Before going on Survivor, Taj Johnson-George ran laps, lifted weights, sat in a sauna and learned to fish and swim in anticipation of the challenges she‘d face in the game. Apparently there's one detail she didn't get to: Thinking through how to answer questions about her marriage to a former Super Bowl star and their vast family fortune. Eddie George made $4,250,000 base salary in 2005, but he also had signing bonuses, performance incentive bonuses, media apearences and endorsements. And that was just one year of his career. If Taj had slipped in mentioning her husband's name was Eddie I would have felt sorry for her. “Look, it doesn't matter how hard she competes or how well she plays. No one will recognize her accomplishment because of who her husband is.” She didn't slip. She talked about her husband until someone asked a polite question. Then she did this whole, “Well, since you asked,“ thing and looked like the cat that ate the canary. When they asked her directly whether she was a limousine riding, wining and dining, jet setting and diamond ring getting NFL wife she did a little dance. The “I could buy the street you grew up on and turn it into a parking lot” dance.
I guess she took the shocked silence in the group as a sign of how excited they were. There was shocked silence in my living room, too. In fact, my mouth dropped open and my popcorn bowl fell out of my lap and spun in circles on the floor. Impressed doesn't quite capture my reaction, though. Try gob smacked. As though someone had smacked me in the gob. She had over a month to think through the strategically disasterous implications of telling people there was an actual possibility the million dollar check would get filed in a cabinet somewhere in her mansion and that she'd forget to file it until after the expiration date. I would have seen that as a major check in the drawbacks column when deciding whether or not to do the show.
To play Devil's advocate: Maybe she was afraid that if she kept the truth hidden until later in the game and then it came out she would look worse. After all, when you're living in such a close group for such a long time I can see how it would be hard to lie consistently or talk around big parts of your life without people catching on that you were hiding something. Some people just don't feel comfortable with being misleading - not in the moral sense of the word but in the sense that it makes them feel really awkward. The only way you can make sense of Taj's strategic numbskullery is to suppose that she never had any expectation of winning (which is probably pretty realistic) so she didn't feel like she had much to lose. She just wanted to enjoy the experience. Perhaps for her that meant relaxing and being herself.
That's the best defense I can come up with. There's just one problem with that: Survivor's an odd competition to sign up for if you put comfort first. That's like making the Super Bowl but deciding you don‘t want to slam into the other players too hard because it might hurt. If you want to relax on a reality show try The Mole.
On the other hand, if she didn't make a well reasoned decision long in advance of going on the show, if she just blurted it out because she was bursting with pride about being married to someone famous? She's cheating herself. I'm sure she has other opportunities but most of them probably involve accompanying her husband places. This time her husband trained her. He taught her how to fish and swim. He was sitting at home watching her on TV. At the end of the day it's her decision what she wants to do with that opportunity to shine. She can measure success however she wants. But it kinda bums me out to see her give up that way and agree to settle for whatever the tribe decides to give her. Even if she wouldn't have won anyway it would have been great to see her leave it all out there on the field.
Henry Jenkins, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(picture credit to CBS)