'Survivor: Blood vs. Water': Colton Cumbie on Why He Quit and Whether He Has Any Regrets
The two-time competitor talks to THR about what prompted his crying fit and subsequent decision to leave the game, shares his reaction to Jeff Probst's verbal takedown at Redemption Island, and asks the producers to "lose my number."
Colton Cumbie came looking for redemption, but ended up quitting -- at Redemption Island.
The former Survivor competitor was medically evacuated his first time on the show, and earned the reputation as being one of the most hated contestants in series history.
This time around, it at first appeared that he had changed his ways, but his tribemates soon began to believe otherwise. Said Aras Baskauskas in his confessional, "He's a poison." At Redemption Island, Cumbie broke down in tears and said he was ready to leave the game.
On Thursday, the 22-year-old student teacher from Collinsville, Ala., talked to The Hollywood Reporter about his decision to quit, whether he has any regrets, and what he makes of host Jeff Probst's verbal takedown at Redemption Island.
Was it hard to watch last night's episode?
Kind of. It was frustrating just because it didn't feel like the story was what it actually was [that was shown on TV]. And Jeff Probst was standing there trying to say he didn't even want me back on the show in the arena. He says, "I was one of the main people campaigning for [you] to come back, and you're going to walk," and then he turns around and says he never wanted Colton to come back.
What was the real story?
Basically what happened, and obviously I couldn't say this sitting in Redemption Island because it's the whole point of what I did, but I wanted to help Caleb's game. I knew I wasn't gong to win. I went over to Caleb and said, "I can't win. You can win. And now I'm going to do you a huge favor by leaving right now." I was the big pink target on Caleb's back. The only target he had was me. I thought that by removing myself from the game, then he wouldn't be faced with the decision when I was inevitably voted out over whether to take my place or not.
Did you know you were going to quit before getting to Redemption Island?
I was going back and forth all morning. I would talk myself down, and then think, "OK, maybe I'll stay." Tyson pretty much told us he was going to Redemption and would be leaving our tribe [if his girlfriend, Rachel, had been voted off the other tribe]. I love Tyson, and I thought, "OK, well his girlfriend looks like someone I would want to hang out with." I thought, "OK, maybe there's a slight possibility if Tyson trades, then I'll stay and hang out with her." When he didn't, I thought, "OK, well I'm done."
So Tyson had said he was definitely going to swap places with her?
I can't speak for him…but she looked at him and said, "This is what the tribe wants. They voted me out so you would take my place. Don't give them what they want." Up until that point, he told us he was trading places with her.
What made you start crying at Redemption Island?
Just the emotions of everything that was happening. I felt like I was let down yet again by something in this game. Tyson and I were close; he came up to me before Redemption and said, "I'm going to swap with her." He told me the password to her email and said, "You need to tell her this so she'll know to work with you." When he didn't trade places, my emotions were so high, it hit me hard. And honestly, every time I saw Caleb, I cried.
So it was almost harder for you having him there?
I played twice, and it was a heck of a lot easier the first time, not seeing him at all. When I wasn't able to talk to him or run over and communicate, that was miserable. It was like dangling a stick in front of an emaciated dog and telling him to stay.
Jeff Probst said some pretty harsh things to you, calling you "selfish." He also accused you of quitting the first time after having "feigned appendicitis." What was your reaction to that?
Just shock. I mean, I can't pride myself on being a great Survivor player, but I know the show, and I pride myself on pretty much understanding why people do what they do. There is not a [reason] I can come up with that seems to make sense as to why I would have quit voluntarily the first time. I wish [Probst] would elaborate. All he said was, "I think you quit," and he doesn't say, "This is why." If you interview him, ask him what valid reason [I would have had] to give up the entire game I'd worked so hard to run and control -- and I had an idol.
It seemed like the first few days you were getting along with everyone, but then things changed. Aras, for example, called you "a poison."
Aras called me a "poison," but I feel like he was the one poisoning everyone. I felt like everyone was enthralled with Aras, and they all trusted him, and everyone thought Aras was No. 1. And I was like, "OK, I don't understand. Do you not all realize that not everyone can go to the end with Aras?" He was sneaky how he'd have conversations and tell you not to talk to this person, and "I don't want to be seen with you too long." I was the only one who saw the writing on the wall and saw what was happening. I started acting out and causing chaos and trying to turn everyone against each other.
Why do you think nobody would talk strategy with you? Was it because your tribe kept winning?
That was partly it. Tina, whose alliance I was initially part of, would say, "We don’t need to worry about it until tribal council." What was so frustrating for me was I didn't understand the whole celebration every time we won. I totally agreed with Tadhana on, "Why are you celebrating?" What was so great about sending a loved one to tribal council? My heart was on the other side, and it was breaking every time we won. I'd much rather us go to tribal and me not be sitting here missing and worrying, "What if Caleb shows up at the duel and he's in that arena?" Why was it such a great thing to win?
Why did you go back and play Survivor a second time?
I went honestly because I thought it would be Caleb and I playing together. He really wanted to play the game. Caleb was super excited, but he left the decision up to me, and ultimately it was my choice, and there was a lot of back and forth until the last minute. He really wanted to do this and thought it would be a great opportunity for us to experience something together and have a handle on what it is we actually go through during the process, and the emotional and physical exhaustion and how hard it is. Having him go through that and spend the rest of his life with a clear understanding and empathy for that for all that I've been through was worth more than $1 million to me.
What has the viewer reaction been like? How does it compare to last time?
It's actually pretty mixed, which is shocking. Maybe a lot of the haters just don't have my Twitter handle. There's been a lot of support, and I'm actually pleasantly surprised and shocked by the amount of people who are supportive and saying, "We don't know what it's like to be in that position." Obviously people are outraged, but you're never going to make those people happy. They bitched about me being on the show, and they bitched about me leaving the show. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.
Do you have any regrets?
No. I mean, I wish I wouldn't have yelled at Kat in the boat, but as soon as that happened, we talked about it, and it was over and dealt with. I wish I had kept my cool in that situation. But other than that, I can't say I regret quitting because you can't. The only thing I regret was how I conducted myself in One World, and how I treated people. I did actually learn from that, and I don't conduct myself that way anymore. If anyone could have had a kind of unbiased view of me this time and watched how I conducted myself, not in terms of playing the game -- you have to draw the line somewhere, who is Colton as a player and who is Colton as a person? [This time], I didn't really cross the line into being hurtful as a person. I didn't feel like I bullied anyone this season.
Do you feel like you redeemed yourself?
I honestly wish things could have been different. I wish Caleb and I were together. But I feel like I redeemed myself to myself. I went out there and did what I wanted to do. Caleb was able to have this experience. My whole game plan the whole time was to get Caleb to the end. I wanted to get [us] to the final four, and I would have opted out anyway. I would have volunteered to be voted out, and the jury would cast their votes for him. Caleb's better at Survivor. We're so opposite everyone else this season. On the first night, everyone looked to the returning players -- what do you do, how does this work? And our relationship was totally opposite.
Did he try to talk you into staying at all?
He was completely supportive. I went to him -- obviously you don't see any of this -- and said, "I'm doing this because I can't win. You can win. I need to leave because I take a target off of you, and right now I'm going to get voted out."
Would you play Survivor again?
They'd never ask me, but no I wouldn't, ever. I'm over it. Please forget me -- lose my number.
What was the biggest difference this time from your last time playing?
It was more emotionally draining this time. To be successful in Survivor, you have to play selfishly. You have to be able to look out for No. 1. When you aren't able to do that, in a season like this, it felt like me quitting was the best move for me at the time. Caleb winning would be essentially me winning. We have the same bank account; we're going to share the $1 million and use it toward building our life together. For me, it was better to not have to worry about someone else in the game. The people whose loved ones leave early have a huge advantage [because] you don't have to worry about anyone anymore, only yourself. On One World, that's how it was. It was only me getting myself to the end. I'm not good at Survivor. I take people to end that I like, and then they'd slaughter me at the vote.
Survivor: Blood vs. Water airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on CBS.