With season 41 of Survivor delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EW is reaching back into the reality show’s past. We sent a Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire to a batch of former players to fill out with their thoughts about their time on the show as well as updates on what they’ve been up to since. Each weekday, EW will post the answers from a different player.
Jerri Manthey is a Survivor legend. The former actress emerged as the main “villain” on the franchise’s most watched season ever, Survivor: The Australian Outback, when she accused tribemate Kel Gleason of smuggling beef jerky into the game and got into battles with tribe chef Keith Famie.
The last time Jerri appeared on Survivor, for Heroes vs. Villains, it was a completely different story. She had a reality TV meet-cute with Benjamin “Coach” Wade, became a fan favorite, and came one day away from making the final three and possibly winning a million dollars.
And in between those two extremes was the most extreme Survivor moment of Jerri’s reality television career: the infamous live Survivor: All-Stars reunion show in New York City. In fact, as Jerri notes, the only time she ever regretted signing up for Survivor was “when the audience booed me on the stage of Madison Square Garden.”
The moment in question occurred after Jerri interjected during a heated reunion show argument between Boston Rob Mariano and Big Tom Buchanan.
“This whole thing is making me so sick,” said Jerri while on stage. “This show is a show about entertainment. This entertainment is coming at a price. What it has cost us — our friendships, our feelings, our pain, our suffering — for entertainment.”
While that would seem to be a heartfelt and astute observation looking at the toll that reality TV can take on those who allow their personal lives to be scrutinized for a national television audience, that audience at MSG took exception to the insight. Jerri was booed mercilessly before, during, and after she spoke. As a result, during the next commercial break, Jerri stood up and walked out.
As she explains now of the heartache she experienced that evening, “I had dreamt of being on that stage for most of my life as an actress, and there I was… only to be booed and judged so harshly that I had to walk off the live set. I think that may be one of the lowest moments of my life.”
But there were plenty of high points as well. In her Quarantine Questionnaire, Jerri looks back at the good, the bad, and the ugly of her Survivor journey — including some stuff that never made it to the screen. She also talks about her latest adventure, and where you can find it.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you’ve been up to since appearing on Survivor.
JERRI MANTHEY: Dear Lord… that’s not easy to answer in a few sentences. Especially if you’re talking what I’ve been up to since my FIRST appearance on Survivor… back in 2000. The last time I played was Heroes vs. Villains in 2009(ish). I have since left Los Angeles and moved into the cutest most beautiful spot in Napa Valley — in a barn that is over 100 years old. I’ve been GM of a busy winery, GM of a fancy schmancy restaurant, a wine tour guide, a wine sales person, I started my own soup company right at the start of the pandemic and then was hired full-time as a private chef. I just recently started a podcast called Hit the Ground Running With Jerri Manthey which can be found on Spotify, Apple or Google Podcasts and Stitcher. I’ve also been doing coinciding videos on my youtube channel with extra content. “In order to THRIVE not just survive, you have to hit the ground running!” LITERALLY.
What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?
ANY time I had the opportunity to make a big move and then DID IT.
And winning individual immunity challenges was pretty damn special for me. I especially remember the boomerang toss in Australia. I still have the boomerang and it hangs on the wall in my bedroom as a reminder! We got to learn how to throw a boomerang from an actual native Aborigine. So cool!
What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experiences?
I once had the chance to take on the role as INTERVIEWER on the Early show when I was voted off Survivor: The Australian Outback… and because of the PTSD, I turned it down. I just couldn’t face everyone as they got voted off and question them after I had heard the horrible things they said behind my back. In retrospect, I realize not only would it have been a great opportunity, but may have also been VERY cathartic! Can you imagine everyone having to face ME after getting voted off the show?!? I still regret not getting the opportunity to work side by side with Bryant Gumbel. We had such a fun rapport.
What’s something that will blow fans’ minds that happened out there in one of your seasons but never made it to TV?
In Australia, I used to sneak off and lay in the sun topless!
We also found a wolf spider (a spider the size of your entire hand!) crawling across where we all slept.
And once I walked off barefoot in Australia to look for food… and almost stepped on a taipan (the deadliest snake in the world). There were no cameramen following me. It was stupid and I’m incredibly LUCKY!
And of course, the storm in the All-Stars! Oh man. That was a night I will never, ever forget! I thought we were going to die. Scariest night of my life.
How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?
In Australia, I thought the edit was a little harsh, but I learned to accept it and tried like hell to turn all the bad press into a positive.
In All-Stars, I thought the edit was again a little harsh. And that experience overall was really difficult personally for me and many others. It is probably the hardest season for me to think about going back and watching.
In Heroes vs. Villains, I felt like I finally got the edit I deserved, and yes, I was a much different person and player at that point, and yes, the people I was playing with were WAY BIGGER villains than me for sure, but I really loved how much I came across as completely me.
What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Every single time I returned back to my “normal” life, I went through severe PTSD. It’s always so amazing to me how the human body finds ways to cope with extremely uncomfortable situations…. to find a rhythm with nature that allows you to let go and just be. It could have been a very positive situation had we only been battling nature, but because of the extreme stress involved in always having to watch your back and the inability to fully trust anyone, it really became more of a BATTLE — a WAR, so-to-speak – than an experience of growth.
That first time, upon returning from the outback, I cried like a baby when I saw a house for the first time. I had gotten so used to sleeping in the elements with nowhere to escape that I had to force myself to remember and accept what I felt like to have a roof over my head. To this day I don’t crawl into bed without being grateful to my deepest core for the comfort!
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?
Only when the audience booed me on the stage of Madison Square Garden. I had dreamt of being on that stage for most of my life as an actress, and there I was… only to be booed and judged so harshly that I had to walk off the live set. I think that may be one of the lowest moments of my life.
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your seasons?
There are quite a few of us OG players that stay in touch. I think we all realize how unique and special those beginning seasons were. It’s like being on the board of directors of a large corporation. More people join the company, but they will never know the glory and fame of being the trailblazers.
I have so much respect for the newer players that have amazing strategies and gameplay. The game has really evolved. But the prestige of being involved in those first handfuls of seasons is something no one who wasn’t there could ever fully understand. It was the beginning of reality television and a new culture in our society in every way. Who to this day hasn’t said or heard about getting “voted off the island” or “the tribe has spoken”?
Do you still watch Survivor, and if so, what’s your favorite season you were not on and why?
I just started watching again for the all-winners season. I really enjoyed it. It made me sad though to see all the OGs get booted off so quickly.
As far as favorite, I’d probably say Africa. I couldn’t believe how harsh that place was. The lions every night!!! Whoa! The drinking water situation was absolutely appalling… Clarence and the beans! One of the first ever plot twists which totally screwed Silas! Lex, Big Tom, Ethan… such great players and characters!
Who’s one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
I love Kim Spradlin! Seriously. Brilliant! I’ve met her in person and I really love her as a person as well!
If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?
Get rid of the immunity idols! Let people play again…. against each other without them.
And NO MORE TALKING AT TRIBAL! Omg. I get so mad when people are getting up and whispering to each other and talking things out in Tribal Council. NO! JUST NO!
Finally, would you play again if asked?
Perhaps…. there would have to be more money involved. The toll that game takes on your body and mind are so severe… and a million dollars doesn’t go too far anymore! I would probably say yes just because I still have the extreme sense of adventure and the desire to see how far I can push myself.
I would love to see a season played like the old days with old school game play and people who got as close as you can get to the end without winning (third place when it was a final two situation and fourth place people when there was a final three.) I’ve been there. When you get THAT close… it’s all you think about for YEARS! That ONE final thing you could’ve done differently that could’ve changed everything!