(we got fancy-ass gifs now!! YEAH!)
(also me: quietly dying as the actual clips from the Tocantins season feature several things I took screen shots of, and which are thus seared into my memory because I've read back my past decade of Survivor posts, like, at least three times in the past month)
I actually have a huge amount of Tocantins thoughts that are scattered around too many Notepad docs to find right now, but the one I want to make sure I don't lose is this: this year delivered me the gift of the "brotherly love" secret scene w/ Stephen and JT I had never seen before, and this is absolutely incredible from beginning to end, starting with Stephen accurately predicting the endgame halfway through, and really hitting its stride here: "Everybody loves Stephen." (lol just wait) / "I think they might like you too." / "I love you, Stephen." / "I love you." / (laughing) "Don't get gay on me now." (BRO YOU STARTED THIS) "It's only day 16." / (laughing) "So we'll have time to get gay in the future, is what you're saying?" / "I'd understand if it was day 39..."
EDIT: No, you know what, we're gonna go round some more up right now. BROMANCE GOGGLES: ON.
I quite literally never tire of hearing Stephen describe that final tribal council in Tocantins, and while at 10 years on we are at or nearing the shelf life of many reality show interviews on websites before they are purged (Reality News Online is already bust, I was displeased to learn), I found a new bit tonight thanks to braving an on-camera interview. It's very off the cuff since it was given on the carpet right after the reunion show, so let me just relish a few new phrases:
"He hammed it up so well. He was weeping. He was rubbing his face in misery. He looked so personally unhappy that I had shattered his spirit like this, that his supposed best friend had betrayed him. Everyone believed it. I believed it. And then as soon as the lights were off, he was cracking up. So for a minute there, I thought I had ruined my best friendship in the world. After, of course, I felt grateful that I still had it, but there were definitely a few moments where I thought I had really hurt him."Damn but the amount I want CBS All Access grows by the day, because it's the only place to see old Survivor eps without paying $35 or so for a DVD. I want to watch this Tribal Council again so bad. The bits and snatches I preserve for myself in review form (THANK U PAST ME) are legendary, but I also want to see it, see their faces and expressions as this all goes down.
2:13 AM: OH NO THE INTERNET FINALLY DELIVERED THE SLASH**. I did not ask for that! I don't want it! Search engine, how the hell did you get "show me a Livejournal fic post" from "weeping jt stephen tocantins"? I mean I see it now, but CLEARLY I was just looking for other post-finale interviews to see if Stephen had elaborated on the above theatrics!
Like, I am obviously gonna click on it because J.T. doesn't have any social media accounts with real conversations to sate me, and also in July Stephen freaked out and deleted his entire nine beautiful years worth of Twitter history for fear he'd written something offensive that someone might dredge up to ruin him, but I'm not happy about this choice. (WHY IS YOUR JOURNAL NOT ONE OF THE THOUSANDS OF REACTIONARILY-DELETED AND PURGED ONES. WHY DO YOU HAVE AN ENTIRE RELATED TAG FOR ME TO BOTH BE MORBIDLY CURIOUS AND CRINGE ABOUT. Oh my god, to quote Stephen on the family visit, I am so gross, you're gonna have to disinfect yourself).
**Back in 2009, I was definitely was afraid I had Rule 34'd it into existence and was shocked when I checked and Google offered nothing. Fun facts: the first of this person's stories was posted 2 days after I wrote the above fear. So maybe it can be traced back to me.
3:00 AM: I just want you to know i have dutifully skimmed all of it (except for the truly horrifying NC-17 labeled one) and it is terrible but at least now I know that there aren't any believable-sounding bits of dialogue to salvage. And now I am deleting and purging the content from my brain.
3:30 AM: Holla!! I was doing some more googling for Tocantins exit press trying keywords I hadn't used yet, and one of the search results (shown below in green), with a URL snippet of "www.janicehollybooth.com/adventurist/your-story/adventurista-on" was so delicious looking I was 100% sure this was somebody's self-insert fanfic. But honestly, I was game to try it if tears were involved.
BUT IT WAS REAL. A 2012 guest post from Debbie of all people, and while I had to learn some sad things like she was "in a bad marriage" when Tocantins filmed (I TOLD YOU MIKE LOOKED GRUMPY), I also got great insight into her casting and what it was like for her during and after the game, as well as context for the result, which was better than any fic I could have imagined:
I will never forget going through the divorce and getting a call from Stephen. He told me he was coming through Auburn and wanted to meet me for coffee. It was a rough day and I drove as fast as I could to see him. As I pulled up at Starbucks, I saw a cattle trailer and JT jumped out. I immediately ran to Stephen and JT and burst out in tears. They knew I needed them and they were there for me. I will never forget this touching moment and the joy they brought me that day.
(full post here)
3:47 AM: I'm on a roll, so here are some more post-finale interview snippets from...oh shoot, I lost the full URL. It looks like it was somewhere on people.com:
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!
SF: 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 be so good from here on down the road.
(in case you haven't already guessed, I've already been up and down the Heroes vs. Villains, Second Chance/Cambodia, and Game Changers roads to see more of these guys, each outing making it more painfully apparent than the last that their making it to Day 39 was a perfect storm of having such chill and low-key opponents (possible exception Tyson) and perfectly balancing each other's weaknesses)
4:27 AM: IGN bringing me some more goodies --
IGN: At the final tribal council, things got a little testy between you and Stephen. Was that pretty quickly squashed afterwards?
JT: Oh, yeah, of course. As soon as they said, "Thank you, the show's over," we hugged and kissed each other. We knew going into this he was going to win this game and so was I, so we stuck together, and we were able to get to the final two as friends, so it worked out for the best.(RS: You know, I know he means "kissed on the cheek/side of the head," but that is sure not what that one slash author heard.)
4:47 AM: Ooh this one's good too.
Reality TV World: So at the end of that whole exchange, JT made his "Is this the same guy I brought with me?" comment ... you seemed to kind of get upset about that, was that legit?
Stephen: Oh yeah, I was devastated. Like I was heartbroken, like I went in knowing I had lost and now I had also ruined my friendship with my best friend.
(RS in: When I say I never tire of these interviews, what I really mean is that I never tire of Stephen describing himself as heartbroken, because the amount I wanna go back and rewatch Final Tribal in that confirmed context is off the charts)
Reality TV World: What about that other part near the end, when you questioned if Stephen was the "same guy" that you brought into the Final 2 with you?
JT: (laughing) Yeah, I was really playing that up. And immediately when that final Tribal was over, I started laughing and hugged Stephen. He really thought he ruined our relationship, but he really killed himself at that Tribal. That was all part of my plan. It was really dangerous to take Stephen to the Final 2 because he was such a likable guy. Luckily he killed himself on that last Tribal.
Reality TV World: What do you think killed him the most?
JT: He really kind of scrambled. He got really paranoid when there was Final 4. Taj promised Stephen that she would vote for him, Erinn promised Stephen she would vote for him. But he scrambled so hard in the Final 5 and Final 4 -- because he was getting so paranoid -- that I could see where he could kill himself. I wasn't sure about it until Debbie brought out that question at Tribal and I just played it off like, "Oh I had no idea that he would do that to me!" I could see it in obviously [Benjamin "Coach" Wade's] eyes and [Brendan Synnott's] eyes.
AND FINALLY, AFTER NEARLY TEN YEARS, THE GREATEST MYSTERY IS SOLVED:
Reality TV World: What did you whisper to Stephen during the reunion show after you found out you'd also won the $100,000 home viewer prize?
JT: You know, someone else asked me that and I can't remember exactly. I think it was something like "I wished you were in the running for it" or maybe "You should have got it." Because he was such a competitor in the game and he really did deserve to be where he was at in the game.
(*emoji heart eyes x 20*)
5:00 AM: HECK YES!! after weeks of cursing myself for not more thoroughly documenting the JT portion of the family visit, someone on Reddit mentioned that there were "meet X loved one" videos, to which I went "MRMPHHH??" like a startled cat and then flew to YouTube in hopes of tracking them down. And then...
MEET ADRIANNA IT IS. I couldn't even remember what she looked like. But awww, she is super nervous and self conscious doing this interview and I love her for it. Also wow that is a strong accent. I had to replay a couple of lines, but... "JT really is the best brother I could ever have." THERE IT IS. That's the kind of take I want to hear. Now, if only someone would upload the family visit itself. I have found clips of almost everything else I remember, but not this, and I desperately want to see it again.
5:05 AM: Also now seems like as good a time as any to be happy that at least the auction is on YouTube, because JT giving up on the bidding for the mystery item* with a "I'll let it go for Stephen" is so cute. (*wisely, it turned out. because chicken hearts. Thanks buddy!) (side note: I...am actually sort of curious to know what a chicken heart tastes like. I would try it. It looked like it was cooked, and doesn't objectively seem too bad?)
I am both mad that the official Tocantins clips have all gone back into the CBS account's vault, and grateful that before they did so, I was able to watch the entire season's worth of challenges. Ceramic-pig-toss-thru-an-obstacle-wall, I missed youuuu! Another favorite moment is the reward challenge at F5 where they have to go through the maze with their ankles hobbled, then build a long/sturdy enough pole with limited supplies to trigger a flag raise -- JT wins, and I cannot stop laughing at Stephen hopping over to him like a kangaroo and expectantly throwing his arms open for a hug. To use a phrase that was not in vogue back then, so pure.
Meanwhile, in Tocantins' absence I am currently enjoying the Second Chance challenges, especially the best blindfolded one until David vs. Goliath: "Everybody (Especially Spencer) Gets Wrecked."
seriously the blocks and/or editors really hate Spence