Friday, March 12, 2010

Survivor Heroes vs Villains Interview with Tom Westman

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Well it's been a week and you know what that means: A new episode of Survivor: Heroes vs Villains. This week was full of intense drama with James getting taken out during the reward challenge. Luckily, or not luckily to some fans, he got back up and back into the competition. That did not, however, stop the villains from dominating both the reward AND the immunity challenge and once again a hero is going home. Sadly Tom Westman, my pick for winner (on the heroes side) was eliminated this week and now he's been kind enough to sit down and talk with me today.

Tom, a retired firefighter (he retired in 2005) is a family man through and through. Convinced by his wife to do Survivor (both times), this 46 year old New Yorker actually won the first time he was on Survivor back in Palau. Considered a fan favorite by many, he doesn't consider himself a celebrity. In fact Tom actually considers Survivor a SMALL part of his life. Tom would much rather spend his time being a sales rep for Hartford Insurance (which is where he works now) or spending time with his wife Benadette and his three kids.

So without further ado, Tom Westman:

The Movie Encyclopedia: Thanks for sitting down and talking with me, it's an honor to interview you.
Tom: Hey no problem, I'm not used to doing all these interviews so bear with me but I always enjoy talking with the fans.

TME: So tell me about elimination. What was going through your head during that time? Did you think JT was going to vote for you? What was it like knowing that the tribe would prefer an injured James to a healthy you?
Tom: I wasn't surprised more than I was disappointed. It was frustrating to see how much the tribe seemingly needed James. He's no good at challenges, he can't swim, has no balance and he's not too bright. But he IS strong and I guess the tribe wanted strength instead of brains. I think my tribe forgot to remember that the challenges turn more finesse based and less strength based but oh well. They just needed the numbers for the alliance I guess and I was the odd man out. If James would have broke both of his legs they still would have kept him over me.

As for JT I'm not that surprised that he voted for me. He's a good kid and he knows he is a huge swing vote for our tribe. If he doesn't go along with the masses than he has a huge target on his back. He had a huge opportunity to form an alliance with people who knew the villains and could get along with them and he made his decision to go with them. I tried to get him to see the light but come tribal council I knew it was pretty futile. I didn't conform and the tribe wasn't having any of that.

TME: So what made you come back this time? Do you enjoy the fame?
Tom: Originally I was going to say no. It would've been extremely easy since my family is more important to me than any reality show. But my wife said "I'm afraid you'll regret it and the opportunity's not going to come around again." I had a lot of fun the first time and so after some prodding I finally said yes. I didn't do this for the fame and honestly I have no desire to be a star. It was a fun little game and a small part of my life. It doesn't define who I am. I get recognized from time to time but that usually fades after a while. Usually whenever I'm mentioned on TV or times like right now I get noticed more but give it a year and it will fade away.

The true test of Survivor is not to win the show or to be the fan favorite but to take that moment in the spotlight and turn it into something real, instead of waiting around to be on another reality show.

TME: So was it easier the first time or now since you were more experienced? What are your thoughts on the team in general?
Tom: It was easier the first time. I was 41 and in the best shape of my life. It was more of a natural experience. Everyone was new and fresh and getting to know each other. This time everyone already knew each other, their strategies and their massive egos. And when you see their true nature and egos come out it's not pretty.

I think that was the main problem with our entire tribe: egos. Getting the title hero seemed to change all of them and turn them into jerks. There is no need to antagonize the other team by putting a title like "villain" on them. In fact I think by calling them villains it only makes them stronger. It's just like poking them with a stick over and over giving them a reason to prove everybody wrong. They are automatically the "bad guys" and now have to win over everybody. That's why they do so good at challenges, because they have more to prove this time around while the heroes can get away with half-assing it because they are the "good guys." Honestly the whole title thing just makes me cringe. I would have much rather had a made up indigenous name.

Take Rupert and James for example. I was big fans of theirs and when I heard that they were going to be on my tribe I was excited. I had such high opinions of them and I knew that they would be a lot fun to team up with. Then we got on the island and I was extremely disappointed. Rupert couldn't stop whining and got annoying fast. His actions were totally and completely intolerable. He does what he wants, when he wants and bosses everybody around, even though he is totally and completely clueless. Needless to say I'm not a huge Rupert fan. James on the other hand has no character and no class whatsoever. He needs to learn how to shut his mouth.

To be honest with you there are only a few people on our tribe that I LIKED. Of course there was my good friend Stephenie but I was surprised at how well I hit it off with Colby. Immediatley after meeting him I was like "Wow this guy is as genuine as he came off on screen!" He is solid, reliable, loyal and if he told you he was going to do something he was going to do it. He played clean and that's hard for a game like this. I also got along quite well with Candice. I love her to death but she honestly has no chance at winning. She lacks that fortitude to go out there and say "Let's go, let's do this!" But hopefully she'll make it far. The only person I don't regret making friends with is Cirie. She is a great, funny person and I wish I could have known she was part of the Micronesia alliance. I just wish we could have hit it off. Oh well.

TME: Wow...I gotta say you are certainly the most detailed Survivor I've talked to.
Tom: Well I speak my mind and I'm not going to just paraphrase my thoughts. You want an answer and I'll give you the whole answer.

TME: So do you talk with any of the previous Survivors?
Tom: Well I actually talk to Colby a lot now. Like I said he is a great guy and fun to get along with. As for other Survivors a few but mostly Ian actually. In fact I spoke with him a few days ago and he said that he was on his way to Haiti to do a film project. He is going to help a parish that has been devastated and help rebuild it so that they can get on with their lives. He's a great guy and he's gonna be my friend for a long time.

TME: Just a few more questions. So how do you think the heroes tribe can turn it around? Do you think that the villains got it in the bag? If so then who is your favorite villain?
Tom: I think the main reason, besides egos, why the heroes keep losing is the puzzles. I know I sucked at them and from what I saw while I was there so does everybody else. But that doesn't matter anyway because there will always be one person who will slam us when it comes to puzzles: Boston Rob. He is owning this season and playing better than anybody else. He has great control over the rest of the villains and works well as a team leader. He is also unbelievably good at puzzles! If a challenge ends with a puzzle then we might as well throw in the towel. Rob would assemble puzzles long before our team could get one piece down. Unless we had Ussain Bolt on our team and the challenge would end with running or swimming then we are always going to lose. If you notice we always are much faster and work together well when it involves running or swimming to retrieve pieces. But if there is a puzzle then there will always be someone who can dominate us.

I would like to see Colby win the entire thing but as far as villains go I think Rob has it in the bag. I DO think he lacks a good enough social game to win the whole thing and he isn't as manipulative as Russell is but as long as he keeps winning the challenges for the villains then he has no problem winning.

TME: So would you have liked to make it to the jury? I know you won last time so do you think it would have been better this year that if you didn't win at least you got to choose who DID?
Tom: Honestly? If I'm not winning I would have rather been leaving first. Considering I won last time I can't imagine the pressure the jury feels. It's just so overwhelming to think that YOU choose the winner. I couldn't do that; deny someone a chance at winning because I personally don't think they should win. To me I'm glad I went when I did, even though it would have been a lot more fun to have stayed on longer, heck even win.

TME: Last question: If Jeff Probst were a contestant do you think he would be a hero or a villain and how far do you think he would make it?
Tom: Wow...haha. If Jeff Probst were a contestant? Well he does have a pretty big ego and people seem to like him so he would probably be a hero. That being said he does have the advantage of knowing the mindsets of Survivor contestants and he knows the behind the scenes inner workings so he might be crafty enough to be a villain. If I had to choose though I'd say hero.

As for how long he would stay? If people had no idea who he was then he would probably make it pretty far. He's not that strong but he is smart and sometimes brains can prevail over brawn. But if people knew that "Hey this is Jeff Probst!" he would go home on day one. Plus that would give him the opportunity to host the rest of the season which is what people want anyway. Good question though I liked that one.

TME: Any final thoughts or things to say?
Tom: I wish I would have been on longer but that being said I DID enjoy every minute of it and it's incredible to think about what you are doing and how crazy the ride has been. I loved every minute of it. Although you probably won't see me a third time. I'm getting too old for this (laughs).

TME: It was a pleasure to interview you.
Tom: Thanks for having me.

This has been my interview with the latest Survivor castoff Tom Westman. See you all next week with the next eliminated Survivor. And be sure to go read Dylan Fields' Survivor Recap over at Blog Cabins every Thursday.


  1. Wow, very detailed interview. I also love how the contestants are always thrown off when you get to Dylan's questions. It's funny how Tom said "Well, he does have a big ego."

    Though I have a question for whenever Rupert gets voted off, and it's similar to the Randy question: "Have you ever thought of being in movies, especially with genres like pirate movies?"

  2. That was a great interview, and like you said, he was pretty verbose, seemingly much more comfortable and willing to answer your questions than some of the earlier castoffs have been. He's definitely a good guy, and it's not hard to see why.

    New ep on Wednesday (finally)!

  3. I think he is a bit harsh on James and Rupert. He had some pretty sharp words as well. And if you saw his body language throughout the show, it was pretty hostile towards James the whole time. Given his age, you would think he would have been able to handle himself better. I thought he had the biggest ego out of the group and acted like he was smarter and better than everyone else.