Exclusive: Tom Westman talks about 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains'
By Reality TV World staff, 03/12/2010
After starting the game off on the wrong side of his Heroes tribe's dominant alliance, things appeared to start looking better for Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains castaway Tom Westman when he found a hidden Immunity Idol and got James "JT" Thomas to turn against one of his allies and help Tom oustCirie Fields at the Heroes' third Tribal Council session.
However Tom's change in fortune ended up being short-lived when JT turned back against him at the tribe's next Tribal Council session, resulting in the former Survivor: Palau castaway becoming the fifth returning castaway voted out of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains during Thursday night's broadcast of the CBS reality competition's fifth episode.
On Friday, Tom talked to Reality TV World about his Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains experience -- including whether JT's vote surprised him, who he feels is really running things at the Heroes' camp, which Villain he believes JT had formed a pre-game alliance with, and how he feels winning challenges wasn't some of his tribemates' top concern.
Reality TV World: [Candice Woodcock] ended up voting against you too, so it seemed like she knew that despite what JT had been telling you, he was going to vote for you instead of James. Did you also know or was it a surprise to you?
Tom Westman: No, I knew. I think JT was in and out of the alliance five times that last day, so you kind of know he's not on board.
And even his wording, where you're asking him things and he just says "Oh yeah, that's the strategic thing to do" or whatever, or "That's logical." He's not saying "Yeah, this is going to be great." He wasn't on board emotionally.
Candice was actually working on him and really, really taking my part in trying to get him to make the move [but] as we were leaving [for Tribal Council] she was like, "Nah, he's not doing it man, it's you."
And I said "You've got to vote for me then, don't leave yourself hanging on this one." I appreciated her support right up to the end.
Reality TV World: Why do you think JT was set against working with you? Your point that taking another well-liked former winner to the end would be his best chance of winning again seemed to make pretty good sense.
Tom Westman: Yeah, you know what, there are so many relationships that just pre-date this show and there were deals made. He had a choice that night -- he was going to be the swing vote of a four-person alliance and it could either be [Amanda Kimmel], [James Clement], [Rupert Boneham], and JT or it was going to be Tom, [Colby Donaldson], Candice, and JT.
And while we look like the better foursome at face value, Amanda and he -- you know, they've got, they're friends with [Parvati Shallow] and [Courtney Yates, who have both played Survivor with Amanda before] on the other side. So they're kind of just trying to keep their alliance together until the merge and then they'll have strength in numbers on the other side.
Usually the tribe would, you know, stay as strong as possible and try and thrash the other tribe and then merge with strong numbers and pick the other tribe off, but right here, that was less of a concern. More of a concern for them was that they stayed together.
Reality TV World: So you think that Amanda and James have managed to convince JT and Rupert that they'll bring them along in some type of [revived Survivor: Micronesia] alliance with Parvati after the merge?
Tom Westman: Yeah, absolutely. And [even though they were on different Survivor seasons] JT is friends with Courtney, they're close. There's kind of like that younger clique that's all still wrapped up in the fact that they're on a reality show. And for some of us, we really don't live in that world so we were the outsiders from the beginning.
Reality TV World: During last week's Tribal Council, James had insisted he was going to base his vote on what would win challenges and then he went still ahead and voted for Colby anyways.
Reality TV World: Were you remotely surprised about that?
Tom Westman: No, not surprised at all. Frustrated that nobody will say [the truth, but] it is what it is. If you're sending us home just admit that "Hey, we're not really that worried about the Heroes and how many of these things we win, we're just trying to keep our numbers strong."
So James, even as injured as he was, if he had broken both knees they would have carried him there on a gurney because all he is to them is a vote at this point and that's what they need. That's what they think they needed.
Reality TV World: Do you think it was fair that the Heroes weren't allowed to substitute Colby into the Reward Challenge after James had to leave with an injury?
Tom Westman: Um, I don't really know. You know that's basically their game and their rules.
Reality TV World: But most games allow injury substitutions and don't make a team play shorthanded the rest of the way.
Tom Westman: Yeah. Well, the problem that you could have there is that if somebody is sitting out because there's unequal sides then one team could have two people as substitutes and the other one doesn't. So by sitting someone out it's to try and give it a fair playing field for when it begins and then what happens, happens.
If the tribes were lopsided and it was four against six then one team's got no substitutes and the other one's got two. So you could argue it either way, that that should be the benefit of theirs due to the fact that they're doing better. But you know that's just one of those things where it's their game and you're just playing in it.
Reality TV World: What do you think of Amanda? We already knew she was bad with jury speeches, but she seems to be coming across as not too bright, very impressionable and maybe a bit of a coattail-rider this season.
Tom Westman: I wouldn't call her a coattail-rider. I think that there's a couple of weak-minded men who are riding her coat. I think that the way that she's got James and Rupert to do her bidding, and then most of the time I think JT is also so enamored with her and wants to do her bidding. So I don't see her riding the coats, I see her as the controlling factor in that alliance, that whole Micronesian alliance.
Reality TV World: Really, because Cirie seemed to think she was ["not the smartest tool in the shed."]. When you had talked about Cirie being able to wrap some of the "weak minds around her fingers," who were you referring to then, [just] Rupert and James?
Tom Westman: Who was Cirie wrapping around her fingers?
Reality TV World: Yeah.
Tom Westman: Well, I think Cirie... Nah, I guess I was worried about her being able to do that, but she really didn't control anyone. It's something I know from her past reputation.
I was angry then because she was able -- in spite of the fact that James and Amanda were my sworn enemies, I did get them over once I found the idol and said "Hey listen, here's the idol, I'll even give it to you, but let's get something going with a stronger group here and try to win some of these things." And I did have that deal done and then Cirie was able to just blow that up on me just by using logic.
So yeah, I that if there is somebody who is controlling people it's Amanda. I think she's playing a good game so far.
Reality TV World: You mentioned Rupert believing Amanda and James were going to have a place for him after the merge little while ago. Do you think that was the primary reason why he seemed uninterested in working with you? When I spoke to [Stephenie LaGrossa] she had suggested maybe he considered you guys a threat to his own Survivor popularity or something like that.
Tom Westman: Yeah, and with Rupert that's what he's all about. He's out there and you know, just putting on "The Rupert Show."
I believe that's why. He had no reason to dislike Steph [and] be adamant about getting rid of somebody. I think it was that he knows that Stephenie was as popular as he was and he'd rather not have anybody competing with him for face time out there.
Really, I don't know any other reason why it would have been her, and so that was it. The gauntlet was down between him and I at that point. And I tried to actually shame him back. [I said] "Is this really [what you want?] Are you content with the fact that you're going to be portrayed [this way?]"
It amazes me that he couldn't see what was coming and why he was not going to look good on the show. I told him "This is really [okay?] Following Amanda Kimmel around the beach, that's okay with you?"
He's not very strategic and he just finds somebody he thinks will take care of him and they do for as long as they want to and then it's "poor Rupert" again.
Reality TV World: As a former firefighter who lost some colleagues in the World Trade Center attacks, did it bother you that the show decided to call some of the castaways "heroes?"
Tom Westman: No, not at all. Listen, the whole naming of stuff is -- the only reason I didn't like the Heroes thing is because it was like poking the other dog with a stick. You called them "Villains," well now they have something to prove.
I would have rather have been some fake tribe name of some indigenous people... whatever. Some of these people, it does go to their head. Rupert was still walking around ten days into it [saying] "We have to be the Heroes!"
It was like, "Shut up!" (laughs)
I don't know, the whole naming thing or what you call them, it didn't factor into my game and I never looked at the other group as villains. You know they made some moves that weren't popular to the viewers in their original seasons but they're not "villains."
Reality TV World: You talked about some of the pre-existing relationships that were out there, and after last week's episode, some viewers immediately began suggesting that Colby‚Äôs friendship with [Survivor host] Jeff Probst [and the fact that Colby was in danger] was part of why he kept insisting it was so dumb to vote off the strong when you guys were at Tribal Council. Do you think it's smart for the show to keep opening itself up to that kind of [impropriety] speculation by inviting him back?
Tom Westman: You know, I know that they aren't close. I know that they might have been friends. And everybody has moments where you're in the loop or out of the loop but there's no favoritism there.
The Tribal Councils, they touch on everything, and everybody either gets some support from Jeff or gets picked apart by Jeff. And a lot of times the same question gets asked to each person but it doesn't get shown that every person got asked that.
Whining and crying that Jeff is influencing the game, well if by the 20th season if you don't know that Jeff influences the game -- but I think he does it in an even-handed way. He's got to bring stuff out and I'm sure out of 20 people there'll be 20 people that will have a problem with a question that Jeff asked and exposed them to at Tribal Council.
That's the fairness right there, that everybody's got a beef. What's yours? Who cares.