It was only a matter of time: Shamar Thomas wasn't meant to win Survivor. On Wednesday night though, his fate in the game took an unexpected turn when he was medically evacuated following a scratch on his eye near his pupil. Upon medical examination, he was removed from the game.
Laura Alexander on the other hand, left the game in a more traditional manner: By way of blindside from her fellow alliance-mates. Choosing the physical strength of Eddie and Reynold over the loyalty, game-smarts and social strengths of Laura, Matt led the charge to vote out Laura due to her poor performance in the Immunity Challenges. The blindside leaves just six Fans left in the game.
Shamar carried with him a world of controversy, catching flack for feeding into the "lazy" stereotype that African-American males have been grouped into over the years on Survivor. He was also abrasive and was verbal about wanting to quit the game.
I had a chance to speak with both Shamar and Laura, separately, one day after the airing of the episode that saw them both ousted from the game.
First off, how is your eye and what was the extent of the damage?
Shamar Thomas: I have two very small scars on my eye that they say won't effect me, at least right now at least. I spent six days in the hospital, I had surgery on my finger. I have permanent disfiguration in my finger and a scar on my finger and on my palm. That took about three months of rehab. I have to live every day, like I can't even cut my fingernails because I don't have sensation in my finger. That was the hardest part. But I'm glad I got it fixed, I'm glad my eye is straight, I'm just happy to be a part of things, I have no regrets.
How did you injure your finger?
I had a piece of bamboo go through my finger, it went to the bone and my whole hand got infected. They actually had to cut open my palm just to get the infection out. It was really, really bad. That was the most disheartening part. Everybody was all like, oh, you just wanted to be out of the game, but I lived with my finger every day. It's very hard to hear that kind of criticism.
From the very beginning, you seemed like you were on the outs with your tribe. What was the main reason for that?
I just think that I didn't have a lot in common with a lot of the other players. That was the determining factor. When you don't listen to the same kind of music, or you're not into the same kind of activities back home, it just think the other players had a lot more in common with each other than with me.
What was it with Reynold that really seemed to get under your skin?
I tried to talk to Eddie about aligning and he was with Reynold, and I didn't include Reynold in that aligning, so maybe he went back and told Reynold. I don't know, I'm not exactly sure but I wish things were different.
When you were medically evacuated from the game, were you ready to leave the game mentally?
Actually I sustained an injury to my finger and it was irritating me all day. In the game of Survivor, you have nothing but time to think, so I was just thinking about the pain and thinking about what I was going through and it just filled me up with a lot of anger. Also, being dehydrated didn't help. I never wanted to leave the game that way you know, I wish I could have done things a bit differently. One more challenge or something. But with my finger I knew I wouldn't be too good in too many challenges and with not having much in common with these people I didn't really think I was going to last that long. It was just demoralizing.
Watching the show back, what was your reaction to Sherri saying that you were "her Phillip?"
It didn't really bug me because I understand the game. Sherri is such a great player with her game play.
A lot was made of your time in the military on the show. How would you compare Survivor with your experiences in the service, if at all?
The two are quite different. I can't compare Survivor to Iraq, from the aspect of physically and mentally because I watched my brothers literally die, I've seen suicide bombings. But as far as the physical aspects of being in Iraq versus being on Survivor, it was totally different. In Iraq we had water and you know, on the show, I didn't care about food as much as I did water. In the Marines, in boot camp, they make you chug water, hydration is such a major factor. To be on Survivor and not have water made the game that much harder. I have the utmost respect for all Survivors who have gone through that. This is actually a little bit tougher than boot camp, because in boot camp they ran us ragged but they would give us water. So Survivor in that aspect was much tougher than the Marines.
There has been a lingering complaint about how Survivor has perhaps negatively stereotyped African-American male contestants, dating all the way back to Season 1 of the show. What is your response to the fact that your portrayal this season has once again led to people talking about these stereotypes?
Because my experience on the show, because I am thankful for the opportunity, I don't really get into that question, because I don't want that to overshadow the importance of me being on the show and me being a fan of the show. I don't really like to play the race card, that's not who I am. I really appreciated the opportunity so I really don't get into that. I don't want to say that race was an issue. But I did not have a lot in common with any of my tribemates.
Because of how you were portrayed, there must be something that you wish was shown on the show that was not, right?
One of the biggest thing with me was, I was chopping down trees. So I got home and told my mom I was chopping down trees and was doing all of these exciting things. I just wish that I could have at least gotten one tree shot in there! But I understand the story-lines and I'm just happy that I got the opportunity to get on this show. So I can't complain. A lot of other people on the show, people don't even know their name. So the fact that people know the name Shamar, it really makes me feel like I'm a part of the Survivor family, hater or not.
Great talking with you, Shamar.
Thanks that means a lot. I had such a great time, it was a wonderful opportunity.
How surprised were you last night when your entire tribe voted for you at Tribal?
Laura Alexander: I was definitely surprised, definitely blindsided. I thought that my alliance would value loyalty over physical strength at that point in the game. So I was definitely surprised and definitely disappointed.
Why do you think ultimately that it was you who was targeted?
I think it was several factors, we had been losing so much that physical strength had become a focus. Also, Shamar had been such a distraction that it saved me in some way because I didn't take any attention. But with Shamar being medically evacuated before we left for the challenge, the focus shifted more onto me than usual. I do think though, that had Matt not brought my name up I'm not sure if my core alliance would have been on board with it. I mean, they did vote unanimously, but I don't think that they were all voting with the same level of enthusiasm.
We saw last night that it was Matt who really pushed for you to go home. But before knowing who was resonsible, what did you think had happened?
Before last night I really thought Reynold and Eddie had led the blindside, it seemed obvious since they were on the outs and I knew they were throwing my name around all day. I didn't realize until last night actually, until I watched the episode, that it was Matt who had orchestrated it. I mean, that was a little disappointing to watch just because at that point, I had thought that our alliance was pretty strong.
Julia was also shown to be in your alliance and we haven't seen too much from her yet this season. What can you tell us about Julia or her strategy in the game based on what you knew of her?
I can't really tell you exactly what Julia was thinking. I was really the closest out there with Sherri, I could tell you my strategy and Sherri's strategy inside and out. Julia, I tried to get closer with out there, due to our age and we're both sort of in the same place in our life, I just graduated from college and she's in college right now. I think if anything she was trying to fly under-the-radar, that would be my vibe. I know she was closely aligned with Michael for a while.
Did you agree with Sherri's assessment as to how to handle Shamar in the game, to keep him close?
It was definitely both of our strategies to keep Shamar in the game as long as possible. He kept upsetting people and stirring up the camp life a bit. He attracted attention away from me. So as long as he was around people saw him as the next vote instead of me as the next vote. But I definitely agreed with Sherri on this.
What was your long-term plan in the game? Who of your core alliance would you have considered to be eventually expendable?
I saw myself, Sherri and potentially Matt going on farther in the game. I saw Michael as somebody that would have been one of my first options to go out of my alliance. Mostly because I found him to be a strategic threat. Julia we could have potentially also taken further into the game, especially without Michael, because Julia would have been more vulnerable and would have been closer to me at that point. Sherri would have been my number one though. I feel like Sherri and I would have tried to stay close.
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