‘Survivor: Worlds Apart’ exclusive: Winner Mike Holloway on gameplay, surprises, immunity wins, and more

Mike -Mike Holloway is not going to be a part of “Survivor: Second Chance” this coming season, but we don’t really think that he is going to care so much given that he is now a million dollars richer! The Blue Collar tribe member won the title of Sole Survivor of “Survivor: Worlds Apart” last night in a pretty decisive vote, and he did so by going on one of the biggest immunity runs in the history of the show. While they were not all consecutive, he basically spent six of his final weeks in the game safe thanks to either challenge victories or having an immunity idol. He was definitely a fighter from start to finish.

We had a little bit of time to talk one-on-one with Mike today about his experience, and this included some of his specific moves that worked for him, moments he was concerned, and also how excited he is to watch Shirin and Joe compete next season.

CarterMatt – So how many times have you done the happy dance over the last 12 hours or so?

Mike Holloway – Once, actually. When we walked into the parking lot last night everyone was like ‘happy dance, happy dance.’ I was playing to the crowd a little bit. (Laughs.)

You did a lot of great things out there. You won the game, you won multiple immunity challenges, you found an idol. Has any of this sunk in?

(Pauses) I think it sunk in eight months ago, to be perfectly honest. Whenever we got back. I love the game, and I’ve been making ‘Survivor’ videos for ten years but never sent one in. Then, we got a contestant [on the show] that didn’t feel like they needed to play the game, and that really upset me. So I’m sitting there with my buddy and he said ‘what’re you going to do about it? You’ve been making videos for ten years, but what are you going to do about it?’ I was like ‘I’ll go make a video.’ So I pieced together ten years of videos, and I made a statement to him: ‘If I made this video, they’re going to see it, and if they see it, they’re going to call me, and if they call me, I’m going to go to LA, and if I go to LA, I’m going to go on the show, and if I go on the show, I’m going to win it.’ For the past year and a half, I’ve been just saying those words. Every day I was on the island, I would wake up and impersonate Jeff [Probst] — I don’t impersonate Jeff, just in my head — I would go ‘and the winner of Survivor: Worlds Apart, Mike Holloway.’

I kind of instilled that from Aras [Baskauskas]. Aras instilled that his second time around, but he won the first time and he played such a great game. I’ve picked things from each of our winners that I used in the game. How could not sit there and try to [avoid using] some of their strategies?

Leaving the final tribal council, how sure were you that you had won?

When I walked out of final tribal to Ponderosa, I was about 95% that I won, but before the actual show started I started really, really questioning it. As the season went on, the edit of course was so amazing that it just confirmed everything to me. Even the first episode — I’m not going to give it away, but there was something in the first episode [that made me feel good]. I don’t know if Jeff or the editors [put it there], this is just my little tinfoil hat. It was kind of like ‘hey Mike, this one’s for you, buddy.’ It was a nice gesture if it was, and if it wasn’t, I’m a conspiracy theorist.

It’s interesting because we all talk about winner’s edits and these sort of things on the outside, anyway. Do you think that the way you watch the show moving forward is going to be different?

Yeah! One of the draws for me playing the game was to see it behind the scenes, and now that I know what the behind the scenes are, watching the show from here on out is going to be so interesting for me. Now, I can play the game of seeing what the editors are showing me, but still trying to figure out what is really going on in the game, as well, which is normally pretty close to the truth. They do throw some things in there to throw us off.

This whole ‘Second Chances’ deal with me and Carolyn; these guys aren’t dumb. They know what they are doing. They’ve been doing it for 15 years.

Since you bring up ‘Second Chances,’ were you more nervous when you were included in the ballot, or just confused since Carolyn was, as well?

Full disclosure: If I’m supposed to stop [talking about this], then somebody stop me. I told [CBS] from the moment that they called me ‘I won, but I will definitely do this.’ It’s fun. This whole experience has been such a blast, the majority of it has been such a blast. You sign these contracts with CBS, so I felt that if they need something, they are almost kind of your employer at that point. You tow the company line, and do what needs to be done. Through the whole process every single person [at CBS] I talked to was like ‘you don’t know you won. You have to keep your head in this game.’ That was cool for them to all [act like that], not that any of them knew other than like Jeff, Mark Burnett, or one other person or so. It kept my head in the game and kept me doing what I could do to get me and Carolyn on another season.

In past seasons we’ve seen people like Kelly Wiglesworth, ironically returning for ‘Second Chances,’ and Colby Donaldson go on these huge immunity runs, but then lose at the end of the game. What was different about your final tribal council that allowed you to still win?

I don’t think it was what I did at final tribal; I think it was what I did Day One … well, maybe not Day One because [some people] I was out there with the longest did not vote for me. It’s something that my mom and Pastor Don, who I call my dad, taught me: You just love people. Regardless of their situation, you just love people. You talk story with them. That’s something we said in Hawaii; I used to live there. You just go and talk story. That gets you to know people. I think the vote is representative of that. Six people thought that I had relationships with them so that they could trust me with this million dollars.

Were you shocked at all by how hurt Dan seemed to be by the events at the Survivor Auction? 

He was definitely not happy, that’s for dang sure. Surprised? No. Flabbergasted? Yes, because I thought Dan and I had built such a relationship in the game, and the whole auction [thing] started a couple of days before that when I went to Dan and said ‘we got to get Tyler out. As soon as Joe’s gone.’ Then he started defending Tyler a little bit, and I was like ‘what do you have going on with Tyler that you don’t have going on with me?’ Going into the Auction I knew that I had to get the advantage at all costs.

To answer this question, since you’re probably going to ask it, I was really and truly apologetic and meant it when I said that I was worry for going back on my word, and I was sorry for going back on my word. I was not sorry for making the move. I wish I would’ve not given my word, because giving my word tied me to doing it. Most of the time when I give someone my word, I stand by it. You can take that to the bank! My heart got in the way. I did all of the harm without getting any of the benefit. It was a strategy great move, nobody saw that one coming, but socially, you might as well have, as Alison Krauss and Brad Paisley sing in a song, you might as well have put that bottle up to your head and pulled the trigger. I’m not talking about drinking your life away, but yeah man, it was a crazy move and that was how I played the game. I played the game fast, I played the game loose, I played the game loud. It was like I was running a marathon. Whoever was in close proximity to me, I had to kick their leg out from underneath them so I could go a little bit faster. (Laughs.) It’s like when you’re trying to outrun a bear, you don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your buddy.

So what’s next for you now? You’ve got the money, so are you going to be able to sit back, relax, and watch your good friend Shirin play?

My good friends! My good friends Joe the Amazing and Shirin! I told both of them ‘when you guys come back and you call me, you better not tell me NOTHING. I don’t want any spoilers whatsoever.’ I’m a fan of the show, too.

What am I going to do with the million dollars? Me and one of my best friends started a t-shirt company; the shirt that I was wearing last night was one of our designs. Joe the Amazing made the artwork for it, and we bought it from him, put it on a t-shirt. Some money will be invested into that … I’m going to do something nice for mom, and then you know, maybe take a little trip. Get out of the country for a few weeks. Disappear for a little bit.

If you do want to see some of our other “Survivor: Worlds Apart” finale coverage, including other interviews, be sure to head over here! Also, you can sign up now to get some other TV updates on everything we cover via our CarterMatt Newsletter. (Photo: CBS.)

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