CBS
May 22, 2015 05:10 PM

Nice guys don’t always finish last.

That was ultimately the message of Survivor: Worlds Apart. The arguments were ugly and the characters weren’t always lovable, but in the end, it was good guy Mike Holloway who walked away with $1 million.

It wasn’t easy. After finding himself on the outs, Holloway only made it to the end by winning five immunity challenges and playing a hidden immunity idol.

Holloway, a 38-year-old oil driller from Texas, tells PEOPLE how he won the game – and what he’ll do differently if he ever plays again.

Mike! Congratulations on winning season 30!
Thank you! It still hasn’t sunk in yet. That was a crazy game, a crazy experience.

Okay, let’s start with the moment that you won the final immunity challenge. Did you know you had won the game?
I was pretty confident, but you never know how people are going to vote. I got somewhat blasted during the final tribal council, so I didn’t know for sure.

You did have some anger thrown your way.
But I also had two wonderful women stand up for me in the final tribal council: Jenn and Shirin. I’ll never forget that.

Right after Joe was voted off, you did a few things that put you on the outs of your alliance.
[Laughs.] I sure did, brother.

I’ve watched every season of Survivor, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone fall from grace so quickly. What happened?
I had overheard that Rodney was planning to get rid of me. So I went to Dan and I went to Sierra and said, ‘Hey, they’re coming for me.’ And they thought I was crazy. Then it went downhill from there.

So there were nine people left at that point, and you were now on the bottom.
I was. But you know, it’s fun to play the game when your back is against the wall. You can make moves and you can do things you wouldn’t do otherwise. I had nothing to lose.

Did you regret getting rid of Joe? As long as he was around, you wouldn’t be public enemy No. 1.
Yeah, but he was my biggest competition in the immunity challenges. So if he had won immunity, who would they be gunning for? Me.

You tied the record for immunity challenges, but if you hadn’t, you would have been voted off. Did that worry you?
There was an interview that never got shown on TV. The day that Joe went home, I was doing an interview and they asked me if I was going to be a target. I said, ‘I know that I’m the next biggest target, but I’m going to go on an immunity run and just win. I even said I was going to win five immunities. It was the power of positive thinking. That coupled with my faith in God.

At the final five, you chose to get rid of Sierra, even though Carolyn seemed like your biggest competition. Why?
Sierra was better at puzzles than Carolyn. Here’s the thing: I knew that the first immunity challenge I lost, I’d be gone. Sierra was always right in there with the challenges, so I couldn’t risk having her beat me at the final four.

At the last minute, I ran up to Rodney before that vote and asked him if he wanted to go home, because Carolyn and Sierra were going to vote for him. And then I said, ‘If you want Sierra to go home, you, me and Will can vote for her.’ Carolyn was out of the loop on that one, but she sniffed it out during Tribal Council and changed her vote for Sierra, too. She was that good. There were all sorts of nuances in the game.

You got a hero edit, while other people got villain edits. Was the editing fair?
It was editing. For all the drama you saw, we had twice as much fun out there. Hali and Jenn were surfing. We were jumping off each others’ shoulders. It’s too bad that all of that wasn’t shown, because we did become close out there.

Well, some people still don’t get along.
Just like a family, we have contention. And not everyone gets along. But we’re all adults and we deal with it. If you want to know how we are, search the hashtag “Dirty30” on Twitter and see how we interact with each other.

So pretend you got the call to join an all-winners season. Would you do it?
Of course I would. But I’d play it differently.

How so?
I have learned a lot during the game, and I’d use a lot of that in another season. I would have new strategies, and I’d play differently. I’d still want to win challenges, but I’d probably approach the game totally differently. And then I’d win for a second time.

So you think you could be a two-time winner?
Brother, I want to be the first Survivor to win three times. [Laughs.] And it’s going to happen.

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