J.T. Thomas Retrospective

A look back at the previous game of J.T. Thomas, one of the returning castaways on the upcoming Survivor: Game Changers.

Age: 32
Hometown: Samson, Alabama
Previous Season(s): Survivor: Tocantins, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains
Previous Placing: Winner | 10/20
Days Lasted: 39 | 27
Correctly Voted for Boot: 9 | 5
Votes Received: 0 | 5
Individual Immunity Challenge Wins: 3 | 0
Most Memorable Moment: Winning unanimously in Tocantins and giving away his idol to Russell Hantz in Heroes vs. Villains.

What happened in his previous season(s):

Survivor: Tocantins

JT was born into the Survivor world in season eighteen, Tocantins. He was the good-hearted, Southern cattle rancher from Alabama. He was placed on the Jalapao tribe, where he quickly emerged as the tribe leader. In his early game, he used his outdoor skills and athletic ability to benefit his tribe, making him one of, if not the, most important person in the tribe.

He created bonds with tribemates Stephen Fishbach and Taj Johnson-George, an alliance that controlled the vote throughout the Tocantins pre-merge days. This alliance, along with Jalapao member Joe Dowdle, entered the merge with a numbers disadvantage against the majority Timbira tribe. To add insult to injury, soon after the tribes had merged, Joe was medically evacuated from the game due to a knee infection, leaving JT at a 6-3 disadvantage.

In the days to come, JT was the perceived target amongst the Timbira majority. His challenge strength and leadership skills make him the biggest threat coming out of Jalapao. But within the hierarchy of the dominant, a civil war caused a collapse. Alpha males Brendan Synnott and Coach Wade were secretly after one another, looking to cut the “head off the dragon” as Coach referred to it. JT and Stephen were recruited by Coach to join himself, Tyson Apostol, and Debbie Beebe in forming the “Warrior Alliance” and taking out Brendan (splitting the vote against Sierra Reed in the case of an idol play).

After eliminating Brendan, JT, along with Stephen, were able to jump back and forth between the warring Timbira factions. JT’s social game was so strong that people implicitly trusted him even after he’d previously gone against them. By using the votes of the fringe players (Erinn Lobdell, Sierra), JT and the former Jalapao’s were able to take out Tyson at the next vote. This back and forth play continued over the next couple of tribal councils, eliminating Sierra, Debbie, and eventually Coach. However, JT made sure not to write down Coach’s name himself, not wanting to burn a potential jury vote.

JT entered the final four with his Jalapao partners in crime, Stephen and Taj, along with adopted Jalapao alliance member Erinn. JT and Stephen had a seemingly unbreakable bond, and both girls fought for the third spot. While Stephen did consider voting out JT at this stage of the game, he was never able to follow through due to JT’s late-game immunity winning streak. Eventually, the boys chose Erinn and eliminated long time ally Taj at fourth, seeing her as a bigger threat to win.

JT won the final immunity challenge, giving him the right to choose who he wanted to sit with at the end. The loyal side of JT was persuaded to take his game-long partner Stephen, but not without a final fight from Erin. Erin argued that none of her original tribemates liked her, making her an easy beat in the final two. She also revealed that Stephen had promised her he would take her had he won the final immunity. This information splintered the relationship between JT and Stephen, but not enough to convince JT not to keep his word and take Stephen to the end.

In the final tribal, JT performed flawlessly, convincing the jury that his gameplay was pure, honest, strategic, and competitive. An argument that would not only award him the title of Sole Survivor but made him the first “perfect game” player, winning by unanimous vote after never receiving a vote against him throughout the season.

Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains

JT returned a year later, with fellow season comrades Coach and Tyson, for the 20th anniversary of the show, Heroes vs. Villains. He entered the game on the Heroes tribe, quickly making alliances with everyone. Early in the game, the ultimate hero was showing hints of villain. He began by going back on his word with Tom Westman by eliminating Stephanie LaGrossa. He then jumped back over with Tom and Colby Donaldson to eliminate the strategic threat and fellow Game Changers contestant Cirie Fields. A move that instantly put him on a list of someone no one trusted. It was similar to how he played post-merge in Tocantins except this time people cottoned on to the deviousness behind the good ole country boy image.

After losing a bunch of early immunity challenges, JT was able to lead the Heroes to a comeback, tying the score with the Villains heading into the merge. Based off of an assumption that Russell Hantz was on the outs of a female alliance at the Villains, JT came up with a plan to hand off his hidden immunity idol to Russell after an immunity challenge in hopes he’d use it to eliminate Parvati Shallow. When the tribes merged a few days later, the Heroes found that that was not what happened. Rather, Courtney Yates was voted out, and Russell claimed that he and Parvati both played idols.

Both tribes came into the merge at five each, a deadlock down tribal lines. The Heroes were convinced Russell was with them, even after Sandra Diaz-Twine tried to warn Rupert Boneham of Russell’s shady ways. At one of the biggest showdowns the show had ever seen, both Villians and Heroes went into tribal voting along tribal lines. The Heroes targeting Jerri (believing her least likely to have an idol), and the Villains targeting JT, the leader of the Heroes tribe. Due to suspicion of the Heroes plans, Parvati played two idols, one on Sandra and one on Jerri. The idol play on Jerri canceled out all votes for her, making JT’s five votes from the Villains enough to send him home. This would go down as one of the best moments and moves in Survivor history, JT being voted out by help of his own idol.


Biggest Strength: JT is resourceful. He is good outdoors, he is good in challenges, nice to be around, he is just extremely beneficial to the tribe in all aspects of the game.

Biggest Weakness: JT’s biggest weakness is his impatience. He played too hard and too fast in Heroes vs. Villains. He wanted to reinvent himself and make his legend a completely different story. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, JT.

JT is one of twenty returning castaways who will compete on Survivor: Game Changers which premieres March 8 on CBS. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more cast retrospectives and other pre-season content.

Written by

Cam Kuhn

Cam Kuhn is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas and proud super fan of Survivor. He works as an education consultant for a technology firm and blogs in his spare time. Cam has applied for Survivor 4 times since turning 18, written his college thesis on the communication styles of Survivor, and won Corinne Kaplan's season 32 cast assessment via auction.

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