Tag Archives: Jerri Manthey

Out of the Fire and into the Philippines: Michael Skupin Returns to ‘Survivor’

There’s a tale we like to tell to novice or late-to-the-party Survivor fans. It’s a story – feels more like myth now – about a tribe called Kucha in a harsh landscape called the Outback. This is pre-Russell Hantz, pre-Boston Rob, even pre-Tom Westman. This is back in the second season of Survivor, when they had no idea that their initial success would continue nearly unabated for twenty-four seasons, that Richard Hatch and his flabby, hairy, naked figure strolling the beach in Borneo had changed the face of television forever. In season two the show was still in unknown territory, not yet a cultural institution with enough memorable moments to fill a double DVD and enough beloved (and reviled) players to field a competitive softball league. This was a long time ago. But all that time we’ve never forgotten about Michael Skupin. And never gave up hope – despite how unlikely it seemed – that he would return. 

We often relate how this season featured a tribe that we found to be as formidable and as likable (save for Kimmi) as any tribe in Survivor’s prodigious history. It featured a pretty young face that we’d come to later know as Elisabeth Hasslebeck, football wife and The View co-host/conservative punching bag, then going by the surname Filarski. And while Kucha lacked the statistical dominance of Tom Westman’s Koror tribe in Palau, the team felt as strong and cohesive as any tribe, and it was getting stronger and more cohesive after each challenge and Tribal Council. There was Jeff Varner, the good-looking, drawling Tar Heel, and his partner-in-crime Alicia Calaway, who could have easily parlayed her Survivor appearance into a berth in the WWE. There was Old Man Rodger, who had formed such a sweet, good-natured, grandfather-granddaughter relationship with Elisabeth. And there was Nick Brown, the bright, young Harvard Law student. And they were all led by Michael Skupin, a midwest father whose receding hairline was more Bruce Willis than Ron Howard. Skupin served as heart and soul of the team, his intelligence and survival skills keeping Kucha focused and united at camp, his athletic ability pacing them in challenges, and his hunting prowess keeping them energized. With his guidance Kucha was poised to decimate the Ogakor Tribe, which featured such bickering, unlikable players as Jerri “the Black Widow” Manthey, arrogant chef Keith Famie, mama’s boy himbo Colby Donaldson, mama surrogate Tina Wesson, and another pretty face named Amber (yep, that Amber); it was a tribe that fell out of favor with us the moment they voted out Maralyn “Mad Dog” Hershey. Ogakor featured several future All-Stars and a couple million dollar winners, but after five tribal councils they were faltering, fractured and frustrated (Colby dousing Jerri with a bucket of water following a Reward Challenge loss, for example), and with one more Immunity Challenge defeat they were in danger of going into the merge down 6-4 to a Kucha Tribe operating with extreme confidence and bellies full of chickens and popcorn and, thanks to Mike, a pig.

And then, in the blink of an eye, it all came crashing down.

And like that, he’s gone…

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Filed under Be careful what you wish for, Century 21 Reality, Freak Out Control, Mancrush, Tribal Council

Sorta In Memoriam: Tom Westman (and a brief discourse on celebrities and moral turpitude)

And so begins my long overdue thoughts on Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains.  It’s a shame we have to start on such a sour note.

A few weeks ago my mom and I were talking about the Tiger Woods scandal (it was what she came up with after brainstorming topics for dinner conversation) and she asked me if there was some one in the public eye, a role model perhaps, that would really break my heart if they were exposed to be in some kind of scandal or lascivious activity.  I told her that as I’ve become an adult I’ve learned to let go of such things, that as a 26 year-old you can’t put another person, especially a public persona, on such a pedestal.  She suggested that we should hold these people to a higher moral standard, but I argued just the opposite, that with celebrities – actors, musicians, athletes, politicians – we should expect less adherence to a moral code.  These are people who are told they are great, they are special, and thus think they are exempt from common behavior, that they are above the law, both legally and morally.  Now there are, of course, exceptions, but too often their celebrity status goes to their heads, and they think the rules don’t apply to them.  And the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and the less we should be surprised when they do.  Sad but true.  So to answer my mother’s question, there was no one I could think of whom I believed in so deeply that any discovery of indiscretion would be utterly soul crushing (unless it was revealed that Tom Hanks has cheated on Rita Wilson with a harem of Golden Corral buffet attendants, but I can think of almost nothing less likely).

However, a couple nights later I sat down to dig into the premiere of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains and I realized that I was mistaken.  There remained at least one person I felt that strongly about, whom I believed to be nearly infallible, with whom I couldn’t fault and would be shocked to learn of one.  And that man is former Brooklyn firefighter Tom Westman.  Yes, as a fellow Long Islander I’m biased.  But the way he so thoroughly dominated Survivor: Palau is really unparalleled in the show’s history, and he did so by a mixture of uncanny physical prowess and the utmost integrity.  In my eyes he played a flawless game, and perhaps became the last role model standing.

Read on: The one true Hero…

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Filed under Century 21 Reality, Freak Out Control, In Memoriam, Local Flavor, Mancrush, Tribal Council