Okinawa officer's stepson is a 'Survivor' competitor
November 2, 2004
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — While the reality television show “Survivor” has amassed quite a global following, one Marine on Okinawa has a bigger interest than most in the game: She’s watching her stepson compete for the $1 million prize in the current season.
Marine Lt. Col. Ann Crittenden, assistant chief of staff G-1 — administration — for the 1st Marine Air Wing, wasn’t even aware that stepson Chad Crittenden was competing on “Survivor: Vanuatu” until five days before the first episode aired on Sept. 16. She said her husband, retired Marine Lt. Col. Steve Crittenden, signed a confidentiality agreement and couldn’t say anything, but before Crittenden boarded the plane to move to Okinawa, her daughter told her Chad was “doing something really cool.” Crittenden, on an unaccompanied tour while her husband stays at their home in Fredericksburg, Va., arrived here the week the show began.
“I got an e-mail on Sept. 11 telling me to watch ‘Survivor,’” she said. As luck would have it, some of her co-workers are “Survivor” fans who’ve met at the Butler Officers Club to watch the show for the past two seasons and are doing it again this year.
When Crittenden mentioned she had a family member on the show, “They were looking at me like, ‘Are you for real?’” she said. The group — often anywhere from 10 to 25 people — has met for every episode and now is cheering for Chad.
But the Foster “Survivor” fans now all stare at Crittenden “instead of watching the show,” joked one watcher during Friday’s episode.
The lieutenant colonel said that so far, she thinks Chad’s game plan is to conceal his opinions — something she says isn’t typical.
“This boy has got a strategy,” she said. “What’s surprising is how low under the radar Chad is but then you realize he’s playing smart. Sometimes staying under the radar is how you get under other people’s strategy and screw things up for them.
“He’s so low-key, they may not even know he’s there.”
So far in the show, other cast members haven’t picked on Chad and they haven’t treated him differently, Crittenden said. Her stepson has a prosthetic right foot as a result of a rare form of cancer that required his leg to be amputated just below the knee.
“For a young man that has faced so much adversity, to turn it around and do this, I think his strength of character coming through,” Crittenden said.
Chad’s ability to handle the game’s primitive conditions doesn’t surprise her, she said: He’s tough and proved it by completing a triathlon just nine months after the amputation.
Until Friday’s show, Chad hadn’t received one tribal council vote, but his name was mentioned by a teammate who felt his own head might be on the chopping block. After losing an immunity challenge, Chad’s teammate John Kenney petitioned others in the tribe to vote out Chad because his prosthetic foot might garner him “sympathy points” — a comment at which Ann rolled her eyes.
When the tribe went to council to vote, Ann watched anxiously to see whether team members were siding with Chad or Kenney. Chad picked up one vote — but Kenney received the remainder and was voted off the island.
“It made me nervous,” Ann said. “Chad had one guy that didn’t like him and he knew it.”
If her stepson is voted off the show, she said, she’s unsure how she’ll react. As for advice about how to survive to the end, Crittenden said she simply would tell him, “Keep doing what you’re doing.”