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April 16, 2014

'Survivor: Tocantins' 2009: JT Is the Winner

by Kelly Woo, posted May 18th 2009 12:32PM
JT SurvivorAfter 39 days filled with fire-starting, alliances, backstabbing and blindsides, James "JT" Thomas, Jr. outwitted, outplayed and outlasted the other competitors to win 'Survivor: Tocantins' and a $1 million grand prize.

The 24-year-old cattle rancher from Alabama not only received the unanimous vote from the jury over fellow finalist (and new "best friend for life") Stephen Fishbach, he won the fan-favorite award of $100,000.

After the live reunion show, JT, Stephen and the third- and fourth-place finishers, Erin Lobdell and Taj George, chatted with reporters on the red carpet. Here's the scoop on that contentious final tribal council, JT and Stephen's excellent future adventures and whether anybody will be friends with Coach ...
After 39 days filled with fire-starting, alliances, backstabbing and blindsides, James "JT" Thomas, Jr. outwitted, outplayed and outlasted the other competitors to win 'Survivor: Tocantins' and a $1 million grand prize.

The 24-year-old cattle rancher from Alabama not only received the unanimous vote from the jury over fellow finalist (and new "best friend for life") Stephen Fishbach, he won the fan-favorite award of $100,000.

After the live reunion show, JT, Stephen and the third- and fourth-place finishers, Erin Lobdell and Taj George, chatted with reporters on the red carpet. Here's the scoop on that contentious final tribal council, JT and Stephen's excellent future adventures and whether anybody will be friends with Coach ...

Survivor' Photos

    SURVIVOR: TOCANTINS Taj's husband Eddie, on Exile Island during the twelfth episode. Airs Thursday, May 7, 2009.

    CBS

    SURVIVOR: TOCANTINS Stephen Fishbach, John "JT" Thomas Jr., Erinn Lobdell, and Benjamin "Coach" Wade, during the thirteenth episode. Airs Thursday, May 14, 2009.

    CBS

    SURVIVOR: TOCANTINS Benjamin "Coach" Wade during the thirteenth episode. Airs Thursday, May 14, 2009.

    CBS

    SURVIVOR: TOCANTINS Taj Johnson-George, during the thirteenth episode. Airs Thursday, May 14, 2009.

    CBS

    SURVIVOR: TOCANTINS Erinn Lobdell, during the thirteenth episode. Airs Thursday, May 14, 2009.

    CBS

    SURVIVOR: TOCANTINS Benjamin "Coach" Wade, Erinn Lobdell, Taj Johnson-George, John "JT" Thomas Jr. and Stephen Fishbach, during the thirteenth episode. Airs Thursday, May 14, 2009.

    CBS

    SURVIVOR: TOCANTINS Erinn Lobdell, Taj Johnson-George, John "JT" Thomas Jr. and Stephen Fishbach, during the thirteenth episode. Airs Thursday, May 14, 2009.

    CBS

    SURVIVOR: TOCANTINS Erinn Lobdell, Taj Johnson-George, and Stephen Fishbach, during the thirteenth episode. Airs Thursday, May 14, 2009.

    CBS

    SURVIVOR: TOCANTINS Stephen Fishbach, during the thirteenth episode. Airs Thursday, May 14, 2009.

    CBS

    SURVIVOR: TOCANTINS Taj Johnson-George, Benjamin "Coach" Wade, Stephen Fishbach, John "JT" Thomas Jr., and Erinn Lobdell during the immunity challenge, "Chimney Sweep" during the thirteenth episode. Airs Thursday, May 14, 2009.

    CBS



1. Everybody loves JT
The 'Survivor' winner got the loudest cheers, without question, during the finale episode and live reunion show. Several female fans shouted out, "I love you, JT!" Alas, ladies, he told us on the red carpet that he's taken (feel free to vent in the comments).

2. It was all an act
When Stephen admitted during the final tribal council that he would've chosen Erinn over JT had he won immunity, the studio audience gasped at the perceived betrayal. And JT himself looked like he'd been stabbed in the heart. So were the best friends now at odds? Nope. Turns out, JT was playing it up for the jury. "He was actually hamming it up," Stephen laughed, "He looked like his heart was broken, the friendship was destroyed. And of course, as soon as the lights are off, he's cracking up."

JT Stephen Survivor3. JT + Stephen, BFF 4-eva!
This unlikely bromance, between the cattle rancher and the Yale grad (or the Warrior and the Wizard), looks like it'll last a lifetime. "We're definitely friends for life. Friends and partners," JT said, referring to the business ventures he alluded to on the reunion show. "I'm sure we'll be together in a lot of things down the road, I hope.
We've got a lot of ideas ... and we work very well together."

4. On 'Survivor,' embrace your villainy
JT won the jury vote unanimously, but if Stephen had only played up his manipulative side, he might have gotten a few votes at least. "Going back and watching the show, Stephen played a great game," Erinn said. "If he had sat up there and told me that, I would've written his name down. I literally said to him, 'should I just vote for JT' and he never gave me a reason not to." Even Stephen admitted he held back. "Going into the final tribal, my goal was to shoot for the votes I thought I could get and basically save my friendship with JT, not end up hurting him," he said. It's outwit, outplay and outlast -- not out-nice!

5. We'd watch 'The Taj and Eddie Show'
On the reunion show, Taj may have grumbled about insect bite scars, but the former R&B singer was glowing on the red carpet. And husband Eddie couldn't keep the proud beam off his face. But was the former NFL player planning payback on JT and Stephen for blindsiding his beloved? "That's the name of the game ... you've got to play the art of war," he said. "You've got to keep your friends close and turn on them sooner or later, because I know her nature and she has a very loyal nature. But she played an excellent game." Speaking of playing an excellent game, how great would they be on 'The Amazing Race'? Just sayin'. Or better yet ... their own reality show.



6. Coach might be kind of a cool guy in real life, maybe?
As Nietzsche once said (and Coach might quote), "There are no facts, only interpretations." This season's most infamous player was one that fans loved to hate. But his fellow players? They're some of his biggest fans. "I like Coach a lot," Stephen said. Even one of his biggest skeptics during the game, Erinn, admitted, "He's cool. And I like him and I want to hang out with him. Not all the time. He's still impossibly arrogant, he still has a giant ego. But he's a good guy and I wish he would've shown us more of that. He maybe could've had a good run.

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