"Was the 'Dragon Slayer' over the top? Yeah," says Knoxville native Ben Wade of the eccentric persona he created on the recently completed "Survivor: Tocantins."
"But it was fun to create it."
Sure, Wade, who lived in Knoxville until he graduated from the University of Tennessee in the late 1980s, went around referring to himself in the third person and telling stories of high adventure - including one in which he said he was kidnapped by a South American jungle tribe, tied to a stake and almost killed before escaping. And such behavior got him lots of screen time. However, he says the fallout from it hurt his reputation.
"I thought everybody took it over the top and made a big deal out of it," he says.
Wade won't say he was misrepresented in the editing but he did find fault with what they decided to air. "For entertainment, they did a great job," he says, "but there were different parts of my personality. They definitely put a side of me (on the air) that I did not expect."
He says the "honor" and "integrity" in which he played the game "didn't come out all the time" in the editing. Instead, viewers got an earful of a whack job.
The show revealed tribe members who rolled their eyes at his stories and laughed at him behind his back.
"I am definitely a different person," he says when asked if the whole "Dragon Slayer" persona was a put on. "I try to walk that different path. When I got out there, I wanted to put my stamp on that game ... Obviously, in real life, I don't walk around with feathers in my hair.
"Did I do some things for the camera? Absolutely."
He was among the final five. By that time, though, it appeared as if the remaining players were tired of his stories and excuses.
During the live reunion show on Sunday night, host Jeff Probst said he wanted to hook up Wade to a lie detector. Wade, instead, brought the results of his own test, validating his claims.
"I took everything - including my character - to another level out there," he says.
Wade understands why some viewers saw him as a bit nutty. "It was tough," he says.
The past three months have been a trying period, he says. He says he was fired from his college soccer coaching job for his prolonged absence needed to do "Survivor." Online fans have been brutal.
"This has been a great lesson for me," he says. "This has been a great lesson in humility."
Coming in Friday's Insider column: How "Survivor" impacted Wade's family in Knoxville.
Terry Morrow may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-342-6445.
© 2009, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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