‘Survivor: Philippines’ Pre-Game Interview: Jonathan Penner

Jonathan Penner (CBS)

XfinityTV.com sent me deep into the Philippines wilderness on a mission to bring you all kinds of “Survivor” stuff including behind-the-scenes tidbits, pre-game interviews with the cast, insights from “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer, a look at the first Tribal Council, and much more. I’ll be cranking out this goodness daily, so be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates on all of this season’s “Survivor” fun.

Name: Jonathan Penner
Age: 50
Home: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Writer
Tribe: Matsing
Previous Season: “Survivor: Cook Islands” and “Survivor: Micronesia – Fans Vs. Favorites”
Previous Results: Jonathan was the 14th person voted out of “Cook Islands” and was evacuated from “Fans vs. Favorites” after contracting a knee infection that had the potential to cost him his leg.

Gordon Holmes: Anyone who goes on “Survivor” assumes they’re going to get voted out, they’re going to lose to the jury, or they’re going home with a million dollars. Nobody ever thinks they’re going to be carted out due to an injury. What does that do to you when the game ends like that?
Jonathan Penner: It was devastatingly painful. I really had the game pretty well in hand. I was going to go deep in the game. And then an accident that was no fault of my own…it was infuriating. But, accidents do happen, it was bad luck on me. The fact that I was able to get out of the game when I did and not lose my leg, which is what they told me I was in danger of doing, it turned out to be good luck. I’m not going to limp for the rest of my life like they told me I might.
Holmes: You had to determine how fond you were of that leg.
Penner: I was very attached to that leg. I’m attached to walking without a limp. I’m attached to my life. And, so all of those things were saved. It was horrible, but at the end of the day it is a game. My safety is much more important. So (expletive deleted), stuff happens.

Holmes: You’re here now and you’re 100% ready to go.
Penner: 110%, man. I’m going to stomp this game.
Holmes: And you’re 50 now?
Penner: 50 years old.
Holmes: And you’re ready to go toe-to-toe with whoever they throw at you?
Penner: Yeah, I’m ready to go toe-to-toe. But you know, I’ll side step. I’m wise enough to know that I can’t go toe-to-toe. They’re going to come straight at me and I can’t win that game, but I can let them go by…”See ya. Run ahead, my friend.” And when you’re running ahead I see a target on your back. I’m happy to go a little slow and play the old man card to whatever degree I can. I’ll save my energy for the challenges.

Holmes: You were name dropped by Cochran in “Survivor: South Pacific.” He said, “All the greats go by their last names.”
Penner: (Laughs) I didn’t know who he was at the time, I’ve subsequently met him. He’s a very nice guy. Very smart guy. Smart enough to drop my name. Was I happy that he dropped my name? Sure. Because that means he respected my game. In the end, we actually wound up in a similar situation where he found himself scrambling. He had no other lifeline and so he flopped and tried to get to the team that would help him go further. That was a great lesson for me to watch in tandem with the mistakes I made the first time I played. And that was, you have to take care of the person on the furthest reach of your alliance. You have to make sure that they are tied in tightly and feel happy and secure. And that’s what I’m going to do.

Holmes: You have a reputation for being a very savvy player. Will that work in your favor? Will it put a target on your back?
Penner: I don’t know how savvy a player I am, man.
Holmes: No, I said you have a reputation for it.
Penner: (Laughs) I appreciate it. My savvy, I’ve never gone that far in the game. But I think I’m not a stupid person so I’m going to try to use whatever smarts I have out there. But I also, you’re right, it’s a double-edged sword. I don’t want to be so smart and play so hard that people say, “Oh my God, he’s a threat!” To me, the thing that I’m going to do differently this time is really play the long game. It’s a 39-day game. I played too hard, too fast and ended up playing a middle game in the beginning and an end game in the middle. I had nowhere else to go.

Holmes: Last time we saw you was in Micronesia. There’ve been quite a few changes since then with Redemption Island, One World, new immunity idol rules. Are you prepared to deal with whatever they throw at you?
Penner: I’ll have to. I hope that I can. I think the idols have gotten incredibly simple to find, it seems. Go to your beach and look under a rock. There will be a funny-looking tree somewhere. That plays to my advantage because they have to put it where anybody could find it. Anybody who gets the clue could get to the idol. So, I’m hoping to get to it first or align with whoever finds it.
Holmes: If there’s a twist to this season, what do you think it’s going to be?
Penner: I have to assume this is going to be about folks who got blown out of the game or med-evaced out of the game getting a second chance. It’s either that or Penner vs. the twenty four most beautiful women from the first twenty four seasons of “Survivor.” I actually like the second version better.Holmes: As would I.
Penner: But I think the first version makes more sense.

Holmes: What’ve you been up to since we last saw you in Micronesia?
Penner: I write. I write and produce, I’ve been making TV shows, I wrote a lot of scripts. I wrote a book right after Micronesia. I’m working on another book now. I’m working on a kids show with my wife. I’m attached to direct a movie. We’re rewriting a movie for her to direct. We’re going to co-direct a movie. But, you know, we’re doing the Hollywood hustle. That and loving my kids.

Holmes: Some people go into the game with some lines in the sand. They won’t lie, they won’t flirt, they won’t whatever. Do you have any boundaries you won’t cross?
Penner: I will lie, I will flirt.
Holmes: With the twenty four most beautiful women in “Survivor” history.
Penner: With whoever is out there. The mistake I’ve made with “Survivor” is forgetting that it’s not my life. I’m actually a pretty honest, straight-forward person and felt that these people would treat me the same way. That’s a mistake. These are not my friends, I do not know these people. I can lie to their face with impunity. I have no intention of hurting them like Russell (Hantz) did. That’s not the point. The point is it’s a game and this is my job for the next 39 days. So yeah, I’m prepared to do almost anything.

Holmes: Any plans for that million-dollar check they’re going to be handing you?
Penner: My kids.
Holmes: Tuition?
Penner: Yeah, my kid wants to be a doctor. He wants to go to medical school.
Holmes: Then you’re going to need every penny of that check.
Penner: I’m going to need all of it. I’d love to give my wife some fantastic present, because she has sacrificed. It’s easy for me. I’m out here having fun. It’s hard, but it is paradise. She’s at home taking care of business. My father is an older gentleman, but I’d love to buy him the car of his dreams. He’s always wanted an Avanti, which is a fabulous American car. My mother, I’d give her something cool. Then tuck some away for a rainy day.

Holmes: This is your third go round on this show. What is it about Jonathan Penner that makes fans want to see him again?
Penner: Dude, I have no idea.
Holmes: OK, I’ll give you my take when you’re done with yours.
Penner: I talk a lot. I’m not stupid. I play hard. I made some big mistakes. I played a swashbuckling game just to stay alive. I never meant to hurt anybody. All I wanted to do was stay alive as long as I could and have as much fun as I could. Maybe that’s what it is. I’m out here trying to experience as much as I can.
Holmes: I think it’s because you give Probst so much (expletive deleted).
Penner: (Laughs)
Holmes: And far be it from me to condone anyone giving Jeff Probst grief. He’s a prince of a guy. But, are we going to see more of that?
Penner: Turn over a new leaf? Not at all. I’ll certainly give him (expletive deleted), but I can’t do it too soon. I can’t seem too familiar. I have to play as new as they are. But if he gives me any (expletive deleted), I’ll give him (expletive deleted). Because he deserves it.
Holmes: I think he appreciates it.
Penner: He does!
Holmes: If you go in there and suck up to him, he doesn’t buy it.
Penner: He’s a real guy’s kind of a guy. I take no guff from him, but I don’t want it to seem like it’s the Penner and Probst Show.

Holmes: This is your third and possibly final rodeo. How do you make this the one people remember you for?
Penner: I’m going to win. It may not be the same kind of TV that it was the first two times. My exit couldn’t have been more dramatic the second time. My gameplay couldn’t have been bigger and more antagonizing the first time. I seemed to polarize everybody. So, it ain’t going to be like that. I’m going to win this time.

Don’t miss the premiere of “Survivor: Philippines” – Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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