All-Star Survivor: Alaska
Qinaliut Tribe: Tom Buchanan, Greg Buis, Paschal English, Helen Glover, Tammy Leitner, Kelly Wiglesworth
Kelly Wiglesworth sat on an enormous, crumbling ball of rock, feet dangling over the side. She looked down at her torn, blackened Nikes and a tuft of grass beyond them, far beyond. Sitting there, she couldn’t quite remember how she’d managed to get up so high, but she wasn't worried about getting back down. Besides, it was -so- peaceful up here.
"Thirty days down. Nine to go." She closed her eyes and reflected on the moment, smiling inwardly to herself. It seemed that everything she did had been directed inwards lately, and this was no different. But it was still a happy feeling, nonetheless. She had made it nearly to the end. The goal was in sight.
"Ahh, sweet freedom," she joked, enjoying the solitude. As much as she had disliked losing another Tuktu last night, she wasn't -entirely- broken up about it. Sure, Elisabeth and Gina had been her friends, and they had been so since day one. But still, Gina had made her a little uncomfortable the past few days, what with her anger at Helen and her disappointment with her teammates. Gina Crews was a sweetheart, but she was a bad person to cross. She wasn't one to hold in her feelings.
And as much as Kelly didn't want to make enemies in this game, she was more than happy to vote along with the majority last night. Gina was the target, thus Gina would get Kelly's vote. So long, take care, glad it's not me.
Kelly was definitely playing for herself now. The line had long ago been crossed.
Still with eyes closed, she reminisced back to her first experience with this game. She saw the bottoms of the palm trees that lined Pulau Tiga. She saw Susan Hawk, chopping up a coconut. She saw Richard Hatch, naked and spearfishing. She saw Dirk Been, trying to flirt with her again and again, to no avail. Laughing, she saw Sean Kenniff's bowling alley, and the look on the idiot's face when he had been voted off. Those had been good days... for a while anyway.
And now, here she was again. Right back in a position to win. It was as entirely different group of people, and an entirely different type of game now, but Kelly was back. She had received a second chance, and she -knew- how rare those were in life.
The problem was that Kelly no longer really wanted to play the game. It was getting too complicated, too personal. Paschal was disappointed, and a bit angry, with Greg. Helen wanted Paschal and Tom gone. Greg couldn't stand Tom. Tom didn't trust Helen for a second, and Tammy didn't seem to like -any- of them. Walking around camp was like swimming in the middle of a shark feeding frenzy.
Kelly just wanted to sit out here on the rocks, and watch the eagles. In fact, she could hear one now, gently soaring overhead, gracefully. Amazed with her powers of perception, she looked up. But it wasn’t there. She had been mistaken.
The producer assigned to Kelly called up to her, asking if she was planning on leaving soon. You see, Kelly had been up here, alone, for nearly three hours. She ignored him, as she often did. She dug her heels into the rock instead, sending dust and debris down on top of him. -Oops-, she thought, smiling. That had been his own fault, for bothering her meditation up here. -Leave me alone,- she thought, -I'll get back to the game when I'm ready.-
She thought one final time about Gina, the nature guide, the competent Tuktu leader. Gina had busted her butt every day to help get their shelter built, and had gone out of her way to get them food. Gina had been a friend to all, a true leader by example. And, of course, Kelly had helped vote her out. See ya.
Kelly also thought of Greg, both the Greg she knew, and the Greg they all -thought- they knew. She’d really liked the guy at one time, back when they used to go hiking, and play in the streams together. Back on Pulau Tiga, it had been a running joke that he had always wanted to be like Richard Hatch. They all knew it. Greg was a wannabe. And now, of course, he was fulfilling his dream.
Greg was the villain. Kelly knew this as instinctively as she could read the current in a river. Greg was the real mastermind behind this game. And he was also turning into what Kelly always thought he would be: A royal asshole.
Kelly knew Greg had set her up immediately on that fateful night that Elisabeth went. She was no fool, Greg was making his bid to become the next uber-villain. And, of course, Kelly had been forced to help his plans. She had cast the deciding vote, out of her own selfish self-interests. She had always sworn she would never play this game the same way again, but indavertantly, she had.
Once again, she was playing sidekick to Richard Hatch.
Kelly had agreed to come play this game again for one reason: To exorcise some old demons. She wanted to have a new experience with the game, so the old one would stop echoing in her head. She’d wanted to prove she could play the game -her- way. But she alone had been the one to help Greg get ahead, maybe even handed him a million dollars at the same time.
Life was funny sometimes in its ironies. Kelly had come out here to prove Richard and Sue wrong, to shove their win in their stupid fat faces. She wanted to see her name on that final ballot. She wanted to see the live audience erupt in cheers, as they stood and aplauded their new hero. More than anything, Kelly wanted to be the good guy this time.
But of course, she was repeating the exact same cycle as before. Nothing had changed.
"This game sucks," she smiled, closing her eyes and laying down. The comment was meant to be bitter, but was not without humor. Like Greg, she could also appreciate the great ironies in life.
Maybe she was just cursed.
Two miles away, Paschal and Tom gathered dead wood out in the forest. They were covered in dust and dirt, their legs scratched from the endless patches of blackberries and nettles. Oh, how Tom hated nettles. But it was all forgotten as the two men each held an end of a heavy, dry, brown log. They threw it over the edge of a hill, panting, and shook hands in celebration.
"There is not a man out here who works any harder than Big Tom," Paschal said later, as he soaked his feet in a stream. "When it comes right down to it, there isn’t anyone I’d rather have at my side. I mean, Helen's a hell of a worker, and so is Tammy. Greg can build just about anything, if he sets his mind to it. But Tom is like a machine. I mean, if we needed someone to fight off a grizzly bear, I'd be willing to put money on the big guy. He'll do stuff like that for the team." Paschal reached down to scoop up some water from the stream and, as rules expressly forbid, sipped some of the cool, unboiled water. It was something they all did from time to time, just because they worked hard, and got thirsty. No one had gotten sick yet. Paschal hoped nobody would, either. "I tell you what," he finally added, "I'm an old man and I tire more easily than I used to. But Tom isn't much younger than myself, and he's -still- up there, picking up wood."
Tom leaned down and picked up a massive tree trunk, with the branches still attached. He held it up to his chest and threw it down the hill, where it crashed through everything beneath it, ripping up the earth.
"Dear Lord," Paschal called up to him, "You’re a monster, Tommy."
"It's why the ladies love me," came the reply, "Tommy's got stamina."
Paschal laughed, so Tom continued.
"Hey, judge," he yelled, "Could you get me Neleh's phone number when we get home?"
Paschal laughed again. Tom was always egging him on about his friendship with the young girl.
"Not on your life, Tom. Not on your life."
As the two were finishing up, they reflected on another successful day of labor spent out here. They had been spending a lot of time together lately, for several reasons. For one, they both liked each other. For another, they both -needed- each other. It was clear that an alliance would probably come about, at some point or other. They had both tried, and both been rebuffed, at different points since the merge. But time was running short.
They were down to six.
At a certain point, one of them was sure to be in danger, and would need the other's help. Paschal thought he would be the first, which is why he had been pushing for an alliance lately. But Tom wasn't going to budge. Too soon, he would say. No reason to. But Paschal thought differently. He knew that immunity had been the only thing to save him last night, and really all it had done was delay the inevitable. He was still next. He would -always- be next until he was gone. So the question was going to come up again, and again, until Tom finally cracked.
"Hey Tom," asked the judge, "Have you ever tasted a slice of blueberry cobbler hot enough to melt the ice cream on top of it?"
"Ah have," Tom said, licking his lips. "An’ have you ever tasted a bowl of sweet potatah souffleh, brown sugar and pecans melted into a glaze and poured over ‘a top of it?"
"I have. And have you ever had a plate of black eyed peas, boiled overnight with the collarbone of a pig, and topped with salty collared greens the color of a fresh dollar bill?"
Tom smiled. He hadn't, but he wanted some now.
"And what about this alliance," Paschal finally interjected. "Are we in together now?"
Tom grinned, enjoying the judge's persistence. If nothing else, it was a fun game.
"Thinkin' about it," he yelled down. "Still thinkin' it over."
The minds of Qinaliut were definitely in motion today. Everyone, it seemed, had some great plan, some great scheme. Kelly was placing her bets that the walls would fall down around her, and she would remain unscathed. Paschal was desperately trying to pull Tom into an alliance, by mentioning the similarities they shared. Tom, for his part, was trying to lay as low as possible, and keep reminding everyone that he was "Jes' a good ol' boy, out here for a vacation." Greg Buis was trying to fade back into the woodwork, and try to keep ties to both sides.
But the two who remained mostly in power at the moment were Helen Glover and Tammy Leitner.
Helen had seen her strategy pay off. From the hard working den mother of Tuktu, to the "ugly duckling" among the power core, to the target of numerous schemes and suspicions, she had finally emerged on top, for the moment. She regretted it had all come to pass the way it had, but she wouldn't change any of her actions for a second. She had just reacted to a bad situation and risen to power. Helen Glover was a winner.
At the moment, the two ladies were carrying water jugs back to camp. They hunched beneath the weight of the heavy containers, faces bright red. Helen wasn't much a fan of profanity, but the weight of these cursed things caused her to swear under her breath.
"These things just get heavier and heavier every day," she said.
"Deep breathing," Tammy urged. "Keep going."
Helen tried to talk as she carried, but it was hard going. The jugs seemed to be getting heavier, or maybe they were all just getting weaker. In either case, it would all be over soon. They had just nine more days to go.
"Do you think we'll finally be able to vote out Paschal?" she panted. "He and Tom are getting awfully close."
Tammy walked with a bit more ease, but chose her words carefully. She had never been this close to victory before. The win-at-all-costs fiery hellcat had tried her best to tone down her act as they neared the endgame. She didn't want to say anything she regretted, or ever look back and say she hadn't planned out her words or actions carefully. Tammy was definitely becoming a bit wiser and more deliberate as she smelled that money.
"We have to," she said, "I think things will be a lot tougher on all of us if he sticks around." She frowned as her sunglasses slid down the sweat of her nose, sliding to rest on her cheeks. She nudged her head back, trying to move them back into place, but it was no use. "Can you get my shades for me?"
"How?" Helen asked, smiling. Her hands were just as full as Tammy's. But they managed to maneuver around, so Tammy could bend down and Helen could use her knee, trying to slide the glasses back up. Tammy always felt naked without her trademark shades, she hated for people to be able to see her eyes. Helen balanced precariously, and almost had the glasses back up before Tammy's water jug slid off her back and onto the ground, landing on top of a rock.
"Oh shit," Tammy said, bending over the large clay pot to make sure it wasn’t leaking. She picked it up and patted down both sides. It was fine. She wiped the sweat off her forehead and lifted the jug back onto her shoulders.
"It has to be Paschal," added Tammy, "And then I hate to say it, but you have to get rid of your boy next."
Helen said nothing, just walking. She was well aware of Tammy's distrust of Greg Buis. Tammy couldn't stand the guy. She looked at him and saw nothing but evil. Tammy would so much as say so, Greg is the biggest schemer in the bunch. And she was one to know, because she had once been friends with Jeff Varner and Brian Heidik. In Tammy's mind, Greg was the worst of them all, and it killed her that no one else saw it. Especially not Helen.
"Greg's harmless," said Helen, "He doesn't even want the money. He just wants to play nature boy. It's like pulling teeth getting him to go along with any sort of strategy."
Tammy shook her head, letting this drop for now. Helen was a lot of things but she was, above all things, stubborn as a mule. If she didn't want to see the truth, she was just going to shut it out. She did it a lot. So Tammy brought the subject back to Paschal. Dear, sweet Paschal, who should have been gone last night. But Tammy wasn't -that- concerned that he had been spared. Paschal's eviction only had to wait a few more days. Tammy wasn't that concerned.
"Paschal has been all over Tom," she said, "As well as Kelly. He's making a big push right now. He's talking to Kelly like he's her damn guidance counselor."
"About time she got one," sniped Helen under her breath. It was a running joke among most of the players that Kelly had some powerful demons bottled up in her. Greg went so far to suggest she had depression issues, and it had been irresponsible of the producers to ask her to come back. Helen wasn't sure she agreed, but had always been a bit worried about Kelly Wiglesworth. Kelly just seemed to have a black cloud over her head at all times, it couldn't be healthy.
As Helen and Tammy arrived back at camp, the plan had been set in motion. Paschal had to go, nothing had changed. He was too calming, too well-liked, and too much of a threat. Tammy had no problem with it, as she often said in confessionals, she owed him a favor, just like she had Neleh. And Helen worried about the judge's influence over Tom, Kelly and, most of all, Greg.
Greg, as always, was a bit of a wild card.
Greg had found more maple syrup.
It wasn't really syrup. Not by Mrs. Butterworth standards, as he helpfully pointed out. It was a yellowish-green sap that he found one morning, oozing out of a tree root. He had no idea what it was, but it was sweet and didn't seem to kill him, so that was really all that counted. He had brought some back to add to the oatmeal a few days ago and had been the man of the hour. And now, the stage was set again. He had more presents to give them.
"See this?" he pointed, identifying a large pair of mountain lion tracks. "She's probably watching me right now, sitting in one of these trees." He looked up, scanning for the telltale yellowish eyes, but saw nothing. So he continued to stomp through the mud, leaving his own long, squishy footprints, as he discussed the current state of the game.
"It’s like you’re on this ferris wheel." He talked as he walked, not looking at the camera, as usual. First person confessionals weren't really his style, he liked to treat the cameraman like a secretary. Just follow me around and see what you can get on tape. "Ferris wheels are great. One minute you’re riding up, up, up to the top and the next minute you’re headed right back down. The key is not to get too excited when you are on the way up, and not get frightened when you are on the way down. Because it's all just a cycle. And of course, the goal is to end up on the top. You want to be the guy sitting at the top when they start unloading, because then you get to see all the pretty lights and watch the people walk around underneath."
As much as Greg liked to wax poetic about the morale of the game, and its big purpose, he had been a bit frustrated as of late. His plan was working, but not -everything- was working as it should. For one, Paschal hadn’t been as easy to manipulate as he’d once imagined. The man was soft, and thought with his heart, but was still a bit more stubborn than people had expected. Greg hadn't been able to manipulate him into acting selfishly. But, of course, the game was not yet over.
There were still nine days left. There would still be ample opportunities to manipulate the judge's selflessness.
A far more troubling issue was the mouth of Tom Buchanan. Tom had warned the judge of Greg's motives very soon after "D-Day," as Greg liked to call it. At the moment, Paschal may or may not have been on to Greg, but he had never come right out and said it. Things were still a bit up in the air. But one thing was certain. Greg Buis was no fan of Tom Buchanan. That had started early on, way back in Amarok. Tom would go on and on about some stupid fishing story, or some experience with a goat, and Greg had just been disgusted by the man's lack of sophistication. There was not a subtle bone in Tom's body, something Greg could never tolerate. In a sense, Tom had reminded him of Rudy, as whatever was on his mind was bound to come out his mouth. He had no mind for secrecy or subtlety. So Greg had purposefully separated himself from Tom, and Rudy, and Clay, as soon as he could. They just weren't his type of people.
And now Tom had fired a direct shot across the bow of Greg's ship... by trying to get Paschal to turn against Greg.
Things were going to get very interesting indeed, in these last few days. You couldn't ignore a challenge like that. Tom was definitely going to be a target very soon.
The catch with all this was that it was a meaningless feud, a subplot in Greg's mind. He didn't want to let it distract him from his big goal: To put four Tuktus on the jury. The past two votes had appeared chaotic and unpredictable on the outside, but they had still gone exactly as planned. Two Tuktus on the jury, two to go. Greg knew that, despite the rumblings of a Tom coup d'etat, the Tuktuing still needed to continue.
And Tom's friendship with Paschal had only made it more clear who needed to go first. Tom needed to be taught a lesson. Paschal would be taking a hike in two days, and any conflict over this choice was slowly drifting away from Greg's mind. He no longer had to debate the ethics of this action in his mind. It was just the right time and place.
Things were definitely ready to turn cutthroat.
Time crept along.
As with all days after Tribal Council, the hours were going by very slowly today. People were carrying out their usual chores. Friendships were being solidified. Last minute alliances were being discussed. It was just more of the same. Thirty days was a long time, they all had their routines down by now.
Kelly was walking with Helen to get the tree mail. The two ladies discussed mainly superficial things, such as the cold frost that morning, and the new hole in the side of the shelter. They had always had a fairly good relationship, Helen enjoyed Kelly's ability to roll with the punches in the game, and Kelly had been the first to defend Helen against the others' charges of deceit and betrayal. They had never been best friends, but Kelly had long ago decided to stop trying to make friends here, anyway. Helen was pretty much as close as she could get by this point.
"Look, we've got something," said Helen, as she first noticed the bulging treemail box. The two of them opened it and found a piece of paper, folded like a paper airplane.
"Odd," said Kelly, tossing it lightly into the air. The plane lifted, hovered, and then smashed violently to the ground, sticking into the mud.
"Nice throw, Amelia Earhart," joked Helen, as she picked up the soggy plane. Unfolding it, she read off yet another of the tiresome treemail rhymes.
Grab a wing, fold the rudder.
Send your plane, above and under.
Aim for distance, go as high as the sun.
For a great reward.. this challenge is the one.
Helen nodded, grinning. It was game time again.
"Welcome to today’s reward challenge," Jeff said as they entered the enormous clearing. The six of them stood before him now, looking bright and eager. They were all anxious to see what this big reward was going to be.
"I hope you guys haven't been working too hard today," said Jeff, "Because this one is going to be a killer. You will need every ounce of your stamina, agility, endurance and wit." He watched as several of their faces dropped, as most of them had expected a frivolous, fun challenge. But, of course, Jeff was just messing with their heads. He smiled, his dimpled face betraying his little joke.
"I'm just messing with you. Today's challenge will be a lot of fun. You will be making airplanes, and seeing whose can fly the furthest. I figured you guys could use a break, and do something a little different. Well, today is -your- day. Enjoy it."
He went on to uncover a pile of wood, which had been hidden under a large tablecloth.
"These are the materials you will be using. We have maple, pine, birch, and a whole lot of balsa wood. Some of you may have made these before, and will know that balsa flies the best, but is incredibly fragile." He held up a model. "This is what it should look like. The pieces of wood have been cut and shaped in a way to allow you to build a working plane, but the design and material will be up to you. The wings all work, but your design will be key." He looked at his watch. "I'll give you guys an hour to build your planes. At that point, we line up, and you get three tosses. The player with the longest single flight wins the reward."
"Hey Jeff," called Tom, "What's this big reward?"
"Let’s just say," answered the host, "That I think you’ll be -more- than satisfied with the prize. In fact, I’d say it’s the biggest one we’ve ever given away. Trust me when I say you'll like this one."
Tammy smiled, her fiery demeanor breaking for a moment. This game was awfully hard on your senses and emotions, a big spectacular reward was something she could use... something they -all- could use.
Jeff told them to begin, and the players walked over to inspect the woodpile. Pieces of wood, both thin and thick, were removed, as the players went over the available pieces. Paschal and Helen seemed to know exactly what they were looking for, snatching up the parts that looked just right in their minds. Greg was selecting an odd combination of heavy and light pieces. Tammy and Kelly were just grabbing anything that looked good, not having any idea what to do. And Tom was being Tom, of course, having taken all his pieces, but forgetting to get a pair of wings. He returned, sheepishly, to get some.
They all sat on the grass, trying to build their planes. Kelly and Tammy were working together, figuring that two heads were better than one, as they built planes that were clones of one another.
Tom was building a large, unwieldly biplane. Paschal was basing his on the laws of aerodynamics, from his time in the Air Force. Helen was constructing hers based on her memory of how jet planes looked. Tammy and Kelly had built extremely similar, extremely conservative planes, and Greg's looked almost like a UFO, with strange rudders and wings sticking out at odd angles. But finally, the hour had passed. The lighthearted activity had been a lot of fun, with a lot of shared laughs and a lot of mockery of Tom's craftsmanship. He had taken it all in stride, but now the time was here.
It was time to put their creations to the test.
Helen Glover was the first to throw her plane. Jeff smiled and had her step up to a white line, which had been painted on the grass. She held her plane up in her right hand, a pretty nifty jet plane, made out of balsa wood and thin strips of pine. She took a deep breath and flung it. It sailed at a fairly level angle, dipping and dipping and finally settling on the ground. The others applauded as Jeff went to measure it.
"Forty-two feet," he announced. "Nice job!"
Kelly Wiglesworth was next, and she nervously took her place.
"This is the Kellinator," she said, having named her plane. She launched it, but the throw had been a little too hard. The Kellinator smashed down to the ground, not more than three feet away. It was a carbon copy of her toss with the paper airplane.
"Remind me never to fly on Wigle Airlines," joked Greg. Kelly laughed, picking up her now damaged plane.
Tom Buchanan was next, and held up his big, heavy bi-plane. It must have weighed ten pounds. People were holding their smiles, trying not to say anything, but finally Jeff Probst had to say something. It was obvious they were all thinking it, and he knew if he didn't say it, nobody would.
"Tom, what is that ridiculous piece of shit?"
Everybody laughed out loud, having hoped that someone was going to make the first comment. Tom just shrugged and smiled, not letting it bother him. He wasn't one to sweat the small stuff.
"This is Baby Tommy," he said, "Y'all are just gonna watch as he glides all the way t'Canada."
Tom floated his dreadnaught into the air, and it actually floated on a wind current for a few seconds, before plummeting down to the ground. Twelve feet, not good enough.
Paschal English was fourth, and he stepped up, holding a sleek 747-style plane. Jeff asked him if he had named his plane, and Paschal smiled.
"Georgia Bulldog," he said, grinning.
The judge said a prayer under his breath and floated his plane into a wind current. It sailed at a nice, brisk pace, gliding right along the wind, until it clipped a tree and fell to earth. Jeff ran out to measure it.
"Fifty-one feet!" he said. "Our new leader!"
Paschal got high fives and handshakes from the other players, and watched as Greg Buis took his turn.
"So we're naming these things now?" asked Greg, playfully.
"Sure, go ahead," announced Jeff, a little warily. He hated when Greg got that playful look in his eye.
"This is the Probst Shuttle," said Greg, smiling. "I named it after you."
"Wonderful," smiled the host, "What an honor."
Greg held up his bizarre circular plane. It kind of looked like a UFO, although it looked more than a little like a donut as well. He claimed he read about this design in some physics book, and was ready to test it out. He turned sideways and flung it with the snap of his wrist, like a frisbee. It sailed up and out into the air.
"Fly, you bastard," Greg screamed, jokingly, "Probst, get moving!"
The flying donut reached an arc, and started flying right back at the players.
"No!" screamed Greg, but the Probst Shuttle landed behind him, coming to rest in the mud. Negative yardage, no measurement needed.
"I said make a plane," teased Jeff, "Not a boomerang."
Tammy was the sixth, and final, player to make her first throw. She took a breath and lined up her conservative looking jet, which she had declined to name. With a quick motion, she hurled it forwards, like a dart. It didn't have much grace, but flew in a straight line for a good distance, before plunging nose-first into the ground. Jeff measured it. Thirty-seven feet. Close, but not close enough.
"Second round," announced Jeff. "Let's see if anyone can beat the judge."
Helen's second throw was a bit shorter than the first. Her plane glided along gracefully, but just didn't have the power to get very far. It was an excellent design, but balsa was very light wood, it was very dependent on the wind current. Helen, frustrated by the lack of wind, watched her plane fall short of the mark. She was still in second place.
The Kellinator was launched for its second flight, and fared somewhat better, going a good thirty feet. They all applauded Kelly, and she thanked them, gracefully.
Tom came up a second time, to muffled laugher and hooting. He tossed his plane as hard as he could, and it got some good momentum, only to smash into a tree. The wounded plane dropped to the ground, one wing cracked.
"Aw, hell," complained Tom, "Mah plane's been shot down!"
Paschal's Georgia Bulldog took its second flight, and hit a bad air pocket. The ash and balsa plane flew far to the left, spinning until it crashed.
Greg came up for his second attempt, smiling. He thought he had it figured out now, it was all in the wrist. Turning sideways, he flung the Probst Shuttle like a boomerang. It glided up and up, getting the wind under it, and they all watched in fascinated awe. It was destined to go far and beyond Paschal's, until it started to turn, coming back towards them.
"No, stay straight," coaxed Greg, "Wrong way!" But the spinning disk flew directly into a tree, where it shattered. The poor contraption lay on the ground, decimated.
"Noooooo!" cried Greg, in mock anguish, dropping to his knees. The other players laughed, as Helen went over to jokingly console him.
"Greg and the Probst Shuttle, out of the game," announced Jeff.
Tammy walked up for her second throw. She eyed Paschal's leading mark and lined up her plane. She gritted her teeth and tossed it, again like a dart. It flew in a straight line, hard and fast, and skidded to the ground after about forty feet. She was getting closer, but was still behind the leader.
"Last round," announced Jeff, "One more throw to beat Paschal."
Helen Glover walked up the line and waited. She needed the wind, and stood there for about thirty seconds, before she felt a light breeze behind her. She took a step and launched her plane into the wind current. It sailed through the air, light and graceful, and finally landed. Jeff ran out to measure it, as it had landed very close to Paschal's mark.
"Fifty-three feet," he announced. Helen leaped into the air, ecstatic. She was the new leader. Paschal congratulated her, and Tom gave her a big hug. Helen couldn't get the grin off her face right now if she wanted to. She could almost taste that reward.
Kelly walked up for her final throw, and eyed Helen's leading mark. She bit her tongue in intense focus and finally launched the Kellinator. It sailed high and far, but was at a bit of an arc. It finally reached its apex, and started a rapid descent. The plane hit the mud a good ten feet short of Helen's. Kelly shook her head, but was proud of her sturdy little plane. Every flight had gone further than the one before it.
Tom's plane was broken, but he insisted on sending it off in style. He had tried to piece the wing back together, and launched his final flight as hard as he could, grunting. Perhaps "flight" was too strong a word, however, as the plane disintegrated almost immediately. It crashed to the earth, shot down in a blaze of glory. The other players applauded the last moments of Baby Tommy, in reverence.
Paschal English stepped up for his final throw. The Georgia Bulldog had one last chance to win this one. Paschal prayed to himself that his design had been sound, and he launched it, with a gentle pushing motion. He knew that brute strength wouldn't help a thing.
"Oh, don't you even," said Helen, as she taunted the plane in midair, "Don't you even think of going further." She watched, hands on hips, smiling, as the judge's plane floated atop the wind. "You stop it," she said, sharply. "Stop it right now! Crash!" But her pleas were of no use, as Paschal's plane sailed effortlessly past hers. It landed a good seventy feet away, easily the furthest throw of the day.
"The judge, back in the lead," announced Jeff. Paschal grinned widely, his hand clenched into a fist. He knew he had this one wrapped up. That one had been an uber-throw.
Greg had no more plane, so he accepted defeat in typical Greg style, leading the rest of them in a eulogy for the heroic flying donut.
The rest of them thought the contest was all wrapped up, but there was one plane left to go. And as long as Tammy Leitner had a say, no contest was ever over until -she- said it was. She waited for silence, and walked to the white line.
"Tammy's throwing, for all the marbles," said Jeff.
Tammy kept a serious face, staring at Paschal's plane, so far away. She lined up her jet, psyched herself up as best she could, and flung it. The plane shot like a missile, cutting through the air at top speed. It flew and flew but gradually started to lose speed. There was only so far you could throw it, without the wind's help. The plane suddenly dipped and smashed into the ground, nose-first. Tom mimicked a sound like a torpedo crashing, but the contest was over. The plane had gone fifty feet, at best.
"Paschal," said Jeff, "Wins reward!"
Tammy clenched her fist, frustrated in defeat, but was the first to shake the judge's hand. He had won fair and square, no use whining about it.
"Pappy," said the host, coming up to place an arm around his shoulders, "We've got quite a trip planned for you tomorrow." He wouldn't elaborate, but promised it would be well worth the judge's while.
"So you guys, go back to camp, get some rest. I'll stop by camp tomorrow to pick up Pappy."
"And it's gonna be one heck of a day."
The helicopter arrived right after breakfast. The six players were sitting on their homemade benches, finishing up the oatmeal, berry, and syrup mixture, as the telltale sound of a copter got closer and closer. By now, they all knew the sound.
"I'm so excited for you," said Helen, placing an arm around Paschal's shoulders. "You're going to have the time of your life."
Tammy stopped by to wish him good luck, and joked that he should bring something back for her. He promised he would.
The copter finally landed, just near the outskirts of camp. Jeff Probst stuck his head out and beckoned for Paschal to come on in. The judge bid them all goodbye and ran over to enter it, holding his hat to prevent it from blowing away in the wake of the blades. He entered the copter, where Jeff told him that he had a choice. He could go by himself, or he could take someone along with him. No one would know he had a choice, he could do this alone if he wanted, and no one would know any different. But Paschal never gave it a second thought. He poked his head out of the copter and pointed at one person, the one who he thought deserved to come along the most.
"Tommy," he yelled, over the rotor noise, "Pack your bags, you're coming along!"
Tom grabbed his backpack, and the others patted him on the back, before he -raced- over to the helicopter. He didn't need to be asked twice. The two men sat next to each other and waved goodbye, as the rest of the tribe watched them off. The copter rose up, disappeared behind some trees, and gradually faded off into silence.
"Well," said Helen, as the air was finally quiet again. She sighed. "Anyone up for a water run?"
The helicopter flew the two men towards the southern shores of Alaska. They pointed and commented on the landscape below them, watching the green grass, the acres of trees, and the packs of caribou that ran from the noise. It was awesome. They flew for a good two hours, before finally landing on a grassy strip. They were now on a very isolated plateau of land, with nobody around them. All they could see was water, the Gulf of Alaska, as it lapped up against the shore nearby. They were nearly right on the water.
"Where are we?" asked Paschal, looking around.
"This is called Cape Noortik," said Jeff, "One of the most beautiful and isolated beaches along the coastline." He pointed to the beach. "That's the Gulf of Alaska, which will lead you right to Russia if you wanted to go." He pointed back to a grassy meadow. "That's the meadow, and if you look really close," he pointed towards a small brown dot in the middle, "You will see a large log cabin. That's where we are headed."
The three men walked towards the cabin, which loomed larger and larger as they got closer. It turned out to be fairly ornate, a handmade log cabin, made to resist the wind, elements and nature itself. Thick gray smoke was coming out of the chimney, as it was clear that someone had started the fireplace.
"Do I smell a hot meal?" grinned Tom.
"You guys are gonna smell a lot more than that," said Jeff, with a smile.
As they neared about a hundred feet from the cabin, the door opened. Paschal cried out in joy as the image of his wife appeared. She screamed and ran out to hug him, as Tom watched, in awe. It was a family reunion.
This was the best reward Paschal could have imagined, as he had a chance to see his wife, after all this time. She was his best friend, his one true love, his playmate and confidant, she was his business partner and his blushing bride, she was his everything. He’d persevered through so much out here, through all the hardship, and now it had all been worth it. He had finally gotten to see his sweetie.
Beverly English welcomed both Tom and Paschal inside, where they were greeted by Paschal's two daughters, and a banquet of food. The three ladies had been working hard all morning, since their long flight. They had barbecued Memphis style ribs, made desserts, started a fire, and made drinks, all with the help of the cabin's fully furnished kitchen. Paschal was in heaven as he dined and talked, relishing in the comforts of home, way out here in the middle of nowhere. Tom, of course, was a wonderful dining companion, as he greatly enjoyed Paschal's family as well-- they reminded him a lot of his own.
After dessert, Beverly pulled out one of the surprises: A box of Paschal's favorite hometown treat, a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. The donuts were no longer warm, but the two men devoured the delicious Southern treats as best they could, throwing caution to the wind.
As the dinner party wound to an end, Paschal sat in a recliner seat, his belly stuffed with sweet tasting pork, German potato salad and sugary donuts. He moaned in delight, not wanting to go back. Tom was still going, having been fueled by his enormous appetite, as well as more than a few bottles of beer. He would be here for a while.
"Jeff," said Paschal, reaching over to pat the host on the arm, "This has been something. Where on earth did you find this place?"
"Funny you should ask," said Jeff. He stood up, ready for the big dramatic announcement. "Because this place now belongs to you."
Paschal's mouth dropped open in surprise. His wife dropped a plate on the floor in shock. Had she just heard that correctly?
"This cabin, and this meadow, are now the property of the English family," said Jeff. "That was the reward. A visit from home, and a nice summer property, right along the Alaskan coast. This is prime real estate, paid for by CBS. A fully furnished log cabin and your own stretch of beach. Hope you enjoy it."
After that announcement, the party went on for a few more hours. No one was ready to go back to camp just yet. There was still more food to eat.
One of the problems with leaving camp, as most of the players knew by now, was that the rest of the players could sit around and talk about you. And sure enough, Paschal and Tom were the talk of camp right now.
"I wouldn't want to win a reward," said Kelly, as she sat on a log. "I mean, why leave camp this late in the game? You're just asking for trouble." She loved to get away, but was more than happy to have someone else take the heat for a big trip like this. Removing yourself from the scene was sucidical, in her mind.
"And no," she added, "I know what you will say. How ironic that someone who likes to sit out here alone, how someone like that thinks that a big reward trip is a bad idea." She shook her head, smirking. "Just spare me, I've heard it before. It's a -whole- different thing."
Kelly had been approached by Tammy the moment after Tom and Paschal had left. Tammy said they needed to talk, -now.- Kelly had never been the biggest Tammy Leitner fan in the world, but they definitely had some things in common. They were both young, impulsive, and rebellious. They were athletic, ultra-competitive, and sometimes sullen. Simply put, they could both be described as tomboys.
They were not clones of one another, as Kelly preferred the company of females, whereas Tammy probably couldn't name more than a handful of females she got along with. She was more male oriented. But the two women had enough similarities to both threaten each other, as well as respect one another. They were both formidable players.
But now, they both shared one other trait. They both did not trust Greg Buis.
"Helen can't see past his goofy grin," Tammy said, exasperated. "She thinks he's just a big kid, and will do whatever she says. She doesn't have a clue."
This surprised Kelly in several regards. First of all, she though Helen was far more observant than that, Greg was clear as crystal to Kelly. Of course, she had known him for a while, while Helen hadn't. And secondly, she didn't realize Helen was still so close to Greg. She thought that Helen had made a clean break from Tuktu, and joined Tammy. The two of them had been as thick as thieves, and Kelly didn't realize that Greg was still part of the picture as well.
"He needs to go," said Tammy. "Because the longer he stays around, the longer we have a wild card."
Kelly wasn't particularly interested in making any grand gestures of allegiance, -especially- with Tammy, but she wasn't about to say that. Besides, she agreed with Tammy. Greg was a shifty character. She understood completely why Tammy wouldn't like him.
"I thought Paschal was going," said Kelly, "I mean, that's what I've been told."
"It will either be Greg or Paschal," said Tammy. "So would you come in with the two of us? To vote for either one?"
Kelly balked, not wanting to play this type of game. She hated this part, she wanted to play for herself.
"I don't know," she said, "Why don't you just tell me who you will vote for, and see what happens."
"C'mon," Tammy urged, "We can do this. Chicks against the guys. The three of us band together, and we can all get to the final three."
-Yeah, sure-, thought Kelly, -Might as well give me third place right now.-
"I'll think about it," was all she could say, "Just let me sit out here for a while, enjoy the day, okay?"
Four desperate, scrambling members of Qinaliut were working their hardest to turn the tide in their favor. They were technically all doing their chores, but it was a whole different story behind the scenes. This was crunch time, there was no way anyone would leave anything to chance after day 30.
Helen pulled Greg aside, wondering about Greg's allegiances towards Paschal. Kelly talked with Helen, about both Tammy, as well as wildcard Tom. Helen and Tammy discussed Greg, for the umpteenth time. And everyone seemed interested in the duo off on the trip, Paschal and Tom.
The two of them were -awfully- cozy with each other lately. A suspicious person might interpret that the wrong way...
"What ever happened to nice, old Tuktu?" joked Kelly, as she sat with Helen. "I mean, this was like a summer camp at one time."
"Sure, if you're thinking of Friday the 13th," deadpanned Helen. "I think all that ended when Neleh got a hatchet to the forehead." She looked over and grinned. "Let me tell you something, Kelly. A tribe is like a car. All the parts have to work together, or it can't go anywhere."
"So what were we?" asked Kelly. "A Pinto?"
"Hmmm.." Helen scrunched up her face, thinking. "I would say more like a Volkswagen. You know, cute, sturdy, dependable. Not fancy, but gets the job done. But you know what happens sometimes?"
Kelly just looked at her, blankly.
"Sometimes the wheels fall off," answered Helen.
Kelly digested this, enjoying the swim instructor's analogy. But she had something to add as well.
"Helen, the wheels didn't fall off of Tuktu."
"Nah. The whole fucking car blew up."
Helen snickered. Kelly was a head case, but she was starting to get it. She was definitely starting to see the big picture.
Tom and Paschal arrived back at camp around dinner time. They carried with them a bag full of gifts, heads full of memories, and bellies full of food. It had been a wonderful trip.
Tom had hit the bottle pretty heavily on the way home, and the crew had had to make sure he was strapped into the helicopter, so he wouldn't fall out. He was back on his feet now, but was really in no condition to talk.
"So's the judghe's got this cabin," he pointed, in the general direction of the water, "With'n a stove and a fahrplace. And'n we had this barbecue with all them donuts." Tom continued the description, but trailed off badly, making his already mangled English completely unintelligible. The rest sat and listened, politely, but waited until Paschal could speak before they would find out what actually happened.
"You're kidding!" exclaimed Helen, when she heard what they had done. They were all flushed with jealousy and envy, particularly with the state Tom was now in. It was clear the two men had enjoyed a -very- good time.
"Ah felt sorry for Tammy," said Tom, laying an arm over her shoulder, "Because if she'n had won, she'd gotten to see her new husband, and maybe get a conjugal visit." Tammy flushed, but the rest of the tribe enjoyed a quick laugh. In fact, all day yesterday, Tom had been particularly fascinated by the idea of the newlyweds having a quickie in the cabin. He was just like that, Tom had a strange sense of humor.
Paschal handed out the bag of gifts he had returned with, and watched as they all unwrapped gifts from home. Helen was overjoyed with her care package, and even Greg seemed a bit misty over a letter from his parents. Kelly's was the smallest package, which was a little sad to watch, but she seemed to enjoy it nonetheless. Paschal sat and smiled, watching them open their gifts. He looked from one face to another. Greg. Helen. Tammy. Kelly. He knew that the good spirit and cheer around camp at the moment was all for show. He knew that plans were being hatched. He knew that he was still the number one target.
Paschal knew this because Tom had spilled his guts.
A little tipsy on the way home, Tom had gone on to tell the judge exactly what he knew about each person, where the alliances were, and the entire layout of the tribe. Tom was a very observant person, he knew who got along with whom, who didn't like one another, and how nobody had caught on to his hillbilly farmer act. Paschal was in no way going to use this information against the big guy, that wasn't fair, but there was no rule that said he couldn't start watching people.
But he was definitely keeping his eyes open now.
He had his visit from home, his beautiful wife, and his homecooked meal. But he wasn't ready to go home just yet.
Not by a long shot.
The days of Tribal Council were growing more and more cutthroat. People were really starting to smell that money now.
Helen Glover sat, washing her clothes in a stream, as she discussed the upcoming vote. Tonight's vote was set to be very up in the air, much moreso than the past few. To summarize it best, there were fewer options to choose from, and every relationship would now be put under a magnifying glass. Who was friends? Who was enemies? Whom had I pissed off? Who did I like?
Who did I want to win?
Who deserved it?
Helen considered herself a very moral person, sometimes even to the point where she would play the role of judge. In her eyes, you either earned the right to be here, or you didn't. It was always a fine line with her, whether to play for herself, or play to make sure that, if it wasn't her, someone -deserving- was going to win. Because deep down, she still resented Brian Heidik's win over her. Sure, she had helped get rid of him this time. Sure, she had been sure that he would not get to the end. But the fact still gnawed at her that he had beaten her once, and done it badly.
"I think I have a great chance to win," she said, as she scrubbed at a particularly stubborn piece of dirt. "I mean, there are people here who have made far more enemies than I have." She still had not seen the effects of Greg's "smear Helen" campaign, and was unaware that she had two bitter enemies already on the jury. She knew she had had problems with Gina, but did not realize the full extent of the situation. Hopefully, she would never have to find that out, either.
"But if I -don't- win," she continued, "I want to make sure that the winner is someone we can all be proud of." She counted off on her fingers, the people who she thought deserved the prize. And as always, work ethic was her criteria. Those who worked were those who earned her respect.
"Paschal belongs here."
She held up another finger.
"Greg belongs here. No matter what Tammy says or not, he works his buns off, he's found more food for us than anyone."
She held up a third finger.
"Tammy belongs here. She's a workhorse."
She held up a fourth.
"And this one is for me. That's four." Conspicuously absent were two people.
Tom Buchanan and Kelly Wiglesworth.
"I think Tom does enough around camp, I mean, it certainly appears so. But I also think he does -just- enough to get by. He does -just- enough to make sure that people are noticing. I've noticed that he is a little more clever than he lets on." She sighed.
One thing Helen was thinking, but hadn't stated outright, was that there was something else that bothered her about Tom. He reminded her too much of Clay. Watching him and Paschal together reminded her of two good ol' boys, from back in Thailand. Of course, Paschal was definitely no Brian Heidik, but the fact remained that the two men were close, very close.
And Tom had more than a little in common with Clay. She had never really seen their antics back on Amarok, but she knew that they had been buddies. Tom Buchanan was like Clay Jordan's bigger brother.
But as much as she kept an eye on Tom, he wouldn't be the first one to get her vote.
"Because Tom -still- does far more around here than Kelly."
Kelly Wiglesworth had been a bit of a loner around here since day one, both on purpose and inadvertantly. Helen adored the chick's spirit and stubbornness, but when you got down to six, sometimes you had to change your voting criteria.
"For strategic reasons, I would probably vote for Paschal tonight. We just can't keep him around. But if things fall apart, and don't go as planned, I think it would be Kelly." she shrugged. "I mean, I know we're friends, and always will be. But only one person can win, and I wouldn't feel right voting for anyone else at that point. It has to be her."
As Helen brainstormed tonight's vote, Tom and Paschal were talking about their future in the game. Tonight's vote had great consequence, as to which side would end up holding power. Would Tammy and Helen rule the roost? Or could Paschal somehow get back into the game?
It was an old debate, but there was one key change this time around: Tom had finally agreed to join the judge. It was inevitable that it would happen in time, but Tom had finally given in. They were in this to the end. The handshake had been made on the helicopter ride back. And, inebriated or not, Tom kept his word. He was going to see this through to the end.
"I'm'a tell you," said Tom, "This is your big vote. They're gonna come after you, hard. If you don't win immunity, ain't no alliance in the world gonna save you. Hayll, Greg's dartin' back and forth between sides like an eel in a bubble bath. Kelly's playing for nobody but herself, I wouldn't count on the two of them for anything."
Paschal nodded, understanding. This was clearly shaping up into a head to head battle. Paschal/Tom against Helen/Tammy. Men against women.
And two wild cards.
"I can do my best with Greg," said Paschal, "But from what you all have told me, I don't think it will make a difference. He'll do what he's gonna do."
"You just gotta make it in his own best interest," said Tom.
Paschal smiled. Old Tommy was no fool, he had this game all figured out.
"And I have absolutely no clue what Kelly is up to," said the judge. I have no idea why she voted against Gina, or Elisabeth. I couldn't -begin- to imagine what her strategy is."
"Her strategy is, she's a damn basket case," joked Tom. "She's s'damn crazy, I think she'd vote herself out if'n she could. She just goes out and sulks on a rock all damn day, and just comes back to show up for the challenges." Tom frowned, he was never a Kelly fan. She was too introverted, too sneaky. He was as loud and gregarious as they came, introverts always made him suspicious.
If you didn't talk, it meant you had something to hide.
"That girl's got problems," he added.
"Well, what say we vote her out instead?" said Paschal, finally. "Do you think Greg would at least go for that? I mean, he's close with Helen, I'm not sure he would go for any vote against her."
"It's an idea," he said. "S'long as we have three, it don't matter -who- we vote for. It just means the other side can't have a majority."
The hour was growing late. It was nearly time for the immunity challenge, and this one was going to be huge. With only five opponents left, every immunity was key. Everybody just wanted to get to the next vote, and then go from there.
"I hate it when we go right from the challenge to Tribal Council," said Paschal, as he laced up his boots. The other five members all stood nearby, ready to go. Tammy nodded in response to the judge's statements. There was nothing worse than voting right after an intense challenge. It left very little time to plot, to plan, and to discuss.
Helen watched as the old man finished getting ready. She knew this was probably his last challenge. The man had put up a good fight, and was a heck of a player, but there came a time and a place when everyone had to go. It was just his time. Of course, she had more than a passing interest in his eventual fate. She supposed she knew how Paschal felt about her, and her vindictive, emotional behavior the past 30 days. He never came right out and said it, but she knew he blamed her for the way that Clay and Brian had been voted out. He had looked at her a little differently after that, and it wasn't a look of admiration. And then compound that with Helen's defection to Amarok, or "self-defense" as Helen liked to put it. She still bristled at the accusations that she had somehow backstabbed her team.
Helen had done nothing of the sort. She would -never- do anything of the sort. She just played to win... and there was a difference.
But at the same time, Helen was a little wary of tonight's vote. She was not the sort to rest on her laurels, and ride her momentum to the end. She was always watching out for threats, be they real or perceived. And she had watched Tom and Paschal, watched them disappearing into the woods. The reward trip had just been the icing on the cake.
Helen knew. Something was up. Tom was not quite the loyal soldier they had pegged him to be.
Helen wished she could just go out and enjoy the challenge tonight, but that could never happen. Helen rarely enjoyed anything in this game, she was just too paranoid and nervous all the time. But every day she thought that perhaps tomorrow would bring some security-- a safety net. She wanted to stop worrying so much about winning, and just enjoy the thrill of the contest.
But that hadn't happened yet. She was still waiting for such a day.
The contestants arrived at the immunity challenge to find Jeff, standing in front of six unlit clay ovens. He was flanked by a pair of tables, and wore a large white chef's hat. This was going to be a Survivor first-- a cooking challenge.
“Welcome to today’s challenge,” he said. “Immunity is once again back up for grabs. Paschal, I’ll take the talisman back.”
“Aww c'mon, Jeff, I’d grown rather fond of it,” said the judge, smiling.
"So," said Jeff, "I heard that the guys brought back some food from their cabin excursion." He smiled. "So maybe today's dish won't prove to be as enticing as I thought. But then again," he pulled the lid off a platter, revealing a warm, crispy, golden dessert cake, "Sometimes dessert is hard to turn down."
Tom's stomach growled loud enough for even the camera crew to hear. Everyone laughed, with Tammy grinning and slapping him on the back.
"Jesus," said Greg, clutching his chest in mock terror, "I thought that was a bear."
"Today's challenge is called 'Hot Pies'," said Jeff. "The goal is to create one of these delicious pastries. The Natives call this dish -Shuswap Bannock-, although it's close to what you know as blueberry pie."
Several players groaned, out of hunger and longing. Helen rolled her eyes, already sensing the fresh blueberry taste. This torture was proving to be too much to take.
"When I start the challenge, you will run over to your stations, and pick up a recipe card. It will explain the ingredients you need, the baking method you need to use, and the time it will take. You'll need to gather your own wood, light your own fire, and cook the pie. The first one to bring me a completely cooked pie," he paused, "Wins immunity."
The six players smiled and stared at each other. Helen looked particularly confident about this one. Baking! A baking challenge! She couldn't have asked for a challenge more suited to her. The only ones who looked a little nervous were Tom and Kelly, as neither one had a particularly strong cooking background. In fact, Tom's wife had expressly forbidden him from ever touching the stove in his own house.
"Survivors ready," announced Jeff, holding up his hand. He tensed, giving the moment as much drama as possible.
The six players sprinted over to their assigned stations, and picked up their recipe cards. The ingredients were simple enough:
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup blueberries
Helen jotted all this down via mental note, as per her habit. She didn't have to look at a recipe more than once. She ripped open her bag of flour, letting it spill out all over, as she searched for a measuring cup.
"Is the tablespoon the big one or the small one," asked Tom, trying to look at what Greg was doing. Greg felt pity for the guy and let him peek, but everyone knew Tom was going to have a hard time with this one. This was not his type of contest.
Helen was the first to have her dry mixture, and decided to go collect blueberries. She grabbed a measuring cup and raced out of the clearing, towards the nearest blueberry patch. She was soon followed by Greg, and then Paschal. All three of them frantically picked blueberries, trying to fill a measuring cup's worth.
The players needed to gather both blueberries, as well as wood. Greg had overtaken Helen by this point, as his gathering skills were second to none. He had his cake mixture all set, and was just now trying to light a fire in his oven. The wood in place, he struck a flint against the clay exterior, trying to get a spark. It took about ten tries, but finally his fire was lit. He stood back and watched, waiting for it to roar to life in the bottom of his oven.
As Greg was waiting, Paschal and Helen had arrived with their wood. They both attempted to light their fires, and were soon joined by Tammy. Kelly was still off, trying to gather blueberries, and Tom was still trying to measure out the baking powder. It was currently a four person race.
"Come on," muttered Greg, under his breath, "Come on." He watched as his fire slowly gained some momentum. The licks of flame finally started to reach the underside of the burner, and he pumped his fist once, before racing over to get his mixture. Paschal's fire roared to life just after, and he too went to go retrieve his bowl. Helen was currently striking her flint against the oven with great force, her frustration starting to overcome her.
"Come on!" she screamed at herself, trying to psyche herself up into getting this damn thing lit. "Spark, would you?" But the flint wasn't obeying. Tammy was the third to have a fire lit, yelling "Good luck" to Helen, as she went to retrieve her own bowl. And now, Kelly was here, picking up her flint. Helen tried one last time and failed. So she did the only thing she could. She tossed her miserable piece of flint as hard as she could, into the trees. -There, that felt better.-
She smiled and picked up Tammy's flint instead.
Greg and Paschal were back at the table, whipping their mixture into a liquid as best they could. Neither one was a pro at this, but they laughed at one another, both succeeding in making a great mess. Paschal was satisfied with his mixture first, and poured it onto a pie plate. He ran it over to his oven, with Greg on his heels, and the two men placed their pies into their respective ovens.
Now, it was just a waiting game.
"Damnit," screamed Tammy, as she was the third to place her pie in the oven. She was followed by Helen, fourth, and Kelly fifth. A disgraced Helen had finally gotten her fire lit, but now it was pretty much out of her hands. She was furious with herself.
And, of course, Tom was still trying to gather blueberries.
"How long will this take?" asked Tammy, as she kneeled down to eye her baking pie.
"Conventional oven, maybe twenty minutes," said the host. "But out here," he shrugged, "It all depends on the intensity of your fire."
Five players kneeled and peered into the glass window of their ovens. Tammy's fire appeared to be the fiercest, but Paschal's pie seemed to be baking up the fastest. He watched it rise, with Helen peeking over his shoulder.
"That's a good one," she said, "Look at it puff up."
“The watched bread never rises,” Greg said, smiling. But he couldn't resist a peek at his own. It was getting pretty large now, and he watched, excitedly.
The host walked behind them, eyeing the five baking pies. Well, make that six, as Tom had just put his in the oven. He stood, proudly, as Kelly gave him a high five.
"Greg, Paschal and Tammy," said Jeff, "All getting close. They just have to turn from white to gold, and then you can take them out."
Finally, Greg could take it no longer. He thrust open his oven door and grabbed the pie tin with a towel.
"Done," he screamed, "It's done."
Paschal cursed his own slowness, as he was just about to take his out. But Greg had beaten him to it. Now, he just had to hope that Greg's pie didn't meet the criteria.
"Toothpick test," said Jeff, pulling out a box of toothpicks. "It looks okay, but this toothpick has to go in and stand up by itself. When I pull it out, the toothpick must be clean, or you aren't finished yet."
The six players crowded around as Jeff inserted a toothpick into the top of Greg's pie. It sat there for a second, and then slowly began to lean. The pie wasn't done. Jeff pulled out the toothpick and a big glob of blueberry came with it.
The game was still on.
"We're still going," announced Jeff, turning around. But he didn't have far to turn, because two people had their own pies out of the oven. Paschal and Tammy stood facing him, holding out their own pie plates, expectantly.
"Okay, who was first?" asked the host. No one answered. Jeff shrugged and looked at Helen. He knew she would be honest.
"Paschal," she sighed, "Was first. Tammy was right behind him." It wasn't the answer she wanted to give, but she wasn't the type to lie.
Jeff inserted a toothpick into the judge's golden brown cake. They all watched as it stood firmly in place. Tom clapped Paschal on the back, but it wasn't over yet. The stand-alone test was just the first. Jeff slowly pulled out the toothpick and glanced at the bottom. Stuck there was... absolutely nothing. The pie was done.
Paschal had won.
"Paschal," announced the host, "Wins immunity!" The judge grimaced in delight and thrust his fist into the air, cheering loudly. He accepted the immunity talisman, beaming with happiness. He had stayed his execution once again, and this time, it was -really- going to muck up some peoples' voting plans.
Helen congratulated him, having to respect the man's tenacity under pressure. She knew this would complicate the game a good deal, but that wasn't what ate at her. No, the thing that bothered Helen Glover was that she had lost a cooking challenge. She never thought it would have been possible.
"Hey," said Kelly, sidling up next to her, “If it makes you feel any better, I got beat in a rowing contest." She held up two fingers, smiling. "Twice.”
From the challenge they left directly for Tribal Council. It was growing late, although you couldn't tell by the sun. The sun sat high in the sky, as usual, mocking them. They all hated the sun by now.
Along the walk, people came up to one another time and again, wanting to go over the last minute plans. Greg had been approached by just about everyone, as had Kelly. But it was clear to most what the big picture was here. Tom and Paschal were together. Helen and Tammy were together. Kelly was with nobody, as was Greg.
This vote was going to be wide open. In fact, if Helen's prediction was correct, they were going to have a tie.
They finally arrived at the Spirit Lodge. Tammy Leitner could always hear the wild drumming and shrieking of the Survivor theme song in her head when she entered this building. She could feel the cameras overhead, and the editors and producers crowded around. But you had to block all that out, although you always felt a bit "on stage" here. That was just the nature of the place. This was where sound bytes were born, where history was made, where dreams were fulfilled or crushed.
This was Tribal Council.
Paschal walked behind her, a lot on his mind. He looked at the ground as he approached the building. He hadn’t allowed himself to look last week, but at the last minute he turned his head sideways, and saw Elisabeth and Gina’s faces, carved into the totem pole. Elisabeth, who had always been happy, looked sad. And Gina looked peacefully thoughtful, her eyes focused on the sky, a half-smile frozen in place. Then he passed through the totem poles, looking once again at the ground. He was very ambivalent about seeing the two of them sitting on the jury. Sure, they looked great, and healthy, and happy, but he didn't envy them one bit. He knew they still wanted to be where he was now.
“Welcome back to Tribal Council,” Jeff said, as they were all seated. “For some of you I’m sure this has been a long three days and for some of you, no doubt a very short three days. Tammy, what’s it like being in such a high stress situation for so long? Does time seem to drag on forever?”
“Sometimes,” she said honestly. “But we keep each other company and we’re all pretty laid back. So we play together and have fun and the time just sorta passes. I mean, there's not a whole lot else you can do.”
“Kelly,” asked Jeff, “would you agree?”
“Sure, why not?” she said. Everyone laughed. “I don’t really think about time so it doesn’t bother me. If anything I wish we could stay out here longer.”
“Really?” Jeff asked, raising his eyebrows. “So you’re starving out here, you’re away from civilization, you’re cold, you’re wet, there’s constant sunlight. But you’d stay out here if you could?”
“Maybe not forever,” Kelly said, again drawing a good laugh. “But I’ll miss this place when I go home.”
“Tom,” Jeff asked, “What was it like going along with Paschal on such a very personal occasion. Did you feel out of place?”
“Jeff, it was an honor and a priv'lige to be surrounded by such wonderful, lovin' people. I wasn’t uncomfortable in their presence. If anything, I was more inspired by it all. Plus, his kids shore know how to cook a plate a'ribs." He smiled. "I think I'll be going down there for dinner again real soon."
“Paschal," Jeff followed up, "What was it like to see your family after all this time, and then to have to say goodbye again so soon?”
“There’s been no harder five footsteps in my life and there never will be again as when I walked out of that cabin," he admitted. "There was a part of me that didn’t want to come back, that didn’t care about the game. I was on the chopping block yet again and it just wasn't all that fun."
"And what caused you to come back?"
"I needed to win immunity, and make sure I ended up winning this game."
Tammy laughed out loud, not having seen this side of the judge before. He very rarely spoke of winning, usually he claimed to be just here for the experience. But now, the visit from home seemed to recharge him. He had a new resolve. He was a new man.
"Let me remind you," said Jeff, "That you can vote for anyone except for Paschal tonight. The other five of you are fair game, and one of you will be the next member of our jury." He pointed over to the jury, where Silas sat alongside Elisabeth and Gina. "It's time to vote," he finally said. "Kelly, you're up."
Kelly strode casually up to the voting both and wrote four letters on a slip of paper. She had promised Paschal it would be Helen, and promised Tammy it would be Tom. But, of course, it was neither. Kelly played by her own rules.
"Greg," she said. "My vote is for you. It's nothing personal, but I don't think you've earned the right to be here at the end." She stuffed her ballot in the box. "I'm not about to let someone like you win this thing unopposed."
Paschal was next, and was followed by Tom. They voted together, as per the plan. They had no choice.
Helen was the fourth one up, and cast her vote for Tom Buchanan.
"Big Tom," she said, with a half-smile on her face. "We've seen what you're up to. And this vote wasn't supposed to be for you tonight. This should have been for Paschal... but you played your cards too soon." She sighed. "You once told a man that if you were in the army together you’d shoot him for treason. Well, here you go. Bang bang, buddy.”
Tammy was the fifth, and cast a second vote for Big Tom. Her sentiments were similar to Helen's.
"You schemed too soon and got caught with your hand caught in the cookie jar. You earned this vote, big guy."
The sixth and final member to vote was Greg Buis. As per his plan, he had been rendered into a position of power. They needed him, they -all- needed him. He was the tiebreaker. The good guy. And tonight's choice had not been difficult. He wrote down the name, stuffed it into the box, and smiled for the camera.
"Three down," he said, "One to go."
The six members sat on the edge of their seats, watching as Jeff went to tally the votes. Helen sat with her forehead resting against her knees, praying. She didn't like this pressure at all. Tammy simply sat and stared at the fire, stone-faced as usual. Tom grinned his best, trying not to look scared. Greg sat in back, taking it all in, while Kelly did her best to blend into the shadows, hiding in the back as best she could.
Jeff returned with the voting urn.
“The person voted off will be asked to leave the Tribal Council area immediately." He paused, looking over at the jury. "I'll read the votes.”
“Greg,” he read, holding up Kelly's vote. Kelly had agreed to go with both sides tonight, but had in effect gone with neither. Screw them and their power games, she had thought. Don't use me as a pawn.
"Kelly," read Jeff, holding up Paschal's vote. Kelly just sat and stared, knowing her name was bound to come up eventually.
"Tom," read Jeff, holding up Tammy's vote. Tom nodded and grinned down at Helen, knowing the females' vote was coming at him tonight. She smiled and nodded back, playfully. It had been a hard choice, between traitor Tom and loner Kelly, but the traitor had won out in the end. Treason was not something Helen could forgive.
"Tom," read Jeff, holding up Helen's vote. That was two.
"Kelly," read Tom's vote. Kelly frowned slightly, having not expected to draw any attention tonight. She thought she had played chameleon rather well. Otherwise maybe she would have been more interested in joining their alliances...
"That's two votes Kelly, two votes Tom... one vote Greg." announced the host. "Last vote."
He pulled it out of the urn and looked at it.
Kelly held her breath.
Tom held his breath.
Paschal closed his eyes.
Kelly Wiglesworth sat for a second, before turning to grab for her torch. Helen offered her a hug, but Kelly declined it politely, just wanting to get out of here. She was disappointed, of course, as she had thought that laying low would be the way to get through this game. But she had not counted on one thing: Greg needed her on that jury.
Greg had said so to Paschal just this morning, plain and simple.
"I will only vote for Kelly. If you want me to vote with you, vote for Kelly, and all three of us will make it to the final five."
The two men had no choice, they needed that extra vote. Kelly was as flaky as the day was long, she couldn't be relied upon for a second. But now, it had worked exactly as Greg had planned. Three Tuktus on the jury, and himself in an unbelievable position of power. He had even "casually" mentioned to Kelly that Helen would probably vote her out tonight. She hadn't believed him, of course, but now she was bound to think about it...
Just part of the game, he smiled, Nothing has changed.
"Kelly," said Jeff, snuffing out her torch, "The tribe has spoken."
Kelly's flame was out, and she left the Tribal Council area quietly, silently, without a goodbye. It was as if she just disappeared, and had never really been in the game in the first place.
"Well," said Jeff, turning to the remaining players. "You guys are the final five. Congratulations. Make sure you get your rest tonight, because you are going to need it. The choices you make in the next three days may ultimately determine the game, as well as the rest of your lives." He smiled. "Well done, to all of you. Not many people get this far."
The final five stood and exited, walking back to camp. No one said a word. No one offered congratulations. No one felt that they had a clear shot to victory at this point. They were all wise enough to know that four of them would be going home soon, and that meant there was an 80% chance that each of them would still lose this game.
Everyone was still an underdog with those types of odds.
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