Survivor
Shark Attack

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Jenna Jumps

The music swells, and the overproduction begins in earnest. Sighing vocals punctuate the drama of Jenna hugging everyone goodbye. Hug. Hug. Hug. Hug. As she leaves, Jeff says, "Jenna, we're thinkin' about you." She gets on the boat. More sighing vocals. More swelling music. We see the boat whizzing across the water, carrying Jenna as well as some other random people. As the shot of the boat's wake fades out, a caption appears: "Jenna rushed to her mother's bedside. Eight days later, her mother lost her long battle with cancer."

So obviously, Jenna's exit was the source of a huge amount of discussion and analysis this week, much of which was pretty intense as far as the taking of sides. The thing, to me, is that there are really several different debates going on, and they're easy to conflate into one, but really they're not the same at all. The first one is a pure question of fact. Was Jenna's mother not, in fact, the reason Jenna left? Was this an excuse to leave because the game was kicking her ass? I mean, you either believe that or you don't believe it, and it's really not provable one way or the other. It's not a moral question, and disagreeing with other people on this point has nothing to do with how much priority you place on family, or about how sensitive you are. You either believe her or you don't believe her. This happens to be the basis of my disagreement with Wing on this issue, as she is about to tell you in brackets, if she hasn't already. ["Heh." -- Wing Chun] She believes Jenna was full of shit and used her mother to shield herself from responsibility for quitting, whereas I mostly think she left because of her mom, although I do think the worsening conditions made it substantially easier to feel like, "What the hell am I doing?" In a sense, this is where I'm a little peeved at the show, because if they did allow Jenna the information that her mom was going downhill -- which, to me, seems enormously likely -- then they did her a disservice by not revealing that, because it does make it look more like she was full of crap, whereas if you knew that they had, the day before she quit, told her that the doctors now thought Mom could go anytime, then her actions might be looked on a little more kindly. ["I would agree with that." -- Wing Chun]

The second debate is the debate over whether she should have come in the first place, and my problem with that one is that I have no idea what Jenna's mom wanted her to do or said she wanted her to do, or what condition she was in when Jenna made the decision to go, or what condition she was in when Jenna left. I totally believe that some parents do not -- and I'm not saying they pretend they do not, I'm saying they actually do not -- want their children to sit by their bedsides all the time when they're sick, and maybe don't even particularly want them there to watch them die. Perhaps that's odd, and perhaps it's even selfish, but Jenna is twenty-two, and if she took her mother's word, for instance, that Mom wanted her to go, I don't necessarily think that makes her a bad daughter. Jenna has said that her mom wanted her to go, and I can absolutely imagine that being true, and I don't know anything to suggest otherwise. Suppose her mom talked about how much she was looking forward to seeing Jenna on All-Stars and how much fun she thought it was going to be. Can Jenna say, "Well, Mom, I've decided not to go, because I think you might die in the time that I'm gone, and frankly, even if you don't, you're not going to live long enough to see it anyway?" To what point do you sort of have to, for the benefit of a sick person, live your life as you would if you had utter confidence that they were going to live, even if you don't? I don't know.

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