Johnson made a big impression during Wednesday night's premiere episode by showing off the coaching skills that made him a champion in college and the pros, a very rich man and a spokesman for herbal erection enhancers. His skills are so good, in fact, that the other contestants saw him coming from a mile away and still allowed themselves to be sucked into doing his bidding. Pretty impressive, especially when you consider that a few days in the jungle do horrible things to one of the great hairdos the western world has ever known.
Johnson seemed to be courting disaster as he laid down and took it easy after vomiting while his teammates busted their backs building shelter and fire for their camp on the first day. This year's big twist is that it is all the over-40 players against all the younger competitors, so it isn't like Johnson could play the kindly older gentleman card to curry favor and when the oldsters lost the first elimination challenge it seemed quite likely that Johnson would be sent packing.
After all, he didn't make any friends by getting sick and his well-known abilities as a leader of men makes him a clear threat in a game that's all about manipulating people into doing your bidding. Johnson was smarter than the rest of the group, however, and played some mighty smart cards to survive for another week.
He went back to camp and told the rest of the team that they were wrong to consider voting out a strong, but abrasive, player because it didn't do anything to make a stronger team. Johnson said they should be thinking about voting off one of the two weakest players, either a goat farming woman or Johnson himself. He then told the group that he isn't there to go home with the million and is simply content to help the team do as well as they possibly can.
That was a masterstroke, as it positioned Johnson as honest enough to be self-critical while playing into the fact that everyone on his team knows that he's capable of devising winning strategies. That he was able to sell the rest of the crew on the fact that he's modest might have been even more impressive than his ability to sell Jerry Jones on spending a first-round pick on Steve Walsh.
As anyone who has followed Johnson's career at all will tell you, modesty just isn't in his DNA. He's about winning and he doesn't mind being arrogant about letting you know that. We'll see if he can keep playing the rest of the contestants but things look pretty good for the old coach one week into the battle.
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