Physically, James Clement may be one of the strongest “Survivor” contestants ever, but he’s been betrayed by his own body in two of his three seasons.
After being the 10th player out in “Survivor: China” (an infamous circumstance where he took two Immunity Idols with him), James did the quick turnaround for “Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites,” making it nearly as far before being forced out of the game with an infected finger (famously showing up on the Jury hitched to an IV).
In “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains,” James was done in by an injury to his knee. Although he was allowed to continue in the game, his limitations were evident. James survived for one episode, as his tight alliance — including three-time “Survivor” comrade Amanda — stuck with him and voted Tom out, but on Wednesday (March 24) night’s episode, the Heroes decided that an uninspired Colby was a greater asset than an inspired, but handicapped James.
HitFix caught up with James on Friday to discuss his knee, his relationship with Amanda, his “tone issues” and his understanding of the controversial issue of banana etiquette.
My full chat with the candid and funny James (it starts slow, but gets better) is after the break…
HitFix: “Survivor” has taken quite a toll on you physically, especially these past couple seasons. Has it been worth it?
James Clement: It was definitely worth it. I enjoyed it and it was fun. I’ve never been hurt before, so it’s odd, but yeah, it’s definitely worth it.
HitFix: What do you make of the bad luck you’ve had these last two seasons, then?
JC: I really think somebody’s cast some sort of Louisiana spell on me. [Laughs.] It has to be! I’ve never been hurt ever in my life. It’s funny, with all of the stuff that I’ve been through in my life, I get hurt on a reality show? It’s insane. I don’t get hurt that way. I need to pick up some pennies or throw some salt over my shoulder or something, because something ain’t workin’ right.
HitFix: How is your knee doing?
JC: I don’t know. I have to get surgery again to have it looked at again. It didn’t heal right after the first surgery, so something’s going on in there and they need to look at it and see it and deal with it. It’s so odd being hurt and not being able to work or do anything. So no, it’s still messed up and I’ve got to get it right.
HitFix: Having been pulled out of the game in Micronesia, did that make you even more determined to play through whatever was wrong this time around?
JC: Yeah, having been pulled once when I didn’t want to leave, this time they allowed me to stay, so I definitely wanted to take advantage and see how far I could go. I really didn’t think my knee was that bad. It turned out to be pretty bad, but I honestly thought I could keep going and I would have stayed.
HitFix: Am I wrong, or were the Heroes not having very much fun? It looked like you guys weren’t having a good time.
JC: Yeah, you’re wrong. We were actually chilling. This “Survivor” was like a super-vacation. We fermented some coconuts and had coconut wine. We made some cigars out of banana leaves. Our shelter was really dry. Now there were certain people who weren’t having such a great time, but as far as the vast majority of us? We were really having a great time. We were having good relationships and we were having good fun with it all. It sucked, because it didn’t show through in challenges.
HitFix: There was ample food, but there you were unaware that there was this banana etiquette that needed to be followed.
JC: Yeah, there was banana etiquette. That was one of those politically correct things people do just to build themselves up and make others look bad. In all honesty, I would never hog or eat all of the bananas. I just wouldn’t do that. That’s what you’re not supposed to do. And I put those bananas there specifically for everybody and it was on you to eat ’em all. I didn’t realizes you had to come up to everybody and ask everybody if they wanted a banana. If they wanted a banana, I figured they could get their own banana. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t get it if they asked for one, but I didn’t offer a banana every time and it looks I’d offend somebody if I didn’t offer to get a banana for them every time I got a banana.
HitFix: Were you amazed that this became any sort of an issue at all?
JC: I was kind of upset. It was amazing. I was pretty upset, because I’ve never heard of such a thing. You know? People could take stuff the way they want to and that’s what they did to me. They made it seem like I was trying to hog the bananas and therefore I should ask and make the bananas available to everybody every time I got one. Yeah, I was kinda amazed and upset… Like really? Make up another reason. Say I smell funny or say I walk weird or something else. Blame it on something else besides y’all are upset with me cuz I’m stealing bananas.
HitFix: Going into the Tribal Council on the night that you were voted out, what did you expect to happen?
JC: I expected them to do what was best for the team. I didn’t know where they were going. I kinda figured they were leaning toward getting rid of me, because they looked at me and were like, “Um, you work for a living. You might want to see what’s really going on with your knee. It doesn’t look good.” And they wanted to win. They thought that by keeping Colby and getting rid of me, it would make him work better. We’ll see how that goes. Going to Tribal Council, I was kinda like I wanted to negotiate and I wanted to make them steadfast to their alliances, but I also wanted us to win and I wanted us to do good and if doing good means doing it without me, we’ll see how that goes.
HitFix: You had some true friends and allies write your name down this week. Do you feel betrayed, or do you understand?
JC: Honestly? They saved me from myself. I would have stayed there. I mean, I tore my ACL and I tore a bunch of other stuff and I’m still dealing with that knee stuff now, so for me to have stayed, and I wanted to stay, they were more of a friend to get rid of me at that time. They could tell that something was going on and it wasn’t a good thing, which held true. So no, I don’t feel like I should be upset with them. Hell, Amanda voted me out twice and I’m still cool with her. She’s voted me out every time we’re on the show together! She only wants to get rid of me! But I can’t be mad at her. She’s my girl.
HitFix: After doing this three times with her now, what is your bond with Amanda like?
JC: It’s crazy. She’s like the only person I’ve ever gone to war with. Every time I go on the show, I’m with her. I really don’t know how I would react without her there. It would be so weird. The second time, they were shot back-to-back and I couldn’t have made it without her. Honestly, I needed her there. So we definitely have a very strong bond. She gets on my nerves a lot and she drives me crazy, but I love her. It’s the brother-sister relationship which I’ve never had before and it’s good.
HitFix: Does starting a game knowing that you have at least one ally you’re going to work with, does that make it easier? Or does it make it harder to some degree, since you’re almost locked into that relationship?
JC: The thing is, Amanda’s Amanda. You really can’t trust her. Like I said, Amanda got rid of me two other times. So why would I put all my eggs in one basket? So yeah, from the outside I guess it is more threatening because we know each, but really, if they really paid attention, they already know that Amanda would get rid of me at the drop of a hat and it’s no big deal. For me to say that I was relaxed or at ease because I saw familiar faces, every familiar face I saw out there had gotten rid of me at one point in time, you know? It was all the girls. If I had been there with Ozzy, I would have had a better chance. I’d have been more relaxed. But I was there with the girls. And they turned on me the last time. Seriously. How many times am I gonna be fooled and took in by the pretty faces?
HitFix: If somebody had come to you early on and proposed a plan to vote Amanda out, would you have been game?
JC: Oh, no. The thing was, I was gonna wait toward the end and I was going to vote her out. That just would have been hilarious. Like I told her I was gonna get her. So no, not that early. But later on in the game? Yeah! I definitely would have voted her out. Just for fun. Yeah. That’s what we do to each other. She’s gotten me so many times. Like honestly, you don’t think it would have been a little bit of poetic justice just for me to get one of the girls? Just one of them! That’s all I want. Hey, if they invite me back, I just want want one of the girls. I love them, but come on…
HitFix: So based on the editing, and this is just editing, there were probably two episodes where you spent the entire time just yelling at everybody on your time. Do you want to give your own interpretation of that time where you seemed to just be angry for two straight episodes?
JC: Man, I love it. It’s actually kinda cool the way they edit me. The editing was great because it really made me look like I was mad the whole time. And I wasn’t really mad, I was just aggravated and trying to make a plea to work as a team. I’ve never heard a crazy rebel saying, “Let’s stick to the plan and work as a team.” That’s just crazy. That’s just unheard of. And it’s just shocking how people really didn’t listen to the words I was saying and they just went off my mannerisms. I have recently learned that for some reason I have tone issues and I come off aggressive when I speak to people and I need to work on that. Yeah, I need to work on that, but I also need to get the point across. Just because you say it in a nice, sweet, happy voice doesn’t mean that your words aren’t as hurtful as mind. So yeah, my voice might sound a little rough, but I’m really truly trying to do the best I could to make things better.
HitFix: Standard last question: James, having done this three times before and having been injured the last two times, would you do it a fourth time?
JC: Yes sir. I love it. I love the game of “Survivor” and I would do it any time they asked. I just want to get this bad curse of me getting hurt off. I just want to make it towards the end. And maybe get one of those girls.
Previous “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” Exit Interviews:
“Survivor” returns to Thursdays starting next week.