Tyson had control of the reins for the majority of the season, and was widely assumed to be the frontrunner going into the final three with Gervase Peterson and Monica Culpepper. The newest Survivor champ spoke with TVGuide.com the day after his victory to break down his strategy for the season — and admit which contestants he wouldn't want to play against if he returns to the show.
Congratulations on your win! Did you have a different strategy this time around?
I really tried to not alienate anybody. You don't want to alienate anybody because you always want to assume that you can use anybody in the game at any given time, so I tried to keep all my options open by being friendly and personable with everybody I could. And it didn't always work out. For example, Katie was pretty alienated from the group, but I had given her chances and she didn't take them. So then at that point there was nothing I could do.
From an entertainment perspective, how do you think this season, overall, stacks up to Tocantins and Heroes vs. Villains?
I liked it. I thought it was pretty good, but I find myself more hilarious than most people find me. I laugh harder at my jokes than anybody else does. So that's kind of a biased view. Most people have said it's the best season since Heroes vs. Villains, which I was also a part of. So I'm fine with that.
Was Aras' ouster the biggest move you can point to that you feel led to your victory?
Yeah, I think that definitely was the catalyst. That was where I kind of took charge and then had to kind of just jump in the driver's seat and navigate from there. So I would say so. I think Aras and Vytas, it was important to get both of them out.
Did you think Vytas' remarks at the final Tribal Council, when he said he was sticking to his promise to not vote for you, were petty?
Yeah, I did. But I knew how it was going to come off on TV, so I was like, I'll have the last laugh, bro.
Winning the final immunity challenges was also key to your victory. Did you take a different approach, and were you surprised you won both of them?
I didn't throw any [of the earlier] challenges, but I kind of took a more laid-back approach to some of them, as opposed to Tocantins where I went full speed ahead from the gate. And I wasn't as concerned with winning them until we had gotten closer to the end there. At that point I was like, "OK, now I really need to start winning some of these." I was a little worried I wasn't going to win any challenges this year, so I'm happy that I got those last two. I think they couldn't have been at a better moment either. The closer it got, the more focused I became at the challenges, because the more I knew I would probably need it. And so to get those last two was definitely good for my game.
Did you give the immunity idol to Gervase in one of the final councils because you were worried about Monica flipping on your alliance? Were you surprised she didn't?
No, we felt pretty confident with Monica, but we had the idol, and it was the last time you could play it, so why not? Just cover all your bases. It would have been a shame had she decided to go with them and we felt confident enough to not play it at all.
One of the craziest things about this season was when you, Katie and Ciera decided to draw rocks — only the second time that's happened in 27 seasons. Talk about that Tribal Council and what led to your decision.
Going into it, I felt pretty confident that Ciera was with us. The first mistake was Gervase choosing me and Monica for ice cream. I had told Gervase so many times on the show, "If you win a reward challenge, do not choose me. Choose somebody else. Break up the other alliance so they can't scheme." And he's like, '"OK, OK, I won't." And at that moment, when ice cream was mentioned, I was like, "I hope he picks me." But at the time I was like, "He needs to pick Ciera. That's who needs to go on this thing." And he chose me. Then even after that, she seemed super solid still. She's like, "Eh, whatever. Ice cream, shmice cream." I was like, "Right, Ciera." It wasn't until the Tribal Council ... because I had put in a lot of work with Ciera. Right at the tribe swap I'd come to her and told her I'd have her back ... and all those things. And so, she was feeling pretty comfortable with me, but when Gervase and Monica started making her feel like she was number four, things just started going bad real quick.
Sharing too much information seemed to be a recurring problem, especially with Monica.
Right, exactly. And sometimes that works to your advantage and sometimes that works to your disadvantage. For a while there I was like, [Monica's] talking too much to everybody. But then since she was talking too much to everybody, nobody knew what was really going on, or what Monica even thought was going on.
You had a shoulder injury early on. What happened and how did you overcome it?
I dislocated my shoulder and strained some tendons on the back of my shoulder. And it probably took me about two weeks before I could even move it a little bit. After that it started warming up. I would say near the end when I did those final challenges, I had full range of motion. I probably just didn't have full strength. I didn't need shoulder strength for those challenges. And now, it's almost 100 percent. There's a little pain sometimes, but it doesn't hurt that bad and it's supposed to make a full recovery without any surgeries.
Was that part of your decision to sit out the body weight/rope challenge?
No. My decision to sit out that challenge and eat was, I wanted everyone to vote for me. Because I had heard that my name was being brought up, so I was like, "I don't want to win this challenge and then have people vote for Gervase or Monica or Ciera or whoever," and me not know which direction it's going. So I'm going to make sure people are voting for me, that they're definitely voting for me. And I was like, "I may as well eat."
If you were to play Survivor again, which contestant(s) from this season would you not want to be pitted against?
I would not want to go up against Hayden, because when he gets backed into a corner he gets really feisty and he really, really fights to stay alive. And I wouldn't want to go against Ciera because she's unpredictable. I don't know that all the moves she made were necessarily the right moves, but because she kept moving back and forth and back and forth, it makes it really hard to get in her head and say, "What's Ciera going to do, and how can I sell her on this idea?"
How was it seeing the "Blood vs. Water" dynamic play out between the different pairs of loved ones?
It was interesting because I don't think that Survivor knew fully what to expect either. They were like, "We have this great idea and here's a couple twists we can throw in there." But I don't think that they could have predicted some of the things that happened. It was interesting to see the Rupert swap [for his wife Laura]. It was kind of surprising, but the way Jeff Probst worded it, he challenged Rupert, and Rupert [accepted it].
You said repeatedly that Rachel's elimination motivated you throughout the season.
I dragged her all the way out there to do something that was probably more important to me than to her. I felt like I couldn't just goof around and waste my time out there and waste her time away from home to do that. And so, it kind of gave me the energy or the motivation to really focus and really make sure I went as far in the game as I possibly could.
Any final thoughts or words of wisdom?
I get people all the time that are like, "I'd love to be on that show" and I'm like, "Well, how many times have you applied?" And they're like, "Zero." And it's like, "Oh. Well, that's one of the main things you have to do to even get on the show." That's the very first step. So if you want to go on the show, just send in an audition. It's not that hard. My audition was like five lines in an email message.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)