Exclusive: James "Jimmy T" Tarantino talks 'Survivor: Nicaragua'
By Reality TV World staff, 10/07/2010
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino's Survivor: Nicaragua experience appeared to take a turn for the better when he successfully teamed with his fellow Espada tribe members and voted off perceived rival Jimmy Johnson at the tribe's Night 8 Tribal Council.
However Jimmy T's success proved short-lived when his belief that he should take over the former NFL coach's leadership role seemed to grow into an obsession that turned his tribemates against him -- resulting in his own ouster at Espada's next Tribal Council session
On Thursday, Jimmy T talked to Reality TV World about his Survivor: Nicaragua experience -- including whether he was surprised to be voted off, why he was so confident he should have been his tribe's leader, what his leadership background is, who he believes actually was "a big Jimmy T fan," and where he thinks his tribe will go without him.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised to be voted off or did you know you were going to be the one going home? Last night's episode seemed a little unclear.
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: I was surprised until about halfway through the Tribal Council and then it was crystal clear to me that they had different things in mind. I thought we were voting Danny out.
Reality TV World: The show presented you as being pretty jealous of Jimmy Johnson right from Day 1. Do you think that was accurate, and if so why was that the case?
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: No, that wasn't accurate. It was that I knew that Jimmy -- several times I had seen him being insincere in his communications with the tribe and I'm a very genuine individual so I rebel against someone who tells me one thing and does another.
I'll give you the Jimmy Johnson impersonation. I heard this speech three times -- given to me, to Marty, to maybe one or two other castmates.
Reality TV World: Is it long? Because we only have a limited amount of time.
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: Very brief.
(assumes Jimmy Johnson accent)
"No jury in their right mind is going to give me a million dollars but I can help you win a million dollars!"
(resumes normal accent)
And he said that to three or four people, and very sincerely -- like he was going to help them win the million dollars. But there were several things that were just disingenuous.
Reality TV World: At Tribal Council last week, you said you thought Jimmy Johnson considered you a threat to his leadership role because you're a leader. Did you really believe that or were you just saying that at the time?
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: Ah, no. See, it's easy for people who aren't there to make assumptions. But in the game of Survivor where you have to build shelter, you have to provide food, go without food, go without sleep... some people did that and built the shelter -- me -- and some people didn't, and they threw up and they couldn't handle that.
And you saw that clearly.
I'm not saying that because I think I can lead an NFL team to victory, although that was 20 years ago -- maybe I could.
I'm not saying I'm a better leader than Jimmy Johnson, but in Survivor there's no question I was a threat to his leadership there because I was the doer and the provider.
Reality TV World: You were obviously extremely confident that you should have been the leader of your tribe and, based on what was shown, seemed obsessed with the idea. Why was that?
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: Because I saw clearly through the people that had no genuine concern for the tribe. And probably foolishly, I really cared more for the tribe than myself. Contrary to popular belief.
I knew we were heading on a bad course as a tribe and I wanted to get back on winning.
Reality TV World: Can you give some details on all the leadership experience you kept saying you have, because your CBS bio doesn't mention anything -- it just lists you as commercial fisherman and doesn't mention if you're a fishing boat captain or any other experience you might have.
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: In my job I'm a seafood inspector. So I go into seafood production facilities and help them analyze their process and important their process to produce quality product, without boring you with the intimate details of that.
Reality TV World: So you're not actually a fisherman then?
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: No, former fisherman. I'm a seafood inspector for the Department of Commerce.
Reality TV World: Have you been part of any teams before where you weren't the leader?
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: Sure, I've been on rowing crews. And I'm also very vocal on those crews. But the current crew that I'm on is the defending champions and will continue to win, because they're all team players.
You have to keep in mind, contrary to what the show showed, I was a team player and I've been a team player my whole life. And to see guys that want to lead for their own selfish reasons, irks the crap out of me.
So that's why I couldn't keep my mouth shut, as they like to say.
Reality TV World: But weren't you kind of asking for your "own selfish reasons" when you were saying everybody needs to get a turn?
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: No, I was just saying, "Look, we've been losing for a while" -- I even wanted to come right out and say, "Look, you're all sheep and Marty's leading you all to the slaughter."
But if you come out and say that, that would have alienated myself a little more, wouldn't it?
Reality TV World: I don't know, based on what they showed, you seemed pretty far on the outs already. (laughs)
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: (laughs)
Yeah, you're right. I probably -- listen, if I had it all to do over again, I would have kept my mouth shut, sat on the back of the bus, let Marty drive it off the cliff, and jump off just before it went off.
Reality TV World: So the fact that you thought Daniel was going to be going home, is that why we didn't really see you do any campaigning to stay before you went to Tribal Council or did they just not show that?
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: No, that's exactly right. I thought that Dan was probably going home. I knew I had some animosity from Marty but I didn't know he had formed a majority vote against me.
I really thought -- because they were still talking about sending the weakest home and trying to win. When obviously their intent was not to win, but just to get rid of the challenges.
Reality TV World: In your pre-season video, you said you weren't really a Survivor fan before your sister convinced you to enter the Sears casting contest. What was it that your sister said that convinced you to apply?
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: Well she knows what I'm all about, she knows that I'm a man of conviction. I'm passionate, genuine, and have good leadership skills. But that doesn't translate well in Survivor.
The big lesson I learned here was check your emotions at the door. Don't be passionate, just kind of stand back and let the game happen, let people kill themselves. It doesn't matter how hard you work for something in that game, because it get perceived as showboating.
If you do too much then you become a challenge and you become a threat to people. And that's just the reality of Survivor. The stronger, better person you are, the more of a threat you are to the sneaks and the connivers.
Reality TV World: Some people have suggested that all the pleading you did out there was kind of an obvious sign that you weren't too familiar with the game and how to play it, would you agree with that?
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: Yeah... to a certain degree. Let me say this, I knew going in -- I had the right idea -- to keep my shut and not be such a man of conviction and don't go against the grain.
But that goes out the window when you go into the game and I exerted myself so much physically and mentally. I slept probably five to seven hours the whole first week because I was building the shelter and all the stuff you don't see. Providing food, keeping the fires going all night.
And every time I tried to show somebody something, they kind of resented it and they would look around like, "Don't try and point me out as weak!" And I was genuinely trying to help them.
I really tried to play that part of the game and that really backfired against me, because that's not the way to play. Don't do that, conserve your strength, and just be clever.
You have to play with your brain and not your heart and I didn't do that, I really played with my heart. And I wore my heart on my sleeve.
Reality TV World: On last week's show you said Jimmy Johnson "wasn't a Jimmy T fan." Then on this week's, we saw you saying Marty "wasn't a Jimmy T fan." Who did you think your "fanbase" was out there? Obviously Jane seemed to be on your side, do you think that was pretty much it?
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: Um, yeah. I didn't get to last long enough in the game to convince people that "right and right." And you know what, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the way the show -- it wouldn't do the show well to perceive me as the guy who was trying do the right thing versus evil succeeding. Because I don't know if they want that image.
But that's the way it was. (laughs)
I really believed that I was trying to do the right thing for the tribe and get some wins. It wasn't about [leading] -- everyone's painting me as the egotist who wants to be the leader.
I just wanted the tribe to win, I was working for the tribe. Sincerely.
Reality TV World: That leads into how Marty had some pretty harsh things to say about you on last night's show. He called you a "delusional," "obnoxious" "loudmouth" who "suffers from both paranoia and delusions of grandeur."
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: Yeah. Let me tell you, in 2009 -- and maybe this didn't make the bio either -- I competed in two international rowing races, a 22-mile solo race, and a 450-pound boat that I smashed by eight minutes. I trained Olympic-caliber.
And it doesn't show by looking at me because I brought all that fat into the game, because the nutritionist said it's smarter to burn fat rather than muscle.
But I would take any one of those individuals and destroy them in a fight-to-the-death fistfight. (laughs)
Reality TV World: And you kind of fired back at Marty and called him "a preppy little bitch" who "wouldn't last a minute" in your world. (laughs)
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: That's my point. I mean if he was down here in the West End where the Gloucester fisherman at the St. Peters club hang out, he wouldn't be a popular character there, but in the boardroom...
He's a great manipulator, an intelligent guy -- you know what, let me say some nice things about him. I just don't like insincerity.
But you know what, that's what wins Survivor. So, all the power to him.
Reality TV World: I guess my question there was, given that's how you felt about him, then why did you seem to choose to ally with him and go after Jimmy Johnson at your tribe's second Tribal Council.
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: To go against him at that point -- that bought me three more days. You really are trying to survive there. So knowing that Jimmy Johnson wasn't a big Jimmy T fan, that was part of the reason I went along. He would usually ally against me if given the opportunity, so it didn't hurt to have him gone.
He was also one of the weak players. He was the only one who would admit to it, so that didn't hurt us in the challenges. So it was good for the tribe to stop the phony speeches.
Reality TV World: Before Tribal Council, you decided to call Marty out on [how he was eating the] sea urchins. Did you think that was a smart move given you guys had lost the challenge and were going to Tribal Council? Was that part of a plan where you were trying to gun for Marty, or what was your thought process?
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: The thought process there was at this point, clearly Jill was fully under the spell of Marty. She would express and opinion and he would just tell her, "No, you're going to do this" and she would say, "Okay you're the Puppermaster" and he would literally say "Okay, let's not talk any more about it."
He was basically telling her, "Alright, shut-up and do what I tell you."
So he had her. He [also] had Danny because he was going to carry Danny's weakness. So I was trying to convince other members of the tribe. What I clearly saw that no one else seemed to see was Marty was very self-serving.
And that was the only instance in the ten days I was there that everybody while we were gathering any kind of food selfishly indulged without gathering it for the team, taking it back to the camp and sharing.
That was a typical Marty thing. He got away with a lot of that type of selfish stuff.
Reality TV World: Can you elaborate on your thoughts about Jill? She's kind of seemed to be playing a behind-the-scenes game so far.
James "Jimmy T" Tarantino: I think Jill was a very intelligent girl, I allied with her early but that alliance went sour early.
I think she became smitten with Marty and literally, pre-challenges, would be standing there like a puppy going, "Marty can do it, Marty can do it!"
She handed him the Immunity Idol. She handed him her vote whenever he decided what the vote was going to be, and I think that she will end up a victim of Marty's scheming.
(Photo credit CBS)
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