05/05/2013 at 03:00 PM EDT
Reynold Toepfer, a 30-year-old Real Estate agent from Austin, Texas , never had the numbers he needed to get to the end of Survivor
Originally portrayed as cocky and arrogant, he softened his attitude as the game progressed, finding immunity idols and making friends along the way.
Now able to laugh about his experience, Toepfer talks about immunity idols, challenges, and cuddling in the shelter.
So the season started out badly. You were in an alliance of four within a 10-person tribe.
Yeah, I played this game never having the numbers. My back was always up against the wall, from day one. So I'm proud that I made it as long as I did. Yet at the beginning of the season, you really came across as arrogant – talking about the young, pretty people.
I was shocked and embarrassed by the first couple of episodes. I said some awful things! Some of it was played up for TV – even the alliance was played up. I had my problems with Shamar, but I really did like everyone. I thought I was just the easygoing guy who didn't take myself too seriously. But that didn't show on TV. And you had a little showmance with Ally.
That was overdone for TV. They added music and sound effects and it seemed like something it wasn't. [At this point, Andrea Boehlke, who was listening in, piped up. "But you and she were canoodling on the island, weren't you? The editors can't make something out of nothing."]
[Mock defensiveness] Hey, we were staying warm at night! [Laughs] The camera angle looked like we were making out. She's wonderful and great, and we're friends, but that's all it was. Honest! You and Eddie became tight. What did you see in him?
He's a great guy. A lot of fun, we have a lot in common. He's very socially lubricating. I love that. "Socially lubricating."
People just like Eddie. He's a fun guy, and people want to be around him. Your saving grace was that you and Eddie were strong in the immunity challenges.
I was glad to bring that to the table. When you're losing, your tribe wants to keep strong people around. That's what kept me and Eddie in the game as long as possible. You became really good at finding hidden immunity idols, but then Malcolm took yours away when he had one in his pocket!
I had limited access to information; Eddie and I were on the outside. Malcolm had the pulse of what was happening with the majority, so I gave him my idol without hesitation. It was actually good. Everyone knew I had an idol, but no one knew about his. So he used it the right way. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. But he stole your Idol, Reynold!
[Laughs] I know. I was like, 'What?' when I realized he had another idol. But at the end of the day, I'm a forgiving guy! You knew it was time to go. Was there anything you could have done to stay in the game?
There was nothing I could possibly do strategically. I knew I had zero chance, but I wish I had dug around the well for an idol. Malcolm had given me a vague idea what the clue was, so I should have just gone out there and dug. Did the game teach you anything about yourself?
It was a good experience to see how people perceived me. I like to have fun, but a lot of people perceived me as abrasive and arrogant. I don't know if that's how I come across normally, or if that's part of the game. But you know, everything in life is a learning experience, and Survivor
is no different.Knowing what you know now, would you play Survivor again?
Hm. Not right now. I got married. I have a new job. My wife and I now have a beautiful son. I can't see myself leaving this wonderful life for 39 days. Survivor
was a wonderful experience; I loved it. But I'm happy right now, and not in the position to play it again.