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Exclusive interview with 'Survivor: Blood vs Water' winner, Tyson Apostol

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Tyson has always been a very memorable character on "Survivor," but now he can add the title of "Sole Survivor" to his resume. Yes, the sarcastic, cocky and always funny Tyson Apostol was named the winner of "Survivor: Blood vs Water" on Sunday night. Today, I was given an exclusive one-on-one interview with him.

In case you missed how it all shook out, here is the full Finale Episode recap.

This was Tyson's third time in the game and the first that the proverbial rug wasn't tugged out from underneath him. Well, in fairness, he was the one who pulled his own rug his last time out on Heroes vs. Villains, virtually voting himself out of the game and unwittingly furthering along Russell Hantz's Survivor legacy at the same time. It was a move many call the dumbest in the history of the game. It wasn't the way that Tyson wanted to be remembered.

So he had a chance to redeem himself this season, competing with his girlfriend, Rachel. Tyson was such a threat early on, that the opposing tribe voted out Rachel just in hopes that Tyson would swap with her at the Duel. This proved to be the biggest situation and move in the game. The plan did not work and Tyson remained on his tribe...and Rachel soon departed.

Rachel's exit fueled Tyson and gave him purpose. "A charging horse for 39 days," was the way Monica Culpepper described him. He played this season several steps ahead of his competition and took out Aras at the exact right moment. Things weren't all roses for Tyson, but he was able to find two different Immunity Idols...the only player to find an Idol at all this season.

And did I mention how lucky he was? With an Idol in his pocket, Tyson's diciest moment came when he was forced to draw rocks to remain in the game. He took that 33% percent chance head-on and came out victorious. Adding to his impressive run, he won the final two - and most important - individual Immunity Challenge to cement his place in the Final Three.

He won in a vote of 7-1-0, losing only Vytas's vote. He became the first winner to have drawn rocks and the first to win in their third time playing. It was a well-deserved win for a guy who all but dominated most of this season.

I spoke with Tyson today, a day after being crowned Sole Survivor:

Tyson Apostol: Hi Tom! This is Tyson.

Tom Santilli, Survivor, Examiner: Congratulations man!

Tyson: Thank you so much.

Tom Santilli: How are you feeling about it today?

Tyson: I feel good about it still. Do you think there will come a time where I feel bad about it?

Tom Santilli: Well, you know, once you win Survivor a couple more times, I'm sure this one won't feel as special...

Tyson: (Laughs) Yeah I think a couple more times is in the cards. Once a year for the next couple years.

Tom Santilli: There you go. Now that's the Tyson that we've come to know leading into this season. The somewhat cocky, sarcastic, dry humor guy who was always entertaining to watch but never could overcome the strategic elements of the game. Then you come in this season and dominate strategically. Does this win erase for you your past Survivor blunders?

Tyson: (Laughs) I'm proud of my blunders, Tom! (Laughs) One of them ranked as the stupidest moves of all time and I think my Tocantins blindside was listed as one of the top blindsides of all time in Survivor history. So I'm just like, all across the board you know?

Tom Santilli: So you have attributed your win to the sacrifice that Rachel made in the game, not allowing you to swap with her at that point. Had she wanted you to swap, would you have actually swapped with her at that time?

Tyson: Yeah definitely. I had already planned to. And it's interesting because my tribe had all kind of said the same things that she had said. So when they said that the other tribe was only voting her off to weaken me, I had known that that was the case. I had a pretty good idea that she was going to be at Redemption Island. So for me, I thought, I have to switch with her. I had done the show twice and I hadn't had a great shot at winning. For whatever reason. And so I need her to have her experience out here. But had she asked me to switch I would have done so immediately. I think I would have fared well at Redemption Island. I had won that final challenge before, the one where you hold on the pole. So I think I would have been OK. I was impressed that she was so clear. I don't think that at that point I was as clear mentally. I was thinking that I had to get in there at all costs and she'd join my tribe and everything would be all right. When maybe, in all actuality, if I switch places with her, they would have just voted her out next.

Tom Santilli: Maybe because of Rachel this season, but we got to see a more emotional side of you at different times throughout the 39 days. Particularly, your opening statement at the Final Jury you shed some tears. Were those tears strategic, heartfelt or both?

Tyson: Yeah it was definitely both. That's how I felt I had to approach it. I think everyone had seen the game I had played and to come in a little bit humble and a little bit more vulnerable would only be a bonus for me. It was heartfelt and it was genuine but it was coming from a strategic place as well.

Tom Santilli: You obviously won the game, but do you look back on it and think you made any mistakes? Or was it a flawless win?

Tyson: The worst flaw for me probably was mouthing off to Katie as she drew the white rock. That was more of a social blunder. I mean, it really could have potentially ruined my game. I guess. Had the jury been more upset by it. Strategically other than that, there are so many small things that go on in the game that you don't see. Teeny tiny stuff that ends up being insignificant, but some of it, you really don't know. There is a scene, for example, where me and Monica are talking and Katie is like, hovering over us listening to us and we don't know that she is there. And we were just talking about how Ciera was fourth. So I found out and then ran over to Ciera and was like, hey FYI, I just told Monica that you were fourth, so if anybody says anything about it, you will know that you're really not fourth. Then Katie came to her and she didn't believe Katie because I had already come to her. But there were so many moments like that where you had to do slight course corrections to get your game back on track.

Tom Santilli: And clearly you couldn't have imagined that your path to the win would include having to draw rocks. A pretty gutsy move I'd say. Did it ever cross your mind to change your vote instead of go to the rocks?

Tyson: There was a split second where I did all the math in my head on everything. If I vote for Monica here is what's going to happen. I'm going to have to play my Idol the next time and either Gervase would go, or maybe we could flop it around. But after that, someone would come back in from Redemption Island, they'll have the majority on whoever is left in the game and I also had not been winning challenges. So my best option is that I take a risk now and the worst-case scenario is that I have to play my way out of Redemption Island.

Tom Santilli: Do you make a different decision there if Redemption Island isn't in the game?

Tyson: I would have thought about if for longer than half a second. I don't know if I would have made a different decision...well...Yeah, I probably would have made a different decision. I probably would have voted Monica out. I would have taken my chances trying to win challenges to the end.

Tom Santilli: Explain Gervase a bit if you can. Was he an equal strategic partner? A coat-tail rider? Why do you think he didn't get any jury votes at the end?

Tyson: I just think he rubbed the jury the wrong way at Tribal Councils. He wasn't a coat-tail rider by any means. I probably came up with the bulk of the strategy, but I always deferred to him to make sure it was the right choice. I would think and think and think and then I'd come to him and say, here are the two things I was mulling over. Sometimes he would come up with a different idea or tell me that yeah, one of my options was the way to go. So I would always propose all of the moves to him and we'd talk it over. That really helped us come up with the best approach to each Tribal Council.

Tom Santilli: Had you not won the game and other than Rachel, who else to you would have been a worthy winner this season?

Tyson: I probably would have voted for Gervase in the finals had I been voted out. Hayden had been playing really hard, but not really until the last five or six days. Ciera was the same. It's impressive to see them play and come on strong at the end, but it's not as impressive as carrying it throughout the entire game.

Tom Santilli: So you've now won Survivor. Where do you think you rank on the all-time list of great Survivor winners? Are you more Natalie White or Richard Hatch?

Tyson: I would hope more on the Richard Hatch spectrum. What do you think?

Tom Santilli: I mean, your win was impressive, no doubt. It was a pretty flawless game with just a few hiccups that ended up being minor. I also think it is very impressive to win seasons where there are a lot of returning players. Speaking of that, do you feel that being a returning player gave you any distinct advantage over the new players? The Final Four was all returnees.

Tyson: It's interesting because you watch those early challenges, and the returnees always just destroy them. The new players had the clear lead a few times and they blew it. I think it really just comes down to keeping your cool. And that is something that I guess, you must learn when you play Survivor. Because the returnees seem to fair pretty well everytime they are up against newbies. So yeah, there has to be some advantage, definitely.

Tom Santilli: Well best of luck to you and Rachel. Awesome talking with you.

Tyson: Thank you, thanks for talking!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter, @tomsantilli, and at tomsantilli.com as well!

Also, make sure you check out one of my favorite Survivor sites, Survivor Fever.

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