'Survivor' Winner Tommy Sheehan on How He'll Spend His $1 Million (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
Tommy Sheehan knew he had it in the bag -- but that doesn't make his Survivor victory any less sweet.
The 4th grade teacher was crowned our new Sole Survivor on the season finale of Survivor: Island of the Idols on Wednesday night, and he's already got a few ideas of how to spend his $1 million prize.
"I proposed the day I got back to my girlfriend, now fiancee, so I have a wedding to pay for. I have some student loans to pay for, and then before you know it, it's gone," he told ET at the show's reunion taping on Wednesday. "So I just want to give my fiancee the dream wedding she always wanted."
The New York native also plans on spreading the love to his students. "I don't call them my students, I call them my kids," he sweetly said.
"My kids are going to go nuts, and definitely I'm going to spoil them and everything like that. I was lucky enough to have one of my students actually fly out and be there for me, so I'm going to treat them well," he promised.
Tommy's winning moment felt "like a blur."
"You see those montages on TV and in the movies. It literally brought me back to the first day I watched Survivor with my family," he recalled. And then I looked at my family, and my dad in his pink suit running at me, I was like, 'Oh my god, he's going to tackle me.' Seeing tears in their eyes, I remember when I was 7 years old, watching the show, it literally was like a whole montage of my life through Survivor, and now I'm like, 'I'm here, I did it.'"
"I'm so proud of myself," Tommy added. "I've never probably said that before, and it's unbelievable."
The 26-year-old beat out finalists Noura Salman and Dean Kowalski in Wednesday's season finale, by a pretty good margin.
"I'm going to be straight up honest. I kind of knew I had it. I knew that if Janet [Carbin] was sitting there, I would have lost. I knew if Lauren was in there, I would have to play more offensively, and that would have been really close, because I feel like we were Dom [Abbate] and Wendell [Holland, from Survivor: Ghost Island]. I would have had to push more. But with Dean there, no offense to him and his game, he played a great fourth quarter, but... I knew I had it," he explained.
Tommy wasn't the only person to walk away with a check on Wednesday night. As she's done for years now, Sia awarded money to her favorite player -- but then added a couple more to the list. She gave $15,000 to Jamal Shipman and $100,000 each to Elaine Stott and Janet.
"I did not think I was going to get it once the awards were given to the other people, because I've never heard of that many awards being given out," Janet told ET. "But I was so happy for Elaine. And when I was awarded the money, I was really overwhelmed, extremely grateful. I am on a fixed income, and I feel very blessed."
"I don't [know how I'm going to spend it], other than probably talk to my husband and see what our kids need," she said.
Wednesday's season finale of Island of the Idols also featured more serious moments, including a sit-down between Kellee Kim and Survivor host Jeff Probst about what the show can do to better protect its players in the future. Earlier in the season, Kellee had accused contestant Dan Spilo of inappropriate touching. He was later removed from the game, with CBS making new guidelines to ensure player safety in future seasons.
While speaking with ET after the finale, Tommy opened up about how the controversy affected his Survivor experience.
"My dream was to play Survivor, and I got to play Survivor. Did I sign up for what happened? No. But none of us did. Not Kellee, not Dan, nobody," he said. "I truly love everybody on my cast, but also, it was an awesome time for 'Teaching Time with Tommy' with my students. I had talks with them that I never had talks [about] in my teaching career."
"Social media loves to be negative. I'm just saying, 'Guys, look, it happened. Like [Kellee] said, we can't go backwards. But what can we learn from it?' So stop bashing people and let's say, 'What can we do to become better people?'" Tommy continued. "So, that's my outlook on things. It's a good time as a teacher to have these tough conversations with my 9 year olds, because before you know it, they're going to be in high school and college. I want to be able to have those conversations with them."
See more on the controversy in the video below. Survivor returns Feb. 12 on CBS.