Plus, he teases a potential rematch with seven-time champion Johnny "Bananas" Devenanzio.

Warning: This article contains spoilers about Wednesday's finale of The Challenge: Spies, Lies, and Allies.

After 19 seasons of The Challenge, CT Tamburello is at the top of his game. He just won two seasons back-to-back (season 36's Double Agents and season 37's Spies, Lies, and Allies), cementing his status as the second-most decorated winner ever with five total championships (not including his two additional wins on the spin-off Champs vs. Stars). He's earned more than $1.36 million in prize money. But taking home $400,000 after finishing in first place in Wednesday's grueling two-day final and adding another title to his Challenge resume pales in comparison to what this win did for him mentally.

"This was a big one for me personally," Tamburello tells EW. "It was the cherry on top of me feeling secure in myself again. There was a long time during the 'dadbod' era where I was kind of in a dark place, I was going through a lot. To win this one and go back-to-back, to be doing as well as I have been on The Challenge, it was like, I'm doing alright again. Finally, I felt like I'm in control. I'm on top. I got my life back."

CT Tamburello
CT Tamburello on 'The Challenge: Spies, Lies, and Allies'
| Credit: MTV

Tamburello is proud of how far he's come in the past five years and how he changed his life after turning 40 last year. "I'm in a really good place now," he says. "I really tried for the last I don't know how many years now to really be the best I could be, to get off my knees and move forward in my life. And honestly, for the first time I just feel fully in control, stable, and happy. I had to shed a lot of the past, to say the least. The Challenge was sort of a symbol in my own mind where it was something I held on to, where I felt like if I can come back and do well here, it was a gauge to see that I was doing the right thing. I'm getting better and successful in this, and now I feel like I'm okay where I am."

As for what this fifth win means for his future, he's less certain. "If I were to ride off into the sunset now, I can ride off with my head high, and there's no woulda, coulda, shoulda," he says. "I don't feel like there's any competition for me — I compete with myself, I don't compete with anybody else. I know people like to compare me to other people, but I don't. To me, I was always my worst enemy. And I feel like I won, I beat myself at my own game. So now, the sky's the limit."

He laughs as he adds, "Part of me thinks that the game is changing and part of me thinks I'm just getting old. I can't help at times to think that The Challenge ain't what it used to be, but it's not necessarily a good or a bad thing. I feel I'm a bit more reserved, but I'm getting older now, I can't play the same games that I used to."

Below, Tamburello opens up to EW about his most recent win, his future on The Challenge, if we'll ever see him on All Stars, and more.

The Challenge
'The Challenge: Spies, Lies, and Allies'
| Credit: MTV

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Two wins back-to-back, your fifth win ... is this when you announce your retirement? I know I'm not the only one who wants to see you go for the three-peat.

CT TAMBURELLO: I'll never make that mistake again — I did that before. I'll never say never. The Challenge is my home. I mean, I grew up with it. But I've done eight in a row. Back in the day, you did one show a year, maybe two, now it's just cranking these things out and the shoot is longer and longer and longer. My son's five years old. I film two shows a year, three months a piece, that's half the year I'm gone. I can't do that because he's older now.

I had a good run. I'll be honest with you, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little tired. [Laughs] I'd like to go spend some time with my family; this was the first year I actually spent Halloween with my son. That's my favorite holiday. I'd like to spend time with the family, enjoy the fruits, recenter myself, and maybe just take a break, take a little breather. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Retire? I don't have it in me to ever say I'm going to retire. What else would I do? [Laughs] Besides the movie thing, I mean, that's been a lot of fun. It's nice to branch out. I just finished filming the remake to The Most Dangerous Game with Bruce Dern, Judd Nelson, Tom Berenger, Casper Van Dien. Talk about being thrown into the fire. Sheesh! And that'll be out soon — it's in post[-production] now.

Are you trying to focus more on acting going forward?

Yeah, I honestly think I was too afraid [before]. I always hid behind "play it safe, take the guaranteed." I always called it short money instead of taking a shot at long money. I'm in a good place now and mustered up the guts to do something that I always wanted to do. I'd like to think that I'll stop by The Challenge every once in a while, let everybody know, make sure no one forgets about me. But at the same time, I was thinking, 'they're on to me.' I can't go around with the old "dadbod, he's old, he's past his prime" anymore. If I go back right away, I have a feeling I'm just going to step right into the fire. Maybe take some of the heat off me, let everybody else go, see if I miss it. I always say, after we're done shooting, "Oh gosh, I'm so tired, I don't ever want to go back, I'm done." And then a couple months go by and I'm just like, "What I wouldn't do to get shot out of a cannon." [Laughs] But back in the day we'd be lucky if we won a free trip, and now it's like a goddamn Olympic sport. People take it far more serious, train for months.

Since it's a much shorter production schedule on All Stars, is there any chance you'd move to that spin-off?

Eh, I don't know. Right now I just want to spend the holidays with family. With all the spin-offs coming up, it doesn't seem like The Challenge is going anywhere. And I think I'm on my third wind at this point. I'll be honest with you, I didn't realize how much I needed a break until I took a break before. I just want to maybe let the dust settle, maybe soak it all in. The last couple of years have been moving so fast. I'm not thinking that far ahead. Right now, all I'm thinking about is the family Christmas trip I'm taking everybody on in a week.

The Challenge
'The Challenge: Spies, Lies, and Allies'
| Credit: MTV

Last season on Double Agents, the whole house was coming for you nonstop, all season long. This season it was the opposite — despite being the reigning champ, you were never targeted and didn't see a single elimination. How did you manage to completely flip that dynamic from one season to the next?

On Double Agents, instead of everybody gunning for the rookies, they were gunning for anybody who had won a final. On this one, what worked in my favor is that a lot of people had a lot of pre-existing drama and then they had so many new people come in. This whole vet alliance was more of like, "We're still coming for you, but right now I think it's safe to say we should all go after these new kids because they look stacked. Let's get rid of them and then we'll get back to us." While that was all happening, I was just in the cut, flying under the radar. And everybody just seemed to take so much so personally. Sooner or later you're going to be pushed into the corner and for some reason, everybody took it all so personally whenever someone had to do something that was best for them.

I've never had the experience of being someone's No. 1, I've always been the lone wolf down at the bottom of the chain, but one thing I've always tried to do is make sure that if I can't be at the top of the alliance, what I can do is try to make my vote count more than it should. And I've always tried to keep alliances on an even playing field so that my vote always did matter more. I was always a deciding factor. So I kind of just developed a tough skin over the years and to see people get so upset, so hurt, "everybody's a snake," I mean, jesus, you know this is a selfish game. And people got caught up in the house and lost focus of the end goal.

I think me being on the outside looking in, it worked to my advantage because I can always pop in every once in a while, say a piece or two and to try to nudge alliances in certain directions, and then act like it wasn't my idea, and then somehow end up in the final. [Laughs] "I'm still here!" And as time went on, people become more concerned about just getting there [to the final] and taking their chances than trying to make power moves. And the way the format worked out, it worked in my favor. But at the same time, I'll give it to the vet alliance — for the most part, everybody stuck to their word, unless it was a personal vendetta. I could have gotten thrown in, my road to the final could have been a hell of a lot harder. I know that's not necessarily the best for TV, but for me, that made it a lot easier to share some of that money. It would have been a lot harder for me to get to that final if I didn't have help and everybody in that final with me helped me one way or another. It was only right to share the money. I know what it's like to go to a final and not get anything. But I got lucky again, is what I'm trying to say.

But it's more than just luck. It takes a strong political, social, and physical game to win The Challenge. I mean, look at Devin — he conquered the political and social aspect this season but when it came to the final, he couldn't perform at the same level as the rest of your team.

Yeah, I was doing a lot with Devin. One minute I was trying to give him tough love, "You want me to hold your hand?" The next minute, I was like, "Come on, we all love you." I was just giving him anything I got and talking him up. I know from experience, yeah, of course being in the best shape on planet Earth is going to help but you need brains just as much as you need brawn. Me going on Devin's team was sort of like, he could be considered the brains of that Emerald operation, so if I took that from the other team, they're all in great shape, it showed when it came to the puzzles that was the equalizer for us. So if I get him on my side, even if we show up at a checkpoint a little behind the other team, it's probably a good chance we're going to be able to catch up and regain the lead and sure enough it happened. Smarter, not harder.

You absolutely smashed that torpedo puzzle immediately.

I'd like to give credit to my son, there's nothing like having a five-year-old who you can do puzzles with all the time. I swear to god.

The Challenge
'The Challenge: Spies, Lies, and Allies'
| Credit: MTV

After the elimination in the final, were you happy that Kaycee picked you as her partner or did you want to run the last leg with Tori or Emy instead?

I knew what time it was. What was great about Kaycee was the only time we talked to each other was when we said, "Let's go win this final," and then when we get to the top of the mountain, I was like, "You want the first 10 or the last 10?" She said, "First." I was like, "Cool." And then I talked to her again when I got to the bottom and we just ran it up, punched in the numbers and boom, done. I've got to give it to her, after that elimination purge or whatever with Nany, she was dialed in. I could see in her eyes, she was pissed. When she picked me, of course you're always worried about somebody getting hurt, but I wasn't worried about her abilities. I knew she wanted it and she was more than capable. I wasn't even worried about her remembering her numbers or anything. It was actually nice to be on a team where you just didn't have to worry about my partner at all. And it was brief, but it was probably the most important partner I had the whole season.

It was close, though. It was a foot race. There was all this trying to stay ahead of each other and to build the lead, and when we got to that final checkpoint, it didn't matter because everybody started at the same point. It was whoever finishes first wins. That's it. But that's The Challenge, you don't know what to expect, just take it as it comes. If I were to toot my own horn, I would say that's probably my biggest strength, being able to adapt.

Have you been listening to Johnny Bananas' Challenge podcast? Because he brings that up and talks about you in pretty much every episode, about how you're on a different level than any other competitor.

I like to take Bananas here with a grain of salt. Johnny is the king of the backhanded compliments. I'm sure there's always this open-ended clause and it's somehow a bad thing, I don't know. There's always something.

It's actually not, he's being serious about how good he thinks you are.

What's he say about me? It can't be anything good.

It is good! He says he could replicate any other player's strategy, but he could never pull off what you do. He really talks about it a lot. I think he's either being honest about how he thinks you're the GOAT, or he's trying to play the long game and put the target on you so if he ever comes back, you'd be a bigger threat than he is.

Oh, of course. There you go. He's laying the groundwork so that when he comes back, I'm public enemy No. 1. See! [Laughs] Me and Bananas need a rubber mat, because me and him are 1-1 against each other in a final. Who knows, if the moon and the stars align, me and him get to go head-to-head one more time in a final, and really settle it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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