By: John Powell – GlobalTV.com
Richard Hatch. Russell Hantz. Jonny Fairplay. Coach Ben Wade. These are some of the Survivor villains we just love to hate. Like Superman and Lex Luthor or Batman and The Joker, every hero has to have a villain to counter them and the Survivor producers have delivered that and more over the years.
Due to his aggressive and uncompromising game play throughout Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers, some fans see Joe Mena as one of those villains. The thing is, so does the 34-year-old probation officer from the Bronx.
“I am a villain. I am also a hero. I am also a healer. Throughout my edit I think you are able to see all three sides of me. I really love my edit. I am a human being and there are so many different sides to me. I literally gave it my all out there and Survivor was able to capture that. They saw me struggling. They saw me when I was doing well or poorly. They saw me when I was making some horrible mistakes. I made a lot of errors but that’s what makes me human. I wasn’t a robot,” Joe explained to GlobalTV.com.
“I am a very black and white individual. You know exactly where you stand with me. You know if I do like you.
You know if you I don’t like you.”
Like Brian Heidik, the winner of Survivor: Thailand, Joe made no bones about the fact that he was on a “business trip”. He was there to win the money for his family not to hang out by the fire and make friends. He would also do almost anything to accomplish that goal but believe it or not, there were even some lines Joe wouldn’t cross.
“It was easy to stick to that approach to the game but what was a little bit difficult was if someone swears on their kids or anything, to me it is gameplay. It doesn’t mean anything. Lying, it doesn’t mean anything. The struggle I had was…Okay, I am going to lie but I won’t lie just to lie. I have a 10 year-old. He is a smart kid but I didn’t want him to even struggle with the reality of watching his dad play this game. If I didn’t need to lie I wasn’t going to lie. The only thing I really lied about was about being a probation manager. Besides that, I was very blunt. I was very in your face. I was very aggressive. I played an honest game. I was very loyal to my tribe. So, it wasn’t difficult at all. It was just all gameplay to me. It was nothing personal even when I was throwing shots at everyone. It was just all gameplay,” said Joe.
Sent to Ponderosa during one of the biggest blindsides this season, Joe gives credit to those who worked hard to finally get him out.
John Powell: What was going through your mind when you were blindsided?
Joe Mena: “I was content with how I played. At the time when I was voted off I had a feeling that my time was up. It was only like a 20 percent chance that I was going to stay. The Idol was going to be flushed. The advantage was going to be played and Ben [Driebergen] was going to go home. Unfortunately, they got the best of me. The battle between me and Alan [Ball], I won that one but the battle between me and Ben, he got me, so, kudos to him.”
John Powell: When I spoke to Roark [Luskin] and Desi Williams they praised you and defended you. In their eyes, everyone knew where they stood with you because you were direct with people. As that how you are in your day-to-day life?
Joe Mena: “I am a very black and white individual. You know exactly where you stand with me. You know if I do like you. You know if you I don’t like you. I would never force anything with anyone. If I don’t like you, I am not going to force a conversation with you. In the game of Survivor though you kind of have to. So what I did was I would b——t with everyone but at the same time I am not going to disclose anything personal unless I want to. The conversations I had with everyone were genuine conversations. If I didn’t have one with you then I don’t like you and I don’t want to converse with you. With me, what you see is what you get. In the game of Survivor it can hurt you but it can also benefit you. This is why they probably kept me around so long. They always knew what to expect from me.”
John Powell: Did you ever feel that you went too far in pressing people’s buttons? We did see a very personal and very intense argument you had with Ben.
Joe Mena: “I don’t think I ever went too far. In the game of Survivor if you are attempting to use something as an advantage to further your game you have to also expect it to blow up in your face.”
“I was aware of Ben’s background as far as the PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) goes. We all kind of experienced it so I knew that was real with him. Once I triggered that, I ran with it but once I saw a true reaction I knew there was a very thin line and I didn’t want to cross that line because at that point it would become personal. Listen Ben, I don’t know if you are a f—–g amazing actor or not and to be honest you are a good actor. I had no idea. In my field, I am well aware of the effects of PTSD and anything that can trigger that like the environment we were living in and the stress, I wasn’t going to be the guy to really trigger that but I was definitely going to use that as a vessel to show everyone that…Hey, this is the guy you respect and you think he is honourable but listen, I am sitting down and he is verbally attacking me. It was a tool that I used.”
John Powell: Can you give us some insight into the J.P. vote? Why did they vote out J.P. over Chrissy [Hofbeck] and Ryan? Chrissy and Ryan seem to be those kind of players that if you leave them in the game long enough they will cause all sorts of trouble.
Joe Mena: “Chrissy was our number one target. It was something Mike [Zahalsky] came up with and once he explained his pitch I completely agreed. We both identified Chrissy as a player early on. She definitely had to go. I pitched Ben or Chrissy several times but we got resistance. Mike and I weren’t in a position of power. We were at the bottom. We just had to ride it out.”
John Powell: You are jury member now. How did you go about deciding who should win the game?
Joe Mena: “Well, I wanted to be a winner, right? (Laughs) I picked someone I can relate to. Someone who played the game hard. Someone who didn’t go out there just to make the merger or the family visit or just to hang out by the fire. I wanted someone who played the game day in and day out. Someone who gave it their all. I left my blood, sweat and tears out there. I wanted someone who left everything out there too.”
CATCH UP NOW: Survivor Season 35, Episode 10: “Buy One Get One Free”