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.
Bruce Perreault was most talked-about name on Survivor 45. He started as the elephant in the room, the first "new era" returnee. But that popularity almost immediately wore thin, as his domineering personality began to wear on his fellow tribe members. Luckily for Bruce, a series of tribal and individual immunity wins kept him safe for nearly 18 days straight. When he finally was vulnerable, he had confirmed to everyone he had an idol and would be playing it. But, once again, Bruce chose to do something different, after formulating a plan with Emily Flippen to break up the Reba alliance. He didn't use his idol, and as a result, he was done in by the woman who called him out on the very first day. Bruce was blindsided, leaving a tribe celebrating that "Crazy Uncle Bruce" had finally left their family Thanksgiving.
Perhaps Bruce should have realized things would not be going to expectation when, in the opening minutes of the game, Emily challenged his statement that he did not have an advantage over the new players. He brushed it off as he got to know his fellow Belos, insisting he wasn't going to be the "dad" this game. Actions speak louder than words, though, and Bruce's brusque and blunt approach to camp life got him on the bad side of some of his tribemates, most notably Katurah Topps. The more the premerge wore on, the more his "Bruceisms" came out. But he was protected by never going to Tribal Council (doubly so when he found an idol right before leaving for "Mergatory"). And facing his first-ever Survivor vote, Bruce went into strategy overdrive. Feeling no one was talking game with him, he saw Kaleb Gebrewold's sociability as threatening. And so he immediately targeted his newest ally, a move that infuriated the Belos, most notably his "number one" Kellie Nalbandian.
The "butterfly" Kaleb had escaped Bruce's net. And now Bruce was the one needing to evade capture. Everyone, including his closest allies, wanted to get rid of him, hopeful that they could deliver the knockout blow on the guy who doesn't pull any punches. Unfortunately for them, Bruce dominated the individual challenges, winning two absolutely necessary immunity necklaces in a row. But Bruce had earned a metaphoric safety without power, as the Rebas used his immunity to take out his allies. He was on the ropes, doubly so when he found out that even Kellie had wanted him out because of his "overbearing" personality. Despite emotionally reeling, the former Marine soldiered on. When he lost out on immunity, Bruce thought he could easily use his idol and live to see another day. But then he got a plan in his head, where the Belos and Emily could take advantage of a split vote to finally break up the Rebas. As a result, stunningly, Bruce chose not to use his idol. It was the last and most important time that he underestimated how much he had burned bridges with his fellow players. Bruce was the only one to carry through with his plan, as everyone else carried through with theirs, and they sent him off with his own "push present" of his idol.
Now out of the game, Bruce talks with Parade.com about what ultimately led him to not play his idol, his reaction to how contestants were talking about him, and what lessons he took back from the island on his second time out.
Related: Read our Survivor 45 pre-game interview with Bruce Perreault
Look, I think they'd take my press credentials away if I didn't start with the obvious. What made you ultimately decide to not play the idol? Was there something said that had you leaning one way or the other?
As much as I love you, man, I didn't want to be talking to you today. Drew, with his comments that he said [at Tribal], he got my mind spinning a little bit. And I was very close to taking off my left shoe--that's where I had the idol hidden--and just taking out that idol and playing it on myself. But when you have some very convincing people that can tell very good lies right to your face, it changes your thought process a little bit. And credit to the people that are there. Back when we voted off Sifu, I was gonna play my idol then. And I was convinced not to with the great conversations that I had. And they kind of echoed the very same thing this time. So they got me.
On the note of those conversations, we saw that Emily had definitely talked with you about a plan to take down Reba. But was there anyone else that had you so convinced that it caused you not to play your idol?
Emily was definitely the driving force. It wasn't shown on camera a lot. But Emily and I would talk a couple of times every day. And when I heard something, I would tell her. When she heard something, she would tell me. Now, how much of that was a truth? We don't know. But when I go back and think about it, it was more along the matter of fact that, "This is going on, this was saying this, this was saying that." So I didn't feel at any point in time that I was being lied to from Emily because of her station at the beginning of the game, because of her station over at Lulu, and in knowing that the Reba had their four. I knew that they had their four going on. And it was even well broadcasted in this episode that the Reba four were going nuts that I figured out a way to be able to take someone down. But she was good. She was very good. [Laughs.]
Talk to me more about your dynamic with Emily. As you mentioned last night, it's pretty unimaginable that someone who called you out on the mat on Day 1 for having an advantage in the game would work so tightly with you into Day 19. How were you able to connect after such an awkward first impression?
I see this on a regular basis, because people in my own inner circle, they're like, "Oh, my God, Emily, she drives me crazy." No, Emily shouldn't drive you crazy. What Emily did was she actually spoke and she used her thought process in regards to what she thought was me having an advantage. It was never anything saying, "Oh, Bruce is a POS. I can't stand him here, blah, blah, blah." It was none of that. It was just her thought process on me having an advantage in the game.
I didn't feel anything towards her at that moment when she called me out. I made the faces. You gotta make the faces; you're on television. But I'm hearing my castmates that are like, "Oh, no, don't say that. I'm gonna get you!" And we go back to camp and [it's like], "I can't believe she said what she said." I'll play along with it. But in my mind, nothing at all that she said was something that was gonna make it difficult for me to build a relationship with her. So when I saw her and she was apologetic, I'm like, "No, don't worry about it." And I really meant that. "Don't worry about it. I am not mad at all. I'm good."
Let's say you do reach into your left shoe and play your idol. In this case, your plan still wouldn't have worked, as Jake would have gone instead of you. Did you have a plan of who you wanted to go to the end with? Or was the only path forward that you just kept winning challenges?
To be painfully honest, I knew that I was screwed. It was either going to be this Tribal or next Tribal that I was going home. If I didn't play it, I go home. Iif I play it, I go home the next [Tribal]. Unless I tried to get back on the immunity winning train, and I was able to win myself at least to the Final Four and get placed in the fire-making. That was my plan. If I had played my idol, going back to camp, I would have already known I would already know who placed their votes on who just based on how it's been going up to this point in time. You have the Reba four together, but who defected from the Reba four?
Well, I mentioned Julie's name. And I voted Julie because that was brought to me from Emily. So now I vote Julie. So now I know Julie is going to turn on me. That was my complete thought process. So I would have had to have gone back. There really wouldn't have been anybody other than Jake, that I could have maybe tied my horse back to somehow someway. But I don't really see any way of working with anyone, aside from the fact that if they needed a number to get somebody else out, and I won immunity. That's really the only way that anyone else would work with me at this point in time.
Let's talk about some of your relationships. Your bond with Julie came a bit out of nowhere last episode. How did that come about? Was it just from you being the "parents" of the merge tribe?
Our relationship started when the merge happened. Julie and I got together. I saw her, she saw me, big hug. And it was right before I had said, "We gotta get the shelter, put together." Julie and I were talking and she's like, "Oh, my God, are you having the same problem I'm having?" And I'm like, "What's that, Julie?" She's like, "They don't want to do anything!" I'm like, "I want shelter. I want to be comfortable. I want this fire to keep going." She's like, "It's so hard to get them to do stuff." I'm like, "Oh, okay. I'm not the only one going through this."
And that's the difference in our generation. We just go and do things because we're not we're not expected to have a conversation about it. Not speaking ill of anyone. But that's just that's the difference between the two of us. And then when it came to Julie, it was funny because Emily came to me and she said, "Julie wants to vote you, she's not with you." And hindsight being 20/20, she's in the Reba four, so the writing was on the wall. Emily never lied to me. She just told me that Julie was coming after me. And that was just my cue to call.
We have to talk about your relationship with Katurah. She was clearly the most anti-Bruce voice on the season. And it was clear a couple of times that you two were not seeing eye to eye. What's your insight into your dynamic?
My insight with Katurah is the way that I was looking at the game wasn't as strong-willed as Katurah is. Katurah really was annoyed by me. And she did a very good job of not showing that. The olive branch between she and I were handed out throughout the entire season. Just trying and trying and just never took hold. But there's so much more to tourists game they just complaining about Bruce. There's so much more to my game than everybody dogpiling on Bruce saying he's annoying, this, that, and the other. Our relationship on the show just didn't click. There was something there.
And she and I have spoken many times about the show. And we're on okay terms at this point in time. But we just didn't click. There's just something that was missing that was there. And that's going to be on us to be able to work together to figure out. She is a great person. She's done a lot of great things in her life. So I wish people would see and recognize that more than anything else aside from, "She hates Bruce." [Laughs.]
Well, let's stay in New York and talk about the Kellie side of things. What made you affirm that she was your number one in your head? And how did it feel to find out after her boot that she wanted to take you out?
The beauty of this game is that you have somewhat of an idea, but those ideas can get tarnished at any point in time. Just like my idea was tarnished on almost Day One. Kellie is a very strong person. I gravitate towards strong people, how people carry themselves and their thought process when they go through things. Kellie is that. She mentioned she's a nurse. She's extremely smart as well. Even if she was anybody else, it wouldn't matter. She's a strong, smart person. So it was easy for me to be able to look at her and say, "Okay if I'm going to have someone that I'm going to align with, it's going to be Kellie." And then there was also Jake, and also Brando. I can see this thing happening. Because I'm the old guy. They're young, and smart, extremely smart. So I need that around.
But then, fast forward to the day Kellie gets voted out. And we go back to camp, and I'm being told that I was looked at as an anchor dragging her game down. That was that was very, I don't even want to say humbling, because I didn't feel that I did anything wrong at that moment in time. It was something that was just so innate with me. I never, at any point in time, want to feel as if I'm a burden on anyone. When you hear that you're a burden to someone's game, and I'm potentially the reason why someone feels that they were voted out, that doesn't sit well. That won't sit well with anybody.
And I remember going into the confessional, and they're like, "Bruce, we want to ask you questions about blah, blah, blah." And I said, "No. I don't want to talk about that [expletive]. I want to talk about what I was just told." And I was really emotional. If you go back and look and see when they actually showed me talking about dealing with Kellie, my eyes are red because I just finished turning my head from tearing up. I thought about my daughter, I thought my wife. That conversation just hurt in a human aspect. It brought me back to a human aspect, because I was just playing this game as a game. I never put my personal human feelings and never really took into account anyone's personal human feelings. Which, I ever played again, I'm gonna do that, because that's what was one of my downfalls. But I didn't do that. But then to hear that someone else is now emotionally struggling because my actions, I'm like, "Wait a minute, wait a minute." And then there's the cycle. And that's where we saw.
That's almost a microcosm of your overall portrayal on the show. It seemed like nearly every episode, someone was complaining about how you were behaving and treating them on the island. Did you get the sense that was the case in the moment? And what's your reaction to your edit?
In the moment, you don't see it. It's like anything else. If I'm at work, and I'm seeing someone getting reprimanded for something, and then all of a sudden, they leave that reprimanding session, and they talk to their buddy. And you know what their buddy's gonna say? "Well, if you quit, I'm gonna quit too! When you put your paperwork in, I'm gonna be right after you." You get that collective group of people that are going to be able to ride it out with you until the time comes, Well, now that person that got reprimanded gets fired. And then the other person is like, "Oh, hey, work is great. I'm gonna go back and do what I'm supposed to do." That's kind of what was probably going on that I did not see, all that stuff that was going on behind the scenes.
But then to find out that everybody's looking at me that way, I chalked it up to a couple of different things. One of the things that sticks with me the most is that my generation growing up. And I'll always say this. [People are like], "Oh my God, generation." Listen, the next closest person to me was 12 years younger than me. And then from there, it went to 16 years younger, and so on and so forth. So technically, I could be their father. If you take any of these people, and if you rewind the clock five years, and if any of their parents say to them, "Y'all need to take the garbage out," they're gonna be like, "Ugh, God!" So no matter what I said, no matter what, it was, like, "Oh, geez, dad talking again. Okay, okay." Because you always say yes to your parents' face. And then we turn around like [Grumbling]. And then you don't want to really deal with it any longer. So that depiction that I got was basically just human nature. Everybody takes their own human nature into this game. And that's what happened.
You mentioned while you were reeling from the Kellie information that you were going to go back to your family and ask if you were overbearing. After going through yet another eventful time on Survivor, did you do that? Was there anything you took away from your second time out between 44 and 45?
You mean from 41 to 45! Because 2019 is when I started this process. It's been a beautiful process. That conversation with Kellie, I did say it on television that I'm going to ask my family and my daughter in regards to how I am towards them. And I didn't have that conversation. But what I did do is I did take a little bit of step back. I listened a whole lot more than I actually spoke. And the proof is in the pudding when you go through a situation like this. My daughter is in college and she calls me every day. My son is here; he's a senior in high school. And we have more conversations now I think because I'm more open with him to be able to say, "Okay, talk to me. Let me know what's going on." And I'm listening before I'm trying to say something and fix the world's problems with my dad knowledge--uncle knowledge, whatever you want to call it. So it all kind of worked its way out. And the relationships are stronger here.
Well I can't wait to see you on the jury, Bruce. I'm sure it was an interesting time at Ponderosa given the people you were greeted by. [Laughs.]
[Puts head in hands.] Oh Ponderosa, the bane of my existence! But it's all good. It's all good.
Next, check out our interview with Kendra McQuarrie, who was voted out in Survivor 45 Episode 9.