By Dalton Ross
December 16, 2013 at 03:18 PM EST
Monty Brinton/CBS

Tyson Apostol has provided a lot of comedy on Survivor over the years. Some of it was intentional, with his dry sense of humor and snarky attitude. Some was of the unintentional variety, like when he needlessly changed his vote on Heroes vs. Villains, essentially voting himself out of the game. But the guy went from Survivor sideshow to center stage with a dominant run on Blood vs. Water, finding two hidden immunity idols, winning the last two individual challenges, and making the biggest strategic move of the game in getting rid of Aras and the couples. He was rewarded for his efforts with a million dollars when he was voted the title of Sole Survivor by the jury. After a few brief hours of sleep, Tyson called into EW.com to talk about his journey from class clown to Survivor standout. (Click through both pages to read the entire Q&A.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I have to know, first question right off the bat: What is it like watching yourself cry like a baby on national television?

TYSON APOSTOL: [Laughing and coughing] Dalton, I’m sick. You can’t make me laugh or I’ll cough a bunch.

EW: And not just once, Tyson, but several times!

TYSON: I’m a little ashamed, but it’s okay. I’ve done more shameful things on national TV than cry.

EW:Was there any doubt when you headed to that final Tribal that the game was yours?

TYSON: When we went into the final Tribal, yes. But when we left, no way. I was pretty certain. Because I actually thought that Gervase would have valid arguments and he had connected pretty well with people on a personal friendship level, and so I was a little concerned about him. But every Tribal Council where he would stick his foot in his mouth I felt a little more confident. And then after the final Tribal Council, I was like, I’m pretty sure I got this.

EW: It was an interesting season because there was little to no bitterness among the jury. Did you expect them to come harder at you at that final Tribal?

TYSON: Waaaaay harder, dude. That’s why when I came in I was not sure I was going to win because at the other Tribal Councils, any sound I would make, any time I would open my mouth, I’d look over at the jury and they’d all be rolling their eyes. Aras didn’t make eye contact with me the entire time. Every single Tribal Council he refused to look at my eyes. I don’t know if it was a ruse by them to make me feel uncomfortable, but I’d use it to my advantage because we would get back from Tribal Council and I’d be like “Oooh, those guys are pissed. Nobody’s voting for me.” And I truly felt that way, but I also used it to get me further in the game.

EW: How important were those last two immunity victories to add to your resume? Because otherwise, Monica can say, “Hey, what did Tyson do in challenges? I dominated in those things.”

TYSON: Yeah. I don’t know if I 100 percent needed them but it definitely gave me a little bit extra. Plus, it gave me peace of mind as far as being able to relax a little bit that day and make sure things went my way without being worried, so it gave me an opportunity to focus and keep everybody on my side still. Definitely happy to win those, You could see I celebrated a little more on that one.

EW: You were pumped!

TYSON: I was pumped, dude!

EW: What happens if Tina or Hayden make it into the finals? You think either of them beats you, especially with all the friends they made at Redemption Island?

TYSON: It would have been a lot closer. I don’t think I would have gotten zero votes, but I could have lost 5-4 or won 5-4. I think the clearest path to victory was through Gervase and Monica for me.

EW: Did Rachel being eliminated really cause you to put your game face on?

TYSON: Yeah, it also helped me refocus when I was feeling tired or down or needed to take  a break. Because in Tocantins I definitely felt at times like, I need to take a break today. I’m tired. I’m going to lay in the sun and let the game move without me for a day. And I’ll get back to it tomorrow. Had I been more aware in Tocantins things might have been different. And this time I made sure that any time I was feeling down I would just think off Rachel and sort of refocus. It was kind of heartbreaking to see her go. I took her out there to have that experience that I had, and when she refused to switch with me, I thought, okay: I’ve already been voted out of this game twice before. I’ve already done that. So for her to make that sacrifice, I felt like I had to get to the end for her. And for me.

EW: Yes, I’d say the million dollars makes it for you as well. Look, your rap in this game before this season was, funny guy, really good in challenges, but just doesn’t have the strategic chops. How nice is it to prove that you are more than just an athletic quipmeister, if you will.

TYSON: It feels pretty good. I’ve always known I had it in me, but it feels good to pull it all together. And this season just seemed like fate was on my side every single step. For the most part, the best case scenario worked out for me every time.

EW: Like with the tribe swap…

TYSON: The tribe swap, the rock pulling, even with Tina coming back in from Redemption Island at the end. All of that played to my advantage. There were so many times where we went to vote and I was like, I don’t know really how people are voting — I’ve done my work, but you never really know. And then everybody would vote exactly how I told them to and I was like, that doesn’t happen on Survivor where everybody votes exactly how I tell them!

NEXT: Tyson on Vytas refusing to vote for him and whether he will play Survivor again

Monty Brinton/CBS

EW: What was up with Vytas carrying through with his threat to not give you his vote if you knocked him out of the tribe? I have no problem with him threatening to do that if he thinks it might keep him in the game, but to go ahead and do it is pretty weak, and ended up costing you your unanimous victory.

TYSON: Well, he’s a man of honor, and a man of his word, and he would never do anything in the game that would be manipulative and lying so he was kind of put in a tough spot because he had said that. You know how honest Vytas is!

EW: Yeah, I don’t know about that.

TYSON: [Laughing] No, when I opened my mouth to talk back to him I was going to say, “You’re going to look like a bitter juror on TV, bro!” But he shushed me, so I was like, “Okay, whatever.” It was a little bit of poor form. But perfect game or not, I got paid the same, dude.

EW: How much crotch was still on that idol when you handed it to both Monica and Gervase?

TYSON: [Laughing and coughing]

EW: Still pretty crotch heavy?

TYSON: Well, no, because I buried it in the sand so I kind of exfoliated it, I think. I imagine that I exfoliated about 50 percent of the crotch that was originally on it.

EW: You’ve won Survivor. The third time was the charm. Would you do it again, or is this chapter of your life now complete?

TYSON: Look at a pro athlete who goes out on top, or a pro athlete that even past his prime continues to play for the love, and I would have a hard time turning it down. I love just being out on the island and goofing around. Maybe with the pressure to win gone a fourth time might just be a good run for a Coconut Bandit before he gets voted out. I would have a hard time turning it down. It depends where I am in my life, but I can see a few scenarios where I would say no.

EW: Take us through the Survivor party scene last night. Who was getting sloppy?

TYSON: I didn’t even go out, dude!

EW: What? It’s your moment!

TYSON: Dude, I have to be here. It’s 5 in the morning here in California!

EW: Yeah, man, but you had your tuxedo t-shirt rocking, you had your Brazilian hair straightening going on! C’mon!

TYSON: The hair was not my idea, Dalton! I’m a messy hair type of guy. The lady who did my hair — she straightened it and put it in a pervert ponytail. Like a long one, not folded over or anything, and I was like, this will go with the tuxedo shirt. I can roll with it, it’s funny. But I look pretty perverted. So I showed Rachel and she was like, “Nah, you’re creeping me out.” So by then it was already straightened. I don’t think it was a terrible look, but maybe not my best.

EW: Did the emotion of it creep up on you when Probst read the votes? You knew it was you, and you knew for a few months and were probably like, I’m going to play this cool. So did it catch you by surprise when you got so emotional and started crying?

TYSON: Yeah. It’s hard because the two times I went out I stumbled pretty hard. Fell flat on my face, you know, And that’s pretty much my M.O. It’s like, we’ll watch Tyson play, and play pretty hard, and then he’ll just eat it. And though I know it’s not the end all, be all to win this game — the third time to be successful like that, it was a long time coming for me. There are days — that are hopefully in the past now — but there have been days where you’re just like: what if? If I had just been a little more aware in Tocantins or if I had just not changed my vote in Heroes vs. Villains would it have been different? Not only from a money standpoint, but from a public perception standpoint. And the Heroes vs. Villains move, do you know how many times a day people have asked me “What were you thinking?” It’s been nonstop. So to kind of push past that and finally see success after five years was a big deal for me.

To watch an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s finale, as well as our pre-game interviews with the final seven, simply click on the video player below. To read Dalton’s recap of the finale/reunion, click right here. You can also get Jeff Probst’s take on the finale/reunion right here, or click here for more intel from Probst on the next season of ‘Survivor’.  And for more ‘Survivor’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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