With the help of my friend Gavin, we’ll outline exactly what went wrong for the most recent boot from Survivor: Game Changers. Since this is a season with returning players, we’ll also take a look at their span of games and if that influenced their demise. Which is 100% likely. Also, not that I need to mention this, but there are definitely spoilers ahead.

James ‘JT’ Thomas

JT face

Man, I am more solemn the day after. I cannot believe this season has taken out three HUGE favorites in the first four weeks. First they took Tony, then they came for Malcolm, and now poor JT heads off to Pre-Merge Ponderosa (his first ever). I’ll miss his antics of stranding his tribe at sea and facing off with Michaela over sugar. I hope that when I inevitably get to play this game, I play it in JT’s spirit (but, only his Tocantins spirit… not the Heroes vs Villains one or the Game Changers one).

Let’s take it all the way back to Survivor: Tocantins to see just how far JT has fallen.

JT first came to Survivor as the good ‘ol southern boy from Alabama. He instantly was the tribe leader of sorts, helping them find their camp and building their shelter. He worked hard to show that he was valuable and made sure to give everyone the time of day. That’s why people loved him. He was a great guy to have around, not only in order to make life a bit easier, but also to have people that you get along with. JT was set from very early on.

Enter Stephen. JT seemed to find his strongest ally of all his games played (not that he would know at the time) as Stephen was the brains of the operation. The strategy all came through Stephen while JT built strong connections. People would tell JT who they wanted out and he and Stephen would decide if that was a good idea for their games. After a few rounds (of loss after loss), Taj also joined the club, adding a mix of the two boys. The three were a strong group. In fact, they were so strong that once the merge hit (and Joe was evacuated), the three had a 7-3 disadvantage to overcome.

And they did.

Members of the opposing Timbira tribe caved in on themselves, seeing Stephen and/or JT as better allies to play with. In fact, Brendon concocted a plan one morning that would ensure JT could get to the end, and in his own words, “JT winning would be like me winning.” The players, while savvy and tough, were literally falling on their OWN swords in order to move JT forward. And I believe that’s thanks to JT’s incredible social game (and, of course, having Stephen as the brains behind the whole operation).

JT eventually got to the final two with Stephen and won in a clean sweep, 9-0. He left that season being one of the best to ever play and still one of only few players to play a perfect game (getting no votes all season and earning every jury vote).

Then we moved into Heroes vs Villains, where JT is obviously placed on the Heroes tribe.

JT began this season knowing he had an uphill battle being one of only four previous winners to be playing. He aligned with Tom, another previous winner from Palau, but didn’t get much room to play (besides blindsiding Cirie, which is great since they played for a few days in Game Changers). From there, the Heroes tribe suffered loss after loss, coming into a merge situation at a disadvantage of 7-5.

However, JT found an idol and shared it with the group. He came up with a plan to hand the idol off to Russell of the Villains tribe in order to get Parvati voted out and have Russell’s trust. Only when the Villains came back from tribal council, Parvati was still there. JT still trusted Russell and tried to work a vote away from himself. Parvati, on the other hand, played an idol and JT met his demise. He became the first member of the jury.

So, before we go into Game Changers, let’s recap what we know. JT is socially savvy, getting himself to the final two and winning his first season, and then maneuvering himself to make the merge on his second season. We also know that (apparently without Stephen next to him), JT has an affinity toward high risk moves, likely because he knows people see him as a threat and that’s what he HAS to do in order to survive.

JT was lucky in his placement on the Nuku tribe and getting two early wins to avoid tribal council. After the swap, JT finds himself at a numbers disadvantage (5-1) and with people he hasn’t played with yet (even on previous seasons). In one of the best/worst moves in the game’s history, JT strands his tribe at sea so he can search for an idol. And honestly, even though he didn’t find the idol, he was still in okay standing with his tribe. He worked around camp and earned some trust from Malcolm and Aubry (not much trust and who knows if it was even actual trust or just faked trust).

Then we hit the “early merge tribal council” and JT goes downhill. He decides that he needs to make a huge move in order to better his placement in the game. He can tell the new Mana tribe (made up of mostly his old tribemates) that the 6 new Nuku are voting Sierra, so if an idol has been found to use it on her. Additionally, JT wants his old tribe to vote out Sandra, a huge threat in the game. It’s a high risk move (getting up out of his tribal stool, putting himself in a bad place by talking to his old tribemates), but had it worked out it would’ve been a STELLAR move.

The problem is, it didn’t work, and that’s kind of where JT went wrong first. Had he told Brad that he had Malcolm in his pocket or offered up alternative players to vote (Varner or Michaela), maybe Malcolm stays and he, JT, and Aubry have a majority on new Nuku.

Following his big blunder at tribal, JT remained calm and tried to pull his social savviness back into action. The problem is, Sandra has a huge grudge against him now for leaking the plan. So when new Nuku loses the immunity challenge and has to head to tribal council again, JT went wrong by getting too comfortable and trusting those he knows he shouldn’t have trusted; namely Sandra.

The bigger issue, too, is that JT felt so confident in it all that he LEFT HIS HIDDEN IMMUNITY IDOL AT CAMP. He walked right into Sandra’s trap and didn’t even bring an escape plan should things go a different way. Huge mistake. JT leaves Game Changers by a vote of 3-2.

Like I said, JT was the Survivor God during his Tocantins days and hasn’t received anything more since then. But I honestly think JT just makes high risk moves that don’t work out. Had his move in Heroes vs Villains worked, he’d be legendary. Had his plan in Game Changers worked and Sandra left, he’d be ultra legendary. He likes the big moves because he thinks he needs to do that, when in reality he doesn’t. People love JT because he’s nice and easy-going and helpful in everyday life on Survivor.

I can only hope for another run for JT because I cannot have his legacy end on this note. Hopefully one day I can play with him! Though I can’t promise to be anything near Stephen Fishbach.

Alright, let’s get your thoughts on the JT trials. Is JT just not that great without Stephen? Did Sandra make a good move by eliminating the only other winner out there? What’s Aubry going to do now that her allies are all gone? Let us know in the comments below!

And be sure to check out our Episode 5 (Week 4) Recap to catch more of the Sandra face that everyone is talking about.