Survivor: The Amazon - Great Season, Horrible Ending, and Light at the End of the Tunnelby Ken Kellam III -- 05/22/2003
Note to the Reader: Rachel is a real person, and the conversations referred actually did occur, albeit in instant message or emails. Imagine that I'm talking to her in person, telling her my thoughts on the article, with brief allusions to comments she has made to me.
First of all, let me apologize for the lateness of this article. From the moment you saw me online after Jenna won, you've been on me to get this done. If I remember correctly, you told me when the votes were read, your first thought was how much it had to be killing me that Jenna won, and boy were you ever right. When Jeff Probst read that fourth vote, that huge clanging sound you heard was the sound of my jaw hitting the ground. I don't think I've been this disgusted with a tribal council vote, final or otherwise, since Gretchen was ousted way back in season one.
As you know, I always like to ask loads of questions after each episode. But when, uh, what's-her-name was announced as the winner, I only had one: WHY? Okay, I also wanted to know what there was that Marky Mark Burnett wasn't showing us. This may be the biggest Survivor mystery since Erin's ouster from Thailand. Uh, what's that Rachel? Well, I hope you're right, and this DOES make you fall off the edge of your seat.
My guess is that the jury, when voting, cast their votes FOR Jenna, as opposed to against Matthew. He may have been a little crazy at times, but overall, he wasn't that unlikable. And we know he wasn't even all that scheming, at least until the end. But I'll give Jenna her props - uh, Rachel, let me make something clear: This is not Big Brother 3, you're not Julie Chen, and I'm not Marcellas, so please stop hitting me with that clipboard.
Anyway, you're right, backpedaling doesn't fit me, but let me tell you why I'm giving Jenna her props. Have you ever known someone in school or the workplace who just had it in for you? No matter what you did, it wasn't good enough, or even right. For example, there was a guy I knew in college who was always trying to one-up me. If he got a better grade than I did in a certain class, it's because he was smarter. If I did better, it was because "nerds always do well."
The point is, I couldn't win. I came to realize that's how I was with Heidi and Jenna, a.k.a. the "Skeletwins." I tuned in every week ready to bash them to the high heavens. But the fact is Heidi did win-uh, what's that, Rachel? Oops, sorry, I meant to say Jenna. Maybe you're right, and I have inter-mingled my hatred for the "Skeletwins." Anyway, Jenna did win, and does deserve to be congratulated. Oh boy, Rachel, I can hear some of your quotes now: "Ken, I didn't want her to win, just not as much as YOU didn't want her to win," and, "Ken, you really hated her. I just didn't think she deserved to win," and of course, "Keep the hate brother. You've got an article to write."
At the risk of disappointing you, I'm going to point out that as detestable as I found Jenna at times, she WAS perceptive enough to realize she was on the chopping block, and found the inner-resources to do something about it. When she won the final four immunity, she must've have given it all she had. And from that point on, it was kinda pathetic, and a little bit amusing, to see the three guys try to bargain with her.
Let me digress a second and talk about Butch, since he went in her place. It didn't take the Magic 8-Ball to see he was in trouble once she won. Specifically, no one wanted to go against him. Say what you will about the Hunka Hunka Burnin' Firewood near the end, or the crazy dancing which he admitted embarrasses his wife. The fact is, he kept his mouth shut most of the time. I don't know if it was strategy so much as not wanting to say something he'd regret once he had to face his students again.
Rachel, when you think about it, there's kind of an irony to Butch: His very name is associated with bullying, dating at least as far back as the "Little Rascals." Remember how the character of the same name was always threatening to make alfalfa out of Alfalfa? But in the Amazon, it was Butch himself who seemed afraid, most likely of facing his wife, the school board, and kids. But throughout the series, he was rather likable, if somewhat passive. So likable, in fact, that getting rid of him was good strategy on the part of the other three.
Now let's take a look at the final immunity. Jenna's still in. Hopefully she won't pull it off again. Well, Matthew says that whoever wins will take him along, so he'll probably throw it, and guess what? He's right. I'm pretty sure he could've won that last immunity easily if he wanted to, but he at least made it look good, unlike Richard Hatch, who unceremoniously took his hands off the idol. Of course, Rich ended up winning.
Unlike Matthew, Rob didn't have the luxury of throwing this final challenge. He knew Matthew would probably take him, but he didn't know about Jenna, so he gave his all. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, and like the monster in mythology (whose name I can't recall) that just won't die (Medusa maybe?), Jenna remains in the game. As the editor of this site has pointed out previously, being a model probably helped Jenna here, because she's probably used to standing in one place for long periods of time, and not always in the most comfortable of positions (note to the editor: please forgive my sloppy paraphrase).
Rachel, I know you're recovering from an ulcer, and I hope I don't give you another one here, but I don't begrudge Jenna this final immunity win. Yes, I wish she were gone, but the fact is, she ::::choke gasp cough::::: earned it. Let's face it: Each challenge plays to someone's strengths and someone else's weaknesses. In hindsight, the men should've rid themselves of her when they had the chance and kept Heidi, although it's not clear they would've fared any better against her, since she appeared to be the stronger of the two. Then again, who knew?
Okay, now it's time for the final three vote. When Jenna mumbled something about wanting to go against good competition, and not wanting to go against someone she could beat, my first thought was, "What a moron! Did she not learn from Colby's mistake in the Outback?" But it turns out this was similar to one of those answers she's used to giving at pageants: Specifically, she was telling the judges what she thought they wanted to hear. She even admitted later that Rob would've kicked her butt in the final two. While that part of it isn't certain, it certainly wouldn't have been the landslide it was.
Are you still with me, Rachel? Okay, good. Time for the final tribal council. Finally, Jenna will hopefully get hers from assorted members of the jury. I was so sure she was going to be IN the jury, and so sure she'd deliver a "snakes and rats" speech that would make Susan Hawk look like Mother Theresa. Once that didn't happen, I fully expected her to be getting one herself, probably from Christy. The only question I had was, "How bad is Matthew going to smoke her?" Now you know why I don't spend much time at the race track: I'm terrible at making predictions.
Before the final tribal council begins, we get treated to the thoughts of the jurors on the final two. Rob has had some of the funniest lines of the series, but this time, he comes off looking like a sore loser when he tells the camera it's too bad there's no "choice C." Don't get me wrong, Rachel. I think it's a shame anyone other than Rob won, and think he played the game better than the rest of the cast put together. But given how many people he screwed over that were now in the jury, how many of them would've felt that way towards him? Maybe it was editing, maybe it was out-of-sequence shots, but it seemed like a couple of the jury members smiled when Rob joined their ranks.
Then there was Deena's observation that Matt worked his way to the top, while Jenna, uh, played her way to the top. It made sense at the time, but seems silly in light of how she cast her vote.
And of course, Heidi isn't done amusing us either. She proclaims that Jenna is her hero, and the word that comes to mind is, "pathetic." Surely Eldon can't be THAT secluded of a town.
Let's not forget everyone's favorite rocket scientist, Dave, who claims he wants intelligent answers to his question, and we'll see if the two finalists start talking out of their ass again. Just remember that when it's his turn to speak at final TC.
Now the jury files in and prepares to have their say. Jenna, in her opening statement, says she played the game morally, and that means a lot to her. Excuse me while I pull out Morasca's Abridged Dictionary and look up morally: "Stripping for food, acting like you're the center of the universe, flaunting your alliance when you're in the majority, pouting like a spoiled child when you're in the minority, shunning someone with a disability, and being completely full of yourself."
Yes, Jenna is just in her early 20s. However, Kelly Wigglesworth, Kelly Goldsmith, Elisabeth Filarski, and Colleen Haskell were all a comparable age when they appeared on the show, and none of them acted nearly as badly as Jenna did, so I refuse to believe anyone who tells me her immaturity is due to her youth. Both she and Heidi should know better.
They remind me of my college days, when there was a women's social service club (we didn't have fraternities or sororities) on campus known as Theta Theta Theta, or Tri-Theta. They had a reputation of being completely snotty and walking around with their noses in the air, and as far as I know, this reputation continues today, 16 years after my graduation ceremony. I'm forever convinced that if Jenna and Heidi had gone to my college, they would've been hard-core Thetas. They also probably would've been kicked out for stripping once the show aired, but that's a different story.
Finally, the jury gets their say, and as he has done throughout the show, Rob manages to liven things up a bit. He asks each of them why the other one doesn't deserve to win. Matthew observes that Jenna hasn't contributed as much to camp as everyone else. Jenna then gives the most ridiculous answer I can imagine. She mentions how Matthew doesn't need the money. What, pray tell, does that have to do with how he played the game?
It irritated me in Africa when Lindsay pointed this about Carl, aka "Doc." And the irritation was no less in the Amazon. In fact, it doesn't even answer the question, in my opinion. Even if Matthew were a multi-millionaire, that is completely irrelevant to how well he did or didn't play. Did Jenna expect everyone to hand her the money just because she needs it? Did it ever occur to her that maybe Matt is well-off because he EARNED it? It's fairly obvious he did a lot of work in the Amazon, while Jenna worked mostly on her tan. Whatever the case, she sounds like she's begging for a handout.
And of course, Heidi hasn't finished quite amusing us either. She asks the two who else deserves to win the game. It seems like an innocent enough question at first. But when, to Heidi's obvious shock and distress, they both say Rob and not her, she then gives a textbook definition of "fishing for compliments," asking, "Is that the only person?" Thankfully, Jeff Probst steps in and says they've covered it.
Then, Deena calls Jenna on her previously-mentioned "money" comment. Asked about it, Jenna says, "I think need should come into it because that's how I would vote." Oh really? Suppose she were in the jury, and the two finalists were someone she detested but who needed the money, and someone she liked but whom was well off?
Rachel, I can hear her saying, "I'm not awarding you the money just because you need it. Get over it!" And here's another point: Last season, near the beginning of Thailand, Helen voted for Clay, saying it was a financial move, as he was probably pretty well off. Little did she know he had filed for bankruptcy just prior to leaving the states.
The point is, we really don't know how other people are doing, and things may not always be what seem. Also, Matt may face some calamity in the future and really need the money. So, in essence, voting for someone based on need, or perceived need, is ludicrous. Also, would Jenna feel the same way if she were better off than Matt? Just a few points to ponder.
Okay, Rachel, now it's about to get good. Christy asks Jenna about her comment that being beautiful was a handicap. Jenna, of course, tries to pull the old "I can't remember saying that" gag. Maybe she didn't but Christy wouldn't let go, and says Jenna indeed say that At least Jenna apologized, and said she didn't mean to compare beauty with deafness.
Now, it's Dave's turn. Remember, he's the one who wanted intelligent answers to his question. Well, he proceeds to ask a less-than-intelligent question. The rocket scientist asks them what modern influential leader have they emulated in the game. Uh, yeah. If I were about to take the journey of a lifetime, the first thing on my mind would be which world leader I wanted to pattern myself after.
Too bad Rob isn't in the final two, or he could say, "Nixon." Of course, Rob and some of the other guys could've easily said "Clinton," after the way they drooled over the women of the Amazon. As for Jenna, I think she should've said, "Cleopatra," because for a good part of the game, she acted like she was the Queen, and everyone else was her subject, not to mention the numerous times she made an "asp" of herself.
Well, it's time for the votes to be revealed, or some of them, anyway. Heidi, to no one's surprise, votes for Jenna, someone she says she could trust "in the most adverse conditions." What conditions are those? Being in the minority? Running out of makeup? If I were in adverse conditions, I'm sorry, but I think I'd rather have Matt and his superior survival skills.
Well Rachel, now it's time for Probst to supposedly ride a jet ski from Brazil all the way to New York City. Do you think he stopped for gas? What if he lost control shortly after leaving, fell into the river, and heard a group of piranhas saying Grace over him? Did he not stop to use the restroom? Did he pack a lunch? Suppose a pirate ship held him up, took the vessel holding the votes, and sold them to "The Smoking Gun?" And I thought it was cheesy when he hailed a cab in New York while in possession of the "Lock Box." Doesn't he know people get mugged on the subway?
And now it's time for the reunion, and the reading of the votes. At the risk of intruding on the territory of fellow RNO writer Phil Kural, if I had to name an MVP for the Reunion special, it would be Probst. Just as he did in the Thailand Reunion show, he asked tough questions and avoided "softballs."
Take, for example, the way he spoke for a good part of America when he said to Jenna, "You acted like a selfish, spoiled, only child." To her credit (no, that's not a typo Rachel), Jenna said, "fair enough." She also admitted being young and having a lot to learn. She also admitted that after having watched the show, she realized she could be pretty annoying.
It's never easy to see yourself the way others see you, or to step outside of yourself and see how you come across, as she got to do when watching the show. Years ago, when I was in broadcasting, I would make pre-recorded announcements, and then had to go back and listen to them for quality. More than once I thought to myself, "I get PAID for this? How?" Nothing was harder than listening to the sound of my own voice on tape. This is probably what it was like for Jenna watching the show. She admitted to taking a lot of heat over the show, most of which, she conceded, was well-deserved. Rachel, you're not going to believe this, but her sudden display of humility made it harder for me to despise her.
Okay, back to Probst. Is there ANY issue he won't tackle? From Christy's shocking vote for Jenna, to Janet and "granola-bar gate," to Matthew's sanity, to Heidi's bonding with the other two so-called cute girls, he covered it all. He'd make a great district attorney, had he chosen the law, because he's not afraid to cross-examine someone on the spot. Nor does he allow anyone to ramble. When Alex started rambling about Matt's sanity, Probst bluntly told him to get to the point.
When he grills Heidi about her "three cutest girls" strategy, she says she came into the game as an athlete, which is believable, given she's a phys-ed teacher. She then stated she felt like the others saw her as "too little or too weak," a charge adamantly denied by Jeanne.
Heidi seems to forget she told the camera that Jeanne and JoAnna could do all that work if they wanted, but she'd probably get ahead of them in the game, which she obviously did. She also seems to conveniently forget that in that same confessional, she mentioned something about taking a nap. If the others saw her as weak, it's because she wasn't doing her fair share, not because of her looks or beauty, as Jeanne pointed out.
From there, the "Hobst with the Mobst" grills Christy on her shocking vote for Jenna to win, and we all watch the replay of her now-infamous "evil step-sisters" comment. He asks her what led to her ouster, and she points to Rob. But Probst isn't letting her off that easy. He asserts rather matter-of-factly, that indecision kept her out of the game." Even sweet, lovable, underdog Christy doesn't escape the Probst Probing.
Speaking of which, Rachel, I'm sure you can imagine that I love Christy to death. She went far in the game, despite her disability, and will serve as a role model for the hearing-impaired as well as others with disabilities. But having said that, her comment on why she voted Jenna defies explanation. She said she'd been in the game with Jenna longer, and met Matthew halfway into it. Uh, exactly why was that relevant to how Jenna played the game? All that means is that Jenna was meaner to Christy longer.
Okay, back to Probst. He asks Jenna and Heidi what their families thought of their basically holding up a sign that said, "Will strip for food." Jenna admits she can't say her folks were proud of her, and it wasn't a shining moment, but she loves food. As for Heidi Ho, she stated she did so strictly out of hunger, noting that she lost 20 pounds while in the game. In a shocking admission, she says she looked "absolutely disgusting" out there. After all her proclamations about her alleged cuteness, she gets props for admitting this.
Eventually, Probst drops a bombshell on us, Rachel: Turns out Heidi has the highest IQ of this group of 16, with Roger and Alex being next. Either she's been hiding something, or the others are incredibly dumb. She admits that she played "dumb" a lot of the time, because was afraid her athleticism and intelligence would scare people and she'd get voted out. Probst has one of the best lines of the show when he points out her IQ is higher than that of the rocket scientist, meaning Dave.
Rachel, I hope you're still with me. Don't worry: I'm about to wrap it up. In Marquesas, a great show was marred by a dismal finale. In Thailand, a somewhat lackluster edition benefited from an outstanding final. In the Amazon, one of the best editions of the series was tainted by the worst possible ending. But believe it or not, there is a saving grace here: At least Jenna seems to have learned from her experience, and hasn't gotten an even bigger head just because she won 6-1. I caught a little bit of her Early Show appearance the next morning, and she remained congenial and conciliatory. And while I didn't catch her appearance on Regis, I understand she remained in "image repair" mode there as well.
Is it all an act? Who knows? But if it is, there's a bit of Survivor irony here: Now that the show is over and done, she's following the rule about pretending to be nice, something she failed at miserably in the game, despite winning.
Okay Rachel. Thanks for you patience. And yes, I'll be back to write about Panama, hopefully.
Ken can be reached with any comments, criticisms, or money orders at YourNextOfKen@aol.com.
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