EXCLUSIVE: 'Survivor's JT Thomas on Leaving His Idol at Camp and Why Michaela's Not a 'Game Changer'

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Photo: CBS
It's the ultimate Survivor faux pas -- and one that three-time player J.T. Thomas made on Wednesday night's episode -- being voted out with an Immunity Idol in your pocket.
Well, in J.T.'s case, he didn't even bring his idol to tribal council, convinced that his tribe, Nuku, had it out for Michaela.
On Thursday, ET hopped on the phone with J.T., who went over some of his best lines from the episode -- telling host Jeff Probst things like "I've never been so excited" and "Some of us aren't quite game changers" just moments before his torch was snuffed -- and revealed why exactly he thought it was a good idea to head into tribal without his idol.
ET: You didn't even bring your idol with you to tribal council! Walk us through that decision.
J.T.: "It was a lot easier then than now. I found it the day of the tribal, and not long before, but I had a very limited amount of time to hide the idol. We didn't have anything other than the clothes we we had on, we didn't have swim shorts or things, so my pants were often staying dry in camp, where they were probably frequently searched, as well as my bag. So I had one option, and that was to hide it immediately. And I did, in a pretty remote area, but before tribal, I spent with the other guys, and rather than break loose to go get it, I, you know, felt confident it was Michaela for a number of reasons, the main one being that everyone had basically all they could stand of Michaela, as well as Aubry and Sandra and Varner -- I know were tired of it -- but they put on more of an act the final day there than anything. But if I left to go get the idol right before tribal, they would've known something was up, and I would've had to make up some story. I just made a decision that, you know, I think I'm safe, I'd like to save that for tough times at the merge, and see what happens. But it really, it just made no sense to get rid of me at this point and keep Michaela, especially, you know, thinking when they swap and merge.
Photo: CBS
You actually said you've never been so excited to be at tribal council. How do you feel about it now?
That was tough to hear, knowing what was going to happen, but by that, I basically meant, you know, it was definitely time for Michaela to go. We had so many problems with her. Every challenge was a problem. Every... anytime we were all as a group, it was a problem. She just had so much to prove to somebody, you know, what she was capable of, and it was all unnecessary. But it was just really tough. We were never bitter towards each other until the final day there, and at the end, she gave it a lot of that. Now I see that was on purpose, you know.
You also told Probst that "Some of us aren't quite Game Changers." I'm assuming you were talking about Michaela.
Most definitely. In this instance, she changed the game, I guess you could say, but she just got used when Sandra needed her, and that's all that was to it. She couldn't see that, but you know, that's how a lot of people get far in this game. It's just not anything that I would respect, you know? She just didn't... her entire gameplay was about proving to us that she could do something, for whatever reason. At one point, I thought maybe Michaela would be the fourth person for Malcolm, myself and Aubry, and Aubry and Malcolm were like, "No, she's all over the place, man. Don't even think about it." That was immediately after we merged, after we swapped. I knew then, you know, something something's up with Michaela. And then at challenges she would just throw fits when we didn't think that she should do the part she wanted to do, so basically our challenges all went like, "Alright Michaela, what do you want to do," and the rest of us figured out where we could help. That's how it went, and it was really tough for all of us.But I had more connections than anyone out there, which I thought would be a huge advantage going into the merge or swap for Sandra and Varner.
Is there anyone else who you didn't consider a Game Changer?
I'm sure there probably was, but who am I to say? I went home pretty early. But I'm always willing to make big moves and take big chances, and I'm thinking that's what it takes to win.
You definitely made a big statement by not bringing your idol to tribal.
I did, and I paid dearly for it, but you know, everything I had done was based on, "What would I do if I were in their shoes?" The same for Culpepper, you know? Why not trust your tight ally, like Culpepper, when all he has to do is vote out Sandra, and you know, save one of his own, and vote out one of mine, or one of theirs on my tribe? Why not? But instead he risked running into me again, which it worked out good for him, because he don't have to run into me again. But had he done what he done, and I made it to the merge, it would have been ugly for him. It was really not a smart move on his part.
Photo: CBS
Going back to last week's tribal, was it your intention to get Malcolm voted out?
No, never. It was never my intention to get Malcolm voted out. Malcolm was one of my tightest allies. I had actually won Aubry and Malcolm over to vote with me, but they would only do it if we had the numbers. So unless I got Varner, Michaela or Sandra out, or on board with me, then I didn't have a chance. So this was an opportunity to get someone out. Really, it didn't have to be Sandra, it could have been Michaela or Varner, but anybody but Malcolm or Aubry or myself, obviously. So that's why I gave it to [Culpepper] straight, "We're both here, why don't you do a guy a favor and vote out Sandra?" You know, there's a no-brainer, I thought. But you know, he was worried about having to compete against Malcolm and me later in the game.
Malcolm told us last week that you're still on his "naughty list" -- did you guys really make nice?
Yeah, we did. I mean, hey, I can't blame him. I hated myself as much as he did at that point, because Malcolm was the last person I wanted to go. I don't think they would ever beat Malcolm and me on the same tribe in head-to-head challenges, because we would both really give it everything we had. We put all our hearts into it, and he really deserved to be there longer, as well as I did, but unfortunately, it just didn't work out for us.
Besides not playing your idol, do you have any other regrets from the game?
You know, I don't regret making the moves at the time, as hard as I tried to win the game. I always try to win. I don't try to just make the bar. My only regret was, you know, maybe trusting the wrong person, but it's so hard not to do. Who can you trust, you know? Culpepper was a move that essentially sent me home, but if we were to go to tribal the next day, I would have been the one to go, and I knew that, so I had to do something to try to save myself. So I guess my biggest regret would be trusting Culpepper and not playing the idol.
Photo: CBS
Do you have a top three picked out?
No, but I would say, there's some very big threats. I think it's going to be like Cirie and Zeke. I spent a lot of time with Zeke early in the game. [He's] super, super intelligent, and really a slow play at his gameplay, which is always a good thing to do, and I think he's really paying attention. I think he's going to be a huge threat. And I think Cirie, if somebody don't get her gone soon, she's going to be a big threat. And Culpepper, on his tribe now has got complete control, and the longer it stays that way, the better off he is, so I would say Culpepper, Cirie and Zeke and very, very big threats.
Would you ever play again?
I don't think I could ever say no. I love the game so much. I play so hard that you can knock me down, but you can never make me quit. You know, I'd love to play again tomorrow.