James "JT" Thomas Jr. wins 'Survivor: Tocantins' via unanimous vote
By Reality TV World staff, 05/18/2009
James "JT" Thomas Jr., a 24-year-old cattle rancher from Samson, AK, was revealed to be Survivor: Tocantins' winner during last night's finale of the long-running CBS reality series' eighteen edition.
"I can't help it," JT told Survivor host Jeff Probst as he wiped tears from his eyes after his victory was announced. "I'm happy, it's probably the happiest I've ever been in my life, obviously."
JT claimed Survivor: Tocantins' $1,000,000 grand prize during the live portion of last night's finale broadcast from The Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City.
He defeated Stephen Fishbach, a 29-year-old corporate consultant from New York, NY, via a 7-0 unanimous Tribal Council jury vote. The vote was only the second unanimous jury vote in the show's history, following Earl Cole's Survivor: Fijivictory in 2007.
Once they got back to camp, Stephen lamented the fact that JT hadn't joined the rest of the foursome in voting Coach out of the game due to a claim that he couldn't break a promise that he'd never vote for Coach.
"We got you a lot of jury votes," JT said.
"No way man, after they saw me betray him? ...you came out smelling like a freaking rose," Stephen replied.
"[I think] he did it for both personal and strategic reasons," Stephen told the cameras afterwards. "[He] comes off looking like the loyal ally while I'm the guy who backstabbed Coach. Ultimately I think it will hurt me."
The next morning, Stephen seemed to try to feel Taj -- the third remaining former Jalapao tribe member that he and JT had been allied with for most of the game -- out on the idea of voting JT off next, however Taj immediately seemed uninterested in the idea.
Meanwhile, Erinn also seemed to have become resigned to the fact that her time in the game was likely to end soon.
"I am the last [former] Timbera [tribe member] standing, which means I'm with three of original Jalapao members, people who have been together since Day 1," Erinn explained. "They've really become like best friends out here [over the last 37 days]."
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Afterward, the castaways met Jeff for the next Immunity Challenge, which required the castaways to gather three bags of puzzle pieces by racing through a series of net tunnels that were arranged into the shape of an enormous spider. Once they'd gathered all three bags, each castaway would have to attempt to assemble the puzzle pieces into an image of a spider web and the first castaway to correctly do so would win immunity at the night's upcoming Tribal Council session.
JT was the fist person to retrieve all three bags and begin assembling the puzzle, followed by Stephen, Taj, and finally Erinn. However Erinn managed to blow through her puzzle assembly process and move into second place but fell just short of catching JT, allowing him to win his second-straight Immunity Challenge (and third-straight overall challenge).
"I had it, I got my last pieces out, ready to put them into the very, very, last [space] and JT won immunity. Frustrating to no end," Erinn told the cameras afterwards.
Once the castaways returned to camp, Erinn began attempting to convince JT and Stephen that they were be better off voting off Taj and taking her to the Final 3 instead. However Taj still remained confident that Erinn would be the one being voted out of the game next.
"Any one of the Jalapao members, had they won, would have worked in our favor. The plan is to vote for Erinn because Jalapao is Jalapao the three and as long as we stay loyal we can go to the Final 3 together," Taj told the cameras. "[Erinn's] going to be trying to convince [JT and Stephen] that's she's worthy of being spot but I want her to realize that she can try all day long. The guys are loyal to me until the Final 3."
However neither JT or Stephen seemed to be as loyal as Taj believed.
"[Erinn] made a good point, Taj has a very good chance of beating me in the jury vote because everyone loves Taj," JT had told the cameras before Tribal Council.
"If we vote off Erinn tonight [then] it will be Taj, me, and JT in the next Immunity Challenge. I think Taj has a stronger chance than Erinn would in that challenge and I think there's also a really good chance that Taj would take JT to the Final 2," Stephen had told the cameras.
Once the castaways got to Tribal Council, Taj's loyalty turned out to be misplaced and Stephen and JT teamed with Erinn to vote her out in a 3-1 vote.
"It's Day 37 [and] I [just] just blindsided by my Jalapao members that have been looking out for me since Day 1," Taj said in her Final Words departure comments. "And for them to blindside me, it blew my mind so it's going to be really hard to choose who's worthy of a million dollars . But either way, if Erinn finds a way to weasel her way into the end then she's got my vote."
The next day, Erinn became attempting to convince both men that they'd be better off taking her to the Final 2 if they won immunity. However while Stephen seemed to make a mutual pact to do so with her, JT appeared to stop short of committing to do so.
"We have our final Immunity Challenge today and I already made my decision, if I win I'm taking Stephen with me. It's the choice that's going to give me the best chance of winning," Erinn explained. "Even if I don't win immunity today I have a good shot at going to the end. Neither of these guys want to go up against each other."
Meanwhile, Stephen seemed to be hoping he wouldn't win the challenge.
"I'm a little afraid of winning today's Immunity Challenge because then I'll have a really difficult choice ahead of me," Stephen told the cameras. "[Either] take JT who's been my comrade-in-arms, my closest friend, my ally, and my fellow strategist since the very beginning of this game, or take Erinn with me, who I think I have a better shot against in the Final 2."
After remembering Survivor: Tocantins' 13 previously booted castaways via the game's traditional "Fallen Comrades" journey, the castaways met Jeff for their final Immunity Challenge -- which unlike most Survivor seasons, ended up not being a physical endurance test, per se.
Instead, the challenge required the castaways to tie one arm behind their back and then keep a series of balls moving through a curving and looping steel chute. Each castaway would begin the challenge by having to drop one ball into the top of the chute and then catch the ball at the end of the chute and drop it down the chute again.
As time passed, the castaways would have to keep additional balls traveling through the chute and the last castaway to keep all their balls moving and not drop one would win the challenge, guaranteeing themselves a spot in the Final 2 and the sole right to determine who would join them.
All three castaways managed to handle one and then two balls well, however Erinn dropped one her balls shortly after the contestants had to begin handling three balls, leaving only JT and Stephen in the running. Both men continued to handle the three-ball round well, however Stephen missed one of his balls once they were required to add a fourth ball, giving JT his third-straight -- and final -- Immunity Challenge victory.
Once the castaways returned to camp, Stephen seemed to breath a sigh of relief that he'd lost the challenge.
"I was really dreading the decision of do I take JT to the Final 2... or do I take Erinn, who I'm not even particularly fond of, but I have a very good chance of winning a million dollars against," Stephen said. "It would have been such a scumbag decision to go with Erinn over JT, and just having that [decision] taken away from me is just so gratifying."
Meanwhile, Erinn resumed her attempts to convince JT that he should take her to the Final 2 jury vote.
"No, I really don't," Erinn told JT when he asked whether she thought the jury's five former Timbera members would vote for her if he took her to the Final 2. "Every single one of them resents the fact that I outlasted them, every single one of them... the only vote that might really come my way is if Taj is so pissed at you guys that she didn't want to vote for you."
In addition, Erinn also told JT that Stephen had told her it'd be "suicide" for him to go to the Final 2 with JT and told JT about the Final 3 pact she had made with Stephen.
"Stephen would've took you [to the Final 2], wouldn't he?" JT asked.
"I think so," Erinn replied.
"Did he ever tell you for sure?" JT asked.
"Yeah," Erinn said.
After his conversation with Erinn, JT confronted Stephen about her comments.
"She pleaded her case -- she had a very good one -- and then she told me you would have took her," JT told Stephen.
"That's not true, you know that," Stephen replied. "You'll still gonna win a million dollars [taking me] and you'll do the right thing."
Once in private, Stephen admitted that JT would be better off taking Erinn.
"It would make good sense for JT to take Erinn to the Final 2," Stephen told the cameras. "Why take a gamble on me when he could have a luck with Erinn?"
However once the castaways went to Tribal Council, JT decided to take the "gamble" it opted to vote Erinn out of the game and take his long-time ally to the Final 2.
"I think if I was to bring the best to the end out of us three, I'd be bringing Stephen. And I think if I took Stephen I'd be sticking to me word," Stephen told Jeff before he cast the Tribal Council session's lone vote.
The next morning, JT and Stephen received a celebratory breakfast basket for being the Final 2 and spent the day thinking about Survivor: Tocantins' upcoming final Tribal Council session with the game's seven jury members.
Once they arrived at Tribal Council that evening, Stephen and JT were both given the opportunity to make their opening statements.
While Stephen used his opening statement to say that he'd faced the more difficult road and had grown the most in the game, JT talked about how he'd stuck to his word and hadn't taken the easy way out and taken Erinn to the Final 2. However once the jury questioning began, it became clear that many of the jury members weren't buying Stephen's ideas.
In addition, Stephen also seemed to hurt his jury chances when he admitted, under tough questioning from Debra "Debbie" Beebe, that he probably wouldn't have taken JT to the Final 2 if he'd won the final Immunity Challenge.
"I think it would be Erinn," Stephen said. "I hope I would have taken JT [but] my fear is that I would have chosen Erinn if it had come down to it."
During Taj's questioning, Stephen and JT also disagreed over Stephen's claims that JT had pressured him to vote Taj off before Erinn. In addition, Stephen also told Taj that JT had wanted to vote her out of the game several other times.
JT strongly objected to both statements.
"Is this the same guy I brought with me?" JT asked.
However in the end, none of Stephen's comments seemed to hold any weight with the jury members and all seven of them still voted for JT instead.