Survivor: Ghost Island interview: James Lim reflects on the second tribe swap, game regrets

James LimJames Lim is not a contestant we wanted to see leave Survivor: Ghost Island anytime soon. The man was our preseason pick to win the whole thing and he seemed to have both the athleticism and intelligence in order to do it.

So what happened? Like many other recent vote-outs, James was a victim in part to a tribe swap and, beyond that, being on the wrong side of the numbers. Michael was apparently viewed as more valuable in the moment and with that, he was kept around for at least a few more days at camp. We wondered in the aftermath of this just how much James really ever got his bearings out there and that was something that we were eager to discuss further with him today in our interview with him.

CarterMatt – How difficult was it for you to watch everything back, including you being voted out?

James Lim – I had a little breakdown after watching myself being booted, but after I got that out of my system I started receiving calls and messages from my fellow cast members, friends and family. All of the love and support makes it easier to deal with but it hurts. It hurts deeply.

How much do you blame the second tribe swap for your exit?

I’d put 100% of my exit on the swap. On day 14 we on Naviti knew that a swap was coming. We knew that it was either going to be on day 12 or day 15. I had a number of different scenarios in my head and the worst possible scenario basically ended up happening to me — a minority from Malolo, a minority from the swapped tribe, and I ended up losing my loyal allies Laurel, Libby, and Donathan who I was so close with.

I think that I was a typical case of the swap boot — I think.

When you were on Naviti after the first swap, did you see a path for sticking around in the game for a while? The Malolos seemed like they had some sort of inroads there.

Oh, yeah. It was such a fun time going in as a minority [group] and then realizing that there was a civil war going on and navigating through the cracks with my three ride-or-dies and focusing on the blindside and watching things happen with Chris and Domenick while sitting in the middle and laughing my a– off. It was fun.

I basically went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lowest post-swap, and if I had it my way we would have stuck with the first swapped tribes until the merge. We would have cruised all the way there.

Naviti 2.0 was quite the spectacle — I was close with Laurel, Libby, and Donathan pre-swap, but being put in the minority brought us together rather than pulled us apart. Day 9 was one of the highlights for me, getting to orchestrate the blindside [of Morgan] that people are referring to as the blindside of the season. It’s humbling to see praise like that. It was a good time and winning didn’t hurt. One of my biggest regrets is not throwing a challenge on purpose over on Naviti, given that if that would’ve happened we could’ve gone in to Tribal Council with a 6-2 super-majority and we would’ve targeted someone like Chris or Wendell.

If you had it your way, who would you have wanted to vote out on that tribe, Chris, or Domenick?

First of all, I would’ve asked my three of Laurel, Libby, and Donathan, and if any of them had a strong preference I would’ve gone along with the flow.

If I had my pick it would’ve been to see with Chris and Angela, and then gone 3-3 on Wendell and Domenick. Domenick would’ve played his idol and Wendell would’ve gone on. I saw Chris and Angela as the more volatile Naviti pair and it was obvious that Wendell and Domenick had some good gameplay early on. It was also great to keep Chris and Angela. Chris was an amazing meat-shield and Angela was someone who got votes from the Naviti tribe.

That was my pitch and I’m sad we didn’t get a chance to pull it off.

You called the vote a blindside. Did you really think that Angela was voting for Des alongside you and Michael? 

It wasn’t a blindside in the sense that I had no idea it was coming, but the 4-1 result was somewhat of a surprise. I had a good grasp on where Angela was in terms of who she was voting for; we had shared some deep personal moments before that challenge and when we talked strategy, I got the sense that she was fully on board to get rid of Des.

It was a bummer and that’s why I called it a blindside. It wasn’t like the Morgan blindside but it was tough.

How much did you hunt for the idol? I know we don’t always see as much of that on the show as to how much it actually happens.

Yes, and one of my other regrets is not doing it aggressively enough. I’ve seen Domenick in the middle of the night finding an idol. That’s respect. I should have done that on Malolo, especially because we knew after Michael’s failed idol play that there was an idol somewhere on Malolo. He and I went off looking and I went off looking on my own a little bit, but I didn’t comb through the entire camp like I should have. That’s on me. I should’ve found it, played it, and sent Des home in a 1-0 vote.

Do you wish that you had an opportunity to head out to Ghost Island at some point?

Yeah! It’s called Survivor: Ghost Island and I never got to go there! As a twist I love it and I never got a chance to experience it myself.

Also, why wasn’t it in play for my vote? If someone had sent me there I might have been saved or I might have found an idol. That was tragic.

There was an interesting discussion last night about challenge performance and how much someone should be blamed. As someone who went through this earlier in the game, how do you bounce back from a tough challenge outing and get people trusting you again? How do you find your confidence again?

In going back to the split vote [earlier in the game] getting the two votes from Michael and Libby was hardly a surprise at all. I understood it and I told them that after the vote.

For me, the big moment of redemption was part A, helping my allies through the swap and pulling off that great blindside together. Part B was as I was competing in more challenges, those moments helped me build my confidence back up again. If there was a challenge for a hundred-meter relay I would’ve crushed it, but different challenges play to different people. I honestly wish I didn’t choke on the early challenge like I did, but it was a great learning experience for me and I owned up to it.

About the experience

Did being on Survivor live up to all of your expectations?

Oh 100%. I had my expectations of what it was going to be like out there, but when you’re out there all of a sudden it hits you. You are building the shelter with your friends and you realize ‘I’m here, I’m playing Survivor, I’m playing the greatest game on television.’ It was amazing. Every single second felt like a dream. I cannot say enough positive things about the experience itself and how it helped me grow. I cannot be a bigger fan of the show now. I’m a part of the community now and will always be, for sure.

Was there a part of it that was harder than what you expected?

I set a high mark for how challenging it was going to be and how much it was going to suck. but [experiencing] the fatigue, the starvation, the adversity, the moments where you feel like you let your team down, those moments taught me what I was made of. It helps you to realize that Survivor is not just a reality TV show — it’s so much more than that and I am really grateful that I got to be a part of it.

Any interest in playing again? I feel like I know the answer to this.

Oh, absolutely. If I got a call from CBS I’d pack my bags and be on the next flight to Fiji.

Would you utilize a similar strategy?

Absolutely. As I said I think we should have absolutely thrown one or two challenges this season. Given the theme of the season, one of the things that I deduced was that the single easiest fake idol, and the most famous one in Survivor history, is Eliza’s f—ing stick. I had an idea to get a stick from the beach, put a smile on it, and then create a whole subplot at Tribal Council. I didn’t execute that because I thought that Angela was on my side, but I’m still bummed I didn’t know it because it would’ve been a show-stopper.

Looking back, though, there are so many what-ifs and I’m really just hoping that I can go back and reverse the curse of James Lim.

Related Read our take on last night’s Survivor episode

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