‘Survivor’ Castaway JT: “It Was Sandra’s Way or the Highway”

“Survivor: Game Changers” (CBS)

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Gordon Holmes: I’m sure you’ve gotten this a lot, but why didn’t you bring the idol to Tribal?
JT Thomas: I actually found it not long before Tribal. After going through “Heroes vs. Villains” being caught finding the idol, I knew I had to get it off my person. I only had my jeans and underwear, I ran up to this place we called “Lookout Mountain” that was a really hard-to-get-to spot. I knew the idol would be safe there. I buried it and came back down, but most of the rest of the afternoon before Tribal was spent with all of us talking. It was Aubry, myself, Jeff, and Sandra. And they did a good job of selling it. And Michaela was chilling out like she does all the time. To me it made no sense at all. And I knew if I went back it would be obvious and I’d have to explain where I was going. So, I really wish I had took it. And I didn’t wish I had it until right before the vote. I’m not sure I would’ve played it. It just made no sense to vote me out over Michaela at this point except for payback or revenge. That’s something you wouldn’t expect out of Sandra being the seasoned player that she is.

Holmes: One of the questions I get from everybody is; why are people letting Sandra run the show? Is she that good of a shield?
Thomas: Sandra is definitely leading the show on the tribe I was on. Varner’s on board to do whatever Sandra says. He wants a free ticket to the merge. And I don’t know Sandra personally, but I have played with her before. And she’s really playing out of character. She’s up on her high horse. It was obvious at camp that it was Sandra’s way or the highway. And I told her that I’d do whatever I could do to help them at the merge. The other option is Michaela who has no connections and nothing to offer. It just made all the sense in the world to stick with me.

Holmes: Did you find out about Sandra’s sugar stunt as you were leaving Tribal or did you find out last night?
Thomas: I didn’t know until last night. (Laughs) And then it made perfect sense. And Sandra kept instigating it and I never knew why. I guessed she just liked to hear me and Michaela go at it. Actually, it was her stirring it up more to prove that I was safe. That’s a lot of work to make a horrible move in my opinion. We were fixing to merge with people I’ve been camping with already. Who are they going to turn to for leniency? The former Mana tribe is going to be picked off like sitting ducks.

Holmes: The Tribal where Malcolm was voted out; did you mean tell them Sierra in the hopes that they’d idol Sandra out? Or, did you slip up and just mean to tell Brad that he was safe?
Thomas: I was hoping Sandra was going home, so I couldn’t own up to it at the time. And that’s only if they had an idol. I wasn’t sure. And if they didn’t, there was nothing I could do about it. That’s the reason why I still voted for Sierra. I didn’t want to out myself for no reason. And if they did have an idol, “I give you this knowledge, Brad. Your end of the deal is to vote out Sandra.” It was that simple. I had Malcolm and Aubry on-board with me. The only way they’d vote with me was if we had numbers. I had to get one person off of that tribe. It was a chance for me to get numbers.
Holmes: What was Malcolm’s reaction after you were voted out?
Thomas: My reaction was, “Dude, I hate it. I’m so sorry.” But he knows he was the last person I wanted to see go home. He played so hard. We were both upset about it. We hugged. I trusted the wrong person in Brad. I shot myself in the foot. And Malcolm and I together were probably the two toughest to beat at challenges.

Holmes: The original Nuku tribe never went to Tribal Council, so we don’t really know the dynamics. What was life like there? Who was on the outs?
Thomas: I went from the top of the best spot in the house, to the worst after the swap. I don’t want to say I was running the show, but I was definitely among those who were in charge. The most solid in-game alliance was Sarah, myself, Brad, and Ozzy. We were a tight four. Debbie and Tai were in that six, and then there was Zeke and Sierra. We had a good alliance, plenty of food, a nice home, and a pick-off order.
Holmes: Was that pick-off order Cirie first and then Andrea?
Thomas: Yeah, that’s correct. It wasn’t always that way. I wanted to work with Cirie. Everyone’s expecting us to have our differences. Immediately I went to Cirie and said, “We can work together and nobody will ever see it coming. We can take it to the end, you and I. I owe you one.” I didn’t get a good vibe at all. I felt like it was me or her. And Ozzy felt the same way. It’s not what I came into the game wanting to do, but I felt like I’d better get rid of Cirie. Then, Andrea actually told Cirie that I was gunning for her. Sarah let me know about it.

Holmes: Word association time. Let’s start with Zeke.
Thomas: Very intelligent. Strong competitor. A huge threat.
Holmes: Culpepper?
Thomas: Physical threat. Very untrustworthy.
Holmes: Sarah?
Thomas: Great person. Strong ally.
Holmes: Cirie?
Thomas: Huge threat in the game. Great person.
Holmes: Ozzy?
Thomas: Solid guy. Dependable.
Holmes: Tai?
Thomas: Good guy, but can’t hold his words.
Holmes: Andrea?
Thomas: Sneaky.
Holmes: Malcolm?
Thomas: Solid. Genuine, good athletic guy.
Holmes: Sandra?
Thomas: Great person, but on her high horse.
Holmes: Varner?
Thomas: Lacks self-confidence.
Holmes: Debbie?
Thomas: (Laughs) Very smart. Doesn’t fit in socially…socially awkward.
Holmes: Sierra?
Thomas: Sweet girl but a pawn in this game.
Holmes: Aubry?
Thomas: Very smart. Great person. Strong ally.
Holmes: Let’s finish with Michaela.
Thomas: Chip on her shoulder. Very immature. A lot to learn.

Holmes: One of the big moments from last night was the Debbie/Brad Culpepper explosion. And the thing that stuck with me is she kept saying how Hali took longer to do the balancing portion. Do you remember their part of the challenge? What didn’t we see?
Thomas: I have to say, to Debbie’s point, it was a really hard challenge. It’d take the whole episode to show the whole thing. The bow part was really hard. I was the third person on my tribe to try it. Aubry tried it, then Varner. Maybe Michaela even tried it. And it took me a while to do it. It did take Debbie a long time on the handle part, but it took Hali just as long on the bow. But, the bow, in my opinion was harder. I get where Debbie is coming from, it did take Hali a long time. But, it took all of us a long time. So, it didn’t make Hali look so bad.

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