Not too many Survivor contestants – past or present – can say that they dealt with a parasite burrowing into their ear canal. There are a lot of things that can get into your head during this game, but that’s not one of them that people prepare for. Unfortunately for Jennifer Lanzetti, on Wednesday night’s episode of “Survivor: Kaoh Rong,” a pretty crazy idea also crept into her head, and this time, it was something she wasn’t able to recover from.
If you haven’t yet seen the most recent episode. Get caught up on Episode 2 here.
Jen was instantly known during the Premiere Episode as the “girl who had the worm in her ear.” It was unlike anything we’ve witnessed or even though was possible on the show, and it instantly set the tone for what Probst has called the “most grueling” season in Survivor History.
With the worm eventually crawling out of her ear and meeting a timely death, Jen had shown that she belongs in this game. She was tough, being placed on the Brawn Tribe, but she was a breed of tough that could literally deal with anything, obviously. Better still, she seemed to be in an absolute perfect position within her tribe, having aligned with the two huge meat-heads Jason and Scot, both of whom would be much bigger targets if their three-person alliance was going to last. She also seemed to be on good terms with Cydney, not to mention that she could hold her own in challenges and around camp.
But it all unraveled on Day Six for Jennifer. Hanging with the big boys wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and Jason started wearing at her nerves. In retrospect, it can be said that Jennifer overplayed her hand in approaching Alecia and Cydney to form an all-girl alliance…but even if she is going to go that route, Jennifer failed in lacking the conviction to follow through with it. Even before leaving for Tribal Council, she had doubts and thought twice about flipping on her ally Scot.
Consider the pre-Tribal stuff an “unraveling” of Jennifer’s game, and call her performance at Tribal Council a downright “implosion.” She openly stated that she had been “up in the air” earlier at camp as to who she was going to vote out. This was news to Scot and Jason, and it just got worse from there as Jennifer just started saying all of the wrong things. Her all-girl alliance plan was outed, and even though Scot ultimately still voted to get rid of Alecia, Jennifer was the one voted out when she was unable to win over Jason, Cydney and Alecia.
I had a chance to chat with Jennifer today about her six days in the game, that horrific parasite in her ear and just exactly how Tribal Council went down, down, down for her game.
Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: So Jennifer, let’s start way back at the beginning of your Survivor journey. How did you come to be on the show, were you a huge fan?
Jennifer Lanzetti: I definitely was a fan. When Jonas (Otsuji, from Season 24, who is a friend of Jennifer) came back he called me and said Jen, you’re the ultimate Survivor, you have to apply. So I thought, wow I hadn’t even thought of that. So at the time I was like 10 seasons behind or something like that, so my sister and I binged watched all 10 seasons in a year, and I woke up one morning and I said, it’s time for me to make a video. So I make the video and send it in, and then they finally called me about two-and-a-half years later.
Tom Santilli: Wow, so all of that training, all of that binge watching, I bet never prepared you for a parasite in your ear, I’d imagine…
Jennifer: (Laughs) No, nothing prepares you for that.
Tom Santilli: That was one of the craziest, most horrific segments I think I’ve ever seen on Survivor. Walk me through that whole experience. When did it start, how did it happen?
Jennifer: On Day One, we didn’t have our shelter up yet. Look, we were a bit of a dysfunctional tribe, I’m not sure if you caught that? We didn’t have our roof built, and it started raining. And it’s a downpour, like five inches in one night. Something happened the next morning, I thought it was water in my ear. But then I was like, no, this is definitely not water. I kept telling the producers there was something wrong. There was something very wrong here. And it was just dismissed, dismissed, dismissed. By the end of Day Two, I’m bouncing up and down on one foot all day trying to get this thing, this water, out of my ear. Alecia thought it was a frickin’ fish. So we’re trying to get this whatever out of my ear, and then it starts bleeding. So I was like, hmmmm. Maybe this is a little more serious than I thought it was. So we starting digging deeper and its bleeding, and that was probably one of the worst nights of my life. I’m uncomfortable, I’m wet, I’m cold, and this thing is just digging and digging. And you can’t turn it off, it’s not like you can just turn off your hearing and pretend it isn’t happening. And the blood is just dripping out, and I was trying to stay calm but by Day Three I was just freaking out. My ear is bleeding, it’s digging deeper, we need to do something. This is not normal.
Tom Santilli: What was the angle from production at that point? Were they monitoring it, were they increasingly concerned, was there talk of pulling you from the game at some point? What were they telling you?
Jennifer: Oh no. No no. This is Reality TV. This is drama TV. I’m not saying that they didn’t care, but they didn’t show it to me (laughs). It was just always sort of dismissive. I would tell the night crew and the day crew and I was like, can somebody help me? It wasn’t until I was literally starting to lose it a little bit. I was like my ear is bleeding! I am crying my eyes out! Do something! So they finally called medical in and he didn’t believe me. He was like, well, “if” something is in your ear…I was like, what the hell is wrong with you? “If”? You sound like Alecia here (laughs).
Tom Santilli: So after Scot was able to kill it, and even up to present day, were you ever able to find out exactly what it was, or how potentially damaging it could have been?
Jennifer: Nope. The doctor did make it clear that it was a very serious situation, because it was digging deeper and deeper, but he could never identify it from Scot’s fingertips, the guts, and then he wasn’t even able to identify it from the picture. So they thought maggot, or something like that. But you could see that the worm was full of blood, because it was eating my blood (laughs).
Tom Santilli: One last question I had about this comes from several of my readers…I heard over and over people asking “why doesn’t she go out in the water and drown it?” I know they don’t show everything on the show, but did you attempt that or what other things were you trying?
Jennifer: Oh of course, everybody’s got an opinion. So you’re on an island with absolutely no resources, no tools. You’re hungry, you’re thirsty, you’re tired. Yeah, your brain isn’t functioning 100%. As far as going in the water? That’s how it got in my ear was the damned water. So going into the water wasn’t an option. But I sure do love hearing people’s opinion on how to get it out.
Tom Santilli: So let’s shift gears and talk about something else that I’m sure you’ve talked a lot about today…
Jennifer: About my trainwreck?
Tom Santilli: Well, before we get to that even, I wanted to ask you about your relationships and the dynamic you had with Scot and Jason. After the first episode, it seemed like you were in a great spot, having aligned with these two big dudes. Usually guys like them don’t go super-far in the game, because if they make the merge they become immediate physical threats and targets. So what happened between Day One and Day Six, that made you even think of flipping on Jason?
Jennifer: I’m a hard worker. I have a lot of respect for hard-workers. Scot was out there every day working. Cydney was out there working hard. I just have a lot of respect and admiration for that. You know, people talk about alliances, like you make them, and then you’re supposed to keep them because you’ve made them. People’s actions are what keep alliances strong, it’s not words. So I felt like Jason’s actions were going against our alliance. You just sit around and bitch and moan and complain, it’s like get up and do something if you’re not happy about something. In hindsight, sticking with my original alliance would have been best but I just didn’t trust them. I didn’t trust Jason. Anytime somebody complains and says the stuff that he did, it’s just uncomfortable. I know we’re a tribe and I know that only one person wins this game. And I know how I can stay strong and that was with the three girls. Bad idea!
Tom Santilli: I know also that we don’t get to see every angle of what is going on out there…
Jennifer: Oh you hardly get to see any angles. You see hardly nothing.
Tom Santilli: Exactly. But one thing I suspected from watching the episode was that Cydney had a much larger role in what was going on. Is that true? Enlighten me on what was going on with her and her role in your demise.
Jennifer: Oh yeah. So I thought that the female alliance would have worked because I thought I had Cydney on my side. At first she was like, are you sure? But then she was like, yes! We did the numbers and how we would get to the next stage, and she was all on board. She convinced me even. So when Cydney went ahead and flipped I think it was easy for Alecia to. Whatever me and Cydney would have done, Alecia would have stuck with us. So when Cydney flipped it was easy for Alecia to say, whoa, I’m getting off of this ship, even though it was my own idea (the all-girl alliance).
Tom Santilli: Are you saying then that you pitched the idea of the all-girl alliance and Cydney went back on it and sort of left you out to dry?
Jennifer: No. I did not pitch the idea at all. It’s so funny how it was edited to show that. I was so pissed! I was like, son-of-a! That was not my idea, oh my God! Hey, it is what it is. But Alecia did come up with that idea and I took the baton and ran with it. And then I dropped it real quick. When they showed their true colors I was like, oh s**t. Bad idea.
Tom Santilli: So then you get to Tribal Council. What happens?
Jennifer: (Laughs) So, you’ve seen the show enough, you’ve got to give Jeff Probst something. You’ve got to give him breadcrumbs. If you don’t give him anything he will tear you apart. And so the first thing he says, he looks right at me and says, so Jen, were things ever up in the air with you back at camp? And based on what I knew had happened – I knew Alecia and Cydney had gone against me – I knew the only thing I could do for Jeff was to tell the truth. I said that for a brief moment things were up in the air, Alecia came to me for a girl’s alliance, I considered it, and it was a bad idea. And then the craziest thing happened: This really slow trainwreck began. And it was so long and excruciating (laughs).
Tom Santilli: Was there a moment within all of that where you recognized that? Where it was like oh crap, things just took a bad turn.
Jennifer: Oh yeah, instantly. Because both Scot and Jason looked at me, and they were so shocked-looking. But I was like don’t even pretend that you didn’t know, you knew. But I looked at both of them and was like, knock it off. Quit pretending like you didn’t know. I’m just telling you why I did it with the hopes of redeeming myself for you to realize that you need me. So quit being little babies.
Tom Santilli: So do you think they were just looking for a reason to vote you out, or do you really feel like they were originally planning on voting out Alecia?
Jennifer: Yeah, I think it played well into their strategy. But it had been so clear that it would have been Alecia before all of that all-girl alliance stuff happened.
Tom Santilli: Some of my favorite all-time moments on Survivor is when Jeff Probst is left dumb-founded and wide-eyed, and not sure exactly what to say or what’s going on. Tell me about your decision to stand up on the stump, and how long that took to play out in real life.
Jennifer: (Laughs) Well, you know, I don’t know why people don’t stand up more! Just stand up and say it! I don’t know, I was like maybe you guys aren’t hearing me good enough. Let me stand up here and say it louder (laughs), let’s see if that works? Yeah, I didn’t know that no one has ever stood up before. I thought that was sort of a normal thing to do. Like just to say, hey everyone, listen up kiddies, I’ve got something to say (laughs).
Tom Santilli: Well in future seasons when everyone is standing up at Tribal Council, we’ll remember who started the trend…
Jennifer: Yes! (Laughs)
Tom Santilli: So you made the most of your two episodes on Survivor, but that’s not a lot of time for people to get to know you. What are some things you wish people would know about you, or would have found out about you had you stayed in the game and on the show?
Jennifer: Well I think there have been a lot of articles that have come out, so I don’t know if they don’t know everything there is to know about my past. I’ve survived through some pretty hellish things. Why I wanted mostly to be on the show was not just to have fun or win a million dollars…I mean, I have no worries about me, I’m going to be making millions, I’m on my way. I own three businesses, I’m not worried about that. But it was for the adventure and to tell people: Your past doesn’t define you. Don’t let it win. Keep going forward, keep fighting. Just like I did at Tribal, I was honest. I got caught. But I’m going to keep fighting. And I’m going to stand up, dammit! On a stump! (Laughs)
Be sure to join me next Wednesday for another episode preview, full recap and instant analysis, and of course, the next exit interview next Thursday.
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