Timothy Kuratek/CBS

Tyson Apostol on why he's 'one of the best Survivor players of all-time'

The Blood vs. Water champ says he won't stop playing until he's won three times.
January 22, 2020

Tyson Apostol knows what you think. You think he got played by J.T. in Survivor: Tocantins, played himself in Heroes vs. Villains, and then finally put it all together by winning the Blood vs. Water season. But Tyson has got news for you: He’s no one-trick pony. In fact, he’s “one of the best Survivor players of all-time.”

That’s what Tyson told me when we spoke the day before filming began on Survivor: Winners at War (premiering Feb. 12 on CBS). Tyson feels he doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being a true athletic, strategic, and social triple-threat, so he’s back to prove the naysayers wrong by winning the biggest Survivor season ever. And then, guess what? He’s going to come back and win again!!! Or so he says. And while Tyson may feel that “I don’t think I am getting the respect I deserve,” he has always been recognized as one of the most entertaining players the show has ever produced. Look no further for proof of that fact than checking out the interview below. And if you think Tyson is going to play nice and not throw a few haymakers along the way, then you are sorely mistaken. Read on as the Blood vs. Water champ calls out some fellow Survivors and explains why he’s made of pure grade A greatness.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s going on, Tyson?
TYSON APOSTOL: Not much. How you doing, Dalton? How was the flight? You came a long way.

I was thinking about you on the flight.
Were you? What were you thinking about?

I was thinking about Heroes vs. Villains, and you and I were hanging out at LAX terminal before you got on your plane.
Did I sit next to you? Were we chilling? Or no?

We weren’t sitting together on the plane. We were hanging out in the gate area, waiting for the plane. I think we had a good chat. Then again, I don’t really remember. Maybe you were asking for strategy and I said to vote yourself out that season.
Did you do that?

Maybe that was my fault.
So it is your fault. Deep down inside I knew it wasn’t fully my fault.

Listen, give people the update. It’s been a while since you’ve been on the show. You’ve had some big changes in your life.
Let’s see, Rachel and I are married. And we moved to Arizona. And we have two kids. Not in that order. I’ll put it in chronological order.

Put it in chronological order for me.
Rachel and I got married, then we had a baby. She’s now 4. We also had another baby, who is going to be 1. And we moved to Arizona from Utah to get out of the cold.

I firmly believe how you are as a person impacts how you are as a player. I can only imagine that you’ve changed so much as a person being a father. How are you different?
Like, in a positive way, you think?

I would hope.
I hope so, too. I mean, being a father, there’s so many layers. Like if we’re going to get into this, we need to start our own dads podcast, you know? But it’s like you realize you love them so much and unconditionally and you’d do anything for them, and they’re the same at you … at least while they’re young. Probably when they’re teenagers they go through something else.

They go through something else. Get ready for that.
I’m an old enough dad that I might die before that happens. But you then understand how much your own parents love you, which you probably never fully comprehended before. And then you’re more patient. You’re more loving. You’re more forgiving. And yeah, I hope those things help me in the game.

Why come back and do it again? You won. You’ve done it three times. Why come back?
I always told myself if it was something special, I would have to be there. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. On top of that, between you and me and whoever reads this, I feel like I’m one of the best Survivor players of all-time. And I don’t think people realize that. I don’t think I get the credit that I deserve for being as wily as I am, being as athletic as I am, and being as personable as I am, which are the three key ingredients to winning this game. And yeah, I’m here to prove something.

Another part of it is Survivor has been such a big part of my life for the last decade and to be able to now share that with my daughters, so they know that not everybody’s parent just gets to stay home and watch them grow up all day. And not everybody goes on TV. And this is what I do. This is essentially my job. Like, I am one of very few people that have become a professional Survivor player. It’s crazy, and even after Tocantins ten years ago, if you had said “You’re going to be a professional Survivor player,” I would have thought, nah. The hard part with Survivor is that you don’t get to work every day on honing your skill in the Survivor environment. If you learn a lesson, you have to wait six years before you can then put that lesson to use.

So, you and Boston Rob are buddies. You do poker tournaments together and all that stuff.
Sure, we do a lot. I’ve been to his house multiple times.

You played together. So don’t sit here and tell me you guys didn’t talk before you came out here.
We didn’t, actually.

I don’t believe you.
100 percent.

Why? Because I still don’t believe you.
He kind of was non-responsive. Well, so the day Survivor called, I had gotten a call from Rob earlier in the day before I even had heard anything. But we had been playing a little phone tag so I don’t know if it was, “Hey did you get a call from Survivor?” Or if he was just checking in on me, because we had been playing phone tag up until that point. So then after I got the phone call, I was like, “Oh maybe that’s why Rob called to feel me out and see if I got a call.” And that is the last I have heard from Rob until we got here.

Okay, I don’t believe you. But anyway…
No, it’s 100 percent. 100 percent.

Blink if you’re lying to me right now. [Pause] You have your sunglasses on. I can’t see you. He’s not blinking.
I’m not lying.

Okay.
Jeremy, Kim, and myself are on a text thread with Rob, because we all played in a little poker thing on CBS sports.

Right.
Rob never once responded to that thread after we got the call. And none of us acknowledged that we got the call.

Right.
You can ask me about other people. Ask me about whoever. I’ll tell you the truth.

Who’d you talk to before you came out?
Specifically about being on the show?

Yeah.
Kim. That’s all. And it wasn’t even about strategy or anything. It was about how do we leave these little kids at home. And it was hard. It was hard to leave them.

When you do that, is there also a little part of you where the game never quite turns off? So you’re thinking, let me make the parent bond here?
Yeah, the game never turns off. Ever. It’s even now at Ponderosa, everything I do is measured. Everything leading up to the game is measured. Every social media post I put up in the last couple months was measured. I never posted a picture of me working out, I never posted a picture of me doing anything strategic. I’ve been like outside walking on landscaping gravel in bare feet to toughen my feet up. I’ve been playing all these different IQ builder puzzlers for spatial recognition. I’ve been reading a lot more to hopefully improve my vocabulary, so you get some real gems in there.

Good.
And I have been working out, but I mean, I’m a dad. You already probably knew that.

Yeah, I heard something about that.
And so I have a limited amount of time to do that stuff. But I tried to make the most of the time I did have. I’d wait until the girls go to bed before I would get out the puzzles or, you know, wait until nap before I go for my jog or something.

It’s interesting to hear you say that you want to be considered one of the best. You consider yourself one of the best Survivor winners ever and you want to be considered that. Do you think you’re not? Do you think that you don’t get enough respect from the fans for the job you did in Blood vs. Water?
I think I get respect from the fans for Blood vs. Water. But in the grand scheme of Survivor and the game, I don’t think I am getting the respect I deserve.

The totality of your experience on this show, you feel… even though it evolved into a really dominant run in your last time, you feel is not getting overall respect.
Correct. 100 percent.

So when people say, “Oh my gosh, Tyson got so much better by his third season” — that annoys you a little bit, because you think, “I was actually really good the first two times I was out.” Obviously, we’ve acknowledged a huge gaffe in Heroes vs. Villains, but other than that…
Yeah, I mean, I had learned things in Tocantins that improved my game in Heroes vs. Villains. And I’d learned, you know, don’t go against what your alliance thinks you’re going to do is especially the lesson. But, I mean, you look at Heroes vs. Villains — I was in a six to three alliance. I essentially created Russell and Parvati’s legacy. Like, that is me and they never thank me. Neither of them thank me for that, because they had solidly worked themselves into a minority alliance like they are so good at doing, which is, to me, the mark of a terrible Survivor player. But now … and that’s the worst part of that is that I stole that from myself.

If somebody else botched it up for you, then you’d have someone to blame and be like, “Well, that’s the way the cards fell.” But me doing it to myself, it stings a little bit worse. And then people taking credit for that and being like, “I’m one of the greatest of all-time.” No. I’m one of the greatest of all-time but I handed it to you on a platter and nobody recognizes me.

I’m actually re-watching that season now with my daughter. She’s never seen it. We’re about to get to the episode where that happened. What should I tell her?
Tell her to give me some goddamn respect.

Is there a learning curve for you on this game? Because it’s been a little while since you played, and the game has sped up so much since then.
Yeah, there’s for sure a learning curve on the show. And I think that’s why not everybody learns from playing in the past. And I think that’s maybe why Joe can’t win. He doesn’t learn. That’s why Ozzy can’t win. He doesn’t learn from his past mistakes. He doesn’t change his game. It’s like, okay, you’re good at challenges, but are you the most personable person out there? Are you wily? Are you sneaky? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get to the end? I don’t think they are. Part of it is learning, and then maybe it’s not even in their personality to be able to do those things. Is that too hard of a swipe at those guys?

No, not at all.
It’s honest.

The game changes and you’ve got to change with it.
And so I think here, now, it does move faster and these young kids, it’s like … I mean, I had thought about jumping from side to side, utilizing somebody, and then going against them. Then going back. But if somebody did that to me, how can you trust them again? Like, they’re the next one gone in my opinion. And so to watch pretty much most of the seasons after Blood vs. Water, there was not a group of people that stuck together from early on to the end.

You have nine other players you’re here with that you know about. Some people are from older seasons and some people from newer seasons. In Second Chance, there was a definitely old school players versus new school right off the bat. Do you anticipate that happening?
No, I don’t really. And the reason why is because the new school players, for the most part, aren’t the alpha males. I don’t see Adam or Nick stepping up to lead their side into battle, you know? And I see them more pandering to me or Boston Rob, trying to get in with the cool kids. And then maybe that’s incorrect, but, I mean, every time I turn my hat around backwards out there, Nick turns his hat around backwards, too.

What if he tries to be in a goofy named alliance with you? He likes to name his alliances.
Yeah, get the f—out, dude. I will not be in … I don’t even like to name alliances. Why are we naming alliances? Coach on Tocantins named an alliance and he never told me the name. And after the game, I was like, “The Warrior alliance, bro?” And he’s like, “I know, and I didn’t tell you because I knew that you would hate it so much and that you would think it was so stupid, so I just decided to keep that from you.” And Nick thinks he’s a master of disguise and he’s credited with being a master of disguise. And he’s not a master of disguise.

So I think that can work to my advantage, too, is that whatever Jeff Probst said about these people after they won or whatever the fans said about these people after they won, they embrace that and that’s what they become on this season. So Nick being the master of disguise, able to name alliances, and fit in with everybody, he probably thinks he’s a genius at that. And that’s what I will be looking for with Nick.

How do you think other players see you?
I’m hoping other people see me as a more carefree laid back laissez-faire goof ball, and I think I play that role pretty well. I mean, I’ve got long hair. I kind of don’t give a s—. And it’s true. But at the same time, I’m hoping that that masks this brain that never stops thinking about how to play the game.

What’s your biggest weakness heading into the game?
My biggest weakness, I think, is that maybe I am one of the more popular Survivor players and I’ve played more than everybody here except for Rob. And so if people are looking for that as a reason to get people out… That’s the other thing. Do I go with Rob? He’s a close friend. I am sure he would work with me for a certain amount of time, but I also need to be willing to cut him — even first if people want him gone first. So it’s a lot. It’s a lot, but I mean even talking here, it’s like I’m going to go out on day 1. It’s going to be something completely different. People who have a hard plan for day 1 are the people who get screwed on day 3. But I will not quit. I will not quit until I win three times.

Three times?!
You’ve got to be the best.

Okay, we’ll see you in season 60!
Okay.

For more Survivor articles, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss, and for exclusive season 40 photos and video, follow Dalton on Instagram @thedaltonross.

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