‘Survivor’ Castaway Interview – Jimmy ‘Jimmy T.’ Tarantino

“If CBS was ever foolish enough to cast me in ‘Survivor,’ I would make it to the merge…easily.” – Gordon Holmes

I know what you’re thinking, that’s a pretty bold statement. But it’s true. I’ve seen every episode of “Survivor” and know the basic rules by heart; don’t be annoying, don’t be a leader, and don’t call people out. If you’re someone who can be useful in challenges, those three things are basically all you need to guarantee yourself a trip to Mergetown.

So why did Jimmy Tarantino, who is such a big “Survivor” fan that he had his entire town vote him into the game in the Sears Casting Call contest, make these rookie mistakes? I spoke with Jimmy T. the morning after his quick dismissal to find out why he ignored the three “Survivor” commandments, which Espada member is in love with Marty, and what he really thinks of Jimmy Johnson.

Gordon Holmes: How’s it going, Jimmy T.?
Jimmy Tarantino:
Pretty good considering I got smashed last night.
Gordon: Indeed you did. However, it seemed like you picked up on how abrasive you were being during your farewell interview last night. Why didn’t you pick up on that sooner?
Jimmy T.: Jeez, in the game I didn’t think I was doing that, but certainly on TV they’re not going to show the days and days of building the shelter, or providing the food, or the stuff that’s less drama. I’d spend three days working hard, then five minutes after a challenge expressing that, “Hey, we’re not doing too well, why don’t you give me a shot?” But it sure seems like I did a heck of a lot more complaining than I actually did. I was just looking for a chance to right the ship.
Gordon: What could you have done differently in those challenges?
Jimmy T.: There was no question that in the beanbag toss that I would’ve won. I got to throw in ten tosses once I got in there and Tyrone had thrown about fifty. He actually got called out and wouldn’t come out of the game. Then when he finally did, I got about ten tosses and they were the longest tosses. I would’ve won that challenge, that’s a fact.
Gordon: So Jimmy Johnson did call for Tyrone to come out earlier and he wouldn’t come out?
Jimmy T.: There were a couple of times he called him out. He said afterwards that he didn’t hear it. So I yelled real loud, “Tyrone, give someone else a chance!” And he said “Be quiet, Jimmy T.!” So once again they’re portraying me as the squeaky wheel.

Gordon: You got onto the show by winning the Sears Casting Call contest. So, you’re obviously a big fan of the show. If you’re such a big fan, how did you not know that asking for a leadership role is usually a recipe for disaster?
Jimmy T.:
I had the right plan going in. I planned to keep quiet and play it slow. But once I got in the game…I’m a hard-working person. I’m the kind of person who’s going to give 100%. It’s been working for me for 49 years to go in, work hard, and take a leadership role. It’s worked for me for 49 years quite successfully. So, it’s hard to not do that. If you play “Survivor,” you’ve gotta play with your head. And I played with my heart. We had misguided leadership and self-serving leadership and I tried to fight against it even though I knew it wasn’t in my best interest.
Gordon: At Tribal Council when Jeff Probst asked if you’d be willing to take a non-leadership role, you seemed very emotionally upset. Why did you take that so personally?
Jimmy T.: At that point I thought that I was going home no matter what happened. And I was overwhelmed with the fact that I had blown this opportunity. My family, my friends, everyone who had voted for me, I felt like I had let them down. So, at that point I was willing to say what I had to say to not get the vote.

Gordon: When we were in Nicaragua, you said your entire town had voted to get you into “Survivor.” I’m thinking this means you must be a popular fellow. Why didn’t that popularity translate into the game?
Jimmy T.:
I know why it didn’t translate into the game. The game of “Survivor” isn’t like real life. If you do something nice for somebody in real life, they say, “Wow, that’s a nice guy. He’s considerate and thoughtful.”  But if you do something nice for somebody in “Survivor” they get on the defensive. You’re trying to help them start a fire and they’re like, “I know, I can do it!” They feel like you’re trying to show them up. Every act of kindness was resented. Marty accused me of being paranoid, but I think I was a victim of everybody else’s insecurities.
Gordon: So, if you played the game again you’d play it NaOnka-syle?
Jimmy T.: Absolutely not. If I play the game again, and I intend to play the game again because I have the skills and the color, the best thing to do is get in the back of the bus and let the other people drive it off the cliff and jump off right before it goes off the cliff.

Gordon: Speaking of someone who’s driving the bus off the cliff, did you have any idea that Marty and Jill were the power players within Espada?
Jimmy T.:
Jill and I had an alliance from the very beginning that she wanted out of. She turned on me like a junkyard dog. I think she fell in love with Marty and from there on did whatever he said. You can see in the last couple of weeks she’ll express an idea and Marty shoots it down. He doesn’t want to hear another word about it and she says, “Whatever you say, you’re the puppet master.” So how can you go up against that?
Gordon: When I met Jill in Nicaragua she didn’t strike me as much of a follower. Do you think she could be playing Marty?
Jimmy T.: Absolutely not. She definitely isn’t playing him. When he talks in the tribe he was calm and collected and Jill bought it hook, line, and sinker. I remember pre-challenges her saying, “Marty can do it! How about Marty? Marty’d be good at that!” She was in love with Marty. I remember saying in the side interviews, “I hope Jill’s husband isn’t seeing this footage because she’s falling in love with this guy.”
Gordon: OK, when you originally said “falling in love” I thought you meant like when a male and female will form a non-romantic alliance like Russell and Parvati in “Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains.” Do you really think Jill has a crush on Marty?
Jimmy T.: I really think she was smitten with him, absolutely. Watch the last shows and look at it in that way. One person in “Survivor” says, “I figured out the clue, go get it.” Who does that? And he says, “I don’t want to hear another word about it.” It’s like he’s scolding his wife and she says, “OK, you’re the puppet master.”
Gordon: Do you think she can’t resist his sweet haircut?
Jimmy T.: (Laughs) Definitely not the ‘do, man! Even my nasty locks weren’t as bad as his mad scientist look.

Gordon: It wasn’t a unanimous vote last night. Did you have any kind of alliance with Holly and Jane?
Jimmy T.:
Yeah, they haven’t shown much of Jane. But she was genuine, she was a great worker. We were good friends. She told me she had an alliance with Holly and they weren’t tricked as much as the others to follow the bad leadership. Marty just wanted to keep his hand on the wheel. He can accuse me of being paranoid, but he was afraid I’d start winning challenges.
Gordon: Speaking of Holly, were there any repercussions that came out of her sinking Dan’s shoes? Because in the past something like that is a one-way ticket home.
Jimmy T.: (Laughs) When she first did it, everyone thought she was the next target. But we won that next challenge and you know how quickly things change in the game. In ten minutes things can change. And please make a note of that miraculous ricochet shot I hit to Tyrone (in the Hay Mate challenge) to save the line drive Marty hit to me with the shields. I don’t know if anybody saw that, but that never got any play time either.

Gordon: Will do. Alright, it’s time for you to join the proud pantheon of those who have participated in “Survivor” word association. Let’s start this off with Marty.
Jimmy T.:
Self serving.
Gordon: Dan?
Jimmy T.: Weak.
Gordon: Holly?
Jimmy T.: Sincere but…Holly’s a tough one to figure out. Holly’s a good person but she’s flighty and easily upset. Watch her blink when she talks, she’s a very nervous person.
Gordon: Yve?
Jimmy T.: Yve is sad. Yve’s got a lot of baggage.
Gordon: Jimmy J.?
Jimmy T.: (Laughs) I don’t want to be mean! Everybody talks about his leadership, but that was 20 years ago. Right now he’s a haircut and a tie and a face that doesn’t have a lot of sincerity.
Gordon: Jane?
Jimmy T.: Real.
Gordon: Jill?
Jimmy T.: Pompous.
Gordon: Tyrone?
Jimmy T.: Tyrone a little more complex than one word. He’s a good person with good intentions.

Gordon: What has been the reaction around your town regarding your time on “Survivor”?
Jimmy T.:
It’s been incredible. I never was on Facebook, I’m kind of a caveman, I don’t have a cell phone. But I have a lot of friends in the community. The outpouring has been incredible. And on Facebook every second I get a new message, “We love you, Jimmy T.,” “We love you,” “Great job, you stayed true to who you are,” “Screw Marty, I’d like to beat his…” Every second, faster than every second there’s been support and love from my community.

Gordon: What do you take from your time in Nicaragua?
Jimmy T.:
If I take anything from this experience, it’s the love from my friends, family, and everyone in the community.

Twitter: Follow me on Twitter for “Survivor” news and more – @gordonholmes

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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