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The Challenge: USA’s Tyson Apostol Breaks Down His Decision to Quit the Final: It Was a ‘Heated Moment With Production’

The Challenge: USA Winners and Finalist Exit Interviews
 Jonne Roriz, courtesy of Paramount ©2022 Paramount, All Rights Reserved.

What you didn’t see. Tyson Apostol is opening up about his time on The Challenge: USA and why he decided to quit during the final alongside some of his other competitors after a Sudoku puzzle with no instructions tripped them up.

The Survivor: Blood vs. Water winner spoke exclusively to Us Weekly about what was going through his head during that time and what conversations he was having with the production team.

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“When it comes to Sudoku, they’re not letting us time out,” Tyson tells Us. “And so, I just have to quit. I’ll try to do this Sudoku. I’ve never played it before. I know the premise and I’m gonna try one time. It’s taken me a while. I didn’t get it. They’re like, ‘That’s incorrect.’ I was like, ‘OK, well I don’t know what else to do.’ And they’re like, ‘Well, we can’t do the puzzle for you.’ And I was like, ‘I’m not asking you to do the puzzle for me.’ I’m just saying I can’t do it because I don’t know how to do this. They were like shoulder shrug and then I quit.”

He adds, “And apparently, there were some arguments about whether or not they were gonna let me time out. And I had a lot of people immediately after that from production sobbing to come in and tell me sorry. Like, ‘We’re sorry that happened to you.’”

There seemed to be several inconsistencies about whether you could time out of the tasks, as some people did but then others weren’t allowed.

“You’d ask about the rules and somebody would be like, ‘Yeah, that is the rules.’ And then you’d be like, ‘Show them to me’ and they’d be like, ‘They’re in my head,’” Tyson explains. “And you’d be like, ‘OK, well, and there’s not a lot in there so I’m assuming they’re easy to find.’ But yeah, it was definitely … it was weird. It was definitely weird. It was a weird vibe. After that happened, I told a lot of people, I was like, ‘That was the worst couple days of my life,’ and not because it was miserable.

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As for whether fans will see Tyson return for this much-talked-about “World Championship” season on Paramount+, the Utah native tells Us, “They’ve already called me for both and I’ve already passed them both up. Multiple times. Many, many times. Easily 10 phone calls.”

Scroll down to read our full interview with Tyson Apostol.

Tyson Apostol The Challenge USA Winners and Finalist Exit Interviews
Jonne Roriz, courtesy of Paramount

Us Weekly: I don’t even know where to start. Let’s start with the Sudoku puzzle because that’s where you and Dom [Abbate], Justine [Ndiba] and Cayla [Platt] all ended up quitting. How long were you doing it and what were the instructions that you guys were given?

Tyson Apostol: The instructions were what you saw on the screen. It said “finish the pattern.” And at this point, I’m looking, like, “Is this a joke?” They must have been instructed to not talk us at all in this moment. So I’m like, “OK, well I know the premise of Sudoku, but I never played Sudoku.” I know that there’s the nine cube and the cross and the down, but I’ve never played. I think I was at that puzzle 20 to 30 minutes before Danny even showed up.

Then I was there at least that amount of time afterward, so probably close to an hour? But then, Dom showed up. He had never played or didn’t even know the premise of Sudoku and neither had Justine. And when “finish the pattern” is your instruction, that’s a very difficult thing to figure out. But it is on me. I don’t know how to play Sudoku. I easily could have won this thing if I would’ve taken the time on airplane screens to play Sudoku instead of watch movies.

Us: Let’s talk about the timeout inconsistencies though. Why could Justine and Sarah [Lacina] time out on their puzzles but you couldn’t on this one? And did being able to time out factor into Angela [Rummans]’ decision to not dig?

TA: Yes. That definitely factored into Angela going to sleep. That was the whole thing. And she said it. She was like, “I’m going to sleep. I can’t win this.” So basically, each pairing had to move a pile of gravel from one side of the field to the side of the field. And then back. And they said, “OK, because you’re by yourself, you have to move two-thirds of the original pile, which mathematically, if you have two people moving a pile and one person moving another pile … so already she has to move more than each individual person would by herself. Plus, she doesn’t take any breaks. And so she just was like, “I’m gonna time out.” Justine timed out of the last one instead of them making her run back and figure out her decoding situation. And then, her and Dom timing out of the very first puzzle. That was weird too because even with Cayla’s thing, like, they forced her to eat the onion and I thought they were just gonna time her out and then they didn’t. They were like, “if she doesn’t finish eating the onion, she’s done.”

Angela Rummans 02 The Challenge USA Winners and Finalist Exit Interviews
Jonne Roriz, courtesy of Paramount

Us: Interesting. Also though, so she only got one portion of food, but Justine had to remember 10 numbers? It seemed like the rules weren’t always the same.

TA: Right. Justine’s was insane. The fact that she even memorized those 10 numbers was insane. Cayla didn’t have to eat two onions, right? But that was how the whole thing went. It was just, like, you’d ask about the rules and somebody would be like, “Yeah, that is the rules.” And then you’d be like, “Show them to me” and they’d be like, “They’re in my head.” And you’d be like, “OK, well, and there’s not a lot in there so I’m assuming they’re easy to find.” But yeah, it was definitely … it was weird. It was definitely weird. It was a weird vibe. After that happened, I told a lot of people, I was like, “That was the worst couple days of my life,” and not because it was miserable.

Us: Right, I mean, I’m assuming you could survive the elements.

TA: The elements were fine. When it comes to Sudoku, they’re not letting us time out. And so, I just have to quit. I’ll try to do this Sudoku. I’ve never played it before. I know the premise and I’m gonna try one time. It’s taken me a while. I didn’t get it. They’re like, “That’s incorrect.” I was like, “OK, well I don’t know what else to do.” And they’re like, “Well, we can’t do the puzzle for you.” And I was like, “I’m not asking you to do the puzzle for me.” I’m just saying I can’t do it because I don’t know how to do this. They were like shoulder shrug and then I quit. And apparently, there were some arguments about whether or not they were gonna let me time out. And I had a lot of people immediately after that from production sobbing to come in and tell me sorry. Like, “We’re sorry that happened to you.”

Us: I listened to your podcast and you also mentioned that Sarah timed out on the hexagon puzzle?

TA: She did. She definitely did time out of the hexagon puzzle, for sure. And I wasn’t there – this is hearsay only – in a much quicker amount of time than I spent at Sudoku.

Cast 02 The Challenge USA Winners and Finalist Exit Interviews
Jonne Roriz, courtesy of Paramount

Us: Interesting. So were you talking a lot to producers before you quit? Did you guys all quit together? Did they try to get you not to?

TA: No, I just saw that they weren’t gonna explain to them how to play Sudoku or what to do, and they had had it. And so at that point, I was like, if you guys are quitting then I can’t get any further on this puzzle too. So yeah, I’m quitting too. And there was a moment of tension with production there as they were like, “We don’t even know how to do this.” It was kind of like a heated moment with production. And then I was like, “I’m not even giving you guys the …. I’m done too. I’m done, I’m done with this whole thing.”

Us: And I’m assuming once you saw Danny [McCray] finish the puzzle and leave, you were like, “OK he’s he’s gonna win anyway.”

TA: Yeah, when he left and there had been a certain amount of time passed, I was just like, “Ah, he’s won. We’re too close to the top here.” So yeah, that was also part of it. But no matter how long I would’ve spent on the Sudoku, I don’t think I would’ve gotten it.

Us: Talk to me about Sarah. What did you think about her not even realizing she won and Danny having to tell her?

TA: She was so far behind. I spent an hour or more on Sudoku. Sarah wasn’t even there yet. She the slowest up the hill. It wasn’t even just for the puzzle that she spent time and had the timeout, she was the slowest up the hill the entire way. She was in dead last. She was in dead last place when she got to the puzzle. So it was funny and because of that, nobody was even at the Sudoku puzzle by the time she got there, because we’d either all been shuffled off or Danny had gone on to the top. So when she got to the Sudoku, I didn’t see a video of her even finishing that.

Us: Yeah, she had some words about Angela not doing the digging, but she seemingly didn’t finish some things either? Did you talk to her after the final? Was she surprised about you guys quitting?

TA: I don’t know. I guess for Sarah, I’m sure she’s very, very proud of herself and very, very happy that me and Angela didn’t win. But that’s all I can assume. I mean I think on Instagram, she already got on and was like, “Angela’s a quitter. I’m showing everybody how strong you can be as a lady cop.” And so I’m sure that’s happening somewhere.

The Challenge: USA Winners and Finalist Exit Interviews
Jonne Roriz, courtesy of Paramount ©2022 Paramount, All Rights Reserved.

Us: What do you think about some of the original Challenge fans on Twitter who are saying that you and these other CBS personalities “can’t handle” The Challenge and the final, or whatever.

TA: I mean, the people who are tweeting that, if they basically can’t understand what’s going on just by watching the show, I already know that their capacity to comprehend isn’t worth my time. Sometimes if they say, like, the exact right words, I’ll be like, “OK, let me think of a comeback for this guy for a second.” And then after a little while I’m like, “Oh no, I’m already over it.” But yeah, they weren’t there. I have nothing to prove. I already know how strong I am and how good I am at this game. And so, for me, it’s really doesn’t faze me. It’s like, “OK, I don’t know how to do Sudoku. I couldn’t do Sudoku. And that’s the thing that beat me? Was me. I defeated myself.” So like, yeah. OK, cool.

Us: A lot of people also asked me about your gloves. I know you mentioned this on your podcast but did they not prepare you guys for each leg of this?

TA: I don’t think they thought it was gonna be this cold. We show up for the first leg, and they give us some warm clothing. We get through it and then we’re freezing, so they give us this winter jacket. I think they were just, like, running to Walmart or something and buying stuff and then bringing it back. They had a hard time finding any shoes in Danny’s size. And then all of a sudden they showed up with like snowsuits and snow pants, but they were all like one size fits all. So the girls had to tie knots in them and the guys had to wear them open with the fly open, because they wouldn’t fit around the guys’ waists and stuff. You weren’t allowed to not have your clothes and then have them on a different leg. So Sarah and I, on the eating leg, we dropped our winter jackets realizing it was gonna be a run. And then when we finished, it was very, very cold, freezing cold. It was like a chilly fall type of temperature. And when we stopped, we were freezing, and they were like, “No, you have to carry. If you want that jacket, you gotta carry it.” Which, fine. That’s fine. In Survivor, if you don’t need something during a challenge, you set it off to the side and it makes its way back to you. But here, you can never set your clothing down because somebody will snatch it right up.

The next leg, they told us to wear these snow clothes and we ran. And so then everybody was drenched in sweat, and then they made us wait again for such a long time. I think probably some of it has to do with lights and timing because for nighttime stuff or whatever, whatever it was. Those were probably honestly the most uncomfortable parts of the finale was the couple hours waiting outside with someone from production telling you it would be just five more minutes. There were so many of those people. There’s gotta be a listing for Bunim/Murray that’s like, “Can you with a cheerful attitude say it will be “just five more minutes” for six hours straight?

Us: That person hated their life that day.

TA: I know. And I felt so bad for them and they were so cheery, and you could see on their face that they were like, “I know this is wrong.” And you wanted to believe them and you were like, “Maybe this is really the five minutes.”

Cast The Challenge USA Winners and Finalist Exit Interviews
Jonne Roriz, courtesy of Paramount

Us: I know we have to wrap up soon, but was there anything you learned after filming or even while watching that surprised you?

TA: No, not really. I had my finger on the pulse the whole time. I knew what was happening in the house and I knew, like, even if people didn’t come out and say it, I knew who didn’t like me and who liked me. And so I assumed that some people would be saying stuff, but I think in general, I mean, I don’t think there’s anything that I was like, “Ohhhhh.” I drove the game from day one and the most anybody could do against me was myself losing at Sudoku or Dom being like, “Oh, Tyson doesn’t get his way here.” And I’m like, “I already made my way to the final bro. I don’t know why you think I’m so affected by this part?”

Us: Did winning the first daily challenge with Angela set the tone for you guys working together?

TA: Yeah, definitely. At that point, we were like, let’s keep everybody with the money in an alliance to protect the money. And that way we defeat the algorithm because then we can sell it to people. As soon as somebody wins a challenge, we can go to them and be like, “Listen, we have this setup with everybody who’s won money. If you promise not to go against anybody with money, they’ll do the same for you. We’re all in this thing together. You earned your money. Let’s all get to the final.” And that was the only way to combat the algorithm. So as a new couple would win, you’d go in and be like, “Hey, just a heads up. If you go against anybody with money, everybody with money is then gonna come for you. So the smart thing is just to stick with the money people.” And that worked for about three quarters of the way through very easily.

Us: I think I know the answer but if they call you for this “World Championship,” are you saying yes or passing?

TA: They’ve already called me for both and I’ve already passed them both up. Multiple times. Many, many times. Easily 10 phone calls.

Us: Oh wow. You’re not done with reality TV forever though. Are you?

TA: I don’t know. I mean, who knows? I can’t do it twice a year for sure. That’s too much time away from my family. Never say never. I won’t be there in October, but maybe two years down the road, I’ll be like, “Well, let’s see how it is now,” but I don’t envision myself doing that. But also, you can’t rule it out completely.

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