By Dalton Ross
February 19, 2017 at 09:00 AM EST
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He played one of the best end-to-end Survivor games ever in Tocantins, but then J.T. Thomas decided to play again, and the results his second time were far from ideal. Mistakenly believing Russell Hantz to be on the outs on the Villains tribe, J.T. hatched a plan to sneak Russell a hidden immunity idol at the challenge that could be used to save him and then have him defect over to J.T. and the Heroes at the merge.

WHOOPS! Didn’t quite work out that way as Russell used that idol to get J.T. out and help the Villains take control of the game. Now that he is back to play a third time, we talked to the Tocantins champ about both the good and the bad, which he thinks more about, and what he has in store this time for Survivor: Game Changers, which premieres March 8 on CBS. Watch the video above and read the Q&A below to see why J.T. is confident heading into round three. (Also make sure to follow @thedaltonross on Instagram to see exclusive on-location photos, including one of J.T. casting his pre-game vote for whom he’d like to vote off first.)

Credit: Robert Voets/CBS

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why are you gonna win this season, man?
J.T. THOMAS: I will win Survivor: Game Changers because that’s what I came to do and I will settle for nothing less.

Why come back though?
I’m here to win. I’m here to win this time for me and my family — for my wife.

But why come back since you’ve already won? Are you worried about tarnishing your legacy?
I’m not worried about tarnishing any legacy I may have at all. I’m here to win. I would play it over and over. If I win this time, I’ll play season 35, I’ll play season 36. I’m a competitor for life, and obviously, the money doesn’t hurt.

You played one of the most flawless games ever and also made one of the most infamous mistakes ever. Which do you think about more — winning Tocantins or writing that letter to Russell Hantz?
I believe I think about Tocantins more. Samoa and the mistake I made in Samoa was not necessarily that I made a move that cost me the game. I made a big move that could have gone either way — I could have won the game or I could have lost the game, but I did not fail to make a big move.

Does that Russell move make you gun shy at all?
I don’t think it makes me hesitant at all that I made a bad move in Samoa. I think that just shows that I am a Game Changer. I will make moves necessary to win the game. You can’t win ‘em all, but I’m here to win this one.

Whom do you want to align with?
I’d like to align with Ozzy. I think Ozzy’s a great player. I think my social game’s way better than Ozzy’s. I think I can beat him in the end, no problem. So it would be awesome to have him as almost a physical threat/shield, if you will — someone where you can say, “Hey, let’s get that physical threat out of here in Ozzy” and not me. So I’d like to have Ozzy around for as long as possible.

Does it help you that there are so many other strong challenge competitors to camouflage you?
It definitely helps me that I’ve got some other strong competitors, and I’m excited about that. I think the last thing they’re gonna remember is me in Samoa. And there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then, but they’re going to say, “Hey, J.T. trusts anybody. He trusted Russell Hantz. So we’re not worried about J.T. Let’s let him just slide through for a while.” And by the time they realize what they’ve done, it’s going to be too late.

What about dealing with these two players you know nothing about that just played last season?
I’m not going to make any assumptions this go-round. I only know what I know. 100 percent. I’m going to treat ‘em like complete strangers. And given the opportunity, I’ll probably vote ‘em to be out of this game.

How do you think other players see you, J.T.?
I think other players are going to see me as really trustworthy and not near as big a threat as I should be, so I feel like I’m in a good spot.

How did you prepare to come back?
I didn’t have to do a whole lot. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. I’m ready to go out here and play and take all the questions out of people’s minds with “Who’s the best player?” When this season is over, they’re going to know who the biggest Game Changer is.

For more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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