In what just so happened to be the series' 200th episode, CBS' Survivor: Fiji wrapped up its season with a unanimous vote for Earl Cole. While the "haves" versus the "have-nots" theme kept the first half of the season rolling along at a predictable pace, Fiji eventually turned out to be must-see television, as its cast of characters demonstrated how (and how not) to play the game. TV Guide.com spoke with Cole, fresh off his win, about his time on the island, his nearly perfect game play and a secret they didn't show us.
TVGuide.com: I believe you're the first African-American male to win the show. How does it feel?
Earl Cole: I feel good about that and I'm happy that I played a good game, a smart game. I'm glad to know that you can be a role model to somebody and that you can show them that you don't have to lie and cheat to go far.
TVGuide.com: You've said that you tried to play a straight game. Does that mean that you never lied?
Earl: No, I did. You have to. I won't say I would directly lie, but sometimes I would elude the truth. Someone would ask, "Are you going to vote me out?" and you'd say something like, "I don't know how I'm going to vote." You feel really crappy doing that all the time. Sure, they'll buy it for a while, but then you just have to lie. It's a part of the game.
TVGuide.com: What was the turning point in the game for you?
Earl: It was definitely Dreamz making that decision [to keep immunity] in the final four. I know that was later in the game, but that was pretty big. The first turning point was when Michelle got voted off. That changed everything.
TVGuide.com: Was you relationship with Michelle your strongest alliance?
Earl: We had a good alliance because she was playing a role of being on the fence while she was giving me information. She was cool and there was that whole Ravu bond that we had. When she got voted out all of a sudden it was like, "Wow, they've just changed everything around!" So with that we had to move to another alliance.
TVGuide.com: You spent the most time on Exile Island.
Earl: [Laughs] It's now "Earl Island."
TVGuide.com: What were your favorite challenges?
Earl: My favorite challenge was the pole challenge when we were pushing each other through the course.
TVGuide.com: With the giant pinwheel?
Earl: Yes. But doing the Meke — that was, by far, my favorite.
TVGuide.com: You were very serious about the dance. How long did you practice?
Earl: Of course, I had to be! We had two hours to learn it, and I didn't want to disrespect the culture. I had to take it seriously because the leader had to be fierce. He had to be very serious.
TVGuide.com: You had an immunity idol and you played it just to play it. But did you want to show people that you had it, just to let them know that you found it and intimidate them a little bit?
Earl: Uh-huh. You know, the funny thing is a lot of people don't know that I had both idols.
TVGuide.com: What do you mean?
Earl: I'll tell you a secret: I had planned a strategic move to stop Boo from looking for the other the hidden idol. I used Yau's idol to trick Boo into thinking that I had already found it so that I could actually continue looking for the real idol. Once I found it, I had both Yau's idol and the other idol.
TVGuide.com: You're quite the actor! You were always pretending that you had no idea what the idol even looked like and yet you had two in your pocket!
Earl: [Laughs] It's a poker game out there.
TV Guide: No kidding! And you won.
Let our new Online Video Guide show you some Survivor: Fiji video clips.
Reality-TV fans can find gobs of scoop on Dancing with the Stars' remaining finalists in the May 14 issue of TV Guide. Try four risk-free issues now!
Send your comments on this Q&A to firstname.lastname@example.org.