‘Survivor 45’ star Kaleb Gebrewold says he was ‘Bruce’s bitch’ on the show

He’s not Batman. He’s the Canadian. But the Canadian got voted out of Survivor 45 on this week’s double-elimination episode.

Kaleb Gebrewold became the first member of the jury when a last-minute gambit backfired and Katurah Topps jumped ship to vote him out of the game. Kaleb tried to solidify Katurah’s vote by informing her that Bruce Perreault had found an immunity idol, but the information only made Katurah feel that much more left out from the rest of the tribe, who had all hidden the idol news from her. Once Katurah flipped, Kaleb’s game was over.

It was a game that almost ended two days earlier, but Kaleb used his Shot in the Dark and pulled the Safe scroll to avoid being voted out unanimously. That Tribal Council may have been the beginning of the end, however, as Dee Valladares was less than thrilled at being mentioned by Kaleb as being part of a power trio of women that needed to be broken up. Dee was then insistent that the Vancouver software salesman be the next to go.

Does Kaleb regret telling Katurah about Bruce’s idol? What does he make of Bruce turning on him in the game? And did he come on too strong with his social game, making himself a bigger target in the process? We asked Kaleb all that and more the morning after his televised ouster. and you can watch the entire interview above or read it below. (Also make sure to check out our exit Q&A with Sifu Alsup.)

Kaleb Gebrewold on ‘Survivor 45’.
Robert Voets/CBS

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Take me through the decision to tell Katurah about Bruce’s idol and why you think that backfired.

KALEB GEBREWOLD: The big takeaway in the moment was that I ultimately wanted to work with Katurah, right? For better or worse, I really honestly thought we needed each other, and telling her was something that needed to happen because if Austin or somebody else was going to tell her, it would’ve blown up my game at some point. So I’d rather own the information as the first realistic checkpoint.

And the challenge was I treated her like I treated Emily for some reason. She was always at the bottom. I didn’t really get it at Belo, but she had [made] some mistakes socially. But I just couldn’t tell her everything right away and risk her blowing up my game, especially with her vendetta with Bruce, which has been so well done on the show. But I looked out for her as much as I possibly could.

That was ultimately the thing, and I knew she knew that. I just think that Emily got it, and Katurah was a bit jaded from her other experiences at Belo. And my pitch is basically: “This is our last chance to have agency. I get it. I get that it sucks to be in your spot, but listen, I’m in the exact same spot as you. We need each other.”

And what I didn’t realize had happened was her conversation with Jake where he was talking about digging for his girlfriend’s rings. And I do think in hindsight that was the part where Katurah felt like she was being fooled as opposed to just being left out.

It’s tough because you always have hindsight. Should you have lied? Should you have not told her? Should you have told her a different way? And I do think for me, telling her and bringing her all the way in was just something I had to do if I was really going to have five or six people that I was going to try and break through the next stage of the game with. I was so close to getting there.

Kaleb Gebrewold on ‘Survivor 45’.
Robert Voets/CBS

Well, I think your move makes sense, and I think her reaction also makes sense. Let’s get into what precipitated that because the reason you had to do that is because you had told Austin about Bruce’s idol when you were in save-your-skin mode. But why do you think Bruce turned on you at the merge? Was it just that he saw what a threat you were, or was he maybe a little jealous that he was being left out of stuff and you were the belle of the ball there for a moment?

You ever hear of attachment-style relationships? I feel like, for me, in the alliances, I have to have people who have a secure attachment style. I think Bruce — with the idea that I was getting close with his allies — became very insecure that they were maybe getting closer with me than they were with him. But at the end of the day, we were all strategic enough to know we needed each other. And I did everything to try and get Bruce in the fold.

I just felt like I was Bruce’s bitch for four days. I did everything the guy asked for and I never gave him any back talk. And we traded personal stories. I heard about his child, his upbringing. I told him about the times I almost went bankrupt [during] my first year of business. I really think we invested in each other. And I just think he was so upset that he was not being let in and he treated me as the reason for it at the merge.

And I told him the whole time that he was maybe the person I talked to the most — him and Kellie, I would probably say. So it was crazy to me that he became so insecure and he decided to take a shot at one of his own. And the question always in reality TV is: Do you shoot at somebody who might be with you or somebody who’s definitely against you? And he decided to take out the person who’s maybe with you. And I think he hurt his own game and other people’s by doing that.

Kaleb Gebrewold on ‘Survivor 45’.
Robert Voets/CBS

You called out J Maya at Tribal Council last week and said people should vote her out, and Dee felt like she caught some collateral damage out of that, and that may be the reason you’re talking to me right now. How surprised were you that she took such offense to that?

I was surprised that Dee was as offended as she was because my pitch was, “Dee, you’re a target right now. But if you get rid of J, you’re not a target anymore. Let me help you.” And Dee really was just like, “Well, you said my name once.” It is what it is. And to be fair, I know everyone talks about how I talked to everybody at the merge beach. Really, I talked to Belo and then I talked to some of the meat shield guys on Reba. I don’t think I had any one-on-ones. But the thing about me is when you talk to somebody and you just have banter and there’s laughter in front of people, it just looks like a one-on-one conversation.

I think J was definitely originally the boot, Reba wanted her out. Bruce flipped on Belo and then Reba was kind of like, “This is a free roll. We get to take out a big threat and no one’s going to be mad at us. How do we say no to this?” And so if not, I really do think from everything that I’ve heard at the Mergatory that [Reba] were not planning on taking me out there. They were planning on taking out J. With the Bruce flip, they just thought it was a freebie. And with me being exempt from the Shot in the Dark, I think the J plan from the very beginning ended up happening.

My whole take was that your social game was incredible, but the one problem with it was that it was so blatantly obvious how good you were at this game, so nobody would want to sit next to you at the end. Was that something you were cognizant of out there, that maybe you were putting a bigger target on your back by making these strong connections?

You know what? Yes. At some point, you look around and you’re like, “Oh my God, this target is even bigger than I thought it would ever be. I don’t know what it is about me.” I can’t tell you how much I tried to tone it down. That’s the funny part. I mean, I’m sitting there, I’ve never seen myself smile less in my entire life than I have seen me on TV. I tried not to be the center of attention in big group situations, but it was crazy watching it: Every single person out there was like, “Kaleb’s a big threat. Should we take him out?” When at the end of the day, you need to work with people in this game. And did they think I was just going to flip the entire time?

I have people who I think I had great relationships with, and I think for some of the bigger threats, my logic was: You probably should keep me around because whatever my alliances are, I don’t want to take out the big threats because if I’m at the final six with J and Julie and Emily and Sean and Hannah, it’s like: What’s going to happen? It’s obvious, right? So I’m trying to keep around a social threat or a physical threat or a strategic threat. I want to keep as many shields around. That was my plan. And it just turns out that most of the shields wanted to take me out of this game. And I can’t tell you why.

You are the first person to ever successfully save oneself from being voted out with a Shot in the Dark play. How did you pick the Safe scroll? Did you feel around in the bag for a while? Was it the first one you touched? Take me through that process.

It’s so funny. I always said: “You know what I like about the new era? All these twists. You know why? Because I’m the luckiest guy. I know the more variants, the more this is going to probably work out for me.” It couldn’t have gone more wrong. I had almost everything go against me with all these twists in this game. And the one time that I finally got a stroke of luck was the Shot in the Dark.

So I go up there, and the way that they do it is they have five scrolls rolled up on the bottom layer inside this bag and one on top. So I put my hand in there and I’m like, “Oh my God, am I supposed to take the top one? Is that what they want me to do right now? Are they giving this to me or not?” And I was like, “I can’t fall for the first one.” I moved it to the side, went with my gut, grabbed a scroll that was underneath, and walked down there.

And the entire time, it was really the first time I accepted I might be going home in the game. The Shot in the Dark just feels like such low odds. So I go down there and give it to Jeff and you know what? I’m lucky to make history.

Kaleb Gebrewold on ‘Survivor 45’.
Robert Voets/CBS

Did you realize there were only 11 votes cast and not 12, or did you lose track at some point?

I think I deserve the least amount of blame. I blacked out as soon as I got it. I’m fist-pumping, I’m cheering, I’m trying to figure out where I’m going to sleep in the shelter and what my next game move is. And so, yeah, I completely blacked out [during] the vote count.

If there is no tribe split this week and all 12 players are on one beach together and voting together at Tribal Council, what do you think happens?

It’s really too bad that it didn’t happen that way. I think it would’ve been a very exciting Tribal Council for TV. What they didn’t show was that Emily was not the only person who told me to play my Shot in the Dark. Jake also told me to play my Shot in the Dark. In addition, Kellie and Katurah were coming to me on the beach several times saying, “Hey, you’re in trouble. Watch out. The votes are coming for you right now.” I felt like between those four and myself, we had a really good five, and five in 12.

After the vote, people were talking about how Kendra and Katurah looked too happy. I really do think we spun Kendra by the end and she was flippable at Mergatory and she was flippable here, and we just need a Sifu — who’s at the bottom. We just need a Bruce — who actually might’ve been the hardest person for the swing, but we really thought we could have got him. I really do think it would’ve been five plus one or two people if we had this opportunity to try and take away the power from the Reba side, because I really just felt since the Mergatory, since every other journey that they’ve ever done, all they would talk about is: “Dude, Sifu’s crazy. He’s looking for idols everywhere. And J Maya, she’s so strategic. She’s trying to decode the map.”

They always were throwing these two under the bus, which is a great smokescreen, but to me, I’m like, “None of you guys are throwing each other under the bus.” You had to kind of think that there’s some sort of allegiance there, even if it was just, “Hey, let’s just not target each other for a little while.”

Then what do you think happens this week if you guys aren’t split up? Is it you or is it Sifu this week, or is it someone else?

My number one targets coming out of the Shot in the Dark were: Number one, I felt like Bruce was going to have to go sooner [rather] than later. And the other one was Drew. Because, ultimately, Emily was telling me at the time, “Hey, listen, if you want to get Austin, if you want to get Sifu, you probably have to get Drew.” And I just felt for Austin and Sifu. It was so obvious for the meat shields to keep each other that I really looked and said, “Logically, if they’re listening to Drew this much that they’re going to go against their own best interests, then Drew has to be taken out sooner [rather] than later.” So, to me, I felt like Drew was probably the biggest strategic threat. And then Bruce was probably the next best thing if he was eligible because he had an idol. And when somebody is so stark against you, it’s an immovable object.

Kaleb Gebrewold on ‘Survivor 45’.
Robert Voets/CBS

What’s something that happened out there that didn’t make it to TV that you wish we’d had a chance to see?

It’s right after Lulu loses the challenge with the blocks and it’s Emily, Kaleb, Sean, and Sabiyah. And Sabiyah is there dying and Emily has her arm around her. So we go back into the back tents and Sabiyah, who wears this long-sleeve black thermal throughout the entire challenge, basically has heat exhaustion. Dr. Joe’s over there, he’s dumping ice water on her. She’s barely alive and she’s just like, “I need to talk to production,” because she wants to ask if she could throw the idol into the fire. And I’m like, “Sabiyah, don’t worry about it. I got it. I need to ask them about the Shot in the Dark anyway.” So I go there and I’m like, “Hey you guys, she’s about to ask you this, and it’s bulls—. You can’t let her do it. You can’t let her put this thing in the fire.”

Because all I thought this entire time was, as long as Sabiyah doesn’t have a vote, I have the power. I thought I had Emily, right? Even going to the Reba camp when I was able to go and kept fishing gear and everything else, it occurred to me: Do you get embers? Do you bring fire home for Sabiyah? And I remember having a talk saying, “You know what? There’s no chance I do that. This is the only power I have left in this game.”

I never wanted to take Sabiyah out until I really knew she was gunning for me. I really wanted Sean. Emily and I came together and decided not to do that. Emily was saying, “When Kaleb’s calling for production and Sabiyah’s calling for production, that’s the first time I actually felt safe.” She’s like, “That’s when I knew I probably was the swing.”

When they invariably ask you to play Survivor again — if they have not already — what will you say?

Next question. I got a backpack by the door. If I get the call, it would be an honor. Maybe some things go differently.

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