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Exclusive: James "J.T." Thomas talks 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains'


By Christopher Rocchio, 04/23/2010 

Not only did "J.T." James Thomas not trust the women on the Villains tribe, but he also claims he didn't have complete confidence in the women on his own Heroes tribe.

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He was right to be worried, as the Survivor: Tocantins winner became the eleventh castaway voted out of from Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains during last night's broadcast of the CBS reality competition series.

On Friday, J.T. talked to Reality TV World about his Hidden Immunity Idol deal with
Russell Hantz that went sour; how he never expected Parvati Shallow to give away two idols at the Tribal Council that saw his ouster; what initially led him to believe there was an all-female alliance running the show at the Villains camp; and how over-confidence played a role in his downfall.

Reality TV World: After you were eliminated, you knew Russell had betrayed your trust but commented that women should never be trusted. But you'd never actually been allied with Parvati, so what led to that comment about never trusting women -- had you been burned by an ex-girlfriend before filming began or were you thinking [Amanda Kimmel] had betrayed you or where was that coming from?

J.T.: (laughing) One of the main things that drove me to start thinking about giving the idol away was that Amanda and [Candice Woodcock] I felt like they were targeting me since I found the idol -- especially Candice.

We knew Russell wasn't with us going into that Tribal Council, but we wanted him to think we were going to vote [Sandra Diaz-Twine] at that point that way maybe she would get the idol if they gave it away and we could vote [Jerri Manthey].

So we knew Russell wasn't with us, but somehow Parvati knew to give the other idol to Jerri, or it was just a lucky guess. But I didn't know that night during [my Final Words interview] if she may have been tipped off by Amanda or Candice on who are tribe was voting for.

Reality TV World: So just to be clear, you didn't know if Amanda or Candice tipped Parvati off or she just guessed correctly.

J.T.: Exactly. At the time, it crossed my mind because Amanda was acting so funny. Just like, "I'm not sure what to do. I don't know what's going on." I was like, "Oh no. Something somewhere is going on." But I don't know if that's the case.

Reality TV World: Why were you so arrogantly confident that Russell could be trusted? [Rupert Boneham] even told you during last night's episode that he must be on the Villains tribe for a reason. Didn't you think it was possible he was playing you?

J.T.: Oh yeah, I definitely came off way more confident than I felt like I was. (laughing) There was a couple days we contemplated the plan. When it was all packed into one episode, it looks like we were really confident.

My first thought was the women alliance when they voted [Tyson Apostol] off. When I said that, Rupert brought it up at the next three challenges. They just picked up on that and started feeding that -- played it up. But we were never really sure about Russell at all. When it first started, I was excited about it. But as soon as we spent one night together at our camp [after the merge], we knew we were in trouble and that I had made the wrong move.

But in doing that move, we wanted to do a couple things. We also knew that Russell may keep the idol for himself and vote Parvati out just to try to make me think that he's one of us. That's what I thought he would do. That was my thoughts, that he was going to think, "Okay, I'll vote Parvati out to keep this idol. I'd be a step ahead of the game." But in all honesty, I would have voted him out next. That was my thinking --  worst-case scenario, he keeps the idol. Who cares? We'll play along and let him vote Parvati out and that's all we really wanted done anyway.

There's more than one angle to it.

Reality TV World: You just mentioned after Tyson was gone, that's when you started to think the Villains might have an all-female alliance. But your own tribe had planned to vote off strong men like Tom and Colby early in the game and you'd been part of those plans yourself, so why were you so convinced that a women's alliance was the only explanation for Tyson's ouster?

J.T.: I was afraid that Parvati was running the show. That's just how she previously played. To see [Rob Mariano] go was really like, "Oh man, they have to be up to something over there." Because I know [Benjamin "Coach" Wade] how he plays, and Tyson, Rob -- not so much Rob -- but Coach and Tyson, they would never vote off athletes or the strong competitors in challenges. They really want to win, and I knew that. So to see them go, I knew they were out of control.

So once Tyson was gone, Rob was gone, Coach was out of control I knew because he wouldn't have went along with that. They were only left with one guy and all girls. You hardly ever see all guys go home the first four voted off of one tribe. So I just made assumptions to early.

Reality TV World: Did you ever start to believe that there might be some truth behind what Sandra had told Rupert about Russell? Because last night's episode was a little unclear, but you still seemed confident that Russell was on your side even after Parvati willing stepped down during the Immunity Challenge.

J.T.: No. After Parvati stepped down we knew we were at the losing end of some deal we didn't know about. That's actually when I act like I'm stepping down, Parvati and [Danielle DiLorenzo], that got them really excited. I was in pain. I was like, "Oh no. They're just waiting for me to get down." So I knew I was in trouble.

Reality TV World: At that point did you believe Parvati and Russell were working together?

J.T.: No. I did not know that. I thought Parvati might even know more than what Russell knew. I thought she may even have something over him, which she did with the idol. But I didn't expect that.

Reality TV World: Did you hear Danielle and Parvati talking while they were on the poles -- it seemed like you guys were sitting close by and could have heard Danielle talking about how Parvati already had an idol.

J.T.: Yeah, we could tell they were talking but we couldn't tell what they were saying. Once I was out of the competition, I could hear her and Danielle saying, "Do you want it? Do you want the challenge?" So I knew that they weren't worried at all.

Reality TV World: What made the Heroes' decide to target Jerri instead of Sandra and would you have gone after Danielle instead if she had not won Immunity?

J.T.: We probably would have went after Danielle. But we knew Russell wasn't with her and we knew that we wanted him to vote Parvati. So we let it slip that we were voting Sandra, that way he would vote Sandra and we'd have an out if he wasn't with us. That's why I thought Parvati got tipped off by one of the girls because Russell fell right for it. But Parvati somehow knew we were voting Jerri. Nobody ever talked about Jerri.

Reality TV World: You already said you didn't expect Parvati to do what she did last night, but did you really think there was any chance she would give it to someone else?

J.T.: We thought she might give it away because we were so obvious that we were voting Parvati that she probably wouldn't believe it. So we knew there was a chance, but we thought Jerri would be the last person. We knew they didn't get along.

Reality TV World: Do you think she only pulled out the second one and gave it to Jerri because she sensed you guys were okay with her giving Sandra the first one or do you think she planned to give both of them away all along?

J.T.: I think she made up her mind before Tribal Council.

Reality TV World: There's been a lot of talk about whether it was fair or not for Russell to get to play the game without anyone having gotten to seen his season first.  Do you think he would have had any chance of making it this far if you guys had all seen his Samoa season before Heroes vs. Villains was filmed?

J.T.: I think there's arguments to both sides of that. I played Tocantins and had never seen any of them play and had done really well versus seeing a lot of different players, so it can be argued either way. Everyone knew when we were going out there that there was one person when we got there that would be from a season that we were not familiar with. None of us hesitated to play it. It's all in the game. It makes it more difficult.

Reality TV World: You already touched on this, but do you think Rupert's boasting at the challenges about the possibility of an all-female Villains' alliance was a smart move?

J.T.: (laughing) No... It was the worst thing ever. It really led us to the cleaners on that end.

Reality TV World: Even if you did completely trust Russell, giving him a Hidden Immunity Idol without ever seeing Survivor: Samoa or spending one day with him in camp is an incredibly bold and risky move. Why did you consider his joining the Heroes at the merge such an important move, were you that certain you were going to have no chance to get someone else like maybe Sandra to flip?

J.T.: It didn't ever really cross my mind that I could get one of the girls until afterwards. Once we merged, everyone was scared to talk to each other. It made it clear that they had a plan, and we were vice-versa. It was pretty set in stone. There was never anybody really wanting to trade except Sandra. It appears that. Unfortunately I never got a chance to talk to her.

Reality TV World: So you never approached her...

J.T.: No. We never talked. She avoided me, and I felt like in doing that she was voting for me. But what she was doing was trying to make Russell not see her talk to us.

Reality TV World: Do you think you were a victim of arrogance and over-confidence, or do you think it was just the way it came across?

J.T.: I was definitely more confident than I should have been, obviously. But I think it was definitely a little more played up than I really was. I never felt comfortable. I knew there was a good chance I was going home.

Reality TV World: You were obviously the third member of the jury, so what criteria did you consider important for your vote?

J.T.: I said this when I was on Tocantins, but the person that wins definitely deserves to win because they've done something to get the votes from the people who are voting. But what I did was whoever played the game the best with the hand they were dealt.

(Photo credit CBS)


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