad Culpepper was a changed man this season. The person we saw in Survivor Blood vs. Water was completely different from the person we saw this season in Survivor Game Changers and had it not been for a massive collapse towards the end of the game, the former NFL’er could have ended up being the winner of this game against all odds.
We have to be honest in saying that not many fans wanted to see Brad come back this season. But he made everyone eat their words with his solid social play and control over his alliance, particularly in the early stages of the game. Brad was a whole lot of fun to watch this season, just like he was back in Blood vs. Water and I would argue that Brad was one of the most exciting players to follow this season if not the most intriguing of all. He just amplified his game to the next level and although shades of his old Blood vs. Water self started to emerge in the finale, he proved to everyone that he really is a likable guy that everyone can get along with.
Brad was lampooned a bit at the final tribal council for not having a good enough social game but indications suggest that he actually had one of the best social games on the island. He seemed to be in good with everyone except for Michaela and practically everyone from Zeke to Debbie wanted to work with him at some stage or another in the game. He kept emotional players like Tai and Debbie completely under wraps and had he maybe put in a bit more groundwork with Sarah, might have had the game by the scruff of the neck.
Tai was willing to share information with him at all times and had his complete trust in him until the retired NFL’er started to get too controlling at the end. Moreover, the Tampa man built a solid alliance around himself that also involved Sierra, Debbie, Troyzan and Sarah, to which it seemed like everyone in that group wanted to go with him to the end of the game. Speaking to his relationship with Debbie, she hammered him early on when she didn’t get her way and he just took it without even getting upset at all!
But after the game was flipped on its head with the elimination of Debbie, Brad and his alliance found themselves on the bottom and the Florida native had to win in order to survive. In Mike Holloway style he actually managed to do so, winning five of the final six immunity challenges to make it all the way to the end of the game and bring Troyzan there along with him. With five individual immunity wins he joined what Jeff always calls “an exclusive club” of individuals, a club that includes just Mike Holloway, Ozzy, JT, Tom Westman and the original challenge beast Colby Donaldson; who are all tied for most individual immunity wins in a season. Many fans of the show, myself included, tend to neglect the challenge part of the game as less important. The general belief is that regardless of the circumstances, good players can always navigate their way around the game without even needing to compete in challenges, which is what Sarah Lacina did. But that is completely different when you find yourself on the bottom of things after a massive power shift occurs in the game. Mike Holloway won his way to the end of the game after it happened in Worlds Apart and Brad Culpepper followed in his footsteps this season. The fact that he was able to win when it mattered most and make it to the end when he probably wouldn’t have without that necklace around his neck was certainly understated at final tribal council and perhaps should have been taken into consideration by the jury more than it was.
So although Brad did make one of the most boneheaded moves in Survivor history in voting Tai out of the game instead of Sarah, his role in this season cannot be understated as he was such a joy to watch. Imagine this season without Brad Culpepper and it is nowhere near the same. He brought so much to the table and at times was one of the few reasons even worth watching this season. Brad might not have been able to close the deal in the end but he played a really solid game, nearly won and deserves a whole lot more credit for his role in this season than he is going to get.
PS make sure to check out How Sarah Lacina Won Survivor Game Changers. Thanks for reading and see you soon!