Casey Turner has spent most of his life in the Tampa Bay area, where life can be relaxed and people are often open and neighborly.
So, when he found himself in a makeshift house with a dozen other contestants on CBS' unscripted competition Big Brother 11, the 41-year-old elementary school teacher brought his hometown attitude along, trusting two competitors who eventually masterminded his ejection from the game.
Looking back a day after he was voted out of the Big Brother house on national television Thursday, Turner blames himself for not realizing that super geek Ronnie Talbott's encyclopedic knowledge of the show and bodybuilder Jessie Godderz experience as a former contestant on Big Brother 10 would prove an insurmountable problem.
"I expected to have to do some lying, but I wasn't expecting it until week five or six — these guys came in playing the game from day one," said Turner, who grew up in Lakeland and lives in St. Petersburg. "I'm a bit of a hustler, but I got hustled."
CBS' Big Brother features a bustling collection of competitors challenged to live nearly three months in a home on a studio lot outfitted with constant camera supervision. Footage from their assorted confrontations and contests is assembled into hourlong episodes aired Sundays, Tuesday and Thursdays.
Using the handle he slings while working as a part-time disc jockey — DJ Mingle Mixx — Turner tried fitting in with his 20- and 30-something competitors, only to find that his love for hip-hop culture and taste for fast patter only made him the odd man out. At the beginning of this week, he was forced to wear a banana suit; on Tuesday, he was nominated for ejection by Godderz; and on Thursday, he became the third contestant voted out.
Confirming rampant Internet rumors, Turner acknowledged that he actually met Godderz — a California native who told the teacher he now lives in Brandon — six weeks ago at the weekly bikini contest he hosts at Gator's Cafe in St. John's Pass. But the brief meeting, which Turner said came before he knew he or Godderz would be joining the new Big Brother cast, didn't help when alliances began to form inside the house.
"I think what I do helps me as a teacher, especially teaching on the south side of St. Petersburg," said Turner, who teaches fifth grade at James B. Sanderlin Elementary in St. Petersburg. "Ronnie accused me of having a mid-life crisis, but this is who I am. I wasn't playing a character."
One thing that might not help him as a teacher: Some of the explicit arguments that went down during the competition.
Turner admits cursing a bit, drinking some wine on camera and expounding a bit too much on the shortcomings of the educational system.
"I know too many families which don't have books in their house at all," he said. "Teachers need help from parents. My opinions about education might not be popular, but (they were) expressed with the intent of making schools better places to learn."
Turner expects to return to St. Petersburg some time next week, joining his wife and year-old son (he also has a teenage son living in Lakeland) to watch the show finish off from home.
"I hope everybody understands I'm a good guy and a role model," he said. "Even in a banana suit."