The Odd Talent of Jonathan by Deb Kristy

Oh, the odd talents I have! Circuses have come beating on my door, Ripley’s calls weekly, neighborhood kids run screaming. But I have to keep up some sort of mystique, and so I’m going off-topic this week. What is so fascinating that I have to leave you all hanging, wondering about my odd talents?

Survivor.

But first, let me tell you that I am not the reality TV blogger on the site. That honor belongs to Deb Anna, and she does a marvelous job of it at Reality Check. But this week really made me want to talk about it. Specifically, about Jonathan.

Now, Jonathan has been a little intriguing right from the start, mostly because if you close your eyes you can easily replace Jonathan with Alan Alda and imagine Hawkeye Pierce(sorry, I can’t deal with the Same Time, Next Year Alan Alda) stepping off that mat to join Candice “I’ll never get off Exile Island” Woodcock.

But what intrigues me even more is that little occupation tag they throw on after his name: Writer. A quick online search of Jonathan Penner reveals the facts that he is, indeed, a writer of screenplays, that he also acts, and that my Alan Alda vocal comparison is not nearly as original as I thought.

And this “writer” tag got me to thinking about something I’d asked J.T. Ellison earlier this week during her Good Girls Kill cocktail party: Are writers inherently good liars? She said yes, and I think I tend to agree. After all, writers should have a facility with language, important when you’re lying. Lies need to roll off the tongue, no stuttering.

And lying requires a certain amount of imagination, like writing, because why do people lie to begin with? Most people lie to avoid trouble, whatever “trouble” means to that person. So for them to realize that a lie is called for, they must have imagined what the consequences would be if they didn’t lie.

Despite the fact that most people seem to loath him, Jonathan is surviving. The thing about Survivor is that it’s a TV show, a game. Jonathan: Writer, could win. It’s not bloody likely, but he actually could. Has there been a winner of Survivor who didn’t lie?

But the fact is, no matter how logical the parallels people want to draw between Survivor and real life are, in real life the liars never win. Not in the long run. In the long run, the liars wind up alone, and angry, and wondering, bitterly, how they got there. Writers might be good liars, but most of us, I hope, know where our profession ends and real life begins.

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13 thoughts on “The Odd Talent of Jonathan by Deb Kristy

  1. I don’t love to hate Jonathan as much as the other guys obviously do. Did you see Nate when the others were dissing Jon at this week’s tribal council? Jonathan doesn’t have a vote there. I think his voice is incredibly like Alan Alda’s too. I also, was intrigued by the “Writer” tag under his name on screen. I guess the biggest liar was the first winner of survivor, Richard Hatch. I didn’t see that one, but it’s interesting that he is, or has been serving time for tax evasion or something like that. I agree, a writer is good at making up “lies” for the entertainment of all, but we need to know when to stop the lying and be honest in life. Sometimes, I find myself slightly “embellishing” something that’s happened to me that day in order to entertain my boyfriend. I’m sure he knows I couldn’t be that clutzy. A little “stretching” isn’t bad is it, if nobody gets hurt?

  2. Hmm. I’m going to have to start watching Survivor again. It falls on my children’s karate night, but I need to see those lyin’ eyes of Jonathon’s.

  3. I stopped watching Survivor the season that Boston Rob and Amber won (can’t remember who the actual winner was — Amber?). They were both big fat liars. Worse than that, everyone else believed them!

  4. I feel like such a pop culture loser. I haven’t watched survivor since Richard Hatch was on. His butt drove me away from reality tv.

  5. The second season of Survivor in Australia had to be the best with some of the most decent people playing the “game.” Because it is just a “game,” even though huge egos come out of the show. So is it necessary to lie in order to “outwit, outplay and outlast” your competition? (sigh) For what it’s worth, I’ll take the amazing analytical talent of Yul any day. And as far as writers known to lie…um, don’t they write memoirs? 🙂

  6. Maia, you THINK Jonathan doesn’t have a vote on that jury, but remember why people voted for Hatch? Because he was so good at the game (lying, really). Winners have mostly been rewarded for being the biggest liar, because that’s considered the “Outwit” part. So, if Jonathan does make it to the final two, he might get votes, not because he’s well-liked, but because he played the game so well. I don’t think he’ll make it past next week 😀 but you just never know.

    See, now I think they should have a Survivor made up strictly of writers, see what kind of creative playing would happen then.

    Tish, I’m quite sure that karate is more important.

    Tasha, HOW could you possibly do anything wrong?!

    Jennifer, Amber won, but it did get kind of lost in that whole marriage proposal thing.

    Eileen, we could use Richard Hatch’s butt as a deterrent for all kinds of thing, couldn’t we? Need to quit smoking? Every time you light up, we flash a pic of naked Hatch on the beach. CURED!

    Larramie, I think in Survivor you do have to lie. Remember that one guy who refuesed to ie and voted people off alphabetically? He lasted, like, two weeks! Yul is an interesting guy, isn’t he? I really didn’t see the logic in admitting that he had the immunity necklace, though.

    Ach, all in all, Survivor is an interesting commentary on social development, but it’s NOT real life. And I’m going to be very interested to see how Jonathan uses his experience in his writing.

  7. I don’t watch Survivor — my tv addictions have to be controlled. But regarding the writers as liars — I totally understand this. My husband loves to tell people in the middle of my slightly embellished stories that I am a liar. I then have to say I am a writer and the story is better my way. I also think that most writers are constantly working on angles — constantly trying to figure people out and sometimes telling a lie proves or negates theories I have about people I meet. That sounds callous and weird – but they are small lies. Fibs really.

  8. Hey Molly! Okay, this: “-sometimes telling a lie proves or negates theories I have about people I meet.” is FASCINATING! I want to hear more about that!

  9. Kristy, while not 100% positive, I really don’t think that Survivor Palau’s winner — NYC Fireman Tom — ever lied. Perhaps he evaded or kept silent but that’s “outwitting” rather than lying, imo. And Yul’s “show and tell” of the immunity idol might have been to let everyone know that if they voted to eliminate him, they’d actually be voting someone else off the island.

  10. I’m fascinated by Molly’s writer-working-angles-theory too. Molly, does this mean that if we intuit someone’s “unspoken thoughts”, concretizing them, if you will, into a story, that it’s not actually a lie? I sure do agree. A story is something made by a storyteller, but it’s inspired by the soup of social consciousness, a symbol of shared experience. The word “lie” should not have such a negative connotation when applied to writer’s. Seems it’s what we do.

  11. Oh, I’m another long-ago Survivor giver-upper. I’m sure it’s still fascinating, I just don’t have the energy for it! (Unlike American Idol, which asks nothing of me.)

    Lying… well, I try not to lie. But I’ve noticed that I’m a born spin-doctor. I can put any spin on anything. I can argue both sides of the question. I can talk my way out of just about anything.

    But I don’t usually think of myself as a good or convincing speaker. It occurs to me as I type this that I’m a much better speaker if I’m inventing as I speak. Telling jokes or retelling stories is my utter downfall. My audience and I are inevitably miserable in about 30 seconds flat.

  12. I gave up on survior too. i only really watched the first season. i guess i got sick of the faux reality of it all. they try to make you believe that they are just flies on the wall and are just watching but it’s so silly. you know it’s set up so badly. i switched my reality watching to shows that you know are set up, the flaunt it. i like the reality competitions shows like america’s got talent. you get to meet the people and get to know them but really you are just watching them perform. i’ll be watching tomorrow night when it starts back up.

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