Up until the bitter end, it was anyone’s guess who’d take home the title of Sole Survivor Nicaragua last night, as the show’s finale delivered one of the closest in Survivor history. With Dan eliminated early in the night, Holly, Chase, Sash and Fabio became the final four to compete in the immunity challenge that would secure a place in the final three. With Fabio winning (marking his third immunity win in a row), it was a scramble back at camp with the others pleading not to be the one sent home.
Knowing that Sash was disliked by the majority of the jury, and Chase’s flip-flopping between alliances had alienated other jury members, it was decided Holly was the bigger threat and she’d be sent home, leaving the guys to face the jury of nine who had made it pretty clear that Sash may not even be in the running. After the votes were revealed, Fabio (a.k.a Jud) earned five votes to Chase’s four and became a million dollars richer. “It felt ecstatic,” Fabio tells In Touch after hearing his name called as the winner. “I knew Chase wanted to play with his heart and not lie, but I actually did it and that felt so good.”
“I love him,” runner-up Chase tells In Touch. “He is an awesome guy and while I wished I could have beaten him… as long as he is smart with his money and looks after his mom, that is all I’m really thinking about.” With a million dollars in his pocket, 21-year-old Jud “Fabio” Birza is looking forward to finishing arts college, doing some traveling, buying a car and enjoying life. Runner-up Chase Rice is about to launch his country music career while third-placer “Sash” Lenahan (who has gained back the 40 pounds he lost while doing the show) is back to selling real estate in Manhattan.
For more with Survivor: Nicaragua’s Top 3 contestants, click here.
Name: Jud “Fabio” Birza
Current Residence: Venice, Calif.
Congratulations, you now officially have a million dollar smile, how does that feel?
Fabio: Oh, man! I don’t wanna use the word ecstasy as that has bad connotations these days, but it was close to something like that feeling, or maybe ecstatic (laughs). So yes, it felt ecstatic.
Why did you cut your trademark hair?
Fabio: My dad had been at me for a while to do it, so I thought it was time and I could freak everyone out. So I just did it last Friday, and as I said onstage, there are a lot of personalities to me, this is just another one.
So three immunity challenges in a row, you turned the game around. That had to feel amazing?
Fabio: Something was guiding me. Like falling behind with the puzzle, but I had been doing Tangrams in the gifted program I was in since I was 5 and that is exactly what that puzzle was. You just need a mental picture in your head, and anything artistic you want to do with ease, beauty and a sense of the whole and that is what I applied to the game. But I knew I wasn’t going to get close to the final three, and I knew Chase wanted to play all with his heart and not lie, but I actually did it and that felt so good.
So you knew Sash was giving you a load of crap with his big “keep me” speech?
Fabio: It’s funny, as I said to Sash during the show tonight, that he really didn’t think we could read him. He’d give this look with his eye when he lied. It was like a lack of confidence thing, and Chase was paranoid about his name being thrown around. For Mr. Three-way alliance, he sure had a lot of questions.
When did you and NaOnka make up? She hated you and then at final tribal she was so nice to you.
Fabio: I tried to tell all my friends that were saying that bitch is crazy, and she is, yeah, but we had moments here and there and she voted for me. There was a part during the merge where I got hammered and we kind of connected there, only they didn’t show it. I was all part of the fresh start and she actually filled me in at one stage on stuff that was going on. It was a part of gathering information for the game. We had a complicated relationship but we are good now.
What will you take away from your experience and use in life?
Fabio: It was a big-time transformation. I learned a lot about human nature and dealing with people. I learned a lot from Mark Burnett during the interviews we did, and about people skills and getting what you want. My mom always tells me you need to speak to people in a certain way to get what you want. So I learned a lot about relationships and that is what life is about.
What are you going to do to look after your family, which is one of the things you wanted to do if you won?
Fabio: I think I am going buy to my dad’s girlfriend’s family farm in central Illinois. It’s like a 35-acre place with a little shack. I am going to play bank and hold their mortgage and they can pay me. That will be my rent. I want to do that and have a place I can go get wild.
We heard you don’t have a car, are you buying one?
Fabio: No, I don’t have one but I am buying a 1997 Camaro SS, the last body style of the fourth generation. I had a 93 Z28 in high school and my buddy Jake Simms would be doing donuts in someone’s cul-de-sac at 2 a.m. We did all kinds of slides and stuff on the way to school and almost wiped out into a red Suburban, only to miss a concrete pole by two feet. It was awesome.
Sounds like you have been surviving since high school?
Fabio: Oh I have, so man, this stuff is easy.
Name: Chase Rice
Current Residence: Fairview, N.C.
Occupation: Pro race car jack man
That was a close ending with one vote deciding, what would have happened if there was a tie?
Chase: I have no idea, but I was hoping for that. It’s never happened and would have been really cool. Maybe there may have been a challenge onstage? But it didn’t happen and I thank Fabio, as he didn’t have to take me to the finals, but he did, so I thank him for giving me one hundred grand.
But you won in other ways, especially with the $200,000 worth of free advertising for the new single they let you perform on the show.
Chase: (Laughs) Jeff Probst was so awesome for letting me do that. I didn’t know till today that it was even going to happen. I just played a free concert for millions of people. We recorded in Nashville last week with some of the best musicians in the world. The single “Buzz Back” will be on iTunes next week, and the album in about a month.
Have you made up with Jane, who was so mad at you?
Chase: The only thing I could have done different with her was give her my idol and then the others would have come after me for lying to them. Jane and I are fine, if she wants a hold a grudge… I have noting against her and we have talked, so things with her are fine. Well, to my face she was fine, she may still be talking trash behind my back.
What happened to Chase the NASCAR guy we knew on the show?
Chase: I have been writing songs for a few years now and I didn’t mention it on the show, as I didn’t want to be the guy who did Survivor to try and promote my music. We did sing around the campfire and stuff, but I’ve been going back and forth between Nashville and did the NASCAR thing for a year, did Survivor and then decided to give the music thing a try full-time and it’s going well right now. I wanted to keep the music and Survivor separate. Survivor was just something I did and music was my life before Survivor. Now, hopefully, it will be what I do for the rest of my life.
What did you learn on Survivor that you’ll use through life?
Chase: That I am terrible at playing a game where you have to lie. I did it, but I hated it. I was not a very good player of the game. I didn’t lie to people’s faces and a lot of people watching don’t respect that - I don’t care and if I am bad at scheming that’s a compliment as it’s not how I live my life.
After doing Survivor, touring with a band should be a breeze.
Chase: I may be doing that in the early part of the year and see how it goes. Still, Survivor was the worst thing I have ever done. It was awful. But it’s Survivor and if it was easy anyone could do it. It was miserable but complaining wouldn’t have changed anything. And 39 days isn’t that long, and while it was miserable it prepares you for whatever you want to do in life. And with touring at least I will have a roof, food and Jack Daniel’s — it’ll be a piece of cake.
Name: Matthew "Sash" Lenahan
Current Residence: New York.
Occupation: Real rstate broker
Everyone is commenting on how great you look, how does that feel?
Sash: Great, because I wasn’t looking so good out there. I had that crazy beard and people don’t realize how much gray I had in my beard. My girlfriend saw how emaciated I was and now to hear I look good - I appreciate it.
How long did it take for you to get back to being yourself?
Sash: It took about a month. I lost 10 pounds before doing the show, another 28 on the show, so I have put on about 40 since the show ended. When I found out I was doing the show I started to lose weight, as I didn’t want my body going through intense shock. No matter what you do when you go into Survivor, it is a huge shock to your system. I thought if I could reduce it, it might help me and if I went back I’d do it all over again.
What was the longest you went without eating?
Sash: At one point I went for 12 days without a single meal, now I can’t go four hours without one. Right after the show I visited my folks and before we even stepped into the house I had to go to the Mall of America food court and loaded up on Panda Express, Sbarro, Taco Bell, Mrs Fields Cookies and Cinnabon. I had five meals and stuffed my face.
What did you learn bout yourself doing the show?
Sash: It was such a humbling experience. I found that when you are removed from a situation you have time to reflect on things, and I found how important family and friends are. It’s the strength in those relationships that is most important.
Shannon was singled out to redeem himself when it came to calling you gay, yet he dug a bigger hole for himself. What was that about?
Sash: l don’t get it. It makes no sense to me as we were all out partying last night and his wife and my girlfriend became good friends. He wanted his 15 minutes and he got about two minutes. That’s just Shannon. He was trying to get under people’s skin and he said things about others, too, that was his game. It might have been flawed but I can’t tell anyone how to play the game and I made it to day 39. He was the first voted out.