James Jones gave Sami his Knowledge Is Power on Survivor 43

"The social contract is, if you break trust with James you go home." So said James Jones on this week's episode of Survivor 43, but it was James who ended up on the receiving end of a torch snuffing after his biggest ally turned on him in a shocking blindside.

James was undone when Noelle Lambert convinced him she was using her Steal-a-Vote advantage to take Owen Knight's vote away. She did that, but then used her two votes to take out James instead. But the truly surprising element was when Sami Layadi convinced Karla Cruz Godoy to betray James with her vote as well.

What does James make of Karla's betrayal? Just how pissed was he moving over immediately to the jury? What does he think about his biggest adversary in Owen? And did he ever consider actually using his Knowledge Is Power? We spoke with the Godfather himself to get answers… and hopefully not a horse head in our bed. Watch the interview above or read it below, and also make sure to check out out conversation with juror #3, Ryan Medrano.


Robert Voets/CBS James Jones on 'Survivor 43'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What happened? Why are you talking to me now instead of later in the season?

JAMES JONES: I feel like my threat level got super-duper high and I couldn't manage it. I get into the merge and I wanna just relax and sit back and boom! I'm a target. I talk with Ellie, and I'm like, I'm not getting a good feeling. I'm a target that vote. I'm a target the next vote. What people don't realize is the next vote where Jeanine goes home, me and Jeanine have a great conversation on the beach after Dwight gets voted out.

The next morning, Noelle runs up to me and is like, "Jeanine is trying to vote you out again on the beach." And I'm like, "I thought we were good." So making it through those three votes kind of just raised everybody's suspicions. "He's working well with everybody. He's building a lot of good relationships, and this is somebody that we don't wanna sit next to at the end." And I wasn't trying to do that, but it happens.

You definitely looked surprised when you got voted out. You also looked kind of pissed. Were you pissed?

I mean, yes. I've been watching this game. I watched multiple seasons and it's that emotion. I was playing hard. I wanted to win. I wanted to be there. I feel like I was putting myself in position to win. This is probably one of the worst ways it could shake out from a numbers standpoint, from the work that I did. And that happens and it's up to me to adapt and to make the moves to get me further. I just didn't do that. So kudos to them getting me. It is what it is.

Why do you think Karla turned on you? That shocked me.

So let's say Karla really wanted me to stay, uses her idol for me. Now, Karla puts her foot down in the sand — "This is where I'm at." Karla still has the flexibility to move within the people still in the game being an amicable ally. The only question now is kind of like, how is that gonna work? Because I was one of the people that took all the attention. So now the game is wide open and I know the fans are happy. I'm out of the game, the game's wide open, and everybody being a target is a great thing.


Robert Voets/CBS James Jones on 'Survivor'

But how did you feel about that in the moment when you see that it's unanimous going against you?

I mean, I was upset, but I understand the game. We all came out here to play super-duper hard. Even before a challenge, I'm just super relaxed and calm. But once that Tribal Council hits, or once we're on the mat chat, I'm ready to rock and roll and play. And I was playing pretty hard. I was just excited to be out there. So yes, I was mad. I was voted out, but hey, man, everybody should be mad they were voted out. You really wanna win and play this game.

That's exactly right. And we've been wanting to see that passion more this season and maybe some people butt heads, and we finally got that this week with you and Owen going at it. Why were you two like oil and water out there? Why wasn't it working?

I just feel like it was a lot of miscommunication. What people don't realize is the Dwight vote, I talked to Sami and Owen. I tell them both the vote is going against Dwight before that vote. So when you go to the next episode, you see Owen didn't wanna hop on board. It was kind of like, "I told Owen the plan. I invited Owen to try to work, and then he still tried to vote me out." So from my point of view, I'm saying, "I tried to put you on a Dwight vote. You didn't wanna be on that vote. Now you're mad at me for lying to you when you didn't wanna vote out Jeanine."

That's just me playing the game when everybody else was in on it, it wasn't just me. So it's kind of like you're singling me out and you're mad at me, but literally I'm playing the game and I'm not even targeting you at that point. I'm not even thinking about you in that sense. It's that Jeanine is your ally. You didn't want that to happen. We wanted to vote on Ryan so that if something happened, Ryan went home. 'Cause Ryan was kind of looked at as expendable piece within the game.

He kept calling you, essentially, Don Corleone out there. Were you the Godfather on the island?

I definitely wasn't the Godfather on the island. If I was the Godfather, I would still be out there. I feel like from his perception of the game based on information he had, it looked like I was manipulating a lot of the moves and I did have a lot of good relationships. For instance, Gabler was gonna use his idol on me if there was an idol again in the merge. People see these things happening that are not on the show. For instance, I gave Sami my Knowledge Is Power going into the Dwight vote at Tribal. He had my Knowledge Is Power. So building trust in getting allies — they're seeing that happen and it kind of bit me in the butt.


CBS James Jones on 'Survivor 43'

Wait, why did you give Sami your Knowledge Is Power?

Because I wanted him to have the trust to see "I'm coming back." 'Cause Cody didn't know that he was in on that vote, if you look at the confessional. So me and Karla was working on Sami. We wanted to make sure the game was fluid and that's why we told Owen. But people were really kind of stuck in the Baka–Vesi thought process in the beginning of this game.

And you never had any thoughts about using that Knowledge Is Power to steal Noelle's Steal-a-Vote because you thought you were good, right?

It is more so if Karla wants me out, you have a unanimous vote to just vote me out at this point. If I steal Noelle's vote, but everybody's against me, they just send me home. And Karla still gains two new allies and she saved Owen because I voted for Owen with two votes — now she has a super big ally.

So if Karla wants me to be gone, in that instance, it makes sense to get rid of me. Also, I felt like the vote steal would be a stronger move at eight because it's easier to use and it's more powerful at eight where you don't need as many people to actually use it. Therefore, you come in with the big numbers with Coco and Sami and Jesse, get back with Vesi, and now we're moving forward and now you have this vote steal so you have immense power moving forward.

So I looked at it like it didn't make sense to really kind of use it, but if you want to, fine, and if Karla wants me to go home, I'm probably going home. And it happened. I thought I was good and that's the game.

Did producers let you keep the Knowledge Is Power parchment, or did they swipe it from you once you went over to Ponderosa?

Definitely didn't keep that piece of parchment.

I want to talk about the voice. You've been tweeting about it. Your voice sounded different at Tribal Council than when you were on the beach, and it's not what it sounds like right now. So what was that about?

Yeah, it happens. I feel like it's one of those things where depending on situation, energy level, I do have two different voices. And people that know me know that's kind of how I operate. But it probably is upsetting to people who aren't used to being around me. So it's a fun little thing, but it's just my voice. Some people think it's soothing, some people think it's not. It's what it kinda is. So it's my voice.

What was your long-term plan? Whom did you want to sit next to at the end?

I just wanted to get to the end. So my philosophy was, I'll sit next to anybody. Based on the game that I was forced to play, I wasn't too fearful about what allocation of people I was sitting next to at the end. I just knew getting to the end is the key, as opposed to trying to figure out who I'm sitting next to. Because I wanna play the game the best way I see possible.

I was really open to almost any option for the most part. But you only can really work with options that are presented to you. So if people aren't presenting options, if the game isn't flowing, you only can do what's available based on options that you have. But I would love to go in with Karla and Cass. Me and Cody were super tight out there. They didn't really show that. So I would've loved to battle out with Cody at the end. Me and Jesse became tight out there. Believe it or not, me and Sami were super tight out there. So I felt like I had a lot of options on the island as far as getting past this eight, as far as figuring out different combinations to get to the end. Me and Gaber were pretty solid as well.

What's something that happened out there that you wish had made it to TV?

The first night when we first merged, me and Cody had a really good talk. So what happened was everybody was asleep behind Ryan's big little contraption. But I started a fire and I didn't sleep out there, so I was just always keeping fire up at night.

So literally by the end of the night, everybody was sleeping by the fire, and me and Cody had some great talks that first night. I learned about the beads, I learned about the dynamics. We kind of cemented the talk that me and Cody were having when he came over on the tribe raid, where he cemented that the Nneka vote wasn't really his vote, he didn't really feel tight with Noelle and Dwight. So we were hashing all this stuff out that first night. That was a really cool moment where we were really bonding.

And to be clear, because you just mentioned the beads, everyone knew about everyone's idols, right? Because everyone had the same bead test.

Karla got her beads separate. I feel like that was the one thing about it. And then with Lindsay and Geo going home, Karla got her beads separate. I got the bead information, but that day literally I'm not thinking — because Cassidy is asking me for beads, Lindsay's asking me for beads — I literally forgot. We were playing Kumbaya Survivor.

And at the end of the day, I thought if anything happens, Karla may tell me she has an idol and she's not gonna use it against me. So I'm not super worried. Plus, the threat of them not knowing that we had an idol was causing them to split the votes. So they don't know where the Coco Idol is. That's why that first vote, they're like, "Let's split the votes on Cassidy and James," and next time on James and Ryan, 'cause they didn't know where the idol was.

You have to deal with experience out there of getting voted out. What was it like watching it play back on TV?

It is fun. I mean, it's your dream, literally. I've been watching this game multiple seasons, thinking about the moves you're gonna make and just being able to get out there and kind of feel the pressure. Understand you're not operating at your best. When you're on the couch, you're thinking, "Oh man, I should have worded this differently." Just little things can really change how someone perceives you and these conversations are precious. So one time when you're tired and you say something wrong or phrase something differently can really be the end of you in this game.

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