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Taking the Game Too Far: Ghandia Johnson of ‘Survivor: Thailand’

by Peggy Keller -- 10/15/2002
Some players end up being mentioned in the Reality TV Hall of Shame for forgetting that it’s all a game and not going far enough in their strategy. But this time we have somebody who went too far. Ghandia Johnson, of Survivor: Thailand, earned a quick induction by using the incident with Ted to attack him personally in a way that goes far beyond the game. She took an important issue for women everywhere and turned it into a crass attempt to win a game show.

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For some sick, demented reason, CBS reality show producers seem to enjoy placing mentally unstable people in situations where any sane person might lose it. Perhaps they want to see the flouncy drama queerness of Big Brother 3’s Marcellas, or the pretend-to-slit-your-throat-violence of BB2's Justin. Maybe the whole thing about being analyzed by a "team of psychiatrists" is really bogus and the "psychiatrists" are not really mental health professionals at all, but casting directors who specifically look for the cracks in people's psyches.

Ghandia could have fooled the team. We have seen her turn her personality on and off in the blink of an eye, using whatever helps her at that moment. Maybe she put on her persona of “happily married business woman” and was able to hide who she really seems to be – a sad, pathetic, demented woman who deserves to be in the Reality TV Hall of Shame for her actions on Survivor: Thailand – and even more so for the behavior after the fact.

When asked in her post-game chat if she was really prepared for the game of Survivor, she said she wishes she could have lost five more pounds. I wish she would have answered truthfully and said, “No, I was not prepared physically nor was I prepared mentally and I should have gotten a lot of therapy before I went.”

Ghandia, of course, would not agree with anything I have to say here, because Ghandia thinks she is a beautiful, caring, intelligent person and is in severe denial about what she did. I am all for self-confidence, and if it helps Ghandia get through the day, then great. But you and I know the truth: Ghandia is full of shame. She is actually self-deprecating in many ways, but no one gets the joke. You could see on the Early Show when she said she was an attractive woman, how the newscasters were deciding if she was being funny or not. She didn't laugh at herself, so they didn't. She does this often – says she is gorgeous, hot, etc., and then you expect her to laugh, and she doesn't. No one says anything because if they laugh at her, it would be hurtful.

Episode one of Survivor: Thailand: Ghandia does the puzzle, and blows it. Blows the lead, blows the challenge, and we see a little bit of the emotional instability when she sobs and wants to be comforted by the same group of people who were screaming at her to "Hurry up!” a few moments earlier. Clay, in fact, was one of the first ones to comfort her and Ted gave her a great big hug.

Let's skip ahead. Let's skip ahead to Ghandia's hand on Ted's thigh, just inches away from Ted's goody bag. The cameraman, not knowing what was to happen later, got a nice tight shot of that hand on that thigh. If it was my spouse's hand that close to someone's unmentionables all out in the open, I would probably think else is going on here. Look at the way they hug, hold hands, snuggle, and spoon. In her online chat, Ghandia says that Ted is married and should not have been looking for "signals" from anyone. That being the case, Ghandia, must we remind you that you are married too and therefore should not have not been giving off signals?

However, I was willing to give Ghandia the benefit of the doubt – just because your hands are on the cookie jar, doesn't mean you want a cookie. Even when she snuggled up in the cave with Ted to talk "strategy" and ended up falling asleep in his arms, I thought, well, just because she gave all the signals that she wanted a little bit, doesn't mean Ted should give it to her without asking. And when he did a little Elvis impersonation on her, I didn't buy the "I thought you were my wife" excuse.

In fact, I defended poor, victimized Ghandia. She should have stuck with the “poor little me” act. I would have continued to defend her. But she couldn't keep her yap shut and she openly told whoever was listening that she was in fact angry at Ted and decided to use it to her advantage. Tweak the situation a bit, add a few details here and there, leave out that Ted apologized, because it doesn't help her along in her quest for giving him the boot.

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