As so often happens on "Survivor," Tyler Fredrickson seemed well on his way to winning the million bucks, at least until he suddenly wasn't and Jeff Probst was snuffing his torch.

Tyler had weathered a bumpy transition out of the not-wholly-functional White Collar tribe and he found himself in the center of a seemly strong numbers alliance, one that he helped solidify through his tight bond with original tribemate Carolyn. The former Cal Bears kicker and preseason Redskin and Raider was just strong enough that he seemed capable of winning an Individual Immunity or two, but not so dangerous that everybody viewed him as a threat. And in a season of larger-than-life personalities prone to extended shouting matches, he seemed level-headed and quiet. 

Naturally, that was a combination of factors that caused people to start talking about him as the eventual winner and that's the kind of talk that can get you blindsided and on Wednesday's episode, Carolyn led a flip on her old partner and Tyler was sent home.

The way Tyler explains it now, he was actually prepared to flip on Carolyn this week as well, except that she won Individual Immunity and couldn't be touched. He sounds disappointed, though, that he was so surprised to be leaving that he didn't get to stir up some drama as he left.

In his exit interview, Tyler talks about Rodney's birthday, the votes he was expecting were his and his decision to portray himself as an "ex-talent agent's assistant" rather than going into depth on his background.

I wanted to ask Tyler about his role in the Will-Shirin blow-up, but Tyler gave long enough and thoughtful enough answers that I ran out of time. Apologies!

Click through for the full Q&A...

HitFix: First question. You said at Tribal you didn’t expect you were going home but as you were listening to sort of the things that were being said that night how strong an inking were you really getting?

Tyler Fredrickson: Yeah, I actually said I wasn’t going to be surprised. I took a long beat when Jeff asked that question. I said I wouldn’t be surprised. And then I actually added, "But it wouldn’t be unexpected." And that part didn’t make the edit. I was always going to be targeted. I had been targeted for a couple of Tribals leading up to that point. Yeah, sure, you look back and you kind of watch the way Tribal was edited and your reactions [inaudible] kinda looking around. Yeah I mean should I have been more aware? Potentially. But also voting out Dan, who was within our alliance but it also had been deemed a pretty solid move and a pretty big move. And nobody up until that point, at least within my core four -- Will, Rodney, myself and Carolyn -- had given me any indication. There was no inkling at all that there was gonna be a change, that they were gonna make some kind of move. Honestly, I didn't really think those guys were capable doing so. Everyone was pretty up-front about it. It kind of started and ended with Carolyn and Sierra being pushed over and being able to kind of put aside their frustrations with Dan and good on them. They made the move.

HitFix: Well what was your immediate feeling towards Carolyn as you were walking away from the Tribal Council area and how has it kind of mellowed or evolved in the past couple of months?

Tyler Fredrickson: Sure. I was actually stunned. It happened and it’s like right as I sat down for Tribal we begin this whole thing. Jeff goes, "Welcome everybody..." I’m sitting there and I looked down at my hands and I’m 30 pounds lighter and I’m 32 days in and I’m really close. I’m really close, so I prayed. I go "God, if tonight is my night then they got me and good on them because I am spent. I am burned out." I mean it wasn’t like I was quitting. It was just like I was really at peace with a lot of the work that I had done. So right when Jeff finally calls me up and it kinda hit me, "Wow, what's was going on. This is not the way we had talked about it." I come up. He snuffs your torch and you’re headed out. 

And if I had known... Trust me man, if I had known that they were coming I would have lit up that camp and if not camp and I didn’t know until then, I would have lit up Tribal. I easily would have turned around and ripped everybody. I would have told about Carolyn’s Idol. I would have told about Dan’s advantage. I played a very passive aggressive, quiet, subdued game on purpose because there was gonna come a point where I was going to blindside, backstab, bring everything up, blow it up much like Mike did at Auction and just start calling out everybody and seeing what happened. But I felt it was just too early. I would have done it had Carolyn not won Immunity. But she won it and we had to continue to stick to the plan. I stuck to the plans hoping that people would go with Dan. So as I walked off out of Tribal I had no idea who voted for who or what. Otherwise I probably would have cranked on people and it wasn’t until – I don’t even know when it was. I don’t want to say Ponderosa, because I don’t know if they knew. I think it was just discussions down the road where I realized that she had flipped and, you know, that impacts the game for everybody.

HitFix: So when were you planning on blowing everything up? I want to know when this big explosion was going to come in your plans?

Tyler Fredrickson: It probably would have happened had Carolyn not won. When we got back from the Reward challenge and Rodney did not win, Rodney was furious. The expletives were flying about his frustrations with Mama C and his not getting his birthday thing. And my whole thing was like, "Dude, we’re gonna do this together." I went up to Will and I said, "What do you think?" He’s like, "Mama C gotta go." Rodney’s like, "I want nobody else gone but Mama." And I'm like, "Dan, what about you?" And he's like, "That was cold man, that was cold. I want her gone, too." So I had had three people who all agreed that she was dangerous, that she was the next to go. And I hadn’t said a word. So nobody can come back and say, "Tyler’s calling you out." But I had these three guys who were all willing to do it. And we get out there and we’re doing this hold-onto-the-rope challenge and everybody’s hanging in there and it’s me and her and she’s looking cool as a cucumber. And I’m like, "I can’t do this anymore. You know I’ve lost a lot of weight. I weigh a lot more than her, the leverage is a lot different and I’m probably like eight inches taller, six inches taller than her." And I look at her and I just try to give her like one last little comment. I don’t think it made the edit. I just said to her, "Are you good? Are you good?" She said, "I’m good." I just knew it and I was out. And I was hoping that like we still had the connection, that we could work forward. Now that she had Immunity, let’s continue to work forward together. Looking back I probably should have pushed a lot harder for either her Immunity necklace or the Idol in moving forward. I just had no inclination or no indication that they were coming.

HitFix: Now in retrospect totally clear-headed on this. Voting you out was almost certainly the strategic right play there wasn’t it?

Tyler Fredrickson: I think so. It depends on how close and how pure our alliance was. We had always agreed that we were gonna get to a Final 6 and then move forward. That’s why I was pushing so hard to have four on my side. That’s why I was sticking with Rodney and Will and Carolyn. You know these guys all assured me that, "We’re gonna get there and then we’re just gonna battle it out." So yeah, in retrospect, you know, they got me. I was obviously becoming very popular with people on the Jury as well as people within the game. They had to make a move. They made it. The only downside to that is there’s really no physical threat to Mike now, outside of Carolyn. And honestly I’d take my money with Mike. You have to assume he’s gonna lose eventually and people are going to go after him. But still, my old alliance needs somebody who can compete. And I hope it wasn’t too early that they got rid of me. I hope they can continue to win and move forward and proceed to vote off the rest of the other guys.

HitFix: As you were doing a counting out there how many votes had you assured yourself already that you would get if you got to Final Tribal and who were you figuring could still beat you?

Tyler Fredrickson: You know, I don’t know. Mike had alienated so many people. In watching the edit right now, he looks really great. He’s not making a bad decisions. Though a lot of people were really over Mike’s scrambling, lies, throwing people under the bus. Obviously the big move at the Auction really frustrated everybody. He's obviously very good in challenges but his strategic game was like tossing a grenade into a pig pen. It was just messy and all over the place. One of the questions every time you talk to somebody – I’m sure you get this every time -- You know people are like, "Oh, I had all the votes." Like everyone wants to think they were gonna win. "Oh, I had Shirin. I had Jenn." I don’t know. All I know is I can watch Ponderosa videos and three of the four of them are like "Tyler’s gonna win." And then Shirin said it right before she got voted out, too. So I can only go off of what people are saying and then how they responding and the fact that my alliance needed to break early in order to get rid of me. Could I beat Mike one-on-one at the end? I don’t know. I think that would be a really, really great interesting battle. I always felt that I was just gonna take Rodney and Will and that I’d light them up.

HitFix: Okay, level with me. How hard was it back at camp not to ask Rodney why a 25-year-old guy was so invested in the proper celebration of his birthday?

Tyler Fredrickson: How hard was it? Well Rodney – I don’t care Rodney, do whatever you’re gonna do, bro. Honestly, it was a big part of the edit, right? All about Rodney. What we saw in everything leading up in the promos it was Rodney not getting his birthday, he can cry if he want so, all this stuff. But out there he came back and he was just like [He goes into a solid Boston accent, "Yo, I'm starving. I haven't gotten a Reward, bro. Like, It’s my birthday and I’ve gotta take care of me, bro. Mama C’s got my back." And then of course it doesn’t go down. So we’re like, "Dude it’s not going down for four of us like we’re all in this one." And he begins to throw a big fit. Well then he comes up with this really great idea that he is going to put on a show, like it’s gonna be his coming out party. Like this is what's gonna get him noticed in Hollywood. And what he was gonna do is basically throw a fit for two days in order to completely and utterly convince Mike that we are all gonna go into camp, Rodney’s gonna quit, Mike’s gonna go, "I just assume Rodney was gonna quit so I’m not gonna play the Idol tonight." And we throw six votes at Mike and Mike goes home. 

So, mind you, this is all Rodney’s thinking that it’s gonna work and I think he saw a little bit of it in the edit. So the frustration with the birthday, the Oscar-winning performance. All of this is on Rodney’s front-burner. But Dan, for us this is all just like Rodney off to the side. So when he’s kicking and screaming down by the beach and he’s moping around camp we’re all sitting together going, "So what do you want to do today? What’s the plan? What’s like the real plan? Like what are we thinking about?" Rodney’s off on the side making this to be about him. And I’ll give it to him. Rodney’s good TV. Rodney’s out-of-control. Rodney’s unpredictable. Rodney’s funny, you know. He’s got an incredible ego and it’s more interesting than me. It’s more interesting than subtle game play. It’s more interesting than strategies. It’s more interesting than what other people do. It’s more interesting than the people that are ignoring it. Let’s put it that way.

HitFix: Well speaking along those lines, the editors this season have definitely concentrated very heavily on the big personalities – on Dan, on Rodney, on Shirin, et cetera. From your game, what do you really wish that we had seen that just wasn’t able to make the cut?

Tyler Fredrickson: I went out there expecting to be like that. "I’m gonna make big moves! This is my chance to play 'Survivor'@ I’m gonna be loud. I’m gonna be in charge. I’m gonna run this stuff." I come from background of being in the NFL and  being in Hollywood where you’ve got to be flashy. Perfect. I get out there and there were out-of-control egos, major insecurity issues. And finally I realized, "Wow. What if I can kind of just be a shoulder to cry on? What if I can be an ear to some of these people who are struggling and whose heads are spinning and who don’t have a lot of support?" It just kind of dawned on me that I could be that support system to people. And suddenly my entire game shifted from, "Okay, proactive. Tyler’s gonna get what Tyler’s gonna get!" to "I’m just gonna listen. I’m gonna listen and I’m not gonna give people ammo. I’m gonna bite my tongue and I’m gonna get to know people. I’m gonna get to know about their kids and their families. And they’re gonna come to me and relay information as to what their thinking about what just happened." 

You know one of the big moves I made, it’s kinda a non-move. It was right after we got back from Auction. Mike went up to Rodney and wanted to blow everything up. And I immediately got out of camp. I got out of camp because I knew I had no business being there and honestly I just wanted to go read my letters. But afterwards every single person came back to me and because we had built this trust, we’d built a rapport and they began to fill me in on what went down, you know, "Rodney lost it. They almost got into a fist-fight. Mike’s out of control. He said this. He flipped his lid." Everybody’s coming back to me. You can’t help but in the course of their retelling of these stories to get a sense of their bias, to sense of their opinion, to get sense of their strategy, where their head's at, who they think should go. And you glean all this because you’ve spent 20-something days working and slowly getting people to trust you and being quiet and being patient, being a good listener. Now here they are, verbal vomit of where they stand in the game and where everybody else stands in the game. This is how you win a million dollars. I think for me, this sits much more comfortably than going into camp, throwing a smoke bomb in the fire and going, "Rodney’s going home because he’s insane" or "They're coming for you Dan." But these smaller subtler moves, I believe is how you can really make your way with all the crazy superfans and the biggest personalities we've ever had. And people have been waiting 20 years to be on the show. You come out there and you play a different kind of game than what they’re trying to do, which is make an impact and be memorable. And I think it got to the point where everybody looked around and they went, "Oh my gosh. He has no enemies. He doesn’t bother anybody. He’s made all the right moves. He’s in the majority alliance. And he’s on his way to winning this game." And, you know... Then they got me.

HitFix: You mentioned though that this was sort of a process that you came to during the game. But even from the beginning you made what I think was the interesting choice of positioning yourself as “the former talent agent’s assistant” which is only a very small part of your actual bio. How were you presenting yourself to people out there right from the very beginning in that respect?

Tyler Fredrickson: Well I came out, I never wanted to mention the F-word. I never wanted to say "football," that I was an athlete. I think people would immediately think that I was a multi-million dollar world class superstar, which is not the case at all. I have two master’s degrees. I went to Berkeley. I went to USC. I basically told people I went to a small liberal arts college in downtown Santa Barbara and never got out there. So, you know, I never wanted to really speak too much about my truths. As far being a talent agent's assistant, yeah, I said I worked in Hollywood, I’m now trying to be a writer, which is true. I worked at this agency, which is really cutthroat. I had to kind of give in a little bit of like "Why else would this guy be here?" And being White Collar and being positioned as that, that had more to do with casting and producers and the chyron of me being an ex-talent agent's assistant. When I first applied for the show I wasn’t working at the agency. And they really loved that about it. They loved that part of my personality and that part of my background. They wanted to maintain that, even though at that point I had quit and gone off and started writing and producing on my own.


Other "Survivor: Worlds Apart" exit interviews:
Shirin Oskooi
Jenn Brown
Joe Anglim
Hali Ford
Kelly Remington
Joaquin Souberbielle
Max Dawson
Lindsey Cascaddan
Nina Poersch
Vince Sly
So Kim

A long-time member of the TCA Board and a longer-time blogger of "American Idol," Dan Fienberg writes about TV, except for when he writes about movies or sometimes writes about the Red Sox. But never music. He would sound stupid talking about music.