In a near-repeat of the Survivor Gabon finale, the nice guy won $1.1 million in the finale, winning both the jury’s vote and viewer votes for fan favorite. But unlike Bob Crowley, JT Thomas won unanimously, becoming only the second player in the show’s history to do that (Survivor Fiji‘s Earl Cole was the first). It was a good ending and outcome for a strong but not quite spectacular season.
JT did not, however, expect to win unanimously, nor did he expect to win. He just told me that he expected the final vote to be “4-3,” and “thought for sure Stephen would have at least three votes.” JT said, “I was really worried,” and that his decision about taking Stephen to the final two with him–instead of the last-remaining Timbira tribe member Erinn Lobdell–would have been “a lot easier” if he’d had an idea it would be such an easy win.
JT cited his friendships with the jury, although he noted that “Stephen also made really good relationships” and together they were “the two most-liked people, according to fellow cast members.” But JT said “Stephen got more parnoid than I did” and the “final Tribal Council really went in my favor.”
That Tribal Council was contentious, but nowhere near what it’s been in the past. Stephen argued that he “never took the weasel way out” by casting a vote to secure a jury vote, as JT did with Coach–but JT told me that while that decision was strategic, everyone knew he was voting for Coach, so it wasn’t a surprise. There was more back-and-forth drama between them (“let’s air our laundry,” Stephen said, while JT said, “I just feel like a fool, man”), but perhaps the strongest moment came when Debbie insisted Stephen reveal who he would have taken to the final two had he won immunity. Although he said he hadn’t decided, he finally relented and admitted it would have been Erinn.
JT told me that “immediately” afterwards, he and Stephen hugged and were back to being friends. Like he said during the reunion, “I put on an act” and “definitely played that up,” and acknowledged that he knew Stephen would take Erinn to the final two had he won the final immunity challenge, because “that’s common sense.”
With their “same goals and same morals,” JT and Stephen were very similar, but JT told me that “what separated us was he was a little more cutthroat strategically, and I kind of played up the innocent role. … It looked like I was being a lot a nicer and I tried to play up the innocent country boy as much as I could.” ( That’s entirely consistent with what he told me before the game, when he said, “I’ll play the dumb role if I feel like it’ll push me farther in the game.”) And JT said this morning that it’s key “to turn on the game play” and “you have to know when it’s time to turn on your game face,” which is what JT did when he “got rid of the most strategic players.”
Ben was asked by Jeff Probst to take a lie detector test about his various claims but refused–but then revealed he’d taken one on his own. Twist! Jeff opened the sealed envelope and revealed that Coach apparently was telling the truth about being “captured by natives.” Then again, lie detectors can be fooled, especially by someone who believes their own lies, and especially since he took the test on his own, there’s no way that’s going to convince those who think he’s a pathological liar.
The self-proclaimed dragon slayer and Jeff Probst were both upstaged by Coach’s female companion, who first said, “unfortunately, you only saw Coach, not Ben Wade, who I know and love.” She was then asked about their sex life by an especially interested Probst, and replied, “Actually, I slay the dragon.” Period, chapter, season.