My favorite place to shop growing up in Washington D.C. was a place called Value Village. It was a thrift store where you could buy awesome stuff for next to nothing. I got a Village People trash can there for $2. I found myself fascinated by the failed technology of the 8-track cassette player and scooped up 8-tracks like the Ramones’ first album, Parliament, Blondie, The Muppets with John Denver, and Engelbert Humperdinck for a quarter a pop. And I uncovered an old Washington Bullets “The Fat Lady Will Sing Again” t-shirt promising another comeback championship victory from the city’s professional basketball team. (Suffice it to say, that promise was not delivered.)
But my greatest find of all by far was a black satin jacket with the word “Breakin’” emblazoned on the back in red cursive letters. It cost me a dollar, which was actually a bit steep considering there was a massive blood stain on the inner lining, no doubt due to an early-’80s break-off gone horribly awry. I still own this jacket to the consternation of my wife and anyone else with good taste or even the remotest sense of fashion.
Maybe it’s my way of honoring pioneers like Shabba Doo and Boogaloo Shrimp. Or maybe I just enjoy looking like an idiot. Whatever the reason, it’s still in semi-regular rotation. And let me tell you this: I don’t care if your name is Natalie or Angelina or Turbo or Ozone — you ain’t getting my black satin Breakin’ jacket. Maybe — MAYBE! — if your name is Johnny Mundo and you decide to include me in the Brochachos I will consider lending it to you for the weekend, but even that is a big if.
I bring all this up, of course, because we just witnessed the first time in Survivor history that a jacket has become such a central plot-point in an episode. It started with the Goliaths on Jabeni discussing whether to vote out Lyrsa or Nick, and Angelina had become a single-issue candidate. “I want Lyrsa’s jacket,” she informed us. “I’m not sorry. I’m cold.” (Good thing Jeremy’s not still around or he’d be claiming Angelina was trying to have a showmance with some outerwear.) Then, Natalie essentially told Nick to give them his jacket in exchange for his safety in the game, asking him if his jacket was worth a million dollars. (MINE IS!)
Nick thought this ultimatum amounted to bullying by Natalie, and he may be right. And once word got back to Lyrsa, she was not going to let anyone else slip into the sleek smooth sleeves of her Members Only gear. “I’m the only member that’s going to use this jacket,” she said in a line that felt pulled straight out of a 1980s TV commercial starring Jim McMahon, David Hasselhoff, and some other cheeseball with his sleeves pulled up to the elbow.
The problem I had with Natalie’s ultimatum is not that she was mean, but that it simply was not particularly strong gameplay. Why make enemies who then may want to target you in retaliation? Why give potential jurors something to hold against you should you pull a Phillip Sheppard and make it to the end? Especially if the jacket is not even for you, as we later learned at Tribal Council.
“You should see the jackets!” Natalie explained to Jeff Probst as to why all this fuss had been made. But the best was yet to come. After being blindsided due to Mike flipping and joining the Davids, Natalie went over to get her torch snuffed. However, as she did so, a plea came from the far corner of Tribal Council.
“Natalie, is there any way I could have your jacket?” asked Angelina. YES! That’s right! Now the tables had been turned and Natalie was being asked for her jacket on her way out of the game. Oh, the irony! But there was no response.
“Natalie?” Angelina asked again timidly.
Natalie never broke her stride or looked back. “Nothing,” said Angelina to nobody in particular. And as if to rub extra salt — or, in this case, napalm — into the wound, Natalie put her coat on for her final words. ‘I didn’t give Angelina my jacket because I didn’t know if she was part of the reason I am out, so why should I?” she asked. “I don’t have to. And I chose not to. So I’m wearing it.”
Indeed you are. This was a bit of an odd takedown for Natalie, however. Her previous modus operandi had been to follow a savage takedown with a confusing compliment. Take her vote-off of Jeremy two weeks back: “That stinging sensation you feel in your eyes right now? That’s the Natalie Napalm. Get off of my island. By the way, your skin is gorgeous, darling.” Or her final message to Lyrsa: “Take your lime green Members Only jacket back to Boston. I like your purple hair.”
It’s kind of genius. Basically, you can say whatever terrible, horrible, mean thing you want to anyone, but as long you finish it by complimenting their appearance, then the rest is forgiven! It’s like, “Hi, you’re an idiot and you make me want to stab you in the face and cut out your brain, then feed your brain to my cat, then have my cat vomit the brain out again so I can return it to your head, somehow in the process actually making you smarter because it’s impossible for you to get any dumber…but hey, have you lost weight?”
See! All that other stuff is water under the bridge! Finish it with a flourish and leave them remembering only the good stuff. All else is forgotten. Probst accused Natalie of always needing to have the last word, but at least that last word is always super-positive! The cast will no doubt not miss Natalie Napalm, but we, as viewers, certainly will. She was a unique player and not one who came out there to be a “character.” You just get the sense that’s who this woman is. And God bless her. Now, don’t get me wrong, she seems like an absolute NIGHTMARE to live with, but you know what? Her hair is amazing. (Guess who taught me that strategy?)