Brandon "Brando" Meyer
Survivor 45 is here! Every week, Parade.com's Mike Bloom will bring you interviews with the castaway most recently voted off of the island.
For the first week of Survivor 45, Brandon "Brando" Meyer got to play the middle of Belo. He enjoyed the power-making position, the go-between of two pairs. When buffs were dropped, Brando got a crisp new blue buff to fashion into a tube top. But though the buff didn't change, his position did. Now Brando was one of the two pairs, and the new middle person was Emily Flippen. Unfortunately for Brando, his first vote in the game was his last, as the Mariners fan went from the swing vote to swinging, missing, and striking out of the game.
Going into the game, Brando was worried that no one would want to work with him. And Day 1 did not end well for him, as he and Jake O'Kane served as the first pair to ever fail the Sweat/Savvy challenge. But Brando's credibility grew as Belo's challenge wins did, and he succeeded in endearing himself to both sides of the impending gender war. By the end of the first week, he and Kellie Nalbandian had bonded as both the tribe's puzzle masters and swing votes, with many options in front of them. Unfortunately, those options immediately changed with the tribe swap. Brando was left with a lone holdover Belo in Kendra McQuarrie, Reba twosome Austin Li Coon and Drew Basile, and Lulu wildcard Emily Flippen.
Though Brando's penchant for wordplay remained constant, his gameplay had to change. He initially attempted to connect with Drew over their shared love of Pokemon. But, like an electric move used on a ground type, it was not very effective. So instead, Brando went tribal, cementing his weak bond with Kendra and attempting to bring Emily over to their side. Despite this plan, Brando was fine to do whatever it took to survive, as shown when he told Drew he'd be willing to vote out Kendra, to the extent of offering his Shot in the Dark in exchange for trust. After an afternoon of organized scrambling and "he said, he said," Brando couldn't help but smile in awe at the majesty of getting to participate in Tribal Council. And that smile surprisingly didn't fade after financial analyst Emily made his stock crash and flipped on him and Kendra, as he wished Belos old and new the best for the merge to come.
Now out of the game, Brando talks with Parade.com about why he thought he wouldn't get a vote at the last Tribal Council, a mysterious note he found in his buff at the swap, and how he and Brandon became so close on the prejury trip.
Related: Read our Survivor 45 pre-game interview with Brandon "Brando" Meyer
Hey, Brando! How are you doing the day after you were blindsided out of Survivor?
I'm doing well. You know, I had a long time to prepare for yesterday. And, at least as of right now, I've had a really warm embrace from the internet for my exit. So, you know, things are going well. I know some people on the cast weren't as lucky with that.
And, listen, 11 out of 26 days is like 3 out of 8 Pokemon badges. So a pretty good journey!
[Laughs.] Yeah, that's a solid percentage. And I did a confessional without my shirt on, so we didn't get to see that one. But I was struggling with a lack of food, I think, from before we left for Fiji. And the day that I exited, I lost around 20 pounds, which I mean, looking at me, I don't really have 20 pounds to lose. So that was tough.
That's so interesting. Because I was ready to come in and ask about why you think you were booted over Kendra. Do you think it's because you were struggling from the lack of food, while Kendra seemed like a ball of energy?
I don't think it was as much that I was struggling. Drew and Austin had a different perception of what was coming next versus Kendra and I, so I don't know if they were worried so much about strength. But I think it was strategy, you know, something that wasn't aired was Kendra ratted me out a little bit to the Reba men about how close I was with Kellie and how I was playing the middle. And so I think they were a little bit afraid. You could see Drew at Tribal Council making faces when I was talking about relationships. And I think that was the big thing that they were afraid of.
Wow. So did Kendra ratting you out come before or after you told Drew that you would vote for Kendra?
It would have been after. But I don't think Kendra was aware of it. I think we both did it independently. Another thing was we knew that Drew had a handful of advantages. He was open about his advantages to the people on his tribe. And I might have confronted him about that and just asked. He was open with me too. But I think maybe that wasn't wasn't the best move.
So how did you end up finding out in the first place that Drew had these advantages?
So the information got to me from Emily. And I confronted Drew. This was when I gave him my Shot in the Dark, sort of as a peace offering. And so I was sort of like, "I'll give you something, you give me something." But it didn't didn't quite work out that way.
To that point, what was your reaction when Drew openly refused your offer of an alliance to work together as fellow nerds?
Oh my God. I was shocked. Who in Survivor history has just openly said to someone's face, "Hey, you're offering me an alliance. I don't want it. I don't want anything to do with it"? So I was stunned to say the least. And that was part of the reason that I was gunning for him. But I mean, in his defense, I think I would have been voting for him the whole time. I had a really strong feeling that Kendra and I had Emily on our side. And so that was more about getting his vote off of me than it was voting with him.
Talk to me about that. It's clear from Kendra's face that she was blindsided. Was that the case with you? How much did you think you had Emily?
So not only did I think that I was safe, I thought Kendra was getting votes. I thought Drew was getting votes. I didn't even think my name was going to come up. And so I was not only blown away that I got votes, but that I went home. We've heard about the twist where Kendra went to Lulu's camp. And one of the things she came back to Belo with was, "I spent a lot of time talking to Emily. I feel like I have a good bond with her if we ever need it. I think we have a good relationship." And so when the swap came, I see Kendra and Emily and I'm like, "Okay, we have the numbers from the get-go, "I don't even have to go to the water well and promise Emily the final three" because it's already an unspoken agreement. And so, knowing that she wasn't with us, once I was voted out was also a pretty big blindside.
Speaking of Kendra, you said last night that you had the weakest relationship with her on old Belo. But we saw you constantly be in good with people there. Why was it that you two weren't as close before the swap?
I think it's pretty clear we're very different people. My very first Alliance was with Katurah. She came to me, and I was like, "Okay, good. 'm starting to work on it. Then. I aligned with Kellie. Kellie and I had a really tight bond. We were playing the middle together. Bruce was someone who wanted that alliance that nobody would expect with me. Jake and I had the Sweat vs. Savvy bond. I already had so many great connections that I didn't really put that much time into the Kendra alliance because, I mean, I already had four other people. And so that's something that I think I might have needed considering that Kendra and I both ended up throwing each other under the bus. [Laughs.]
So then when you do end up on new Belo with Kendra, was it just trying to connect to make up for lost time?
I at least had the "Bando babes," whatever it's called. So I did feel like I at least had some inroads with Kendra. She's a great person. She's super friendly. It's not like I felt like we were going to clash or anything like that. But seeing the way that it unfolded was a little bit tragic. And I will say, the cards that I were that I was dealt at the swap weren't great. But something that we didn't get to see was, at the swap, I get my buff, I'm opening it. And I'm like, "This feels a little weird. It feels like there's something inside of this." And I look. There's a note with the Survivor writing inside of my buff, stitched into the buff. And so I didn't read what it said. I ripped it out. I shoved it in my pocket. So I was like, "Okay, on Belo, I don't know where the idol is. Maybe this is a clue. Maybe the idols were just hidden at the swap."
I put it in my pocket without reading it, don't want anyone to see it. We get back to camp, and almost immediately, I get pulled for a walk. So I'm like, "Okay, this is gonna be so I can read this note that I just shoved in my pocket." And so I'm like, "Oh, is this when I can read whatever advantage I just got?" They're like, "Oh, can we see that?" So I take it out of my pocket. I hand it over. I don't get it back. I don't know what it said. I don't know what it was. My gut instinct is that I could have swapped either my tribe with somebody else's camp or maybe I could have swapped my buff with somebody. Maybe I could have swapped two people on the other tribes. We'll never know unless it comes up again in the future. But there's a nonzero chance that I had my fate in my pocket when I went back at the swap. And I didn't get to know because I didn't read it on that mat.
Oh, man. Maybe it was just one of those mattress tags "remove under penalty of law." But that's absolutely wild. Well I want to back to old Belo, because so much was held in stasis because you never went to Tribal Council. Let's say you did. You were set up in the middle war of this gender war. Who do you think ends up going?
So they showed that it really could have gone both ways. But I think with with Kellie and I, we felt really good with the women's alliance. I don't know how that would have panned out for me in the long run. But at least going into it, I'm pretty confident that Bruce would have been the person going home first. And so maybe it's for the best that we didn't go to that very first Tribal Council. Otherwise, he may have faced a Francesca-esque fate.
To that point, Katurah has talked about how everyone on Belo loved Bruce and she was the only one who saw his flaws. How much of that perception was true?
So we could all see what Bruce was doing. It was really obvious. But there's also part of it where he can't fight those dad instincts that he was trying to hold off. I mean, iwe had things to do around camp. He was telling us, "Hey, go do this, go do that. Why isn't so and so doing X or Y or Z?" And I think that's also part of why we didn't get to see any idol hunting so far is. There was this culture at Belo of, "stay at camp, don't wander off."
One of the other things that we didn't get to see was, Kellie and I on the beach at one point talked about how we were nervous about Katurah, and it was because she was constantly missing. She was the one person who we didn't know where she was. She would say, "I'm gonna go to the bathroom," then she'd be gone for two hours and come back with a crab. And we're like, "Where were you?" And so that's also part of the tensions that were rising at the Belo camp. But again, yeah, I really think it would have been Bruce that went first.
How much of those tensions were on the surface? Did you see as much of how much Katurah disliked Bruce as us?
So there was a moment that I missed. I was on a walk for this. But there was a moment in the water on original Belo where Katurah and Bruce started to clash. I think it was something like when Drew was invited to an alliance and it's turned down. Not entirely sure. Because I wasn't there. So I don't have the full picture. But that was something that was being talked about a lot at original Belo. And then we kind of saw it come to fruition with Papayagate 2.0 on the last episode.
Talk to me about your relationship with Kellie. Did your close alliance come from the face you were both in the middle, or you had connected personally?
S I think it was a good mix of both. We like to call ourselves the "puzzle buddies" because we were knocking out those puzzles together. But even before that, as soon as we got to the beach, we were talking about working together. And then as soon as I got pulled into an alliance with Bruce and Jake, and they're saying, "Hey, we need a fourth. Who's our fourth is gonna be?" immediately Kellie was the first thought. And so she was someone that I was really close with pretty much the whole time. And sad to lose her at the swap when I go a different way from her and then I get voted out. But it is what it is.
Going into the game, you talked to me about how you were worried about being perceived as a bit of a physical liability. And you and Jake end up failing that Sweat/Savvy challenge when you can't do the puzzle. What were your feelings when you came back to camp empty-handed on that first day?
I felt horrible when I got back because. Not only because I was supposed to be in charge of the Savvy role, and I couldn't get that done. But in the very first marooning challenge, we had a huge lead after Brandon's panic attack going into the part where you get the key off with the pole or whatever. And Kendra and I just could not get it together. Could be foreshadowing. [Laughs.] But we blew a huge lead. I felt responsible. Then I lose Sweat vs. Savvy; I felt responsible. And it was like three strikes and you're out. So the the pressure going into the puzzle for the very first Immunity Challenge was immense for me, to say the least. But at the same time, my social relationships, I think Idid a really good job with that, I think I would have been safe in the long run. But it's not something that I would have wanted to risk.
Speaking of that, you were unfortunately voted out right before all the tribes come together on one beach. I know you said Austin and Drew were already looking ahead to your possible relationships. What do you think you would have done if you made it to the next stage?
My game plan was always going to be to stick to the core Belo group. But also knowing that there were gaps, someone like Emily would have been someone that we could have taken further than Bruce, because he would have been the first one gone. But at the same time, I was convinced that we would be going into another tribal challenge. And so that's part of why I was gunning for Drew instead of Austin. Because Austin is someone who typically you would think would carry you through a challenge. I don't know if that slingshot was his best performance. [Laughs.] But he was someone that I really wanted to keep around. And also, they didn't show it. But we had a bonding moment about being Asian American men on Survivor, and how we wanted to keep that as a tight Alliance. Maybe not as tight as I thought. But that was a puzzle piece that I thought I also would have had going into a potential merge.
Well let's talk about puzzle pieces you found after the show. Because there was a post made by Brandon last night about how you are his best friend. Talk to me about the bond you made on Ponderosa and beyond.
Oh my god, yeah. He's one of the best people that I've ever met. Super friendly, super loving. And maybe we're the Tarzan and Troyzan that could have been. We're the premerge version. We've always been a support system for each other ever since the airing. He is really ingrained into the Survivor community. So if I ever need tips, or if I ever need advice, he's my go-to person. He's amazing. I think people were way too hard on him. I love him so much.