Sure, last season Russell Hantz may have played the game like no one ever had before. But J.T. Thomas played Survivor's only Perfect Game in Tocantins. No one ever voted against him, and in the end every juror voted for him.
By all rights, that should make Survivor's Southern gentleman an obvious threat on Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains; and on All Stars seasons obvious threats tend to be the first ones voted out.
The thing is, J.T. didn't play a Perfect Game by acting like an obvious threat. He was the anti-Russell. Unlike the controversial second place finisher, he didn't feel the need to tell everyone he was hosing them before he had finished the job. In fact, he didn't brag to the audience either.
It would be easy to say that J.T. didn't play much of a game at all. He was just being himself. But I disagree. J.T. is the most cold-blooded nice guy I've ever seen. He was at the center of deciding who went home every week, and he looked like a noble leader in everyone's eyes doing it.
I talked with J.T. about whether he could afford to be so friendly about cutting throats this season, and how he was going to avoid the Winner's Curse. I also followed up about his relationships with two fellow Tocantins cast members, Coach and Stephen.
When last we saw you, you planned to go into business with Stephen. Has that developed since?
Stephen and I still talk almost daily. We have been exploring our options since we've met, and I'm sure it will not be long before you're hearing from us.
In Survivor: All Stars, prior winners like Tina and Rich were targeted from Day One. How did you plan to confront that possibility as a former winner yourself?
I knew that coming into this game I would have a huge target on my back. But, I'm not the only one. Everyone has a target for some reason or another. I knew there would have to be other winners and maybe people that were out for a third time. I hoped that maybe I wouldn't be singled out.
Going into Heroes vs. Villains, which of the other castaways did you anticipate you would make the strongest personal connection with?
Going into Heroes vs. Villains I felt that my best connections would be with someone like Rupert or Tom. Just because I felt that they would respect the way I played and be willing to trust me.
You won the first time primarily by aligning with other players who had a strong sense of loyalty. Going into Heroes vs. Villains, did you feel confident that you could handle historically untrustworthy players like Boston Rob or Sandra?
I knew this was going to be a completely different kind of gameplay than in Tocantins. But to be perfectly honest, I couldn't wait for the more aggressive game. There is always a bigger challenge that we seek. I especially wanted to compete with Boston Rob.
Going into Heroes vs. Villains, Coach seemed mellower and more self-aware. Did you have a chance to talk with Coach after Tocantins?
I did talk with Coach after Tocantins, and one thing that he told me about Brazil was that he really regretted not laying it all out at the challenges. He said that he felt like he wasn't giving
Did he seem like a changed man to you?
Coach did seem like a changed man. It was a life changing event for most of us. Maybe he molded his game around that, because that was before we knew about Survivor 20 when I spoke with him.
-Interview conducted by Henry Jenkins