‘Survivor’ Castaway Interview: Tom Westman

“I think (Tom Westman) is the ultimate winner. I think he’s the face you’d like to have represent the show. He won the game by playing with integrity. He led his tribe, which is impossible to do these days and not get voted out. And, he was smart enough not to come back for an All-Star because he knew he would only damage his reputation.” Jeff Probst – September 2008

Yeah, maybe Tom isn’t as smart as Jeff thinks…

Tom learned the hard way that what worked during his dominating “Survivor: Palau” victory wouldn’t fly during “Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains.” I chatted with Tom the morning after his elimination to get his real feelings about Rupert, James, and puzzles.

Gordon Holmes: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, Tom.
Tom Westman:
What’s going on, Gordon?  How is everything?
Gordon: Not so good. My show is confusing me.
Tom: (Laughs) What’s the matter?
Gordon: They’re calling it “Heroes Vs. Villains” and most of the Heroes are acting like (expletive deleted).
Tom: (Laughs) I didn’t put too much stock into the whole being labeled either way. I’d have much rather been given some made-up tribe name. They put a tag on you and give the other tribe a reason to prove them wrong and it gave some people on my tribe the license to be a jerk. And you knew the fun was going to be the Heroes weren’t all going to be heroic.

Gordon: Heading into this season, Rupert had the reputation of being America’s favorite player. Were you at all surprised with how he’s been playing the game?
I wasn’t shocked. I’d always heard negative things about Rupert from people who’ve played with him. He’s kind of simple, and he’ll find someone who will take care of them, and he stays with that person. This time it was Amanda. He’s a tough guy to share a beach with. He has his way that things should be done which is sometimes so ridiculous that you’d just straighten him out if you weren’t on “Survivor.” But he’s just blundering along there.

Gordon: People also seem to be shocked with the way James has been acting. Again, was this a shock to you?
Both of those guys, as a fan of the show, I watched and rooted for both of them. And it was disappointing to get to meet them and to find out how shallow Rupert is and how brutish James is. It really wasn’t that enjoyable. There wasn’t too much conversation to be had. It was very superficial.
Gordon: And loud and insulting when it came to Stephenie.
Tom: His treatment of Stephenie…you’re in this game where you have to bite your tongue all day. But it was so ugly that two people could no longer bite their tongue. And Colby and I just…that was enough. I give Colby a lot of credit, he was the guy that jumped in first. I was the guy that just followed it up.

Gordon: If you had to put the “Hero” tag on someone in your tribe would it be Colby?
Yeah, but it’s kind of odd. I don’t buy too much into the labeling. We’re playing a game where we’re all trying to deceive each other. Is it anti-heroic to form alliances? No. Is it anti-heroic to blindside someone? No. It is anti-heroic to belittle and intimidate someone who already knows they’re going home. Yes. As far as the strategy of the game, I don’t think that makes anyone a hero or a villain.

Gordon: After last week’s Cirie vote, did you think JT was solidly on your side?
No, I was optimistic that we were going to make the swing, but I also knew that I needed to get Rupert to come on board too. I was trying to appeal to his ego. I was making the case, “Is it OK that you’re being led around by Amanda Kimmel? That she’s the leader of the Heroes tribe on the 20th season of ‘Survivor?’” And, I just couldn’t get him to shake. He couldn’t think it out enough. I’d say to him, “Do you know how you’re going to come off this time out? You’re going to be embarrassed.” But, I couldn’t get him to make the switch. Candice was firmly on board with us, but when I saw her and JT arguing I was like, “JT is not on board.” And Candice let me know. JT had a chance to be in a foursome with Amanda, James, and Rupert or me, Colby, and Candice. But we all suspect that Amanda and James have their crew on the Villains side. And JT’s close with Courtney and Parvati and Amanda are friends. It’s a potential six that they have right there and he knew with us he only had a foursome.

Gordon: A year and a half ago, Jeff Probst and I did a Q&A piece where we chose you as the best “Survivor” winner of all time. It was one of the very few things we actually agreed on. As the best winner, was there an extra target on your back because you were so dominant in Palau?
Yeah, you have to know that. That was the discussion that went on at home. If I was playing this game I’d take me out first too. It went well for me last time. Everything went well, I played a good social game and a good physical game. So, I’m a natural target. But I figured ability will get me to the merge and then I’ll scramble and do what I have to do. But I certainly didn’t think I’d be going home before the merge and before it became an individual game.

Gordon: Since you’ve been home, has there been a situation where you’ve been in a store and seen a puzzle?
Gordon: Would that give you the cold sweats?
I’m just one of those people who has never been entertained by doing puzzles. If I would have trained for the show it wouldn’t have involved going out swimming or things like that. I’d pick myself up a Rubik’s Cube.
Gordon: Why are puzzles the Achilles’ heel of the Heroes tribe?
Tom: It was really frustrating. I know we’re not bad at puzzles, we’re just not as good as Boston Rob. I guess we would have done better if we’d just done sumo wrestling for every challenge.

Gordon: It’s always nice to talk to former winners to get their expert opinion on important “Survivor” matters. So, with that being said this may be the most critical question you’re asked all day: if there was a footrace between James and Jeff Probst’s niece, who would win?
(Laughs) I’m putting all of my money, all of my winnings on Jeff Probst’s niece.

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