The 115 Funniest Things to Ever Happen on Survivor

#32. The James Miller Confessional
Palau - Multiple Episodes

"I'm back on the countdown, America. Hayullllll yea!"

One of my favorite moments of each Survivor season comes at the very start of the very first episode. Because that's when get the first confessional of the season. And that's when the editors tell us who is going to be the most memorable character.

No, they don't do it every season, but more often than not the editors give the coveted "first confessional of the season" to the character who is going to make us laugh the most along the way. It's one of my all-time favorite Survivor traditions.

My personal favorite "first confessional" comes from Pearl Islands, when Sandra drops an s-bomb in the very first line of the season. That one always cracks me up (and we will talk about it later on the list.) But the other "first confessional" that I have always loved comes from James Miller in Survivor: Palau. In fact this one might be even funnier than Sandra's, depending on your personal preference. Because not only does James get the coveted first confessional of Palau, not only does James drop a curse word the very first time we hear him...

James is also the only person... ever... to insult Jeff Probst in the opening confessional.

Remember the opening scene in Palau? All 20 Survivors (well, 19 plus Janu) are out at sea when Jeff comes out to tell them that the game has begun.

Jeff announces that the first two players to get to the island will win individual immunity, he starts the game unlike it has ever been started before, and the 20 Palauan players are suddenly thrust into a stressful situation for which they really hadn't been prepared.

The players start paddling their boat frantically towards shore, they start jockeying for position inside the boat, and that's when we cut to James for his profound thoughts on this opening twist.

And what sage wisdom did James wish to impart to us?

"Jeff is a son of a bitch, I'll tell you that."

Ha ha. That line always kills me. And like I said, it could be even better than Sandra's "Ohhhh shit" opening confessional. But the best part was that this was just one of -many- great confessionals from the redneck legend of Palau, mister James Miller. In fact the "Jeff is a son of a bitch" quote might not even rank in his top ten greatest confessionals. That's how consistently funny this guy was.

James started the show by calling Jeff a son of a bitch. And really, by all means he should have had nowhere to go from there but down. There was no way he should have been able to top that. But sure enough, here comes the second part of James' opening confessional, and it's just as good as the first part!

James very nearly drops an F-bomb this time around, but he catches himself at the last second and carefully changes his wording just so he won't get bleeped on TV.

Brett Favre couldn't have called an audible as smoothly as this.

"Hell, I thought we was gonna get some breakfast food and water, or somethin'. Hellllll no. I knew he was gonna say somethin' like that. He was gonna say 'The game is on.' Somethin' told me we was fu.... (pause)... pretty much in trouble."

Redneck James only lasted six episodes in Survivor: Palau, but to this day he remains one of my favorite confessional-givers of all time. Nearly everything that came out of his mouth was funny. Nearly everything he said or did was memorable. Whether it was his salty choice of language, his complete inability to predict the future (which I talked about before), or his unflappable confidence in the ability of his own tribe, James was one in a million. You just couldn't have invented a character like him if you had tried.

"Hayullllll no, I'm unique!"

Speaking of "inventing a character", I remember Jeff Probst saying before the season that he really didn't buy James' redneck act. He thought that James was playing to the cameras and trying to be a "character" for TV, sort of like Jon Dalton did as Jonny Fairplay during Pearl Islands. Jeff said that there was no way someone could be as stereotypically redneck as James claimed to be, yet still know what he was doing in a game like Survivor. Jeff said he just didn't buy this guy's act at all.

"Jeff remains a son of a bitch.  Hayulll, yeah."

And you know what? I actually agreed with Jeff at the time. The first time I heard James talk, I remember thinking to myself, "this guy is totally playing to the cameras." He was way too over-the-top and cartoony to be a real person. And I knew we would probably see the "real" James Miller at some point later down the line. I knew there was no way this guy could keep up the "redneck" facade once the stress of the game got going.

Well, here we are three years later, and James Miller has shown no signs of slowing down. He was Redneck James on day one in Palau, everything I have seen written about him says he is still Redneck James, and I have to apologize for ever thinking he was simply just playing a part.

What you see with James is what you get. And I'm proud to list "The James Confessional" as the #32 entry on the Funny 115.

What were some trademarks of a good James Miller Survivor confessional?

Well for starters you have to include the phrase "Haaaayull yea." This seems to be the patented James trademark. Nearly every paragraph of his will culminate in a "Haaaayull yeah!" or a "Haaaaayull no" at some point, which in essence becomes the overriding thesis of his argument. Note that I spelled the first word "haaaayull". This is isn't a word you will find in the Oxford-English dictionary. But it -is- phonetically correct. You see, James often finds a way to make "Hell" into a two-syllable word. He loves to drag out the "a" to ridiculous lengths, and in fact the more emphatic he is in his opinion, the longer the word "hell" will be dragged out. See the fictional conversation below for an example:

Q: James do you like steak more than fish?
JAMES: Haaayull yeah!
Q: But you do eat vegetables too, right?
JAMES: Hell yeah.
Q: But I thought I heard you were a vegan?
JAMES: Are you kiddin'? Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayullll noooooo, come on.

Note that I ended the last sentence with "come on". This is another James trademark, and is arguably his finest verbal trait. Because not only does James use the phrase "come on" more than the average person, he actually uses it as a form of punctuation to identify the end of a sentence!

Did you ever notice him doing that during Palau? I can think of at least three times where he ended a sentence with "come on", like that phrase is supposed to be the verbal equivalent of a period. And it was such a unique little verbal quirk that I have never forgotten it.

You see, I've written a lot of stories and essays in my life involving dialogue, so I have a pretty good ear for the way people talk. And I have to say that I have -never- heard a person talk like James Miller in my life. He has so many unique little dialogue quirks that I have always found him fascinating.

I have just never heard anybody ever talk like him before. It is so cool.

"You aint lyin'."

So what are my three favorite James confessionals during Palau? Well I have to say this is incredibly hard, because he had so many great ones. In fact, James was the go-to guy for the editors all season long.

Whenever we needed to hear what was happening around camp Ulong, the editors always went to James for an insightful commentary. So, inevitably, this meant that James Miller cranked out confessionals at a much higher rate than most other players. He spewed them out like Mary-Kate Olsen spews out her lunch. And what happened was that James ended up with an entire -season's- worth of confessionals in just six episodes. So obviously it was hard for me to pick out just three that I liked the best.

But I tried, and this is the best I could do.

Aside from his minute-one confessional to open the season ("Jeff is a son of a bitch"), I feel that these are the three best James Miller confessionals from Survivor: Palau. Haaaaaaaaayull yeah, come on.


Coby defeating James in the gladiator challenge

1. James has just been defeated (twice!) by Coby during the "push the other dude off the platform" immunity challenge. And since James is a steel worker from Alabama and Coby is an openly-gay hairdresser, you would think that James might be a little sensitive about this subject. But I always admired the fact that he takes his medicine like a man. James doesn't make excuses. He doesn't make fun of Coby, or anything like that. He just sits down for an interview, and he honestly tells us this:

"It feels terrible to have my butt whooped by a homosexual, you know? But a lot of gay folks are strong, man. They all workin' out at the gym and all, you know? Damn."

2. Muslim contestant Ibrehim Rahman was supposed to be have been voted out at the end of episode five, but he had been spared at the last minute when Koror gave him an extra immunity necklace. And in the next episode, James promises us that Ibrehim won't be spared -this- time around. Whether it is by the grace of God, or Allah, or whomever, this time James promises us that Ib is going to wind up being voted out:

"Ibrehim's overstayed his welcome. He was meant to go last time, and by the grace of Allah he didn't go. Now -MY- God says he is today."

3. This is a great one. Very simple, very subtle, but classic James. It is episode five and he is talking about how worthless Kim Mullen is to the rest of the tribe. And he even ends the confessional with his trademark "come on". This may be the single best James confessional of them all.

"We all know who's name's goin' down. Kim. She sits on her butt. But that's it, you know? She don't do nuttin'. She might drrrrrrink some coconut juice [pantomimes a hand being lifted to his mouth]. That's about the most work she'll do, you know, come on."

James Miller may not have lasted long in Palau, but he was around long enough to cement his place in Survivor history. Because not only was he one of the most entertaining (and unique) people ever to be cast on the show, he also gets the award for "the most creative use of the English language during confessionals." And yes, that means he even beat the esteemed Mr. Tom Buchanan. That means that James even topped a guy who gave us confessionals like this.

"Hhhufhrrrurrrr d'wannntafinhhherrrr. Somwhhrrrrrrr. Mmmmblattt sh'morrrrr."

So here's to James and the unique appeal he brought to the show. He may not have succeeded on Survivor (at anything), he may have been the worst leader of the worst tribe in Survivor history, but you can't deny the fact that he made the Ulongs somewhat interesting. Without James, they would have been an unwatchable, unlikable train wreck. Nobody would have given a rat's ass about them. But with James, the Ulongs immediately became somewhat watchable. You may not have liked them any more when James was around, but damned if you knew he wasn't going to say something interesting about it.

And that has to be good for something, you know? Come on?

P.S. I know that James is reading the Funny 115. He is one of the few Survivor alums who actually subscribes to my blog and who seems to like fan-created lists. So thank you James for everything you ever brought to the show. I really never thought you got enough credit for being fun to watch. And you really should have lasted more than six episodes. So stop by the guestbook sometime and say hi. Haaayullllll yea!

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