November 29, 2012 03:24 PM by Ryan Haidet
Throughout my time covering Survivor, I have always said that Jonathan Penner is my favorite player. The dude is savvy, funny, entertaining and slick — the perfect combination of elements to make a great castaway. When he was booted from the Dangrayne tribe on Survivor: Philippines this week, I was naturally bummed out because it’s sad to see such a solid strategist snuffed out — even though he did make a major fatal flaw by not agreeing to align with Lisa and Mike. Although it sucked to watch him get eliminated, there was a bit of joy in the fact that I would at least be getting to chat with him once again. In his exit interview with reporters today, Penner dished the dirt on his relationship with Jeff Kent, revealed that more people are aware of Lisa Whelchel’s television past and compared the whole experience to sex (but you have to get to the end of the story to read that part). Enjoy!
Question: When you were at Tribal Council, did you know you were going to be voted off or were you hopeful that you had swayed somebody?
Jonathan Penner: There’s always hope. I didn’t believe it. I certainly wasn’t surprised. I was swinging until the end, hoping against hope that somehow things would go my way. I didn’t believe that they would, but there’s certainly a big difference between hope and belief.
Question: Had you taken the deal with Lisa and Skupin, how do you think things would have worked out?
Jonathan Penner: I assume Lisa and Skupin would have felt obligated to me having shaken their hands. A handshake means a lot to some people — it means a lot to me. That’s why I just didn’t blindly do that with them and make a commitment that I was prepared to make and blow some smoke up their ass. I hadn’t lied to them ever in the game and wasn’t prepared to start.
Question: Why do you think you weren’t able to convince Skupin to keep you?
Jonathan Penner: You’ll have to ask Skupin if you get the chance. I honestly don’t know. I did everything under the sun to try to convince him. Including rightfully telling him that he had a better chance of winning against me. He may have just been tired of going back and forth and back and forth. He may just not have wanted to face voting Malcolm or Denise off. I explained to him, I think rightly, that at least at the time, he had put himself in an unfavorable position with four or five members of the jury. He voted me off, he was gonna be in a very tough spot with me as a jury member. The other people that were already sitting there, I couldn’t really see how he was gonna get their votes. But nobody wants to hear that. We’ll find out if he can prove me wrong. Nobody wants to be told, “Dude you can’t win the game. You’ve already lost the game. You may go to the end, but you have not played a winning game, you’ve played a staying-alive game.” So he must have thought that he had a better shot with the other people still there than with me.
Question: From what we’ve seen, it looks like only you and Skupin knew about Lisa Whelchel’s past as a former teen TV star. Did you ever consider using that in an attempt to save yourself?
Jonathan Penner: We weren’t the only ones who knew. Denise also knew. In fact, Denise told me. I didn’t know. I certainly led Lisa to believe that I did know. Because by the time I met her, I did know. But when we first got on the beach I did not recognize her. I have never seen an episode of the “Facts of Life.” Just like I didn’t know Jeff Kent was a baseball player. Did I ever consider using that against her? No. I honestly didn’t. Nor did I ever consider betraying some of the other stuff that she told me in confidence. …
Question: Which is tougher for you to swallow? Being medically evacuated from the game or voted off?
Jonathan Penner: (Laughs) Being medically evacuated was much tougher and unbelievably frustrating, excruciatingly painful and actually rather frightening. It led to a whole adventure in and of itself of surgery in Palau and rehab. … It was quite horrible and terrifying. This was much less mortifying. I basically played the game I wanted to play. Clearly I made a mistake in not wanting to when Lisa wanted me to shake her hand and make a commitment to her. I should have done that, could have done that. How it would have shaken out differently, I’m not sure. Clearly, Malcolm and Denise saw me as a big threat and were prepared to take me out. I think Skupin did, too. Really. One more day out there would have given me the opportunity to pull who knows what. Um… That’s the answer.
Question: Do think the tribe dropped their guard with Abi at the auction by blowing all their money and allowing her to easily buy the advantage?
Jonathan Penner: Obviously we did. I thought I was in a better position than I was. Everyone else knew they were in the position that they were in and, quite honestly, I didn’t think about there being some kind of specific advantage that Abi might afford herself. The last food auction I had been at, there was a disadvantage that you could buy. So drop our guard? I guess we did. We all assumed she was going home.
Question: What was the deal between you and Jeff Kent? Could you have seen yourself going to the end with him?
Jonathan Penner: Absolutely. I hoped to go to the end with him. That was what we had talked about. I didn’t realize until I watched the show that he had kind of poisoned the well against me with the other members of Kalabaw. I did not initially see him as a likely ally. I saw one of the younger players to go deep with me. He’s a real alpha male, and I’m not exactly a beta male myself. But I also recognized that I needed him and he was a hell of a competitor, a very bright guy. And at that, we worked really really well together and got along. The other younger Kalabaw members, certainly Dawson, Katie and Carter, were talking about a lot of stuff that was fun and funny to talk about, but wasn’t particularly relevant in my life. … Jeff, even though I didn’t know he was a baseball player, he was a family guy, a professional guy. We got along really really well. So I was certainly hopeful that once I made that alliance with him that it would work out. Then things started to fall apart for Kalabaw based on Dana getting sick and getting Denise and not Malcolm. Our numbers were way down. But I do think that we went on the merged beach, even though the edit of the episode made it clear that he was gunning for me, I don’t really think that was so much the case. I really think that he saw once Denise made clear that she was not with us, that she was more aligned with Malcolm, that the numbers were not gonna work out for any of us really. So he needed to make it clearer to the more powerful Tandang people that, “No, no. He wasn’t aligned with me. He was really ready to vote with them.” I think he was trying to save himself — and he did for a vote, but not much more than that.
Question: What is your take on new players often targeting returning castaways so intensely?
Jonathan Penner:I think it’s a little simplistic and I think that folks go into the game with assumptions, which can be very dangerous. Certainly, you can go very very far hitching your wagon to a returning player. We know a lot. We have a lot of experience and can go far and we need, because there are targets on our backs, we need strong allies. …
Question: Watching the show, is there anything that has surprised you?
Jonathan Penner: It surprised me that Jeff poisoned the well so early and so effectively. I could not figure out why I was getting no traction with any of the Kalabaw players to align with me. We got along really really well. Unfortunately, that wasn’t shown. I do believe that we would have gone far. … Surprising that last night Skupin was so clearly ready to vote me off. I never quite figured out why they were so determined to vote for me instead of Carter immediately when Abi won Immunity. They obviously determined I was too big a threat or something — or too big an asshole, I don’t know. They wanted to get me out of there. I was very very angry about that because I knew the family visit was coming up. I said, “My wife is on a plane right now heading to the Philippines. Boy, I’ll be pissed if I don’t get to see her and she’s gonna be pissed, too.” Maybe they were afraid that she could have kicked all their asses, which she probably could have done (laughs).
Question: You pride yourself on being an excellent storyteller. Do you believe your story was portrayed accurately this season?
Jonathan Penner: Yes. Accurately and kindly. There was a little bit of my fat ass and some doinky doinky kind of music as I was looking for the Idol, probably deservedly because at that point I certainly had a fat ass. But other than that, I think I was fairly and quite kindly portrayed. So that was cool.
Question: Is it true you were considered to compete on Heroes Vs. Villains?
Jonathan Penner: That’s my understanding. I certainly spoke to Lynne Spillman about it. I was in training to do it. I had wondered who was going to do it. They weren’t calling it Heroes Vs. Villains (at that point), it was some sort of an all-star season. Then she said, this was while they were shooting Samoa, whatever Russell Hantz’s first season was, she had said, “You know what, there is a guy on the island right now that producers think is unbelievable and it’s gonna be him if he’ll do it.” I said, “OK, whatever. Good luck to you and good luck to him.” But I was in training and I was ready to go.
Question: Which of the three experiences you’ve had on the show was the toughest for you to endure?
Jonathan Penner: I guess the first one (Cook Islands, season 13) was the hardest because I was the least-experienced and they found me so revolting and horrible most of the time. That was very very painful. The emotional and social toil was the hardest for me. I’m an older guy and physically it’s debilitating, I lost a lot of weight. People (this time) liked me and I went out of my way to make sure I was liked, likable and liking instead of hated, hating and hateful.
Question: You’ve played the game of Survivor for 80 days, do you feel like you’re down with the show or would you return?
Jonathan Penner: I would certainly consider it seriously if I was available and physically able. I would never say never. Survivor is an extraordinary thing. It’s a peak experience, you might call it. It’s a highly adrenalized, almost addictive kind of thing. Like vacation. Or sex. Or reading good books. Whatever it is that turns you on. You get to do something that really puts you in a heightened state. … It’s the whole experience of it from soup to nuts. From training to doing it to watching it with my friends and family, even to now getting to talk to all of you folks is kind of fascinating and fabulous. If they made that call again — and I can barely conceive of getting a fourth chance to play the game — I would of course consider it very very seriously. Yeah.
What are your thoughts on what Penner had to say? Were you sad he was voted out of the game? Of the final six castaways, who do you think should win the $1 million grand prize? Sound off and leave a comment below!
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Photo Credit: CBS