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

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 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

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