On Thursday night, viewers watched 16 Americans try to outwit, outplay and outlast each other on the first episode of "Survivor: Thailand." When it was over, John Raymond was the first to get the boot. The 40-year-old pastor from Louisiana, in an interview on The Early Show Friday morning, concluded, "I guess I missed the key meeting along the way somewhere."
John said he was comfortable at the isolated Thailand camp site because of his camping experiences since childhood in Louisiana, which he called "a sportsman's paradise."
"And I think my comfort in the rugged environment maybe made some people uncomfortable," he told The Early Show anchor Jane Clayson. He said there is a danger in "going off the mat" and standing out as a leader early in this game.
As for the way of choosing teams, a new twist in this season's game, he said, "I was launched back to junior high school."
Separated by gender, the two groups of castaways were brought to a small island off the coast of southern Thailand in the Andaman Sea, thinking they were to remain as separate tribes of men and women. The two eldest contestants, Jan and Jake, were told to form their own teams by taking turns choosing members.
From the start, John said, he didn't want to be on the team that chose him.
"I was sort of hoping that I would be on the other, you know, younger, athletic team because that's who I am," he said. "So I wasn't making eye contact with her. I was like, 'Oh no. Don't pick me.' I knew Jake would pick me next. He told me later, 'Man, I was going to pick you but she got you just before.'"
He had a change of heart during the game, he said. "We ended up having, I think, a solid, awesome team and as I look back on it in hindsight, I'm glad I was on the team."
John said his big mistake was doing work – catching crabs, starting the fire, finding water – instead of playing politics.
"I was off the mat," he said. "I was doing things to provide for the tribe and not just hunkering under, you know, the cave trying, you know, to catch every conversation. But I would suggest for every new castaway going out there: Don't miss a meeting. Be around everybody. Don't worry about petty things like food and shelter. Forget about survival. This is 'Survivor.' It's different."
The pastor said his congregation back home in Slidell, La., loves him and has been very supportive. "They recognize, you know, we can be a witness for Christ and not have to hide in a cave."
He had nice things to say about his teammates. "I liked Helen," he said. "I just wish her every good thing in life. Very solid person."
Of Tanya, the social worker, he said she "gives generously in the life. Wonderful person. God's got great things for her. She's incredible."
And Jan, the contestant who picked him for the team ,reminds him of the children's book character, Pippi Longstocking. He said she was a "cute lady. Love to spend time with her."
Noting that he first tried out for the reality TV show a year and half ago, he said he can't believe it's over. "Somehow I got in there and Mark ( Mark Burnett, the producer) said,'Drink it up all. Enjoy yourself.' I got out there and enjoyed myself. I had a lot of fun and before you know it, it's over. I'm, like, this is the twilight zone. I should be in the game."