The Funny 115

#99. The Beef Jerky Chronicles
Australia - Finale and All-Stars - Episode 9

This isn't really a "moment" per se, it's more like a six-year running joke. It's something that started in Australia, it continued in All-Stars, and it would probably continue to this day if you asked Jerri about it in an interview. You see, it's the story of Kel and the beef jerky. And it's a lot funnier than you might expect.

Okay, this one needs a little back story first.

In the second episode of Survivor: The Australian Outback, Army Captain Kel Gleason was accused of possessing some smuggled beef jerky. The Ogakor tribe claimed he was eating it in the woods by himself, they jumped all over him, and he was voted out of the game 7-1. The editing of the episode made it look like he had been voted out over the beef jerky, but post-game interviews with the cast made it clear he would have been voted out anyway. Kel Gleason was a loner who never really fit in with his peers, and that's why he was voted out unanimously in episode two. The "beef jerky" incident really had nothing to do with the truth, yet it made for sensational TV so that's of course what everybody remembers.

Anyway the biggest controversy around the beef jerky at the time was the fact that Jerri Manthey had been the one to make the accusation. Jerri claimed she had seen Kel chewing "something brown", and the whole witch-hunt started with this accusation. In other words, the "beef jerky" controversy had always started and ended with Jerri Manthey. She made the accusation at the time, she has had to defend it over the years, and she is well aware that people haven't always believed her side of the story. Jerri has always been on shaky ground with the general public... especially about this subject... and for that reason, sometimes she has had to defend herself.

And this is where the story starts to get fun.

Jerri's first encounter with "beef jerky backlash" came in the Australia finale. It was one of my favorite moments of the season and it happened when Jerri was asking questions at the final Tribal Council. Jerri stepped up to address the two finalists, and she asked the very benign question, "Are there any moments that you regret in the game?" She seemed to be looking for an apology, but needless to say Tina had other plans in mind. Tina thought it would be more fun to slam Jerri right to her face.

Jerri asking her question to Tina and Colby

Tina simply smiled and said, "The moment I regret most in this game was at Ogakor when someone accused Kel of smuggling beef jerky. Somebody said, 'Check his bag!" and I was standing right there, so I went through it. And afterwards I thought, oooh I wish I hadn't done that."

"Someone accused him of having beef jerky."

Jerri's facial reaction as Tina was speaking.

Tina said this with a big smile on her face, in that oh-so-sweet accent, and it was one of the funniest moments of the whole season. Because she had managed to call Jerri a liar... to her face... in response to her own jury question! But the best part was that Tina (the master of the implied putdown) had done it so subtly that Jerri couldn't even respond. Jerri just got this annoyed "you bitch" look on her face and Tina just smiled ever-so-sweetly back at her, like she didn't realize what she had done. It was a really funny and subtle comedic moment.

"Sit down, Jerri."

"Tina, you bitch."

Oh yeah, and if you're wondering why Jerri wanted to vote Tina off first in All-Stars, just go rewatch this moment. Tina made condescending comments like that around Jerri all the time. Remember this one? "I try not to cook rice anymore because I don't want to be judged." That one probably single-handedly got Tina voted out of All-Stars.

So anyway Tina's jury answer was funny enough on its own (probably good enough to make this list), but there was actually a follow-up moment in All-Stars that I thought was even better. Because once again it involved beef jerky, and once again it involved Jerri. Only this time... Jerri was the one doing the spin control. This time, she wasn't going to let anybody beat her to the punch.

It happened in the ninth episode of All-Stars when Chapera received tree mail about the upcoming immunity challenge. The players were told that the next challenge would involve "Survivor trivia" and it would test how well they all knew the show.

In order to prepare for the challenge, the Chaperans started reminiscing about past seasons, in an attempt to brainstorm how much they knew about former events.

The Chapera tribe comparing notes about past Survivor seasons

Sure enough, standing there at the head of the pack was our old friend, Jerri Manthey. You see, she knew a lot about past seasons. And she especially wanted to share with them what had happened in Australia. And I'll never forget how hard I laughed when I heard Jerri confidently remind the Chaperans that:

"Keith couldn't make the rice. Kel got caught with beef jerky."

Oh really? Caught? Was that the exact way it went down, Jerri? Kel was caught by the producers? Seems to me like it was more "suspected" or "accused"? So anyway, Jerri making the leap to saying Kel was "caught" has always been one of my favorite moments of All-Stars. She says it so confidently, without a shred of doubt in her voice, that if you don't stop to think about it you actually might believe her. You actually might forget she's still playing the spin control game.

Four years later, and Jerri is still trying to convince the world that she was telling the truth...

P.S. Yes I know that Jeff Probst believes Jerri's story. He has always said that he thinks Kel had some sort of food on him. But that's still a far cry from saying that Kel was "caught." You might as well say that Kel was "eaten by crocodiles" too.

P.P.S. Here's my predicted email response from Jerri: "Mario, why must you include this moment on the list? Why? Why? Can't you see that the beef jerky incident is tearing this column apart? Can't you see that!? These moments on the show were deadly serious at the time... yet instead you put them here and they get ridiculed. So yes people might enjoy your countdown, but at what price? At what price???"

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