All-Star Survivor: Alaska
Tuktu Tribe (black): Gina Crews, Neleh Dennis, Elisabeth Filarski, Helen Glover, Kelly Goldsmith, Tammy Leitner, Jerri Manthey, Kelly Wiglesworth
Amarok Tribe (blue): Rudy Boesch, Tom Buchanan, Greg Buis, Paschal English, Silas Gaither, Brian Heidik, Clay Jordan, Jeff Varner
Kelly Goldsmith was already making mental notes. The young woman from California sat in the very rear seat, staring at the backs of fourteen heads, as the bus drove along, cutting a path through the Alaskan wilderness. No one was allowed to say a word yet, but Kelly was already playing. As always, she was observing, and watching, and thinking. It was her job to size up the competition. That was just what she liked to do.
She paused, letting a smirk creep across her face.
The bus finally left the smooth pavement, and entered a bumpy section of dirt road, rattling the windows. Kelly gazed back outside, watching as acres of spruce trees began to blend into green and yellow tundra. This was going to be a blast, she thought. It's just a matter of finding out who the threats are. She looked at Clay Jordan, who was sitting next to her in the back, gazing off at the mountains in awe.
-Won't make the merge.-
Kelly closed her eyes. Nobody really frightened her so far. As with most things in her life, she didn't see anyone here who would be considered her intellectual equal. Maybe this wouldn't be as hard as she thought. She finally fell asleep for the first time today, her tan floppy hat obscuring her face, and dozed lightly until the long, bumpy bus ride came to an end.
Alaska is considered the great untamed frontier. More than any place on Earth, the immense region represents nature in its purest form. The largest state in the U.S., it is virtually devoid of population, containing more caribou than human beings. The great majority of its human inhabitants are centered in five or six large cities, leaving vast areas of land still controlled by nature. The state itself is viewed by most outsiders as a cold, barren wasteland, but actually features some of the most lush and beautiful parks and forests in North America. The greatest of these is Denali National Park, which is a massive wilderness area in the center of the state. Roughly the size of the state of Massachusetts, the park is home to a multitude of wildlife, tundra, trees and fauna. It also is home to Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America. The park is almost indescribable, as very few places exist like it on earth. It is the way nature is supposed to exist, one of the few true places that has been virtually untouched by human beings. Though it is a popular tourist destination, most of its visitors stay in lodges, campgrounds, and on hiking trails. Most of them don't venture deep into the backcountry, deep into the woods. Only the heartiest of souls dare to take on the backcountry for extended periods of time.
That backcountry was now home to sixteen newcomers, as the dark green bus pulled to a stop at the end of a dirt road. The July day had started with a flight from Los Angeles to Anchorage, then a smaller plane to Fairbanks, then a three hour bus trip out into the wilderness. And now, they were here. No more road travel was possible. Civilization was behind them and trees surrounded them on all sides. There was no going back now.
From within the bus stepped the tired players, one at a time. Greg Buis was first, eyeing the landscape with a look of wonder and curiosity, a small backpack slung over his shoulder. Next came Tom Buchanan, then Jerri Manthey. One by one they came, some stopping to greet each other, some just watching with detached silence. Gina Crews, Silas Gaither, Paschal English, Kelly Wiglesworth, Tammy Leitner, Helen Glover, Brian Heidik, Elisabeth Filarski, Jeff Varner, Rudy Boesch, Neleh Dennis. Finally, the last two stepped from the bus, Clay Jordan, dressed in a heavy flannel shirt, and Kelly Goldsmith, wearing her trademark tan hat. They were all here, and the game was ready to start.
Jeff Probst was standing in a clearing, in front of a large wooden totem pole, and greeted them as the bus pulled away. He motioned them over towards two benches, which sat on either side of him. He instructed them all to take a seat.
"Welcome guys. Welcome to Alaska. Please just take a seat for now, guys on the left, girls on the right."
Some people grinned at this command, some look concerned. Paschal and Neleh exchanged a smile at each other as they sat on opposite benches.
"Okay, guys, first of all congratulations," greeted the host, "On being selected for this great Alaskan adventure. I'm sure you guys are eager to get started, but there's some things we have to do first." He smiled at them. "First off, I'm sure you guys are a little worried about the weather here." Elisabeth nodded and smiled, nervously. "Let me say that this IS summer, and you won't freeze to death out here. It's only the winters you have to worry about. It will probably be around sixty to sixty-five degrees most days, and, because of the position of the mountains, there's very little wind in this area. Just dress warmly and you will be okay. Although the weather is temperamental, to say the least." He grinned. No one grinned back. "And secondly..."
He pulled out sixteen buffs from a backpack. Eight were jet black, eight were ice blue.
"Tribes." He looked at both benches as he spoke. "We're going to do things a little differently this time." He looked over at Gina, who was sitting closest to him on the female bench, "Gina, come up here." He looked at Paschal, who was closest on the male bench, "And you too, Paschal." The two former Marquesans came up and stood by the host, who in turn handed them each a pile of eight buffs. Gina got the black ones, Paschal got the blue.
"Aw, Jeff, I don't want to pick teams," joked Gina, nervously.
"You're not," he informed her. "You're already divided into teams. They're sitting right behind you."
Gina's eyes got wide as she turned and looked at the seven females sitting behind her. What was minutes ago a pretty solemn and cheerful group of ladies now looked a little scared. Helen tried to keep a game face, but couldn't hide the hint of a disgusted smirk. Only Tammy Leitner seemed to grin, as confident and competitive as always.
"Yo're kiddin'," yelled Tom Buchanan, as the men all looked over one another. Paschal simply shrugged at them, sizing up his new team.
"Kickass," grinned Silas.
"Ladies, you are the Tuktu tribe. It's an Eskimo word, meaning 'Deer.' Your color will be black, and you'll be camping that way," Jeff pointed to the east. "Men, you are the Amarok tribe. It is Eskimo for 'Wolf.' You'll wear blue, and be going west. Your supplies are located behind your bench. Pack up and follow your map to the campsites, and you might want to get there before nightfall." Jeff smirked, a strange, knowing smile. "Because nights are a little different around here. All the supplies you will need for your shelter are at your camp site, and you're gonna want some sort of covering over your heads tonight, so get moving." The tribes started to pack up and greet each other, and greetings were heard as people who were once strangers were now suddenly the best of friends. Even those who had been hardened by this game in the past seemed to be excited about their new adventure.
"You're now on your own," said Jeff, as the two teams separated and began their journey. "Best of luck."
Tuktu walked single file, across the knee-high shrubbery in the direction their map pointed them. Helen led the way, with Tammy close behind, as Elisabeth read off the list of instructions, loud enough for everyone to hear.
"Welcome to All-Star Survivor: Alaska. Make sure to get to your campsite by nightfall. You have been provided with two canisters of oatmeal." She looked questioningly at Neleh. "Oatmeal?" Neleh just shrugged, sticking her tongue out in mock disgust. "Campfires are forbidden in this section of the park, because of the fire danger. You have been provided a small gas stove instead, don't let anything happen to it. You may get fresh water from the streams but make sure to purify it first. Make sure to wear your hiking boots at all times, you don't want to get stuck in the permafrost when it starts to melt. And lastly, watch for wildlife, especially bears." She again glanced at Neleh, who looked a bit unnerved by that last sentence. "Bears will leave you alone, but may come after your food if they smell it. Make sure to use the bear-proof containers to store your food. You don't want a bear in your camp."
Kelly Goldsmith again brought up the rear of the group, as she preferred to hang back and observe people before speaking with them. -This is a young group,- she thought. Helen was the only one over 35 years old, although Kelly herself was one of the youngest. -And they have a bunch of old guys on their team,- she thought. -We can BEAT them-. She smiled, keeping an eye on Helen at the head of the pack. -But who will be our leader?-
Several minds were occupied with the question of leadership during the walk. It was obvious that someone would have to step up and take the reins here, and Helen was the most obvious choice. The determined way she spearheaded the march, her always firm tone of voice, and her occupation as military instructor lent her an air of immediate respect. People listened when she talked, and liked what she said. She was nice, she was funny, she was a natural. But there were others here who had leadership potential, among them Tammy Leitner and Gina Crews. Both ladies were used to being in charge, and were a bit older than the rest. Either one would make a respected leader, as would Elisabeth Filarski, if push came to shove. It was just a matter of time, to see who would emerge. Survivor had never featured a tribe quite like this, there was no precedent to follow. They would have to make it up as they went along.
One person who had <b>no</b> designs on a leadership position was Jerri Manthey. She walked in the middle of the pack, head down, her newly blonde hair hidden under a large brown hat. This was -not- the tribe she had in mind when she got on that bus. Manipulating men was her specialty, she had fully expected to have a tribe full of cute guys to work with this time around. But unfortunately, they were all old men over there, and even worse, her team was all girls! She scowled, walking with her head down. This wasn't the way it was supposed to be. This was, in fact, her worst nightmare. Her only option now was to lay as low as possible. She knew that if -anybody- was an easy target at a first vote, it was her. "A lot of the chicks just don't like me," she would later admit, "And they don't even -know- me. They only know me from how I was edited on TV, and that's just not fair." No way, Jerri wanted no part of that leadership, she just wanted to blend in and get them to see her for who she really was, which was a team player. She was going to work her ass off, make friends, and leave all the negativity back in Australia. This time was going to be much different.
But one thing was sure. There -damn- well better be a twist down the road somewhere.
The females continued their trek in a single file line. Helen, then Tammy, then Elisabeth, then Neleh. There was a gap, and then the next four, Jerri, then Gina, then Kelly W., then Kelly G. Tuktu continued their journey, crossing green valleys, streams, bushes upon bushes, and downed trees, until Elisabeth was the first to spot the black "Tuktu" flag. She let out a war whoop and they all cheered.
Tuktu was home.
Silas Gaither was shirtless, stacking wood at Amarok. They had reached their encampment shortly after Tuktu, and were busy gathering wood and branches for their shelter. It was forbidden to break down live trees in the park, so they had been supplied with minimal pieces of wood, twine and roofing. The rest would have to come from dead wood they scavenged from around the area. Silas paused to wipe his forehead, as he continued to heft piece after piece of wood that had been delivered to him by Brian and Greg. He looked around, assessing the current mood in camp to a cameraman.
"It certainly threw me for a loop, separating us from the girls and all. I don't know, man, this is gonna be a lot different. I haven't lived with a bunch of guys since college." He looked around, making sure no one was listening. "We got a bunch of old guys in Clay, Paschal, Tom and Rudy, and then a bunch of snakes. I guess I just gotta keep my eyes open, see what comes to me." He smiled, nodding. "This is All-Stars, aint no one gonna be laying low around here. Only a matter of time, only a matter of time."
Rudy Boesch was typically blunt, offering that "More men in camp means more stuff gets done. You won't have none of that cryin' or fightin' going on." When asked what the girls' camp was like, Rudy paused, grinned, and then answered, "It probably smells nicer."
The time passed in the early evening as Amarok had erected a semi-decent shelter. Like a lean-to, it sat nestled against a pair of spruce trees, with enough room underneath for eight. It wasn't the sturdiest shelter ever devised, but Greg and Paschal had been the masterminds behind it, and everyone complimented them on the job. Even the typically critical Rudy took time to compliment them on a good and sturdy design.
The rest of the first day was spent in socializing, getting to know one another, sizing up the competition. Surprisingly little strategy went on, even the more scheming players like Clay and Jeff were more interested to getting to know the rest of the guys today. And the one they generally came back to was Paschal, as he was emerging as a respected and natural leader. Everyone deferred to him, and seemed to go out of their way to seek out his voice on all matters. It made the judge nervous, from a game standpoint, but he would just smile and shake his head. "There's a lot worse things," he told the cameras, "Than being known as a leader, I guess."
As nighttime came, the men sat around the campsite, talking. Stories were shared, jokes were told, and Tom had them all in stitches with a story about being drunk in church. Even Rudy cracked a smile at that one, later offering that Tom was "a hillbilly, but he's funny too. I like him." As the night grew later, the guys feasted on some blackberries that Clay had found, until Jeff noticed something. It wasn't getting any darker.
"Hey, what time is it, y'all?"
Most figured it to be around seven o'clock, but going by the timeline of their activities, Paschal guessed it to be closer to ten.
"We're near the arctic circle," explained the judge, in his slow, deliberate Georgia accent, "The sun sits just below the horizon. This is probably the darkest it will get for a few months now."
"Hell, that is a trip," whistled Clay. "You figure we'll get any sleep if it don't get dark?"
"We gots to," said Tom, standing up to stretch in his faded blue overalls. He grinned, already the joker of the group. "Gots to beat up on some girlies tamarrah."
Paschal English rose early, after about six hours of mostly restless sleep. It was just plain weird to sleep all night when it wasn't dark, and he could already feel it messing with his head. He put on a heavy flannel shirt, stood up and walked out of the lean-to, six men still trying to sleep behind him. Greg Buis was the only one missing, having escaped long ago to go explore their surroundings.
"Greg is an interesting young man," Paschal commented in a confessional. "I haven't heard him say but five words to anyone else since we've been here. But we got to working on the shelter yesterday and had a pretty good talk about what we're doing here. What we're trying to accomplish." He paused to turn on the small gas stove. "To tell you the truth, I couldn't tell you the first thing about what he is really like, but I definitely think he's a person you'd have to know for a while before he told you anything. He reminds me a lot of Gabe, just that same type of deep-thinking philosopher." Paschal put on a pot of stream water, intending on boiling it for the rest of them.
Greg, for his part, had already encircled the entire area, relishing the scent of fresh pine trees and mountain air. As much as he showed nothing but contempt for the game itself, he had truly loved his experience on Pulau Tiga, and still thought about it to this day. He thrived in the outdoors, and letting him loose here was like a kid in a candy store. He had already spotted a small herd of what looked like white horned goats, and thought he saw a deer bounding near the camp. But best of all was the looming Mount McKinley, which rose over the horizon behind the campsite like a big white shadow.
"There she is," he would say, in one of his rare confessionals, "She looks over us. She keeps us happy. She's our friend."
Back at camp, Clay and Rudy were up, and Clay was attempting to engage some sort of small talk, as they sat around the boiling water. It was comical at best, as Rudy really wanted nothing to do with the talkative restaurateur.
"He aint never shut up since we got here," griped Rudy, "I don't even know what he was goin' on about. I just stared at the water most of the time. I dunno." Rudy had played this game before, and had proved to be as adaptable as anyone, which was remarkable for his age. But at heart, he was still a bit of a grump, and made no apologies for it. If he didn't want to talk to you, he simply wasn't going to talk. And making small talk with Clay Jordan wasn't high on his list of priorities in life.
At camp Tuktu, the ladies rose at pretty much the same time. Neleh was still asleep, but for the most part they were all up. The shelter that Helen, Jerri and Gina had built stood up fairly well last night, although they would have to reinforce it today. Jerri had been remarkably pleasant to work with, and deferred to Gina's ideas on structure and placement at all times. There hadn't been a moment of conflict, and people noticed. Not to mention Jerri had gathered the bulk of the wood, and was huffing and puffing all day from carrying things back to camp. She was a workhorse. Jerri wasn't as bad as Elisabeth had warned, she wasn't bad at all.
The campsite itself was nothing special, as it rested in a dirtbed underneath a throng of aspen and birch trees. There was a small mountain stream running nearby, and a huge cluster of blueberries grew just off to the side. It had lacked a "homey" feeling, so Neleh and Elisabeth had spent the time yesterday making a big banner to drape across the shelter. "Tuktu Girls," it read, in big flowery Neleh-size letters. The whole mood of camp seemed to be pleasant and cheerful so far, almost like a summer camp experience. Elisabeth and Neleh were the two main proponents of that mood, as the two of them had bonded almost instantly, like sisters. They were the sunshine and the heart of the group so far, and everyone seemed to like them.
The campsite view was kind of drab, but just around the bend, behind some trees, awaited one of the most stunning vistas in Denali. Helen was the first to see it, spotting streaks of red, yellow and green across a nearby hillside. She was the first to see the famed Polychrome Pass, a section of brightly colored tundra famous throughout the world.
"You guys, you have GOT to come see this," she announced, running back into camp. The rest of Tuktu came out to see the neon-like streaks criss-crossing the hillside.
"Oh my heck," joked Jerri. Several of them snickered. It was the camp catchphrase, they all said it already, whether as a tribute to Neleh or a joke, sometimes it was both. But they were all in awe of the colored hills, and Tammy and Kelly Goldsmith volunteered to set out to explore them. They grabbed their newly-carved walking sticks and laced up their boots. It was a good time for a walk.
And besides, setting up camp was fun and all, but it was time to start talking strategy.
Jeff Varner was holding court at Amarok. The mood of the camp had turned to cockiness and vulgarity this morning, as it tends to do when a bunch of type-A males get together. The tribe was sitting around, eating their first of many bowls of oatmeal, and Jeff was again talking about his favorite subject, about how they were going to crush the females. He was generally pretty quiet and low key around camp, but when the joke-telling started up, he was simply not going to be left out. Even though it was mostly just for show, he loved telling the guys exactly what he knew they wanted to hear.
"See, you got this fundamental problem when you get a group of girls together on a team," he joked, "And that is in regards to your star athlete. Even your best athlete, your star player, is still gonna run and throw like a damn girl." The rest of the tribe erupted into laughter and snickers, Silas finding it particularly funny. "I mean, what are they gonna have," Jeff continued, "A bunch of cross-stitch challenges?"
The mood had been veering towards cockiness and superiority almost upon the first conversation. Amarok had no shortage of confident males, and Jeff was one of the most extreme. In fact, he was downright vicious. But he could easily be matched by Rudy, Brian, Silas, Tom, Clay, just about any of them, if they were in the right mood. And they were pretty much always in the right mood. Brian sat in the corner, quietly laughing, but mostly just watching. The only former winner here, he was trying to lay as low as possible He would sit and joke around with the rest of them if needed, but in general he was pretty quiet around the camp circle. He preferred to play up to the cameras alone, and would rather just watch and observe when in a group.
"Well sure, it's a problem that we have nothing but men here," he said in a confessional that morning. "It's a problem in that we have nobody to cook for us." He grinned, like a little kid getting away with a swear word. "Maybe one of the ladies can come over and help us out."
He liked to joke around but, when pressed, you could get him to talk about his strategy. It wasn't too hard to get him to talk about himself. It was his favorite subject.
"My, ah, strategy is pretty simple," he admitted, looking around to make sure no one was listening. "Just keep my ears open, my eyes peeled. But the goal has always been the same. To make sure that fifteen other people lose this game." He smiled, his best charming smile. He wouldn't divulge more, but didn't have to. He had already begun to work on some of them. That's what day two was for. Just because he was a millionaire doesn't mean he wasn't still the best.
Even Greg would partake in some of the camp joke-telling, but it was generally just for show. He bored of social interaction rather quickly, unless he was the entertainer. And he was certainly -not- the entertainer here. That title usually went to Tom, or Jeff, or Clay. Greg didn't have much use for any of these people in his world. Young people were his world, young people who were as full of life and immature as he could sometimes be. And, although he would never admit it, he was pining for the other team. Greg was almost impossible to know, but it was clear to those who tried that he preferred the company of females. He could charm any of them, it wasn't even a challenge to him. Women loved Greg Buis, that was just a given. Stick Greg on a team with four females, and he would have himself a five-person alliance. Sure, he enjoyed conversations with Paschal, but for Greg to be truly happy, he needed an audience. Someone who would adore him, and laugh at everything he said, and that certainly wasn't the seven older men on his team. His defense against the world had always been a sense of humor, and when that was unavailable, his best recourse around here was to retreat into the woods, to go talk with nature. It was his place.
Greg escaped, but true to his nature, remained productive. He spent the greater part of the day alone, constructing a latrine for the group under a large black spruce. He took great pride in reinforcing its walls, and had to admit it was a damn fine piece of craftsmanship. And in perfect Greg form, he even added his own signature touch. He affixed it with a toilet seat, a symbol of the all-male tribe. Because, he would explain with a straight face, now they could leave the seat up anytime they wanted.
"Tree mail is here," announced Elisabeth. She and Neleh had retrieved the piece of mail, shaped like an oar, from a nearby clearing together. The two of them were still clearly the closest pair on Tuktu, and had been mere minutes after stepping off the bus. As Helen had keenly observed, "It's almost as if they are the same person. You just see it in their eyes, they already see each other as sisters." In fact, Elisabeth and Neleh had taken great pride in "cozying up" the campsite this morning, cleaning up after everyone and making ribbons for everyone's hair, as a symbol of the "sisterhood." And now, Neleh announced their first immunity challenge.
The game has only just begun
But every time there must be one
Grab an oar, prepare to row
Or you may be the first to go.
"Hey Wigs," called Kelly Goldsmith, "You ready to do some rowing?"
"-Hell- yeah," called Kelly Wiglesworth from across the camp. "Bring it on!" She didn't particularly like the name, but the rest of the team called her "Wigs," in an attempt to distinguish between the two Kellys. Kelly Goldsmith was either "Goldie" or just plain "Kelly."
Kelly Wiglesworth had been aching for the first challenge. She had been nursing an anger in her heart for two years now, since her humiliating experience on Pulau Tiga. She hated everyone involved in that debacle, and to this day would rarely talk about what happened out there. But the competitive fire still burned within her, and she lived for competition. Especially against a team of guys. Still stung from her rowing loss to Gervase, she wanted to win back her reputation as an athlete. This was her chance.
"Okay, gather around." Tammy drew them all closer into a group huddle. She had more or less assumed leadership of the tribe for now, without much competition. She was simply the most forceful personality, and the most competitive. It was easy to defer to her. Helen was older and more respected, but she preferred to stay to herself, out of the spotlight. Helen was military, she liked keeping her mouth shut. Tammy was the one who liked the limelight.
"Okay, Tuktu, this is our time. We are going to KICK. THEIR. ASSES." Tammy nodded, her eyes covered with her ever-present wraparound shades. She emphasized each word, as the others nodded their heads. "Look, I know they're guys, but all they have is a bunch of old farts and little shrimps." Jerri chuckled at this comment, and Tammy continued, with a fierce look on her face. "Let's go in there, take that damn immunity idol, and send them back home to sleep in the cold all night."
Kelly Wiglesworth placed her arms around the shoulders of Neleh and Gina. She smiled, and addressed them all.
"Let's do it, ladies."
Kelly Goldsmith had been a cheerleader in her earlier life, and she knew what to do. She started clapping, slowly at first. CLAP. CLAP. CLAP. CLAP. Then the rest of Tuktu started to join in. Gina. Neleh. Elisabeth. Tammy. Helen. Kelly W. Jerri. They were now clapping in unison, faster now, and faster. The rhythmic sound echoed over the empty Alaskan meadow. The clapping increased until it suddenly broke off, an excited frenzy in the air. Elisabeth and Kelly G. then finished by leading them in a cheer.
"1... 2... 3... GO TUKTU!"
Horseshoe Lake is a large, meandering lake that winds its way through a gulch in the Denali hills. Almost totally surrounded by spruce trees, the lake appears out of nowhere, like a large snake slowly sliding through the grass. It's a popular spot for visitors to the park, but today the area had been sealed off. They had the lake to themselves, the site of the first Alaskan immunity challenge.
"Welcome guys," said Jeff, as both teams had finally arrived. Tammy led the females, who all had their hair tied back with red ribbons. Big Tom stood in front of the males, his burly arms crossed across his chest, an ever-present grin on his face. Jeff explained the rules. This was a rowing challenge. Four members of each team would be in a small -umiak-, or Inuit canoe, at a time, and would have to row to four platforms in the water. At each platform would be a new member of their team, holding a flag. That new member would get in the canoe, swapping places with one of the original rowers, and they would then continue to the next flag.
"First team back here with all four flags, and none of their original rowers, wins immunity. You will be safe from Tribal Council tomorrow. Losing team, you have a date with me tomorrow. And I'm sure you know what that will be like."
"I don't kiss on the first date, Jeff," cracked Greg. Several people snickered. Jeff ignored him, he was used to Greg's antics. This was Jeff's moment, not Greg's.
Both teams assigned their rowers, and flag-holders, and lined up at the starting line. Silas, Greg, Rudy and Clay would row for the men, and Kelly W., Gina, Neleh and Jerri for the women. Both teams lined up next to their canoes, tensed and ready. Jeff raised his arm, the smooth, calm lake behind him.
"Survivors ready, GO!"
Both males and females jumped into their canoes, Kelly leading the women and Silas leading the men. The females got off to an earlier start, as Gina and Kelly proved to be a strong pairing in the boat. But the men were right on their tails, with Greg and Silas making up for the slower rowing of Clay and Rudy.
At the first platform, Tuktu picked up Tammy, who replaced Neleh. Tammy jumped in back and yelled at them to "Go! Go!" just as Amarok arrived to pick up Brian. Brian replaced Rudy, and the two tribes pulled even with each other in the water, Silas and Kelly rowing furiously in front to outpace the other.
"Pace yourselves," yelled Jeff Probst from the shore, "It's a long course!"
The two tribes rounded a bend in the lake and Amarok reached platform #2 first, as the males had begun to pull ahead. Clay let out a whoop of victory. He got out and was replaced by Jeff Varner, and the males now had their strongest combination in the water. Brian, Silas, Greg and Jeff headed off towards platform three. Tuktu arrived just moments later, as Helen replaced Jerri.
"Tuktu," yelled Elisabeth from platform three, "Go Tuktu! Woooooo!" But it was clear that the ladies were falling behind. Despite the best efforts of Kelly Wiglesworth and company, Amarok reached their third platform first, as Paschal replaced Greg. Elisabeth was left standing alone, as she watched an angry Kelly rowing towards her. It was mere moments until Elisabeth finally got in the boat, replacing Gina, and now both teams were racing to the final platform.
Amarok had slowed as they loaded their last man. The loss of Silas was bad enough, and the added weight of Big Tom didn't help the cause. But the final four rowers had reached the last platform. It was time to turn around and head back to the start line. Brian sat in front, with Jeff, Paschal, and Big Tom rounding out the boat. They passed the females on the way back, as Varner let loose a wild, hyena-like mocking cackle. Kelly Goldsmith replaced the other Kelly at the last platform, but it was too little, too late. The four Amarok men were slow, but they reached the finish line well ahead of their female counterparts, as Tom raised his fists and oar in the air.
"Amarok," said Jeff Probst, "You have immunity! Nice job, guys."
The men celebrated and slapped each other on the back, while Kelly Wiglesworth lowered her head on platform four, not wanting to watch. She just rested there, listening to the rippling of the lake against the platform and the sounds of men celebrating. -This game sucks-, she said to herself angrily, before soon jumping into the water to swim back to shore.
Rudy Boesch was preparing the Amarok pot of oatmeal for the morning, as he sat on a log. Wrapped in two layers of clothing, the ex-Navy Seal was holding up remarkably well in the cold morning air, but then again he wasn't like most people. His body and mind had been honed for years in the military, and he could hold up in conditions that younger people could not. And here he was again, the camp cook, back in a game he had truly loved the first time around. But some things hadn't changed. Rudy was still bad with names.
"The judge, he's a good guy," said Rudy, referring to Paschal. "He's a straight shooter, me and him haven't talked much but he's just like me. His word is good." Rudy stopped to stir the pot. "The fat guy," said Rudy, referring to Tom, "He acts like he's a dumb farmer, but he's not so bad. I have to keep him away from the food though. The little guy," as he referred to Clay, "He's a loudmouth but the guys like him. He's just one of the guys to them. And the big kid," as he called Silas, "He's the best of our athletes, but I don't like him much. He smiles too much." Rudy had pretty much defined them all in his mind, but still hadn't decided who to try to make a deal with. He had learned last time that a solid alliance could take you very far, and he fully expected to use the same strategy this time. But he wanted to see who would come to him first, who would want the old man as an alliance partner. "And they better be smart about it. Cause if I don't like 'em, I'll tell 'em," he joked.
The male camp was understandably peaceful today, as they were safe for the first vote. But the female camp was another matter indeed. The happy family of "Tuktu Girls" was going to be broken up, and it seemed as if they had just gotten here.
Kelly Wiglesworth was laying down on a rock near a riverbed, wallowing in self-pity. If anyone had mastered the art of hating oneself, it was Kelly. She took losses incredibly hard, and yesterday's rowing loss was painful. She blamed herself, as always. "Hey, I'm the best athlete here," she said, "It's my game to lose, and I screwed up." Kelly was a bit of a lone wolf so far, often found sitting alone, making use of her luxury sewing bag. She could be a lot of fun, but did stay to herself more than the rest. And while others found her a bit standoffish, there was no denying that she was a good athlete and good company, when she was in a social mood.
"I think that first experience with this game messed with her head," said Elisabeth, her brow furrowed with concern, "I feel bad for her."
While emotions of sadness and loss ranged throughout the camp, one person with a decidedly different opinion was Tammy Leitner. She had never bought in to the sense of "summer camp" that so many of her teammates shared. Tammy really was only here to win, and would come right out and say it.
"I mean, sure, it's great that we're all a bunch of chicks living together, on the same team," she said, while sitting alone on a green hillside, "That's real nice, but I could give a rat's ass who's on my team. The only thing I'm here to do is win. If I was on an all guy's team, that's -fine-. This 'Camp Snoopy' attitude around here is a little hard to take, especially when you don't feel that everyone is on the same page." She stood up, as Kelly Goldsmith was approaching, "They're all going on about how sad this will be, but it won't be sad at all. You just have to cut loose some dead weight, that's it. End of story."
Kelly Goldsmith and Tammy had hit it off relatively early on day one, and their strategy hike to Polychrome Pass had paid off. They were thinking along the same lines in terms of how they wanted to play this game. Kelly had been badly burned by the decisions of others back in Africa, and she was determined to control her own fate this time around. She prided herself on her intelligence, and -hated, hated, hated- that she had been outwitted last time, and it hadn't even been her fault! So she had sought out the most forceful person she could find, the one with the killer instinct, and that was Tammy. It was a natural fit, Tammy appreciated Kelly's scheming, and Kelly appreciated Tammy's single-minded zeal for winning. Luckily, few people on Tuktu had noticed that Kelly was nearly always by Tammy's side, and Kelly meant to keep it that way.
"They don't have to know more than they need to," she said, in her standard rapid-fire manner of talking, "They can all go on thinking we're on a biiiig picnic here, that it's all just a big party." She turned her thoughts to tonight's vote. "The standard mood around camp is that it will be Jerri. It seems to be when you can't make a decision, might as well just go for the bitchy one. But that's not -my- plan at all. I -like- the girl, she's a good worker, and she's tough. She just wants to win, and you can't hold that against the chick." She looked around, making sure no one else was listening, "It will probably be one of four people tonight, including myself. Of course, I don't intend to let it get that far, but you never know -what's- going to happen in this game." She arched her eyebrows, mysteriously, and grinned.
For all her bluster and scheming, Kelly also had an ulterior motive. It was simple. She was terrified. She didn't want to be the first to go. She was one of the youngest, she was easily the smallest, and she was probably the weakest athlete. If natural selection came into play, she could very easily be deemed expendable, so it was her plan to head it off before it got that far. Kelly enjoyed taking fate into her own hands. Together, she and Tammy hatched a scheme.
It was sundown. Well, Alaskan sundown anyway, which meant the sun sat just atop the horizon. Tuktu packed up their bags for the inaugural Tribal Council. Elisabeth and Neleh were softly crying, as was Gina. Hugs were given all around, even Jerri seemed moved by the vote they would have to face so soon.
"It's going to be a terrible vote tonight," said Neleh, "Because we're all super close. We're already like a family, and it stinks to have to vote out one of your own so early. This is the part of the game that I hate."
If you were to take a poll around camp as to who was in danger tonight, you would get a bunch of different answers. Kelly G. Elisabeth. Kelly W. Helen. Neleh. Tammy's name was not mentioned, nor was Gina's. But the name most mentioned was Jerri Manthey.
"Jerri has been just as pleasant as can be," said Gina, "Elisabeth had warned us about her, but I wouldn't even recognize her as the same person. I think she's trying really hard to fit in, and she's probably succeeding. But," she added with a small shrug, "Sometimes you can't escape your past. And I think that, if given no other options, Jerri will probably go tonight." She gave a sad smile. "I can't say that I think it's fair, but I don't think people really want to make a hard decision like that so early in the game. Jerri is the safe choice."
Jerri, of course, knew this. She was well aware of her reputation.
"I don't have any doubt people will target me," she said, "Because they think that counts as not making a decision. But I deserve to be here, I've worked my tail off. If anyone deserves to go, it's the princess twins over there," she waved her hand in the general area of Elisabeth and Neleh. "But don't worry about me," she grinned with a twinkle in her eye, "If they take me out, they're gonna have to earn it. I don't go down without a fight."
Elisabeth gathered the rest of the tribe around for their final group cheer. Kelly G, ever the cheerleader, led them as they again clapped in rhythm. They finished as Elisabeth led them in a final "1... 2... 3... GO TUKTU!" And then, through the tears of some and the sneers of others, they began their walk.
Two large totem poles greeted Tuktu as they arrived at Tribal Council. It was an ornately designed lodge in the middle of a hilly treeside, decorated with Inuit and Eskimo designs and carvings. It was designed to replicate a traditional Native American Spirit Lodge, which was a place where meetings would be held and important decisions would be made. It was a place that demanded respect.
"Welcome, ladies," said Jeff as they all sat down. "To your first Tribal Council. I hope you noticed those two totem poles guarding the entrance to our lodge here. Totem poles can mean one of two things in Eskimo and Inuit culture. One, they mark the entrance to a home. Our home. And two, they are used to note lineage, and family history. You will notice that the two poles are blank, with no faces on them. Starting tonight, the faces of those voted out will be carved into the wood, to note those who have gone before you. The lineage of the game, if you will. So please remember what you are here for tonight and treat it with respect."
Several players nodded appreciatively, and Jeff proceeded to go into his litany of questions. Helen was the first to admit that she felt vulnerable, as she was the eldest one here, and wasn't the best at fitting in with people so much younger than herself. Kelly Wiglesworth apologized for losing the challenge, and said she would understand if she was voted out. She wouldn't hold it against anyone. Kelly Goldsmith said she felt in great danger, even though she was getting along with them all. In fact, everyone admitted to being in danger tonight, with Jerri adding astutely that "I'm <b>always</b> in danger, Jeff. I'll be in danger at every vote. I can't do anything to stop it."
"And with that," announced Jeff, "It's time to vote. Gina, you're up first."
Gina Crews had been holding hands with Elisabeth. She let go, stood up, patted Elisabeth on the shoulder, and walked to the podium, to start the process of breaking the "Tuktu Girls" apart. Her black Tuktu buff tied around her wrist, she pulled out the black pen and wrote, simply, "Jerri."
"I hate to do it to you, but no one else deserves to go. You've been a good teammate, take care."
Neleh Dennis also voted for Jerri.
"You don't know what a hard choice this was to make, but I'll always love you like a sister. Hopefully we'll still be friends after the game."
Elisabeth followed with a third Jerri vote, a sad smile on her face.
Jerri was fourth, and cast her vote for Neleh, adding that "I don't think your head is really in the game right now." She couldn't resist a small smirk as she said this. "It's been fun."
Kelly Wiglesworth and Kelly Goldsmith were the fifth and sixth to vote.
Helen Glover was seventh, and cast her vote for Neleh as well, with a sympathetic smile.
"Neleh, my backwards-named little sister, you're a great kid. This vote is simply a strategic way to get me to day six, don't take it personally. Best of luck."
The final vote was Tammy Leitner. She walked slowly, deliberately, to the podium. She grinned at the camera, looked down and wrote five letters on her card: "Neleh." She had been waiting a long time for this.
"Neleh. I know you aren't expecting this tonight, and for that I apologize." She almost pulled off looking sincere. "But this isn't summer camp, we are here to win a game. We don't need ribbons in our hair, we need people who want to win. And besides," she smiled, wanting to say this for the past eight months, "I owe you one from the Marquesas."
As the eight members of Tuktu sat on their bench, Jeff went to tally the votes. Elisabeth was clearly bothered by the vote, staring at the floor and holding hands with Neleh and Gina. Jerri looked anxious. Tammy stared straight ahead, looking at nothing. Kelly Goldsmith's eyes darted all around, taking everything in.
"Let me remind you," said Jeff, "That the person voted out must leave immediately." He reached into the ballot box and pulled out the first vote.
He opened it.
Jerri simply nodded and looked at the ground. Of -course- the first vote would have her name on it.
The third vote had hearts on it, Elisabeth's writing. Jerri stared at the ballot box, trying to will any more votes with her name from coming up.
Jeff finally pulled up a different name.
Neleh simply nodded, smiling as her name came up.
Elisabeth looked a little surprised as her friend's name came up a second time. She squeezed Neleh's hand.
That was Helen's vote. Helen, who had been approached by Kelly Goldsmith just that morning. Kelly said a vote for Neleh could buy her some time, and Helen was all too happy to save her own skin this early in the game. After all, she was the oldest one here. She knew how the game worked. It's all about advancement.
"That's three votes Jerri, three votes Neleh. And the seventh vote..."
That was Kelly Wiglesworth's vote, the lone wolf, the one who claimed she would only vote on merit this early. Helen simply shrugged, not looking around. She was safe, that's all that mattered.
Jeff pulled out the last vote.
"And the first person voted out of Survivor: Alaska..."
He opened it.
With the revealing of the last vote, Kelly Goldsmith's vote, the spirit of the Tuktu Girls was destroyed. There was no more summer camp, as its founding daughter had been voted out. Neleh was stunned, not having ever considered the possibility. She picked up her torch in disbelief and hugged Elisabeth, Gina and then Tammy. Tammy patted her on the back, consoling her with empty words. Neleh smiled through the tears and brought up her torch, where Jeff extinguished it.
"Neleh, the tribe has spoken."
Neleh blew her team a kiss, waved and wished them all good luck. They all waved back. She walked down a path into the forest and was soon swallowed up into the darkness. Most of the members of Tuktu continued to watch the empty path where she had been. Most of them.
Jeff turned to address them.
"Well, it's always a sad process, but one that has to be done. And I think it's obvious that this tribe isn't as close as some of you would have believed. I hope you guys can go back and straighten things out, because we have a lot of fun in store for you tomorrow." He paused. "Best of luck tonight, have a good hike back."
The seven remaining Tuktu members packed up and headed back. Jerri and Tammy led the way, with Kelly Goldsmith right by Tammy's side, as usual. The three of them, plus eager accomplice Helen, had conspired to knock out the heart of their own team at the first vote. Now, it was a matter of time to see how Tuktu would recover.
-If- they could recover.
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