‘Survivor’ Castaway Interview: James ‘JT’ Thomas Jr.

If the CBS editing team is to be believed, Tocantins champion James “JT” Thomas Jr. is responsible for the stupidest move in “Survivor” history. When he bundled up his immunity idol with a love note and handed it to Russell Hantz, he sealed his own fate.  Three days later Russell was laughing and JT was on his way to the “Survivor” Hall of Shame.

I spoke with JT recently to get his take on this heart-breaking turn of events, how Amanda’s bad acting buried the Heroes team, and how I’ve become a bit of a JT apologist.

Gordon Holmes: I assume you’ve been getting a lot of grief over giving the immunity idol to Russell. Some have even called it the stupidest move in “Survivor” history. I disagree with that. I think it was more of a crazy gamble.
James ‘JT’ Thomas Jr.:
(Laughs) I appreciate that.
Gordon: So, last week when you’re watching the previews and they say “There have been a lot of dumb moves in ‘Survivor,’ and this might be the dumbest,” what’s going through your mind?
JT: It was jaw dropping. I was like, “Oh man, is it really that bad?” That was definitely the first time when my stomach got queasy.

Gordon: They only really showed you pitching the idea of giving Russell the idol. Did the other Heroes buy in immediately, or did you have some selling to do?
It wasn’t immediately Russell. I started thinking, even when Coach was still in the game, for a way to make a move. I thought there was a women’s alliance, and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. When I found the idol, Candice was definitely gunning for me with the idol. So, I thought when we merged they’d say “He has the idol, why don’t we get rid of him?” I felt like it wasn’t going to help me get where I wanted to go. When I thought of the idea, Amanda thought for five minutes, she was like, “I don’t know. Let’s talk about it.” And then finally she thought it might work. But, everyone went along with it. Colby was excited, Rupert was excited.

Gordon: Amanda and Parvati seem to be working together again. Did Amanda tell you that Parvati claimed to have an immunity idol?
I don’t think Amanda told us that Parvati had an idol. I think she told us that she thought she did. She never really came clean. But, Amanda was rocky through the merge. I think she was scared because Parvati wouldn’t open up to her. She felt that they had a solid plan. So Amanda would have done pretty much anything out there. She told Parvati to play her idol, but that was some bad acting. I think Amanda hurt us more than she helped us on that deal.

Gordon: Can you take us back to when Parvati pulled out that second idol? What’s going through your mind at that point?
I knew I was going as soon as the second idol came out. I knew there was a possibility, but the Villains played it up good. When she played the first one I thought, “Yes! She gave it to Sandra, we guessed right.” We had picked the right person, and nobody had tipped her off. But then when she pulled out the second idol I was like, “Surely they’re not going to give it to Jerri.” But I knew I was gone the second she gave it to Jerri.

Gordon: How would you compare playing a regular season like Tocantins vs. playing in an all-star season?
JT: The game wasn’t as hard as I thought it’d be with the hard-caliber of players I was playing against. It could have been worse. I expected it to be. I thought I was going to be first or second out.
Gordon: As a former champion, were there any concerns that there would be a big target on your back? We saw that a lot during “Survivor: All Stars.”
JT: I was definitely worried, because I was the last winner that anyone had seen. I won hands down. I got all the votes. And everyone figured they didn’t want to face someone like that in the finals. They don’t want any nice guys like me around. But I played it pretty straight up in Tocantins, so everyone knows they can trust me.

Gordon: Speaking of that, there’s been a lot of talk this season about Heroes acting like Villains and Villains acting like Heroes. And your name was brought up a few times in that regard, especially earlier in the game with Tom and Colby. Did you worry about hurting your reputation as a good guy?
I went in with a whatever-it-takes-to-win attitude. I didn’t feel like there’d be anybody taking it lightly. But at some point of the game you get fed up and you think, “You know what? I’m just going to do what I think is right.” Even though you try to play nice. That was like with Colby, I knew I’d rather have Colby for a lot of reasons. So I had to go against all of the numbers. And then I tried to get back to my strategy.
Gordon: Why did you stick with James and Amanda?
JT: Amanda, James, myself, and Rupert had a four-way alliance that was pretty tight. But as the game went on, Tom and Colby were guys that I really looked up to. I think that in different circumstances it would have been me, Tom and Colby all the way. The way the numbers worked out I had to stay with my original numbers.

Gordon: Alright, word association time, let’s start with Russell.
Gordon: Coach?
JT: (Laughs) Rico suave.
Gordon: James?
JT: Big.
Gordon: Amanda?
JT: Bad actress.
Gordon: Sandra?
JT: Sneaky.
Gordon: Candice?
JT: Klepto
Gordon: OK, I’ve got to follow up on that one. Candice the klepto?
JT: All the tree mail and the fruit, she’d like hide it from everybody.
Gordon: Rupert?
JT: Boastful.
Gordon: Parvati?
JT: Snake.

Gordon: How do you respond to all the people saying you made the dumbest move in “Survivor” history?
I don’t really know. I’ve been trying to figure that out. (Laughs) I just try to tell everyone that you have to make big moves to win the game. And one different move in that tribal council and things would’ve turned out different. I stand by my decision.

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