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Interview: Jerri Manthey talks 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains'
What happened to the Black Widow? And why is she sure she nearly won?
In the second season of "Survivor," Jerri Manthey wasn't a very nice woman. She was, in fact, rather evil.
Jerri earned the nickname The Black Widow, but she also earned only an eighth place finish. Brought back for the first "Survivor" All-Stars season, she seemed to revel in being hated, but it led only to a 10th place finish.
It wasn't surprising that Jerri was categorized as a Villain for "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains," but instead of living up to that moniker, a different Jerri emerged. She was quieter and less confrontational and although it seemed as if she was wishy-washy and waffling, she also kept finding herself as the swing vote in one circumstance after another.
This new Jerri wasn't necessarily as TV-friendly as The Black Widow. Instead, she made no enemies and, probably as a result, she stuck around until the finale. Jerri finished an impressive fourth after Russell decided to stick with Parvati in the Top Three.
HitFix caught up with Jerri and discussed her change in demeanor, her relationship with Russell and why she'd have won if she'd made it to the jury.
HitFix: I asked Colby a variation on this one. What do you think Season Two Jerri would say about the way you played this season?
Jerri Manthey: Oh, she'd say, "Good on you!"
HitFix: You think that woman would respect the way you mixed things up this season?
JM: Absolutely. And if I could do it in reverse and go back to Season Two Jerri, I'd say "You know what? Just keep your mouth shut. Keep your true feelings to yourself. It's not that important."
HitFix: Why did you decide to play a different game this season?
JM: Well come on. The way I played before didn't work, obviously. I realized that there were certainly things about my personality, when I become a very competitive, driven person, that come off as very abrasive and that doesn't serve you well in a game where the social aspect of it is so important. I'm wiser than I was 10 years ago and I've learned in my real life the same exact lesson. That lesson is just to be a more observant, quiet person and then way when you do speak, your words count and they matter a lot more. That was basically how I went into it. I was like, "You know what? I want to put myself in the position of power as a swing vote." I wasn't sure how that was going to happen, but it just fell into place for me. It made sense. It was so easy to do, as well, because I was surrounded by these really strong personalities who were at each other's throats from day one. It became very easy for me to not get involved in the conflict and not to stir things up. I found very quickly that by not engaging, I could make a more rational decision, rather than being reacted. So everyone else imploded and I was just standing there unscathed and picking up all the pieces that I found to be the most useful to my advantage.
HitFix: When would Old Jerri have made mistakes in this game?
JM: You know, I used to feel like I had to be the one in control and I don't feel that way anymore. I think I've found a way to be in control without sticking my neck out. Before I felt like I had to be the one making the charge. Now, I got really good at stroking egos, which was also something I never was good at. Rather than fighting with the egos involved with other people, I stroked them. I let most of the people in this game think that they were right and that their ideas were correct. I put my two cents in, but I let other people voice them.
HitFix: What were some examples of that?
JM: Well, with Coach, I bonded with him pretty quick just because we have so much in common and I planted seeds with him here and there about things like Parvati being really dangers and he jumped on that bandwagon really fast and became a forward player in trying to get her off. I have to say that that really came from me first. But no one would ever know that. And then, of course, it was my decision to go with Rob, rather than Russell, that was probably the very first really powerful decision that I was forced to make. I didn't want to pick sides, but I had to at that point. And then it just made sense for me, in the long term, to go with Russell. I stroked Russell's ego practically on a daily basis and that's a full-time job. In one of the secret scenes on CBS.com you can really see me doing what I did best this time around, which was me telling Russell like, "Russell, you know you would go down in 'Survivor' history if you get rid of the Queen of Blindsides" -- I was talking about Parvati, of course -- and, boy, when I said he was going to be notorious and infamous, those were words that Russell likes to hear. So yeah, I was quietly in the background a lot and that was a very powerful place to be.
HitFix: Once things moved deeper, how much would you say that Russell began to be controlling you and your vote?
JM: Russell was not in control of me ever. Not once. I was always my own person and that way my choice, to put myself in a very neutral place. Every decision I made, I made for my own personal best interest. Watching the show and hearing him say things like that about me, it was just infuriating, honestly, but it just shows you how delusional the guy is. A good example is when he leaned over to me at Tribal Council and told me to vote for Danielle instead of Rupert. Well, at that point I knew that I was in a position where I could go either way. Either Rupert was going to go home or Danielle and it was a split decision I was forced to make. I did not like being put in that position, but it didn't take long for me to realize that by going along with the suggestion and getting rid of Danielle, I was putting myself in a really good place. In Russell's alliance, the hierarchy was Parvati first and Danielle second and then me. So if I got rid of Danielle, that put me in the Final Three. But that decision was mine, not Russell's. I was never afraid of him. I stood up to him whenever he came at me and he really only came at me once, when he threatened me that one day and I told him, "Don't threaten me. I'm on your side. Relax." He's like a time bomb, that guy.
HitFix: What would Black Widow Jerri have done about Russell?
JM: Oh my gosh, I would have definitely battled head-to-head with Russell, back in the old days. I would have made it a point to confront him and tell him what I thought. He would have definitely been after me the way that he was after Boston Rob. Absolutely. But what good would that have done me?
HitFix: If Russell had taken you and not Parvati to the Top Three, what would your jury argument have been?
JM: My speech was brilliant! First thing, my plan was just to point out the level of growth that I had throughout my seasons on "Survivor," but the main goal in my final Tribal Council jury plea would have been in being very humble and gracious and apologetic to the people who were sitting in front of me. You cannot play the game of "Survivor" by yourself and people have to be voted out and I think that I did an amazing job of not rubbing a single person the wrong way. There was not a single person on that jury who was angry at me and I knew that that was a dangerous thing, but I knew Russell really thought he had a chance and he really thought that he was going to get my vote.
HitFix: So you figure that if Russell had taken you to the Final Three, you win the game? Or does Sandra still win?
JM: Oh, no. I would have definitely won. Absolutely. My argument would have definitely been that I was physically dominant, as well as being a social social player. I've talked to the members of the jury since then and they were all just like, "Oh my gosh, Jerri. Were were so hoping that you would have made it, because you would have won." And that's really frustrating. But at the same time, it's very comforting and I can honestly say that I'm very proud of the way I played the game. Absolutely.
HitFix: Do you put any stock at all in Russell's argument that it was the game that's flawed, rather than his way of playing the game?
JM: Russell is the most delusional, egomaniac, con-artist I've ever met in my entire life. There's nothing whatsoever valid about his point. There's no way that American would choose him if they had to live with him. That's really, truly the truth. I said it at Tribal Council last night and nobody heard me because Russell wouldn't shut up. He's like, "You know if America had to decide, I would win." Well, that's because America doesn't have to live with him.
HitFix: Obligatory last question: You've done this now three times. Would you do it again?
JM: Everybody keeps asking me that and let's just say that if I had nothing tying me down in my life at the time and I was called to go? Yeah. I would absolutely do it again. And I can't believe I'm saying it, but yeah. It's such a unique opportunity and clearly, if you stand back and look at yourself in the context of this stressful situation, there's the potential for a lot of growth there, as a human being and in your life. So yeah, I would totally do it again.
HitFix: Thanks a lot, Jerri...
JM: Oh and if you wouldn't mind throwing in there, that if people are interested in keeping up with what I'm doing, my life is a constant adventure, JerriManthey.com is definitely the best place to find out what's next.
HitFix: Will do!
Previous "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains" Exit Interviews: