Note: This interview took place on the finale red carpet, so I was only allotted five minutes instead of the usual fifteen. So, special thanks to our new champ for giving quick answers.
Gordon Holmes: Congrats, champ!
Tommy Sheehan: Thanks!
Holmes: You and Dean were like classic “Survivor” vs. new “Survivor.” You were a social-game king while he was winning challenges and finding advantages. Jamal even pointed out that you’d be the first person to win after being taken to the end. So, this feels like a win for the old school, right?
Sheehan: I fell in love with the show when I was seven years old. That’s the game I fell in love with, the Richard Hatch, Tom Westman kind of game. You have to build relationships. That’s what Sandra did. I’m a big, physical guy, I can’t hide that I’m 6’4”. So, I thought the more challenge I win the more of a threat I would be, so I actually threw challenges in the beginning. Those only save you for one Tribal and I’m trying to make it to the end. So, I built relationships with all of these people, and like Sandra said, everyone who would go to the Island of the Idols would say I was their number one. It was unbelievable where I had everyone thinking they were my number one, but I was my number one. Were my relationships true? Yes, but it was easy for me to stick to gameplay. And what was awesome too, was I don’t know who the last winner was who didn’t win immunity, didn’t have an idol, and the twist of this season, I didn’t even need. It might sound cocky, but I’m glad I played an old-school game. This is the big twist era, and I didn’t even need them. I don’t even like them.
Holmes: You had very real, very genuine relationships with Lauren and Janet and yet you stabbed them in the back. How do you walk that line where they’ll respect that move and reward you with their vote?
Sheehan: I knew that I needed them out of the game. If I was sitting next to Janet, I’d try to find a way to vote for her. She’s that amazing. And Lauren is like a sister to me, and you know what? You fight with your sister, but they still love you. I made it a point at final Tribal where I straight up said to them, “I’m not a charity. We all came out here to win a million dollars. I guarantee you told your family that you came out here to lie and steal.” I owned up to them, “I love you. Everything we have is true. But, I just can’t go to the end with you.” I think game respects game and I think they know that I do truly love them deep down.
Holmes: Alright, let’s do some championship word association. Let’s start with Jack.
Sheehan: Kellee bean!
Sheehan: Uh…I don’t want to answer that one.
Holmes: Understood. Molly?
Sheehan: Best friend.
Sheehan: A brother.
Sheehan: Little tree.
Sheehan: Body by Aaron.
Holmes: And let’s finish with Lauren.
Sheehan: Truly a sister, I love her.
Holmes: Unfortunately this season is going to have a dark cloud over it due to the situation with Dan. A lot of kids watch this show. As a teacher, what takeaway can you share to help the younger viewers?
Sheehan: As a teacher, I came out there to show that you can follow your dreams. There are a lot of teachable moments from this season and I have had a lot of conversations with my students which is awesome. This season maybe does have a dark cloud, but I turned it into a positive where I did have really in-depth conversations with my kids. But I try to say, “Look at me, look what I did. I followed a dream that I’ve had since I was your age. People thought it was crazy, but I did it.”
Any Questions: Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes