John "JT" Thomas Jr.
As the final two Survivor contestants argued before their fellow players about who should win the game — and the million-dollar prize — the long-running partnership between James "JT" Thomas, Jr., and Stephen Fishbach looked frayed. JT had chosen Stephen over the less-formidable Erinn Lobdell to join him in the final two, but Stephen admitted under questioning that he might not have done JT the same favor. "I just feel like a fool," JT said, looking hurt. The other players sided with him, unanimously making the 24-year-old cattle rancher, from Mobile, Ala., the winner. (Don't feel too bad for Stephen; he still gets $100,000 for being the runner-up.) Now though, JT tells us his hurt wasn't totally authentic — and helped him lock up votes.
TVGuide.com: You and Stephen were kind of arguing at the final Tribal Council. How did you get back on good terms for the reunion?
JT: Immediately when the show was over we hugged and laughed. ... We were trying not to stomp on each other too much, but it was a million dollars. We got to keep that in mind. And I definitely played up the whole disappointing sad-face deal when I found out that he would've took Erinn [into the final two] because I already knew that. You got to know that when you get down to the final four that you've got to do whatever it takes to win the game. And I didn't tell him that I knew but I did. And so that question coming out and giving me an opportunity to put on a good act and [earn] votes was awesome.
TVGuide.com: So you chose him even knowing he would have chosen Erinn?
JT: It was a hard decision, but I tried not to overthink it. I tried to make up my mind before I even won the challenge. ... I never in a million years thought it would be a unanimous decision. I felt like I risked a million dollars.
TVGuide.com: Is there a lesson about loyalty?
JT: I was hoping I didn't mix millions and morals. ... But we became so tight, so bonded out there, under those conditions... we were too close and we'd come so far together. I felt like I had a good chance at winning still. [It would have been different] for Stephen to take me to the final four than it was for me to take him.
TVGuide.com: You said you might work together on investing that million, maybe into a business.
JT: We've talked about a lot of things, but it's still early. ... Very soon, people will know.
TVGuide.com: You said your mother told you to lie to stay in the game. That's different than the usual advice you get from your mom.
JT: It is. We are Survivor fans, my mother and I both. My strategy was to tell the truth and play honest. Truth and honesty will get you to the final five, and that's when you have to turn on your strategic game play and lie if that's what it takes to get a million dollars.
TVGuide.com: What's next?
JT: I'm going back to Mobile to continue managing the cattle company, and stash this money in a hole somewhere. And hopefully when I get it out, it'll be twice the size it is now.