On Sunday's season finale of Survivor: China, Todd Herzog, the 22-year-old flight attendant from Pleasant Grove, Utah, beat out his two biggest allies, Courtney and Amanda, to win the grand prize. The next day, he told TVGuide.com about his strategy, those immunity idols and what he plans to do next.
TVGuide.com: Congratulations! So tell the truth — did you pretty much know you were going to win?
Todd Herzog: I had no idea. I thought it was Courtney — for months I thought it was her. She surprised everybody. She came out there expecting to go home first, second or third, and instead she made it to the final three. This girl did an amazing job for the kind of person she is; she just took everybody by complete surprise. When it came down to the final vote, she owned at tribal council. Between me and her, we both did a really good job answering questions, and I felt kind of bad for Amanda, because she just kind of stumbled with her words.
TVGuide.com: So why is it that Amanda ended up coming in third?
Todd: The one downfall with Amanda was that she tried not to make personal relations with anybody because she didn't want to end up lying to them. But because she didn't make personal relations — other than me, I guess — people didn't even care that she was still in the game.
TVGuide.com: Whereas you made relationships but then stabbed people in the back.
Todd: I let people know, "Look, I love you guys and you're all my buddies, but I'm playing a game." I was there for one reason. Aside from personal relationships that we'd created, I wanted to show them that I'd played my game. These are friends I'll have for the rest of my life. Most definitely Courtney and Frosti — those two are some amazing people who I'll never forget.
TVGuide.com: It seemed that you swayed more than one vote in your direction at that final tribal council. Did your gift of gab win you the million dollars?
Todd: I [think so], actually, especially with Jean-Robert. He's a guy who's very proud. So I knew going into that tribal council that if I made him feel like he was better than me, and that that's why I had to get rid of him, than I had a really good shot at getting his vote. He's a man who likes to be told that he's great. And that's what I did — I wanted these people to know that they'd played a great game, and that's why they were where they were, but I played a little bit better.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think your original alliance lasted all the way to the end?
Todd: I knew going in that I couldn't do it alone, so I grabbed somebody who I could trust, Amanda; I grabbed someone smaller than me, Courtney; I needed someone bigger than me, James. I just knew that all these different people were going to help me get to a spot that would make me end up winning.
TVGuide.com: What did you think of James not playing his immunity idols?
Todd: We had him convinced that he was definitely not being voted out; he thought he was set. And I don't blame him — if I were in his position, with the convincing that we had done, I probably would have felt as safe as he did.
TVGuide.com: What about your decision to hand him the idol?
Todd: I wasn't positive that it was going to be the exact same at Zhan Hu, so I said, "Take it as insurance and give it back to me if you can." And you know what, he did say to me, "I'll share this with you." I figured I needed the biggest guy on my side, and my handing it over to him proved my loyalty to him.
TVGuide.com: So after the merge, when he returned to camp, did you ask for the idol back?
Todd: We talked about it a lot; he was like, "If you feel like you're going to be voted out, let me know, and I'll give you one of those idols back." He offered it to me, but he never handed it to me. As it started getting down in numbers, I wasn't being handed the idol, so it became, "OK, this guy clearly has other ideas, time to get rid of him." It really got down to the nitty-gritty; if he had any chance of getting into the final three, he would have won, so we needed to get rid of him.
TVGuide.com: Any thoughts on what you're going to do with the money?
Todd: Traveling is a really big thing that I need to do in my life. I'm going to get myself a new car and pay off a few debts, but I'm also going to try to invest wisely because I want to make this money last. It's not every day you get a million-dollar pay check.
TVGuide.com: What do you think about the new season of Survivor, the Fans vs. Favorites concept?
Todd: I'm so excited for it — to see 10 diehard fans like myself playing against 10 Survivors is going to be amazing. I can't wait. I'm rooting for the diehards, personally.
TVGuide.com: Jeff mentioned last night that at least one person from China is going to be on the show — are you one of the favorites?
Todd: I know who it's going to be, but I can't share that with you....
TVGuide.com: So did your being such a fan of the show help you in the end?
Todd: Absolutely. This is something I've wanted since I was 15 years old. Every day people would come up to me and say, "OK, so what's about to happen?" and "What does this mean in the tree mail?" I would make predictions, and a lot of times they would come out right, and people were just shocked by it. I think the best part of it all for me was that being on Survivor and winning the game was my ultimate goal. This has been my dream for years and years now. The fact that my dream was able to come true literally blows my mind.
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