Survivor’s [Spoiler] Understands Superfans’ Frustrations: ‘But I Wanted to Play the Game I Envisioned’

The following contains spoilers from Wednesday’s episode of Survivor 46.

There were no more safety nets for Bhanu.

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In Wednesday’s episode of Survivor, the Yanu tribe managed to pull out its first victory in the reward challenge, but when it came time to secure their safety, they lost once again, sending them on their way to yet another date with Jeff. But this time, no medical evacuation or act of the Survivor Gods would save them from the vote.

After Bhanu was a little too honest with his tribemates — he revealed everything he told Liz and Ben while on his Journey — Tiffany, Kenzie and Q were bewildered by his lack of social skills and gameplay. Since their target had lost his vote and thus couldn’t even play his Shot in the Dark, the three alliance members didn’t have much to hem and haw about: It was simply Bhanu’s time to go home. (Read our full Episode 4 recap here.)

Below, Bhanu talks to TVLine about his tribe’s lack of empathy, representing multiple groups on national television and still not knowing when to hold ’em or fold ’em.

TVLINE | How are you feeling now that you’ve watched last night’s episode back?  
BHANU GOPAL | Nick, I’m very proud of myself because how I am in real life, that’s what you see on TV. The biggest thing was last night after my vote-off, one of my fans messaged me saying that when they were watching the show, her seven-year-old daughter turned to her and said, “Mom, why are they voting Bhanu off? All he wanted was a million hearts and not a million dollars.” That to me is the biggest compliment and achievement. And a seven-year-old can realize that? Yeah, I’m very proud.

TVLINE | What has the overall reaction to the season been like for you?
My story is out there and everybody knows. I grew up in poverty and it’s only 10 years ago that I moved to the United States. I know the real value of money. When I say I’m not there for a million dollars but to win a million hearts, I meant something. For someone who was living in poverty just 10 years ago, I don’t need a million dollars. Money is not the be-all, end-all. There’s so much more to life. I was able to pull myself out from where I was because of hard work, honesty and being humble. So with that I can earn money. But honestly, you cannot buy that.

Survivor 46 Episode 4
Survivor 46 Episode 4

I’m representing people from my country. I’m representing people of color. I’m representing queer people. I’m representing people who speak English as a second language and so many other things I don’t even know. But when all these superfans watch Survivor and see someone like me on the show, they should be like, “We’re proud of him. We like him.” I know the superfans must be frustrated like, “Oh Bhanu, just play the game. Be more strategic.” I understand their frustration. It’s because they love me and they support me and they wanted me to go as far as I can in the game. But I wanted to play the game I always envisioned playing. I wanted to play an honest game. It’s not that I cannot play a different way. Why there is only one way of playing Survivor? There are so many variations.

TVLINE | Jelinsky quoted a very popular song by Kenny Rogers called “The Gambler,” but it seemed to go over your head. Did you go back and check it out after filming?  
No, Nick, honestly, I don’t know. Also, I’m not on a lot of social media. I’m only on Instagram and I stopped checking messages because if someone says something hurtful, it would really hurt me. Another thing which I suffered in the game is these expressions because English is my second language. I can speak English fluently, no problem. But a native speaker would have subtle expressions and all of that, which I couldn’t pick up on. That’s where I got hit. “Know when to hold, know when to fold, the block is hot.” I was like, what are you talking about? What is “the block is hot?” I just couldn’t get that.

TVLINE | I’m surprised no one explained these things to you.
Yeah… no, no one did.  
TVLINE | I would have if I had been out there with you!  
We never had that empathy towards anybody in the tribe. We were constantly losing and the reason why was the lack of coordination and communication, and sometimes a little bit of empathy. That’s all it takes to move forward in the game.

Survivor 46 Episode 4
Survivor 46 Episode 4

TVLINE | I have some questions about Kenzie. Is she a villain? Did you feel that she was overly mean or unkind to you?  
I’m not gonna say anything about my fellow castmates. It’s for the superfans to see and understand how people are to me. And also to Jess. Jess and I are very good friends. She’s like my sister and I was so upset when she left. It was awful for me to yell at her during the challenge. I apologized to her so many times and she forgave me. But the fans of Jess, I want you to know, I say my sincere apologies to you, too, if you feel like I’ve wronged [her] or if I said something wrong. I hope you have it in your heart to forgive me.

TVLINE | Do you have any big regrets from your time out there on the island?  
No regrets. I played the game I envisioned playing. There are no regrets in life. I read this quote recently, Nick. “You’re not a failure if you have tried.” I tried. You’ve seen me, you’ve seen it all. I gave it my best in the challenges. I’ve been a provider which a lot of the fans might not have seen. I helped build our camp and I was feeding them. You would see a glimpse of me feeding Jelinsky. But I was doing that to all my fellow tribemates, giving them coconut water, making sure that they’re well and nourished. I was a provider. I was giving it my best after 10 dislocations of my right shoulder and one major surgery a few months before the season started. I was next to Q, who’s a professional player, and giving it my all. That should tell you something about how much this game means to me.

Survivor Bhanu
Survivor Bhanu

TVLINE | Do you think the show did a good job telling your story? Is there anything else you wish had made the edit?  
I can’t thank CBS, Jeff Probst (my guru) and the entire team of Survivor [enough] for sending me home in such a nice way. And the hug from Jeff? What else can you ask for? The rainbow after me praying to the gods! I feel it. It’s one of the best send-offs, and I really thank CBS and the entire team and also my fellow contestants. I love you all. That’s all I could say.

TVLINE | If you played a second time, would you play the same game or try to shake things up?  
It’s up to the superfans if they want to see Bhanu on the show again, but if I get a second chance (I hope someday), I would definitely play differently than how I played because the world has seen the honest Bhanu. I promise from one superfan to all the superfans: Next time, if I get a chance, you would see a different side of me because I grew up on streets. I can get that side of me pretty easily. [But] you’ve seen all the navarasas of Bhanu. As a trained Indian classical dancer, I was trained in navarasas — nine emotional states of mind. You’ve seen love, laughter, sorrow, anger, courage, fear, disgust, surprise, peace. You’ve seen it all. Next time… something else! [Laughs]

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