Yam Yam Arocho reveals the Survivor 44 jury vote that surprised him the most
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Yam Yam Arocho told us on day one of Survivor how excited he was to poop in the ocean. And if Yam Yam was excited to take part in the ritual known as "aqua-dumping," imagine how excited he was to be crowned the winner of Survivor 44 on Wednesday's season finale.
Working with his Three Stooges Tika alliance, Yam Yam helped take out both the Ratu and Soka tribes, then rode his superior social game all the way to victory, defeating Heidi Lagares-Greenblatt and Carolyn Wiger in the final jury vote. It wasn't a surprising result if you watched how Yam Yam made his fellow players smile and laugh all season long.
Yam Yam took a big risk along the way, helping Carson Garrett hone his fire-making skills, even though that could potentially help Carson defeat him at fire, or defeat someone else and sneak into the final 3. But when Carson didn't get there, Yam Yam was the jury's choice.
We spoke to the newly-minted winner to get his take on the big victory, if he could have beaten Carson with the jury, what we didn't see on TV, and if he's ready to do it all over again. You can watch the entire interview above or read it below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let's get to the most important question first. You told us on day 1 how excited you were to poop in the ocean. How was it?
YAM YAM AROCHO: It was everything I could have imagined and more. If you've never done it, try it. Oh, I've done it ever since. You know, I go to the beach every Sunday and once in a while I go like, Oh, let's do it like Fiji again. [Laughs]. And I go.
Let's talk about the big win. How confident were you walking into that final Tribal Council?
Well, I was not confident. And I think that was the reason I went so hard for it. It was because after Heidi making that fire, it lit up something in me. I couldn't sleep that night. When Heidi did that, it was so f---ing amazing. But I went to the camp and I thought all night long about my relationships with every single person and where I was in every vote and where I was with everyone.
When I walked into that Tribal, I made sure to tell everyone how I connected with them. If it wasn't for the motivation and for how afraid I was for Heidi's move, I might have been different.
Could you sense things going your way as it went on and that the jury was picking up what you were putting down?
At some point, I had some lines that were good. I know how my words fall on people, and I see their reaction and stuff, and I like when they're laughing and they're being receptive. That was my thing about using people's reaction and my connection with them to my favor. When Frannie was like, "Wow, that's awesome!" I was like, I think I'm saying something that is making sense on the other side.
Did I think it was enough? No, of course not. I really respected Carolyn's game and I saw Carolyn's game more than anyone saw it, because I was with her all the time, and she saw my game as well. And Heidi, I respected also the stuff she did. It was not a sure thing in my head, but definitely there was some stuff that I said that I knew was making sense.
I'm sure you were doing jury math in your head, so which votes surprised you?
The vote that surprised me the most that I got — and I think it's because he just was not giving me any kind of information when I was talking — it was Kane. He was, like, blank, you know? And when everything was over, he comes to me and he smiles — 'cause he has a good smile — and he goes, "Yam Yam, that was amazing!" And I was like, "Oh." That surprised me. I mean, any people that voted for me surprised me. But Kane, he was very, very, very good about not giving any emotions during the jury, so I didn't know what was going in his head.
Okay, let's get into that scene where we see you helping Carson practice fire, even though that could potentially help him beat you at fire, or beat someone else at fire and then get into the final 3. What was your thought process like when it came to that?
There was nothing about the game. In a lot of scenarios, I played like that and I worked like that. You know, my friend is Carson. I loved everyone, but Carson and Carolyn were there with me since day 1. And I saw him do such amazing things during the game that it would've been not myself to let my friend fail in such a way.
When I was practicing fire on the rock with Carolyn, we got it right away. But Carson was in a little corner of the beach, and I go to him and he's asking for his space because he's such a proper gentleman. I was like, "I want to talk to you. What's going on?" And he breaks down and talks about how afraid he is of the fire in a way that I've never seen him talk about anything like that before. I knew he wasn't playing at that moment. The way he was talking to me was not a game.
So I could only do what I normally do with people and I help people that need something, and I know how to help them, you know? He did the fire against the fastest fire-making person in the history of Survivor. He had a flame. In the history of Survivor, she was the fastest fire-making ever. So the fact that he had a fire against the fastest fire-[maker] was exactly what I wanted for all of us.
Well, he had a good coach. If Carson does beat Heidi at fire, and he gets in there and you have an all-Tika final three, what happens?
I win every time, Dalton, I win every time. I'm kidding! I don't know. I don't play "What if Survivor." What happens, happens. But it might have been closer. I don't know. Maybe.
Well, let's say you had won that final immunity challenge. Who would you have brought with you to the end and who would you put to fire?
Had I won Simmotion? It's funny because I always ask Carson who would he have brought, but I never asked myself. I was like, "Carson, would you have put me against the fire?" I think I would've put Carson and Carolyn against each other, but that would not have been probably the best jury move. They would've voted for each other, so I would've given them a vote at the end had I done that.
I trusted my fire-making skills good enough to put myself against someone. And I did talk about that before we went to the last immunity challenge. But when you have that necklace around your neck, you think about it a little bit extra — you know, maybe I don't want to put myself in danger. But it was a possibility of me putting myself against one of them.
Were you and Carolyn faking arguments out there so people wouldn't realize you were as aligned as you were? How much of that was real and how much was acting?
We were. Carolyn and I were very in tune about everything that was going on and we would talk about faking arguments. But Miss Carolyn, halfway through my faking the argument — like at the "Bye, Felicia" Tribal Council — she forgot! We were joking and she was like, "Whoa!" And turning against me and going "Are you for real? Are you serious?" And I'm like, "Girl, we're good. It was a joke." "Oh no, no. If you said it, it was because you meant it!"
I was like, Oh my God, I'm a good actor. I'm such a good actor that I play Carolyn in our acting thing, but that's how Carolyn is. Carolyn is such a good player that she was always a step ahead in terms of like, "Maybe they're not, maybe it's just true." But I was like, "Carolyn, you know, it was like a joke!" I'm happy everybody enjoyed it, but it to me I was like, Oh my God, here we go again.
How much weight did you lose out there?
I weighed myself four days after I came back. I had already eaten for four days and I had lost 35 pounds. So I estimate it was a little bit more.
What's something that happened out there on the island that never made it to TV that you wish we had gotten a chance to see?
The amount of laughter we were having around the fire, like at Va Va when Frannie was voted off, Carolyn went on her walk and she's taking forever like she always does. We're going to bed and everyone's like "What's going on with Carolyn? Where is she?" And I go like, "Oh my gosh, it's her walk. Poor guy." The poor guy being the [interviewing producer] talking to Carolyn. And everybody just burst out in laughter.
Every time Jaime and I would look at each other, it was just laughter, laughter, laughter for, like, 30 minutes. It's like endless laughter. Everybody cannot stop. Every time we look at ourselves, we only had to say, "Poor guy." So every time somebody would go on a walk, we'll say, "Oh, poor guy." The Poor Guy T-shirt is coming.
You wrote your name down as the winner of Survivor 44. Will you write your name down again? If they ask you to play this game again, what will you say?
Hell yeah. I told Jeff right away. I told Jeff the second it was over, I screamed at that Tribal Council, "If you want me to do this, I'll do it tomorrow." I loved it so much and to have Heidi and me as Puerto Ricans — the first time two Puerto Ricans played together. It's been 44 seasons. The first time two Puerto Ricans played together, and we're one and two. We're very, very proud.
What about The Amazing Race with Carolyn? Would you do that?
I will play The Amazing Race with Carolyn any day. Will we be good at it? That's a whole other story.
It was a blast to watch you all season long and I love you as a winner and perfect representation of the season. Congratulations!
It's such an honor to be able to represent 44 with such amazing people around me. I could not have asked for a better family like Survivor family. I'm so lucky. They're amazing.
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