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Australian Survivor: Cookie Monster Jericho is crowned Sole Survivor

He may have just won $500,000, but Jericho is adamant he's an average Joe bloke who still "shops at Coles".

By Jacqui King
Jericho Malabonga has been crowned the Sole Survivor in tonight’s live finale of Australian Survivor 2017, beating out 32-year-old Tara Pitt.
The Cookie Monster has been a fan favourite for his cheeky sense of humour and mateship with fellow prankster, Luke Toki. He managed to avoid a single vote against him until Finale Week, and because of that, six of the nine members voted for him to win the prize of $500,000.
TV WEEK caught up with the 25-year-old flight attendant to see how his life has been turned upside down.

On how he felt walking into the live finale

“I was good all week leading up to it. Ten minutes before I was entering the set, I could hear the cheering and I started freaking out. I was like ‘what’s going to happen?’ I was looking at Tara and she was like ‘Get a hold of yourself, Jericho’. It goes to show how we have such a good relationship and whatever the outcome we were both going to be happy with one another.”

On how it feels for Survivor to be over

“It’s a massive weight off my shoulders for both me and Tara, but it’s bittersweet because we’ve all bonded through this whole experience. We’ve become friends and now we’re all excited for what’s next and we don’t know what that’s going to look like but we’re going to put an effort to always keep in touch. Survivor is not the only thing that holds us, it’s just what started it.”
Jericho was a fan favourite from the start

On his tactic for the final tribal council

“Everyone who was questioning me, I didn’t know if they were rooting for me or not. They all sounded like they were attacking me! So for example, someone would say: ‘Tell us about your game play.’ It was to set me up to say something good, but in my head I’m thinking: ‘Why are you trying to ask me that, are you saying I didn’t play a good game?’ So it almost came across that I was attacking back but now that I look back at it I’m like, ‘what an idiot, Jericho’."

On his game play

"I think there’s a lot of alpha males and alpha females in this game. People say the term ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ and I think the real wolf in sheep’s clothing is to be part of a massive game play and then go back to camp and hide in the sheep’s clothing and be like, ‘Oh I wasn’t part of it. It was Luke [Toki], it was all Luke’s plan.’ He gets the blame and I wanted to let the jury know that I was part of those massive moves but no one can see it because perception is what you see in front of you. So that was me trying to put up a case that what you didn’t see is the reason why you’re sitting there.”

On using Luke as a shield

“The fact is, our story went down an epic story. And for me, he had to be the shield because ultimately he would go. Because they were all voting for him, it would have been an injustice and tarnished our friendship to go with everyone and vote him out, so it worked out right.”
Australian Survivor's final four. L-R: Tara, Michelle, Jericho and Peter

On not getting a single vote until Finale Week:

“People will look at it like ‘Oh Jericho’s there because he wasn’t the biggest threat’ and that’s fine with me but you’ve got to understand that it’s not a 39 day format, it’s 55 days. I had to adjust my plans to make sure that this was a game that you have to get to the 55th day.”

On Jarrod grilling him at tribal council

“It actually put me off guard. I didn’t realise that one underline would be the repercussion of someone remembering it. The guy remembered it. It goes to show that people hold onto the small details in this game.”

On how he stayed grounded

“It sounds cheesy but the fact that in a messed up game, where you have to lie, scheme against your friends, my values, my principles and my faith in God was still strong. It was probably the only thing that was constant in this whole craziness. And the fact that when you don’t have food to gain strength and energy, I gained that from my faith in God."

On when he connected with Luke:

“Day One, I said I wanted to be someone who could change the course of the game. There was a unanimous decision until Luke approached me and was like ‘I want to change it up’ and I looked at him and was like ‘Bro! Same!’ The minute we both laughed and realised we both have the same humour was when I connected instantly. You want to cause chaos and laugh at that? Awesome, that’s exactly what I want. We’d be on the same page and laugh at it and it would be something against the motion. I think in the game you need that one person where you instantly connect with the same humour and same ideas. I knew about his Spy Shack from day dot and he knew about my cookies at week 2."

On what he plans to do with the prize money

“Because I’m young, there is a hype with this whole thing. I think that the best thing is for that hype to go down and to do that I will protect it against myself just because when you’re in that hype it’s so easy to say yeah I’m going to buy that which sometimes is not the wisest decision. I’ll be more wise when that hype is down, and in six months or a year I’ll do something with it but for now I’m gonna have a mindset that I didn’t even win anything.”

On what's next for him

"I’m just an average Joe bloke and I always remind myself that I am. I’m going back to work, I’m still going to shop at Coles. I don’t think one massive prize should be the thing that makes me drop everything in my life. I’ve gotten to where I am because of the steps I’ve taken so why throw that away?"

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