In “Survivor” lore, you don’t really want your name to end up next to Colton Cumbie, but that may be where Shamar Thomas’ name is going to go.
Granted that fan opinions on Shamar have been far more varied than the near-universal malice directed at Colton, but both Shamar and Colton go in that very tiny “Survivor” chapter dedicated to contestants who dominated screentime in the early stages of a season only to be medically evacuated and leave the game without making a lasting impact.
For three weeks, the 27-year-old Iraq War veteran rubbed most of the other “Survivor: Caramoan” Fans tribe the wrong way with his aggressive personality but sometimes passive camp behavior. Each week it seemed like logic dictated that Shamar would be heading home, but he was part of an alliance that was determined to remain strong, even with him as an integral part.
Shamar, unhappy in the game from the opening moments, contemplated quitting earlier and then chose to depart during Wednesday’s (March 6) episode at the doctor’s recommendation after irritating his eye and being diagnosed with a divot in his cornea.
I tried to get Shamar to discuss his behavior in the game, as well as his image problem in one of this week’s two “Survivor” exit interviews. You can read his answers however you choose. Click through for the full Q&A.
[Note that this week’s two exit interviews — the second will post tomorrow — are a little shorter than normal. That’s what comes from attempting to fit two bootees into a standard interview time. As a completist, I’m just grateful I got to chat with both of them.]
HitFix: First off, talk me through what the recovery process was like?
Shamar Thomas: The recover process… I spent six days in the hospital and was released and now I’m healthy. I’m very happy. It took about three months rehab, but it wasn’t necessarily on my eye. I had a finger injury that caused me to go to rehab and have surgery. I never got surgery on my eye. I’m just thankful for the opportunity, man.
HitFix: How quickly did the first sense of regret for leaving the game set in? Or did it not set in at all?
Shamar: I regret leaving the game because I wanted to do well. I didn’t really come out to the island to leave by injury. I really wanted to win. So the first sense of regret happened before I even got taken out of the game, because I knew exactly what was happening to me on the island, so it was very difficult, man. I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish I would have had another opportunity, or I wish I could have stayed in the game by some miracle.
HitFix: It seemed like you’d also contemplated leaving the game earlier as well. How close did you come then?
Shamar: I was injured. I injured my finger and what happened was, because I knew that the social aspect of the game wasn’t really working for me, challenges were a very important thing to me and once I knew that I wasn’t gonna be great at challenges, it kinda just filled me with a lot of anger and resentment. Being on “Survivor,” you have nothing but time to think about it and so that’s where the anger came from. It was like, “Man. How am I gonna do it when I can’t pull my weight in challenges? What’s gonna happen to me next?” It was kinda demoralizing for me.
HitFix: Exactly how quickly out there did you realize that the social aspect of the game wasn’t working for you?
Shamar: As soon as I stepped on the mat and I heard people talking, I kinda understood the backgrounds of people and I kinda just realized that we didn’t really have too much in common and I was like, “Uhhh… I don’t even have a single person that I have anything in common with, so I’m pretty doomed.” That’s why I attacked the physical challenges with such ferocity, because I’m like, “Man, this is the only thing that’s gonna help me get to the Merge and hopefully I can get with some Favorites that understand the game a little bit more that will appreciated what I’m bringing to the table.
HitFix: What did you think that the Favorites were going to appreciate that maybe your own tribemates didn’t?
Shamar: I think they’ve been there before and I think a lot of the players I was with were intimidated by me and I think that the Favorites, because they’ve been there, they understand the TV, the cameras, everything that goes behind it, they would have understood that I’m just a regular person. But to my tribemates, I was little bit more larger-than-life and I think that I wouldn’t have been regarded in the same light by the Favorites, simply because these are some awesome players and they’re larger-than-life, so I think that’s what messed me up a little bit.
HitFix: How were you conscious of being larger-than-life? And how much was that actually strategy out there?
Shamar: That’s honestly my strategy for everything I do is being larger-than-life because the Fans tribe, when we went into a lot of the challenges, I could see the intimidation. They’re fans of the game, we’re all fans of the game, so I knew that it wasn’t a good situation for me because of how they were playing and so that’s why I had to just try to conserve my energy and do the best I could in challenges, because I knew that we needed a little pep-step in what we were doing.
HitFix: You’ve been watching this season for a month now. How did you feel, watching the way you were depicted?
Shamar: Honestly? I got tired of myself. [He laughs.] I understand the whole storyline, but I really busted my tail off out there. I was telling my mom, like, “Hey, mom. I was chopping down trees!” And for her not to see me chop down one tree… I was like, “Awww, man. Not one tree?” But I understood the the storyline. I respect it. I can’t be mad, because I got the airtime that a lot of other people didn’t, so on one hand it’s like you get a lot of airtime, but on the other hand, people see you a certain way. But honestly, people get to know me a little bit better now and realize that it’s just a game.
HitFix: Watching yourself, were there any specific things that you regretted? That you wished you could go back and redo or undo?
Shamar: Ummm… I wish I had a six-pack. That’s about it, man. I wish I would have come into the game with a six-pack. I think that me being more physically attractive would have sat better with the fans of “Survivor” and just my tribemates. I felt like because I was bigger and I look different from everybody else that I was just a really easy target and, as I’m saying, I didn’t really have a lot in common with a lot of the other players, so it was just a little harder for me. But other than that, man, I’m just honestly thankful for the opportunity. I don’t really look back on it and say, “Aw, I wish I would have done this. I wish I would have done that.” I was who I am.
HitFix: But when you see something like you laying in the shelter and demanding rice to stay in the game, what is your reaction to that now?
Shamar: My reaction to it now is that that was the game that I was playing. If people wanna in my face they’re telling me that I’m great, but then behind the scenes they’re like, “He’s in my pocket,” but it’s like… How are you bringing him rice and protecting him and *he’s* in *your* pocket? Aren’t you in his pocket? That was my only thing. I was like, “Man. This is a little bit crazy,” but I wish that a lot of the good times that I had would have been shown. Even Laura said, you know, “The Fun Shamar is gone.” A lot of people don’t understand that I came into this game with a lot of positivity, but I learned that these people didn’t have a lot in common with me. They didn’t really care. They didn’t want hang out with me. Understand what I’m saying? It was a little disheartening.
HitFix: One of the things you talked about out there was that you were worried about getting the Angry Black Man edit. Do you think that’s ultimately what you got?
Shamar: [Long pause.] Ummm… I won’t answer that. [He laughs loudly.] Sorry. [Laughs some more.]
HitFix: OK. So how have people been reacting to you since the show started airing?
Shamar: In my community, in my immediate surroundings, everybody’s just really, really proud of me. A lot of people from my neighborhood have thanked me because I’ve done a lot of activism. I’m an activist for the people. I’m a people person, so they were just really happy that I did it. I’m into the youth gang prevention and I wanted to show them that being a positive person can take you a lot further in life than being a negative person. You don’t have to be a rapper or a basketball star to make it in life, so I think I conveyed that message and so for that I’m happy and I really appreciate CBS and the casting for giving me the opportunity.
HitFix: As a last question: I know players who get medically evacuated almost always get an itch to try “Survivor” again. Do you have the itch to return again?
Shamar: Of course. I think “Survivor” is a once-in-lifetime opportunity and I wouldn’t turn it down. Know what I’m saying? Of course. Watching myself and seeing how I played, I think I would have been more physically attractive as far as a six-pack and I think I would have done a lot better if I had a six-pack, than coming in there as a bigger, heavier guy, just because a lot of people, they tend to like a lot of people that are physically attractive to them. So I wish that I would have done a few more sit-ups.
Other “Survivor: Caramoan” exit interviews: