Credit: CBS

Mike Holloway became a million dollars richer last night when he was crowned the victor of Survivor: Worlds Apart. The oil driller called into Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) this morning to chat with Jessica Shaw and me about his epic run, his stiffest competition, and getting one of the best edits ever.

DALTON ROSS: So, have you slept at all?

MIKE HOLLOWAY: Yeah, me and Rodney cuddled for about an hour and half last night.

JESSICA SHAW: Did he sleep in his suit?

Oh, my God, how good did he look last night?

ROSS: Jessica, I just realized we may be talking to Rodney for all we know. This could be Rodney doing his Mike impersonation!

You know what? That would be fun, actually. I need to run down to his room to get this handled.

ROSS: Okay, let’s get into it. Was there any point where you got a little worried and regretted your choice to bring Carolyn to the end instead of Rodney?

No. Not at all actually. I knew that she was not really tight with most of the No Collars, and I figured if I was sitting at the end that Shirin would vote for me. So I really did feel like I had four votes already in my pocket before we went to that final fire tiebreaker. But no, I really felt like Carolyn and Will, for me to win the game, were the right people to take, because let’s just be honest—Rodney had made a turn in the game. People were listening to him, and he was doing impressions and being really, really funny. He was actually a bigger threat than most people realized, and he doesn’t get half the amount of credit that he needs to for the game that he played. I really, really, really was not impressed with his game while I was out there, but coming home and knowing everything that happened, and watching the edit, and watching him turn people and be funny—that kid played such a heck of a game and I’m glad that he wasn’t sitting with me at the finals because it would have been a much, much closer vote.

SHAW: I want to ask you about the fire-making challenge. Deep down inside, you must have been secretly hoping that Mama C would lose that, just because she was a vote for you at the end—and then you get to come out of it looking like, “Hey, I did the honorable thing. I’m a hero. I was going to keep in a tough competitor.”

That was also part of the strategy. I thought, if Mama C loses because I forced a tie and took her into the woods and taught her for a couple of hours how to do it, that could possibly garner me a vote. So, for me, really it was a win-win, I feel like.

ROSS: I wrote in my recap that you had my vote. I think you deserved it, and I’m glad you won. But your victory shows the value in playing with a minority alliance, because you don’t have to screw anyone over and you get to make bonds with people on the outs—as you did with those No Collars and Shirin. Then when it comes to final Tribal, you have them in your corner. And that really paved the way for you to win this game.

Well, Tyler said it best in one of the episodes a while back. It’s just a model of America—bring me your tired, bring me your huddled, bring me your wounded. I love people in general, and I love to talk. I like to talk story with people, and that somehow translated to me having six zeros and a one in front of it.

SHAW: What were you thoughts when Jenn gave her big speech at the final Tribal Council?

I prayed that God would give me my Spencer, and for her and Shirin to stand up for me and fight for me in the end almost means more than the check. It doesn’t mean more than the title, but it definitely means more that check.

ROSS: And you got that check less than 12 hours ago.

Wait, was I announced the winner? Did you see that, or did they just go on to season 31 really quickly?

ROSS: Who played the best game out there besides you?

Honestly, at this point it would have to be Rodney.

ROSS: Wow, over Carolyn.

Over Carolyn, because Rodney formed an alliance with a 44-year-old man who lives in California, and is not opposite of Rodney, but they’re definitely not the same; a 52-year-old woman who is from the middle of America and works in corporate America; and then another guy from California who is 31 and is a talent agent. To bridge those gaps socially? That’s pretty ingenious in my opinion. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m blindsiding myself right now.

SHAW: A lot of people in our other interviews have pointed to you displaying very erratic and paranoid behavior that did not get shown on TV because you got a really strong winner’s edit. What do you make of people’s perception of how you played?

People are always going to talk, and some people are jealous. None of that matters to me. I don’t care that they say that I was paranoid or any of that. I was always playing the game, except for those couple of seconds at the auction. I did all the harm with none of the benefit. I stopped playing for a couple of seconds, and it really did affect my game. The thing I really did that I felt better than anyone else in the game was I rebounded from a mistake really, really well. And I think that’s one of the keys to Survivor, is rebounding from your mistakes, if you have the opportunity to do it. I just kept winning, so it kept giving me more and more of an opportunity to find a crack—like to get Carolyn to keep voting with me for the rest of the game. There’s something to be said for a player that is on the absolute bottom that dictates the last four votes of the game.

ROSS: You’re absolutely right, but we talked to Rodney about 20 minutes ago—and he still says that he thinks he would have won had he made it to the end. He doesn’t care about that hand poll at the Reunion. He still says he would have beaten you in the final three. How do you feel about that?

I definitely think it would have been much, much closer than the 6-1-1 vote. I don’t know if Rodney would have won or not. We weren’t in that position. I didn’t put myself in that position for that exact reason. I knew he had curried favor with certain members of the jury in the game. I had also told every single person on the jury that I was not going to take Rodney to the final three.

ROSS: Tell me about your experience of watching this all play back on TV. Because on one hand you made this epic run, played a great game—all positive. But as you know all too well, a lot of the focus of this season shifted to all the negative stuff. As we saw again last night at the reunion where you get your check and Probst asks you a question or two and then it’s off to the Dan and Will stuff…

Wait, wait wait. Oh, he did ask me a question?

ROSS: [Laughs] See! That feeds perfectly into what I’m saying. Was that difficult at all, to see your victory obscured a little bit in terms of attention due to all that other stuff?

You know what? There were ugly situations that happened, but there were also beautiful moments that happened in our season that took place and never made air either. You sign on the dotted line saying, you own me. So whatever they choose to do, that’s what they choose to do. I’m not going to be pissed off. Dude, they gave me one of the greatest edits of all time. Seriously, let’s be real for a second. And they handed me a check for a million dollars. I would have been fine not speaking at the live Reunion show, honestly, because I really feel like my game spoke for itself.

ROSS: Obviously, you were ineligible for the Second Chance season. Will you play again if they ask you to come back?

I would absolutely love to play this game again. So, we’ll see if they ask me.

ROSS: Were you surprised that Carolyn was not voted in to Second Chance?

I was more pissed off than surprised, because they put Carolyn and I in the position that no Survivors have ever been in—ever in 30 seasons. And I thought that she did enough to warrant the nod.

ROSS: I agree completely.

You tell me how many girls that went on this season have two immunity wins.

Also make sure to check out our season finale recap, burning questions with Jeff Probst, and analysis on the new ‘Second Chance’ cast. And for more ‘Survivor’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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