'Survivor: Edge of Extinction' winner on his controversial victory

WATCH: 'Survivor: Edge of Extinction's Chris Underwood on his final moves

WARNING: This post contains spoilers. Please do not read on if you haven’t seen the finale of Survivor: Edge of Extinction.

It was an odd finale as far as Survivor episodes go.

After a month on the barren, desolate Edge of Extinction, one person was allowed back into the game. After a difficult challenge, Chris managed to win and found himself in the final six, joining Victoria, Devens, Lauren, Gavin and Julie.

A series of unpredictable, bizarre events took place — including the usage of what seemed like a dozen immunity idols: Lauren using hers to protect Chris, Devens crafting multiple fake ones — and it came down to Chris, Gavin and Julie in the final three at the finale in Los Angeles.

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By a vote of 9-4-0 (Chris, Gavin and Julie, respectively), Chris Underwood took home the Survivor crown. Global News spoke with him over the phone about his unexpected victory and how he managed to win it all.

Global News: Congratulations! You’re now a millionaire. Before taxes, anyway.
Chris Underwood: Yep, I’ll hang my hat on that: before taxes.

Great job there. Definitely did not expect that ending.
It was Game of Thrones-esque, if you will.

When you were on Edge for so long, did you visualize your win? Did you spend time planning what you would do if you got back in, and did that contribute to your victory?
That played a huge part. I spent a lot of time thinking about what it would take for me to win. Every person had their own path to the end, and mine was very difficult. I had the most uphill battle, mainly because of my early vote out. I knew that if I got back in, I was going to have to take really big swings and hit a home run at every at-bat.

It had to be a succession of well-planned, really thought-out moves.

Winning a lot of those challenges was very helpful, too.
Yeah, well the first one, I knew I had to lose it. That was part of my strategy: to be vulnerable, to use the social capital. Having Lauren play that idol for me, it was really a testament to my strategic ability, and also having Rick hand back that other idol… it was a part of it.

I understood, in that first immunity challenge when Julie started getting closer to winning, that helping her win would help earn some favour. I knew she would take me on the reward, which would then help me get access to insider information on how they were going to vote. Then I could report it back to Rick when I returned to camp.

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How on earth did you get her to play that idol for you? It’s a cardinal Survivor rule not to do that.
I knew what she needed, and I knew that I needed to pander to. Playing that idol correctly is something she had to do… on Day 36, you need to play wisely. In order to boost my résumé, I needed the idol to be played incorrectly. At that point, it was about getting Lauren to flush her idol.

It was more on the manipulative side, I’ll admit, but it was part of the art of persuasion. I was definitely playing the victim and needed a saviour. I was pleading with her for safety and acting scared. I made her promise me to use it. She thought she was using me, but I was using her game to get the outcome I wanted.

Did all of the folks on the island ever make a pact or agreement to vote for fellow Edge people if they made it to the finals?
No. Never. That was never a part of what happened. The group was actually pretty tough; they were basically telling me I had no shot. I definitely had a personal vendetta to prove to them that I had what it took to win. I knew it was such an aggressive season — it wasn’t a passenger season; it was a pilot season.

The people who were making big moves wanted to see a player who also made big moves. Getting back in from the Edge, I had information to use, and that was part of it, too.

Chris Underwood in his 'Survivor: Edge of Extinction' promo photo.

Chris Underwood in his 'Survivor: Edge of Extinction' promo photo.

Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

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Were you at all concerned that Gavin could beat you at final tribal council?
Yes, I didn’t know who was going to win. It was going to take a really good final tribal speech; I had to articulate more than Gavin. He played a good game, and if he had articulated how he did that better, he’d probably be crowned the winner.

I was actually pushing Gavin to say some things in final tribal over other things.

You did? You were so many steps ahead.
Yeah. I was trying to get him to talk about his loyalty to people, and he ended up talking about that and his wife. I felt momentum because I was articulating exactly what I did and why that was so big and why I played a bigger game than Julie and Gavin for the brief time I was in there.

Season 39 of Survivor, titled Island of Idols, begins in the fall on Global.

[This interview has been edited and condensed.]

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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