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'Survivor' host Jeff Probst on James "J.T." Thomas: His once-charming "farm boy" personality cost him the game

By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 04/05/2017 

Survivor host Jeff Probst respects Survivor: Game Changers castaway James J.T. Thomas' gameplay but admits it was a little outdated.

Thomas, 31, was booted out of Survivor: Game Changers' Nuku tribe during Season 34's fourth episode last week. After losing the season's fifth Immunity Challenge, the tribe's members split down the middle and eliminated Thomas with a 3-2 vote at Tribal Council.

"JT played an aggressive game and I really respect that. It's why we have asked him back so many times," Probst wrote in his The Hollywood Reporter blog.

"Each time he plays, he plays as though it's his last time. That move he made of taking his tribe out in the water and then waiting for an opportunity to abandon them and go look for an idol is the kind of play we have come to expect on Survivor."

Going into Tribal Council on Night 13 of the game, Thomas -- 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 Freberg's prior vote-off, which Thomas was ultimately responsible for, Sandra Diaz-Twine devised a plan to take out Thomas for his "dirty deed." Thomas was so confident Bradshaw was going home that he didn't even bring his hidden Immunity Idol to Tribal with him.

"When JT played the first time and won, Survivor was a very different game. I think the things JT did wrong are connected to him not being fully in sync with where the game is in Season 34," Probst explained.

"Survivor is much more sophisticated today. You have to be so aware of what is happening socially and strategically at all times. Every single move you make has a consequence. We see it play out every week. I think the 'farm boy' part of JT's personality that played as charming his first time can now come across as grumpy or a 'my way or the high way' approach to the game. That won't work."

When Probst read the votes aloud that were cast for Thomas, Bradshaw casually and smugly sipped on a beverage in her mug.

"I love Michaela. I think one of the things that most of Michaela's fans adore about her is the thing she sees as her biggest obstacle -- her emotions. It's as if she is a kindred spirit to our own alter ego, the part of us that wishes we could say what we really feel," Probst told Entertainment Weekly in a recent interview.

"And this season we are watching her mature and part of that maturity is how she handles her emotions. Instead of yelling at JT at camp, which could have backfired, she waited until after the vote and then took it to another level. The dramatization of pouring a cup of tea was a brilliant way of making it all clear to JT. You were had."

Probst guesses, however, that Diaz-Twine probably suggested the idea to Bradshaw to stick it to Thomas right when it hurt the most.

Probst also criticized Thomas' move from a couple weeks back in which he told his ally on the opposing tribe, Brad Culpepper, that Nuku was voting for Sierra Dawn Thomas at the special two-tribe Tribal Council session that ultimately resulted in Freberg's unexpected ouster. Thomas and Freberg were best buddies in the game.

"[Talking to Brad] was a gigantic and risky move and one that I loved," Probst admitted in his blog.

"But [JT] didn't do a good enough job of recovering back at camp. You have to anticipate the reactions to your actions and be ahead of them. And JT came into the game with a huge target as a former winner. He just wasn't aware enough of how people were perceiving him and he paid the price."

In addition, Probst teased Survivor: Game Changers' upcoming April 5 episode, reiterating how there will be "a return visit from a former player."

"It's an idea we have talked about for years and finally had the right situation and the right player! And this season is far from over," Probst noted.

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