JT Thomas Sounds off on Culpepper, Michaela – Survivor 34 Exit Interview
JT Thomas Sounds off on Culpepper, Michaela – Survivor 34 Exit Interview
By John Powell – GlobalTV.com
Whoops. He did it again.
Former Survivor: Tocantins winner J.T. Thomas has ended another Survivor season with great highs and great lows.
One of the best challenge competitors the series has ever seen, J.T. is also known for his strategic mistakes and this season of Survivor: Game Changers was no different. After dominating many of the challenges, J.T. saw his buddy Malcolm Freberg get voted out and he himself was fooled into believing he didn’t need to use his hidden immunity idol to save himself.
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“I am already aware of the competitor in me and how stubborn I can be. You can knock me down but I am going to get up. There is no way you are going to get me to roll over, ever. The other part of me is that I am always going to take those chances.”
“You know, I really hate that it turned out the way it did. I did not want Malcolm to go. He was my tightest ally in the game. He was also a fellow competitor. Him and I together, we were very hard to beat in challenges. We were looking forward to playing together for a while,” J.T. recalled. “Unfortunately, Malcolm wouldn’t talk much strategy at all to me or anyone for that matter.”
J.T. says Malcolm and Aubry [Bracco] were ready to get rid of Sandra [Diaz-Twine] but only if they had the numbers. He was on the bottom of the tribe unless he could manage to bring either Jeff [Varner] or Michaela [Bradshaw] into the fold. When the dual tribe council came about, J.T. saw his chance to take out Sandra.
“Unfortunately, I put too much stock in [Brad] Culpepper. He was one of my tightest allies from the start of the game. You stick your arm out for someone, you trust somebody and if it works, that’s great, if it doesn’t, you are screwed,” J.T. explained as he reiterated how badly he felt for what happened to Malcolm.
John Powell: When I spoke to Malcolm, he indicated that you were still close friends. How do things stand today and how do you feel about the entire situation?
J.T. Thomas: “Malcolm definitely deserved to be in the game longer than he was. I think we both play harder than anyone in the game. I really wanted the both of us to do well. I hated to see Malcolm go.”
John Powell: Do you think you overplayed your hand a bit?
J.T. Thomas: “Maybe so. I could have played it safe but I knew there was a target on my back. I just didn’t want to sit around and wait for my day to come. If I could do something about it, I am going to do something about it. I am always going to try to do whatever I can. I won’t ever just roll over and give up. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, I don’t believe it was too much to ask of Culpepper to stick with me on that issue. He didn’t have to sacrifice anything. I expected more out of Culpepper, really.”
John Powell: Dominating challenges as you have, did it surprise you that the tribe didn’t keep you around longer?
J.T. Thomas: “That is what led to me not bringing the hidden immunity idol to Tribal Council. I had a lot more to offer if we were to merge, far more than Michaela. I basically made my decisions based off of what I thought Sandra would do. Even no matter how upset I was, I would never waste a vote on revenge. I would always focus on what would get me further in the game. I knew how abrasive Michaela was to all of us. We were definitely ready to see her go. Aubry was duped just as much as I was but she was on board with me 100 percent. I just didn’t see the blindside coming. I didn’t see it at all. Hopefully Aubry will be okay as she is on the outs too with the tribe.”
John Powell: You have had the time to sit back and absorb things, how do you feel now about Sandra and Michaela played?
J.T. Thomas: “Props to them both for putting on a good show. They did a great job in making me believe that I wasn’t going home. I am just disappointed in Sandra’s gameplay altogether. I would expect Sandra would be playing to win the game not to make a name for herself but now that I have been able to watch things back, that is how she is playing. We will see how it turns out for her.”
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John Powell: As a former winner, did you feel an added pressure when you have returned?
J.T. Thomas: “Yes, somewhat. When I looked around and I realized I was only one of three former winners, I stopped because I thought there were going to be more winners in this game. This is how I feel about it, I don’t care how much money you have or how many times you have won or played, every game of Survivor is different. If you can make it to the end and get everyone’s vote, you deserve to win.”
John Powell: Many former winners have declined to play again, maybe out of fear of what that would do to their Survivor legacy. Why did you risk it all by returning for a second time?
J.T. Thomas: “I can never turn a good competition down. Not only that but every chance I get to better my life and better my family’s life, I have to take it. There is nothing I won’t do for a 1 in 20 shot at a million dollars.”
John Powell: What have you learned about the game and yourself?
J.T. Thomas: “I am already aware of the competitor in me and how stubborn I can be. You can knock me down but I am going to get up. There is no way you are going to get me to roll over, ever. The other part of me is that I am always going to take those chances.”
John Powell: What, if anything, do you wish they would have shown more of?
J.T. Thomas: “There is far more going on with three tribes than just two. Like, we haven’t seen much at all of the Tavua Tribe and it is because they have managed to stay away from Tribal Council. Unfortunately, there are a lot of stories that are not told. At the start, they didn’t show much of Nuku at all, if they did, you would have seen why Culpepper and I were so close. How we trusted each other. They also didn’t show much of Michaela’s abrasiveness. She was really hard to handle. Every challenge was a nightmare to get everyone in their starting positions. We started every challenge by asking Michaela where she wanted to be. If we didn’t, we would have to live with the wrath of Michaela and listen to her cry about her not being able to use her skills. At some point you have to be, we are a team and we want to win.”
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John Powell: It is strange that someone would present themselves that way in a social game where impressions and perceptions mean so much.
J.T. Thomas: “Basically we had to tell her she did such a great job just so we didn’t have to live with her abrasiveness. It was very tough. In the blindfold challenge, we had to figure out who had to be paired with whom. Michaela got upset at the pairings. She was like…Do you think girls cannot do this? We all looked at each other and didn’t understand what she was talking about. She wanted to be paired with Aubry because she wanted to prove that girls could do it but it had nothing to do with that at all. It was about being diverse. We didn’t know what we were about to face. It is was all about Michaela’s world. Girl power, in her mind, I guess. The rest of us just thought it would be good to have one tall person, one strong person, one agile person, as we had no idea what the challenge was. We thought it would be good to have diverse pairings but Michaela thought that was an attack on her.”
John Powell: If the opportunity presented itself, would you ever play again?
J.T. Thomas: “For sure, man. I couldn’t say no. I don’t have it in me. I would definitely play.”
Next time on Survivor…
Watch Survivor: Game Changers Wednesdays at 8 et/pt on Global.