Survivor Winner JT: Buying Stephen Drinks ‘For The Rest Of His Life!’
Sunday night, country boy/warrior James “JT” Thomas, 25, bested city slicker/wizard Stephen Fishbach at the Survivor: Tocantins finale. The next day, the cattle ranch manager and newly minted millionaire from Samson, Ala., and the 29-year-old corporate consultant from New York City talked to PEOPLE about how the finale went down, their future business plans and their lifelong friendship. – Carrie Bell
How does it feel to be a millionaire via unanimous vote?
JT: It really touched my heart that these people handed me a million dollars. I’m so excited I can’t even talk! I thought the odds were in my favor, but I had no idea that I would get everyone’s vote. When I chose Stephen to go to the final two, I expected a 4-3 vote to tell you the truth, and I was hoping I would be the one with 4. I never in a million years thought I would get a landslide vote like that.
You would have taken Stephen to the final two no matter what?
JT: There was no doubt. Well, maybe I considered Erinn for five minutes! I expected that he’d think about getting rid of me because it was harder for Stephen to carry me to the final two than it was for me to carry Stephen. I can see that and I understand why Stephen would have taken Erinn. But that didn’t stop me from really playing it up and carrying on like I was hurt and disappointed when he admitted that at tribal.
Stephen, at that moment it seemed that your friendship with JT was in jeopardy.
SF: That’s what I thought, too! I thought we built this incredible bond and we were just ripping it apart. He acted even more miserable than you saw on TV. He was rubbing his face and trying to squeeze out tears, but the minute the light went off, he cracked up! It was good acting on his part. He killed it!
How did the bromance unfold for both of you?
SF: Our minds worked together and that surprised me because we have no life experiences in common and we couldn’t come from more different backgrounds. Yet we approached topics from similar perspectives and our minds work the same. I was an over-worrier and he would keep my paranoia in check. And I would keep his confidence in check and analyze the endgame a little harder.
JT: I could talk with him without having to explain things and vice-versa. It was very fun to know I had someone I could trust out there because two votes do more than one. It started out totally strategic and developed into something that will be life long. I couldn’t have done this without him. I will be buying him drinks for the rest of my life! I certainly didn’t go on expecting to make a best friend. I have never met anyone like Stephen. I met his family last night and his family loved mine and vice-versa. We get a positive energy from every angle. We are so tight and it is going to so good from here on down the road.
You guys talked about a business venture at the reunion. What could a New York consultant and an Alabama cattle rancher do together?
JT: There is so much. I started a few small businesses already and I am very good at making things happen and working hard. If you take that dedication and my point of view and put it with someone Yale-educated and very broad-minded who can see the big picture, I can’t see how we wouldn’t be a success.
SF: We talked a lot about ideas we shared and things we could do but nothing has been decided. We just know that we enjoyed working together and we did it well. We make a good team because we have different skill sets but similar temperaments and ambitions.
What’s in your immediate future?
JT: I am headed back to my job at the end of this week. I love it. I manage and operate the Black Angus Cattle Ranch in Mobile and I love it, so why would I quit just because I have some money in the bank now?
SF: I will probably keep doing more of that outdoors stuff now that I feel more comfortable and it really was beautiful out there in nature. There is a peace there that you can’t achieve in the city, but I am not going to move away like Brendan did or give up toilet paper or anything drastic. My heart belongs to the city. But when I first landed, I told my family that I am not going to text message anymore. That literally lasted about 15 minutes.http://tvwatch.people.com/2009/05/19/survivor-winner-jt-buying-stephen-drinks-for-the-rest-of-his-life/