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Survivor: Pearl Islands – How Does Jon Stack up to Past Survivor Villains?by Ken Kellam III -- 12/09/2003
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From the beginning of his foray in the Pearl Islands, art consultant Jon Dalton has been one of the least-liked cast members – even before the "big lie." However, his revolting falsehood of two episodes ago, in which a buddy carried out a plan to tell Jon his grandma died, dude, has sealed his fate as probably the single most despised character of the season (and earned him a hotly-disputed Reality TV Hall of Shame Moment). But is he as repulsive as past Survivor baddies, and where is his place in the show's Rogue's Gallery?
Let's start off with the original winner, and bad guy, Richard "Machiabelly" Hatch. Yes, Rich had an ego as big as his gut used to be, and yes he ran around naked. At the time, Hatch said lying was integral to winning the game, and in the end, that's exactly what he did. While he was arrogant and pompous at times, he only did so for strategic reasons, and never tried to invoke a dead relative to play on the sympathies of the others. You can say Jon's lie was strategic, but in the end, did it really matter, or just make him look like the biggest jerk in series history? Not only did Jon exploit the name of an apparently unsuspecting relative, he continues to feed off the lie, swearing on his grandmother's grave, which is like swearing on the horns of a unicorn. Simply put, neither one exists.
Then there's the Outback vixen, Jerri. From episode one, she clashed with Keith, and in episode two, she made a false accusation against Army man Kel, claiming he snuck beef jerky in his backpack. At worst, she knowingly told her tribemates a falsehood regarding another tribe member, and at best, she simply didn't get her facts straight. So overbearing and pushy was Jerri that her own tribe turned on her once it no longer needed her vote. She earned herself a full induction into the Reality TV Hall of Shame. However, in my view, she wasn't nearly as bad as Jon, for this reason: She was simply clueless to how she came across to the others and had no idea she was rubbing the others the wrong way. In contrast, Jon knew EXACTLY what he was doing when he spouted off the lie regarding his Grandma.
Then there's Lex, who was pretty likable – until he went ballistic over ONE vote and convinced some of the others it came from Kelly. In fact, Lex "knew" it had, because his gut told him so. Unfortunately, his gut was clueless and Kelly ended up paying for something she never did in the first place. But as paranoid and as full of himself as Lex could be in the game, he was at least sincere in thinking Kelly had voted against him. Jon has no such excuse, having planned the "big lie" before he even arrived in the Islands.
Then comes Marquesas, where there was really no single clear-cut villain. Bet let's go with eventual winner (and another Hall of Shame inductee), Vecepia. Many viewers, myself included, couldn't stomach her hypocrisy, invoking God's name at the drop of a buff, while not only lying to advance herself in the game, but trying to rationalize her behavior by saying after she'd tell a lie, she'd ask the Almighty to forgive her, after which she'd eventually tell ANOTHER lie. But Vecepia wasn't obnoxious from day one. In fact, for much of the series she was all but non-existent and only won in the end because she was in the right place at the right time. But none of the lying and backstabbing she did can possibly compare with Jon's falsehood, because she never used any of her friends to help perpetuate her lies, nor did she swear on the grave of anyone she knew wasn't actually dead.
How about Thailand? It can be argued that Ghandia (yes, another Hall of Shame inductee) was the biggest villain of the series for embellishing allegations of sexual misconduct against Ted and then rationalizing her decision by saying she was trying to win a million dollars. But at least she got her comeuppance, being ousted in week four. Eventually, she did express regret over the hurt her deception has caused both her family and Ted's. In addition, she hadn't been planning from day one to target someone with such an allegation.
What about Robb with two b's? Jeff Probst summed it up best by saying the skateboarder was responsible for some of the most immature moments in history of the series (some of which were, you guessed it, recognized with a Hall of Shame Moment). These included picking a fight with Shii Ann in the premiere episode, picking another fight with Ken the cop, and grabbing Clay by the throat during a reward challenge (although in retrospect, maybe Clay deserved it). He at least seemed to learn something from his time in the game and never attempted a lie as insidious as that of Jon.
You could also point to former porn star Brian. But his cinema past never became a factor in the game. There was also Clay, who's constant complaining and put-downs of the others wore on more than a few viewers' nerves. But he was more annoying than anything else, and nothing he said or did was nearly as revolting as Jon's premeditated fib.
What about the Amazon? Several people can be discussed here. First, there's JoAnna, who went on and on about the idol, quickly wearing out her tribal welcome (and, of course, getting her very own Hall of Shame Moment). Then there was the unacceptable way she got in the face of Christy, who was deaf. And let's not forget her constant invoking the name of Deity, while acting in ways at times that didn't seem to mesh with her beliefs. While she didn't seem to learn, she never pulled an outright deliberate deception, instead simply behaving in an obnoxious manner.
And of course, there's the Skele-twins, Heidi and Jenna. They weren't outwardly deceitful, however, just extremely immature, bratty, and self-centered. And yes, Jenna's win may have raised more eyebrows (not to mention blood pressures) than any other in the history of the series up to that point. But she at least seemed to learn, and most likely, simply didn't know any better. Jon, however, did know better, or at least should have.
What about Amazon Rob? Yes, he lied and deceived during the show, but he was simply playing the game, and made that clear from the start. He didn't feel the need to invoke any of his relatives or friends in a deliberate lie having nothing to do with the game. He kept his play within the boundaries of the game itself.
In summary, Survivor has seen it's share of nasty behavior, deception, manipulation, and whatever else you can think of. However, the view from here is that nothing in the series’ past begins to compare with the insidious, revolting, deceitful behavior of Jon Dalton.
Ken can be reached with any comments, criticisms, or money orders at YourNextOfKen@aol.com.
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