The Funny 115 - version 2.0

#41.  Jonathan, getting frustrated by me!
Cook Islands - episode 9

One of my complaints about Survivor over the last couple of years (my biggest complaint, actually) is that Jeff Probst has inserted himself way too much into the show.  

Back in the first couple seasons of Survivor, Probst was pretty much just the guy who read the votes at Tribal Council.  Seriously, that was pretty much all that he did.   He didn't narrate the challenges back then.  He didn't try to shape the way you watch the show during the "Previously... on Survivor" segment.  He didn't scream at Survivors to "dig deeper!" or "work harder!" or "don't give up!"  He didn't write a blog.  He didn't blatantly pick favorites in the cast, and claim that they were "literally carrying their family on their back!" during a crucial immunity challenge.

Back in the early days of Survivor, Probst was the guy who read the votes, who explained to the audience what "Tribal Council" was, and who pretty much kept his mouth shut about everything else.  

It was a very simple era of Survivor back then.  Jeff Probst was barely in the show.  And I know that a lot of us miss that.

"Hi, my name is Jeff.  Mind if I tell you guys a story today?"

People will often ask me when all that changed.  When did Jeff Probst go from being a casual host of the show, a guy who just sat and observed, to a guy who inserted himself into every big moment?  What was the moment where all of that changed?

Well I don't know the specific moment all that changed, but if you are looking for a great Funny 115 moment that shows the first time Jeff Probst "broke the fourth wall"* and sort of inserted himself into the show, you need look no further than this entry.

This was easily one of the single most requested entries on the entire countdown.

* The Fourth Wall (n.):  "Breaking the fourth wall is when a character acknowledges their fictionality, by either indirectly or directly addressing the audience. Alternatively, they may interact with their creator (the author of the book, the director of the movie, the artist of the comic book, etc.). This is more akin to breaking one of the walls of the set, but the existence of a director implies the existence of an audience, so it's still indirectly Breaking The Fourth Wall."

Oh yeah and this entry stars one of my favorite characters, Jonathan Penner

Hey Jonathan, are you looking forward to another entry about you and Jeff Probst?

That's what I thought

So anyway, here we go.

It's the ninth episode of Cook Islands, and today we are having a little immunity challenge.

The players will be in boats, and they will be dropping cannonballs

If you hit an underwater target with your cannonball, it will release a set of buoys

Like this

"First tribe to hit three targets, and come back and unscramble all six buoys into a word... wins immunity."

"Got it?"

Raro's got it.  Although Penner looks annoyed already.

Aitu's got it too.

Becky responds by unleashing a savage war cry.

"For immunity!  Survivors ready..."


Jonathan leads the Raros out to their first target

They line up over their first target

And... fire away!

The first cannonball misses

As usual, Jeff is standing off to the side, yammering away as he redundantly repeats exactly what is happening for the TV cameras.  At this point in the show, he more or less does exactly what Sigourney Weaver does in the movie Galaxy Quest.   His job is just to repeat things.

"Raro just missed their first target!"

Jonathan tries to figure out how they missed

"Jonathan, trying to figure out how they missed."

Raro lines up again to take their second shot

"Raro, lining up their second shot!"

Wait for it....

"Raro, waiting for it."

And.... bombs away!

The second shot is a hit!

"Raro just hit their first target!  Raro takes the lead!"

Jonathan does a fist pump

"Jonathan Penner, raising one arm slightly above his head in a symbol of triumph!"

Becky hears this and freaks out

Jonathan leads the Raros to their second target now.  He appears to have all the confidence in the world.

"Jonathan Penner, looking confident!"

Lining it up...

"Raro, lining it up!"

And... bombs away!

Target number two has been hit!

"Raro hits their second target!   Jonathan Penner, kicking ass and taking names!   He is like a Roman gladiator!"

Becky hears this and grits her teeth in defiance

Penner raises his arm in triumph to the rest of his tribe back on the beach.  Woooo hoooooo!

"Jonathan Penner, raising his arm!"

"Yay!  Goooo Jonathan!"

"Raro, cheering on Jonathan!   Nate Gonzalez, chopping up poop!"

But alas.  As well as things are going for Jonathan Penner at the moment... it's not going to stay that way for very long.

Because things are about to start falling apart.  

In about five minutes... this challenge is going to get a little bit frustrating for him.

"Jonathan Penner, sitting and glaring at the camera!"

Aitu is down 2-0, but they finally hit their first target.  Yul hits his first shot with a cannonball, and now the lead is narrowed down to 2-1

"Aitu with their first hit!   Aitu, like the mighty Phoenix!   Rising from the ashes!"

Penner hears this and gets annoyed

And now Yul figures out the secret to hitting the targets.  Instead of looking through the glass bottom of the boat like the Raros are doing, he just looks down the cannonball tube instead.  It is a more accurate sight line.

"Yul Kwon, outsmarting the challenge!"

Thanks to Yul, Aitu hits their second target.

Becky erupts

"Aitu with their second hit!   It's all tied up now!   One target left to go!"

Jonathan hears Probst orgasming over the Aitus in the background, and he starts to get a little bit frustrated


"Jonathan misses!"

He tries again


"Jonathan misses again!"

Growling in frustration, he shoots again


"Jonathan Penner keeps missing!"

Penner glares at the water.  WTF?!?!

"Jonathan Penner, getting completely owned by this challenge!"

Penner slams another cannonball down the tube in anger

"Jonathan Penner, hopping mad!  Jonathan Penner, who also lacks the arm speed velocity to break a tile!"

Would you shut the fuck up?

"Jonathan Penner, turning his head slightly to look at something."

Fed up with this shit, Penner now leans over the side of his boat in embittered frustration

"Jonathan Penner, peering into the ocean!  As if to find the sad shattered remnants of his soul!"

"Mario Lanza, using that angry Jonathan picture one too many times.   Mario Lanza, beating the joke into the ground until it isn't funny anymore!"

And finally... as frustration and the sound of Jeff Probst's yammering voice combine to finally get the best of him... Jonathan Penner snaps and sets off the following exchange.

This is arguably the greatest "breaking of the fourth wall" moment in Survivor history.

It is also probably the first.

Jonathan accidentally drops a cannonball down without even aiming it

Another miss

"Raro just wasted a cannonball.   They weren't even paying attention.  Dropped it right into the sea."

"Oh please, Jeff."

"What's that?"

I said "Oh please."

And that's when Jeff breaks the fourth wall for the first time ever as Survivor host.

Awkward pause

More awkward pause

"Jonathan, getting frustrated by me!"

I have always loved this scene.  It is one of the few moments in Cook Islands that will always make me laugh.  Yet the problem is that I have a hard time explaining exactly -why- I love it.  What is it about Jeff Probst breaking the fourth wall that has always been so damn funny to me?

Well luckily for me I have a friend named Zack Rovinsky who can explain the humor in this scene much better than I can.  So I will use his words from an email instead of my own.  Why?   Well, because Zack's words are better.  Zack?

"The reason this moment is so funny is because Probst says it with the exact same tone and inflection as he has used with all his other comments throughout the challenge.   This is the exact moment where Probst broke through the fourth wall and discovered he could say whatever he wanted during the challenges.  It's like Steven Tyler breaking through the wall and seeing Run D.M.C."

Ah yes, so there you go.  Probst and Penner.  The narrator and the challenge bitcher.   The host and the hat.   The moment that changed everything.

I might not like where Survivor went after this moment (with Probst being a damn part of everything) but I sure did enjoy this scene.  The two of them truly had some of the most historic, and awkwardly hilarious, character interactions in Survivor history.

Great Survivor host... MY ASS!!!!!!

P.S.  Fine, just one last time because this is my last Jonathan Penner entry:

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