All-Star Survivor: Alaska
Qinaliut Tribe: Tom Buchanan, Greg Buis, Gina Crews, Paschal English, Helen Glover, Tammy Leitner, Kelly Wiglesworth
Gina Crews stopped, picked up a shiny green rock, and placed it into the front pocket of her jeans shorts.
The tall nature guide was walking through the forest, collecting leaves and stones and other things that looked interesting. It was one of her favorite hobbies, just exploring the wilderness and collecting things that had natural beauty. And here she was, in one of the greatest nature preserves on earth, yet she really hadn't taken advantage of it all that much.
"I should be out here more," she said, trying her best to walk around a patch of mud, "We've got this forest all around us, just sitting here, and I find myself boiling water back at camp most of the time. I guess I've been so caught up in the game, I really haven't been out here as much as I should." She looked up, smiling, at a faint chattering sound from above. "And I wish I had been, because there's a lot of stuff you miss, unless you really pay attention." She pointed to a large black squirrel, who watched her from high up on a branch, not making a sound. "Aww, look at him. He's probably never seen a person out here." She reached into her pocket, fishing around until she came up with a small hard raspberry. "Here, little fella," she said, offering it up to him, "Come and get it."
The squirrel just stared down at her, his whiskers twitching nervously.
"Well, I'll just leave it right here then," she said, placing it on a rock. "You can just come down and get it when you're hungry enough." She smiled at him and walked away, not looking back, knowing enough about squirrels to let him eat in peace. She strode between trees and bushes, carefully avoiding any muddy patches, and spoke about last night's Tribal Council vote.
"So they all teamed up to vote off Lizard," she said, sighing. It had been traumatic and completely unexpected. No one had seen it coming. No one on the losing side, anyway. But Gina had sat in shock as her friend's name had come up four times. No, make that -five- times. It appeared that everyone except herself and Paschal had crossed over to the bad guys. And now, Tuktu was more or less doomed. None of them would be seeing their names on a million dollar check.
"I just can't imagine the -stupidity- that went behind that decision," she said, still nursing a bit of resentment, "It was just so -stupid-, for all of them. I mean, we had a free ride, all the way to the end. There wasn't but one or two more obstacles in our way, and then they had to all go and panic and freak out and vote with Tammy and Helen." Her eyes narrowed, not even liking to say Helen's name out loud right about now. "It didn't have to happen this way, and I'm ashamed to say I was ever with any of them. I'm ashamed they were a part of this team, and I'm ashamed for what they did to poor Elisabeth."
Gina continued her walk, alternating between anger and calm. You see, she had taken this walk for a reason. Nature calmed her. Animals calmed her. And going for long walks calmed her. This was important because she could definitely use some calming this morning. She was out here in the forest, alone with her thoughts, just enjoying the scenery. It was nice to be out with nature, but was also best she stayed away from camp right now.
Otherwise, she was going to say something she might regret.
Gina was still stewing over the unfairness of the vote, but what she did not know was that -she- was supposed to have been the target. Gina had been spared a last-minute stay of execution, as the powers that be switched to Elisabeth instead. But Gina had been the main focal point for much of the day.
"Because Helen doesn't like her," said Tammy. She was laying on her favorite sunbathing rock, just relaxing. Her shades on, it was impossible to tell if her eyes were open or closed, but they were generally open. Tammy didn't like to check out of the game, in any manner. She preferred to stay alert. "Helen felt that Gina was the biggest danger to our plan, because she is the most observant of the Tuktus, and she would have been on to us first. So the plan had been to try and take out Gina."
Tammy stopped to listen, as she thought she heard footsteps nearby. But it turned out to be nothing, so she continued.
"Plus Helen has had issues with Gina, so there was probably a bit of a grudge thing going on. I don't think they see eye-to-eye on many things lately, and neither one is the type to really back down."
Tammy was no stranger to grudge votes. She had been involved in more than her fair share of them. But even -she- had been a little taken aback by Helen's forcefulness in campaigning for Gina.
"I mean, sure, I wanted Elisabeth gone. That's no secret. But Helen was -adamant- in the fact that Gina had to go first. She wasn't going to back down. The only way she finally gave in is when Greg said he preferred to take out Elisabeth first. He said he would only go along if we voted her out. He made some good points, and we needed his vote, so Helen shut up about it." She smiled, chuckling at Helen's weakness. The tough-as-nails swim instructor would only really back down for one person. "Greg can get his way with her better than most people can, she has a bit of a soft spot for the guy." Tammy sat up, stretching her arms. "I mean, no real harm in the long run, right? One goes, then the other, so who really gives a crap about the order."
Greg Buis had the world in his hands at the moment. His strategy had worked. One of the ballsiest moves in Survivor history seemed to have paid off. Tuktu was now in turmoil, with very little chance of recovering. The most powerful and well-liked duo in the game was now broken apart. Helen now had a number of enemies, and didn't even realize why. But the beauty of it all was that Helen Glover was not the type to kiss and make up with enemies, she was far too stubborn for that, as were the Tuktus. No one was going to be giving each other backrubs or handshakes anytime soon. It was perfect.
And, of course, best of all, Greg had emerged nearly scot free.
"Paschal switched his vote," he explained, "Just as I had expected. But that was all just part of the big picture, he just happened to be the first step." Greg knew how this would look, and tried his best to justify it. "I mean, sure, it's a little underhanded, a little cold, but that's just part of the game. This isn't a game of emotion, it's a game of chess." Greg was still under the mistaken impression that the judge had been the one responsible for the outcome, he had no idea it had been Kelly. But he wasn't worried about the details, he was a future-thinking player. The past did not bother him.
"It was -my- idea to vote out Elisabeth. The others were hoping for Gina, although Tammy really didn't care. But obviously, I had to change that. It's in my best interest that Gina is around, I don't want her leaving before she has to." The answer for this was clear to Greg, if it wasn't yet to the others.
Gina was the one most likely to take this up with Helen.
"Chaos is what I want," he continued, "Chaos and confusion. Leaving Gina and Helen in the game together will just increase the stress, widen the gap between the females, and help hide what I am doing. I want Gina around, as long as possible. Helen won't argue with Paschal, and Elisabeth was too meek to confront -anybody.- Gina is the key here. Gina needs to be around." He said all this very matter-of-factly, not even feeling the slightest bit of regret. It was all just logic to him.
"I call it 'Chaos Theory,'" he explained. "Because with chaos comes emotion. And if you are led by your emotions, you cannot win this game. I find it best to keep things as chaotic as possible, at all times." Of course, this wasn't the explanation he had given Helen and Tammy last night. He had told them that Kelly and Elisabeth were tight, and if they voted out Gina, the two of them would bond with Paschal even further. Kelly and Gina had never been particularly close, they had been friends mostly through acquaintance. There was little chance that Kelly and Gina would suddenly become best friends.
"I said we had to remove the common bond. Elisabeth was the heart, and she had to go. Simple as that. And of course," he laughed to himself, "Tammy had -no- problems with that choice, she's not a particularly nice person. She wanted Elisabeth gone since the start."
This was an understatement, to say the least. Tammy had gone after Elisabeth with a vengeance in the last immunity challenge, there was no question that she would go along with any vote against the youngest Tuktu. Tammy was nothing if not predictable.
But now that Elisabeth was gone, the choice of the next bootee was going to be a little harder. Things were now wide open. As Greg was about to find out, sometimes chaos worked -against- you as well.
Helen was going to bring up Gina's name again. Gina was still her number one threat, and Helen needed her gone to win.
Tammy had already mentioned that it was Paschal's turn to go. He was far too much of a uniting force for her comfort level; he was the father figure and needed to be gone.
Meanwhile, Greg thought that wild-card Kelly would probably be his choice. She wasn't as close to the others, but she was shifty and unpredictable. She worried him a little, plus she was another Tuktu vote on the jury, which couldn't hurt.
Greg's choice of Kelly was mainly by default. He wanted Gina around for strategic reasons, but also knew he would have a hard time voting against Paschal. You see, going back to his early days in the game, he had been very close to the judge, like a father figure. As much as he could manipulate and abuse the old man's vote and fear of the purple rock, he knew it would be hard to actually write Paschal's name down on a piece of paper. The judge was just that type of person, no one -ever- said a bad word about him. To actually vote the man out would seem like an affront to all things that were good and pure. In Greg's mind, it was a big step up from voting off "a naive little girl" like Elisabeth. But it would -have- to come eventually, because Paschal's vote was one he really wanted on that jury.
It was a dilemna he was going to have to face in the future. But for now, he wanted to put it off. His choice for the next vote was Kelly.
Paschal and Kelly were having a discussion, as they walked to get tree mail. Most everyone was off on their own today, basking in their thoughts, their triumph, or, in Gina's case, their anger. But surprisingly, Kelly had been around camp all day. Generally, she was off on her own most of the time. But today, she had just been lingering around, as if looking for someone to talk to.
Perhaps it was because she was feeling guilty, although Kelly would not admit it.
"Yeah it was me," she admitted, as she walked with the judge. "I was the one who switched my vote. I fess up." She knew he probably wasn't going to be pleased with her, but she had long ago stopped giving a shit about what anyone thought of her. This game hardened you in a hurry.
"Really," said the judge, legitimately surprised. He had been sure the fifth vote had come from Greg. He would have bet money on it.
"To tell you the truth," she said, "I assumed you would have switched too. I mean, everyone knew that you wouldn't go out via tiebreaker again. We talked about that all the time."
Paschal smiled, a small humorless smile.
"That was what I always thought as well," he said, "But when I got up there it just wasn't a choice. I wasn't about to let little 'Lisabeth go out because of something I did." He said this in as non a judgemental way as he could, but Kelly still took offense. She was known for having a bit of a chip on her shoulder.
"Well look," she said, "Don't go all Ten Commandments on me, okay? I just vote the way I need to so I can win. I mean, you'd probably do the same thing in my case."
Paschal hadn't meant to make her angry, and in truth she really wasn't. She was just a very defensive person. She often defended herself before an accusation had even been made, yet another lesson from Pulau Tiga. -Thanks, Susan, love ya.-
"Look," he finished, "I'm not upset with what you did. I don't hold anything against anyone for what happens out here. I'm just explaining my position and why I didn't switch, which has nothing to do with why you did. Frankly, I respect you more as being someone who -does- want to win, and won't try to hide it. I think you're a hell of a competitor, Kelly."
Kelly smiled softly, still a bit defensive. The man had charm, she couldn't deny it, but luckily he hadn't come to see the complete picture. Sure, she had switched to avoid that warrior box, or whatever they called it. But there was a bigger plan at work here.
Gina and Elisabeth had to be broken apart.
Everyone had known this to be a fact. Lord knows that every player in the game had taken it upon themselves to tell Kelly this on a daily basis. First Tammy, then Kelly Goldsmith, then Jerri. Oh, and toss in a few choice comments from Greg and Helen, and it was no secret that Gina and Elisabeth had a straight shot to the final two. Kelly was third place at best. -At best.- She had played along nicely for a while, crossing her fingers that she could get lucky along the way, not wanting to make enemies. But in time, Kelly had basically become a strategic zombie. She had been blindly going along with the game, letting it play her instead of the other way around. She had never even considered voting along with Tammy's crew at any point.
Until last night.
Kelly had walked up to that podium. The first tie had already happened, and suddenly her vote was of great strategic importance. She could decide, right here, who would get that money. It was like being on the jury, something which she had never experienced. Kelly wasn't used to having much power in this game, and now she had a whole fistful of it, sitting in that thick black pen.
Kelly wanted to be a good girl and just go along with the status quo. She really did. But as she stood there, power flowing through her veins, her competitive nature had kicked in. Kelly was a fighter. The words of Jerri, and Helen, and Tammy, and all of them had run in her ears.
"You have to make a break."
"The two of them are going to have a cakewalk victory."
"They haven't done a single strategic thing since being out here!"
"They don't even like you all that much."
"I've heard them discussing you when you aren't there, and it isn't nice."
Some of these comments had been true, some had been made up, but Kelly knew that the basic message was always the same. Kelly wasn't Gina, nor was she Elisabeth. She was the -other- one.
But of course, there was just one comment that kept coming back to her. One that Jerri had said, many times, and had later been echoed by Tammy. There was one comment that was guaranteed to make Kelly act:
"You can't win!"
That was the one that had been the kicker. There was one way to get Kelly Wiglesworth fired up in life, you just had to tell her she couldn't do something. This last thought echoed through her mind, over and over and over, and finally her fiery, rebellious nature had reared up. She picked up that pen and did the first thing she should have done a long time ago.
She broke apart the power duo.
Today, she had mixed feelings about it all. As evidenced before, she was quite good at hating herself, at doubting her actions. She knew that strategically it had been a pretty good move, but ethically she wracked her brain over it. Had it been short sighted? Had it been selfish? Had she backstabbed her friends for no reason? How was it going to affect her standing here? And, most importantly, was she now public enemy number one among the Qinaliuts?
She had thought over all these questions, and many more, throughout the morning. But after a while, it had just been too much. It was too much thinking, not enough doing, and she hated that. So she just let it drop for now, coming to a simple revelation instead.
Screw it. I'm playing for me now, and I'm going to win this thing.
The tribe arrived at the reward challenge, rested and ready. After two nights of sleeping in the woods, the non-Helen members of Qinaliut were thrilled to have been back in the shelter again last night. So here they were, ready to compete again, feeling much better than they had at the canoe tipping challenge.
"Welcome back guys," said Jeff. Noticing the smiles and laughs, he added, "I see you guys are feeling better. A good night's sleep will do that for you, you know."
He paused dramatically and then explained today's reward.
"Today you will be playing for an even -better- night's sleep. The winner of today's challenge will be spending the night in a luxury five star hotel, back in Anchorage."
Helen laughed like a giddy schoolgirl, clapping her hands, the little kid in her coming out for a change. Tom smiled and nodded, while everyone seemed to be delighted at this prospect.
"You will get a huge room," said Jeff, "A king sized bed with silk sheets, your own bathroom, and a personal jacuzzi." Kelly clapped her hands, smiling. "Furthermore," he continued, "You will get breakfast in bed tomorrow morning, and all the hot showers you can take."
Everyone agreed that this was a great reward, and one that was very much needed. The players were all, to put it mildly, filthy. Bathing was not a popular activity out here, as the water was rather cold and full of animal droppings. So they all pretty much stank to high heaven at the moment. A nice hotel stay was something they -all- could use.
Jeff explained the rules of the challenge.
"Each of you will get a bag, like this." He held up a small burlap bag. "Inside it are a pile of bones, animal bones." He smiled. "These ones are plaster, but are meant to accurately represent the skeleton of an Alaskan field rat. Your job is to basically rebuild it, from scratch. Think of it as a puzzle."
Tom looked down at his bag, frowning. He hated puzzle challenges.
"You each have a puzzle board," he said, pointing to a stack of wooden blocks on a table. "Take out the pieces of bone and snap them into their appropriate place on your puzzle board. The first one to finish the puzzle, and rebuild the rat, wins reward."
Everyone understood, so Jeff told them to line up, and get ready. The players tensed and waited, waiting for the challenge to begin.
"This is for reward," he announced. "Survivors ready.... GO!"
All seven players ran over to the table, picking up their wooden puzzle board and their bag. They scattered in different directions, some standing, some sitting, and started taking out their pieces of bone. Tammy sat cross-legged on the grass, while Tom rested his pieces on the table, sorting them out.
Sitting on the grass, Kelly found a large thigh bone in her bag and looked at her puzzle board. It was a wooden block with a picture of a rat on it. Metal pins were inserted to hold the various bones in place, and she snapped the thigh bone into its appropriate holder. One piece down, about forty to go.
After ten minutes, several people had finished half their puzzle. Greg was leading the pack, with Kelly close behind. Tom was third, and Paschal was just finishing up the rat's tail. Jeff was walking behind them, following their progress.
"Greg has about 25 bones done," he announced. "Hurry up guys, or he's gonna run away with this thing."
Greg grinned as he sorted the remaining bones out into a small pile. He saw the neck bones and went to work on those, as he heard a frustrated Kelly start cursing at her puzzle. She had mistakenly thought the tail was the left leg, and had wasted valuable time. She started removing pieces from the board, just as Greg was finishing up the neck.
"Greg's almost done," announced Jeff. Tammy looked over at him, frustrated. This wasn't her favorite type of challenge, and she was in dead last. Helen was floundering right next to her, and just laughed at the futility of it all. They weren't going to beat Greg in this, why even bother?
Tom finally finished the first half of the rat, but it was too little, -way- too late. Greg announced "Done!" and held up his finished puzzle. Jeff ran over to check it out and confirmed that Greg had finished correctly. It was over. Greg Buis had won, and nobody else had even been close.
"Greg," said the host, "Is going to the penthouse suite!"
Greg thrust his fists into the air, as the rest of the players came over to congratulate him. Tom shook his hand, saying "Nice job." Everyone seemed happy for the winner, especially when Jeff announced the twist to the reward. Greg would be able to take someone else along for the trip.
"Buis," said Jeff, "Who's coming with you?"
Greg had actually thought of this ahead of time. Ever vigilant, he had vowed never to be caught off guard by a twist, or a political landmine. He knew who his pick was going to be, but, in his mind, had to make it look like it was going to be spontaneous.
"Well, let's see," he said, eyeing the players dramatically. "You know, the -fair- thing would be to take the person who finished second." He looked at Kelly, who was laughing at herself. She had been in second at one time, but finished in the back of the pack because of her mistake. "But I don't know if Kelly technically finished the puzzle." She shook her head, still chuckling.
"Okay, I mean, I'd like all of them to go, but I can only pick one, right? How about this?" He smiled, shrugging, as if he had just thought of the idea. "I'm thinking of a color in my head. The first person to name it gets to go. Everyone has a chance."
Jeff nodded, expecting nothing less. Greg was a wily one all right. He was always finding a way to wiggle out of a sticky situation.
"Blue," said Kelly. Greg shook his head.
"Yellow," said Paschal. Wrong again.
"Black," guessed Tammy. Nope.
"Purple," said Gina.
"Well, of course," he said. "Purple it is."
Gina grinned from ear to ear. She couldn't believe it, a chance to get away from camp! A chance for a bed and a hot shower!
"Okay you two," said Jeff, "You guys will be coming with me. The rest of you, I'm sorry, but that's the breaks. I'll bring these guys back to camp tomorrow."
Gina and Greg exited the helicopter and started their walk back to camp.
Yesterday had been a whirlwind of activity for the two of them, from their ride to a nearby airstrip, a short flight to Anchorage, and their arrival at the Chateau Kenai Resort. The first step for Gina had been to spend a good thirty minutes in the shower, reveling under the hot water and shampoo, while Greg spent the time eating, sipping from a glass of brandy, and reading the newspaper.
After the shower, the two of them had discussed a great number of topics, ranging from the campsite, to Denali, and finally to the jacuzzi and dinner spreads that were found in both of their rooms. Greg was careful to avoid any strategic discussions altogether, something which Gina was more than happy to do. It had been a hard week, she just wanted to enjoy this, and escape into the moment. And it was true, she was having a good time. She wore a smile on her face almost the entire time the two of them relaxed in luxury. It was just what she had needed.
Gina finally admitted, late last night, that she thought she was dead meat at the next vote. She knew that Helen and Tammy had won the showdown, and Tuktu was going to slowly die out now. But, she laughed, she wasn't all that angry anymore. She had taken it hard at the time, but was pretty much resigned to her fate by now. It was just a game. She was still out in Denali, living in the middle of nature, and needed to be reminded of that from time to time. There were good things about this game as well.
So now they were walking back to camp. Gina thanked Greg for taking her along. He said it had been his pleasure, as she was good company. Of course, this had all been planned. Greg liked to call it "trolling for jury votes." It was simple, really. Gina was the one member of Tuktu whom he hadn't been very close to. She was always a bit stand-offish with him, and he knew this could be a problem. So no matter what color she picked, it would have been the right one. Helen or Paschal would have been a more obvious choice as his traveling companion, but picking one over the other would have been a little dicey. No, it was safer to pick Gina, someone completely "random," in their eyes.
Greg's plan was to have friends on the jury. Gina, of course, was one of those friends. Because she was right, that was where she was headed- the jury. But she would be surprised that she was -not- slated to leave next.
That honor was about to go to Paschal English, a fact that Greg had not been made aware of yet.
With Greg away, Tammy and Helen were discussing the plan for the rest of the game. Now that Elisabeth was gone, the path to the final four was suddenly wide open. All they had to do was pick off Gina, Paschal and Kelly, and they suddenly would have a 25% chance at a million dollars.
"Tom's not going to want to vote out Paschal," said Helen, quite correctly. Paschal and Tom seemed to be pretty good friends, and she knew that Tom felt Paschal deserved to stay. But as Helen very much wanted Gina gone, she felt that could wait for now. Personal rivalries could hold off for once, because there was a bond that made her very nervous.
Paschal and Greg.
"Greg is a flake," Tammy said, "You know that if he ever goes back to them, it will be because of Paschal. Same with Tom. If there's -any- chance of them pulling back together, it will be around Paschal." She paused. "If we're not careful, we could have a guys against girls situation in the future."
Helen nodded. That was pretty much the same scenario she had come up with. She liked Greg a lot, and he was a good guy. But he waffled quite a bit, and was really not here to win this game. Players like that made the cutthroat ones nervous.
"We can't let Greg waver in his allegiance," she said, still completely snowed as to his true intentions. "I say Paschal. I don't see a way around it. He's like Mecca to the other guys."
Tammy laughed, enjoying the reference. Helen was one of the few people who could make her laugh.
"No problem," she finally said. Tammy had issues with Paschal was well, it seemed she had issues with everyone at some point. So she was fine with the choice, but she did have some reservations.
"But will Greg do it?" she asked, looking at Helen. "Would he vote against his friend? I mean, does he have that sort of killer instinct to win?"
Helen sighed, slumping her shoulders.
"I don't think so."
Tammy frowned, not liking the options here. A wishy-washy pretty boy was now part of their plans, not the best scenario in her mind. She made a mental note to get rid of Greg as soon as possible. Spineless guys like him were the type of players who tended to just piss her off the most. Paschal had been right, Greg was -exactly- like Gabriel Cade.
"He's always said he doesn't even care about the money," said Helen, "But he -does- trust me, he has since he came over to Tuktu. I think I can sway him." She smiled. "I've had to do it before."
"Well, tell him if he doesn't vote with us, I'll kick his ass," joked Tammy.
"Believe me," said Helen, "If he votes back with Tuktu, you'll have to take a number, because Tom I will get to him first."
The day progressed, and Gina and Greg made their triumphant return. They walked back into camp, looking and smelling clean, and carried gifts of food and smuggled shampoo for everybody. Paschal greeted them first, and the threesome discussed the trip, with Gina going on and on about the big bed in the rooms.
"Oh, Pappy, I wish you could have come," she said, "We could close the curtains at night, and actually sleep in the dark! Can you believe it! My body didn't know what to do without the sun out all night." She had been particularly excited about the dark rooms, as sleeping for 30 days in bring sunlight really messed with your senses. They had all felt it by now.
Paschal listened attentively, but it was clear he didn't want to hear anymore. He hated the sun-sleep as much as anyone. Gina realized this and shut up about it, sensing a bit of envy. She apologized, but Paschal dismissed it with a smile. He wasn't one to be jealous. It had been her reward, not his.
As the three of them talked, the discussion eventually turned back to strategy. It was time to get back into the game. First off, they needed to know where Greg stood, and if they were still going to be together. Greg said he couldn't guarantee anything, because he was voting for his own survival now. But he was a little off in his assessment of the situation.
Greg assumed that Paschal had switched his vote, and that they blamed Kelly for being the fourth. He knew that the girls in Tuktu were always a little wary of Kelly, so it had been a natural assumption. In Greg's mind, everyone still trusted him.
But Paschal already knew that Greg had been the fourth. Kelly had told him. Tom had even confirmed it. Greg was the rat.
"So, Greg," said Paschal with a smile, hiding this knowledge for now, "Looks like this is the end then."
"Looks like it," frowned Greg. "I mean, it's pretty much every man for himself now. At a certain point, you have to just adapt."
Gina bemoaned the events of last night, again calling it unfair and stupid. She hadn't been told the truth yet, and Paschal still wasn't sure he would -ever- tell her. He hadn't made up his mind if it was worth the trouble yet, if he wanted to make her even angrier. Drama and anger were sometimes more trouble than they were worth.
"I hate ties," said Gina, "It makes the pit of your stomach drop out."
"I just want to tell the two of you," said Paschal, "That I never considered switching my vote. As much as I know they wanted me to, I just couldn't do it. I wasn't about to sell out my team." He patted Greg on the back as he said this, a subtle message that he knew. The judge was on to him. "We've been through too much for me to just give up. We've always won as a team, and if I'm going down, it's as part of a team."
Greg just stood and stared, doing the math in his head. If Paschal hadn't switched, that meant that Kelly had. And if Kelly had, she had probably confessed. That meant that Greg was suddenly roped in with all this...
"You switched, didn't you?" Gina asked him, suddenly. "I mean, if Paschal didn't, it -had- to be you. You were the fifth!"
Greg ran through the options in his head. If there ever was time to make a split second decision, this was it. Did he want to fess up to being the fourth, or the fifth?
What was worse, to be the one who forced the tie, or the one who had switched?
Was it more evil to be a mastermind, or a sheep?
"Yeah," he admitted, bashfully, erring on the side of timidity. "I had to. I wasn't ready for that tie at all, it caught me off guard. I figured that Paschal would switch as well, since he said he wouldn't go out that way. So my thinking was to keep it unanimous, keep us all together, voting the same way." He shrugged, helpless, hoping they had bought it. "I didn't want to let them know they had beat us." It was a flimsy explanation, but was the best he could do under short notice.
"Look, I don't blame you," said Paschal, pretending he believed it, "I mean, we're all here to win. You do what you have to. I say, more power to you if you can pull this thing off, but I don't think any of us have a chance now. They've got four, we've got three. No amount of miracles in the world can overcome that at this point."
"Hey," said Greg, trying to change the subject somewhat, "Miracles come in many shapes. Keep your spirits up, anything can happen."
The conversation went on for a few more minutes, but Greg felt that he had avoided a huge trap. They still didn't know that it had all been his plan. He was lucky that Paschal hadn't seen through him. The conversation had gone amicably, and they were all still friends.
But Greg was wrong. Kelly and Tom had sold him out. Paschal knew exactly what Greg was up to by now.
As the big immunity challenge neared, plans were made by all to get through the next vote. Helen and Tom had a long discussion about strategy, talking about who needed to go. Helen was trying to get Tom to vote for Paschal, but the goat farmer was balking. He didn't think it was right, he wanted to vote for Kelly. Helen gave up for now, but vowed to hit him again on this later. They needed to vote as a group.
Helen and Tom had always had a loose relationship in this game, but had been connected mainly through association. They both had the same friends. And although they got along, and respected one another, they were never really a formal alliance, nor were they now. They were just trying to make the best of it. Since they considered themselves to both be honorable, honest, and competitive, it was easy for them to be friends.
But of course, because of that honesty, they couldn't have a final two pact. Sure, Tom tried, he had tried with many people, but Helen couldn't commit. She didn't tell him, but she already had one. She was going to the end with Tammy.
This time, the pact was for real.
Greg and Paschal spoke for some time about the future of the game, and about alliances. Greg said he could never be in an alliance with anybody, that was always his policy. For all his deception, this part was true. Greg -hated- alliances. They were boring, and trite, and unoriginal. Sure, he wanted to go to the end with Helen, but he had never promised her anything. It was all strategic, they were just friends. Just like with Paschal. Greg wanted to win on his own, while stringing as many people along as possible.
Paschal had seen the true nature of Greg Buis, but was wise enough to hold his tongue for now. He made sure that nothing seemed to have changed. He still liked the kid, but he was watching now. The judge was older, but he was wise, and he knew that inside information could always come in handy. It was just a matter of when, amd how.
As the challenge loomed, Helen and Tammy had finally cornered Greg, needing to make sure he could go through with voting out the judge tomorrow. Helen knew it would be a hard sell, but she had been caught off guard when the conversation actually happened. Because Greg, it turned out, suggested the idea first.
Greg Buis was no fool. He didn't yet know that Paschal was onto him, but knew the power that the judge had over people. He knew that the longer Paschal stayed in the game, the harder it would be for people to vote him off. Paschal was the ultimate vote-killer. He had never received a vote before, in any season, and no one had really come close. It was just hard to write the man's name down.
"I think we should vote out Paschal," said Greg, under his breath. Helen hadn't had a chance to speak. Tammy's eyebrows shot up in surprise. She hadn't expected to hear that at all.
Now, as usual, Greg had ulterior motives at work here. He originally wanted to vote Kelly out, but all that had changed. He had seen Gina speaking with Paschal. He had seen Tom speaking with Paschal. And he had seen Helen speaking with Paschal. Even if people were on opposing sides, they still liked the man, and -everybody- respected their eldest member. Greg knew the danger in this. When push came to shove, sometimes you just couldn't vote out the guy that you liked.
Greg had finally sucked up his pride and bitten the bullet on this one. He loved the guy, but it was something that had to be done. Gina needed to stick around. Kelly should be okay to stick around for three days, she was too aloof and hot-tempered to really pull any sort of alliance together. Besides, -all- the women left were a bit short on the trigger, it would be next to impossible for them to all get along the rest of the way. That was the chaos Greg was counting on. He loved chaos.
So that left Paschal. This was the moment, it had to come now. Paschal needed to go next.
"Good," said Helen, surprised at Greg's suggestion. She had assumed Greg was much closer to Paschal than he actually was. But she also assumed he had no interest in strategy. For what seemed like the hundredth time, she found herself asking, -What is going on in this guy's head? Who -is- Greg Buis?-
When Tom found out that Greg was along, he had the same reaction. He had thought that Greg and Paschal were like father and son, everyone had thought that. And now, Greg was going to vote him out, without provocation? Tom made a note to keep an eye on Greg, that boy was definitely a bit more scheming than everyone thought. But Tom could respect that. After all, Greg reminded him a bit of himself.
Helen reflected upon all this, in one last confessional before the challenge.
"So it looks like we're voting out Pappy tomorrow." She fiddled with her red buff, which was currently tying back her ponytail. "I hate to do it. I mean, who wants to vote out a judge? But it has to be done. Because if Paschal is around, Greg is always a danger of going back." She paused, still unsure as to who the real Greg Buis was. "Greg is unpredictable, and a bit flaky, and we've come too far to let him mess this game up. Some of us are here to win, and we can't have Greg worrying about loyalty, or whatever game he is playing. Paschal needs to go."
The cameraman asked her what would happen if Paschal somehow won immunity.
"Tammy thinks we should take out Greg instead. Maybe get rid of the variable we can't control. It's not an alliance if you don't know what all of your members are going to do." Helen smiled, and shrugged.
It hadn't been her idea, but she was definitely keeping an eye on Greg Buis. They all were by this point.
The immunity challenge today was based on a children's sport.
"The game today," said Jeff, "Is an Inuit version of the sport jai alai. The goal is to keep this ball in the air as long as possible." He held up a small brown ball, made of caribou hide and filled with seeds. "If you are the one who drops it, you will be eliminated."
He went on to point out seven circles, painted on the ground. Each player would stand in one, and take turns whipping the ball at each other.
"Use these to catch the ball." He held up a wood and rope racket, a little longer and narrower than a tennis racket, that would be attached to their hands. "This is called an -autuk-, and is the tool that people have used to play this game for hundreds of years. Part net, part racket, it is a little difficult to master, but you'll get the hang of it in time."
He directed them to their respective circles, which stood about twenty feet apart from one another.
"If the ball is thrown at you, and you fail to catch it, you are out of the game. If you make a bad throw, which no one is able to catch, you are out of the game. I will be the referee in case of a judgment call." He paused. "Last one standing wins immunity. Any questions?"
No one did, so the players went to stand in their assigned circles. They had fun trying to put on the rackets, until they each had one of the large unwieldly things attached to their right hand. Now they were ready, facing each other in a loose, wide circle. Several players looked confident, particularly Tammy and Tom. This was going to be a fun one.
"Survivors ready," said Jeff, holding up the small brown ball, the size of a tennis ball. "Go!"
He flipped the ball to Helen, who caught it in her racket. She smiled and looked to size up the competition. Kelly grinned back, as did Greg. Helen smirked, trying to look intimidating, and whipped the ball at Greg, with a sidearm motion.
Greg caught it, a little awkwardly, and turned to fling it at Tom. Tom caught it and, in the exact same motion, flung it right back at Greg. The younger man was not ready for this and the ball clattered off his wrist, falling to the ground.
"Greg is out," announced Jeff. Greg shook his head, smiling, as Tom let loose one of his sly grins.
Greg tossed the ball to Kelly, who eyed the competition. Five others stared back at her, and Kelly chose Paschal. She flung the ball at him, but he caught it. The judge whipped it at Helen, who stuck her racket up and barely caught it. Helen threw it at Tammy, but the naval instructor had been overeager. The ball bounced on the ground, well in front of Tammy. Helen was out.
"That's two," announced Jeff. Helen exited the game, hitting her hand against her racket in annoyance.
Five remained. Tammy picked up the ball and eyed her chief competition. She whipped it at Tom with full force. He caught it and tried the same trick as he had with Greg. The ball came hurtling right back at Tammy, and she just managed to catch it. She grinned and pointed at Tom, who just smiled back and shrugged.
"Nice try, Tommy Boy," she joked.
Tammy whipped the ball at Gina, who wasn't able to handle the high velocity throw. It clattered off her racket and bounced away. Gina was out. Tammy smiled.
"Three down," said Jeff, "Four to go."
Kelly, Tom, Paschal and Tammy were all who remained. Kelly had the ball, and she threw it at Paschal. The judge showed surprisingly good hand-eye coordination, catching it easily. He threw it to Tom. Tom, instead of firing it right back at Paschal, went after Tammy this time. His throw whizzed right at her ankles, and she reached down to barely catch it. This time he pointed at her, grinning. Gina and Helen clapped on the sidelines, impressed with Tammy's quick hands.
"I'll getcha, Tammy," Tom taunted. "You cain't catch 'em all."
Tammy whizzed it at Kelly. Kelly whizzed it at Tom. Tom fired it at Tammy. Tammy fired it at Paschal. Paschal fired it to Kelly. They were all getting much better with practice.
"Nice job, guys," said Jeff.
Kelly held the ball, looking at her three opponents. She turned and fired it overhand at Tammy. The reporter was thinking ahead to her next shot, one that would be aimed at Tom's feet, and she took her eye off the ball at the last minute. It missed her racket altogether and bounced off her thigh. Surprised, Tammy was out.
"Damnit," she said, surprised. She thought she had this one in the bag. But she was out due to carelessness.
"Three to go," announced Jeff.
Paschal picked up the ball and lobbed it to Tom. The big man caught it and tried the old fling-back shot. But the strategy finally caught up to him. Tom was too strong, and his throw sailed well over Paschal's head, landing about fifteen feet behind him. Jeff ruled the ball was uncatchable, and Big Tom was out.
"You got too fancy," laughed Paschal. Tom just stood with hands on hips, in disbelief. He never lost this type of game, he couldn't believe it.
The final two stared at each other. Kelly and Paschal. Both of them feared they might be voted out tomorrow, so they were going to be very careful. Kelly worried that her sneaky ways would have pissed off both sides, and Paschal knew it was just a matter of time for him. If they lost this challenge, they were going to make sure they gave it their all.
They lobbed the ball back and forth to each other a few times, testing each other out. Kelly threw the ball harder, but Paschal seemed to have a better touch with the racket. Back and forth it went, some throws hard, some soft. Kelly threw a drop shot that Paschal caught at his ankles. Paschal threw a wide shot that Kelly had to reach to her left to catch. But finally, it ended.
Paschal threw a short drop shot, that fluttered softly in front of Kelly. She thought it was too far away and let it hit the ground, about three feet in front of her. She looked at Jeff, who softly shook his head.
"That was catchable, Kelly."
She protested, but the judgement stood. Paschal raised his racket in triumph, a surprise victor. What the other players didn't know was that the man had excellent hand-eye coordination, having played a great deal of tennis in his lifetime. Paschal had shown them all, and saved his neck, at the exact time he had needed it the most. They all came around to offer congratulations, as Jeff placed the talisman around his neck.
"Nice work, Paschal," he said, "Well earned."
Paschal beamed with pride, but noticed that Gina was a bit distracted during the hoopla. She wasn't hugging him with as much gusto as usual, and was staying mainly off to the side. It was clear that Gina suddenly feared for her safety. Deep down, he hoped that he hadn't just sealed her fate.
Greg Buis was going for a nature hike, wanting to get as close to Mount McKinley as possible this morning. He had been close to the mountain before, but never close enough to really view it properly. For all his scheming ways and strategic chess moves, Greg was still just a nature boy at heart, and he wanted to make sure he enjoyed the scenery as much as possible in the last ten days here. After all, he may never get another chance to visit Alaska in his lifetime.
Since Greg's sudden shift in strategy three days ago, it had been the goal of the camera crew to get some sound bites out of him. Greg was shaping up to be the villain in the cast, in Mark Burnett's eyes, and they wanted some footage of him saying something nasty. Then it could be edited, as needed, throughout the series, building up the great new Survivor villain. The catch was, of course, that Greg wouldn't play along.
Greg never played along.
"The question of good and evil is an interesting concept," he said, while walking. The camera crew always had to work to keep up with him, Greg tended to walk fast on his hikes. "I mean, it's all based on perception. Good or evil can be the same thing, depending on who you ask. I mean, sure, to Tuktu, it will look like I'm no better than Jerri. But if you asked Helen or Tammy, they would say I am doing the right thing. So I mean, you can do whatever you want with my character, but no, I'm not an evil person." This much was true, as Greg wasn't really doing anything to try and hurt people. He was just trying to win, in as calculating a manner as possible.
"The concept of good and evil is like a light, shining into the water," he finished, pointing off to a nearby lake. "I say it's pointing towards the shore. You say it's pointing towards the middle. I mean, it's all just relative to our perspective. Both of us could be right, for all we know." Greg smiled, knowing this was going to piss the producers off to no end. But he wasn't about to be pigeonholed into a narrow category. That was so boring. Sure, he wanted to be the bad guy. The bad guy was always the star of the show. But he wanted to be his own type of villain, on his own terms.
Boring villains were no worse than boring alliances.
Greg's plans for tonight had been somewhat derailed. Paschal had been nominated for the chopping block, and Greg had been mentally prepared to do it, too. As much as he liked the judge, Greg had been prepared to sever the umbilical cord of their friendship, with no regrets. The plan had been set. Tammy was in, she had unfinished business with the man. Helen was in. Greg was in. Even Tom was in. They were four strong. Tom had been the longest holdout, saying that Kelly needed to go first, but he went along with the plan, as usual. Tom very rarely did anything to stir the pot.
"And I know it sounds like I'm in an alliance," said Greg, "But I'm not. Who is to say that four people voting together is an alliance? Maybe we are. Maybe we aren't. What defines an alliance?" Greg had said repeatedly that he was not in an alliance, and never would be. He -hated- that word, it meant nothing to him. He considered alliances to be the lowest form of strategy, boring and spineless. To win this game, he felt you needed to play for yourself, and take some chances. Alliances were for the weak.
So now with Paschal immune, that left just two choices: Kelly or Gina. Greg's plan had -always- been to leave Gina around, to cause as much chaos with Helen and Tammy as possible. But the catch was that the others didn't want to go along with it. Helen was back on her anti-Gina crusade, and it was always hard to get her to change her mind.
Greg sighed. The game was fun, but utterly exhausting. Sometimes, you just didn't get to call the shots.
"There's no way I'm voting for you over Gina," said Helen. She was speaking with Kelly, reassuring her that she would be safe tonight. Kelly knew she was in a vulnerable state, having no real allies on either side. It was a bad spot to be in, although she really had no one to blame but herself. Her spontaneous break from Tuktu had been good in the long-term, but bad in the short-term. It had broken apart her biggest competition, but also exposed her from her safety net. She was exactly where she didn't want to be, completely vulnerable and unprotected, but at least Helen had reassured her. Helen was generally a very honest person. Hopefully they would choose Gina instead.
"Helen has had some issues with Gina," said Kelly, in a later confessional. "They got along fine at the start, but the two of them have been giving nasty stares to each other for a while now. I think it's all gonna come to a head at the next council vote. Unless, of course, they all vote me out instead. But it will definitely be one of the two of us."
But Helen had given her word that Kelly would be safe. Helen liked Kelly, the girl had guts. Tammy had mentioned voting for Greg, but knew that Gina was the safe move. Gina was too much trouble, she needed to be gone. Greg, of course, wanted Gina around, but he was in no position to start making waves. That wasn't his style. He would do whatever the two more forceful females wanted. As long as a Tuktu ended up in the jury, he supposed he was fine with it.
"Paschal saved himself," said Helen, with a shrug. "And he probably doesn't even realize it. But we're down to seven now, and certain cuts have to be made. It's just a matter of gamesmanship, and the nature of the game. Someone has to go."
She looked at Gina, who was off in the distance, walking by herself, taking yet another trip to the forest. She was a lonely figure, all alone, but it was definitely a prophetic sight.
This would likely be Gina's last nature walk.
With Tribal Council nearing, the sides had pretty much solidified. The power bloc of Greg-Helen-Tammy-Tom was all in agreement that Gina needed to go. Tom had actually preferred to vote out Kelly, but that would have been what Greg wanted. Tom instinctively mistrusted Greg's motives, so he immediately changed his mind. "Gina," he said, "Count me down for a Gina vote." Gina was a nice enough girl, but she needed to go join her friend in the jury, he reasoned. So he nodded and went along with the plan, as always, just like they would expect from a dumb hillbilly.
Tom met with Paschal before the vote. The two of them had an agreement that they would share knowledge of what was about to happen before each vote, a gentlemen's agreement. Their proposed alliance had gone nowhere, but they still respected one another. But this time, there was a change. Before, it had been Tom asking for an alliance. Today, it was Paschal's turn.
"I cain't do it," Tom said, under his breath, "I'm in too good a spot right now to go makin' enemies. I don't want Tammy or Helen after me, that never turns out well for anyone." He paused, making sure no one was watching. "The two of'em are like bloodhounds, they always sniff out when someone's against 'em."
"I understand," said Paschal, respecting the man's honesty. Tom had told him exactly what was going to happen tonight, how it was going to be Gina. He mentioned that Paschal had been the original target, and had saved himself by winning immunity. This surprised the judge, as Paschal hadn't thought he would be the one they targeted, specifically with Greg being part of the decision-making team. He assumed, pehaps naively, that Greg would have put up a fight to protect him, but Tom wouldn't divulge the details. Tom could share the details later, if need be. He always liked to have an ace in the hole.
"Well, I appreciate it," said Paschal, patting Tom on the back. "You're a good man, Tommy."
As Tom left, Paschal had just one thing left to do. He had to go talk with Gina. He had to go have one last talk with his Marquesan friend.
Gina wiped a tear from her eye, as she stared off at the mountains. She didn't want this game to be over, didn't want to go home. But Paschal had just told her the bad news. She would be leaving. She stared off at the white mountains, and trees, and the tundra, not saying a word.
"It was supposed to be me," added Paschal. "But I won immunity."
She smiled to herself, shaking her head. This place was too beautiful for her to feel anger, but it was back. Her old feelings of resentment and betrayal were back in full force. This wasn't supposed to be how the game would end. She was supposed to win the million dollars, use it to open her bed and breakfast, and stay out here in Alaska for good. This was supposed to be her future home.
"It's okay," she said, tossing her hair to the side, out of her eyes. "I can take it."
"Look," said the judge, "They have nothing against you. Helen wanted me to make sure you knew that it was only strategic. It's only a game."
"It's -not- just a game the way they played it," Gina said, bitterly. She had told herself over and over that this was no big deal, but it was no use at this point. She just wasn't going to be a good sport about this. It took a while for Gina Crews to open herself to friends in this world, but when she did, she trusted with all her heart. And she had trusted Helen completely at the beginning. Helen had been like an older sister, and the two Tuktu workaholics had bonded almost instantly. And for Gina to be ripped away from her Tuktu family, to go through all the turmoil at Amarok, and to finally leave because of the betrayal of one of her sisters, was too much to bear. Gina was understandably bitter.
"This just stinks," she said, again wiping her left eye. She was angry, hurt and sad, but most of all she just hated to lose. "Is there anything we can do?"
"I talked to Greg, but he says he has to go with the majority," said Paschal. "He is playing for himself now, and I don't blame him. I'd do the same thing in his shoes." Paschal had debated himself for hours, but finally decided not to tell Gina that Greg had been behind the plan. He didn't want to upset her more than she already was. Might as well just let her go out as quietly as possible. "Kelly won't vote with us either," said the judge, "She won't talk about alliances anymore. And Tom can't do a thing to help."
"Well then," said Gina, "Just do one thing for me, Paschal, okay?"
"What's that," he asked, suspecting he knew what was coming.
She turned to him, wanting to make sure he gave her his word on this.
"Vote for me," she said. "Make it unanimous. At least save yourself for a few more days."
Paschal shook his head, walking over to give her a hug. She clung to him, starting to cry again, trying desperately not to lose her composure. Gina Crews was strong, she wasn't the type of person to cry. Not here, and especially not now.
"I won't do that," he said. "You know it and I know it. If they take us out, they have to take us -all- out. I'm not gonna help them."
She stepped back, smiling at him, gratefully. She didn't know what answer she had wanted to hear, but she appreciated the sincerity in his response. She kissed him on the cheek.
"Thank you, Pappy."
The seven members of Qinaliut arrived at Tribal Council, just as a light rain began to pour. They were lucky to have left early, as the path here would be brutal when it turned to mud.
They passed the two totem poles at the entrance. The one on the left was filled completely, with Clay staring down from the top. The one on the right featured a grinning Silas and a sad looking Elisabeth. Gina pictured herself right above it, and wondered what expression they would pick for her face, happy or sad? Who got to pick? She wondered if the jurors ever got to see their carved likenesses.
The seven members sat in their seats, listening as the rain sprinkled on the wooden roof above them. Jeff greeted them and asked his litany of questions.
Yes, said Kelly, the game was changing. It was becoming more personal, less team-based.
No, said Greg, the living conditions hadn't been particularly dangerous. The animals mostly stayed away from camp.
Yes, said Helen, we definitely have leaders in the group. She wouldn't name names, however, preferring to say that everyone led in their own way.
Finally, Jeff came to Paschal.
"Paschal," he asked, "Would you say the game is being played in a fair manner?"
Paschal lowered his head, smiling softly. He wasn't the type to start blasting people, but there were certain things that needed to be said. It was as if Jeff had read his mind.
"Jeff, this game is ever-changing," he started, "And I would say that at certain times, people play with ethics, and other times, they play only to win. And I wouldn't say that the two strategies always intersect one another."
"And what times would those be?" asked Jeff, looking for some dirt.
"When people misrepresent themselves," said the judge. "When they use information from personal conversations against each other. When they lie." He wasn't naming anyone by name, but Greg was sure going to be listening right now. And as much as Paschal wanted to sabotage Greg's chances in the jury, and tell Elisabeth and Gina what he had done, he didn't do it. He felt that Greg's conscience would be punishment enough. Let him win this game, and then see if he can live with it.
"Gina," asked Jeff, "What about you? Do you feel vulnerable tonight?"
Gina smiled softly and flipped her hair out of her eyes again, a move she often did when she was upset. This was her chance, her last bit of glory. She wanted to blast the others for the way they had played. She wanted to let them know how she felt. She looked over at Helen, who had her head down, staring at the ground. It was clear from body language that Helen definitely didn't want to have a showdown here. And, Gina finally decided, neither did she.
It wasn't worth it.
"Of course," she smiled. "I'm probably going tonight, Jeff."
"Oh?" he asked, "Why do you say that?"
"Because I got outplayed, Jeff." She smiled, not elaborating. She wasn't going to say any more than that. She had decided to take the high road on this. Besides, she would probably be on the jury now. She would get a chance to speak later. They could all hear her feelings on the subject then.
"Okay," said Jeff, standing up, "It's time to vote. Paschal, you're up."
Paschal English stood and walked up to the podium. He cast his vote, as he had promised, for Helen Glover.
"Helen, I'm casting this vote out of respect for Gina. I told her I would, and so here it is. You're well on your way to winning this thing, so I just wanted you to know it won't be easy."
Tom Buchanan was next, and cast his vote for Gina.
"I hate t'do this, but it's that part of th'game. Yo're a wonderful li'l girl, take care of y'self."
Helen Glover also cast a vote for Gina.
"Gina, I know we've had our issues," she said, with a stern look on her face, "But I appreciate the way you went out tonight. You showed a lot of class, and that's hard to find in life. Best of luck."
Tammy Leitner cast a vote for Gina, adding "We had a lot of fun in Amarok, and you're a heck of a competitor."
Greg Buis and Kelly Wiglesworth voted, and Gina Crews was the last to walk to the podium. She strode up, opened the pen, and wrote down Helen's name.
"Miss Helen," she said, looking tired and worn out, "I know you won this time, but come ten days from now, you'll be having to face the jury. I don't envy you for that. Good luck."
She placed the ballot in the box and walked back, sitting on the far right of the jury bench.
As Jeff went to retrieve the ballots, the seven members sat in silence, not looking at anything in particular. The voting process was always hard, whether you were on the winning or losing side. One of the people who was sitting here would not be here tomorrow. Even if you didn't like the person, there would still be a hole where they were supposed to be. It was a complicated issue.
Jeff returned with the box, reminding them that the person voted out would have to leave the council area immediately.
"Gina," he said, reading off the first ballot. She smiled softly and nodded, exchanging a glance with Elisabeth in the jury. They both knew.
"Gina" read the second ballot.
"Miss Gina," read the third ballot. That had been Helen's attempt to bury the hatchet, and Gina chuckled.
"Helen," read the fourth vote. That was Gina's own.
"Helen," read the fifth vote. Gina reached back to pat Paschal on the knee, appreciating him sticking by her.
But finally, the sixth vote ended it.
"And the third member of the our jury," said Jeff, unfolding the ballot.
Gina Crews stood and retrieved her torch. Paschal gave her a big hug and wished her well, but they all said a quick goodbye, even Helen. The nature guide walked up to Jeff and had her torch snuffed, as she watched with a small, defeated smile on her face. Gina's game was over.
Once she had left, Jeff addressed the remaining six players.
"Down to six. You guys have all come very far indeed, but there's still some tough choices to be made."
Tom nodded. Greg just stared at the fire. Tammy chewed on her bottom lip, thinking.
"You've made it thirty days," said the host, "Most people don't get here. So enjoy your evening, and I'll see you tomorrow."
The final six players walked out of the Spirit Lodge set. Tammy Leitner. Helen Glover. Paschal English. Tom Buchanan. Kelly Wiglesworth. Greg Buis. One of them was going to be a millionaire in a little more than a week.
But there was still a lot of game to play before that happened.
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