Exclusive: Jonathan Penner talks 'Survivor: Philippines' (Part 1)
By Reality TV World staff, 11/29/2012
Jonathan Penner was eliminated from Survivor: Philippines' merged Dangrayne tribe during Wednesday night's eleventh episode of the CBS reality series' 25th edition.
Penner, a 45-year-old writer and producer from Los Angeles, CA who previously competed on Survivor: Cook Islands and Survivor: Micronesia, was voted out of his tribe at the season's eleventh Tribal Council, which was also the fifth elimination vote for Dangrayne.
In an exclusive interview on Thursday, Penner talked to Reality TV World about his Survivor: Philippines experience.
Below is the first half of Penner's interview. Check back with Reality TV World on Friday for the concluding portion.
Reality TV World: When you were at Tribal Council last night, your big argument to convince people to keep you around seemed to be that Michael Skupin and Lisa Whelchel weren't going to be able to beat Malcolm Freberg or Denise Stapley in the final jury vote. So did you really believe that or were you just saying that? And if you really did believe it, why were you so certain?
Jonathan Penner: Well, I did believe it when I said it that they couldn't -- and I laid that out pretty clearly. I said, "At least you have a shot against me. I don't believe you have a shot against them just based on who's sitting on the jury. And if you vote me off, I'll be on the jury too. You can count -- you guys can do the math." There's nobody on the jury right now that I believe would vote for them -- that's what I said to them anyway.
And [I said], "If you vote me out, there will be one more person that probably won't vote for you. So that's five people whose votes you have f-cked up. You guys were not thinking about the end game. You are not playing a winning game. You are playing a surviving game, which is fair enough. You hope for the best. You hope you can sit next to somebody that you can beat at the end."
But they were not playing a game for the jury. They were not currying favor with the jury. They were not trying to build a jury that they could get the votes from, and I argued that and they didn't believe me.
They believed that they are all playing winning games -- Malcolm and Denise as well, same with [Abi-Maria Gomes], same with [Carter Williams]. And the truth is, three of them are going to be in the Final 3 or the Final 2 or whatever it works out to be but only one of them is going to be right, you know?
Reality TV World: So you seemed completely shocked when Lisa came up to you after Abi won immunity and told you that you were going to be the one going home. Up until that moment, who did you think was going to be going home instead and why were you so certain it wasn't going to be you? Had there been some conversations that we didn't see on TV last night?
Reality TV World: Right. If it wasn't Abi, then whom did you envision getting voted off? Because at that point, she had won immunity.
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Jonathan Penner: Denise. So I said to her, "Come on, we're all ready to go, right?" And she says, "Oh, I'm uncertain," or, "I'm wavering," or something. And I'm like, "What? Cut the crap. What are you talking about?" And she said, "I'm having a hard time here. I can't play the game," or something. And I'm like, "Okay let's go. Let's talk. What the hell are we talking about here?"
Reality TV World: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that. Obviously it was within Lisa's power to keep you on the show. All she had to do was vote for Denise and not you. However, she wouldn't do that because in her head, directly voting to keep you would be betraying her alliance but somehow telling you that you were the target and hoping that you could convince Skupin to change his vote somehow wasn't betraying her alliance. (Laughs)
Did that kind of logic make any sense to you? Did you and the other castaways see any real technical distinction there as to whether she had betrayed her alliance? It almost seemed like she wanted to have her cake and eat it too.
Jonathan Penner: I wasn't thinking about her betraying her alliance by sharing with me. I mean, I think she thought that she was, I don't know, giving me a chance to work that magic that I do -- or whatever the hell she said -- whatever that meant. But she wasn't going to let it work on her, and I never lied to any of them.
I could've lied to Skupin and said, "Absolutely, she's in. She's going to vote for Denise." All he would've had to do was go over to her and say, "Penner said you're going to vote for Denise," and then she says, "Well, I'm not. I never said that."
I never got anything from lying that way. So I said, "I think that she's gonna decide to stick with that decision and Skupin, I need you buddy. I need you to vote for Denise." And he chose not to. I think he was more into voting for me even than she was, because he saw me as a major threat.
Reality TV World: Jeff Probst seemed to play along with Abi's lie that the note she received from the Reward auction was a two-part note in that the second part was a clue to a hidden Immunity Idol even though, as one of the show's producers, obviously he knew that was a lie. So what are your thoughts about that? Do you think it was fair that he seemed to vouch that what Abi was saying was true and therefore kind of increased the chances of everyone believing her lie?
Jonathan Penner: I think that he's pretty savvy to not try to influence the game one way or another.
Reality TV World: Have you watched some of the Tribal Councils? (Laughs) You don't think there's been situations where it's seemed like he's asked questions that could influence the game?
Jonathan Penner: Tribal Councils, as shown on TV, are five or 10 minutes long and are always geared towards either the vote or what might happen in the next week. They're very deliberately put together. Tribal Councils are one to three hours long. Everybody talks.
Reality TV World: I guess I didn't mean [deliberately] "influence" per se, but there have been Tribal Council situations in which someone's lying and he hasn't seemed hesitant to call them out or challenge them on it.
Jonathan Penner: Maybe you're a clear student of the game. I guess I'm just -- maybe I'm watching Tribal to see other things or to see what was included or what not. So, I'm not as savvy to that. Him saying -- because all she really said was, "This is a two-part thing and I'm going to read the second part whenever." And he just said, "Okay."
He didn't say like, "Okay, that's right and you're going to keep that other part hidden," or whatever. The second she tore up the note, I knew that she was full of sh-t. Why tear it up? If you've got immunity, everyone's blazing their immunity idols around -- she was scrambling. I respected that, appreciated it, but didn't put much stock in it.
Reality TV World: It seems like Survivor auctions usually include an item that could give someone an immunity advantage of some kind. But you guys didn't seem too worried about that and appeared to believe Abi when she claimed she wasn't even going to spend any of her money. So what was going on there? Why didn't we see anyone saving their money to prevent her from being able to do exactly what she did?
Jonathan Penner: Yes, I had been a part of one auction in the [Survivor:] Cook Islands when there was a disadvantage. You could buy a way to put another player at a disadvantage instead of putting yourself at an advantage. I understand that in One World, there was a similar, or maybe even an identical, kind of advantage at the auction.
But I hadn't seen One World because I was in the Philippines when it was on the air. So I never saw that at auction. So that's the answer to my knowing or thinking about it. I also thought that I was in a much safer position than I obviously was, you know?
Reality TV World: So you didn't see much downside? You just thought Denise would go home instead, I guess?
Jonathan Penner: If Abi won -- [first of all,] none of us believed that Abi would win. [But] if she was going to go, then yeah. It was going to be Denise. That was my understanding.
Above is the first half of Penner's interview. Check back with Reality TV World on Friday for the concluding portion.