Survivor Winners at War: How Tyson Apostol can win a second time

Survivor star Tyson Apostol - (Photo: Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
Survivor star Tyson Apostol - (Photo: Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.) /

If Tyson Apostol wants to win Survivor: Winners at War, he’ll have to lean on his connections and calculate similar risks that produced his first win.

Untraditional winners are something of a soft spot for my enjoyment of Survivor. Going through Tyson Apostol’s journey from brash and bold to snarkily empathetic to sneakily strategic, all while keeping things as laid back and sarcastic, has been a roller coaster of a trip. He’s living proof that age may refine and mature some, but it cannot change the person within, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you only knew the Tyson from Survivor: Tocantins, it would be hard to imagine an eventual winner. He played up his class-clown antics to integrate himself into his tribes, standing behind wilder targets ahead of him like Coach. The problem was he thought he was too smart compared to others, and he was blindsided before he knew what hit him.

The second time around in Heroes vs. Villains, Tyson found himself in an odd spot; he wasn’t the biggest ego. In fact, despite Tyson dishing one-liners left and right in his brief stint, he was consoling people like Coach and planning 4D chess moves of his own. In fact, his idea to go rogue on the Day 15 and target Parvati instead of Rob’s intended target, Russell, was his fatal downfall. He thought Russell wouldn’t risk his game on blocking someone else’s vote.

Even though we did see Tyson play up to usual antics like coconut banditry in Survivor: Blood vs. Water, with his future wife, Rachel, grounding him to the realities of the game, we saw a much more controlling Tyson. He was able to make moves and galvanize troops to form his own army, using his humor to diffuse and form long-lasting alliances like he did with Monica and Gervase.

Heading into Winners at War, Tyson Apostol is one of four players who will be playing the game for at least their fourth time. Though he last appeared 13 seasons ago, he’s been around since the HD beginnings, meaning he’s seen the advent of gameplay twists both god awful and pretty neat. Having experience is crucial, especially when it comes to returning player seasons.

Additionally, Tyson is playing with people he has ties to inside and outside of the show. He’s played Survivor with Sandra and Boston Rob, however, he has ties to Boston Rob, Adam, Jeremy, Kim through poker, both playing at Run it Up Rio events with RHAP and with Poker Night in AmericaIf you consider him being friends with Boston Rob enough of an in for Amber, he has a fairly strong web to begin weaving his social game.

If there was any concern that you are going to get a neutered Tyson Apostol in Survivor: Winners at War, his preseason material should assuage your concerns. In his CBS bio, he mentions his occupation as “Son, husband, father, friend.” It’s the most creative answer I’ve seen to that question so far, and even though you can tell he has a soft spot for his daughters, he’ll still throw in a line about pretending not to care and secretly being hurt if he wasn’t asked to play.

To really understand the level of chaos and distraction that Tyson is willing to bring this season, look no further than his ET Canada interview. There, he describes a completely fictitious (to his mind) lie about others’ appearance fees being tied or on par with Boston Rob and Sandra’s fees for appearing in Island of the Idols, even though he completely made up the lie.

He knows that playing on the egos of others will work with a group of winners trying to assert dominance, and planting the seeds in the preseason means less time within the game for them to grow, showing that Tyson’s strategy entering the season is to create mental warfare on his competitors.

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Though Tyson can likely count on a few players this time around, there are not many players this time around that could be considered underlings to him. He’ll have to play second fiddle to those with bigger targets than his, like Boston Rob or Sandra (they’re likely not going to be on the same starting tribe). Then, after bonding with the right group and waiting for bigger targets to not take him seriously enough, I can see Tyson working with some of the more recent winners to plan a strike at an opportune time later in the game.

Tyson is going to be entertaining regardless of how long he lasts, but it’s in his best interest that he doesn’t make it to the Edge of Extinction. Though he has a non-serious personality, the kind of emotional, mental, and physical toll isolation from the game and close-quarters interaction with a bunch of defeated egos contrasts with his joking manner. I could easily see in that situation he earns more detractors than gains friends.

Another thing Tyson needs to forget is relying on a late-game immunity run to secure his victory. Though he has the body of a professional cyclist, he’ll be competing against a tough field of competition, and everyone is wise to others’ games. He will have to change up his late-game strategy mightily if he wants to win.

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If Tyson can hide behind meat shields early, establish social links through his charismatic personality, take the ego hit and be patient until the late game to shift the game into a favorable slant in his direction, he has the experience, expertise, and edge capable of becoming the Ultimate Sole Survivor of Winners at War.