“Survivor” Champion Tyson Apostol – “I’m Not Going to Play Gordon’s Stupid Game”

“Survivor: Winners at War” (CBS)

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Editor’s Note: The players were separated by gender and didn’t officially know the theme of the season when this interview took place.

Another Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted across from the giant “Boston” Rob and Sandra heads at the Island of the Idols.

Winner of “Blood vs. Water” (2013)

Name: Tyson Apostol

Age: 39

Hometown: Lindon: Utah

Current Residence: Mesa, Arizona

Occupation: Son, husband, father, friend


Gordon Holmes: What’ve you been up to since we saw you last?

Tyson Apostol: I was on a show that I don’t talk about much, “Marriage Boot Camp,” with my now-wife Rachel. I got engaged on that show. And I’ve had two daughters, an almost four year old and an almost one year old. I don’t know why I say that…it’s easier than the month thing.

Holmes: (Expletive deleted) math.

Apostol: Yeah, I have a 92-month-old daughter.

Holmes: It seems like fatherhood has changed you. With your hair cut and that shirt and tie…

Apostol: Has it?

Holmes: This isn’t video, I can make up whatever I want.

Apostol: (Laughs) I see what you’re doing. But, yeah being a dad has changed me. My kids are my priority rather than just myself. I don’t work out as much as…not even as much as I’d like to. I like to stay home with my kids. I skip out on a lot of stuff like that because I want to be with my kids, not because I have to be with my kids. I’m probably more patient. You have to be patient with kids, they’re just kids. They don’t know everything. They haven’t lived for forty years yet. You’ve got to cut them a little slack.

Holmes: You can’t be like, “What are you doing? Stupid.”

Apostol: And then just ground them. I don’t even make jokes about them being stupid, Gordon.

Holmes: I’m taking this all in. This isn’t just for the “Survivor” community. My wife and I are trying to start a family and I need all of the help I can get.

Apostol: Have you tried intercourse?

Holmes: (Laughs) With a woman?

Apostol: (Laughs)

Holmes: (Laughs) Gross.

Apostol: (Laughs) My best dad advice is; everything you say has to be building them up. Once you send them off to school people are going to be trying to destroy their confidence.

Holmes: Interesting.

Apostol: Just build them sky high. And then when they come home and say, “Well, so-and-so doesn’t want to play with me.” “Well, they’re missing out. You’re awesome. Everything you do is awesome.” They’re going to have a whole lifetime of people cutting them down.  So, if you can build them high enough, that even when someone cuts them down, they’re still going to be sky high? Then they’re going to be OK.


Holmes: You’re a pretty well known “Survivor” player.

Apostol: I’d say top ten of all time. Wouldn’t you?

Holmes: You’re on the cusp. What do you think people think of when they remember your gameplay?

Apostol: There’s a spectrum of; is he really that big of an (expletive deleted) in real life? He’s funny, he’s my favorite player. I get a lot of people quoting my one-liners from the show. I’ve seen t-shirts with my quotes on them. I think people think I’m generally goofy, quirky, kind of weird. I feel like I mask my intelligence pretty well. It’s not even a persona, it’s who I am. I like to celebrate in the ridiculousness of whatever situation I’m in.

Holmes: Do you get a cut of those t-shirt sales?

Apostol: I don’t! They’re illegal I guess. People on Facebook are like, “We love Tyson so much that we made this shirt,” and it has some quote on it that I said…probably. But for the most part people think I’m out here to have fun and be silly. People may view me as more of a threat now. I’m hoping they don’t. I’ve been pretty chill at Ponderosa with the pre-game stuff. I’ve tried to joke around with people. Hopefully they are not threatened. But the thing is, I have a pointy face and pointy faces are villainous.

Holmes: Of course.

Apostol: I have to offset that by being silly.

Holmes: I’ve never heard that before.

Apostol: Name an American hero that has a pointy face, even from “Survivor.” Look at all the heroes; Colby? Round. Tom Westman? Round. Rupert? Round. All round faces with pudgier noses.

Holmes: Do you take the roundness of a face into account when deciding who to trust?

Apostol: No, it has nothing to do with that. It’s just their initial impression of you. I know that pointy faces can be trusted. I will never be someone that all of the “Survivor” fanbase can rally around and love forever because my face is too pointy.

Holmes: That’s heartbreaking. You have no control over that.

Apostol: Can I help it that I have perfect cheekbones?

Holmes: Don’t get me wrong, I get it. I distrust you because of your perfect cheekbones.

Apostol: And also the pointy face. The pointy gaunt face.

Holmes: It’s like it points out the insecurities I have with my own stupid face.

Apostol: Exactly.

Holmes: But as far as your game…man, we’re way off track…do you lean into your reputation or do you try to play against type?

Apostol: You lean into that. I think I have to lean into the fact that people think I’m funny. I am funny. I think people like to have fun. You may disagree with this, but I think I am probably the most personable person here.

Holmes: I wouldn’t disagree with that.

Apostol: People want to keep that person around on a subconscious level. Even if that gives you a 1 or 2% advantage, that’s an advantage. It’s all about marginal gains.

Holmes: Is this poker talk?

Apostol: No, this is cycling talk. Marginal gains means if you can do one extra thing with your diet that gives you .2% advantage, that’s an advantage. And, if you do enough of those things, it adds up to equal 5% which would be a huge advantage. I see being a likable as an advantage. Do you disagree?

Holmes: I agree, to a point.

Apostol: To a point, but I’ve got that pointy face.

Holmes: Which counterbalances it.

Apostol: People won’t be threatened by me being too likable.

Holmes: You have every angle covered.

Apostol: I was born for this.

Holmes: It’s almost not fair.


Holmes: You’ve done two all-star seasons…well, one all-star and one halfsy.

Apostol: Like one and a half.

Holmes: What’s the difference? Some of these people have never had to deal with that. If you were giving advice, and you shouldn’t, what advice would you give?

Apostol: For an all-star season? The game moves faster right from the gun. But then, that’s it. What do you think? I think you have to hit the ground running, lock up your people real quick, and then once you settle into that, it’s not too much different.

Holmes: I’d imagine being a known quantity can work in your favor or against you depending on what you did in your previous game.

Apostol: Not just that, but in All-Stars they didn’t have social media. But, now I see people’s Instagrams, I see Twitter feeds, I know their kids’ names. I know who does crossfit, I know who does yoga. I don’t do either of that stuff, so I should probably win this thing pretty handily. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school, I’m not a lawyer. I’m not vegan or keto. So, I can win this. Every time I win a challenge, I’m going to attribute it to the fact that I don’t do crossfit.

Holmes: I am the best person at wiping down a child after they’ve crapped themselves.

Apostol: I’m number one…

Holmes: At number two.

Apostol: (Silence)

Holmes: I’m not proud of that.


Holmes: With returnee seasons, there’s always talk of pre-season alliances. Have you been taking part in any of that?

Apostol: No. You get text messages from people you’ve never gotten text messages from saying things like, “Oh, I love the pictures of your kids on Instagram.” And I’m thinking for sure they got a phone call.

Holmes: Who’s making that move?

Apostol: Natalie Anderson, she texted me. She hadn’t texted me for two years maybe. Michele Fitzgerald.

Holmes: You and Rob are pretty close.

Apostol: I know Rob really well. But, the second he got a phone call, we haven’t spoken to each other.

Holmes: You guys used to have those legendary eating competitions in Samoa.

Apostol: Eat a pizza for an appetizer, then hit two lobster tails for your dinner. You would have loved it.

Holmes: Oh man…I’m on an active diet now.

Apostol: You look good. I can tell you’ve slimmed up a bit.

Holmes: Welp, that’s definitely making this interview. But, just the thought of a pizza right now…

Apostol: You can have pizza every now and then.

Holmes: I love food, but I’m trying to do a better job of it.


Holmes: They haven’t told you a twist yet, but if you had to guess…

Apostol: I think it’s men vs. women in some capacity. We haven’t seen the women yet, that’s unfair to mix us…I mean, it’s unfair to everyone. We don’t know if they’re at a fancy resort. We don’t know if they’ve dealt with as much (expletive deleted) as us. So, I could see it being easier to deal with the guys. I’ve got three theories.

Holmes: Hit me.

Apostol: The most obvious is it’s men vs. women to start off. The second is it’s a “One World” kind of situation, which is something I’ve never experienced. You can then dictate, to some degree, what the other tribe does without having to go to Tribal Council. But then, your game can get screwed in a lot of ways because there are twenty people out there instead of ten that you have to manage. That would make it a very tangled web. And third, this is more of me being, “You know what would make this really radical?” If they had the ten men and ten women do challenges separately for individual immunity and vote a person off and then you could divide it into three tribes of six. You’d want one man and one woman gone before you did that.


Holmes: If there are women here, and I’m not saying there are, who do you think you’re going to see?

Apostol: Sandra…Parv…Michele…maybe. Natalie Anderson, Denise, Tina (Wesson), Danni Boatwright. Hmm…and some other ones that are forgettable.

Holmes: Maybe…if they’re even here.


Holmes: You pull this off, you’ll get a giant wooden head like the ones across the way.

Apostol: Exactly.

Holmes: What kind of target do you think you have on your back at jump?

Apostol: I feel like I understand the game better than every player out here. And I don’t think people realize that. I don’t think they know that I’m as good as I am at this game. And so, I feel like I need to prove that.

Holmes: Do you think they think that “Blood vs. Water” was a fluke?

Apostol: I think they didn’t see how strategic I was. I think that’s something that’s for me. I was constantly whispering in everyone’s ear, dictating what happened. It would be nice to prove that. And my blunder on “Heroes vs. Villains” is what created Parvati and Russell’s (Hantz) legacy.

Holmes: Yeah, that’s on you.

Apostol: That’s on me. I’m so sorry that I did that. Without me they would be just another “Survivor” contestant, especially Russell. So, I feel like I need to do what I should have done on “Heroes vs. Villains” and just steamroll some of the best players in the game to prove that I’m the best player in the game.


Holmes: You’re in lockdown, but people try to communicate. Are you participating in any of that?

Apostol: Yeah, I’ve gotten good vibes from pretty much everyone. Wendell is the only one who’s pretty tough to crack. And I know Wendell a little bit. I don’t know if he’s not into my shenanigans or if he’s trying to play it cool like we don’t know each other at all. I already have a plan for him if I decide he’s not with me. Wanna hear it?

Holmes: Oh my God, yes.

Apostol: If I find out he’s not with me, I’ll get a feel for it. I will go to Rob, Yul, Ben, and Ethan and tell them that I saw Wendell writing in his pre-game journal a boot list, and those were the four names I saw at the top of it.

Holmes: He has a pre-game journal?

Apostol: He’s been pulling it out and writing in it.

Holmes: I feel like you could use that against anybody.

Apostol: Anybody who’s been writing in a journal. I don’t do anything like that. I have these puzzle games I’ve been playing for months. I hide in my tent and play them when nobody is looking. Adam’s out here doing sudoku and stuff. He’s the first person I’m nominated for a puzzle, then we can vote him out if he fails. I try not to read a book in front of people. Everything I do is measured. Who I sit by, I make sure to sit by everybody. I make eye contact with everybody. I joke around with everybody as much as the limits allow.


Holmes: Let’s play a game.

Apostol: Oh God. If I don’t want to play it, do I have to?

Holmes: It doesn’t matter what you want.

Apostol: I can’t say “No” and walk away?

Holmes: Actually, you probably could.

Apostol: I already know this. Is it where I say the one word?

Holmes: No, here are nine of your buddies. (Hands Tyson nine cards) You tell me, based on how you feel now, the four you would work with and the five you would avoid.

Apostol: Hmm…

Holmes: I go to all the trouble of laminating these cards and you won’t even play?

Apostol: Coming into this press junket thing I was like, Dalton (Ross) always has those stupid games with the signs. If I don’t want to do it, and I’m just going to be embarrassed, I’m not going to. And that word association that you do, I’m not good at it. I do it, and I try, but I see other people and they’re way better at it than I am.

Holmes: So, when you win, during the elation of being a two-time winner, you’re not going to roll that over into “I don’t give a (expletive deleted) what people think of me. I can suck at Gordon’s word association game.

Apostol: I already do roll that over. I think “I don’t give a (expletive deleted) what Gordon thinks of me. I’m not going to play Gordon’s stupid game.”

Holmes: Fair enough. Now play this stupid game.

Apostol: Yul and Ethan, they’re in the same boat. They haven’t played in a long time, they’ll probably need someone to take them under their wing. They’re probably more about loyalty because they played old-school where loyalty was more of a thing. And, they don’t have anybody. Rob fits into the old-school category. We can create something that these new-school players are out to get us. They want the limelight. And then Ben because he’s been giving me good vibes and we need to suck somebody else in. I’d want to do Jeremy, but he’s been playing some grab ass with Wendell and Wendell I can’t get a read on. Tony needs me, but Ethan and Yul are more predictable. I’ll have to distance myself from Rob eventually, if not immediately. Ben could be a long-haul partner. Tony would be short term. There are so many ways I could go. Nick is like George Costanza…if I turn my hat around backwards, he’ll turn his around too. Adam just wants to be loved. He wants to fit in. He wants to be with the cool kids. I could pull them in. I don’t know if they’re as loyal.

Holmes: See, you’re making your own game.

Apostol: Give me my card.  Look, all the guys over 40, all the guys under 40, I’m right in the middle. Pre-season 30…post-season 30…I’m right in the middle.

Holmes: Of your original four; Ethan, Rob, Ben, and Yul, who’s your ride-or-die?

Apostol: You have to pick somebody you don’t expect…if I could get a read on Wendell, Jeremy could be my ride-or-die. But they’ve been tickling each other, fist bumping each other.

Holmes: Wait. Wendell and Jeremy are literally tickling each other?

Apostol: Yeah.

Holmes: Weird.

Apostol: But out of these guys it’d be Ethan or Yul. They’re both pretty loyal and they need someone.

Holmes: Of the remaining five, who’s first out?

Apostol: Wendell is gone first if he doesn’t change his attitude about me. If he does…then…Nick, Adam, or Tony. I’ll let you take your pick.

Holmes: As an impartial journalist, I couldn’t possibly.

Apostol: OK, then Tony. I think most people would be on board with getting him out first. I don’t need to dictate the first vote.

Holmes: I agree with that. Nobody won because of who they got out first. And as far as not being the first person, there’s always an (expletive deleted). Just don’t be an (expletive deleted).

Apostol: Somebody is annoying, somebody loses the challenge. I usually don’t do any of those things. I’ll let it play out unless someone is openly against me. And if someone is against me, I’ll do everything in my power to get that person out. How was that? Best one?

Holmes: Easily the best one. Not even a close second.


Holmes: These new players are going to be dealing with twists they’ve never had to worry about before.

Apostol: You’ve got to be ready. Don’t be a target of any one faction. Be good with all of the factions. I was pretty good with that in high school. It’s about the same.

Holmes: But some of these players grew up watching you. There might even be a degree of hero worship. Is that something you lean into, something you avoid?

Apostol: You work with hero worship a bit. But, it’s not something I’m protecting. If I’m Nick’s favorite player of all time, and the whole tribe wants him out? He’s gone. Sorry, bud. It’s something you could use. I could be pretending to worship some of these kids too. That was a fantastic game you played, Adam. That was awesome. It’s the same as being personable. It gives you another marginal gain. But at the same time, some of these hero worshipers, maybe their goal is to vote out their hero.


Holmes: You’re a poker player.

Apostol: I play some poker.

Holmes: Does that come into play at all? Can you read people’s tells?

Apostol: Not always. In “Survivor” more than poker, there’s a level of sincerity to people. And if they don’t have that sincerity, I just don’t trust them. It’s hard to fake sincerity. Tells-wise? I don’t know. I’ll pretend poker won’t really help me out here. And if anyone says playing poker is an advantage I’ll say, “Rob’s been playing poker longer than me. Adam gets paid to play poker. Jeremy has played poker with me on TV.” So, maybe we rally the poker players.


Holmes: An alien lands and you have to show them a scene that explains what “Survivor” is all about. What do you choose?

Apostol: I’d just show them my favorite scene which is when Billy Garcia fell in love with Candice (then Woodcock, now Cody). Is that not everybody’s favorite scene? I’ve got to pee really bad.

Holmes: Have at it.


(Tyson leaves to relieve himself.)


Apostol: Did you record me peeing?

Holmes: I did. I’m selling it to TMZ when I get back.

Apostol: That’s the smart move.

Holmes: Alright, say Jeff decides to let you pick a twist. What would you want to see?

Apostol: Maybe Redemption Island. I’m good at challenges, people are afraid to battle me. In “Blood vs. Water,” half of the reason I never went to Redemption Island is I told them if they faced me there they would get (expletive deleted).

Holmes: Well put.

Apostol: If you send me there, that’s it for you.

Holmes: You will get (expletive deleted).

Apostol: That’s what I was saying. That confidence kept people from sending me there. So, any of those situations with a Plan B. Especially if it’s a weird twist that causes it. I can win my way back in. Honestly, there are so many different kinds of advantages now, who wouldn’t believe me if I said I got an advantage where the person with the least amount of votes is going home?

Holmes: You’d need some kind of proof.

Apostol: Do you? Most people don’t show proof for a lot of stuff. Or, if I’m on the chopping block immediately, I’ll say I found an advantage on the boat that gives me immunity for the first Tribal Council we go to. Just tell that to the yappiest person of the bunch. They’ll spread it like wildfire. If you tell too many people they won’t buy it. If you share it with one person in confidence that you know will share it with more people? They’ll think there’s getting one over on you.

Holmes: Suckers.

Apostol: Yeah, suckers.

Holmes: They’re gonna get (expletive deleted).

Apostol: They’re gonna get got.


Holmes: Alright, let’s get you mentally ready for this mess. I’ll give you a reason someone would use to target you…

Apostol: Why would anyone target me?

Holmes: That pointy face. I’ll give you a reason, you give me a counter. I saw that whole coconut bandit thing. I don’t want him stealing my food.

Apostol: I won’t do that this time. Or, I won’t get caught doing it.

Holmes: They’ve already seen it. They own TVs.

Apostol: Then I’ll make sure I swing the opposite way on that. Or, I could blame it on production. Tell them that production told us to do that. There’s lots of stuff.

Holmes: You and Rob have a previous relationship. I don’t want you pairing up.

Apostol: Let’s get rid of Rob, right now. I’ll prove to you that I’m not with him then we can go from there.

Holmes: Tyson has a history of finding idols.

Apostol: I haven’t found the most idols of anyone out here. Tony has found more than me. Nick…Adam…Jeremy. I’ve never played an idol correctly.

Holmes: I worry that Tyson is too rad.

Apostol: Guilty as charged.


Don’t miss the premiere of “Survivor: Winners at War” – Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at 8 pm ET.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @GordonHolmes