HomeArts & EntertainmentWATCH: ‘Survivor 42’ Contestant’s Heartwarming Jonathan Penner Story

WATCH: ‘Survivor 42’ Contestant’s Heartwarming Jonathan Penner Story


“Survivor 42” contestant Tori Meehan.

With season 42 of “Survivor” on the horizon, fans are anxiously anticipating the release of the March 9 premiere. Several publications have been previewing the season’s contestants by publishing several different pre-game interviews and questionnaires. This includes a recent collection of interviews by EW in which contestants reveal their favorite past players. One contestant in particular even told a personal story of the time she actually got to meet her favorite “Survivor.”

Here’s what you need to know:

Tori Meehan Has a Picture of Her With Penner on the Island

VideoVideo related to watch: ‘survivor 42’ contestant’s heartwarming jonathan penner story2022-02-23T10:08:45-05:00

In her interview with EW (above), 25-year-old Tori Meehan divulged a story in which she met one of her favorite “Survivor” castaways at the age of 11, while on a trip with her family. At the airport, she explained, coming back from Puerto Rico, she “stopped dead in [her] tracks,” then began to cry. When her mother came to ask her what was wrong, she was so emotionally overwhelmed that all she could do was point at the castaway that had elicited this response: Jonathan Penner.

“At the time, when I was 11,” Tori said, “he was, like, one of my favorite players. He was so nice, I got to take a picture with him. I actually have that picture with me here just to remind me of, like, the full circle moment.”

Given that Tori was born in 1996, this likely would’ve taken place around the time Penner was on “Survivor: Micronesia,” in 2008. Penner was medically evacuated from that season early on and hence didn’t have much of a chance to compete, though clearly he made a lasting impression among “Survivor” fans across the board.

Tori added how she hopes to be an inspiration to kids watching now, the same way Penner and other Survivors were to her growing up. “The fact that I’m here and I can be that inspiration, or that role model, for other little kids,” Tori said, “is so meaningful. And I’m so stoked to be here.”

Another Castaway’s Favorite Past Player Is Also Penner

Zach Wurtenberger and Jonathan Penner

CBSZach Wurtenberger of “Survivor 42″/Jonathan Penner’s official “Survivor: Cook Islands” cast photo (2006).

Tori is not the only contestant to name Penner as her favorite contestant. 21-year-old Zach Wurtenberger also name-dropped Penner when asked which past player he was most fond of. Zach, who is Jewish, mentioned how seeing Jewish players like Penner on screen as a young viewer was inspirational. “Any time I see a Jewish person on the show,” he said, “I naturally want to root for them and want to see them succeed, because it’s so cool when you get see that kind of representation on the show, of someone that’s similar to you in that way.”

“There’s no one I can root harder for,” he added.

Zach also spoke about the tribulations that Penner and his wife Stacey Title went through up until her death in January 2021. Title was diagnosed with ALS in 2017; the disease slowly crippled her body and caused great emotional distress for the couple, their two children, and their loved ones. Zach referred to this situation as “my biggest nightmare,” and said how inspired he was by Penner for persevering through that tragedy. “I really was very inspired by that, and heartbroken for him,” Zach said. “It really was incredible to me how him and his family were able to push through that.”

When it came to other widely-loved contestants, “Survivor” legend Tony Vlachos was, unsurprisingly, the most frequently mentioned, with four players calling him their favorite. Kim Spradlin and Tasha Fox were also mentioned multiple times (both twice). Somewhat surprisingly, other “Survivor” legends, such as Rob Mariano, Sandra Diaz-Twine, and Parvati Shallow, were only mentioned once or not at all. Whether these players will be able to prove themselves to be as good as the legends they look up to will only be seen as the season airs.

“Survivor” airs Wednesdays 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS. The two-hour season 42 premiere will air on March 9.

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