Exclusive: Jud "Fabio" Birza talks about his 'Survivor: Nicaragua' victory
By Reality TV World staff, 12/20/2010
Jud "Fabio" Birza began Survivor: Nicaragua's final days with a huge target on his back due to his status as one of the two castaways still in the way of Chase Rice, Holly Hoffman and Matthew "Sash" Lenahan, who were in control of the game via their three-person alliance.
However Fabio was able to embark on a back-to-back-to-back Immunity Challenge winning streak that forced Chase Rice, Holly and Sash to turn on themselves and vaulted him into the competition's final jury vote, where he managed to edge Chase via a tight 5-4 vote and claim Survivor: Nicaragua's $1 million prize during Sunday night's live finale broadcast.
On Monday, Fabio talked to Reality TV World about his Survivor: Nicaragua experience.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised to win, or had you already left Tribal Council in Nicaragua expecting you had won?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Yeah, you know, I left that final Tribal Council with a pretty good feeling. I felt before I even won that final challenge that if I did, it was going to be a million dollars for me.
Reality TV World: Wow, so you thought that [final Immunity Challenge win] sealed it up?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: I did. Winning the three in a row and I knew all of my personal relationships with the jury members and I did and still do have a pretty good rapport with -- I'm surprised that [the jury vote] was 5-4 man -- that surprised me. I think other people were too.
Reality TV World: So you were surprised it was as close as it was?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Yeah, which is cool. It was fine. It was nervous dude; it was exhilarating. The whole thing last night was like nothing I've ever experienced.
Reality TV World: So who did you think would be voting for you?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Uh, I mean s--t, I don't -- I walked into the second Tribal Council and I saw [Brenda Lowe] go, "Go Fabio!" She was smiling and really happy and she actually ended up voting for [Chase Rice] last minute, so that was...
Reality TV World: Same thing with [Alina Wilson] and [Jane Bright] as well.
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Yeah, Jane voted for Chase too, dude. It's funny. I was counting her in for sure, and Alina. Alina told me she was voting for Chase because she didn't think he was going to get any votes.
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Reality TV World: Oh, okay. Did you go in there thinking anyone would be voting for [Matthew "Sash" Lenahan] or did you think that boat had sailed?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Um, I thought if anyone was going to vote for Sash it would be -- yup, nope, I don't -- I guess I figured he wasn't really gonna get any.
Reality TV World: Do you think part of the reason it was so close with Chase getting the four votes was that anyone was swayed by his comment that he would donate $100k to charity if he won?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: I don't know about that because it's his brother's charity. I mean, it is still a charity and it's great. I don't know how they saw that. Possibly, all types of factors go into it.
Reality TV World: On Day 37, you approached Holly about going to the Final 3 with you, and she seemed a little receptive and asked you what your plan was and it looked like you told her you had no plan other than winning immunity...
Jud "Fabio" Birza: But yeah, dude, I did because I won the first one and I could see it on their faces. Then when I won the second they were so like...
Reality TV World: So is that really how that went down...
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Yeah, basically because Chase and Sash and [Holly Hoffman] looked at it -- they tried to make a deal with me -- Chase asked for my word and didn't give me his, and Sash mentioned something like, if we were to vote [Dan Lembo] out, or if I didn't vote Dan out, would I be willing to risk my life in the final four? When they worded this deal to me, I was like, "Wait a minute! No, that doesn't make sense."
Reality TV World: So did you just not want to go to the final with Holly? Did you think she was a big threat?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Yeah, I thought so. I don't know how many [votes] she actually would have gotten, but she could have pulled away [Kelly "Purple Kelly" Shinn] who voted for me, she could have pulled away [NaOnka Mixon] who voted for me, and she had a good story. She was the motherly figure and she -- I believed and I talked to her -- she really did give good answers.
Reality TV World: When I talked to Jane on Thursday, she said that she had approached Dan and yourself about allying with her and forcing a 3-3 tie, but you two had turned her down -- why was that?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: I don't remember her approaching us before, because Jane or Sash and Holly -- they told it to her face -- and I was the one that told -- cuz Jane asked me and she was all upset -- and I had to break it to her and was like, "Look, this is a game, you had to have known it was coming. There's a lot of factors."
Reality TV World: I guess I was just wondering if the fact that she said you guys didn't even know what the tie-breaker would have been or if...
Jud "Fabio" Birza: I remember having a very clear instinct that it wasn't good to mix up -- it's never good to go into Tribal Council and mix it up because of what Jeff says.
Reality TV World: I didn't know if it was maybe just you were just as certain as [Chase, Holly and Sash] were that neither one of you two could beat her in the final three either...
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Yeah, no, if she went to the final three she would have won. Sure, and so it was a good time to get her out, and I was putting a lot of faith in being able to win those [challenges].
Reality TV World: Were you surprised Chase, Holly and Sash openly admitted their alliance at the Day 36 Tribal Council, and did their admission come as a surprise at all?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: No, it was a very last -- you mean did the lie to me about taking me and stuff?
Reality TV World: No, when Jeff made a big deal about how Chase, Holly and Sash admitted they were in an alliance right before Jane went home at that Tribal Council.
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Oh, it was like they're right here saying they are in an alliance, this and that. The writing was on the wall.
Reality TV World: But had you seen it?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Kind of, yeah. They went out there with the loved ones.
Reality TV World: If you actually lost that final Immunity Challenge, what would your strategy have been to try and stay in the game? Would you have tried to persuade one particular person to keep you around or did you just think you were doomed?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: I would have had to scramble, like no, I would of had to use some semantics or some trickery to making them think something. I don't know how I would have done that, but I could have possibly still done it. I don't know.
Reality TV World: During the jury questioning, you said you had known a lot more than you let on during the game and had just been playing dumb a lot of the times...
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Yeah, like Chase. So right after the merge, Chase rolls up to me and it was the one day a bunch of chaos broke out and Chase -- I was playing it cool -- and Chase goes, "Dude, I got both -- each of the alliances -- telling me something. I think they're telling me the truth on both sides on everything."
And then like the volcano when NaOnka came up and started telling me everything, and then we had a secret little deal.
Reality TV World: So you already kind of knew that stuff, but you just played dumb? Is that what your saying?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Yeah. Kind of, yeah. But it's all about listening more than talking -- collecting information more than gossiping.
Reality TV World: What about Chase's claim that you had actually gone back to camp genuinely surprised by several of the votes that happened during Tribal Council. Was that true?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Yeah, no, like I knew when we were trying to blindside Brenda that if it wasn't her going home, I knew that it would be [Marty Piombo] and it would be Sash to fail you know? It wasn't going to be me and I also remember telling Jeff, he goes, "Are you (right after the merge) not scared that you're going to be going home?"
And I was like, "No Jeff, I'm actually not. I'm -- I said, "I feel pretty safe until there were six or seven people left."
You know, my name didn't come up until there was seven people left and it was [Ben "Benry" Henry] trying to save his own ass.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised Benry turned on you?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: No, I don't blame him at all. I knew exactly what had happened, and that's where Chase can say whatever he wants, but he's the one that saved my ass because of the relationship I had established with him. He -- and that's like -- it could be considered lucky or it could be considered like I set myself up for that and created my own luck.
Reality TV World: You were dismissed as a goofball early on in the show and [Shannon Elkins] even called you a "dumb blonde" -- how much of that was an act and how much was real?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Dude, it's not an act, but when you're -- I just -- it was so crazy to me to be -- it was all so quick -- all of a sudden you're down in Nicaragua, you're seeing monkeys, you're sleeping on bamboo and it's such a goofy set of, like it was such a goofy environment that you really don't know how you're going to react. And I have personal freedom with that stuff anyways.
Reality TV World: What about the injuries -- are you just a natural klutz or were those also somehow intentional?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: No, not intentional. Definitely I stepped on thorns -- everybody stepped on thorns -- maybe mine were the only that all three of them made the edit -- and that crab thing in my finger, I don't know how that happened. It pinched onto my finger.
I know, I mean I do that, but that's kind of how real life -- when you're out there just going for it not caring about just cruising -- not having a whole lot of regard for your safety -- this stuff just naturally happens.
Reality TV World: That final Immunity Challenge didn't seem like the type of challenge that favored you. Stacking coins didn't look like a hugely physical challenge...
Jud "Fabio" Birza: No, I knew that the last challenge was going to be some type of focus or balance because it usually is. That's where they want to test how much you have in you still after 39 days.
I spent the whole -- just breathing really -- that whole sword deal, I was just breathing really slow, super focused. I also am some type of meditator. I've done yoga in the past. I understand how to go into a state like that.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on Survivor -- how did you end up on the show?
Jud "Fabio" Birza: Can I say how I was cast on the show? Yeah, I mean, I was cast. Basically, I was found in a grocery store shopping. Yeah. About The Author:Elizabeth Kwiatkowski
Elizabeth Kwiatkowski is Associate Editor of Reality TV World and has been covering the reality TV genre for more than a decade.