Jonathan Penner entertained up until his very last moment on “Survivor: Philippines” — one of the most memorable exits in the show’s history — and the latest castoff didn’t disappoint in our exit interview today.
From Abi‘s annoying obliviousness to his own stupidity, Penner weighed in with brutal honesty and razor-sharp wit about his third time playing the game.
Why are we speaking with you this morning instead of Abi — how did everyone allow her to claim the advantage in the auction?
I didn’t know that there was an advantage to be sold at the auction. The time that I’d been in a food auction, yes, we had something, but it was a disadvantage — you bought something that put another player at a disadvantage. But I thought I was sitting a lot prettier than I obviously was, but I wasn’t thinking about that. I was just hungry. In fact I kicked a** in that auction. They didn’t show it… I not only won chicken, but I won an ice cream sundae.
What angered you most about the game?
My own stupidity — that I screwed it up. Obviously, I thought I was in a much better position than I was. And I thought I had more time before I needed to make the big move — and didn’t realize the big move was being presented to me that I had to make. It was my mistake.
What are you most proud of?
Winning that individual immunity. That was awesome, so gratifying. Not because I wanted to stick it in their faces, although that was rather pleasant too. And playing the game I wanted to play — a winners game, because I had jury votes, instead of game that just got me to the end and [a jury saying] “I wouldn’t vote for you if this other person’s head was on fire.” Which I think is kind of the game some people are playing right now.
In your experience, how does Abi rank among annoying players?
Pretty high. Out there, somehow the chemistry of her being in what she perceived as a powerful position or a very weakened position made her like nails on a chalkboard to all of us. When she found herself in a weakened position, she became even more emboldened and blamey. After that Tribal she came back [saying], “I guess I’m the worst person that ever lived and how could you even be with me and I’m such a disgusting monster” — and it’s kind of like, you’re missing the whole point. I really tried to draw her out a little bit and really see it in a calm, adult way what we were saying. Of course none of us were prepared to say that until Jeff drew it all out of us at Tribal. He was more than happy to have her crying and gnashing her teeth because it made for good TV and it did.
Is there any validity to Jeff’s suggestion of a cultural misunderstanding?
I don’t think he believes it was culture, [and] it’s not cultural. Just because you may not get my jokes doesn’t mean you can’t be a kindhearted, friendly person. [Maybe] being brutally honest is a Brazilian thing, but I can’t imagine that all Brazilians are reviled around the world. That’s just not true, right? You’re out there to behave yourself and work as someone who is on a tribe who’s trying to get along with a bunch of strangers and maybe even curry some favor with folks who will be in a position to hand you a million dollars if you haven’t pissed them off too much. And she just could not grok that, she couldn’t understand that at all. She didn’t do anything egregiously horrible or evil. She was missing social cues, and I don’t believe it’s because she’s Brazilian.
Do you agree with many of us who believe this is one of “Survivor’s” best seasons?
I really enjoyed watching, because I knew what the good stuff was — and a lot of it had to do with me. [I told my friends and family], “If you are not screaming at the top of your lungs by the end of this episode, then the editors have really screwed it up.” And we would be. I’m yelling at the screen, yelling “Come on, Penner, Jesus Christ, do it!” Knowing I might actually win! I might actually put the puzzle together and come from behind. It was fantastically exciting. People pooh-poohed the casting of Lisa and Jeff, who I honestly didn’t know as a baseball player and I didn’t know her from “The Facts of Life,” [but] they were fantastic characters and fascinating to watch. Russell‘s meltdown was horrifying and fabulous to see, and Skupin is an extraordinary character.
Did the game change you at all?
I’m not sure it did change me, except I finally got to play the game I wanted to play. I wasn’t injured, I didn’t find myself in an untenable, adversarial position. I had just a tremendously fun time. Obviously wish I had won the million, but I don’t think it changed me that much.
For confirmation, Penner shouted to his wife, “Did playing this time change me?”
[According to my wife], I had a more satisfying experience and I came home happier.
While Penner wasn’t exactly blindsided, it’s appropriate to send him off with one of the actor’s classic moments from “Seinfeld.” (His very brief scene starts at the 15-second mark.) You’re welcome!