All-Star Survivor: Alaska
Qinaliut Tribe: Tom Buchanan, Greg Buis, Paschal English, Helen Glover, Tammy Leitner
Under Alaska’s all-knowing sun, Tammy Leitner was lying down in the Qinaliut umiak, casually letting herself drift with nature’s current. It was very early in the morning, probably around 4:30 A.M., and the rest of the tribe was still sleeping, giving Tammy a period of solitude. She stared up at the sky, hands linked behind her head, and watched birds fly overhead, her sunglasses hiding any trace of emotion in her eyes. It was just a normal day for her, and this was her usual relaxation ritual. The only thing that was a bit out of place this morning was the small piece of paper, lying folded on her stomach. It was a letter, from her husband of less than a year, that had arrived a few days ago in her care package. It was just a small luxury, but was the sort of thing that kept you going in this game, kept you recharged. For what seemed like the millionth time, Tammy daintily picked up the letter, opened it, and read it to herself.
Hey babe, it’s me, anxiously awaiting your homecoming. It seems crazy to be going through all of this again, but here we are! I hope you make the most of this experience, but knowing you, I know you will. I can’t even imagine what sort of challenges you must be facing and have already faced, but you better not be sitting in the Loser's Lodge right now, or I'll personally come out there and make fun of you. <grin> Right now, I'd just like to say that I’m proud of you and everything you have done. Stay true to yourself, and show them all a thing or two about how to play this game. But no matter what happens, I love you, and will always see you as the 'best of the best'. All of us are thinking about you every day, and will be waiting for you when you get back. Stay safe, and don’t be afraid to kick a little ass!
Tammy laughed out loud at that signature line - it was completely out of his character. The two of them were best friends, training partners, and in many cases, rivals, but he rarely got sappy. She smiled though, appreciating the sentiments. Tammy was a hard person to know in many regards, and a lot of people didn't like her much. But in Tammy's mind, they just didn't -get- her. Michael was one of those who did, and she would always appreciate it.
With a happy smile on her face, she folded the letter and set it back down, to be read again sooner or later, more likely sooner. You're such a sap, she laughed at herself. You big wuss.
Floating in an umiak, staring at the sky, thinking about her husband-- technically, she was at peace. It was easy to relax out here, and just enjoy the experience. But inside, Tammy Leitner was a conflicted woman. She felt a burning desire within, that old desire that she remembered from the Marquesas. Tammy needed to win this game. And no, winning simply wasn't enough. Tammy needed to dominate. Like with every contest or challenge in her life, she wanted to beat everyone else. Badly.
She wanted to prove her husband right, that she was -indeed- the 'best of the best'.
But the aspiration inside of Tammy was a double-edged sword. With all of her ambition and competitive fire came an incredible pressure to succeed. Tammy, quite simply, had come too far to let herself down. She could not lose, it was unacceptable. And the pressure to win also masked one other element in her personality: fear.
Fear was an unfamiliar accomplice to Tammy, but here in Alaska, she was beginning to feel it, a sensation that concerned her immensely. She was worried that she was a target. And if she wasn't now, she would be one soon. Sure, she had been a target before, but that was early on, when the game's outcome was still out of reach. Now, this was the final five, she was so close to that win, she could smell it. But she knew a target would be on her head from here on out. She knew that her drive and strength would probably work against her amongst the other players. And even worse was her belief that the game might be out of her hands, that it was too late to control her own fate.
More than anything, she hated that. She hated being powerless.
"Greg," she said, pointing out her biggest enemy right now, "Greg Buis is the one who pretty much controls the next vote. And it pisses me off, man." She smirked, any of her earlier sentiment now long gone. Now her game face was back. "I’ve been on to Greg for over a week now, ever since Elisabeth was voted off. The guy thinks he's some sort of puppeteer, and even more, he thinks that no one realizes it." She paused, biting her lower lip before adding, "And the worst thing is, he’s -almost- right. Nobody seems to take him seriously but me."
Most of the time, Tammy felt she had a good understanding of Greg’s game plan, despite the fact that he constantly seemed to be fine-tuning it. He was always off in the shadows, laughing, smiling, joking. But the smile never quite touched his eyes, that was something she had picked up right away. It was a mask.
Tammy was a crime reporter in real life. She dealt with sociopaths and deviants and scumbags on a weekly basis. She tended to notice little things like that.
"And I am stunned that Helen can't really see it," she continued. She had been genuinely surprised. Helen was a very sharp person, a very -suspicious- person. How could she not have seen Greg's inner mask? "Helen will not even -consider- making a move against him, although I can see why she wouldn’t. I mean, it's fairly obvious." She smiled. "Greg's got her brainwashed, and he wants to take her to the finals. And she doesn't have a clue." She shrugged, not really seeing it as an immoral decision. After all, it's what she would do if she were Greg. She wasn't here to judge, she was only here to stop him.
Tammy saw things very clearly in her mind: Qinaliut was down to five, and was split into three distinct camps. First, you had Tom and Paschal. The two older men were like brothers, they weren't about to split apart. They had probably been the ones behind getting Kelly evicted last night. The second team was made up of the chicks, herself and Helen. They were also together, if for no other reason than necessity. They needed each other right now. And then there was Greg. Greg was his own team.
"Sociopaths usually work alone," she joked. "They don't play well with others."
Greg’s early friendships had lain with the Tuktu Girls. He had been one of them, they bought his act, and he had been everyone's best friend. Tammy had not seen this in person, she had been on Amarok since day two. But she had heard it from Gina, and Elisabeth, and the others. Greg was their bestest buddy. This, of course, had been shattered when Elisabeth had been voted off. But nobody seemed to blame Greg for it. He was just considered a 'free agent.' He had been bouncing back and forth between sides for a while now, helping Tammy and Helen take out Elisabeth and Gina, and then right back to help the guys take out Kelly. He obviously wanted it set up where the two sides would be fighting over his allegiance.
But there was one small catch in his plan. That sort of strategy pissed Tammy off to no end, and she wasn't going to let him get away with it.
"I mean, why should he coast along to the final three?" she added. "No one coasts in this game. It pisses me off that he thinks he can play us all like that. No one controls the game if I have anything to say about it. And believe me," she finally smiled again, "When I have something to say about it, I come right out and say it."
If Tammy wanted to win, she knew that Greg had to be stopped. The puppet master would have to be taken out, and now. She had laid low long enough, on purpose. Good-girl Tammy had been born a few weeks ago, and she had been playing nicely for a while, just smiling, doing her work, and being a good teammate. But that was over. It was time to retake control of her fate. Her husband's letter had been just the trigger she had needed.
"Stay safe," he had written, "And don’t be afraid to kick a little ass!"
She lay back and closed her eyes once again, relaxing. It was just about that time now: Time to kick a little ass. Good-girl Tammy had left her mark on the game, but her time had passed. It was a new day now.
And it had all been an illusion, of course. Good-girl Tammy had never existed in the first place.
Paschal and Helen stood by the tribe’s stove, watching the oatmeal finish cooking and enjoying the extra heat. It was a brisk, clear morning, and as everyone gradually woke up and got ready for breakfast, Paschal couldn’t help noticing how empty the camp was beginning to feel. It seemed like just yesterday that ten of the game’s best players were crowded into a tiny shelter for a night’s rest. He reminisced, with a laugh, how Elisabeth had complained when Tom kept rolling onto her.
"Yeah," joked Helen, "Like that was an accident. Oops, I just rolled onto the cutest young girl here. Well pardin me, m'dam." The last sentence was a pretty fair impression of Tom's drawl, making Pappy laugh.
But now, the shelter slept just five, with another soon to leave. The game was very humbling when you were struck by thoughts like that.
"It just seems quiet this morning," Paschal said. "Don’t you think?"
Helen nodded, agreeing that the tribe’s dwindling number seemed more apparent now than ever before. It was just quiet today. Not only could she not hear anybody, but she couldn’t -see- anybody. Greg had gone out, apparently to find some berries or God knows whatever else he would bring back. Tom was out at the lake, checking on the long-lost Tammy. Paschal and Helen were the only two here. Except for the constant hiss of the stove and the ever-present sounds of nature going about her business, Alaska was silent, almost empty.
"It's usually pretty boring around here," she admitted, "But at least there's always some noise going on. It seems weird, to be here in the middle of the..."
"Helen, look what I found!" Greg shouted, jumping behind Helen and clapping a hand on her back. She must have jumped two feet in the air, letting out a quick scream, and nearly knocking the oatmeal over in the process. Paschal laughed - he had seen Greg sneaking up on Helen about ten seconds or so in advance, and had done his best to hold back his smile.
"Don’t...ever...do...that...again!" Helen said sternly, patting a hand on her chest and glaring at Greg, who looked right back at her with a boyish grin. "Seriously Greg, my blood pressure is high enough."
Greg just smiled at her, his best little boy smile. Helen was so stressed out all the time, she was like a tightly wound ball of twine. Greg had used this to have a lot of fun at her expense, although generally not in a mean way. Helen had grown used to it, but he still surprised her from time to time, like just now.
"Oh come on," he said, "We all could use a good scare now and then. Besides, look." He pulled a small satchel out of his backpack, which was stained with blueish-purple juice. "I brought you some blackberries."
Helen just continued to glare at Greg, her deadpan countenance clearer than ever. Paschal just leaned back against a tree, his arms crossed and his face in a smile. After a few moments, Helen couldn’t resist any longer, cracked a smile, and looked down at her feet, shaking her head with a sigh. It was really impossible to stay angry with Greg for very long. He was just a big, overgrown kid. But the three of them shared a laugh together, a nice moment in an otherwise stressful game. Three players from opposite corners of the spectrum, both in their real lives and in the game, all enjoying a chuckle on the eve of a very crucial juncture in the game. It was moments like these that they all would remember someday.
After breakfast, in which everyone systematically downed the oatmeal they had all grown to hate, the tribe split up. It was time to talk strategy. Everyone knew it would happen, so why hide it? Helen and Tammy stayed at camp, boiling water, while Tom and Paschal went to scrounge for dinner. Greg decided to take it easy, relaxing in the Qinaliut shelter. The tribal divisions couldn’t have been clearer.
"The two’v’us can't very well rely on anyone but ou'selves," Tom mused out loud to Paschal. "Greg ain't gonna do nothin' to he'p us. But I'll be damned if I won't try to get him on our side, if that's our only shot."
Paschal nodded, understanding. Deep down in his heart, he felt that Greg would probably choose their side over the women. He knew Greg, or thought he did anyway. But if Tom wanted to go help sway his mind, then more power to him. Paschal wasn't going to be the one to do it. He had long ago decided never to grovel to anyone around here, especially Greg. He was a Superior Court judge. Judges don't beg.
Tom, for his part, hated the idea of trusting Greg Buis. The kid was too smart for his own
good, and too sneaky to be trusted, whether Paschal thought so or not. But then again, they were beginning to run short of options.
"Well how ‘bout Tammy?" Tom asked, brainstorming. "Maybe we could get her t’vote with us against Helen." Tom was hopeful, but Paschal just shook his head. That simply wasn't going to happen.
"I don’t think so" he said. "If I were a betting man, I'd guess that Tammy is the one who will be leaving next. I certainly view her as the biggest threat, and I imagine Greg does too. She's one or two immunity wins from being unstoppable."
"Well, mah friend," said Tom, patting the judge on the back, "That's probab'ly the -exact- same thing they're saying about you raght now. Yo're like a cockroach, they can't kill ya, no matter how hard they try."
Paschal smiled at the joke, but it was clear that their options were quite limited right now. Tammy wasn't going to join them, and Paschal wouldn't have wanted her along anyway. Tammy had been the one who got Neleh kicked out. He knew that, everyone did. It still left him with a sour taste in his mouth. And Helen simply could not be trusted. She had forefeited any chance of an alliance the moment she had stabbed her Tuktu friends in the back. Helen would do it again in a heartbeat, and Paschal wasn't going to give her that chance.
No, the only real option right now was to rely on the whims of Greg Buis. It was just a matter of what he was going to do.
"We just gotta make sure," said Tom, "That -we- get to him before -they- do."
You’ve played this game together
And you’ve beaten all the rest
But look who’s laughing now
Because they have a little test!
Now it’s time to see how well
You really know your friends
The last reward is up for grabs
No more until the end!
The tribe arrived for their final reward challenge, to be held back at the site of the old zipline challenge. The five of them met Jeff at the bottom of the large grassy hill.
"Come on over guys," he said, calling them over to a large red mat. "Well, as you all probably know, we generally give a vehicle away as one of the game’s final rewards, right?" He smiled, his best innocent smile. The tribe members nodded, smiling with nervous anticipation. Helen looked around, scanning for telltale tire tracks somewhere.
"Well," said Jeff, "We thought that this season should be no different." Looking up at the top of the hill, he held up an arm, yelling, "Bring her on out!"
Suddenly, at the top of the hill, the five castaways watched as a brand new car appeared. It was beautiful black, brand new, shiny HumVee. The five members erupted into cheers of excitement. Jeff just continued to grin.
"That’s a 2003 Hummer, the very best model you could possibly get. Now, that thing is loaded, it's got every option, package, and upgrade you can think of. It's tough as nails and could probably take a hit from a missile if you asked it to." Helen laughed, smiling. "Helen," continued the host, "I could -totally- see you in that thing."
"Yeah," she joked, "I'll just go pick up my daughter at school in it."
"Today," continued Jeff, "One of you is going to walk away with a new set of car keys. Now, here's how this is going to work." He picked up a set of colored discs, which were laying on the ground. "You will all have five discs, each containing one of your names. I’m going to ask you seven questions, and each time, one of your names will be the answer. Your job is to predict what someone else is going to say, and hold up the answer that you think they would have guessed. So I'll ask a question, you hold up your answer, and you get a point for each correct guess. The person with the highest score after seven questions wins. Simple, right?"
None of the survivors dared to nod, they knew better than to assume anything. What was the twist? Only Tammy gave a shrewd smile, she had a guess as to what was coming.
Grinning still, Jeff called up to the car, "Okay, bring it down!"
The black vehicle rolled to the edge of the hill, and started on its way down. The heavy tires and low center of gravity helped it glide easily down the steep hill, as it stopped near them and parked. The windows were tinted, so it was difficult to tell who was driving. But all questions were soon answered when the passenger side door opened, and Neleh Dennis stepped out. She was grinning from ear to ear.
"Pixie!" yelled Paschal, surprised. She blew him a kiss and waved to everyone else. Rudy Boesch stepped out from behind her, as did Jerri Manthey. They all seemed excited to be here, even Rudy had an uncharacteristic smile on his face. Brian Heidik, Kelly Goldsmith and Jeff Varner emerged from the backseat, and finally the driver stepped out. It was Clay Jordan, who waved his hat and whooped and hollered at all of them.
"What'd they, have you sittin' on a phone book?" yelled Tom, laughing. "How'd you see over the steerin' wheel?"
"These are the seven pre-jury bootees," explained Jeff, "They were the ones to whom we asked the questions. Your job is to predict how they answered."
The seven pre-jurors went and sat on the red mat, some still smiling and waving at their friends that were left in the game. Helen got a particular chuckle out of the irony that Clay and Brian would now be helping her win a reward. Geez, did they never go away?
"Neleh," announced Jeff, "You're up first." Neleh Dennis stood and walked over towards the players, her long blonde hair blowing in the breeze. She smiled and sat down on a chair, which had been provided for the player in the hot seat. She had a big smile on her face, as always, as she waited for her question.
"We asked Neleh," said Jeff, "Who she thinks has played the best game out of the five of you." The players looked shocked, so Jeff explained. "We have provided tapes and uncut footage of the Tribal Councils to all of the players. They -all- know what has been going on out here. They have seen more of it than you have."
The five players decided on their answers and held them up. Neleh watched as four people held up a disc with Paschal's name on it. The only one who didn't vote for Paschal had been the judge himself, who voted for Greg.
"All right Neleh," said Jeff, "Let’s see who you voted for." Neleh wrinkled her nose and held her own disc up, revealing the name, "PASCHAL."
"Pappy," she hollered, "You’re too modest! You were supposed to get that one!"
Paschal just smiled and shrugged.
"I didn't trust you," he joked, and she shot him a playful angry look. But he didn't mind. He had won several challenges in a row, he wasn't about to sweat losing this one. Tom was right, he -was- drawing a lot of attention to himself lately.
After Neleh's turn, Rudy Boesch was up. He swapped places with the young girl and sat in the hot seat.
"We asked Rudy," said Jeff, "Which one of you he would most want to be in his tribe."
Rudy just looked straight ahead at the castaways, with his classic bored look across his face. He would rather be back at the lodge, watching TV, if it was anyone's business. Being crammed next to Brian in the backseat of a HumVee was, in his own words, "a pain in the ass."
All five players held up a vote for Paschal. The judge was a hard worker, was closest to Rudy's age, had a military background, and was, of course, a male. It was no secret that Rudy disliked females.
"Show them your answer, Rudy," Jeff said. Rudy turned his disc over, indeed revealing Paschal's name.
"Everyone got it that time," said Jeff, "But it’ll only get harder from here on out. That leaves you all tied at 2 except for Paschal, who sits at 1."
Next up was Kelly Goldsmith, who walked up to the chair, a sly smile on her face. She looked at each of them, in turn, trying to look mysterious.
"We asked Kelly who she hoped would be the next one voted off."
Helen winced, staring directly at Kelly. Hmmm..., she thought, Kelly is vindictive, childish, more than a little sensitive. Has to be someone who screwed her over. She knew it would probably be a Tuktu girl, as they had been the ones behind Kelly's downfall. So Helen held up her own name.
But the surprising answer had been Tom. Kelly smiled at them all as the votes were tallied. Greg and Tammy had been the only two to guess correctly, putting them in the lead.
"Sorry Tom," Kelly called, "But that's from Africa!" Tom just smiled and shrugged, he should have known that one was coming.
Jeff Varner was the fourth one up. He strode to the chair, sunglasses perched upon his head, rubbing his hands together in malicious glee. He loved being back in the spotlight. He winked at Tammy, silently wishing her good luck, as the two of them locked eyes.
"We asked Jeff which one of you is the weakest."
Greg immediately held up a vote for himself. Tom and Helen voted for Paschal. Paschal held up a vote for Helen. Tammy deliberated over this for a moment, a smile on her face. She knew Jeff pretty well, they had endless conversations during his time here. She thought she knew how he thought. She held up a second vote for Helen.
A slow grin spread across Jeff’s face as he revealed his choice. Good girl, he thought. His answer read "HELEN."
"Hey!" said Helen in mock anger. "I hardly even know you!"
Jeff laughed, answering, "Aw, come on, I had to pick somebody!"
"That answer," said Probst, "Puts Tammy into the lead with four points. Greg is right behind with three, and Tom, Paschal and Helen are in last with two."
"Please stop saying that," joked Helen.
"Fifth person up," said Jeff, "Jerri. Will the actress please take the stage?"
Jerri strolled up into position, a big wide grin on her face. Like Jeff, she too loved the spotlight, and was more than happy to share her opinion of those left in the game.
"We asked Jerri who should be the proudest of how they’ve played the game."
Three votes shot immediately up for Tammy. They all knew Jerri and Tammy had been close. Tom voted for Paschal, figuring maybe she would appreciate his ethics, and Tammy held up a vote for Greg. Jerri had seen the tapes, Jerri would know what Greg was up to.
Jerri revealed her answer, smiling: "TAMMY."
"Damnit," cursed Tammy under her breath. She had guessed wrong.
"Greg and Tammy are now tied for first," announced Jeff, "With four points. Paschal and Helen are right behind, at three."
Jerri shuffled back into the pack with a wave and a call of "Good luck," and then it was time for Brian to stroll to the stage. He walked slowly, casually, in no hurry.
"Hey everybody," he said casually, "Long time no see." He smiled at Helen. "Love ya, H." She just smiled back, shrugging. It was a dance, sometimes one would win, sometimes the other. Helen just happened to be on this side this time around.
"We asked Brian," Jeff said, "Who he most wished he would have outplayed."
Without any hesitation whatsoever, Helen held up a vote for herself. Tom and Paschal soon joined, all of them voting for Helen. Tammy looked over at Greg, shrugged, and held up a vote for the young man. If Jerri hadn't seen through Greg, at least -Brian- must have. But Greg hesitated in his own answer. He knew the answer was probably himself, but he didn't want the others to know that yet. Greg was still laying as low as possible. He hid it as best he could, through a joke.
"OK, Tammy," he said jokingly, holding up a vote for the fiery reporter, "Here's one right back at ya!" Tammy grinned at him, but it was a look that made him nervous. She was not a subtle person. The smile said, simply, -You don’t fool me-.
Brian revealed his vote, which indeed was "GREG." Tammy was the only one to have answered correctly. Brian flashed Greg a wink and a nod, which no one else caught. Greg was making him proud, indeed. Perhaps Brian had chosen the wrong protege after all. Silas Gaither had nothing on Greg Buis.
Tammy smiled over at Greg as the seventh, and final, person strode to the chair. Clay Jordan walked over and sat on his throne, looking over at them.
"Make this one easy, Stubby" Tom hollered, "Ah need a pity point!"
"You already lost anyway, you big fat dumbass!" Clay hollered back, chuckling.
"OK everyone," Jeff announced, "Here’s where we stand. Tammy is in the lead with five points. Greg is right behind her with four. The rest of you are too far behind to win, so you can sit out this last question. It's just Tammy and Greg, and if they tie, we go to sudden death. And now, here's Clay's question."
He paused, for a good five seconds, before finally saying:
"Who is going to win All-star Survivor: Alaska?"
Greg and Tammy both hesitated, as they could hear Helen suck in air behind them. This was a nasty question to be asked right now. Not who Clay -wanted- to win, but who he thought was actually -going- to win. There was a big difference.
Plus Clay had seen the tapes. Clay might know things that they did not. They were all curious as to what his answer would be.
Greg voted for Tom, knowing the obvious bond between the two Southerners. They made fun of each other a lot, but obviously had a great deal of respect for one another. Besides, Greg wasn't about to vote for himself. Not for a reward. For immunity, maybe, but not for reward.
Tammy mulled the question over in her head and finally just voted for herself, out of nothing more than a hunch. -Twenty percent chance,- she told herself, -Might as well.-
"All right, Clay," said Jeff, "Let’s see that answer." He paused. "This is for a new car."
Clay smiled and slowly revealed his disc:
Tammy threw her discs up in the air in celebration, pumping her fist wildly, like a madwoman. The others reached over to pat her on the back or, in Tom's case, to slap her on the butt. But she didn't care. That car was hers. Tammy had finally won something.
"Yes," she shouted, grinning from ear to ear.
"Congratulations Tammy," Jeff said, handing her the keys, "That -amazing- vehicle is all yours. Take the time to go offroading today, if you want."
"Thanks a lot," complained Tom to Clay, "You didn't think I could win?"
"I aint votin' for anyone who brought a damn raccoon penis as their luxury item," he joked back.
The seven pre-jurors came over to say goodbye to the final five. Paschal and Neleh exchanged a mini-reunion, Tom and Clay were joking around, as always, and even Brian and Helen seemed to be on cordial terms. Tammy got a big hug from Jeff Varner, who picked her up and spun her around, like a little girl. He then leaned over and proudly whispered into her ear.
"You’ve got the car, now go win that fucking money. You've only got five more days to go."
Tammy smiled at him, nodding. Her thoughts exactly.
Greg Buis had a big decision to make.
He was currently perched high in a pine tree, half sitting, half leaning, against a thick branch. He always got a kick out of climbing up here, as it was one of the few places you could get away from the cameras. Simply put, the cameramen wouldn't climb the trees. They were too out of shape, too unsteady, and carrying too much equipment. Greg was a man of many games, and his latest was trying to shake the surveillance crew as often as he could. He would be walking along like normal, and just decide to hop into a tree, without so much as a goodbye. The crew would calmly wait at the bottom, pointing the camera up at him, but that was all they could do. It was a fun game, plus it was bound to piss off those in charge of the show. So, of course, that made it all the more fun.
Greg's big decision was what to do at the next vote. He knew that he was in a very pivotal position of power right now. Paschal and Tom were a team, they were as solid as they came. Tammy and Helen, while not quite as solid, were kindred spirits in their intensity and desire to win, so it was logical to think they were together to the end as well. And then there was Greg, right in the middle.
It was going to all come down to him. He was the tiebreaker.
The problem with Greg's strategy was in his probable target for the next vote. Paschal English was the logical choice to take the next walk of shame, and that was liable to pose some serious problems.
"Everyone loves him," Greg had admitted in an earlier confessional. "Including me. But he needs to be on that jury. There's no way around it." Greg had debated this decision more than he had the previous boots. Sure, they all needed to be on the jury. All four of them. Elisabeth, Gina, Kelly and Paschal were the four votes he needed to win. But the catch was that he had been able to disguise his intentions with the past few votes. He had set it up so Kelly had been the bad guy, or Helen. If he was going to be the tiebreaker, it would be apparent to -everybody- who had voted off the judge. It would be in front of the jury, in front of Qinaliut, in front of everybody. All of them would see that Greg had been the third vote that got rid of Paschal.
It was a recipe for political suicide.
Greg felt that, at the moment, his best bet was to hold off on getting rid of Paschal for now. He hated to do it, but that would have to wait. Maybe he could get Helen to do it later on. Or, more likely, Tammy. Tammy and Paschal didn't speak much, he knew there wasn't much of a bond there. Frustrated, Greg started to nibble at his fingernails, something he rarely did, as he watching an eagle soar in the sky. He thought the whole situation over one more time, carefully. Greg was normally a very cool, very calm, emotionless person, and was usually best described as "steady." But the pressure of the game, and all its nuances, was beginning to eat at him. Even the stoic and flippant Greg Buis was beginning to feel the heat.
Who would have thought it?
As Greg debated his next move, Tammy's sideplot was slowly developing, one that Greg had hoped wouldn't come about. Greg had assumed that he would be the hired gun at the next vote, the third member of a two-person alliance. What he hadn't counted on was that it was Tammy's goal to get him seen, instead, as a fifth wheel.
"Who says we need him," whispered Tammy, "I mean, why should he have so much damn power?"
Helen nodded, thinking, as the two ladies sat in the shelter. Sure, the two of them had done their best yesterday to try to pull Greg in for the next vote. Helen, in particular, had been around him most of the day, trying to get on his good side. But Tammy hadn't been interested in playing that way. She kissed ass to nobody, particularly a man, and particularly a man who was younger than herself. Who the hell did Greg Buis think he was, anyway?
"I say we go get the guys in on this," Tammy continued, "The four of us vote Greg out. Tomorrow." The old fire was back in her eyes. Helen could see it. Tammy was not going to let this one drop.
"Look," added Tammy, "Tom doesn't like Greg that much. I'm sure he'd be -more- than happy to take the little prick out. Look at the alternative. If we don't, then we're all just -sitting- here, waiting for him to take his thumb out of his ass and pick who goes. Who does he think he is, fucking Caesar?"
Helen smiled, chuckling. She had been around Tammy long enough to realize that when you were on her bad side, you were sure to feel the heat.
"I don't know," said Helen, "I mean, I think he'll pick us over the guys. He doesn't want to face Tom or Paschal in a final vote any more than I do." She sighed, one of her big world-weary sighs. Those were pretty much her trademark the past few days. Helen had often erred on the side of caution in this game, and wasn't entirely sure this was the time for a power move. She had heard things about Greg, and never really understood him herself, but she knew that he had a strategic sense as strong as her own.
You couldn't win a final vote against Paschal English. Everyone knew that. It was part of the reason Helen had fled to Amarok. Well, of course Gina had pretty much kicked her out as well, but Helen had been on the way out anyway. There were too many people in Tuktu that you didn't want to face at the end. Elisabeth? No way. Kelly? Not a chance, people felt bad for her, she would have been the world's biggest pity vote. And, of course, Paschal. Paschal was the worst case scenario.
You could not beat the man.
"I think Greg will vote for Paschal," Helen added, "He -has- to. He's too smart not to see that."
Tammy remained silent, not saying a word. But it was clear she disagreed.
"Look," the reporter finally said, "I know you and I have a pact to the end, and I'm going to honor that. I have no intention of voting against you, Helen. But I'm going to go get the guys in on this. We're taking Greg out, with or without you." She paused. "I'm ready to face a tie in the final four if we have to."
Helen stared at her younger teammate. The two women were alike in many ways. They were both stubborn, competitive, and hated to lose. But Tammy was quite a bit more in-your-face and daring. Helen liked to sit back and plan her moves. Tammy liked to act. It hadn't been a problem up to now, and Helen had no intention of making it one.
"Okay," she finally nodded, "But if, and only -if- you can get Tom in on it. I don't think Paschal will go for it, so getting Tom is essential."
It was time for Greg Buis to learn a little lesson.
"-Hell- yeah," said Tom, "Just gimme a piece of paper now. Ah'do it. Where do I gotta write his name?"
Tammy had come directly to Tom, laying her offer flat on the line. The two sides join forces right now, for one vote. They all get rid of the wildcard. Then, at four, they go their own separate ways. It was not long-term, there were no promises involved, and the game would then be wide open.
"Greg's like a damn coyote," added Tom in a confessional, "He'll sit thar, in a meadow, just starin' at a flock a'sheep. All day, he'll just sit thar, doin' nothin'. And then, bam, a weak sheep come by, and the coyote'll jump up and eat it, without makin' a noise. Ain't no warnin', aint no struggle, just boom."
Tom had been wary of Greg for some time, but had made no headway in getting Paschal to feel the same way. Paschal still felt strongly that Greg would vote for Tammy tomorrow. Greg was friends with Helen, he was friends with Paschal, and he had at least been cordial with Tom. The judge didn't think he had -ever- seen Greg and Tammy have a conversation. They were as different as night and day. Plus, Tammy was by far the most competitive player left. She was a major, major threat.
"Greg has a strategic mind," Paschal would say, "He knows as well as I do that Tammy is the biggest threat left. Why would get rid of you or me? We're the old guys, I probably couldn't beat him in any athletic challenge, or mental challenge, when we get to the end." Paschal was sure of this. "Greg will vote for Tammy at the next vote. He's told me this, and that's what I would do if -I- were him."
Tom saw the logic in the judge's response, but had been annoyed by what he felt was the underlying subtext. Paschal didn't want to vote for Greg because that meant the next vote would be a tie. A 2-2 tie. Paschal would be setting himself up for the exact same situation that had cost him last time, a random tiebreaker between only three people. Tom was no fool, he knew exactly what had happened in past seasons. He thought the judge was just scared.
"Well, plan and simple," Tom had said, "I don't want Greg around. If'n somethin' comes my way, I'm takin' it. Trust me, you'll thank me for it later."
That had been this morning. But things were different now. Tammy was here, and Tammy was ready to cut this deal. It was a temporary truce, like soliders on a battlefield laying down their arms for a holiday.
"You, me and Helen," said Tammy, looking around to make sure Greg wasn't looking. "You can get Pappy in or not, but it doesn't matter. I know you don't want Greg here any more than we do."
"Listen, y'all can count on me," said Tom, "But frankly I don't think Judge will go in with us. It don't matter, though. We got three votes, and then I'll see y'all in the final four."
Tammy and Tom were in. Helen was in.
And whether or not Paschal was in, it was leading to just one outcome.
Greg was out.
Chop, chop, chop.
It cuts just like a knife.
So find yourself a path.
And run, run for your life.
You've seen this foe before.
You've won with grit and pluck.
So win immunity, if you can.
But be careful, don't get stuck.
Paschal read the tree mail out loud, as Greg listened, nodding. The two of them had taken a nice walk today, all around the campsite. Hiking through the mud, pushing through the holly, walking in the forest, it had seemed like old times. Like the early days of Tuktu, when they had nothing bigger on their minds than who would be cooking dinner that evening. But now, the game had become complicated. Relationships had become strained, lines had been drawn, and emotions were starting to become tangled.
Through it all, however, Paschal still liked Greg. And Greg still liked Paschal. They had been at the opposite ends of the game, strategy-wise, but they always enjoyed each other's company. Today, Paschal wanted to go have a talk with Greg, and see where he stood. Greg wanted the exact same thing from Paschal, to see where -he- stood.
"I'm voting for Tammy tomorrow," said the judge, carefully watching Greg's reaction. He knew Greg well enough that Greg never came straight out and said what he would be doing, but his body language would sometimes give him away. But, as Paschal expected, Greg showed no signs of dissent. Greg was thinking the same way.
"That's probably my vote, as well," said Greg. It had been a tough choice, but Paschal's assessment from the past two days had been absolutely correct. Tammy was simply the most competitive one left, and it was bad news to keep her around. As much as he wanted Paschal's butt in that jury, Greg was -not- going to be the one responsible right now. That would have to wait.
"Between, you, me and Tommy," added the judge, "We've got the votes. That means the three of us," he smiled, "Will be making the final four. Congratulations, my friend." He reached to shake Greg's hand, and the two men exchanged a smile. This was a hard game to play, and to make the final four was -always- a cause for celebration. Few people got this far.
But as the men walked back to camp, to share the tree mail, they were unaware that Tom had already spoken with Tammy. Tom was in with the plan, and he hadn't hesitated for a second. He hadn't yet told Paschal, and wasn't entirely sure how the judge was going to react. Much like Tammy, he, too, intended on honoring his pact to the end, with Paschal of course. But he was prepared to vote separately for one vote, if it meant removing Greg.
That was a cause they could -all- get behind.
The players arrived at the immunity challenge around dinner time. The earlier mirth from the reward was long gone. After a short spin through the wilderness, Tammy's car was now packed away and being shipped back to Arizona. The game was back on, and five serious, competitive players stood before Jeff Probst.
"This challenge is called -"Path to Freedom."- You've all had your experience with the thorns out here," he said. "Between Devil's Club, holly and blackberry patches, you've all had to deal with them at one time or another. Well, today," he smiled and paused, "You'll be fighting it for your life. Your life in the game, that is."
He pointed over to a large thicket.
"That right there is the largest, and most dense concentration of Devil's Club in Denali. It is almost a forest full of the stuff. Of course, we at Survivor have helped out, as we have dumped nearly two acres of blackberry vines, holly leaves, and nettles into the gaps between the plants. Simply put, that thicket is possibly the nastiest, most painful patch of plants and leaves you will ever see."
"All five of you will start right in the middle of it. You will be surrounded by green thorny leaves on all sides. You will be given these," he held up a pair of thick gray gloves, "And one of these." He held up a machete. "The first one to fight their way out of the thicket, and cut a path to freedom, wins immunity."
Tom nodded, as he chewed on his upper lip, thinking it over. This game was about to jump a level in its primality. He knew they would literally be fighting for their lives today, it was bound to be intense in there.
Jeff watched as they all grabbed their gloves and one of the long, sharp knives. They all had long sleeves and pants on as well, that had been expressly mentioned in the treemail. After all, safety first. When they were ready, Jeff led them to a trail. It led directly through the large, green, dangerous plants. The six of them walked, single file, as they were soon enveloped on either side by plants. Helen looked around, nervously, not particularly thrilled with the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in here. They walked for a good ten minutes, the small, narrow trail allowing passage of one person at a time, until they finally reached the center.
They were standing in a small dirt circle, surrounded on all sides by a shoulder high wall of green plants. This was where they would start. Jeff pointed back to the trail they came in on, saying that path was off limits. They would have to cut their own path now.
"There are five red buffs," he pointed, "Each tied to a plant. Each one of you will start at that plant and start cutting. Make sure you stay away from each other, I don't want any accidents in here." He smiled. "Any questions?"
No one had any, they were too busy getting ready. Helen was tying back her long hair into a ponytail. Paschal was flexing and unflexing his hands inside the gloves, getting used to the material. Tom was swinging his machete in a slow arc, getting used to its weight. Tammy had taken off her buff, and was using it to strap the machete to her wrist, like a permanent member of her arm. And Greg was just staring at the wall of plants, trying to look for its weak spots.
"Remember, this is for immunity," said Jeff, when they were all prepared. He raised his arm in the air, pausing as usual. "Go!"
Helen moved to the plants nearest her, spotting one of the starting markers and began chopping. She whacked down with the knife, again and again, as the sharp plants began to cut away, falling to the ground under her. Grunting with the effort, she looked to her left and saw Tammy whaling away, as fiercely as ever. Tom was on her right, punishing the plants with strong overhead blows. He was clearly the strongest one here, and appeared to be leading right off the bat, having already disappeared into his own trail.
Jeff walked casually back out the entrance trail, leaving them to their work. He knew this would take a while, so he wanted to go back and discuss things with Mark Burnett, talk about the state of the game. And, as always, complain about Greg.
Fifteen minutes had passed. Tom had taken the early lead, but was getting tired now. He stood in his path, with hands on knees, catching his breath. He had just flung aside a large stalk of Devil's Club, and was taking a breather. This was hard, manual labor. The others were finding the same thing, as Paschal was sitting down now, resting. He simply didn't have the arm strength of the others, and was hoping they would all tire themselves out, working so hard so fast.
"Like the tortoise and the hare," he joked, between breaths. "Maybe I can sneak up on 'em."
Helen was the first to take a nasty poke, yelping loudly as she leaned into a holly plant. She winced and held a hand to her side, a painful grimace on her face. She was currently in third place, although she didn't know that. They had no way of knowing what place they were in, isolated on their own little paths. But it was clear to the overhead camera crew that two players were making the fastest progress. The helicopter angle caught the drama nicely, like watching a crop circle from the sky. Two paths spiked far ahead of the rest. This was a two player game.
Greg Buis and Tammy Leitner were cutting parallel paths, well ahead of the others. Tammy's sweaty hair was getting in her eyes, and, frustrated, she kept whipping it to side, trying to see her progress better. She was easily the best conditioned of the players, having gone through a military-like boot camp training before coming out here. But even she was losing steam now, her strong right arm tiring after endless machete blows. She could hear Greg cutting away to her left, and that sound kept her going. She -had- to beat him. He could not win immunity today.
Greg was cutting away with a mad ferocity, hearing Tammy's grunts and cursing to his right. He hadn't made a sound yet, but was far from the calm, serene presence he appeared to be. He just wasn't as loud as she was. His right arm was numb now, having taken so many hits. But he finally thought he could see a clearing ahead of him. He paused, resting his hands on his knees, and peered through the thick plants. There it was! A clearing. He raised his machete and started whaling away again, determination overriding him. He was going to win this. The forest was his home, you couldn't beat him out here.
Tammy spotted the clearing at nearly the same time as Greg. Peering through her sweaty bangs, she spotted a large dirt area. The whacking to her right had stopped. Apparently Helen had given up. But she could hear Greg, smashing plant after plant to her left. It was just the two of them. She knew it now. Her hair had been bothering her, so there was just one option. In one motion, she grabbed the offending bangs and sliced them off with the machete, tossing the meddlesome hair to the dirt.
It was a race now. It was just a matter of who wanted it most.
Jeff Probst stood in the clearing, immunity talisman in hand, awaiting the eventual winner. The camera crews had tipped him off that it would be Tammy or Greg, and he was waiting here, in between where their two paths would exit. He stood, watching the large wall of plants, and could hear them come ever so close through the other side.
And finally, a small hole opened up to Jeff's right. A hand poked through, and a large white glove helped open the hole wider. Finally, a face appeared. Greg Buis's dark blue baseball cap poked out, with his smiling visage underneath it. His face was flush from exertion, but he was here. Greg calmly cut open the rest of the hole and stepped out.
"Greg," shouted Jeff, "Wins immunity!"
Greg let loose a wide grin, and clenched his fist against his side in triumph. He hadn't been sure he was going to pull it off, but had defeated Tammy. His arms were bloody in a few places from cuts, but the talisman around his neck made it feel much better.
Tammy emerged from her path about four minutes later, looking annoyed and upset. She had been so sure she could beat Greg. Still, she shook his hand like a good sport, giving him a quick congratulatory hug. The others emerged eventually, Paschal having to walk out through Greg's path, but it was all over.
Greg would be safe from tomorrow's vote.
Tammy's plan had been foiled.
The morning air was clean, the weather was pleasant, and the players were fed. It was a beautiful day out, but there was something lurking underneath. The sunny day couldn't hide it completely. Somebody was going home tonight.
Paschal English was standing by the shelter, talking with Helen, as they discussed tonight's vote.
"I think it's going to be Tammy," he said, quietly. "Greg has so much as told me so, and she's really his biggest threat right now. I can't really see any other reason why he'd vote for somebody else."
"Wait a minute," she said, incredulous. "You don't think -you- are his biggest threat?" She stared at him, half making fun of him, half surprised. "I mean, nobody wants to go against you in the final two, Paschal. I hate to tell you, buddy, but -you- are the biggest threat to everybody here. Winning challenges won't mean a thing if you are still around in the final two."
Paschal smiled to himself and had to concede this was probably true. But at the same time, he thought he knew how Greg's mind worked. Greg was a logical thinker, he had been in all of their previous conversations, anyway. And common sense said that you removed the athletes.
"Well, for your sake, I hope you're right," he said. He smiled. "But for -my- sake, I hope -I'm- right." They wished each other well, two soliders on opposing sides of the battle, and headed off for the day's preparations. There was a lot to be done today.
Tammy Leitner was disgusted with herself.
She stood by Horseshoe Lake, angrily throwing rocks at its surface. The flat rocks would either plunge into its depths, or skim across its surface, depending on the angle. She was trying to skip them, but in her frustration, most of them simply sunk into the calm surface. You had to have patience and finesse to skip rocks, and those were traits she sometimes lacked, particularly when she was angry.
"I couldn't believe it," she muttered to a cameraman. "We had him. -Had- him. We had three votes lined up against the little shit last night, and then he goes and wins immunity."
Splash. Another rock sunk into the lake.
Splash. There was another one. She hadn't managed to skip one in almost fifteen tries.
What irked Tammy the most was, of course, that Greg had outperformed her, in one of their most physical challenges to date. Tammy hated losing. Tammy hated being beaten. Tammy hated to fail.
"So now, we're pretty much stuck waiting for him to make up his mind." She grinned, half angry, half frustrated. "And it suuuucks."
Tammy had spent most of the day in quiet deliberation, going over the vote in her head.
Option A: Vote with Helen for the same person, either Paschal or Tom. Hope that Greg joins them.
Option B: Vote with the guys, tell them they could all gang up on Helen, and possibly buy herself some time to the next immunity.
Or Option C: ... Well, okay, there really wasn't an option C.
Tammy had never been this far in the game before. She had never had to face this type of decision. All the big ones in her Marquesas stay had mostly been made by John. By the time Tammy ever got a chance to shine, it was too late. Her alliance was on its way to total dismantlement. So all of this pressure was a first, and like everyone, she too was beginning to feel the strain of loyalty versus strategy. Tammy was a tough person, but this game had a way of bringing you to your knees. And now, she was here. Should she stick with Helen to the bitter end, or should she sell her out to the highest bidder? And if she didn't, would Helen do it to her?
Could Helen be trusted?
"Let's just say this will be an interesting night," she finally said, "One of us is going to make it -this- close to the final four, but just fall short." She shrugged, smiling as she finally skipped a rock across the lake. "Let's just hope it isn't me."
The day progressed a bit faster as usual, as conversations were whispered, alliances were discussed, and people watched and listened.
Tammy and Helen discussed their options. They were relieved to find that they had been thinking the same thoughts. They were still on the same page.
Greg and Paschal had a long talk by the gas stove. Greg now said that he had not made up his mind for the vote. It was not a sure thing, but he knew it was an important decision. He promised Paschal that he would at least consider all sides, before casting his vote.
Tom and Helen talked about Greg, with Tom trying to share his mistrust of the guy to the naval swim instructor. This was the second time today that Helen had heard this message, with Tammy having gone on and on about it just that morning. Helen was still wary of all their motives, but she was not a stupid person. It was beginning to dawn on her that this may be more than just a smear campaign.
With just an hour to go before their big hike, the five members packed up and wished each other luck. Whatever happened tonight, they had all been together for a long time. Tammy was even a bit more emotional than usual, as she hugged Paschal, likely the last time that would happen. Tammy suspected that Paschal was going, and Paschal suspected that Tammy was going. Despite their differences, the two of them had still been tribemates. Greg was approached by just about everyone. Paschal joked with him about the sorry state of their laundry line. Tom clapped him on the back, wishing him luck. Helen spoke in low, secretive tones about how she thought the final vote would go. And Tammy, thoughtful Tammy, helped him put on his backpack and congratulated him again on his immunity.
Greg smiled at all the attention. It was good to be the one controlling fate. They all loved him today.
The five members trekked through the mud and grass on their way to Tribal Council. The fifth member of the jury would be decided tonight. And, more importantly, the final four would be set. They had all seen the show on TV, they knew that meant they would be in the final episode. Helen could even picture the promo in her head. She knew the advertisement. They all did.
Three Tribal Councils!
Two immunity challenges!
One final vote!
They all had visions of making that final episode. That was the goal, because once you got to four, everyone stood a chance. But Greg was the only one guaranteed to make it there at this moment. He was the only one who could rest easy tonight. One of the others would be going home.
They entered the Spirit Lodge, with Tom stopping to admire the new addition of Kelly's face to the totem pole. She looked sad, wounded, lonely. It was a perfect representation.
As the five sat down on their benches, the jury filed in from a side door. Silas came in, looking clean cut and handsome. Elisabeth sat next to him, clad in a bluish-green summer dress. Gina stared sternly at them, in a blouse and T-shirt combo. And Kelly sat on the end, looking uncomfortable and out of character in a dress. The jury was four-strong, and would soon be five. They were slowly growing in power, something that every player left was well aware of.
"Welcome, guys," said the host, as everyone was now seated. He turned to the final five and started right in on his questions.
"Paschal - How would you say you are holding up? I mean, you collapsed at this point last time in the game. Are you feeling okay this second time around?"
Paschal smiled and nodded. Yes, he felt a little weak and dizzy sometimes, but nothing as bad as last time. He had been prepared this time.
"Well Jeff," the judge spoke, "I'm feelin' a lot better this time around, thank you for asking. Luckily, I did more conditioning exercises before I came here this time, and I feel I was in a lot better shape. And plus," he smiled, rubbing his nonexistent tummy, "I packed on a few extra pounds beforehand this time. Let's just say there was a lot more peach pie and french fries in my lunch box the past few months."
Jeff laughed at the answer, but turned to Tammy.
"Tammy," he asked, "Speaking of conditioning, I know that you put yourself through a rigorous training ritual before you came out here. Do you feel it has helped you at all?"
Tammy smiled, always loving to explain her training rituals. They were always good to impress people.
"I was out in the morning every day, doing crunches, kickboxing, kayaking and windsprints," she explained. "My husband would be out with me every day, being my trainer, putting me through boot camp. Do I think it has helped? Sure. I mean, you can't win challenges if you aren't in shape."
"Hey, don't jump to conclusions," interrupted Tom. "I've won mah fair share and I aint done a windsprint in twenty years, Jeff."
Tammy stopped mid-sentence, and laughed to herself. Tom was one of the few people who could make her laugh. She shot him a look, but one that was not entirely without humor.
"What I was saying," she smiled, "Is that you try to maximize your success in the things you can control. Coming out here, you can't control your teammates. You can't control your luck. You can't control the votes. But you -can- control how well you hold up, and how strong and fit you are. So that's really been my strategy all along."
"So," added Jeff with a smile, "Did you enjoy your new car?"
Tammy grinned, the little girl in her coming out from her hiding place. She had been grinning ear to ear during the whole car ride, it had been a blast.
"Loved it," she said. "Thanks."
"And I don't want to see that thing on Ebay," Jeff joked. "We picked it out special for you guys. So try to hang on to it, okay, John Carroll?"
She gave a look of mock innocence, and he moved on to his next player.
"Helen," said the host, "How do you think the vote will be determined tonight?"
Helen mulled this over, gazing up and to the right, as the jury looked on, attentively.
"Well," she said, honestly, "Frankly, there's three teams right now in the tribe. And tonight one of them has to be broken up."
"Do you know which one?"
"Well, if I had to make a guess, I'd say it wouldn't be Greg. He's probably safe."
Jeff grinned at her, letting it drop. Helen was too cautious to take the bait.
"And finally," he said, "Let's turn to the man of the hour. Greg Buis." He stared at his arch-rival. -This is awful-, Jeff thought. -He's going to win, and I have to sit here and to watch this.- But Jeff sucked up his personal pride and continued as planned. He was a professional.
"Greg, you have immunity. How do you feel about the vote tonight?"
"Scared," started Greg. "And confused. I'm not sure what's going to happen tonight. It could very well be me."
Jeff corrected him, without thinking. He walked right into Greg's trap.
"Let me remind you that you are safe, Greg. You can't be voted out."
"Really??" Greg opened his eyes wide, staring right at Jeff. Once again, he was daring him to break character. "That's awesome! I wish I had won this thing before!"
Jeff glared at him. Greg smirked and stared right back. It was a showdown for a few seconds, before Jeff had to continue. Sparring with Greg was never a good idea. Neither of them would ever give in.
"Okay, here's what's at stake tonight," said the host. "One of you will be making the jury. The other four will move on to the final three days. And I leave it up to -you- to decide who's going where." He paused. "Helen, you're up. Let's vote."
Helen Glover stood, smiled to her teammates, and walked up to cast her vote. As per the plan with Tammy, the vote was for Paschal English. She wrote down his name and held it up. Little did she know she was making history at the time. It was the first vote ever cast against the judge.
"Pappy, I love you, but this is something I have to do to stay in the game. Too much competition, too tough a competitor."
Tammy walked up second, casting a second vote for Paschal. She had debated the ethics of selling out Helen today, but had finally just given up. Tammy was tough, and played to win, but she was also honest. People hated her for it sometimes, but she said what she felt. And when she told Helen they were in it to the end, she was being honest.
"Nothing personal," she said, holding up the vote. "It's the only way to go. But it shouldn't have been your time yet."
Greg Buis was third, and wrote a name down down on his piece of paper. This had been a tough choice, possibly the only tough choice he had faced out here. But it was someone that just had to go. He didn't add a comment as he held up the ballot, preferring to let his actions speak for him.
Big Tom cast a vote for Tammy Leitner, agreeing with the judge that she was probably Greg's target tonight. They both wanted to piggyback off it if they could. Sure, it was a bit underhanded, in Tom's mind, but this was the final four they were talking about. Ethics tended to get bent at this point.
"Tammy, ah respect you as a person," he said, "And yo're as tough as all get out. You're a strong player, but just have ta go."
The judge was the last person to vote and, of course, held up a vote for Tammy.
"You're a wonderful young lady and a good member of the tribe. But someone has to go tonight and I'm voting for you."
The five of them sat down, watching as Jeff went to retrieve the ballots. Greg sat in the back, as usual, darting his eyes between the stern figure of Tammy and the relaxed figure of Paschal. One of them was going home tonight, although it hadn't been the way he had planned it.
"The person voted out tonight must leave the Tribal Council immediately," said Jeff. And with that, he started to read off the votes.
"Judge Pappy," he said, holding up the first vote, Helen's.
Paschal nodded and looked over, elbowing Helen in the ribs. She just laughed and shrugged.
"Paschal," read the second vote. Tom darted a quick look at the judge, watching for a sign of panic. But the old man didn't change expression. He rarely, if ever, lost his cool out here.
"Tammy," read the third vote.
Tammy simply nodded, neither smiling nor frowning. She was too intent on the votes to worry about showing emotion right now.
"Tammy," read the fourth vote. Tammy just stared, trying to stare through the ballots, looking at nothing.
Jeff held up the last vote and looked at it, pausing for dramatic effect.
"And the fifth member of our jury."
He turned the ballot around.
Tammy reacted only with a small pursing of her lips, a sign of frustration. But it was over. Her time here was done, via the hand of Greg Buis. If only she had caught onto him sooner, she thought. If only. If only.
Tammy Leitner picked up her torch and brought it over to Jeff. He nodded at her and made it official, snuffing the flame and sending her out of the game.
"Tammy, the tribe has spoken. It's time for you to go."
Tammy didn't say a word, nor did she look at anyone. She simply nodded and turned around, walking out into the forest. That had always beens her policy. Don't say goodbye to people who just voted you out. Make them think about it for a while.
"Well," said Jeff, as he turned to face the final four, "You guys have made it. Final four. And I'd like to also point out, if you haven't already noticed, that three of you ended your stays here last time on day 37." He smiled, looking at his watch. "And if I'm not mistaken, that would be tomorrow. So we have a big day ahead of us, for several reasons." He smiled. "So make sure you guys get some sleep tonight. We have a lot in store for you the next three days, so you will need all your energy. And once again, nice job. You've all played the game very, very well."
The final four exited the stage, and walked back to camp. Helen Glover led the way, as always, with her usual fast stride. Greg Buis walked behind her, second- and third-guessing the decision to spare Paschal tonight. But he supposed he wouldn't know if it was correct until three days from now. Paschal English walked third, happy that he had been spared tonight and looking forward to a second chance at the finals. And Tom Buchanan was last, watching as his three fellow finalists walked before him.
Three of them had been to this point before. And all three were determined to not go out in the same place again. No one wanted to finish fourth on more than one occasion. They all had loftier goals in mind. They all thought they could pull this thing off.
But, of course, there was one catch.
There was still a wildcard in the group. And his name was Greg Buis.
- Read Tammy's Final Words!
- Read the All-Star Survivor: Alaska Frequently Asked Questions page.
- Email Mario with comments.
- Back to the All-Star
Alaska episode archive.