They say that Survivor is a game of numbers, but if it were that simple it would be played on paper. What it is, is the greatest social experiment ever designed, and time and time again we see human behavior – for better or worse – on display. With Bradley Kleihege, the 26-year-old law student originally from Haslett, MI, we were reminded of just how difficult it is to “not let your true self” shine through in a grueling game like this, because some of the ugly, “villainous” behavior that we saw from Bradley was apparently his authentic self.
If you missed any of the action, you can catch up with our Episode 7 Recap, as well as checking out the Podcast below.
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It’s hard to say that Bradley simply got the “villain” edit, or that somehow the show just portrayed him unfairly, because on more than one occasion, we heard directly from Bradley himself about his personality outside of the game. Equal parts smart and snide, Bradley seems to have social awareness about his abrasiveness, but not enough self-control (or care) to do anything about it.
The game made it easy for him to be arrogant. His Naviti Tribe won the first two Immunity Challenges, and then when the tribe swap landed him at Malolo, he was part of their only Immunity Challenge win. When on Day 12 he faced his very first Tribal Council, Michael called him out as being the “leader” of the majority and it was the first real heat that Bradley had to face in the game. But when Michael incorrectly played his Immunity Idol, Bradley came out smelling like roses.
Portrayed as a whiny complainer early on, and later as just a jerk (telling Dom that he had too much coffee when Dom was trying to apologize for his challenge performance was among his best unfiltered lines), Bradley‘s personality might have made him the perfect candidate to align with and go to the end with. However it was just too much, and the tribe simply had enough…it didn’t help Bradley’s chances that the two minority members of his tribe – Libby and Donathan – basically ooze sweetness out of their every pore and made cutting them loose all the more difficult a thought. In the end Bradley was Bradley’s worst enemy, and he was unanimously removed from the game in the final vote before the merge.
I had the chance to speak to Bradley today on the FilmSurvivor Podcast (the full audio of which you can find and download at the bottom of this article). But here were some highlights from the interview:
BRADLEY KLEIHEGE INTERVIEW
On his villainous portrayal and persona on the show:
Bradley Kleihege: I think how I was portrayed on TV was definitely a character, that is what I had went in to do, was to be an entertaining TV villain. Now I agree there are definitely parallels to my real life. I think that what you get on TV is just a highly-exaggerated version of myself and who I am. And I think the other thing that is sometimes lost on TV is the nuance, the knowing that I’m being ridiculous, or doing something in an ironic way. Like in my daily life, I would never go around and be like, “I’m so fantastic!” I would never say that seriously. I would have a smirk on my face and I would have made sure to every single person around me that they knew I was being facetious…I think if you look at what was on the TV, for the most part, you can pick up little elements of self-awareness, that there was good clues that there was a method to my madness.
On the real reason he believes he was voted out:
Bradley: It was a little bit misleading on last night’s episode, and Dom will tell you, he didn’t vote me off because I was annoying him. Dom is a great Survivor player and he’s running circles around everybody else at this point in the game, and he would have kept me. If I was just being annoying, he would have kept me until the end. What you didn’t see because, let’s say, I got so much personal character content, was that I was perceived in that moment to be a threat to win the game. He got rid of me because I voted out Brendan, then I voted out Stephanie, and he thought I was voting out all of the parents, people that would have a compelling case to the jury if they made it to the end. He also didn’t trust me and Kellyn working together, and he had said that from right after the first swap. That the first chance he got, one of us had to go. So it was made out to be far more personal than it was, and I think it was personal for, let’s say, Donathan, but for Dom who was the one that pulled the move and got the move to work, I was not the goat that it made it seem.
For much more from Bradley Kleihege, including my full interview, please listen to the latest episode of the FilmSurvivor Podcast below or by clicking here.
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Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe