Survivor: Blood vs. Water's Coconut Bandit made off with a bigger prize last night: a million bucks.
Tyson Apostol beat out his fellow bandit Gervais Peterson and Monica
"I'm Nobody's Lapdog" Culpepper to claim the title of Sole Survivor
by a nearly unanimous vote during the Season 27 finale.
"When I started the game I was like, I'm gonna be
target number one—they're gonna be gunning for me from the get-go," Tyson
told me after last night's post-finale reunion show, with the million-dollar check in his hand. So
in his third attempt, he said, "I'm just gonna do it all my way, and if it
works, great—and if not, at least I had an awesome time."
It did work, and he
had an awesome time—including befuddling his fellow Castaways by secretly draining
coconuts around camp.
"I was sick of sharing everything with everybody,"
he told me. "Because you crack up a coconut, and everybody's like, Why
don't you pass that around? And I'm like, I didn't even get a sip yet!"
His hijinks also solidified his alliance. "It locked Gerv in because we both had this dirty little secret we had to keep together." It also helped with the hunger pangs. "We were asked by production why we didn't eat the meat out of the coconut after we drank it, and it's because we were so full! We just tossed them and let them rot. There's a lot of rotten coconuts that other people could've eaten instead of starving."
That gave him plenty of energy when he needed it most, allowing him to win immunity in the last challenge and a guaranteed spot in the final three.
The finale opened with five veterans and two "loved ones" still in the game. At the last Redemption Island "duel"—a teeter-totter balancing act—former Big Brother winner Hayden Moss was the first one out, bested by the women he derided as "two grandmas": Laura Morett and Survivor: Australia winner Tina Wesson. With the fate of her daughter Ciera depending on her victory, Laura begged Tina to throw the challenge.
"No way, sister!" Tina sassed back—before knocking
Laura out and earning the right to return to the game.
Unfortunately, Tina and Ciera's girl power campaign didn't
persuade Monica to join them in voting out Gervase. In fact, even if Monica
hadn't voted with her bloc, Ciera would've gone home anyway: Tyson handed over his
hidden immunity idol to his bro, ensuring the safety of both men.
Of course, this further upset the already fragile Monica who
vacillated between triumph (comparing herself to a "first-round draft pick")
and despair ("I just want to die inside").
After the final challenge, however, Monica still sided with her original alliance,
sending home Tina—really the only one left who might have stolen Tyson's jury
Instead, Tina became the last one to join the jury—where she
cast her vote for Tyson.
He won over the jury with an unusual waterworks display, tearing up as he mentioned the sacrifices his girlfriend, Rachel Foulger, had made for him.
Calculated acting or genuine emotion?
"It was a little bit of both," he told me. "I
knew if I talked about Rachel I would probably start to cry, and that I needed
to show the jury that I was maybe more human—or have more of a heart than a lot
of people think I do. I knew if I mentioned Rachel I'd go there, so I did it."
Who is this softie and where did he come from?
"I think [it was] Rachel being out there and also playing a third time and being so
disappointed the first two times that I played," he explained. '[It] really makes you more
emotional toward the game and you realize maybe this my last shot, and I think
that's a lot of what it was. I think the first time, and even the second, I
played, I didn't care about it as much."
This time, he said, "I didn't want to miss my opportunity. I really thought I was done after
Heroes vs. Villains. I thought that's
it. I made such a poor showing. I was excited to be back."
Although he and Rachel aren't engaged—yet—Tyson said their shared
experience only deepened the couple's commitment.
"She's been through all the Survivors with me," he said "And she knows about it, but only third-hand. So for her to be able to share it with me and know about all the behind-the-scenes and how tough it is, and have the bond—because it really is a bond with a lot of people when you play this game. Nobody understands it 100 percent, until you're out there and you realize all the things that go into it. Everybody, no matter where they've played, has had a similar experience to a certain degree and that's something that only those people can share."
And even after winning the game, he'd be happy to have
another shot at Survivor.
When asked about his future plans, the newly minted millionaire volunteered, "Maybe come back a fourth time. There's only a couple guys who've done that."
For once, Tyson wasn't being sarcastic.
"You'd have to! I would have to."
The theme for next season was announced by Jeff Probst at the end of Sunday's live reunion show: "Brawns vs. Brains vs. Beauty." Considering how good Tyson looks in braids and a bikini, he could qualify for a spot on all three tribes.
Were you happy to see Tyson win? What were your favorite moments from Season 27? And what do you think of the newly announced theme for next season?