Give Tyson Apostol three shots to win the million dollars on CBS’ “Survivor” and he’ll pull it off.
The 34-year-old Utahn — who clearly played the best game of any of the contestants on “Survivor: Blood vs. Water” — came up big on Sunday night, winning two immunity challenges and convincing the contestants who sat on the jury that he deserved the title of sole survivor. And the million bucks that goes with it.
“I had to fight and scrape to get to the end,” he said.
It wasn’t even close. Seven of the eight contestants who were on the jury voted to give Apostol the money, leaving him wiping away tears of joy.
It was a long wait for the results. This season of “Survivor” finished filming six months ago.
This was the former professional cycler/bicycle shop owner’s third season on “Survivor.” He finished eighth in “Survivor: Tocantins” in 2009 and 15th in “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” in 2010.
And, while he won this time around, “Blood vs. Water” turned out to be the toughest in a lot of ways. Each of 10 returning contestants was accompanied by a loved one, and Apostol and his girlfriend, Rachel Foulger, assumed they’d be playing together.
What they didn’t expect was that the veteran players would be placed into one tribe and their loved ones would be placed in the other. What they expected even less was that Foulger would be the third contestant out of the game.
“I told myself when Rachel left, that if I was going to stay I would have to get to the end,” Apostol said, surprising viewers with the emotion in his voice. “It was the only way that it would be worth it for me to stay here.”
In addition, Apostol suffered a shoulder injury very early in the season that hampered him in challenges — but he recovered and won both immunity challenges in Sunday’s season finale.
Throughout the 39-day competition, Tyson was Tyson. Maybe a little smarter about how he played the game, maybe somewhat less smart-alecky, but clearly the same guy he is when he’s not on “Survivor.”
“That’s the best way to make money, is just get paid to be yourself on TV, right?” he said after filming was over and before the votes were counted.
This was, however, a more focused Tyson than we had seen in his previous “Survivor” outings. He said he went back on the show “just to have fun” and give Foulger the experience, but when she was voted out, it focused him.
“Other times I’ve played I’ve kind of had brain farts,” he said. “I’m not a focused individual.”
“I always knew he had it in him to get to the end,” said Foulger, who refused to allow Apostol to trade places with her after she’d been voted out of her tribe and sent to Exile Island.
Apostol is the second Utahn to win $1 million on the show. Todd Herzog became the first on “Survivor: China” six years ago.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.