May 26, 2009 10:00 AM by Ryan Haidet
She was one of the most popular contestants this season — Tamara “Taj” Johnson-George won over America throughout her journey until she was voted out at the final four. Not only was she a very strategic player, Taj had one of the most memorable moments during Survivor: Tocantins — The Brazilian Highlands when her husband — Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George — showed up for the family visit. Both Taj and Eddie stopped to chat with RealityTVMagazine.com on the red carpet after right after the finale in New York City. Taj talks all about Eddie’s visit, what it felt like to be voted off and the reason behind the moment she freaked out and started yelling in the water. But that’s not all, Eddie also weighs in on what it was like to spend time on Exile and what factor shocked him the most when he finally saw Taj.
“I’m Married To Eddie George”
What some thought was the biggest mistake possible, Taj admitted early on in the game that she was married to Eddie George. But she says it really wasn’t that big of a deal even though she didn’t want to tell anybody who her husband really was. “I didn’t want to, but the problem is, during the trek in, they asked me what I do. I told them I was an author. I didn’t lie, I wrote a book, I am an author. They asked me if I was married. I am. They asked me what he does. I told them he works for Fox Sports. I never lied about my husband. My name is Tamara George and they asked me his name. I said, ‘Eddie.’ They never put it together.”
Taj says she thinks somebody may have tipped her fellow castaways off. “Someone told them I believe, or they would have never found out. If you know about my husband, then you would know about his wife. They didn’t know anything. Someone told them who I was married to — they made them dig. They found out. It was something I had to deal with for about 20 minutes until I maneuvered their minds away from the fact that I have this ‘millionaire husband.’”
And it’s obvious her family history had little effect on the game. “By the time we got down to the final four of Jalapao, they weren’t even thinking about that. They were just so worried about making it to the merge and by that time, I had already secured JT and Stephen. I didn’t even have to worry about it anymore.”
Another memorable Taj moment surfaced when she freaked out in the water and started yelling. “I had just came back from Exile — stuck there for two days. It rained for two days. The bugs had just eaten me from every limb on my body. My back was just covered in bugs. My legs were covered in bugs. And I had a panic attack. I’m like, ‘What the hell am I doing here? Why am I here.’ And they (her legs) itched so bad. I felt like a leper. I felt ugly. I couldn’t understand what I was doing sacrificing my body and my life to be there away from my family. At that point I think I was ready to go home and I had to pull it together. I needed that moment to get it out so I could be strong again.”
Eddie Drops In
But that love from home actually arrived — in Brazil. After she purchased a video from home during the Survivor auction, Taj soon realized Eddie was actually there, which sparked one of the best moments all season long. She couldn’t hold back any emotions. “At that point I was just emotionally drained. We had been there for 30 days. I hadn’t had any contact with my family whatsoever. I’m out here with people I barely know. I have to depend on them for everything — I could definitely not have survived alone. But I have to depend on these strangers who were there to get rid of me. It just felt like I needed something that I could attach to and know that I could trust and love me and make me feel comfortable for a second. I was ready to see my family. So to find out that he was there after they played it off so well — I thought it was just food that day. When they told me he was there I just couldn’t take it any more. It was just raw emotion that came out from deep inside.”
After having spent several days at Exile throughout the game, Taj says everything seemed different once Eddie was there. “I tell people once my husband came to Exile with me. It went from this dry, barron land to a five-star hotel. It was perfect. I didn’t care about nothing — the sand felt like a plush bed.”
Eddie’s Take On Exile
“It was hot. It was very uncomfortable, but at that point, I realized that nothing really matters — Cell phones or cars,” the former Tennessee Titan and Ohio State University football star said. “I mean, I was there with the woman that I love. To not have direct contact with her for that period of time was very difficult. At night, my son and I would talk to her just hoping she could (laughs) telepathically hear from us, spiritually, whatever. It was very hard, so to see her physically and see how well she looked. She lost a ton of weight, but I the look in her face let me know she was OK.”
But one thing really surprised him about seeing his wife in the wilderness. “I was shocked by the odor. That was a little shocking, but I got used to it. It was just like we picked up right where we left off. … She was kicking some serious ass. I really commend her on doing this.”
Even though some of the contestants hated Exile and even feared it — hello Coach — Eddie said it wasn’t all that bad. “Exile Island was beautiful actually. It was an open desert. It actually wasn’t that bad, it wasn’t like it was Hell.”
From Elation To Devastation
Taj had made a very tight bond with both Stephen and JT, but when it got to the final four, they swapped on their alliance and voted her off. “I kind of had a feeling it was coming. Before we went to Tribal Council I gathered everything I wanted to take with me. I took all my little keepsakes, my clothes. I left everybody’s clothes that I had borrowed there, ’cause I had a feeling they were gonna go against me. There’s just a feeling that you get out there, when it’s just you and these people, you can sense a change. It’s almost like a shift in the wind. They’re off talking to each other more. Their stories would change. Just the way they would talk to me after a while, I felt like something was definitely up, but I kept thinking, ‘Maybe I’m just paranoid because so much is going on.’ And it’s so easy to get paranoid in a situation like that. I tried to overlook it, but I knew once the second ‘Taj’ was called, I knew it was over.”
And when her torch was snuffed, it was a tough moment. “It crushed me. I felt like I had been betrayed. I had been crushed. I just literally been emotionally destroyed for about 10 minutes. Then I thought, ‘These are not my family, they’re not really my family.’ I got caught up in the moment thinking we were really family, but we weren’t. I understood. By the time I hit the last step, I understood.”
Singing History & Advice
Taj’s stint on Survivor was not her first moment in the spotlight. Since the early 90s she has graced the singing circuit as a member of Sisters With Voices aka SWV. “We have traveled the world, we’ve sold over 10 million records. … I’m actually still out there touring. The girls are very proud of me. They’re rooting me on.”
For anybody brave enough to take on the challenge of Survivor, Taj used her own gameplay as a springboard piece of advice. “If you play the under-the-radar game, you have to stick your head up sometimes. I think my radar game was so well that I became so comfortable in it that I didn’t feel like I needed to watch my back anymore. But you always have to watch your back in this game because your best friends will stab you in the back.”
Red carpet images taken by Ryan Haidet. All other images courtesy of Monty Brinton/CBS.
Read an exclusive interview with the winner ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â¬” JT.
Read an exclusive interview with second-place finisher ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â¬” Stephen.
Read an exclusive interview with third-place finisher — Erinn.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to sit in the audience during a live Survivor finale? Stay tuned for a special report, which will discuss exactly what the in-studio audience experiences from start to finish.
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