Cook Islands Interview: Jonathan Penner

Written by Tashi from the blog Survivor Cook Islands: Interviews on 08 Nov 2007
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On Tuesday night actor Jonathan Writer (aka Penner) outlived his 9 Cook Islands lives when slappy Parvati and Adam somehow managed to convince the Aitu crowd to get rid of him instead of them.

Here's what Jonathan had to say about it all:

Tashi: You’ve been called a dirty rotten rat, a skanky whack fruitcake, a trading bastard and cancer - how does that make you feel?
Jonathan: Fabulous. It was - what do you say? It was crazy to get called those names. I mean I was sitting there and I couldn’t believe it because I didn’t realise how personally everyone was taking the game. I felt badly that I’d hurt these people's feelings but I was like “This is a game, what are you talking about?”

You know in hindsight I realize that some of it was just out of their own hurt andsome of it was gameplay as well in that they were trying to paint me in as bad a light as possible to make sure I got eliminated - and it worked.

Tashi: I was very disappointed when you got voted out - I thought every move you made was hysterical and couldn’t understand why they didn’t find it all as funny.
Jonathan: No they didn’t think it was funny - it was always good fun, I was trying to stay alive out there - certainly following Candice off the mat, probably, well certainly may have shortened my life out there, I don’t know.

I thought she and I were aligned - that and thinking I knew where the idol was were my two real mistakes. I don’t think following her off the mat was as big a mistake because she was really aligned with me but what I’ve found out subsequently was she was putting a lot of space between us because she didn’t want people to think we were too tightly aligned.

I think she wanted to go a long with way with me and Adam and thought she’d beat us in a final two/final three situation. My biggest mistake was thinking Adam had the idol - I asked Yul if he had it - and he indicated that he didn’t without saying, “No I didn’t,” and I heard it as him saying he didn’t. I knew I didn’t have it and that Candice didn’t so I after we stepped off the mat and aligned with Adam I thought we were with it.

Tashi: I wondered what was going through your head in the moment before you stepped off the mat.
Jonathan: In the moments before I had no intention of stepping off the mat, I knew we were going to merge soon and Candice and I were in a good position in that tribe so when she stepped off the mat I didn’t immediately follow her, it took me a second to go “Oh my gosh,” Basically Jeff Probst said: “You have the opportunity to change your fate in the game,” and how often do you get an opportunity to do that in a relatively safe play?

Tashi: Yes I got the sense that you liked the idea of it being a big dramatic Survivor moment happening and you wanted to be part of it.
Jonathan: It happened so quickly - it happened so much faster than this conversation with us talking about it. I saw my partner jump off the mat, I saw the numbers shifting, I heard him say that and said, “Okay, I’m going to follow her.” I immediately regretted it because I realized that, “Oh *bleep!*, I’m the last guy in this tribe, if anyone’s going to be eliminated I’m the last one in the tribe.”

Tashi: How did realising that impact on how you respond to situations now?
Jonathan: It’s interesting because going into the game I had told myself that there was going to be some kind of analogy made to the Mutiny On The Bounty story.

I knew we where going to the Cook Islands and I knew the most famous thing about it is the tenuous link to Mutiny On The Bounty - that’s what the theme of the show is a little bit - and I knew there’d be some reference to it.

I read the book and said to myself: “Bly actually did the right thing,” It was Bly who gets painted poorly but Fletcher Christian did this romantic impulsive thing and lived the rest of his life as an outlaw - yes he lived on a tropical paradise but everyone died there - so I said to myself I’m going to be more Bly. Then when push came to shove and I was given this opportunity and it was 5,4,3,2, 1 and I stepped off the mat impulsively I realized that maybe I’m more like Christian. I mean nobody else did it except Candice - and she actually had a plan!

The funny thing is that after I stepped off the mat the game got really exciting - I mean it was awful but it was also fabulous - it changed the whole experience for me. I became a provider and I had the opportunity to poker down and try to survive. I kept thinking that if I could make it to the merge maybe, maybe I could make it to the end and I did manage to make it to the merge.

Tashi: Would you step off the mat again?
Jonathan: It’s a fascinating thing because you hope you learn from your mistakes obviously but other opportunities come up – something else happens. On one hand I could say that I shouldn’t have stepped off the mat, that I could have gone further – whether I could have won or not I don’t know – I probably could have gone further but maybe not. Maybe not - you just sort of hope that the experiences you have can inform your mind and body and heart and that the next time you have a split second decision to make you make the right decision.

Tashi: So are you still as impulsive?
Jonathan: No, I’ve really impulsed most of the impulsivity out of my life. I’m 45, I did all the craziness in my twenties, I’m happily married, I have two kids and a relatively stable existence. Those kind of situations are so rare - that’s the thing, it just happened like that. You know nobody else moved when Jeff said it and I got to tell you, there are people in the game who have regretted not moving

Tashi: Like who?
Jonathan: I think Brad was very close to stepping off the mat - I don’t know that his game would have lasted longer but it might have because he was blown out of the water the next night.

Tashi: What was the point at which you realized you had no chance of winning?
Jonathan: The last day I came back from Exile Island. When I was there that last time and Yul had told me he wouldn’t take me to the final two - that was the reason I didn’t ask the others to take me to the final five and I think it was a mistake.

When I was sent to Exile Island and I’d seen my beautiful wife and I got to see how much Parvati and Adam wanted me out of the game and I realized that Parvati was taking somebody on a treat and they’re going to work them. At that point I got relatively calm and peaceful about it and thought, “You know what, there’s nothing I can do about it.” I didn’t give up the game but I gave up - it was literally out of my power and I got back raring to go and he Yul said, “This wasn’t a good time for you to be away buddy.”

Tashi: Don’t you think that everything that happened in Raro's collapse has been a symbol of the consequences of betrayal? The way the tribe lost challenge after challenge after the mutiny and how things collapsed after Candice’s betrayal particularly and you following her in it. It’s a main theme of the show don’t you think?
Jonathan: I always thought that with the Raro group it was a race to the bottom in terms of a work ethic. Somehow, very very quickly they determined - and I wasn’t there to see how this happened - that if you worked too hard or showed any sort of leadership desire you got the kibosh so everybody had to show they were the least interested in doing that.

Everything became extremely disorganised, there was no real team attitude or spirit and that’s really what led to their downfall. They were willing to pick each other off for the stupidest reasons - there was no real loyalty and they were exhausted, they didn’t have water, they didn’t have food. I don’t mean to criticize but I think it was a psychological race to the bottom and I wasn’t there to see why it happened. At least when Candice and I got there we were able to feed them.

Tashi: Do you still wear your hat?
Jonathan: No I have a new hat. My wife and kids gave it to me for fathers days and when I wear it people stop me and say, “You’re Jonathan from Survivor.”


Xhosa Chick
08 Nov 2007 01:29

Im  torn. Which interview to read first?.... Thanks a lot Tashi!

Artoo Detoo
08 Nov 2007 02:02

Thanks for the interview Tashi! I love Jonathon.  He's such a smart, interesting guy.

08 Nov 2007 02:17

Thanx Tashi, reading the three interviews was great fun!

08 Nov 2007 02:41

i'm struggling to believe he didn't get affected by all the name calling!! Gr8 questions, though...

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