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Utahn wins $1 million, 'Sole Survivor' title on 'Survivor: Blood vs. Water'

Utahn Tyson Apostol was named the “Sole Survivor” and took home $1 million as the winner of “Survivor: Blood vs. Water” in a season that included watching his girlfriend lose, an injury, finding both immunity idols, and drawing rocks to break a tie — which has happened only one other time in 27 “Survivor” seasons.

The 34-year-old Provo resident, who has been on both "Survivor: Tocantins" and "Heroes vs. Villains,” won the final two immunity challenges and was in a final three with Gervase Peterson, 43, of “Survivor: Borneo,” and 42-year-old Monica Culpepper, who competed in “Survivor: One World.”

Culpepper had the first vote read by host Jeff Probst during Sunday’s finale and Apostol had the remaining seven.

“Luck seemed to be on my side throughout,” he said of finding the immunity idols, winning challenges and drawing a black rock in the rock draw, even though he had an idol in his bag. “Winning was the outcome I wanted. (There are) zero regrets.”

After the final Tribal Council, where the three finalists make a statement to the jury, comprised of voted-out castaways, Apostol said he felt pretty good about his chances at winning.

“They gave Monica a lot of heat,” Apostol said by phone. “Most of the jury had pretty positive things to say about me.”

During the 39-day game, castaways are in a remote location, this time in the Caramoan Islands, compete in physical and puzzle challenges that determine immunity and, at times, reward, as they competed to outwit, outplay and outlast to win the $1 million prize.

Apostol said he tried to focus on the game this time and to be in conversations with people in his alliance to make sure he knew which way they were voting.

“I tried to be cordial and personable with every contestant, even when they were going against me,” Apostol said, adding that it was tough to do, especially when people weren’t so much with him. “I can trash talk them, but then they would hate me.”

And he needed — and got — those votes from the jury, each of which he had a hand in voting out.

On Day 32, Apostol was one of three players who drew rocks to break a voting tie during Tribal Council. It was when Ciera Eastin, 24, flipped on her alliance when she felt like she was in a fourth spot with them and went with Hayden Moss, 26, who won “Big Brother,” and 25-year-old Katie Collins.

“It was mind-blowing to me that they (Culpepper and Peterson) were making Ciera feel like she was No. 4 and that Hayden convinced them to draw rocks,” Apostol said of that Tribal Council. “I told them that Hayden is just taking care of No. 1 which is himself.”

At that point, he figured his best bet for getting to the end and winning was with Culpepper and Peterson, which is why he decided to draw rocks rather than vote out Culpepper.

“I don’t know if I would have won with others” in the final three, he said.

In this season of “Survivor,” the castaways were 10 returning players and a loved one, including children, siblings, significant others, spouses or a relative. The returning players were originally on the Galang Tribe, and the loved ones were on another tribe, the Tadhana Tribe. Several days ago, the tribes were remixed and new friendships and alliances were formed before the tribes merged into the Kasama Tribe on Day 19.

The addition of loved ones added many twists and layers to the game.

Apostol’s girlfriend, Rachel Foulger, of Provo, was voted out early in the game by her Tadhana tribemates in an attempt to get Apostol out of the game. She lost a Redemption Island duel after seven days in the game.

A castaway can switch with their loved one on Redemption Island. Foulger had told Apostol to not switch with her.

Apostol said he knew that strategically, it was possible for Foulger to be voted out to get him out of the game.

“I was hoping they wouldn’t,” he added.

When he saw her walk into Redemption Island Arena, he had fully intended to swap with her, but they agreed not to.

“I couldn’t do anything to help her,” Apostol said. During the show, Apostol said that at that point he promised himself he would do everything possible to win to make not switching with her worth it.

Apostol served a Mormon mission in the Philippines and said they drove through his mission area en route to their location in the Caramoan Islands.

“It hasn’t changed,” Apostol said.

Early in the season, he injured his shoulder during a one-on-one duel. He had partially popped his shoulder out of its socket and strained some tendons.

“It’s OK now,” Apostol said.

Apostol doesn’t have any plans for the money just yet.

“It’s been a great cast and a good season,” he added.

In 2007, Todd Herzog of Pleasant Grove outwitted, outplayed and outlasted the other contestants on "Survivor: China" to take home the million-dollar prize.

Neleh Davis finished second on "Survivor: Marqueses" in 2002 and Dawn Meehan, a Brigham Young University professor and South Jordan mother of six adopted children, tied for second place in “Survivor: Caramoan — Fans vs. Favorites” earlier this year and it was her second stint on the show.

The next season of “Survivor” includes a brawn versus beauty versus brain twist.

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