After the exit of former National Football League coach Jimmy Johnson on last week's Survivor: Nicaragua, the Espada tribe was in desperate need of a new castaway to serve as team leader. Although Jimmy Tarantino was eager to take on that duty, telling everyone within earshot about his past leadership experience, it was Marty Piombo who gained control of the group. Marty quickly pushed the tribe to vote off Jimmy T. over Dan Lembo, whose knee injury has kept him out of a number of important immunity challenges. Tarantino, 48, spoke with TVGuide.com about Marty's game strategy, Jimmy J.'s "lack of depth" and who he thinks betrayed him the most.
Watch full episodes of Survivor: Nicaragua
TVGuide.com: Were you surprised about the vote?
Jimmy Tarantino: I was very surprised. It was about midway through the Tribal Council that I knew that Marty had worked his magic on the majority of the tribe and it might be me instead of Dan.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think Marty didn't you want as a leader? What did you think when he said that in Tribal Council?
Jimmy T.: I knew that Marty didn't want me as a leader because he deliberately kept me out of challenges and tried to keep me back. There's two games going on in Survivor — there's the actual survival game and the social game. While he excelled at the social game, I excelled at the survival game (building shelter, getting food). I knew he knew I was a strong competitor and that's why he didn't want me in. Without calling him out on it — because I didn't want to be too rebellious — I knew he didn't want me to step up, because he knew if I did, then that would hurt him and his leadership role. He did a great job of steering the course of the tribe.
TVGuide.com: Was it hard to watch the episode and see everyone complaining about how annoying you were?
Jimmy T.: It's difficult to watch because you don't get to see all of it and all I did do for the tribe. I would do three days of hard work of building the shelter and providing food and keeping the fire going. After we would lose a challenge, knowing that I was being stifled, I was more or less talking to convince the others that Marty's leading this ship towards the rock and maybe someone else should take the wheel and try to win a challenge. There's no question in my mind that if they put me in the bean-bag toss challenge, we would have won the challenge and we would have been on a winning streak rather than a losing streak.
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TVGuide.com: What is it about Marty's strategy that has the tribe headed for the rocks?
Jimmy T.: Marty is very self-serving. If you haven't picked up on it now, then you're not paying attention. He doesn't care about the tribe. He wanted confusion. ... I'd probably still be in the game if I were a little more selfish but I genuinely wanted to do well for the tribe. I worked hard for the tribe every day. I really wanted to win some challenges for the tribe. Marty didn't care about the tribe. I think he liked the course that we were on. He had a plan to drive the bus off a cliff and jump off at the last second to save himself.
TVGuide.com: Who did you feel most betrayed by?
Jimmy T.: I got betrayed a couple times. There was stuff that you didn't see. I had an early alliance with Jill that she turned on because she became hopelessly under Marty's spell. ... I also had a couple of good nighttime talks with Tyrone, who wants to do well, but inevitably can't because he doesn't want to give up the ball. He doesn't want anyone else overshadowing him.
TVGuide.com: Last week, Jimmy Johnson said it was hard to work with you. Why was there animosity there? Did you enjoy playing with him?
Jimmy T.: Jimmy Johnson said to me [does Jimmy Johnson impersonation], "No jury in their right mind is going to give me a million dollars, but I can help you win a million dollars." And I heard Jimmy Johnson say that on several different occasions to several different individuals, so I knew he was phony. He had a rehearsed speech, and in his last 20 years as an analyst in front of the camera, that's become his strong point. One of the moments I thought was priceless was a preseason speech he gave. He said, "We can win this because we got Marty here and we got Tyrone" and then he couldn't come up with any more tribe members' names. After eight days in the game, he still couldn't come up with the names of some of the characters. When I could have told their occupations, their children's names, where they lived, and he didn't even know their names. He was quite a mask of a person. There was no depth there.
TVGuide.com: What does the Espada tribe have to do to win at this point?
Jimmy T.: I was the only one that was trying to provide opposition to the course that they were on. I knew that it was fatal and that Marty was self-serving and didn't care about the tribe. As you saw, I continually tried to influence them to try something different. I don't think they are going to get any other opposition down the line. So it's Marty's ship now and we'll see where it ends up.
TVGuide.com: What would you do differently?
Jimmy T.: I know why I failed: You cannot go all in on Survivor. Once I got in the game, I went all out. I didn't sleep, I worked hard, I built shelters, I provided food. All of this led to my demise because I tired and weakened myself. Caring and trying to do good for the tribe, if you work that hard at it, is going to make you weaker. The best thing you can do is check your emotions at the door, don't care about anybody but yourself, play it like Marty and you can go far in the game. It's sad to have to play that way, but the sad truth is, if you're good at being deceitful, that's going to be rewarded in the game.