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Friday, December 08, 2006

Hats Off to Jonathan on "Survivor"

120806jonathan (AP Photo/HO/CBS)

Boo. Evil Jonathan Penner was sent to the jury — without his hat! —  on "Survivor: Cook Islands" last night. Other than Yul Kwon, he was probably the smartest person on the island (and least loyal). He took the chicken. He mutinied. He turned on his alliance. And he didn't give them any fish! We decided to find out if Adam Gentry was right and see if Penner is a cancerous rat in our cast-off interview. Reserve your judgment, Jonathan haters.

Jonathan Penner:
Hi, Derrik. I'm not excited to be talking to you.

The Slug: Hi, Jonathan. I'm very excited to be talking to you. I'm more excited to talk to you than anybody else. Why do you think they voted for you?

Jonathan Penner: 'Cause they're not stupid. They knew I was the last potential threat of them going all the way to the final four.

The Slug: What was your strategy out there? Obviously it wasn't to be under the radar.

Jonathan Penner:
I'm not an under-the-radar kind of person. I wasn't an under-the-radar kind of person within the first two minutes of the game because I stole the chicken and Yul saw me do it and then Jeff asked him about the chicken and I was outed in front of everybody. My role was established within a day. I'm not blaming them. That's who I am, and that's how I played the game. My strategy was to stay ahead of everyone. If there was a move to be made, make it before anyone else could make it.

The Slug: I thought you were going home every week you were at Tribal Council.

Jonathan Penner: We all knew. You can put this in is or not. It's edited. I think I was edited fairly, but the show is edited to generate suspense at the Tribal Council. I knew how every vote was going to go down.

The Slug: Except last night?

Jonathan Penner: No. Including last night. I knew was going home.

The Slug: Then what were your parting words all about? You said you wish you had been told.

Jonathan Penner: Nah, come on. Sure, one wishes one gets told because one's feelings get hurt when one is talked about behind one's back. I think what I was talking about was I understood why they didn't talk to me. The only reason you say that is because you're prepared to have a dialogue with the person you're talking to. And that's why the person who gets voted off never — or rarely — gets told because you give them an opportunity to say, "Don't make it me. Make it them!!!"

The Slug: Right. Why were you the villain? Were you the villain?

Jonathan Penner: I don't see it that way. Maybe I'm stupid. I think the moves that I made were antagonistic, but I think I was cut more like the comic relief or the narrator. I'm the Phil Silvers or something. Honestly, I don't think I was being mean. Yeah, I talk a lot — as you now know. But I was not a liar out there. I'm a pretty straightforward person.

The Slug: You have some acting experience. Were you playing a role or being yourself out there?

Jonathan Penner: I was not playing a role.

The Slug: What do you think about all the other competitors who had experience in "the business"?

Jonathan Penner: Let me give you a more complete answer. All I can say is I was as alive and as real and in my body and present as I could be. It was an extraordinary experience. In no way was I doing anything that I thought would be better for the camera. I was literally thinking about my time out there. Yes, I'm an actor. But Nate is a shoe salesman. Was he playing a shoe salesman out there? He is a shoe salesman! I'm an actor. I was attracted to acting because I have a certain personality and a certain voice. I like to be entertaining, be funny. So that's what you saw. You saw the person who become an actor. Fair?

The Slug: Fair. What did you think about the racial divide?

Jonathan Penner:  I think the strongest racial aspect of the game has been the wonderful connection between Yul and Becky. The two of them both understand each other. I think the racial part of it was a small part. I'm a 44-year-old actor-writer-producer, married with two kids. Had I had on my original Raro tribe a 41-year-old married female writer-producer-actress with two kids as Yul is a 30-some-odd-year-old lawyer and Becky is a 30-some-odd-year-old lawyer with very similar cultural backgrounds, my game might have gone differently. My closest ally was 21 years younger than me. She's much closer in age to my kids than me. She's an unmarried Southern genius med student. And as it turns out in the long run, she mutinied to get back to some Southern college student.

The Slug: I never thought of it like that, but you're totally right. Did you ever get your hat back?

Jonathan Penner: Can't tell you, but yes I did. Apparently, it is part of the show.

The Slug: How did you get on the show?

Jonathan Penner: Someone recruited me at a party. I love the show and do watch the show with my kids. Someone said, "Would you be interested in being on 'The Amazing Race' or 'Survivor'?" They said, "OK. Here's where you download the application." Basically, my wife was like, "Are you crazy?" I said, "Let them say no to me." It's something I'd love to do, to be Robinson Crusoe and get a paid vacation to be on "Survivor."

The Slug: Let's talk about your wife. We got to see her last night. Boy, she was va-va-vooming it out there.

Jonathan Penner: I know! Is my wife hot or what? My God. She is a dynamo. I cried and cried and cried tears of joy, which I don't get to do very often.

The Slug: Yeah, I was hoping you'd both be sent to Exile Island.

Jonathan Penner: How hot would that have been?

The Slug: That would've been pretty hot. Why do yo think it was so hard for people to trust you?

Jonathan Penner: I'm honestly not sure. You're gonna have to ask them. I never made it personal. I was always extremely rational. There were plenty of people who were voted off for the wrong reason. I think I was probably voted off for all the right reasons.

The Slug: Like who?

Jonathan Penner: I still don't understand why JP was voted off, Christina, Brad was voted off before me, Rebecca was voted off before me. Those fish were there for everybody to catch. I never caught any fish before. I'm a 44-year-old Jew from New York. I went out there with a spear. I went out there because I wanted to do. It was surprising on the show to see they were enjoying my forced labor. But I never saw it that way. I would've caught the fish, anyway. That was one of the happiest times for me, alone out there on the reef fishing. The way I saw it is that I had a one-in-20 shot of winning a million dollars. Those are pretty good odds. But I had a 100-percent chance of having a fantastic time out there. I was determined to do that every frickin' second.

The Slug: I love it. Well, Jonathan, you're definitely not a cancerous rat. I'm not sure if the show will be as exciting to watch now. Good luck with everything.

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