The nice guy finished last, and he couldn't be happier.
"Because in Survivor, you want to be the last one," said Bob Crowley, talking by phone with TVGuide.com the morning after he won Survivor: Gabon. "You don't want to be the first one."
The high school physics teacher from Portland, Maine, stayed in the game by making himself useful to other contestants, being friendly to everyone, and at one point constructing a false idol. Host Jeff Probst called him one of the most likable winners in the show's history.
The winner was revealed in California, but Crowley arrived New York Monday morning for talk show appearances. He squeezed in a phone call with us to talk about his strategy, his competition, and how he hopes to work with the Red Cross now that he's won.
TVGuide.com: How are you feeling? The last few hours must have been amazing.
Bob: The last 24 have been just a whirlwind. I'm still sort of on a high from winning the show and then Brett (Gold, a CBS representative) dragged me right out of the show. I got to kiss my wife once and then I've been hanging out with him on the plane and hanging out like some celebrity.
TVGuide.com: You mentioned on last night's show that your students had a test this morning.
Bob: My students are taking a test this morning, theoretically. There's a difference in theory and practice. I've gotten about four text messages: Mr. Crowley, if you win, do we have to take the test? I wouldn't be surprised if I got back and the test was still on my desk. They'll probably get my substitute to turn on the Regis show rather than take the test.
TVGuide.com: So you've been in touch with your students recently — when did you come back from Gabon?
Bob: I've been in school all fall. I got back from Gabon in the first week in August, so I had to start school without even disclosing where I was, even though there were a lot of rumors. And then of course I haven't been able to tell them what I knew of the show until now.
TVGuide: Has there been any downside to all this?
Bob: The only downside is my wife is now on the West Coast and I'm on the East Coast. I'd kind of like to celebrate with her but it's kind of hard to do. ... But I haven't seen the downside yet.
TVGuide.com: When were you pretty confident you had the votes?
Bob: I knew that I had three. I knew I had Corinne, Charlie and Marcus. I was sure that I didn't have Kenny and Crystal. Matty I thought I might have, and Randy was sort of the swing vote. I thought I might've had him but until they turned the vote over I honestly had no idea. And I refused myself to even hope that he would vote for me. I had to take it one day at a time and there were a lot of days I had to take at a time.
TVGuide.com: When you first got there, who did you think was the strongest competitor? Besides yourself.
Bob: I had no idea that I'd be able to get as far as I did. I think people like Marcus, Charlie, Matty definitely, Dan definitely had the potential. There were a lot of — Ace — I knew people like Ace were at risk because he started strategizing and planning right off. And I'd watched enough of the shows, historically, to know that's not a good thing to do. In this show it was definite. Anybody that was out there looking to strategize, to control, to manipulate, they got shut down. Unless you did it like Kenny did it. He had me completely fooled. He was playing so far under the radar and strategizing very well. But people like Jacquie, Jacquie didn't even make the jury. And she's an incredible athlete, very bright, and definitely had the potential for a winner.
TVGuide.com: You're the oldest person ever to win Survivor. Do you feel like you're an inspiration to older people not? Not that 57 is even old.
Bob: That was very politically correct. Actually I know I am. I know I'm an inspiration. These people are so excited. I'm gonna be two years from 60 in February and I know I'm an inspiration. I'm pretty proud of that. I think I'll get people excited to apply for the show and hopefully follow in my footsteps.
TVGuide.com: There was a lot of talk before the jury about whether winners would do something charitable with the money. Do you know what you'll do?
Bob: The first thing that came to mind was just bringing my wife to Africa, which is not charitable. I think it's more important that I spend my time and my energy helping people and what I'd like to do is — I've been planning this almost from the beginning — because I've been to Africa I can't give blood anymore, and so I'd like to work with the Red Cross. And because there's so many Survivor fans out there, I'd like to encourage people especially now that it's Christmas time and they have a hard time collecting blood. When I get home I'm going to call the Red Cross and ask them what I can do to help them increase the blood collection. And what I thought I'd do is go to blood collecting sites and sign autographs for people who have given blood.
TVGuide.com: Anything to add?
Bob: Only to not hang the phone up too loudly, because I'm living a dream and I don't want you to wake me up.