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Tyson Apostol: “I’m going to try to be as helpful as I can without being the alpha male”

The initial bio for Tyson Apostol I was given in Brazil said that Tyson “compares his game strategy to that of Johnny Fairplay. Much like Johnny, he is willing to do almost anything to win one million dollars….” Because of that, I was pretty much dreading talking to him, and assumed that he’d be one of the people I liked least. But almost immediately, he proved to be the opposite, which may explain why his official bio now has no reference to Fairplay and instead says that Tyson “compares his game strategy to that of some of the most entertaining castaways to ever play the game.”

When I asked about his personality, Tyson said, “I’m a pretty outgoing person, so it’s easy for me to make friends, but I guess it’s easy for people to hate me–not really hate, but I can get on people’s nerves, I think, because I’m outgoing and say what I think.”

Because he was rather calm and not at all abrasive as we talked at Ponderosa, I asked if he’s typically different around strangers. “This is about who I am. If I notice that I’m rubbing people the wrong way, I’m going to continue to do that, I’m not going to back off. And that’s kind of the people who tend to get annoyed with me. If I was to say something offensive to you and I could tell in your face you really didn’t like it, I would continue along that path probably until you either exploded or cried.”

I asked, “You just enjoy fucking with people?” and Tyson replied, “Yeah. I just think it’s funny when people take stuff so serious. Like saying the f word” or “being a little perverted or something.”

In his tribe, though, Tyson said, “I need to make sure to tone it down,” especially “with the stronger players I think could be an asset or maybe hurt me in the future. I think maybe if there’s a weak player or somebody that I don’t feel is going to be a strong ally, I may be less inclined to hold back on stuff like that. Or perhaps somebody’s annoying the entire team, I’m definitely going to have my way with them then.” He called that strategy, “Mock one so the rest thrive. I just made that up; you can quote me on that.”

Throughout our conversation, he’d make similarly low-key jokes, and came across as thoughtful, charming, and smart, but that exact same tone and attitude would probably drive someone crazy if he was using it aggressively against them. He occasionally turned questions on me, asking them after he finished answering, and at the time it seemed like a genuine inquiry, although listening to it again, I’m not so sure that he wasn’t looking for something I found offensive to dig at. Then again, Tyson is way too smart to intentionally piss off a journalist who’s interviewing him–or, say, a producer for the show; he’s much more likely to go after the weak.

He cited “knowing who to trust and portraying yourself as someone who can be trusted” as a challenge in the game, and said that his strategy involves having multiple alliances, including “someone from a different clique, someone who maybe from the outside appearance dislikes me.” He wants to “always have someone else watching” out for him.

Tyson told me that he thinks “most of the guys could be good allies because physically, most of them are built bigger than me. I’m pretty scrawny, so between me and them, they would seem like the bigger threat in the end.” And he’s going to let them take the lead. “I’m going to try to be as helpful as I can without being the alpha male,” Tyson said. “I don’t want to be the top dog.” Still, he expects to be one of the stronger physical players (“I swam at BYU on scholarship, so I’m sure I’m a better swimmer” and “my endurance is higher than most, if not everybody’s here”).

When I asked how others might perceive him, Tyson said, “They might think I’m gay just because of the way I dress, or I’m too pretty to be straight. That’s not true; I’m straight.” Still, he may pretend otherwise. “I’ll see how it plays out; it doesn’t bother me. If I can see it working to my advantage. … If the entire cast is gay, it would probably help to act gay, too,” he laughed.

As to his perception of other players, he said the old lady (Sandy) is “like a five-year-old” and “her mannerisms bother me, she’s fidgety.” He also talked about the “little blonde girl with the semi-smashed face” (Sierra, I assume) who is a “stereotypical blonde” and “seems pretty stupid.” After describing her appearance, Tyson said, “I don’t know if you should put that; that may hurt her feelings,” but then admitted he didn’t really care about that. (Listen to an extended version of our exchange about both Sandy and Sierra below.) Tyson said that Benjamin/Coach, the “long-haired dude,” “seems like he’s pretty strong and could be a good guy to work with.”

Although his “parents are big fans” of Survivor, Tyson said “I didn’t pay that much attention to it before,” and was recruited (by a friend of a friend working in casting, apparently). He did the show because for the money–“I want to buy a bunch of sweet stuff,” Tyson said, although he added, “I like the adventure, too”–and was unapologetic about wanting to spend the money on himself. “I’m pretty good enough charity for myself, I think, so I’ll keep the money in my bank account.”

Tyson watched past seasons and prepared for the game by studying survival skills and “just tried to stay in shape, gained a little weight.” But he also “kind of kept my eye open to people I meet to see how they perceive me,” Tyson told me.

Tyson now lives in Utah, but he lived in Switzerland for a few years, Belgium for a year, Austria for three years, and the Philippines for two years, where he was on a Mormon mission. Earlier, he left Brigham Young University because “I took a career development class and realized I didn’t want a career.” Instead, Tyson became a professional cyclist and now manages a bike shop.

As to his Mormonism, I asked what he’d bring from it to the game, and he said, “honestly, probably nothing. I think the game requires a lot of cheating and deceiving, and I don’t have a problem doing that. Maybe someone else from the same religious background would, but I understand it’s a game and I think that’s what you have to do.” He reiterated that point later: “I’m gonna do what I gotta do for a million dollars.”

Still, he doesn’t expect to be reviled like Johnny Fairplay. “I don’t think I will be. I think I’m more charming and better looking than he is. People love beautiful people.” He said that, like so many other things, in a semi-facetious way, making potential arrogance seem like a joke. It remains to be seen how that’ll come across on television or to his fellow tribe members.

Hear examples of that as Tyson talks about wanting to kill a deer and eat its beating heart, how he really compares himself to Johnny Fairplay, and his reaction to Sandy and the girl with the semi-smashed face:

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