Some would argue that relaxing and playing under the radar, then winning every immunity when you’re in danger is a terrible strategy for winning “Survivor.” But it sure worked for Judson “Fabio” Birza.
Smart strategy or not, the floppy haired youngster from St. Louis, Missouri pulled it off and is now a million dollars richer. (Well, before taxes.) I spoke with the man with the unfortunate nickname the morning after his big win to find out if he bought Sash’s lies, why he never took his socks back from NaOnka and what he intends to do with the million dollar check.
Judson “Fabio” Birza: What’s up, dude?
Gordon Holmes: How’s it feel to be a millionaire?
Fabio: Dude, it feels great. They say money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can fix a lot of things.
Gordon: Now I know you’ve been through an awful lot, but I think the most important question on everyone’s mind is; how do you feel about the St. Louis Cardinals signing Lance Berkman?
Fabio: (Laughs) The Cardinals have the best fans in baseball.
Gordon: I agree.
Fabio: So, hopefully he likes it and will stay and help us out.
Gordon: Let’s start from the beginning, something I heard a lot is, “Why didn’t Fabio take back his socks from NaOnka?”
Fabio: Could you imagine if I would’ve taken my socks back? All hell would’ve broken loose. It was just better to let NaOnka look like the bad guy. I tried to get a little sympathy, let the girls feel bad for me.
Gordon: How are you and NaOnka now?
Fabio: Immediately when we got out of the game we were at Ponderosa (where the jury stays in between Tribal Councils) dancing. It was pouring down rain and we were all together laughing and stuff. Even during the game we had our little moments where we got along.
Gordon: We didn’t see a lot of your strategy, but then at the same time we are seeing things like Purple Kelly wearing your yellow jacket.
Fabio: You know when Sash does jury work that it’s obvious? I spent the whole month like that. I’d planned to get to the final three. I visualized my speech every day. I just set myself up. I didn’t need to do jury work because I’d established my relationships with everyone. And it paid off, I had Chase and NaOnka coming up to me and telling me what they knew. It’s more about listening than running around and thinking you’re a game player. It’s like Marty, he’s a good game player, but he’s putting a target on his back.
Gordon: I’m glad you mentioned people seeing through Sash. Because at home I’m watching it, and I’m not buying it. Now, that’s easy to say from the comfort of my couch, but could you sense it when you were out there?
Fabio: Yes, there’s this look in his eyes. We were all watching the second-to-last episode together and I told him “Did you know we could see right through you?” It was a weird look, and I was like, “What the (expletive deleted).”
Gordon: One of the arguments against you was that you didn’t have to lie because you didn’t really know what was going on.
Fabio: That’s not a case of me being clueless, it’s a case of people liking me more and people trusting me more. I call it a trust bank account. I swam in high school so I talked to Holly about that. Brenda and I discussed South American culture, Chase and I talked about music, Marty and I were just homies. You’ve got to let people see the potential for a game relationship with you.
Gordon: Speaking of Marty, did it break your heart when you found out he wasn’t really a chess grand master?
Fabio: I said in the interview, “It makes sense that Marty’s a grandmaster or whatever.” He is very intelligent. But that was me getting fooled.
Gordon: You were very upset when Chase didn’t take you on the family reward. Your mother talked you down, got your head back into the game. How important was she in helping you pull through and win the game?
Fabio: It was great. I first got emotional on the Sprint 4G phone. They only showed my mom on TV, but it had both of my parents who’ve been divorced for a while. And them with my brother and sister there all together it was awesome. And then when I saw my mom out there I just let it fly. When you have an emotional reaction or you respond truthfully, it’s like a cleanse. And had I gone on the reward with her I probably wouldn’t have won the game.
Gordon: She seemed to know exactly what to say.
Fabio: Oh no, she always does have the right thing to say. When I was growing up she’d say, “Juddy, you need to talk to people in a tone of voice that’ll help you get what you want.”
Gordon: When are we going to see your mom play “Survivor.”
Fabio: I don’t know if I’d sign her up for that.
Gordon: I think she’d clean up. I think there’d be two millionaires in the Birza family.
Fabio: That’d be crazy, dude. Then we’d have to go on “TheAmazing Race.”
Gordon: Last night when Dan was finally allowed to speak, he had a few things to say about your buddy Sash. Had that been going on for a while?
Fabio: (Laughs) Yeah, Dan is such a vindictive guy. I was usually laughing at whoever he was going at. Chase probably knows it, but Dan would talk (expletive deleted) on him. He’d talk (expletive deleted) on everybody. I laughed when Dan was doing his thing at final Tribal.
Gordon: Yeah, we all laughed.
Fabio: Sash got embarrassed at that final Tribal Council.
Gordon: He did, I kind of felt bad. I felt like his strategy was sound, but he wasn’t a very convincing liar.
Fabio: Yeah, it’s his tone of voice. It’s always the same. You can tell he works in the business world. In the final Tribal Council, they didn’t show this, but Purple Kelly said “If you give another diplomatic answer we’re going to tune out and not listen.”
Gordon: That’s exactly what he did.
Fabio: Yeah, he was doing it again. I don’t know if he’s aware of it or doesn’t know how to fix it. It’s like when we saw our Moms…wait this wasn’t part of your question.
Gordon: Eh…go for it.
Fabio: OK, it wasn’t an emotional thing for him. And he said this thing about growing up without any money, which may be true. Maybe it wasn’t fake, but some people aren’t as emotional or free. I think being an open book in “Survivor” is a good thing. Nobody had a reason to question me or investigate because they thought they had me figured out.
Gordon: OK, word association time. Let’s start with Benry.
Fabio: Shannon’s gotta be a good one…ignorant? There are so many words for what he did, and what he did again last night.
Fabio: He thinks he’s cooler than he is. Right now when I think of Sash I think of sympathy with the way it went down. He’s such a super fan and he did not get justice at the end.
Fabio: For Holly it’s gotta be eavesdropper. She would just stand there and look over her shoulder, and I could see her listening to other conversations.
Gordon: Let’s wrap this up with Chase.
Gordon: Alright, Mr. Millionaire. Now that you’ve got that big check, what’re you going to do with it?
Fabio: I’m starting a production company. We’re just gonna do 45-minute short films. I’d like to do a little bit of stand-up, I think it’d be really fun. I’ve written like 60 poems. Some really cool stuff.
Gordon: Anywhere we can see that stuff online?
Fabio: No man, I gotta get a Twitter and a Fabio Facebook.