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James "J.T." Thomas on 'Survivor' -- Brad Culpepper was scared to face the music, Sandra Diaz-Twine used Michaela Bradshaw


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/31/2017 

James "J.T." Thomas was booted out of Survivor: Game Changers' Nuku tribe during Season 34's fourth episode Wednesday night on CBS.

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After losing the season's fifth Immunity Challenge, the new Nuku tribe -- which had just lost Malcolm Freberg a couple of days beforehand -- split down the middle and eliminated JT with a 3-2 vote at Tribal Council on Night 13.

Going into Tribal, JT -- a 31-year-old from Mobile, AL, who previously won Survivor: Tocantins and also placed tenth on Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains -- thought the tribe was voting for Michaela Bradshaw because she had an alleged bad attitude and needy tendencies. However, in attempt to seek vengeance for Malcolm's vote-off, which JT was ultimately responsible for, Sandra Diaz-Twine devised a plan to take out JT for his "dirty deed."

Sandra therefore voted for JT along with Michaela and Jeff Varner. JT and his ally Audry Bracco voted to oust Michaela from Survivor: Game Changers.

In an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Thursday, JT talked about his Survivor: Game Changers experience. Below is the concluding portion of what he had to say.

Reality TV World: Are Sandra and Michaela really close or do you think Sandra had the same issues with her that you're saying everyone else on your tribe had?

JT Thomas: Yeah, Sandra just used Michaela when she needed her, no doubt about it. Because Sandra and I had many conversations at camp where we completely got along. I mean, I got along with everybody, except for Michaela, so I tried to just not talk to her as much, you know?

But the others, we were all on the same page as far as life and playing the game and wanting to win and things. It really shocked me when Sandra strictly used [Michaela] when she needed her to get payback on me, which I understand, you got to do what you got to do.

But it was a chance I took, and I just made my decision on the fact that surely Sandra and Varner are playing to win this thing and not for payback.

[Malcolm's vote-off] was water under the bridge for me, and I thought it was for them. I know Sandra needed me to win challenges, and not only to win challenges, but for connections come the merge or swap. Why you would get rid of your asset in most categories is crazy to me.

Reality TV World: What was your relationship like with Varner while you were out there? Did you think you two were close? Because he served as the swing vote last night between Aubry and yourself vs. Sandra and Michaela, and he obviously sided with Sandra.

JT Thomas: Varner was going to do whatever Sandra told him to do. Varner, we had some one-on-one conversations and he said, "Look, I'm not friends with Sandra. I've got your back."

But every time something came up, he was just going to do whatever Sandra told him to do. He was trying to buy -- get a free ride to the merge for the first time, you know? And he felt Sandra was his ticket.

Reality TV World: At the time you left the game, did you assume your tribe's next target was going to be Aubry? Or was your tribe convinced another swap was coming, or maybe the merge already?

JT Thomas: Aubry and I, we kind of knew it was coming just from knowing the game as well as we do and actually thinking logically about our next moves. We knew it couldn't be long, and we knew we couldn't have Michaela with us. We all just felt like, at this point with Malcolm gone, we were not going to be able to get numbers within the five.

So we thought this was our one chance and agreed to get rid of Michaela. And then Sandra and Varner would have just as much trouble as Aubry and I as far as control goes.

So we were looking forward to another swap or something soon. I'm not sure if Sandra -- the only time I talked to them about it was when I brought up the point that I'm a heck of an asset going forward with Michaela or not, and they seemed to agree. But it just didn't work out.

Reality TV World: Last week's Tribal Council was really chaotic and confusing, and I'd like to dissect it with you. Did you think anyone had an idol on Brad Culpepper's Mana tribe? And did that affect your decision making at all?

JT Thomas: I thought there was a 50/50 chance that they probably had an idol. And if they did, I knew it was [Tai Trang] because of how he plays. Obviously we were over a week already into the game and Tai was looking every day for an idol. If anyone's going to find it, it's going to be Tai out of that group of people.

So the first thing I wanted to do was get my tribe, the new Nuku -- which was Sandra and all of us -- to vote for Tai. That way, everything would fall into place without me having to save anybody if they had an idol. If they didn't, oh well, Tai's gone.

But as I thought more about it, I had Aubry and Malcolm, but I would never get Varner, I would never get Sandra, and I would never get Michaela. So the only way I had Malcolm and Aubry would be if I had the numbers.

There I was a duck in the water, so I either had to win a vote over or vote someone off that was not in my three. And this seemed like the perfect opportunity because who else did I trust more than Brad? He was one of my tight allies. He seemed to be a trustworthy person and this was certainly going to benefit him anyway.

So I felt, "Why would he not do it at this point in the game when it only benefits him?" So I stuck my arm out for an ally and it just didn't work out for me.

It kicked me in the butt because Malcolm was one of my allies and one of the reasons -- Malcolm and I together were a hard team to beat. I didn't see us ever going to many Tribals. So Culpepper was scared to face the music as far as us in challenges, so he took the opportunity to get rid of Malcolm instead, but at my expense.

Reality TV World: When you told Brad that your tribe was voting for Sierra Dawn Thomas, did you not consider they'd go for Malcolm, the biggest threat? Whom did you think they'd vote for after hearing Nuku's plan? And were you worried an idol would be played for Sierra after you gave her name away?

JT Thomas: I felt sure if they had an idol they were going to play it for Sierra, but I expected Brad to hold up his end of the deal, you know, which was to vote for Sandra. He knew whom we needed gone and he knew why.

There was no way he didn't understand that I needed Sandra gone to have the numbers on my tribe, which would've put former Nuku in a good position to being in control of the whole game, basically. Because if I had control of that tribe, then all the former Mana tribe members would've went home first. It would've been a complete Nuku merge, which would be very easy and which I thought made a ton of sense.

Reality TV World: Hali Ford made it clear she wanted Brad gone and would work with your tribe to do that. Sandra definitely seemed onboard with that idea, as well as Varner. Did you ever consider the option of taking out Brad, or was there absolutely no way you'd do that?

JT Thomas: It might've been an option, yes, but I would rather have just voted Sierra out than Brad. Brad was someone I thought I could trust. And he was a physical person which also shielded me from being the only physical person at the time.

I didn't want to be the only physical person left and get voted out for that reason. Brad was someone I could take to the end, and he was competitive and strategic in his own way, but I felt like I could beat him. So I wanted to take him to the end.

Reality TV World: You seemed devastated when Malcolm got voted out and he was pretty pissed off at you, at least for a little while. What was going through your mind in that moment? And what was the first conversation you had with Malcolm like after that Tribal?

JT Thomas: It wasn't bad at all. When I saw him, he knows in his heart that the last person I wanted to see go was him. In fact, I was freaking out when Hali said, "Physical threats are obviously the people who need to go."

And at that point, they already knew whom we were voting for. I was like, "Oh no, Malcolm, we should be worried. I think this has got to be you or me, man." And I was trying to stir him up to talk because I didn't know Hali. I was like, "Don't vote yet! Call Hali out and see what she says!" And he was just like, "No, no. Just let it go. Let it go."

And then at the vote, when I saw his name, it just broke my heart, because no one plays harder in the game than Malcolm and myself in challenges. I mean, we give it all we've got and sacrifice everything we've got in challenges. Even in the gameplay, at camp life, we really tried hard, and I hated to see him go because it justified me going. You know, it really sucked.

Reality TV World: You touched on this a little already, but what exactly was your plan come the merge? Would you have teamed up with Brad's alliance and forgotten about your new Nuku tribe, other than Malcolm? You'd try to take Malcolm along for the ride, right?

JT Thomas: Yeah, I definitely would've teamed up with Brad had he stuck with me. But I never really thought ahead as far as the Final 3 in the game. To me, I was going to try to make it to the Final 3 or Final 4 or whatever and then battle it out, because certainly people are worried about who they can beat in the end with votes, but they never make it there.

To me, it doesn't matter who's there and let's cross that bridge when we get there. But yeah, as far as what my plan would've been, I'd take Malcolm as far as I could. And if majority wanted to get rid of Malcolm or Culpepper at any time, or at the Top 5, I'd say, "Hey, whatever works for me best at this point."

But to work with good, honest people is always my goal -- physical threats or not, if they're honest and I can trust them, and they do what they say they're going to do, then we're going to the end together. But that's getting harder and harder to find, especially in a season with returning players. In a returning players season, it's hard to find people you can trust.

To read the first half of Reality TV World's exclusive Survivor: Game Changers interview with JT Thomas, click here.



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