Alabama Cattle Rancher Wins Survivor Tocantins
Last night, an easygoing Alabama cattle rancher James Thomas Jr., aka “JT”, 24, beat out his long-time ally on the show, Yale graduate and corporate consultant Stephen Fishback, 29, to win the 18th season of Survivor and its accompanying 1 million dollar prize. Despite being one of the best athletes/physical competitors in the shows history, and consistently winning immunity idols (including the last two), JT didn’t receive a single ejection vote throughout his forty days in Tocantins, located in the Brazilian highlands
Along with JT and Stephen, the merged tribe included Ben Wade, 37, a pony-tailed girls soccer coach from Missouri who referred to himself throughout as “Coach”, told wild stories of his own world adventure travels and derring-do (including a convoluted tale about being captured by natives in The Amazon while setting a solo-kayaking world record), and constantly blathered on about his own bravery, strength, leadership abilities and his idea of a “warrior ethos” and a “warrior alliance” that likely existed only in his mind. The kayaking record has been checked, and is unconfirmed by any legitimate body. In addition, further questions have come up about some of “Coach’s” other outrageous claims on a website he maintains.
Early on “Coach” was partnered with Tyson Apostol, 29, a pro-cyclist Mormon from Utah, his smarmy, equally self-absorbed right-hand man who at one point said he enjoyed seeing people cry. “Coach” himself, however, has to rank as one of the most memorably reviled contestants in show history. Finishing in fourth place was ex singing group En Vogue member Taj Johnson George, 37, a mother of two married to ex NFL running back Eddie George. Tajwas popular among most of her island mates, and actually originally brokered the exile island alliance with Steven, later joining with JT to create what would become the dominant group in the game. Tajhad been aligned with JT and Steven for a number of weeks before being blindsided by the two in favor of the weaker Erinn Lobdell, 26, a talkative Wisconsin hairdresser who wound up finishing third. Once enmeshed in Coach’s unsuccessful warrior alliance, Alabama middle-school school principal Debbie Beebe, 46, finished in sixth place.
At the final tribal council, JT argued that the fact that he’d stayed loyal to strong strategic player Fishback by choosing to face him in the final as opposed to selecting the weaker Erinn demonstrated his sense of honor and loyalty. Fishback argued that playing the game in the shadows, in part relying on JT’s physical capabilities and likability was a legitimate strategy. When pressed though, he also admitted that if given the option he likely would’ve broken his promise to JT and chosen Erinn to face in the finals. JT expressed anger and hurt at this revelation, though after the vote, on the live show, admitted he had been acting for the benefit of the jury in order to garner sympathy votes, and in reality understood why Fishback might’ve made that decision.
JT was announced as the winner by Probst in front of his 15 fellow contestants and a live studio audience populated by their family and friends. His soft-spoken, Southern accented Mom was interviewed by Probst, and she said she’d been telling her son for three years he could win on the show. JT was brought to tears upon learning he had won the vote (4-0 as the remaining three votes went unread), saying it was “the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, obviously.” JT also won the Sprint vote for most popular/best player, and said he planned to go into business with Fishman, saying he was obligated.
“Coach” provided some entertainment toward the end of the broadcast, toting a sealed envelope from a lie detector administrator attesting to the validity of his kidnapping in the Amazon story, or at least part of it. Earlier in the show, Probst revealed that he had previously offered “Coach” a chance to take a lie detector test, but the offer was refused. Despite the test results confirming “Coach’s” probity, the contestants and audience seemed less than convinced.