He rubbed many fellow castaways up the wrong way, yet all but one jury member wrote down former East Londoner Tom Swartz’s name to win television reality show Survivor SA, bagging him R1-million and the coveted title of sole survivor.
“When I got to the final two with Jeanne [Michel] I thought I was done,” he said at the M-Net show’s thrilling reunion finale in Cape Town on Thursday night.
“I could see the looks they [the jury] were giving me. There was lots of eye-rolling,” said an emotional Swartz, who continuously ducked vote-off during his 39 days on the Philippines islands.
“I thought I was going home. I was a target from the first day.”
East London-born Swartz, 41, attended Crewe and Port Rex schools and called Amalinda and a group of friends he called the “Amalinda Bullets” home before moving to Port Elizabeth five years ago, where he is now a salesman for an earthmoving company.
He credited his home town for instilling him with grit and outdoor skills.
“When I was growing up, Amalinda was more bush than houses.
“It was a tough place, but it taught me to butch up and never give up. I did this for the
laaities in Slummies. You can get bumped but you get up and you go harder and faster.”
His never-say-die mentality was evident from day one on the islands, when his at times brusque and commandeering nature put a target squarely on his back, forcing him to change his responses and morph into what he called a “lap dog” strategy.
But his unerring loyalty to Werner “the Don” Joubert, 34, ran out when he came to the realisation that his pal was also his arch rival for the R1-million prize.
“My best move was voting out Werner. My most emotional move was voting out Werner.”
For a man who held up honour above all else, the game-changing decision to betray the castaway who protected him and would almost certainly have clinched the money, still does not sit easily on his conscience.
Daily Dispatch spoke to the two men after the dramatic live show to gauge their bromance status.
“We talked for the first time on the Radisson Red Hotel rooftop the day before the reunion show,” said Joubert. “I told him I did not hold a grudge against him.”
Looking stricken, Swartz was initially reluctant to share what passed between them, but eventually conceded that he had asked the pastor for absolution.
“I asked him for forgiveness for doing what I did. I was emotional at tribal and have been emotional ever since. This is just the beginning of our bromance,” said Swartz, hopefully.
But Joubert got the last word: “I couldn’t believe he voted me out.
“It made me wonder whether we really were friends, but after watching the show I realised we were. I was gutted to leave.”
Asked why he thought castaways he bickered with nevertheless wrote his name down when it mattered most, he said he thought they had put their emotions aside and “looked objectively at who played the game”.
He said the heated exchanges between him and fellow tribemates were caused by hunger-induced rattiness and not strategy.
“Anyone who thinks causing trouble is a good strategy is going to get into trouble.”
The new millionaire’s elated wife Nicci, who attended the finale with their children Yasmin, 24, and Dyllan, 14, said she was “very, very proud” and hoped the money would go towards buying a house since they wrre currently renting a property in Port Elizabeth. “Oh, and he has great table manners,” she said, alluding to a much-hyped double-dipping incident on the show.
“He can lick all my spoons. I don’t mind,” his wife laughed.