‘Survivor: Game Changers’ cast: Will J.T. Thomas outlast the rest to become second two-time winner?

CBS’ “Survivor: Game Changers” is set to premiere on March 8 featuring a cast entirely composed of all-stars and, thematically speaking, players that in their past seasons changed the way the game of “Survivor” is played. One of those players is J.T. Thomas, back for a third time following a winning appearance on “Tocantins” (Season 18) and 10th place finish shortly thereafter on “Heroes vs. Villains” (Season 20). This time he’ll be playing against Sandra Diaz-Twine who beat him for her second win on “Heroes vs. Villains.” Does he have what it takes to match her record and become the second player to win twice? Read my analysis of how his past performance may impact his game and then make your own “Survivor” predictions ahead of the first episode.

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On his original season, J.T. became the second player to win in a unanimous vote with the jury, but unlike the first to do so (Earl Cole on “Fiji”) J.T. did not receive a single vote cast against him throughout the season. In that regard, J.T. is known to have played one of the cleanest games in “Survivor” history, changing a game that is often won by players much more diabolical than he was.

This clean game helped earn him a spot as a “hero” on his second season, but J.T. sought to defy expectations by playing more aggressively and dirtier. J.T.’s big move came just before the merge when he concocted a plan to give his hidden immunity idol to Russell Hantz of the other tribe with the hopes that Russell would use it to take out Parvati Shallow and a promise to protect him in future votes. Russell accepted the idol, but at the merge gave it to Parvati who used it to negate votes cast against her tribe mates and vote out J.T. instead.

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In his previous two seasons, J.T. played vastly different games to two completely different results. Following his unsuccessful “dirty” game on “Heroes vs. Villains” it’s possible that J.T. will return to a “clean” strategy for “Game Changers.” But it’s been just under a decade since J.T. played that way and the game has evolved in ways that he won’t be used to. As a former winner, J.T. also comes with that target on his back, but in his benefit, Sandra and Tony Vlachos are much more threatening winners on this season.

I think J.T.’s best move to start this new season is to lay low, let the louder players announce their moves and take the lead. As long as he gets trust from those in power, J.T. can earn protection from them long enough to decide which path he can take to get himself to the win. He’ll have to strike a balance between the “clean” and “dirty” games of his past in order to get there, but I think he’s more than capable of rising to the top among this cast of over-the-top personalities.

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Get a closer look at the Season 34 contestants by clicking through our cast photo gallery. In our “Survivor” predictions center, you get to answer the following questions before each episode airs on CBS every Wednesday at 5 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. ET.:

Who will win “Survivor”?

Who will be eliminated?

Who will win Reward?

Who will win Immunity?

Will a hidden idol be played?

Will anybody quit or be medevaced?

Who will win ‘Survivor: Game Changers’? See exclusive odds

Gold Derby readers just like YOU often turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, so it’s important that you give us your predictions. You can continue to update and change your forecasts throughout the week, just click “Save” when you’ve settled on your choices. You’ll compete to win bragging rights and a place of honor on our leaderboard. Be sure to read our contest rules and sound off on the season of “Survivor” in our reality TV forum.

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