All-Star Survivor: Alaska
Qinaliut Tribe: Tom Buchanan, Greg Buis, Paschal English, Helen Glover
July had crossed over into August.
The warmer summer days had already started to go away. The days of seventy-degree temperatures and heat exhaustion already seemed like a distant memory. Toes were starting to ache, fingers were starting to numb, and cheeks were beginning to chap. Out here in Alaska, the seasons took a radically different form. Winter lasted, on average, about six months. Summer, as the players had known it, consisted of about eight weeks, from mid June to mid August. Everything between summer and winter was pretty much a season of its own. It could be cold one day, warm the next. Windy one morning, dry that evening. Snow in the morning, rainbows in the evening. You never knew what you were going to get when the blanket of summer started to leave you.
Four sleeping figures were huddled up, sleeping in the Qinaliut shelter. Greg Buis was curled into a ball, his heavy hiking coat wrapped around his sleeping form. Helen Glover was snuggled as close to Tom Buchanan as humanly possibly, without actually touching, the smaller woman trying her best to be shaded from the elements. Paschal English was virtually invisible, he was buried so far under a fleece blanket. These were the final four. They had outwitted, outplayed and outlasted the rest, and had reached the end. They had all taken wildly divergent paths, from Paschal's direct and righteous approach, to Helen's desperate team-jumping, to Tom's sly under-the-radar strategy, to Greg's unconventional Chaos Theory. They had used different methods, but it didn't matter now, because all that would be wiped clean. Once you got to four, the game started anew.
There had once been sixteen players out here. But most of them had been forgotten now. Few of the players thought of Rudy, or Jeff, or even Clay anymore. They were all a distant memory, and as the players began to stir for the morning, they thought only of the future-- specifically, of tonight's immunity challenge and vote.
"Frankly," said Paschal, as he sleepily unpacked the oatmeal canister, "I never thought I'd be here this late in the game. Especially starting on an all-male team. I was sure they'd be voting off the older guys first, and, well, I guess I just got lucky." He opened the container and watched as Helen came over to start boiling the water. Helen was always boiling water, whether she wanted to or not. She had taken that job early on, and been saddled with it ever since, which had been both a good and a bad thing.
"Hello, mama," Paschal said, reaching over to hug her and give her a kiss on the forehead.
"Please, don't talk to me yet," said Helen, groggily. She was smiling yet also still half-asleep. She wasn't what she would call a morning person. "You have that coffee made?"
"Well, I'm sorry," he joked, "We seem to be out of filters today. Maybe I can have Tommy run down to the store and pick some up."
"Would you?" she asked, as she turned on the stove, mechanically, like a zombie.
Once the food was cooking, the two of them, now a little more awake, sat and talked about tonight's events. They kept their tones low, so as to not to be heard, and discussed who they thought would go, who deserved to go, and how they both envisioned it playing out.
"I don't really think Tom deserves to be here," said Helen, as she sipped from a cup of hot water. "Frankly, I don't think he's done as much as the rest of us, and I've never really felt he was a part of the group."
Paschal nodded, as he had often thought the same thing. He and Tom were close friends. They had a lot in common, much moreso than anyone would expect. Whereas Tom was often called sexist, or chauvinistic, or homophobic, by people who didn't know him, Paschal had come, in time, to realize that there was nothing mean-spirited about the man's heart. Tom just liked to shoot his mouth off, without thinking. Quite simply, Tom came from a very sheltered and specific environment, he just didn't know any better. Elisabeth had been right, Tom Buchanan was just a big teddy bear, and a family man just like Paschal. Their two reward trips had only solidified their bond. They would likely be friends for life after this.
But that being said, Paschal also believed that Tom was probably the least deserving of the four left. Helen, Paschal and Greg had been the backbone behind the food gathering and camp maintenance for some time now. Tom was by no means a slacker, but there had not been a moment when they had ever seen him cook a meal, and his berry picking excursions had been few and far between since the early days.
"I agree," admitted the judge. "But the problem is, the two of us made a promise a while ago. I won't vote for him and he won't vote for me. And I'm not going to break that." Paschal assumed this was common knowledge among the final four. He saw no harm in laying his cards right out in the open. Honesty was always his best policy.
Helen just nodded, having assumed this was true. She had already seen their bond, and knew how dangerous that could be. Her own final-two partner, Tammy, was now gone, and so that left Helen without an ally. Unless, of course, she went for...
"What about Greg," asked Paschal. "Are the two of you together?"
Helen weighed her options. Should she say yes? Should she say no? What possible ramifications could come from this? But in the end, sighing, she had no choice but just admit the truth. She was never a good liar.
"I have no clue what that boy is up to," she said. "We've been close, off and on, for a while. But when I think he's gonna go left, he goes right. When I expect him to zig, he zags. He makes no sense. I have no idea why he voted for Tammy last night. I was -sure- it would be you."
Paschal smiled, nodding. He had mistrusted Greg Buis for some time now. Not as much as Tom or Tammy, who both seemed to actively -hate- him, but Paschal definitely had his eye on the young man. He still thought of him as a son... well, -almost- a son, anyway... but last night's vote had been a revelation to the judge. He, too, thought that Greg would vote him out. All Paschal's talk to Tom, about how Greg would vote Tammy, he was sure of it, etc.- all of that had been the judge trying to reassure himself. Last night, he was sure that it was his time. But he had been pleasantly surprised.
-Maybe Greg is coming around after all,- he thought, smiling. -Maybe he IS the type of young man I thought he was all along.-
Greg Buis was going for a long walk this morning.
There was nothing really to do until the immunity challenge, so Greg wanted one last trip into nature. Whether he was voted out tonight or not, this may be his last chance. He loved it out here, and wanted to get as close to the big mountain as he could. Mount McKinley loomed over their camp every day, and he was always aware of where it was on the horizon. He was always in a good mood on the days when the top was visible, which was only about ten percent of the time. The other ninety percent, the tip of the mountain was shrouded in clouds, a mystery to everyone. Greg definitely saw a parable between himself and the mountain. Sure, she was his "special girl", but he and McKinley shared one common trait.
They were both shrouded in mystery, and few people saw their inner nature.
The large, snowy mountain had been his best friend out here for more than a month. He often talked to it when he was out here walking, and they had long, strategic discussions about the game. Today, he smiled, because her tip was uncovered. He walked towards the mountain, eyes always alert for wildlife sightings, as he talked about last night's vote. He was speaking more to the mountain than the camera, but the effect was the same, as the cameramen frantically tried to keep up with his fast pace.
"I -had- to choose Tammy," he said, as he carefully stepped around a large slug in the grass, "I didn't really have a choice. I mean, I wanted to vote out Paschal, but you could just see it in the jury's eyes, they were watching me. Gina, Kelly and, particularly Elisabeth, they all knew the vote was coming down to me." He stepped around another large slug, they seemed to be prevalent this morning, on the wet grass. "And they all -hate- Helen, which was intentional, of course. But the corner I backed myself into is that if I vote along with Helen and Tammy, they are going to bury me. They'll know. And then I can't win." He stopped and turned to the cameras, wanting to make sure the next comment would be a good sound byte for the promos.
"Besides, what better drama is there for a fallen hero to come back to his senses? I mean, it's like Darth Vader. I fell from grace, I was corrupted, and then, when all appeared lost, I suddenly swooped back to the good guys." He smiled. "It's like Return of the Jedi. You had Paschal, lying on the ground, near death. Tammy's shooting bolts of electricity into him and I'm sitting there, watching. And then, at the last moment, I pick her up and toss her into a drainage pipe. I mean, what could be more heroic? Paschal's saved, the hero is back, everyone wins. Now -that's- drama. It's must see TV, check your local listings."
Greg smiled to himself, particularly proud of his analogy. He loved the idea of teetering between good and evil, loving the make a mockery of what he considered to be a mindless viewing public. But there had been sound reasoning behind his decision last night, despite his playing to the cameras. He couldn't get rid of Helen, he needed her for later. He saw no problem with keeping Tom around, Tom was just a big dumb hillbilly in his mind. And booting Paschal would have been political suicide. No, it -had- to be Tammy. As much as it made him nervous to keep the judge around, he needed to do it. True, he was playing with fire, but he still intended on getting rid of the judge later. There was still time. It just had to be the right time and the right place.
And he had to make sure Tom or Helen was the one to do it.
"We've got mail," shouted Helen, as she walked back to camp. She was holding the strange piece of treemail, as she mulled over the possibilities in her head.
"Checkers?" she thought to herself, looking again at the piece of wood. It was square, about the size of computer screen, and covered with black and white squares. To her, it looked like a checkerboard. She came back to camp and showed the treemail to the other players. The black and white checker design was marked with no words, except for a small inscription on the back.
"Dinnertime," it read.
"Are we eatin' something?" asked Tom. "Is that the challenge?"
Paschal chewed at his lower lip, thinking it over.
"I honestly couldn't tell you," he said. "I was thinkin' maybe we'd get Fallen Comrades, but now I'm not so sure."
"I think it's a grid," said Greg. He had returned from his walk, muddy and disheveled as usual, but had a smile on his face. "It looks like some sort of strategy game, like Othello."
"What's that," asked Tom. It was a rare occasion when he got one of Greg's references.
"It's a game where you flip over the other person's circles. Like checkers."
Tom shrugged, figuring whatever type of game it was, he could handle it. As he had shown in Africa, Tom was no fool when it came to strategy games. He had cleaned up in checkers on a daily basis. Kim Johnson had beaten him once, and that was it. Even the mighty Lex had been crushed, time after time, and after a while they had just stopped playing against him. No one wanted to play Tom in checkers.
"I don't care what they call it," he joked, "T'sall the same to me. Just gimme a board and let's start flipping circles."
The four of them stood there after the comment, in awkward silence. It was clear that something needed to be said, but no one knew what it was. They had pretty much run out of conversation topics after 36 days. There was only so much small talk you could make, and so many times you could discuss the wildlife you had seen that morning.
"So," sighed Helen, finally, "Are we going to talk about tonight's vote?"
Tom smiled, his eyes meeting hers.
"I don't mind. If y'all want to, I'm up fr'it."
Paschal looked at Helen with a small smile, not entirely sure they wanted to do this. But he just shrugged.
"Okay, but only if everybody else wants to."
Greg agreed readily. He wasn't going to make a big issue about this.
"I just don't want anybody to be surprised," added Helen. "I mean, it's no big deal if we leave it a surprise."
"Nah," interrupted Tom, "If you got something tah say, this is the time. Remember, two uv'us are gonna be on the jury, might as well make peace now, while we all have the chance."
Tom sat down, waiting for the others to join him. Helen was the second to sit, and Greg soon joined them. Paschal held out for a few seconds, smiling, but finally sat down. They were ready to have a last powwow.
"My vote tonight is probably going for Tom," said Helen. "I mean, no offense to you, big guy. I just wanted it to not be a surprise."
Tom nodded, appreciating her honesty. But he had his own opinion to share.
"I'm voting for Greg. Because ah'm sorry, but I just don't trust you. I don't b'lieve you are who you say you are."
Greg let loose a small smile, enjoying the accusation. Perhaps Tom wasn't as dumb as he had thought. Tom smiled right back, letting Greg know that you couldn't fool Big Tom for very long.
"I haven't decided yet," admitted Greg. "Honestly."
"Give us two names," demanded Tom. "We're all being honest here, just tell us who y'all are picking between."
Paschal and Helen turned towards Greg, both anticipating an answer. Greg seethed at Tom, but deep down remained evasive.
"Helen and Tom," he said, trying his best to hide his true intentions. "But that's just a guess. With immunity, who knows what will happen?"
Paschal nodded, looking directly at Greg. It was nice that Greg was back on his side, but that still didn't change what had to be done.
"Greg," he said. "My vote's going for you tonight." He didn't always get along with Helen, but she had been up every morning, at the crack of dawn, cooking food. He saw no reason to get rid of her right now. She had earned her place here.
Greg mulled this over in his head, as the rest of them explained their rationale. Helen explained that she thought no one could beat Paschal in a final vote, but she had to go with her heart. She felt that Paschal deserved to be here, and Tom didn't. She apologized profusely, but that was her old work ethic talking. Helen liked them both, and said it would be a tough call. Deep down, she felt a bit more convinced, as she didn't want to say she had lost to Tom Buchanan. Paschal, she could live with.
Tom explained his rationale in simple terms. He thought Greg was dishonest, sneaky and too much of an athletic threat.
"Besides," he added, dropping the bombshell he had been saving up. "Y'all and Helen were the two behind Elisabeth's boot, and only Helen's been takin' the blame for it. Y'all got away scot free, boy."
Greg's face betrayed no emotion, but he knew that Tom had been waiting to deliver that line. The old fox had just trapped him.
"It was a group decision," said Greg, "Decided by many. I didn't do anything other than go along with a strategy."
"Aw, that's bull shit, boy," bellowed Tom. "I was raght there, the whole time. You planned the whole dang thing. You thought ol' Hayseed was just sitting and watching, as you 'talked me into' voting with you. You just thought I was an ign'rant fool, meanwhile," he paused, smiling, "You are the one who just done got yer hand caught in the cookie jar."
Greg just stared at him, a small smile on his face. In his wildest imagination, he had never imagined a moment where Tom would have outsmarted him. But now, it appeared to have happened. Paschal looked at Greg, waiting for a reaction. Greg had no rebuttal, so instead he simply shrugged, blowing off the accusation.
"I don't play that way," he said, softly. "You're wrong. I'm not here to win the money."
"Well that's mighty charitable of ya," added Tom, "Because I ain't -lettin'- you win the money. Your ass is goin' down soon, whether tonight, or later. You done pissed off the wrong people."
Helen stared over at Greg, and it wasn't a happy look. She was never subtle in hiding her mood.
"Look," said Greg, "Can we just drop this? I don't appreciate you guys trying to set me up for a fall here. I haven't done anything wrong. Helen," he looked at her, "You've known me as well as anyone here. You know I don't go for that kind of stuff. I'm not going to arrange some masterful...," he searched for the right word, "Some big conspiracy. Why would I do that? What possibly could I have to gain?"
Helen continued to glare at him, but deep down she was conflicted. She knew Greg, she knew Tom. They were both capable of something like this. Tom was as cutthroat as anyone here, she could see it in his eyes. And Greg... Greg was just empty in his eyes. Helen always thought she could read people's eyes- at least, until she had met the two of them.
"Aw, -hell-," exclaimed Tom, "Y'all are fools if you b'lieve him. He's been playin' y'all for fools since day one!" He stood up. "Judge, that boy aint got no feelings for you, he's gonna cut yer throat the first moment he's got! Same with you, Helen. Greg aint no better than Brian, only he hides it better." Tom turned to walk away, as he was unable to continue this anymore. It was too frustrating being around people who trusted everyone. That was the only thing that bothered him about Paschal. The man was oblivious to the game around him most of the time.
"Look," said Greg, as Tom was walking away, "He knows there's two votes against him tonight." He turned to Helen. "He knows you and I are voting against him, and he wants to sway your vote. I can promise you I've never planned -anything- out here. I don't know where he's gotten it. Maybe from Kelly. Maybe Tammy. I honestly don't know."
"We should just let this drop," said Paschal. "This was a bad idea. Let's just go into this thing tonight as a foursome, and try to keep some semblance of dignity, okay?"
"I think," said Helen, as she stared at the ground, "That is an -excellent- idea."
The three of them shared a group hug, one last moment as a team. Paschal went to go find Tom, and maybe settle the man down. He hadn't seen that side of the big man for a long time, Tom rarely got mad out here. And now Tom was mad, no he was -furious-, at Greg Buis. Deep down, of course, the judge felt Tom had overreacted. But he also knew that Tom wasn't lying. Tom Buchanan was a lot of things, but he wasn't a liar.
Things were definitely heating up around Camp Qinaliut. Tonight was definitely going to be a night to remember.
The players arrived at the immunity challenge just as the sky was darkening a bit. Now that summer was ending, the sun was actually starting to dip a bit into the horizon. It wasn't much, but it was something new. In photography, this was known as the "golden hour." Not light, not dark, there was a pleasant glow around all of them, like the sun was reflecting directly off each person.
"Welcome, guys," said Jeff, as he took the immunity talisman back from Greg. "To your final four immunity." They were standing in a clearing just outside the Tribal Council set, a brand new site. Most of their other challenges had taken place at Horseshoe Lake, or near the zipline hill, or the forest outside camp. But it was obvious to see why they had not been here before.
There was a giant wooden platform next to them. It was large, perhaps sixty feet by sixty feet. Much like the tree mail, it was divided into 64 squares, alternating between white and black. It looked like a checkerboard.
"The game tonight is called 'Chessmaster,'" said Jeff with a smile. -Chess. It hadn't been checkers at all, they had been wrong.- "You guys will be playing a game of chess, with the goal of eliminating the other three." Helen scanned her eyes over the board, noticing four small colored cards sitting atop it- one blue, one red, one yellow and one green. One them sat in each of the four corners of the board.
"Uh, pardon me," asked Tom, "I don't know how to play chess, Jeff." He smiled, a small sheepish grin.
"Don't worry," said the host, "You will get instructions. It is very simple." He pointed out the colored circles. "Each of you will start in a corner. Pick up the card there and it will explain your rules. You will each have different rules, but the goal will be the same." He paused. "Eliminate the others."
The four players walked up onto the platform, and Jeff told them to all pick a starting corner. Greg chose the northwest corner, and the yellow card. He picked it up and turned it over.
"Rook," it read. "You are the rook. You may move up to five spaces forwards, backwards, or sideways. You may not move diagonally." Greg smiled. Human chess it was going to be. Excellent.
"Bishop," read Paschal's blue card, as he stood in the northeast corner. "You may move up to five spaces in any diagonal direction." He smiled, sizing up the board. Greg stood seven squares to his right, obviously his top competition.
"Knight," read Tom's green card. "You may move two spaces up, and one space over. Or two spaces over and one space up. You have the most difficult piece to play, be warned."
"Which one's the knight?" yelled Tom.
"The horse," answered Paschal. "You're the horse."
"What kind of stupid horse moves two over and one up?" questioned Tom, "That don't make no sense. Horses run in a straight line!"
And finally, Helen uncovered her red card, as she stood in the southeast corner. It was the best piece of all.
"Queen," it read. "You may move in any direction, up to five squares. You are the queen of the board, enjoy your power." She smiled proudly. It was good to be the queen.
"You guys understand the rules?" asked Jeff. Everyone nodded, Tom doing his best to size up the board. "Now, here's the twist. You have just ten seconds to make each move. We're not planning on being here all night." Paschal winced at the twist. Chess was a thinking man's game, it wasn't meant to be played impulsively. "And if you haven't moved in ten seconds," added Jeff, "You are eliminated."
Jeff stepped off the board and raised his right arm.
"This is for immunity," he said, "And a trip to the final three. Survivors ready," he paused, "Go!"
The game started in the northwest corner, with Greg. He paused for a second, a small smile on his face. He then stepped five squares ahead, headed for Tom. Tom now stood two squares away.
Paschal was next, and the bishop moved just one square, intending on watching and waiting for now.
Helen, the queen, stepped five squares to her left, also heading for Tom.
Tom was now trapped between Greg in front of him, and Helen to his right. The hapless knight had no choice but to move right next to Helen, a sitting duck.
"I don't like chess," he complained to Jeff, "Can't we play checkers instead?"
Greg moved his rook just behind Tom's, so that Tom stood between between Greg and Helen. Greg was daring Helen to take the knight, and she knew it. She stuck her tongue out at him.
The game went on for a few moments. No one was captured, and Tom was doing a surprising job of staying away from the bigger pieces. But then, about six minutes into the game, the first piece was taken.
Helen had not been paying attention to where her queen had stopped. She had been so busy avoiding Paschal's bishop and Greg's rook, she forgot about Tom. And Tom got her.
"The queen is dead," he said, triumphantly, as he moved into her square. "Long live the horse!" She stared at him in disbelief, a stunned look on her face. Had she just been outwitted by Tom Buchanan?
"That's one down," said Jeff, "Helen, take a seat."
She sat on a bench, shaking her head with disgust, as the game resumed.
Paschal made a power move at Greg, coming within five squares of him. Greg wisely moved his rook out of the way, but then Tom came at him. It was clear that the two older men were ganging up on him.
"Hey, c'mon," he smiled, only half-laughing. "No working together."
Paschal managed to back Greg into a corner, with a cunning grin on the judge's face.
"Can't last forever, Greg," he said, "The bishop always wins." But combined with Tom's surprising mastery of the game, Greg soon found himself trapped. The two men had him cornered, with nowhere to go.
"Can we call a stalemate?" joked Greg, but it was no use. His ten seconds were up and he had nowhere to move. Greg was eliminated.
Paschal and Tom grinned at each other. Paschal had played this game many times before, and Tom was just learning it, but they had proved to be equals. The only difference was that the judge had a much stronger piece. They moved around for about ten minutes, feinting attacks, but it was clear that both of them were too clever to fall into a clumsy trap. The game was deadlocked. Tom turned and asked Jeff what they would do now.
"Why? are you guys giving up?" asked Jeff.
"How do we know who wins?" asked the judge.
"That's up to you," said the host.
"How?" asked Tom.
"Do whatever you want," said the host. "But I think," he suddenly looked at his watch, "The choice has been decided." He looked at Tom. "Sorry, buddy, but it's been eleven seconds. You guys were supposed to keep moving until somebody stopped. This was an endurance challenge as much as a strategy game. It was your turn and you haven't moved." Tom just let loose a half-smile, caught off guard by the last minute twist. But they had gotten him. Oh yes, they had gotten him.
"Paschal," said the host, "Wins immunity."
Paschal smiled broadly as the host placed the talisman around his neck. Helen and Greg came over to congratulate him, as he had won a place in the all-important final three. Tom was a good sport about it as well, and shook the man's hand. Paschal was indeed the Chessmaster for the day.
The four of them walked from the challenge directly over to Tribal Council. It was not a far walk, no more than 200 feet, but they had plenty of thoughts racing through their heads.
It's going to be me, thought Helen, worriedly. Her mind often raced to thoughts of panic just before Tribal Council.
Damn that Paschal, thought Greg. Now I have just one more chance to get him out of here. He was already beginning to rue his decision.
Stupid, thought Tom, I'm so stupid. How could I have done that? He couldn't believe he had been outsmarted by a damn twist.
Tom or Greg, thought Paschal. And it's probably going to be a tie.
The four of them sat on their benches and watched as the jury filed in. Silas, Elisabeth, Gina, Kelly and now Tammy. Silas and the four women watched them all, some with a more sympathetic look than others. Tammy looked as she always did, as if she wanted to rip their heads off.
"Welcome, guys," said Jeff, as they were all seated. He started in on his questions, which were shorter than usual today. After all, it had been a long day already.
"Paschal," he said, "How does it feel to have that thing around your neck today?"
"My goodness, Jeff," answered the judge, "It feels fantastic. I never thought I would be around this late in the game. I feel like the most fortunate man on Earth."
"Tom," asked the host, "Feel like you are in any sort of danger tonight?"
"Well a'course," smiled the goat farmer, "Y'have to expect yo're in danger at any Tribal Council. Ye'd be a fool to ever get too confident here. You do, and the next minute, yo're gone."
"How about you, Greg," Jeff asked, "Do you feel vulnerable tonight?"
"Yes," came Greg's simple answer, surprising Jeff. He had expected more evasiveness, more clowning around, more Greg.
"Why do you think they might target you?" Jeff asked.
"Because of some accusations that have been made," Greg answered. "I feel like my character has been put to the test, and I haven't had a chance to defend myself."
Kelly Wiglesworth smirked at this comment on the jury. She was the only one over there who really had seen what Greg was up to. Tammy as well, to an extent, but it was masked by the fact that she just hated his guts anyway. It didn't make a difference to her.
"What sort of accusations," asked Jeff.
"Questions of character, and deceit," answered Greg. "Things are getting kind of out of hand around camp."
"Well," said the host, "You guys are going to be losing one more member tonight. We'll be down to three after tonight." He paused. "So make your votes count. Paschal, you're up."
Paschal English stood and walked up to the podium. The coveted talisman around his neck, he smiled as he held up a vote for Greg Buis.
"Greg," he said. "You're an interesting young man, and I'm glad I've gotten to know you. But Tommy is absolutely right. You're a sneak and you deceived all of us. I'm here to make sure you end up on that jury, and maybe think about the way you play this game. You've treated us all with contempt and that is something I will not, I -utterly- will not tolerate."
He wore a little angry frown as he placed the ballot in the box.
Tom Buchanan walked up and cast his vote for Greg Buis. And the nasty side of Tom was beginning to come out. He had kept it bottled up for too long.
"Boy, I don't know what kind of games you was tryin' to play. But it's the end of the line for ya. Whether you go tonight or not, I'm just proud to say I was the one who cost you a million dollars."
Greg Buis was third, and cast his vote for Tom Buchanan. As with before, he hadn't really had a choice. His hand had been forced yet again.
"Overconfident," was all he said. Greg didn't like long voting speeches.
Helen Glover was the fourth to walk up to the podium. Her dark hair tied back in a ponytail, she cast her vote for the person she was going to vote for all along.
"Tom," she said, holding up her ballot. "My vote is for you tonight. I told you it was coming, and I always follow through on my word. I don't feel like you belong here, you've done a bit of coasting. You're a wonderful man, though, and I hope we are friends on the outside." She placed her ballot in the box. Tom's accusations about Greg had troubled her, sure. But whether they were true or not hadn't changed her mind. Tom simply hadn't worked as hard as the rest. And besides, if the stories about Greg -were- true, it would just make him that much easier to beat in the final two.
Helen had no choice now. She wanted to take Greg to the final two, because he was the only one she felt she could beat. She couldn't beat Tom, and -definitely- couldn't beat Paschal. Greg had to be her scapegoat.
Greg himself would have enjoyed the irony.
The four players sat down as Jeff went to go retrieve the ballots. They sat and smiled at each other, nervously, as the jury watched with interest. Jeff finally came back, reminding them that the person voted out must leave the set immediately. He then started reading the votes.
"Greg," he said, pulling out the first vote. Greg nodded, showing no emotion.
"Tom," said the second vote. Tom stared straight ahead, looking stoic.
"Greg," read the third vote. Greg nodded and smiled slightly, fully expecting two votes tonight. But he wasn't entirely confident about Helen's vote. She could go either way.
"Last vote," said Jeff, pulling out the last ballot.
Greg closed his eyes.
There were a few seconds of silence, while Tom and Greg exchanged a look.
"Well," said Jeff, "Looks like we're deadlocked." He reached under his podium and pulled out a large wooden box, with three holes in it. They had seen it before. This was the Warrior Box. "And now, it's your job to break this tie. I will give Greg and Tom both a chance to plead their case, and try to convince the other two, Helen or Paschal, to switch their vote." He held up the Warrior Box. "And if we have a second tie, you're facing the box."
"Paschal," said Greg, smiling. The judge simply folded his arms and stared back, a small smile on his own lips. This should be good, he thought.
"I really have nothing I can say," said Greg, being honest. "I mean, you know me, you know who I am, and how I work. I'd love to stay in the game, but if you want me to leave, I don't think I'd mind. I've had a great stay out here, and it's been a blast. I've always said that the moment the game stopped being fun, I'd leave, with my head up, willingly." He stopped for a second, to collect his thought. "But I don't think it -has- stopped being fun. I still enjoy it, and I think I've earned a place in the final three. If you want to vote me out, feel free. But at least do it for the right reasons, and not simply because of accusations that other people have made." Greg sat down and shrugged, having thought it best to opt for the guilt approach. There wasn't much of a chance you could budge Paschal once he had made up his mind, but Greg knew enough about the man that he had a conscience. Greg loved consciences.
"Helen," said Tom, standing up. "You old girl, you." She sat and smirked at him, as she leaned over her knees, the shadows of the fire licking off her face. "I don't know why y'all think I've been coastin' around here. I've been out ever' mornin', gatherin' wood. I've done brought more water than just about anyone. I aint shat in the tent, farted too much, or bad-mouthed your cookin'. And you know me," she started to laugh, "No, ah'm bein' serious. I'm one of the worst food critics around, ask anyone. And I aint had a cross word with you since we been here. So obviously we get along. And I aint never tried to stab you, or anyone, in the back. Now, I think you ought to look long an' hard at yer friend thair. Greg aint no better than Brian, and you keep him around, just proves y'aint learned from yer mistakes. You think the people at home aint sittin' there, sayin', 'Wake up, Helen?' They probably sittin' in front of their TV, screamin' at you right now to do the right thing. So I'm just askin'. Give me another chance, and ah'prove that I deserve to be here." He thanked her and sat down, as she had a thoughtful, pensive look on her face. At least it -looked- like she was thinking about it. That was a start.
"Helen and Paschal," said the host. "Only you two will vote. Tom and Greg's votes cancel each other out, so they will stay here. Paschal, when you're ready, you're up."
Paschal English walked up to the podium, slowly. He wrote down a name, cast the ballot in the box, and came back. Helen Glover followed him, not pausing in her choice either. She cast her vote, came back and sat down.
The die had been cast.
Tom lowered his head, saying a little prayer. Greg stared at the fire, willing the vote to go his way. But now Jeff was here, with the ballot box in his hand.
"First vote," he said, holding up the tan colored piece of paper.
"Greg," it read. Paschal had no intention of changing his mind. Judges rarely did that.
"Last vote," said the host, pausing for dramatic effect.
Tom exhaled a breath slowly, then reached up to wipe his brow. Jeff saw him and laughed.
"Nervous, Big Tom?"
"Ah think mah heart stopped, Jeff."
The rest of them enjoyed a chuckle, with even Tammy cracking a bit of a smile on the jury. She leaned over and whispered something to Silas.
"Okay," said Jeff, "It looks like we're not gonna break this tie. So you have decided to leave it to chance." He held up the Warrior Box. "As I explained before, there are three holes in this box. At the bottom of one is a small thumbtack. One by one, the three of you will reach into a hole, palm down, and press it all the way to the bottom. You will then show me your hand. If your palm is okay, you're safe. If I see blood," he smiled, "You have been eliminated. Since Paschal is immune, he will not reach into the box. Only the other three of you will be at risk. Helen, that includes you too."
Helen nodded, not smiling. She understood the risk when she cast her second vote. But she had weighed the odds in her head. Greg was the only one she could beat in the finals. If she left tonight, she would feel no shame. It was just called playing the odds.
The air was very tense as the three players at risk sat on the bottom bench. Jeff walked before them, holding the box out. Greg was on the left, Tom in the middle, and Helen on the right. Jeff looked at Greg.
"Buis," he smiled, loving this moment. "You're up. Pick a hole."
Greg squinted his eyes, trying to look for something metal. But the holes were too deep, it was pitch dark in there. Sighing, he reached into the hole in the middle. He held his breath as he opened his hand, exposing the palm. He pressed down, and his arm extended past the wrist into the box. Finally, he pressed against flat wood.
"Ow!" he exclaimed suddenly, making Helen jump. Greg pulled his hand out, wincing in pain. Jeff grinned, until Greg suddenly dropped the act. He held up his hand, smiling. No blood. It had just been a joke. Greg was safe.
"Asshole," Kelly whispered to Gina in the jury. Gina snickered, hand over her mouth to hide it.
Jeff shot Greg a glare, warning him. Even Helen looked angry now, although there was a good deal of fear in her eyes as well. Her turn was coming up.
But Tom Buchanan was next. He took a deep breath, trying, like Greg, to see into the holes. He saw nothing. Greg had chosen the middle, so Tom had to choose either left or right. He chose the right. He opened his hand and extended it, palm down, into the box. The hole tapered down and down, smaller and smaller until...
The small tack pierced his palm.
Tom winced, not making a sound, but knew that feeling. He withdrew his hand, a frustrated look on his face. He held up his hand for all to see, a small drop of blood glistening on his palm. It was over.
"Tom," said Jeff, "I'm sorry, but you need to bring me your torch."
Tom Buchanan walked his staff over to Jeff, where the host snuffed it out for good.
"Tom, the tribe has spoken."
Tom tipped his cap to the remaining three, wishing them luck. Paschal waved, Greg gave him a thumbs up, and a -very- relieved Helen gave him a hug. But then the big man was gone, swallowed up into the forest. They were down to three.
"Thirteen down," said Jeff, "Three to go. Make sure you go home and get some sleep tonight, because we start very early tomorrow morning. You have a long day ahead of you."
Paschal, Helen and Greg walked out of the set, very relieved to have survived this tense evening. But tomorrow would be the final test. Tomorrow would see them down to two.
Jeff Probst came to camp around 4:00 A.M.
"Go away," grumbled Helen, as he tried to shake her awake. But he persisted, and eventually all three of them were awake. It was easier than in past seasons, since the sun was already out, but they were all still a bit groggy.
"Hey Jeff," asked Helen, still sitting under her blanket, "Why don't you make our oatmeal today? Save me a trip."
"I think that's a great idea," he said, smiling. "Let's all go get some food."
Helen looked over at the stove and did a double take, as a huge spread was waiting for them. She saw croissants, muffins, scones, orange juice, eggs, bacon, and...
"Coffee," she screamed. She grabbed Jeff's leg and hugged it, clinging to it like a baby. "Coffee! Coffee! Coffee!"
"Okay," said Jeff, laughing, "That's enough. Down girl."
Helen -ran- over to the food and started chowing down, and was soon joined by Greg and Paschal, the three ravenous castaways eating as if there were no tomorrow.
"Jeff," said Paschal, "I cannot tell you how good this bacon is. It is simply wunnerful."
Jeff smiled, watching them all enjoy the food. This had been his idea, the group reward. He had suggested it to Mark Burnett and, after some debate, had been given the green light. The players in this game had been living hard enough, Jeff felt they had all earned this.
"Hey, Buis," he said, watching as the young man stuffed his face full of toast and jelly. "Enjoying the meal?"
Greg looked up, smiling. He answered, but the words were unintelligible, on purpose, as his mouth was completely stuffed with food. But even Jeff laughed at him this time, perhaps the first time ever.
"Finish your food first," said Jeff, "And then we'll talk."
The three players finished their meal and sat, in different places on the ground, holding their bellies. That had been a lot of food.
"I only wish," moaned Paschal, "That Tom had been here. He would have killed for this." He held up a greasy piece of bacon. "This stuff is like catnip to that man."
"Well," said Jeff, as the three of them rested, recovering, "It's a good thing you're full of food. Because you've got some work ahead of you today." He smiled. "Greg, this will be right up your alley. Because we're going to the big mountain today. You guys are hiking to Mount McKinley."
Greg's face lit up. He hadn't actually made it there yet, despite all his best efforts. There had never been enough time.
"Cool," he said, smiling.
"This," added Jeff, "Is your final immunity challenge." He pointed off into the distance, directly at the big mountain. Its tip was shrouded in a cloud, as usual, but there was no mistaking the massive white base. "It's about a fifteen mile hike to the base of the mountain. You guys will walk, as a group, to our final challenge. Along the way, you will pass the torches of your fellow players, those who are no longer in the game. Stop a moment at each one, and reflect. Take as much time as you want, but pay attention. This is an important part of your journey. And make sure you are to the final challenge by dinnertime." He paused. "And I will see you when you get there."
Jeff bid them farewell, as he walked off towards a waiting car. Jeff wasn't about to walk there. He was the host. The host gets a ride.
"Well," said Helen, looking around at the two men. They were all alone again, in a large and lonely camp. "Guess we should get started."
The three of them loaded up their backpacks, laced up their best hiking boots, and stashed enough food to carry with them. Helen brought along an entire thermos full of coffee, while Paschal and Greg focused more on muffins and bacon.
"Uh, Helen," joked Greg, "Are you sure you should be drinking coffee? You're a little jumpy as it is."
"Hey," she fixed him with one of her glares. "Watch it, buddy." Half smiling, she added, "I need it, it relaxes me."
Greg went to the mudpit near the camp and decided to use some of it on his face, like warpaint. He suggested the others do the same, and soon all three had streaks of brownish-black mud on their faces, arms and legs. And then, it was time to go.
Greg led the way as they exited the camp, in a single file line. Helen followed, and then Paschal. Greg knew the path well, as he had walked it many, many times. It was relatively easy going, plus he was genuinely excited to share his 'second home' with his teammates. He was able to point out a patch of poison oak before they hit it, a burrow of rabbits that were hiding under a tree, and his favorite place, a hole, halfway up a birch tree, in which you could sit. Helen and Paschal were impressed.
About an hour into the trip, Helen spotted the first torch. It was Neleh's. The long, slim staff leaned up against a tree, with Neleh's named carved into its side. Paschal reached over to touch it.
"I wish I had been able to see her during the game," he said, "And be on her team just once."
"She didn't have a chance," said Helen, laying her hand on his shoulder. "Tammy planned to vote her out before they even got here. You either went along with it, or you were next."
Paschal nodded, smiling. Of course that had been it. Neleh had not been voted out for any fault of her own. Paschal then reached up and removed the immunity talisman, which he had worn since last night. He placed it atop the torch, letting it rest there.
"You probably needed this more than I did," he said, a small tear in his eye. "I want you to keep it."
Helen smiled, thinking it was a bit overdramatic, but still touching.
"Aren't you supposed to keep that?" she asked.
"They can make another one," answered the judge. "This one's for Pixie."
About twenty minutes later, they ran across Rudy's torch. The blackish piece of wood was lying down, atop a rock.
"I never got to meet him," said Helen. "I wish I had, he was one of my favorites when I watched the show." She picked up the torch, holding it, examining it.
"Rudy is a character," admitted Greg.
"Why did he get voted off?" asked Helen.
Paschal was still a bit quiet, after the experience with Neleh's torch, so Greg had to answer instead.
"He didn't fit in," answered Greg. "No one really wanted to vote -anybody- out, but Rudy had no allies. Clay said he wanted to get rid of him, so people just jumped on the bandwagon. Mob mentality."
"Clay," snorted Helen. "I should have known."
"Kelly G." read the third torch. It stuck up from the ground at an angle, almost defiantly. It was a nice touch.
"That was ugly," Helen admitted. She remembered the big Jerri-Kelly blowup. Of course she had, Helen had been right in the middle of it.
"I thought you girls would all be nice to each other," joked Greg, "And then that happened." He made a wincing face.
"Girls play dirty," Helen laughed, "You should have figured that out."
Paschal was admiring the torch now, reading its inscription.
"She thought she was going to win," said Helen, "She really did. She didn't see it coming until the end. I think she was genuinely stunned that -anybody- outsmarted her."
They had hiked about five miles now. They had already downed most of their rations, and Helen was guaranteed not to go to sleep for a good twenty-four hours now, with the amount of caffeine that was pulsing through her body.
"There's Jeff's torch," said Paschal, walking over. Varner's torch sat all alone in a clearing.
"I heard Brian got him," admitted Paschal. Helen just smirked, hands on her hips. "I wasn't there anymore by then. But when I was, I could see that Brian and Jeff simply could not be in the same tribe. They were sniffing each other out for a week, before Brian just got him first. But he and I were good friends." He paused. "Jeff's a good man."
"I never thought I'd like him," said Helen, walking to hold the torch. "But any enemy of Brian is a friend of mine." She leaned down to talk to the torch. "You and I should hang out sometime."
"I'd be a little scared of that pairing" he said. "You two would be dangerous."
Helen smiled and winked.
"You know it."
"Jerri," said Helen. She was pointing to a large oak torch, which had been wrapped with a piece of burnt banner. It was a piece from the original Tuktu banner.
"Someone in the art department is having a good time," joked Greg.
"Ahh, Jerri," sighed Helen. She shrugged. "That's all I can say. Ahhhh, Jerri."
Greg simply shook his head, not knowing the proper etiquette either. They all had their opinions of Jerri, and not all of them were positive.
"I felt bad for her," admitted Paschal. "She also never really had a chance. But she tried, she really did."
Helen nodded. Jerri had been a great teammate for a while, until the stress had started to kick in.
"Here," she said, remembering something. She fished around inside her pack until she came to a small chocolate muffin, which she had wrapped up from breakfast that morning. "Jerri, this is for you." She placed the small chocolate muffin at the base of the torch.
"Jerri loves chocolate," said Helen, as the men looked at her, questioningly. "She had a rough time here, hopefully that'll help smooth things over."
"Hey Helen," called Greg, about eight miles into the hike, "You want to see Brian's torch?"
"No thanks," she called back, smiling, "You guys have fun, that's okay!" She had seen enough of Brian on this trip. In her mind, her work was done.
Paschal and Greg walked over and smiled at the torch. Brian had been a fun player, although neither of them had seen him that much. They were all together just twice, once at the start and once at the end.
"Poor guy," smiled Greg. "But I guess he taught us all a valuable lesson."
"You don't piss off Helen."
"Well, he seemed fine to me," said Paschal. "I mean, sure he played to win, but he wasn't a bad person. He just seemed very, very focused."
"Yeah," said Greg, "But he would have cut your throat in a second. Don't kid yourself."
"Well, okay," admitted the judge. "But he was nice except for that side."
"Hold on," said Helen, as they neared Clay's torch. "Let me get something."
She reached into her pack and pulled out a small knife. She walked over and used it to carve her initials into the torch. "HG." She was marking her prey.
"That's a bit cold," said Paschal, "Wouldn't you say?"
"Geez," she smiled. "Will this help?"
She wrote the word "Love," above it. It now read "Love, HG."
"-Much- better," smiled Greg.
"Hey, I can't help it," said Helen, "We all go back a long way."
"I liked Clay," said the judge. "I don't know what your problem was with him, but he was always good for a laugh. He and Tom were like a comedy show."
Silas's torch stood tall and proud, a little bigger than the rest.
"Ah," said Paschal, touching it, "Here's Mini-Brian."
"Hold on," said Greg, walking around the torch, inspecting it. "It's got to be here."
"What?" asked Helen.
"The place where he carved his own name," said Greg. "I know it's got to be here somewhere. He loved himself more than anybody I've ever met."
Paschal started laughing, first a chuckle and then great guffaws. He had to turn his head away to regain composure.
"Here it is," said Greg, excitedly, "'I LOVE SILAS' He wrote it! I told you!"
Helen ran over to look, but nothing was there. As always, Greg was messing with her. He just grinned.
"Have you ever -not- fallen for something?" he teased. She just punched him in the shoulder and walked away. Same old Greg.
"Elisabeth," read the ninth torch. They were almost nearing the end of the walk, and the torches were closer together now.
"She was the heart," said Greg, nodding.
"That's right," remembered Paschal. He paused to think. "Who was the brains again? Was it Helen?"
"No," said Greg. "Kelly Goldsmith was the brains."
Paschal snapped his fingers.
"That's right. I forgot."
Helen just stared at them.
"What in the heck are you two talking about?"
"Well, ah," said Greg, embarrassed. "We were still on Amarok, and the two of us were sitting out of a challenge and... well..."
"We were talking about who to steal from Tuktu," said Paschal. "Deciding on who would hurt you guys the most."
"Elisabeth was your heart," said Greg. "We should have taken her over Tammy."
"She is a sweetie," said the swim instructor. "I don't think I've ever met anyone as likeable, or loveable, as that young lady." She paused, the old Helen cynicism hard to hold back. "Made me sick."
"Now, you leave Bessie alone. She didn't deserve to go out the way she did."
Greg wisely kept quiet on this issue. He wasn't about to ruin this moment for the judge. Helen also kept quiet, having felt a bit guilty about the whole thing for some time now. Quickly, she changed the subject.
"So Kelly was the brains, Elisabeth was the heart..."
"And Tammy was the muscle," added Greg.
"So what was I?" asked Helen. Neither of the men answered. She just placed her hands on her hips and stared at them. "Don't even say the mouth or, swear to God, I'm going to smack the two of you."
Greg and Paschal exchanged a glance. This was going to be hard to explain.
"Spleen," Greg finally admitted. "You were the spleen."
"The wha..?" Helen scrunched up her face in an exaggerated look of disbelief. "The -SPLEEN??- What the hell does the SPLEEN do?"
It was best to just move on.
Gina Crews' torch beckoned to them from the middle of a stream. The air was getting colder, and the streams more plentiful, as they got more and more runoff from the big mountain.
"I love Gina to death," said Paschal, leaning to kiss the torch. "She's like a daughter to me."
Both Greg and Helen stepped back, letting the old man have his moment. It was clear that they would never get her jury vote over the judge. Gina was more his friend than theirs.
"She and I didn't get along very well," said Helen, softly. She was very much dreading what would happen if she got to the final two, and had to face Gina in the jury. "We're like oil and water."
"More like oil and oil," said Greg. "Face it, you two are exactly alike!"
"C'mon," said Helen, disbelieving him.
"It's true," said the judge, "You guys are both as stubborn as heck and won't back down. You two were destined to have problems eventually."
"Well," said Helen, changing the subject again, "I remember when she got pulled to Amarok. I thought Elisabeth was going to die."
"I thought -I- was going to die," said Paschal. "We couldn't afford to lose Gina."
Helen nodded. That moment had definitely been a hard one in the game. The loss of Gina had been a huge blow. For all of them. Paschal gave the torch one last kiss, as did Greg. Helen decided, what the heck, and kissed it as well.
She still had issues with Gina. But she missed her too.
"We've probably only got about two miles to go," said Greg, watching the looming slopes in front of them. All of their feet were beginning to tire, so they stopped for a while at Kelly Wiglesworth's torch. Greg picked it up and was examining it when he found something.
"Look," he said, holding it out to Helen, "A poem."
Helen didn't believe him, but Greg insisted. And it turned out to be the truth. Kelly had written a poem at some point in the game, carved in a circle around the thick part of the wood.
"It must have been when she was off by herself," said the judge. "I never saw her carving things."
Greg started to read it, but Helen snatched the torch away from him.
"That's probably very personal," she scolded. "Look, I know Kelly. She wouldn't want you to read it. It's probably something she wrote to herself when she was feeling down."
Greg shrugged, a little embarrassed.
Helen carried the torch over to a nearby river, placing the torch half in the water, half on the land.
"Kelly likes the water," she said. "There ya go, Wigs." She paused. "Be at peace."
Tammy's torch was the twelfth they came across.
"How close did I come to being beaten with this thing?" joked Greg.
"Tammy wouldn't have needed a weapon," said Paschal. "You're just lucky you voted her out when you did."
They all enjoyed a laugh, and patted the torch farewell. Tammy had been a warrior, there was no doubt about that.
You had no choice but to respect her.
The final torch belonged to Tom Buchanan. Paschal was careful to point out a small crack in its base.
"He broke his torch," said the judge, laughing, "I couldn't believe it. He's probably the only person in the history of the game to break his own torch."
"How?" asked Helen.
"He wouldn't tell me, but I'd bet you even money that he sat on it at some point."
Greg started cracking up, laughing at the image.
"He's a great guy," said Paschal, "But a bigger, more clumsy oaf you will never find."
Greg unwrapped one of his last croissants, and placed it at the base of Tom's torch.
"Just an offering," he said. "In case I make the final two. I want him to be nice to me."
"That's a good idea," said Paschal. He unwrapped two pieces of bacon and laid them on top of the croissant. "Can never have too many friends on the jury."
Helen had nothing left to offer. She would have to rely solely on the man's good graces.
"Welcome, guys," said Jeff, as they finally arrived at a clearing. It had been a long hike, and they were happy to see him. Even Greg.
Jeff motioned to a large cabin, which sat behind him. It has been constructed specifically for the show. Dark and foreboding, it loomed over them, cut into the side of the mountain.
"We'll be going in there for the final challenge," he said. "Come on in, and take a seat."
The three of them walked into the cabin, where they saw three seats. On each one was a tablet of paper and a pen. This would be a written challenge. They all sat down and picked up their tablet. Jeff walked to a podium on the opposite side of the cabin and addressed them.
"This game is called, simply, 'Elimination'." He smiled. "The goal is to eliminate two of your fellow players. And it is more difficult than it appears, so be warned. I will be asking you questions based on your memory walk, the one that you just took." Helen groaned. "I hope you were paying attention to what you saw, because it will determine your fate tonight." Jeff paused. "I will ask a question, based on your trip. If you answer it correctly, great, you are in no danger. But if you answer incorrectly..." He grinned. "Pick up the colored circles under your seat." The three players reached under their seats, and picked up a stack of brightly colored discs. There were sixteen for each of them, one for each player who had started the game. The names were written on them in big black ink.
"If you answer incorrectly, you will be forced to pick one of these names. Pick whatever one you like, and hold it up. All the players who missed the question will have to do this. Now the trick...," he paused yet again, "Is not to pick the same name. You are trying to predict how the -other- players will answer, and answer differently. If two people select the same name at any one time, you are both eliminated. If there are any duplicates, the game is over, and the -other- player wins the game. Any questions?"
Greg chewed on his lip, thinking this over.
"What if all three people select the same name?" he asked.
"Then we all start over," Jeff said. "C'mon Greg, this is right up your alley." He smiled, delivering an inside joke for Burnett and himself. "You like mindgames, right?"
The three players were ready to begin. Helen took a deep breath. Paschal closed his eyes, trying to remember all the torches. Greg fiddled with his pen, staring at the ground, trying to clear his mind.
"Question number one," said Jeff, reading off a card. "What color was the ribbon tied to the base of Neleh's torch?"
Paschal closed his eyes. He could -almost- see it clearly in his mind. But that had been, what, eight hours ago? Ten? Twelve? He shook his head slightly and wrote "Red" on his tablet. He waited for all three to answer, and then Jeff called for them to reveal their answers.
"Red," was written on all three. They were all correct.
"Nice job," said Jeff. "Question number two. Was Brian's torch on the ground, standing up, or leaning against a tree?"
Helen scrunched up her face. Damn her anger at him! She hadn't even looked at his torch on the walk. -Stupid,- she cursed herself, -Stupid!-
Greg and Paschal answered correctly, but Helen wrote "Leaning against a tree." It was incorrect.
"Okay," said Jeff, "Our first wrong answer. Helen, here's what's going to happen. You are going to take a name out of your colored circles. Hold it up, and that name will have been used. There will only be fifteen other choices from then on out. Since no one else is holding up a name, you are safe. You are just making the pool of names smaller, is all. Oh, and there's one small twist." He paused. "You are the only one who can hold up your own name. Greg and Paschal may not hold up Helen, and Helen, you cannot hold up their names. It's a bit of strategy you might want to use later on."
Helen looked into her pile of names. Since there was no real strategy here, she held up the first name that popped into her head.
"Brian," she said, holding up a greenish colored disc.
"Brian's name is removed from the game," said Jeff. "Please remove it from your stacks." All three players did so, and the pile was down to fifteen.
"Question three," said Jeff, "Whose torch had a poem carved into it?"
That one was easy. They all answered "Kelly," without hesitation. They were all correct.
"Question four," said Jeff, finally reaching the difficult questions, "How many notches had Tammy carved into her torch? One, three, five, or ten?"
Paschal just stared at Jeff, blankly. He had not seen -any- notches on Tammy's torch. Helen just blinked at the host, as well. They didn't have a clue.
"There -were- notches," said Jeff.
They all wrote down their answers and revealed them. Paschal and Greg said "One" and Helen guessed "Five." Only Helen was correct.
"Okay," smiled Jeff, "We have our first danger round. Greg and Paschal, you will both pick a name and hold it up. If you pick the same name, you are both eliminated. Remember, Greg, you cannot pick Paschal, and Paschal, you cannot pick Greg. Other than that, it's up to you. Hold it up whenever you are ready."
Greg looked over at the judge and smiled. Paschal smiled back. Greg had gone over the final challenge again and again in his head the past few days. Was it in his best interest to win immunity? He knew Helen would probably take him to the final two. She didn't want to face Paschal any more than he did. So would he survive if Helen won immunity? Greg had gone over this in his head and decided that, yes, Helen winning wouldn't be so bad. The only key was to make sure that Paschal -didn't- win.
But there was a catch. This challenge was nearly impossible to manipulate. Burnett had outsmarted the nature boy.
Greg grabbed the first disc he thought Paschal would choose. He gripped the "Neleh" circle. Paschal had also made his choice. The two men held their breaths and held up the circles.
"Clay," said Paschal's circle. It had been a totally random choice. The two men were still safe.
"Neleh and Clay," said Jeff, "Out of the game. Just thirteen more names to choose from."
He held up a new question card.
"Question five," he asked. "What word had Gina written near the top of her torch?"
Nobody knew this one. They had spent so much time talking about Gina, nobody had seen the word "Denali" written at the top of her torch. Greg and Paschal left their tablets blank, while Helen guessed "Tuktu." They were all wrong.
"All three of you," said Jeff, "Are in the hot seat now. If either of you choose the same names, you are eliminated. So take your time, and choose your circle when ready."
The air was tense as all three of them looked through their pile of names. Helen wanted no part of this and grabbed her own name. It was like a get out of jail free card, as far as she was concerned. No one else could pick it. When all three were ready, they held up their discs.
Paschal held up his own. Helen held up her own. Greg held up Jeff Varner.
"Remove the Paschal, Helen and Jeff discs from your piles," said Probst, as Greg took a deep breath. That one had been a gamble, but he still had his own name disc. He still had a freebie in the pile.
"There are just ten names left in the stack," reminded Jeff. "Things are starting to get tight. Make sure you answer the next few questions correctly."
Question six was "How many torches were lying on the ground? Two, four, five or eight."
Helen and Paschal closed their eyes, doing the math in their heads. Greg could see it clearly, he counted five. He wrote it down, as did Helen. They were both correct. Paschal had answered "Four."
"Paschal," said Jeff, "Pick a name. No danger to you."
Paschal held up Tom's name, and it was removed from their piles. Just nine more to go.
"Question seven," said Jeff, "Whose torch was the only one made from black maple?"
Helen winced at that one. She could picture it easily in her head. It had been one of the earlier torches. Jerri's? She shrugged, and wrote down Jerri's name. They all revealed their answers.
Helen had answered Jerri. Paschal had answered Kelly G. Greg had answered Rudy. Only Greg was correct.
Paschal took a deep breath and looked at Helen. She shrugged and laughed, nervously. It would be down to the two of them. They both fished around in their small piles and picked a name. Neither of them had a freebie, they were treading in dangerous water now.
"Reveal them," said Jeff.
Paschal held his up and closed his eyes. Helen did the same.
Helen had chosen Gina. Paschal had chosen Silas. They were still safe. Helen let out a nervous giggle. Paschal just wiped his forehead.
"We're down to seven," said Jeff, "And Greg still has a freebie." He held up the next question, giving them no time to rest. "Question eight. Who had the shortest torch?"
That one was easy. They all answered Elisabeth. Her torch had been a foot shorter than some of the others.
"Question nine," said Jeff, "How many torches were cracked? One, two, or three."
Paschal looked up at Jeff. He knew the answer to that one immediately. Tom's had been the only one they commented on, but the judge had seen the crack at the top of Kelly Goldsmith's torch as well. There were two.
Paschal was correct. But Greg and Helen were both wrong. Helen had said one, Greg had said three. Greg knew a trick question when he heard it, he had just overshot the mark.
"Greg and Helen," said Jeff. "You two are in the hot seat." He smiled. "Choose wisely."
Greg wanted to make sure he and Helen did not lose this, so he had no choice but to pick his own name. They were too near the end to mess with luck. He held up his own name, and Helen held up Jerri. They were safe, but the name pool was down to five.
"No more freebies," Jeff reminded them, "And only five more to go. You don't want to miss any more questions."
The air was thick and tense. The players were not smiling and joking anymore, now they all just wanted to win this game. The pressure was enormous.
"Question eleven," said Jeff, "What did Jerri write at the bottom of her torch?"
Paschal exhaled his breath. He had seen it. It had said... had said...
"Drat," he whispered to himself. What had it said? They had paid so much attention to the burned banner that they hadn't really looked at the bottom. But then, it hit him.
"Tuktu Girls Forever," he remembered. He wrote it down, noticing that Greg and Helen had yet to write anything. Helen looked over at him, a nervous look on her face. -She didn't know!- Greg chewed on his lip for a second, and finally wrote down an answer. Jeff asked them to reveal.
"Tuktu," Greg had written. Jeff looked right at him, smiling. This was a great moment for him. "That is not correct," he said. "Greg and Helen, you two are up."
Greg and Helen exchanged a glance. They had only five to choose from. Greg looked at his stack. Rudy. Kelly G. Elisabeth. Kelly W. Tammy. Which one would Helen choose? He looked over at her, as she sorted through her names.
-Elisabeth,- he thought, -No way. She's too obvious. Same with Tammy. Helen will choose someone less likely.- But then his mind starting reeling. -Or maybe she will choose someone MORE obvious, and try to outsmart me.- He looked over at her, trying to get into her head.
"Damnit," he muttered under his breath. Sometimes, he hated mindgames.
Greg finally chose Kelly G.'s name, hoping that Helen would have avoided the Kellys altogether. Helen shrugged and was ready as well. Jeff asked the two of them to reveal.
"Kelly G.," read Greg's disc. "Kelly G.," read Helen's disc.
The game was over.
"Paschal," announced Jeff, "Wins immunity!"
The judge leaned forward, falling to the floor in shock. Jeff walked over and presented him with the new immunity talisman. Of course the Survivor crew had a backup. The one on Neleh's torch was still there.
Paschal sat up and smiled, looking like the weight of the world was off his shoulders. Greg came over and shook his hand, like a good sport. Helen gave him a hug, congratulating him. The judge was going to the final two.
"Tribal council is in one hour," said Jeff. "A truck will come by here to pick you up, so you don't have to walk anymore. You guys have one hour to discuss the vote, if you choose to. I'll be back to pick you up then."
The final three sat in the darkened cabin, not talking. Paschal sat in the middle, head down, as Helen and Greg sat on either side of him. No one was sure if anything was going to be discussed.
"Well," Paschal said, finally, "At least it's dark in here. I don't think I've seen this much dark in a month. Makes me want to go to sleep."
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Both Helen and Greg were curious as to what the man's thoughts were on tonight, but neither one wanted to bring it up. Finally, Paschal decided to tackle the subject.
"So, do you two want to talk about it?"
Greg shrugged. Helen did the same.
"Well," said the judge, not getting any help, "I'll say this. I love both of you dearly. But I can't say I've liked how you both played the game. Both of you had your moments of weakness. And Greg," he looked directly at him, "Don't even try to tell me that you were innocent in all this. I'm not a stupid man, I know exactly what you've been up to."
Greg smiled, mischievously. But he didn't deny it.
"And Helen," he added, "You've been as deceitful and mistrustful as anyone out here. But," he paused. "In my mind, you are both deserving of the final spot. So it makes it a difficult choice. I'd take both of you if I could."
Helen nodded, no emotion on her face. Greg was still smiling, just watching the judge talk.
"So," Paschal asked, "Do you have anything you wanted to say? Anything you wanted to get off your chests? If you do, now's the time, because I honestly haven't made up my mind yet."
Greg was silent, so Helen took the chance to get some things off her chest.
"Paschal," she said, and he turned to face her. "I don't think either of us can beat you in the final vote. I mean, that's just common sense. And I'm not here to plead my case to you, I'm not gonna do that. You pick whoever you want. But I think -I- need to know what Greg's been up to. I think he owes us all an explanation of how we got here." She saw the curious look on the judge's face and clarified. "I'm not trying to get you to pick me over him, or make him look bad. I mean, we're all friends here. I just need to know, for my own sake, how much he's really been playing this game. Because I thought all along that he didn't even care."
The two of them turned towards Greg. He seemed to blush.
"I had a plan all along," he finally admitted. "Of course I've been trying to win. But I'm not after the money like the rest of you. I really don't even care about it." Helen shot him a look of disbelief.
"Oh, come on," she said.
"No, really," Greg admitted. "I just wanted to show everyone that I could outwit them all." He paused, and smiled. "And I did. No one ever suspected a thing."
"I hate to tell you, my friend," said Paschal, "But Tom was on to you since the merge. I just never believed him."
Greg snorted. In his mind, Tom was still just a dumb hillbilly. He didn't buy that story for a second.
"So," asked Paschal, "Do you think you belong in the final two?"
"Absolutely," Greg said. "I've played the best game. Even if you don't like the tactics, I think you will say that I belong there."
Paschal nodded, thinking it over.
"Wait a minute," said Helen, finally catching on. The revelation had hit her like a punch in the stomach. "How badly did you set me up? I mean, you couldn't get here without me dragging you along."
Greg looked at her.
"Helen, if you go to the final two, that jury will tear you apart."
This was the truth, for the most part. But Greg couldn't resist making it sound a little more ominous than it was. After all, the game was -still- being played.
Helen frowned, and rested her chin on her hand, thinking this over. She hadn't really seen the big picture until now, but it was out there. Greg had been along with her the whole time, helping her out, teasing her, playing with her head. It had all been one big mindgame. But the game was over now, the truth was out, the secret had been revealed.
Greg Buis was the devil.
"Paschal," asked Helen, a scowl on her face, "Is that true?"
"I'm afraid it probably is," he said. "There are a few people on that jury who are waiting for you. They told me so themselves."
"Crap," she muttered. Payback. She had known the word once, back in Thailand, but it was soon about to take a whole different form. Helen was now the one who would be square in the crosshairs. She started to do the math in her head... which ones would be after her? Gina for sure, that was a given. Probably Kelly. Probably Elisabeth. Anyone else? What about Tom?
"Look," she said, a small tear forming in her eye. "I don't really want to face a firing squad. I mean, who would want to walk into that?" She paused, before saying the hardest thing she had ever had to say in her life. Helen was no quitter, but wasn't about to go through a pointless attack from an angry jury. Not on national TV, when she had no chance of winning anyway. "Pick Greg. He outwitted me." She smiled, trying her best to make a casual joke, and not appear defeated. "The little weasel deserves to go to the final two."
There was silence. Paschal thought it over, weighing all the choices in his head.
"Greg," he asked, "Anything you want to say?"
"I just want to apologize for any of the tactics I used," he said, "If anyone took it personally. But it's just a game. That's all I had in mind, all along, just get to the end. Helen, you know as well as I do that Tuktu had to be broken apart, so that's what I did." Helen nodded, agreeing. "And if you pick me for the final two, or Helen, I won't hold anything against you. It's just a game." He couldn't resist adding a little joke. "Not that -I- want an angry Helen on the jury though. Who wants to face that?"
Helen laughed, pointing an angry finger at him.
"You just wait and see, buddy."
"Well," said Paschal, taking advantage of of the lighter mood, "Do you want to know my choice tonight, or don't you? I'll tell you if you want, or you can wait."
Helen shrugged, figuring it would be okay. Greg agreed as well. No use having stress if you could avoid it.
So Paschal told them.
The truck dropped them off at the Tribal Council set about fifteen minutes later. The three of them entered the cabin, single file, as they passed the newly carved inscription of Tom Buchanan. It had been created in less than twenty-four hours, and Greg was impressed by the level of craftsmanship among the art department.
They sat down on the bench, and watched as the jury filtered in. There were six of them over there now. Silas Gaither, Elisabeth Filarski, Gina Crews, Kelly Wiglesworth, Tammy Leitner and Tom Buchanan. One more, and the jury would be complete.
Jeff started in with his questions, which were mercifully few tonight.
"Paschal," he asked, "First of all, nice job on the back to back immunities. You've made quite a run in this game, immunity when you needed it most. My question is, how difficult is this choice tonight?"
"It's very difficult," answered Paschal. "I love both these people. We've all had our moments where we've had problems with one another, but the three of us have been together for a long time. We were usually the first three up every morning, fixing food for Tuktu, so we've known each other very well for some time. Greg has been like a son to me, and Helen has been like a sister."
"Daughter," she corrected, "Just say daughter, it will make me happier. I'm not that old." She grinned at him.
"Yes," said the judge, smiling, "They have been like a son and daughter to me."
"So," asked Jeff, "Have you made up your mind?"
"Yes," said Paschal. "Yes, sir, I have. But I do have to say it was not easy."
"So what are you basing your decision on?"
"I am basing my decision tonight on who I feel deserves to be here at the end."
"And what criteria do you use?" probed Jeff. But Paschal wasn't taking the bait.
"Based on merit," is all he would say.
"Well," said Jeff, "We've gone just about as far as we can go. Paschal you will be the only one casting a vote tonight. You will walk up to that podium, cast your vote, and bring the ballot box back here. I'll reveal it, and we will have our seventh member of the jury." he paused. "In essence, you are deciding who you will face in the final two. So whenever you're ready to vote," he smiled, "The stage is yours."
Paschal stood up to cast the final vote. Helen and Greg just sat with their heads down. They both knew Paschal's choice, but weren't entirely sure he wouldn't change his mind. Things like that had a way of happening in this game.
Paschal walked up to the podium, wrote down a name, and held it up to the camera. He explained his selection, placed it in the box, and sealed it. The choice had been made. He walked the ballot box back to Jeff and sat down.
The three players sat on the bench and watched as Jeff opened the box. He looked inside and removed the ballot.
"And the seventh member of our jury," he said, turning the ballot around.
Greg nodded and stood up. He had known it was coming, Paschal had told them at the lodge. Paschal simply felt the ends hadn't justified the means in Greg's strategy. Depite Helen's reservations, Paschal felt that Helen had earned this slot, and had no control over her fate in the game. He had immediately forgiven her deceit and backstabbing, now seeing it as the handiwork of Greg, not Helen. And no matter what she said about picking Greg, the judge had been unable to do it. Helen deserved that final two slot.
Paschal shook Greg's hand and wished him well. Helen gave him a hug, and the young nature boy brought up his torch to be snuffed. Jeff had a smile that was a bit wider than normal as he uttered the words that he had been waiting to say for thirty-eight days.
"Greg, the tribe has spoken."
Greg nodded and watched as the torch was put out. But he wasn't about to go down without one last moment of mischief. Jeff was taking this moment far too seriously. That simply couldn't be.
So Greg reached over and gave Jeff a hug.
Jeff stiffened up, not ready for this at all. But Greg cried against his shoulder for a few seconds, making the jury laugh, until his point had been made. He let Jeff go and turned to walk out of the cabin, and the game.
"Thanks, Jeff," he said, over his shoulder, "I needed that."
Jeff waited until Greg disappeared, waiting for one last outburst. But it never came. Greg was gone. The host turned back to the final two.
"Our final vote will be tomorrow," he said. "You will face one more Tribal Council, where the jury will have a chance to ask questions. They will then vote, and the winner will be crowned the Ultimate Survivor. The game is now out of your hands, so I suggest you don't worry about it tonight." He looked at Paschal, and then at Helen. "Go back and enjoy your last night here, and I'll see you both tomorrow."
It was a peaceful morning in Denali.
Birds were happily chirping in the nearby trees. A family of caribou was grazing at the grass on the edge of camp. A medium sized grizzly bear was nosing around the Qinaliut clothesline. It was just another morning. If, that is, you could forget that this was the final day of the game. Everyone would be gone after tonight, and the campsite would go back to nature. The people would be forgotten in a matter of hours.
Helen Glover stirred, listening to the usual chatter of the birds. It was time to get up and make breakfast. Just like every day, she was going to get up first and do it.
"Go back to sleep," Paschal said, already dressed. He stood over her, his fleece jacket on, a heavy ski cap atop his head. "I'll take care of breakfast today."
Helen groaned and lay back down. Sleep in? What was that? Lay down and relax?
But Paschal took it upon himself to fix breakfast on the last day of camp. He figured Helen had earned a day off, after preparing the food here for the past 38 days. Everyone needed a break at some point, even Helen Glover.
An hour later, the two of them were finishing off their last bowl of oatmeal. The luxurious spread from yesterday was long gone. The crew hadn't left them a scrap, so it was one last bowl of the dreaded gray-white mush. Oh, how they hated oatmeal by now.
"If I ever run across that Quaker Oats guy," joked Helen, "I don't think it would be pretty." She paused to think. "But Quakers don't fight, do they?"
Paschal simply shook his head.
"The Amish don't. I don't know about Quakers."
Helen shrugged, smirking. It didn't matter. Thirty nine days of oatmeal would make anyone feel homicidal.
As they ate, they talked about their time here in the game. They couldn't believe it had happened so fast, although it had seemed like ages at the time. The game was weird like that. It seemed to slow time down, while simultaneously speeding it up. Helen then thanked the judge for picking her last night over Greg. She had almost so much as told Paschal -not- to pick her, and then he did anyway. She didn't really understand why, nor was completely sure she was happy with the choice. But it had been his choice, for his own reasons, and she wasn't going to argue now. After all, she now had a 50% chance of winning a million dollars. Few people ever got those kind of odds.
"I picked you," he explained, "Because I felt you deserved it more than Greg. I mean, both of you had your ups and downs in the game, but the more I heard the whole story, the more I realized that you had done more reacting than planning. You never really had many options -other- than to save yourself."
Helen nodded. That had been her take on it all along, and she had been furious with those who accused her of something more sinister. Helen Glover was -not- a schemer. She considered herself highly moral, one of the most upstanding people she knew. You had to be, to attain the type of position and job she held in life. After all, she trained the soldiers of our country for a living. She was well aware of the differences between right and wrong, of what was good and what was bad.
Helen was a survivalist, not a backstabber. In her mind, all she had done was react to changes around her. To lump her in with people like Brian Heidik and Richard Hatch served no purpose other than to just piss her off.
"And as much as I like Greg," said the judge, "I could not see him in the final two over you. You were up every morning, making our food. You were friends with Jerri, with both Kellys, you were in touch with everyone." He reached over to pat her on the knee. "It was not a hard choice in my mind."
She thanked him, but again reiterated her fears about facing the jury. She knew that there were some people there would would be after her. Gina and Elisabeth, to name two. And she wasn't entirely sure about Kelly or Tom either. In fact, anyone on Tuktu had the possibility of coming after her tonight, and she was pretty much guaranteed to get at least two angry speeches, possibly more. And for a person who had once been a pretty angry juror, Helen knew the power they must be feeling. They were licking their chops, and probably loading their shotguns as she spoke.
The thought terrified her.
As much as Helen like to show off her tough exterior, she knew that she wasn't very good at confrontations. Despite her hardened military shell, she was very sensitive at heart. It was all just an act, honed through years of working with cocky young kids.
"I don't want to go," she smiled, a little nervous. "Can we just give you the check and get it over with?"
"Oh, come on," said the judge, reassuring her. "Don't count yourself out just yet. You could still win this thing. Besides," he smiled. "If they come after you, I'll just tell them to grow up. This is just a game, you didn't do anything they wouldn't have done in the same place."
Helen thanked him, and the two of them exchanged one last hug. And then, it was time.
Time to break down the camp.
They had no campfire, so they hadn't had the cathartic feeling of burning all their supplies. But still, everything was done now. The camp was dismantled. The shelter was now laying in pieces. The clothesline was curled up in a ball. The red "Qinaliut" flag was balled up in Helen's backpack, to be given to the winner tonight.
"One last thing," she said, pointing to the stove. "You can do the honor."
Paschal reached over turned the small black dial to the right. The gas canister hissed as the blue flame above it slowly flickered out. Their best friend for the past 38 days, the stove, was now out. It hadn't been turned all the way off for nearly two weeks now, and it somehow symbolized the finality of their packing up. This would no longer be their home.
"Look," said Helen, pointing off towards a nearby stream. A nosy black bear was standing on his hind legs, staring at them, sniffing the air. He was definitely checking them out.
"Goodbye," she yelled, waving to it. "You can eat anything you want now."
"Except us," called Paschal.
The two of them exchanged a glance and then cracked up.
"Okay," said Helen, ever the sentimental one, "Enough of that. Let's get the hell out of here."
The two of them picked up their walking sticks and set off for their last Tribal Council. It would be a long walk, and they wanted to set off early. They started the trek, and within a matter of minutes, they were no longer visible on the horizon. The two small figures had receded into the forest, no longer a part of this ecosystem.
Qinaliut now belonged to the scavengers.
As the two finalists started their long walk, the seven jurors were being herded out of their hotel rooms. The hotel sat about ten miles away, in a resort just off the outskirts of Denali. The jurors had the seventh floor to themselves, and had had a great old time, partying and relaxing in the luxury suites. But now, it was time to get back to work. They all had just an hour to get ready, as there was a lot to be done today. Some were happy with the task at hand, others just wanted to get it done with and go home. But they all recognized the importance of their job tonight. They had to award someone a million dollars.
Greg Buis was the first one dressed, so he was the first one to give his thoughts to the camera. They were all required to sit down in one last confessional room, and give their opinions on what would happen tonight. It was a pain in the ass for all of them, but Probst said it was more airtime, so just shut up and do it. He knew they all loved their airtime.
"I think it will be an exciting night," Greg said. "Because you have two polar opposites up there in the finals. Paschal, of course, was everyone's dad out there. And in some sense, Helen was everybody's mother. So it will be like a custody hearing for a lot of us tonight, which parent do we want to live with? Who do we love more?" He smiled. "And I think in a lot of cases, that's a much harder choice than it first appears."
Elisabeth Filarski followed him into the confessional room. Looking bright and alert, she was more than happy to serve as a juror for the second time. She had been out of the game a long time, and was eager to get to speak her mind again. After all, she had a lot to say.
"I knew in my heart that two of the Tuktus would be here at the end," she said, "But those weren't the two I would have picked. Still, I love them both, we all had a great time living together. So deep down, I'm -thrilled- that two of us made the final two, although I don't necessarily think they were the right two. But still, it was our goal that one of us wins this game, and now my job is to help decide which one it will be."
Tammy Leitner was the third to speak her mind, and approached the task in her usual manner.
"I'm pissed that it's not me," she said, although she was smiling as she said it. Clad in a blue blouse and jeans, she looked a lot less cutthroat than usual. Once she was out of the game, she had reverted into casual Tammy. They probably wouldn't even recognize her tonight. "I think I played the best game, sure, what's the harm in saying it now? But I'm not gonna sit here and whine about it. They beat me, and my job is to decide who I think deserved to beat me. On one hand, you have Paschal, who won four challenges when he needed to. That's something you have to respect. But on the other hand, you have Helen, who jumped from side to side, team to team when -she- needed to. It's two completely different strategies, and quite frankly, I'd rather hear what they say tonight before making up my mind. I really haven't decided yet."
After Tammy, Tom Buchanan stepped into the confessional room. Clad in his cleanest white shirt, and trademark blue overalls, he promised to make things lively tonight.
"This game's hard enough as it is, I'm'onna go in there and give 'em a piece of mah mind. 'Course, knowin' mah mind, who knows what's gonna come out. But I def'nitely want to know some things as well. They prob'ly won't even know I's askin' 'em a question until they already finished answerin'." He grinned. "Ol' Tommy aint done with his tricks jus' yet. You wait and see."
The fifth member of the jury to speak was Gina Crews. She sat down and faced the camera with a very wry smile.
"Tonight's the night when people have to answer for their behavior in the game. I won't lie to you when I say I don't think one of the players deserves to be there. But she is, and tonight she has a chance to redeem herself." She paused to take a sip of water. "Not everyone in game gets a second chance, so I'll be interested to see if she -can- sway me tonight, because I'm not going into this just to tell her off. I'm not that type of person. I'm going to bring up some things and see how she reacts. If she can justify her actions then she may very well get my vote." She shrugged. "I guess we'll just have to wait and see."
Silas Gaither was running late, having stayed up late the night before, flirting with Gina and Kelly in the swimming pool. He had just woken up, and had only had a few moments to run in and give his thoughts, before getting ready.
"This is going to be a blast," he said, "How many times in your life do you get to award somebody a million dollars? It's a lot of power, man, and I'm going to make sure the winner convinces me. Because I don't really know -either- of them. Paschal and Helen, I can't say I know either of 'em that well, so I'm a total blank slate tonight. It's really going to depend on how well they present themselves, because I'd say they both have a 50/50 shot at my vote right now."
The final one to speak was Kelly Wiglesworth. Sitting in a blue dress, a large red flower in her hair behind her ear, Kelly had a wide grin as she spoke, a far cry from the moody young loner she had been in the game. She had loosened up almost immediately upon arriving at the hotel.
"This is it, man," she laughed. "Judgement day. We've all been here before, we know what we're doing. I have to say it's nice being on the other side this time, it's a whoooole different game over here. But what can I say? I like Paschal, and I like Helen. They were two of the only ones I never had a problem with. Both of them went out of their way to help me out, and be nice to me, when I was in the game. And they both are great competitors, too. I think you have to respect both of them for what they've done. And still," she had a twinkle in her eye, "I don't think this will be a big love fest tonight. No one's really talked about it, but I know there are some hurt feelings on this jury. So we'll just see what happens. I'd really like to know the winner as much as you guys at home."
Once they had spoken, the seven jurors wished each other well, and were herded into a white "Survivor" truck. It was time for them to go to Tribal Council. The camera crew had radioed ahead, as Paschal and Helen had just about made it there. It was time to leave. It was time to vote.
It was time.
Helen and Paschal rang the gong as they entered the Tribal Council set. The totem poles on either side of the doorway were now complete. The image of Greg sat atop the one on their right, a devillish, mocking grin, smiling down at them. Paschal chuckled and the two of them entered and sat down. The jury was already seated, across from them. Silas sat in the front, along with Tammy and Gina. Elisabeth sat in the back row, followed by Greg, Tom and Kelly. Paschal nodded at them all, and Helen smiled softly.
The jurors gave back no discernible reaction.
"Welcome," said Jeff, as he stood behind his usual podium, "To our final Tribal Council. And I have to say this will be an interesting one. Out of all the players in the game, we have only two left. The second oldest member of Amarok," he nodded to Paschal, "And the oldest member of Tuktu." Helen shifted uncomfortably, but smiled. It was true, she had outlasted all her younger counterparts. That was an achievement in and of itself. "Our format," continued Jeff, "Will be a little different tonight, as we are here not to vote somebody out. We are here," he paused, "To determine our winner. You guys have gone as far as you can, and now, the game is out of your hands. Your fate is now in the hands of our jury."
He looked at jury, making sure they were ready. The shadows from the firepit in the middle echoed across his face. Then he turned back to Paschal.
"Paschal, we'll start with you. This is the time for your opening remarks. This is your chance to open your case, and tell the jury why you think you deserve the money." He smiled. "You're a judge, I'm sure you know this process very well."
Paschal chuckled and stood up. He turned to address the jury members, who were all staring at him. Only Elisabeth showed any emotion, a slight smile at the corner of her lips.
"Hello," he greeted them, "Nice to talk to all of you again. First off, I just want to thank everyone for the way they played, and for the chance to get to live with all of you for some period of time. Some of you I got to know quite well, like Greg and Gina," he nodded at them. "And some of you, like Silas, I never really got a chance to know. But I do wish you all luck in making this choice tonight, because I know it will be a difficult one. I believe there are pros and cons to both of us, and I can surely admit that about myself, as can Helen. I'm not perfect. I made a lot of mistakes out here. But I was fortunate to win immunity at a few places when I needed it most, and I think that really has made all the difference." He paused, collecting his thoughts. "I'm really not going to lay out the reasons why I think you should vote for me, I think those of you who knew me best know me enough by now. You all know the way I played, and the work I did. So I'll just save that all for the questions and answers, if you don't mind." He smiled. "I don't think anyone wants to hear me go on and on about myself any more than I do. So I'll just leave my opening statements at that for now, and I look forward to your questions." He thanked them all, making sure to look at each of them as he sat down. The man was a judge, he had had many occasions to read a jury in his past, and this one looked positive. They all made eye contact with him.
They liked him.
Helen stood up next, and nodded at the jury. She didn't wear the friendly smile that the judge had worn. Indeed, her look was more of hardness, as if already preparing for an attack. Helen was already in defensive mode.
"Hello," she greeted them, taking note of their emotionless faces. She intended on starting this off with a bang. "First off, I know a lot of you don't want me to be here." She caught a smile on the faces of Kelly and Tammy, at least that was a start. Helen began to loosen up a little. "So now that's out in the open, let's talk Survivor." She walked back and forth in a small line as she spoke, trying to pace this out like a lawyer would. "The fact is that I don't know I played this game any better than anyone here. I certainly didn't have a master plan like Greg," she pointed at him, and he smirked softly, "I wasn't friends with everyone here, like Elisabeth, and I didn't win immunities like Paschal. But that being said, I was faced with some very difficult situations during the game, and I felt I adapted as best I could." She stopped to stare at them, wanting to make this next point perfectly clear. "Most of you would have done the same things I did, given the same scenario. I feel no shame for -anything- that happened out here, except for not being able to see through certain players, who shall remain nameless." She didn't look at Greg, but Greg smiled to himself. "So I regret my own stupid gullibility, but -none- of my actions. I'm here because I worked hard, I reacted to change, and I took gambles. And if that isn't strategy, I don't know what is. So hate me if you will, call me whatever names you want, but I know that I can live with my actions, and that's the only person I have to answer to when all this is over." She smiled ever so faintly. "I'm glad I have this chance to explain my actions tonight, and I hope that, whatever choice you make, you make it for the correct reasons. If you don't like me, that's -fine.- But at least let me explain myself first, that's all I can ask." She was done, so she sat down.
Jeff looked at the jurors.
"You all will have a choice to ask a question now. Take your time, collect your thoughts. And when you are ready, Silas, you are up first."
Silas walked up to take his place. He smiled at them, and placed his hands on either side of the podium. It was great to be back in front of the camera.
"Guys," he said. "Welcome. I know it's been a long ride, but congratulations. You're both here. Now, I don't have a whole big speech prepared, or any great point to make. My only issue with this choice is that I just don't know the two of you that well. Like Helen said, I never really got to know either of you that well. Paschal, you and I were on Amarok for a while, but I don't think we said more than a few sentences to each other." Paschal smiled, shaking his head.
"So my question," Silas continued, "Is simple. -You- explain to me why I should vote for you. Since I don't know you, I can't make that decision. It's up to -you- to sell yourself to me. Tell me why you should get my vote." He was done, so he smiled at them, waiting.
"Well," said Paschal, answering first. "I've said before that I'm not here to do this, but if you want a justification of why I should win..."
"Three reasons," said Silas, cutting him off. "Just list three things. Tell me why I should give you a million damn dollars. That's a lot of money, man, and I haven't made up my mind yet. So just give me three reasons."
"Okay," said the judge. "Number one, I won four immunities, most of them at a point when I was about to be voted off. Number two, I was the oldest one out here for most of the game, and I never gave up, nor did you guys run circles around me. I held my own, despite the fact that some of you, -most- of you, were half my age. And number three...," he paused to think about it. "I believe I did as much work as anyone here, and I don't think I ever made an enemy. I never had an argument with anybody, I never stabbed anyone in the back, and I feel I played the game with the utmost of integrity. So my number three would be, I feel like I was a valuable member of the team. I was always a team player."
Silas waited for him to finish, and nodded. He then turned his attention to Helen.
"One, I overcame more obstacles than anyone here," she said, brusquely. "Two, I was up at the crack of dawn every morning, and I do mean -every- one, making breakfast for you guys. And three," oh, she hoped this answer wouldn't backfire, but she decided to play to Silas' cockiness, "I started the game on a team with all females. We were at a distinct disadvantage, we had no way to compete with you guys, yet I made it here. I think anyone who could survive that obstacle is deserving of a million dollars."
Silas had a small smirk on his face. He decided to follow up with Helen.
"So you're saying that a team of females was a bad idea?"
Helen didn't nod, she only answered as best she could.
"I've worked with men all my life. I train them every day, I can go weeks without seeing a woman where I work. I'm used to the way guys think and act. And the first few days in Tuktu," she shrugged, looking apologetic at Elisabeth, "Were really frustrating. Quite frankly, I wished I was on the other team. It was hard work holding my tongue, because so many mistakes were being made." She looked at Gina, shrugging. "I'm sorry, but it's true."
Silas nodded, waiting for her to finish. Helen didn't really end her answers, she just stopped talking. So he thanked her and turned to Jeff.
"I'm done, Jeff, that's all I got," he said, going back to sit down.
Helen watched nervously as Tammy strode to the podium, the second juror. Tammy was the one of the few that she was -not- too concerned about tonight. But then again, Tammy was the type of person to remember every slight that had ever happened to her. Helen racked her brain, trying to think of anything that she might have done that would come up. But Tammy's first sentence surprised her.
"Hey guys," she said, "Let's cut right to the chase here, I'm not here to blast either of you." She noted their two relieved looks, even Paschal had been a little wary of Tammy on the jury. "Good, now that that's out of the way... I think it's best we're honest about what has happened out here." She looked at Helen. "Helen, You say that you felt we did a bad job the first few days." Helen nodded, not for the life of her going to back down on this opinion. "And I happen to agree with you. I just want to point out that I was frustrated as -hell,- watching all the talking and hugging and hair braiding going on. But you and I thought alike since day one, and I can respect that. I thought you did a wonderful job in the game, and anyone who gives you shit tonight ought to look at themselves first." Helen didn't break her game face, but smiled warmly on her inside. That was awfully big of Tammy to say that. She didn't have to do that.
"But that being said," smiled Tammy. "If you had kept your word at a certain point in this game, I would probably be sitting next to you right now." She noticed Helen tensing up, good, that was the point. "Right after the merge, the two of us discussed the idea of voting together. And do you remember what you said?"
Helen answered slowly. "I said no."
"At first," corrected Tammy. "But later you said yes."
"When I was forced," answered Helen. "Gina and Paschal had accused me of planning with you, so I was as good as gone. I had to go along."
"And did you vote with me?" asked Tammy. She wasn't going to let Helen wiggle out of this. "When we were down to nine, we could have had a 5-4 advantage. Silas, myself, Tom, you and Greg. We all agreed to vote out Elisabeth that night." Elisabeth shot a look at Greg, who shrugged, helplessly. She had no idea the plot had come about three days before her actual exit. She had no idea how close she had been to becoming the first juror.
"I did not," said Helen. "I voted with Tuktu."
"Even after you said you would," pointed out Tammy. "My point is that you promised me one thing and then did the other. In my mind, that's a -huge- problem. So would you consider that to be ethical?"
Helen set her jaw, staring at Tammy. She wasn't going to give in.
"Because I was with Tuktu, and we were going to the end." It was mostly true, Helen hadn't been able to jump ship at that moment. At the time, it had been the hardest decision in her life, and she had erred on the side of caution.
"That's all you have to say," answered Tammy, "I just wanted you to remember that not every choice you have made has been with a clear conscience. So don't go off spouting your ethics when you know as well as anyone that you struggle with this stuff too."
Tammy was done with Helen, so she turned to Paschal.
"Paschal," she said, "The father of the Tuktus." He smiled, not completely at ease right now. He knew she wasn't going to let him off the hook. "You've said that no one ever really said anything bad about you, and that's true. You're one of the few teflon people I have ever met. Nothing ever sticks." She smiled, and everyone knew she was just gearing up. "But I don't think you really had much of a challenge in this game. You coasted along from day one. No one ever targeted you, you were always in a power role, and you never had a moment's worry until we got to the end, when you -needed- to win immunity." Paschal opened his mouth to rebut this, but she just talked over him. "I don't think you had to struggle like other people did, and I don't think you have ever had to. Quite frankly, I think you had it too easy."
Paschal waited for her to finish. When it appeared her assault was over, he tried to destroy her argument. He had seen many court cases in his time, and he was certainly no stranger to the idea of a cross-examination.
"If you think it's easy coming out here, at fifty-eight, and living for more than a month, you're crazy." He watched her smile. "Frankly, I'd like to see you come out here when you reach my age, and try the same thing. Every day has been a struggle. So I'd advise you to think long and hard before you start saying I coasted to anything, and remember my age before you start shooting your mouth off. This game is not easy. And I'm not saying that you guys have had it easy either, that's not my argument at all. I'm just saying that no one coasts to anything out here. I struggled, you struggled, even -Jeff- probably struggled." Jeff laughed out loud, but Tammy was done. Neither person had backed down in their answer, and she respected them both the more for it. Neither Helen nor Paschal was a pushover.
"Okay," Tammy continued. "My question is simple. It's the opposite of Silas's. Give me one reason, and only one, why the -other- person deserves to win over you." She smiled at them. Let's see them handle this one.
Helen was first, and she took a moment to answer. She had to think about it, but gave her honest response.
"Paschal deserves to win because he won four immunity challenges. No one else won that many, and he came through consistently when it counted. I can't think of anyone who deserves it as much as he does." She hated giving that answer, but it was something she truly believed. Paschal would definitely get her vote if she was in the jury. They just had never been able to get rid of him.
"Helen truly deserves to win this game," said Paschal, "Because she did more work than anybody in the camp. More than Tom, more than Greg, more than Tammy, and -infinitely- more than me. She was up every day first thing, boiling water, cooking food, tending the stove. I mean, I'm a workaholic, and she put -me- to shame. So if you're voting tonight on pure effort and work ethic, I don't even think this vote should be close. She's the Alaskan Survivor, in my mind."
Tammy was satisfied with the answers, so she thanked them and sat down. Paschal reached over and patted Helen on the knee. He could see that she was growing more comfortable with the process now, although the big guns were still yet to come. Helen hadn't seen the worst of it yet, she was still far from done with this.
Gina Crews stepped up to take her turn, and Helen immediately tensed up. Paschal could feel her do it next to him, and whispered encouragement to her.
"Just answer honestly and she'll respect you. Don't try to argue."
Gina smiled, facing them both. She really wasn't here to pick a fight, or point fingers. But there were some things that needed to come up. Gina was not a vindictive person, but she was a fair one. And she felt that Helen had played unfairly, even dirty. That would most definitely have to come up at the final Tribal Council, and now they were here.
"Helen," she started, "I'm really only here for one purpose tonight. And that is to have a chat with you." She saw Helen set her jaw, ready for a fight. "Out of all the people in this game, I feel that you have had the greatest effect on what has happened. You've been a great worker, and you and I got along great, but then," she turned to the jury, "Something happened. We started hearing stories about Helen, one of our so-called leaders. And the stories seemed to lead us to one thing, that -you-," she had turned back to face Helen, "Had been plotting to take us down. Am I correct so far?"
"Yes," said Helen, not breaking eye contact.
"Now just that morning," continued Gina, "A day before Elisabeth left, you had so much as told us that the Amaroks were next. It was going to be Tammy, and then Tom, and then we would be down to six. The Tuktu Six. Is that correct as well?"
"Yes," came the simple response.
"Yet here we are," said Gina, seemingly near tears at the moment. "On the jury. All of us but Paschal. And would you like to speculate on who was responsible for that?"
"Greg," said Helen, smiling softly. "And myself."
"Oh?" said Gina, slightly caught off guard. That wasn't the answer she had been expecting. "So Greg was involved now, was he? How come we've never heard that story before?"
"Because he was a better player than I was," answered Helen. "I didn't even know at the time."
"So," asked Gina, "Regardless of whether Greg was involved, or Paschal was involved, or whomever else you decide was in helping you, do you feel it was an ethical, moral decision? Can you sleep with yourself at night, knowing what you were responsible for?"
"Absolutely," answered Helen, her left knee bouncing slightly nervously now. "It had to be done."
"And why was that," asked Gina. "What urgency was there to get rid of your friends? You were in no danger of going. You had not been targeted by anybody. I never heard a -word- of anyone saying 'Let's vote Helen out.' So what was this sudden urgency that struck you, and made you try to jump ship? Please tell me, because I'd like to know."
"I had to," sighed Helen, "Because the rest of you were being so obtuse, you never saw the forest for the trees. The rest of you were so wrapped up in your little Girl Scout cookie party, that you didn't realize that you were setting yourselves up for the final two. You and Elisabeth would have been the final two if I hadn't stopped you, and I've never regretted that for a moment." She paused. "The only thing I regretted is that you two found out ahead of time."
Gina stared at her. Helen stared back. The two stubborn women were simply -not- going to give in on this issue.
"So you're going to sit here," said Gina, almost attacking now, "And tell me you played a fair game? You're going to sit here, in front of all of us, in front of a TV audience, and tell us you had no choice?"
"Look," said Helen, just about tired of this. "If you don't like my answer, then don't ask the question. You know what I'm going to say."
Gina was prepared to go on, but Jeff stopped her, asking if she had a specific question. They couldn't stay here all night, she would have to finish up soon. Gina paused for a moment and then finally asked her question. She wanted to say more, but it was pointless. The two of them were too similar to ever admit they were wrong.
"Helen, how can you prove to me that you've played a fair game?"
"I just did," said Helen. "And I'm not going to do it again."
Gina smirked, and turned to Paschal.
"And you, Paschal, have you played a fair game?"
"I think you all know I have," he replied. "I've never done anything that I couldn't take home with me. And to be quite honest with you, I don't think that anyone has crossed that line. I've seen it crossed before, and quite frankly, the line has barely been touched out here." He didn't look at Helen, but she knew that he was trying to help protect her integrity. He was giving Gina a not-too-subtle hint. -What's done is done. Lay off.-
Gina simply smiled and nodded, thanking them both.
Elisabeth Filarski was the fourth jury member to approach the podium, and Helen watched her with a suspicious eye. Elisabeth was certainly not as stubborn as Gina, nor was she as likely to get in a confrontation, but she had definitely been wounded by Helen's strategy. Elisabeth had been its first casualty.
If anyone would be seeking revenge in the jury, it was bound to be her.
"The question of deserving," she started, "Always come up at this point in the game. People will sit up here and talk about why they deserve to win, or how they have earned your vote. But my question to both of you is, have you done anything that makes you feel less than deserving? Is there anything you regret that you have done in the past 39 days?"
Paschal started, and could only answer one thing. There was only one thing that had eaten at him since day one.
"I only have one true regret, and it doesn't really affect anyone sitting here tonight, so I'm not sure it's what y'all want to hear." Elisabeth nodded, so he continued. "Back on day four or six, I don't quite remember, but the idea got around Amarok to vote out Rudy. I think it was Clay who brought it up. But all of a sudden you had four or five people, real gung ho about the idea to get rid of this one man, Rudy Boesch. Now, his name had never come up before that, and he really never did anything wrong in the first place. But simply because no one wanted to be the first one voted off, we all banded together and did it. Rudy was voted off unanimously, and I knew it had really hurt him. So if you ask for something I regret, I sure as heck regret that moment. You do things you aren't proud of when you are scared, and that was one instance where I felt like the game controlled me, and not the other way around."
Elisabeth nodded and turned to Helen. Helen smiled. She knew exactly what Elisabeth wanted. Elisabeth wanted an apology.
"I regret only one thing," said Helen, "And that was getting too close to a person I thought I knew." She looked up at Greg, who simply smiled at her. "I thought I knew Greg Buis. I've lived my whole life thinking I could read people, that I could somehow read their intentions. But with Greg I was simply wrong, and I've been kicking myself over it ever since. He played me like the finest Stradivarius. He had me seeing shadows that weren't there, seeing attacks that weren't coming, and forming plans that I thought were my own. So do I have regrets in the game? No, not really. Do I have regrets in my ability to read someone? Heck yeah. Greg played this game better than any one of us, and I feel like a sap that I let him do it all along. So yeah, that's all I really regret."
Elisabeth looked at her strangely, as if waiting for more. But Helen wasn't going to give it to her. Even if it might cost her a jury vote, Helen grovelled to nobody.
"I guess that's it," said Elisabeth, "I have no more questions."
Greg Buis was the fifth juror to speak. He ambled up to the podium, a strange smile on his face. His scruffy blond beard had long since been shaved off, and he looked like a mischevous little boy again. Helen and Paschal both smiled at him. They knew they had both been played and made to look like fools all along, but you couldn't help but to like the guy. Greg just had so much spirit, so much life in him, that it was impossible to stay mad at him.
Both Helen and Paschal were also weighing the odds that Greg would vote for them tonight. Paschal was pretty sure he had three votes for sure, maybe four. Helen was only sure of one, Tammy. Greg could very well be the one that Paschal needed to win this game. So despite his wildcard nature and his shenanigans, Greg was a very important part of the puzzle tonight, for both of them. They both needed him.
"I apologize," he simply stated, "But I have nothing to say." He backed away and returned to sit down in his seat.
Helen looked at him with an arched eyebrow, and Greg only shrugged. His original intention tonight had been to vote for the person whom he had sabotaged the most. His strategy all along had been destroy, divide, destroy. But if by some chance, he wasn't in the final two, he would give his vote to the one he had wronged the most. Greg Buis was a nice guy, when he wasn't in the game, that is. Now that he was out, he felt it would be only fair to vote for the one whom had suffered the most at his hands.
"Call it karmic retribution, fate, or what you will," he had said in a confessional just before he left, "But it's only fair."
The catch with this had been that Paschal and Helen had -both- suffered greatly at his hands. Helen's damage was obvious, Greg had managed to single-handedly make the Tuktus all hate her, for no good reason. And Greg didn't even want to remember how many times he had used Paschal's trusting nature against him. So it had been a wash, the two of them -both- deserved his vote. He didn't think that any jury question would help make up his mind, and quite frankly didn't want to do it. Greg would make up his mind when he needed to, and only then--- at the ballot box.
"Okay," said Jeff, a little upset, "I guess nothing from Mr. Buis. Big Tom, you're up."
Tom Buchanan stepped up, and smiled at them. He was here to have fun tonight, of course. What fun was this game if you couldn't have a little levity now and then?
"I want to talk about Brian Heidik," he said, butchering the man's last name as "Hay-deek."
"Sure," said Helen, smiling. She was immediately disarmed by Tom's attitude, a softening that she would regret later.
"I bet it felt pretty good when you got rid of him," Tom added.
"How long had you been waitin' for it?"
Helen paused, looking up in the air.
"About four months."
"Awww," grinned Tom, "C'mon, I know you know how long it was."
"Four months," she said, in rapid fire, "Eighteen days, and six hours." She smiled, hoping he would enjoy the joke. But Tom's attack came out of nowhere, catching her completely off guard.
"That seems to be a long time to sit and wait f'somethin'," he said, "You could almost call yourself a stalker, now, couldn't you?"
She shrugged, frowning slightly. Not the word she would use, but okay, if the shoe fit.
"That was the single most cold-hearted thing I think I've ever seen," Tom lashed out, watching as Helen immediately clammed up. "You had it in for that man from since before we done got here." His casual Appalachian accent now much less distinct, Tom continued to blast her. "You bullied y'own team into pulling him over since day one. They only gave in to get you to shut up about it, and then when y'do get Brian, you throw a challenge just so you could be the one t'stick a knife in his back."
Helen crossed her arms, but didn't reply. She knew this was too tender a subject to get into right now. It looked awful, she knew that as much as anyone. So she just sat and took it. Sometimes you just had to face the medicine.
"Now b'lieve me," said Tom, holding his hands to his heart, "I don't like Brian s'much as anyone here. I don't give a sheep turd if the man was eaten by a bear. Let the bear eat him, shit him out for all's I care. But my point is that you sh'ld have lots of regrets, and that being the main one. You, alone, took the game out of his hands, for no reason oth'r than y'own personal feud. And I think that's shallow as hell."
Helen simply nodded, staring at him. She was smart enough to at least wait until he was done.
"So do y'all have something to say f'yourself," Tom finally said. "I mean, we was all there when this happened, we saw it just like anybody. What's your take on this situation?"
"It's called," she said simply, "Removing the competition."
"Awww hell," he yelled at her. "Yo're a tough girl, admit it, you hated the man. Don't give me this strategy horse crap!"
"It's called," she admitted, with a small smile, "Taking out the trash."
"There," smiled Tom, "Isn't that better? All y'had to do was admit it. Personally, I's glad y'did it. Y'saved me the task of having to beat him with one of them logs we had at camp." Helen smirked, and Tom smiled back. They had finally made their connection.
"Anything for the judge?" asked Jeff.
"Nah," answered Tom. "But he already knows he's got mah vote tonight. We made a deal, and I'm gonna stick to it. And besides," he grinned, "I's tired of talkin' to him. I heard all his damn stories on our trip to the cabin. If we start talkin' again, I'll prob'ly hear the story about his fav'rite hunting trip again, and then frankly, Jeff, I just might have to take mah own life. So if you'll pardon me, I think I'll step down."
Kelly Wiglesworth was the final juror to step to the podium. She folded her fingers carefully, placed them atop the podium top, and smiled at the two finalists.
"I came here," she started, "With a question in mind. But along the way, I decided you guys don't need this." She looked at Helen. "Helen, I don't think you deserve half the crap that has been shovelled your way tonight. You're a tough chick, a good worker, and I've always respected you. And Paschal, you were right when you said that nobody ever says a bad word about it. It's amazing, you were our leader since your first moment in Tuktu, and you didn't have to say a word. It was just obvious. So in my mind, you -both- deserve the million dollars, and I wish I could give it to both of you."
Kelly was being polite in that she -had- intended on giving an angrier speech tonight. She had planend to all along. But the attacks on Helen had been very painful for her to listen to after a while. After a while, the voices all started to sound the same, and all sort of blended with another famous angry jury speech in her head.
After a while, they all just reminded her of Sue Hawk, and that was not a memory she wanted to relive.
So it was true that Kelly felt bad for Helen, stuck sitting there, at the mercy of anything the jurors wanted to say. And Tammy calling Paschal unworthy was completely offensive to her as well. That was just a cheap shot. And if there was anything that Kelly had learned from this game, it was that words hurt. Kelly was not about to follow suit.
"You guys have earned my respect," she said, "Both of you. I know this process is hard, and I'm just happy to say I'm the last one you have to face." She smiled. "And that's it."
Jeff stood in silence for a moment as the final juror took her seat. Then he turned back to Helen and Paschal. It was time for their closing remarks.
"Now's the time," he said, "For you to say anything that didn't come up during the questions. If you feel you need to clarify something, this is your chance. If you need to expand on an answer, this is your time. These are the closing remarks. Helen, if you have anything to say, you're up first."
Seven pairs of juror eyes turned to face her, as she stood up. Clad in her blue Navy tank top, her hair pulled back into a ponytail, she looked very small before them. But she seemed louder when she spoke, as usual. Helen had a loud presence when she was talking.
"I've heard all your comments, I've listened to all your arguments, so I know where you're coming from. But the fact remains that everything I've done in this game, I've done for a reason. Some things I was forced to do, some things I was manipulated to do, and some were just plain out of my hands." She saw Gina's hard stare in return, and quickly clarified. "And no, I know what you're thinking, but I'm not saying this to remove any blame from myself. I'm not just a pawn, in fact I had a definite plan to win this game since day one. I came in here knowing that I would be one of the older ones." She shrugged. "Great, what can you do about it? But then I'm suddenly on a team with all females. Again, great," she threw up her hands in the air. "Have to adapt again. And then Red Rover. So at this point I give a great -big- thanks to all the producers, for derailing my game altogether. I mean, really." She paused to catch her breath. "But the fact is that I had a plan all along, and that was to adapt. I stayed low, kept my mouth shut, and cooked the food. I did that every day, while most of you were still asleep. And when I saw that I was being marginalized, I changed plans. I voted with Tammy and Goldsmith, when they wanted Neleh out. I voted with you guys to take out Jerri. I helped get rid of Brian and Clay, who were -clearly- major threats to win this thing. I don't care what you say about a vendetta. The point remains that Brian was going to win this freaking game a second time if you all hadn't pulled your heads out of your butts." She watched as Silas nodded in the jury, at least he had seen that. "So do I feel bad that I jumped ship on all of you?" She paused for dramatic effect. "No WAY. Because I had jumped ship prior to that on several people, and no one cared then. Just so long as you weren't the jumpees, I guess you didn't mind, right?" She paused again, trying to think of the best way to wrap this thing up.
"I think the only one who has any legitimate beef with me tonight is Tammy, and that's because I didn't keep my word to her when I said I would. And if that's the -only- thing that keeps me from winning this game," she paused. "Then I guess I deserve it." She shrugged and said she was finished. Sitting down, she looked only at Jeff, not the jurors. She had said her piece, now she was done with it. Now it truly -was- out of her hands.
Paschal English stood up, not particularly wanting to follow that. But he knew he must, because in his mind, that had been an excellent speech. She couldn't have handled herself any better had she wanted to. And as much as he admired and respected Helen Glover, he was still here to win this game. He had come -too- far to just sit here and tell them all that they needed to vote for her. Helen had done what she needed to do, she had salvaged her dignity, and faced her critics. He was proud of her, but that was enough. Paschal felt he deserved to win this game as much as anyone, and was more than ready to wrap up his case.
"First off," he started, "I want to thank you all for making this decision. As I said before, it is a very crucial one, yet one that no one wants to be doing. I'm sure you all would rather be here, and me over there, if you could. But unfortunately, or," he smiled, "Fortunately, in my case, I'm the one sitting here, and it's my job now to tell you why. Let me start by saying that I am not a camping person by nature. I never have been, nor am I particularly comfortable sleeping anywhere outdoors or in the woods. I had a really hard time when we first got here, just adapting to everything, like having no darkness," several people on the jury laughed, well aware of the judge's troubles with sleeping in sunlight, "And particularly getting along with a group full of guys." He smiled at Tammy. "Tammy was there, she knows what it's like, but for the rest of you, you have no idea how cocky our team was at first, how overconfident, and how youth oriented we were. I mean no slight against you, Silas," he nodded to the young actor, "But it was a team thing, and they had no use for an old guy like me. I was marked for execution from day one, and the only thing that really saved me was a Red Rovering over to the other side. And from then on out," he smiled, "It was a new game. We had teamwork, unity, friendship. I think I was friends with each and every one of you, and we all got to know each other rather well. And then when the.. unfortunate incident... occurred, in which Elisabeth went, it became every man for himself. And once that happened, I truly feel like I played the best game I could ever hope to achieve. I won challenges, formed friendships," he nodded at Tom, "And played the best ethical game I could manage. Now I sit here before you due to three things. One, the grace of God. I didn't do this alone. Two, my determination, because I never gave up. And three, just some good old fashioned luck. Now is this to say that I coasted my way to the finals? Not at all. You don't win four challenges and coast, that's really all I have to say. So," he faced them all one last time, "The choice is really up to you now. I just pray that you vote with your hearts, and make a choice that you can all be proud of." He smiled and nodded to them, very proud of his speech. That had come out just about as well as he had planned it.
Jeff waited for the judge to be seated, and then he turned to the jury.
"I just want to remind you," he said, "That you are voting for the winner tonight. You are not voting to kick someone off, you are voting for the person you want to win this game. And with that," he paused, "Silas, you're up."
Silas Gaither stood up and clapped his hands together. This was it, then. He walked up to the podium, looking determined. He had wanted to take this responsibility seriously, had wanted to weigh the options before deciding. He had intended to vote for Paschal all along, as it was clear that he had earned this win. But something else had clicked in his mind during the speeches tonight.
"Helen," he wrote on his ballot.
Helen had impressed him with her answers, particularly with her frustration on being with an all-female tribe. He had never really known either of them, and now wished he had gotten to know Helen. She sounded as impatient as he was, and just as as apt to write off her teammates as useless or weak. But that wasn't the reason for his vote tonight.
"Helen," he said, holding it up. "This vote is for you because I felt you had to work for it. I thought Paschal coasted his way along until the end. He never had to work for it until the team fell apart, and if that had not happened, he would have waltzed his way to a 7-0 win in the finals. But I felt you actually had to make decisions, and hard ones at that. So you're getting my vote tonight. Hope you win."
Silas placed his ballot in the box and nodded. It was done. The thing that was the clincher was something rather shallow, something rather simple, and something rather important to a person like Silas. Paschal had referred to it all along, and the constant repetition had begun to eat at Silas's brain. Silas was young. He was an athlete. He was confident. And he hated to lose-- especially to an old man.
Silas was, at heart, a cocky young jock, and there was no -way- he would let an old man beat him. It was as simple as that. Sure, Helen was a girl, but she was tough as nails, and she had earned his respect. There wasn't a chance in the world that Silas would admit it, but the truth remained that his brain wouldn't allow him to write Paschal's name down on that piece of paper, simply because he was old.
Tammy Leitner was the second to vote. She strode up the podium, cast her vote, and placed it in the ballot. She didn't smile the entire time.
Gina Crews was the third to vote. She walked up, uncapped the pen, and wrote down Paschal's name.
"Pappy," she said, holding it up. "You surprised the heck out of all of us, making it this far. But I was cheering you along all the way. No one was more happy than I when you won immunity after immunity. You would have gotten my vote anyway, but winning four challenges just clinches it. You are the king of Alaska." She smiled. "You've even got a cabin now, so you better invite me out to visit you, okay?" She cast her ballot. It had not been a hard choice, nothing Helen would -ever- say could convince Gina that Helen had played this game fairly. And technically, it didn't matter in the long run. Gina -adored- Paschal, as did all the Tuktus. It didn't matter who he was against, Gina would vote for him. She was adamant that Paschal was going to win this game, and easily. He had earned it.
Elisabeth was the fourth juror up. She cast a vote for Paschal as well.
"Paschal has been the heart and soul of this game since day one. I see no reason -not- to vote against a man like that. He did a ton of work, never complained, never schemed, never backstabbed, and even took the time to win himself a new cabin." She smiled. "I love the guy too. So Pappy, this vote is for you."
The fifth vote came from Greg Buis.
He had honestly not known who to vote for tonight. As he had debated earlier, he had screwed over -both- Helen and Paschal at some point, so it was no use trying to make it up to just one. He thought they had both played flawed, but adequate games, better than anyone else, he supposed. And he didn't even have a coin to flip. So, as usual, Greg went with his instincts. It was a win-win situation, as he could live with either of them winning, but he liked to constantly remind himself that this was more than just a game. This was also a hit TV show. When in doubt, go for entertainment.
"The human body," he began, as he uncapped his pen, "Has several key components. You have the heart, the brain and the muscle. We've talked about those." He wrote down a name slowly, so as to draw out his speech. "Well, Paschal didn't know this, but he was the soul. He was always the soul of this forest." Greg stopped, smiling. "And as important as the soul is, I feel the spleen is terribly overlooked." He held up the ballot.
"Helen," it read.
"Let's give it up for the spleen," he joked. "No one ever loves it."
Greg cast his ballot and walked away. His reasons for voting Helen would appear perfectly bizarre on camera, but deep down he knew it was the right call. It was practical, really, because no one expected Helen to win. Greg had figured it would probably be a 6-1 Paschal win, or even 5-2 if she got lucky. So he was determined to at least make it closer. -Give her a shot,- he thought, -Because no one will watch us if we're predictable.- Predictability was a poison he tended to steer away from in life.
Tom was the sixth vote. He cast it, said his piece and walked away. He was soon followed by Kelly, the seventh. She cast her ballot and sat down. All seven votes were now sitting in the ballot box. Helen and Paschal looked over at it nervously. They had been discussing the votes as they had been cast. In Helen's mind, it was probably 6-1 Paschal. She thought she at least had Tammy's vote. In Paschal's mind, however, he thought it was closer, and wasn't entirely ruling out a Helen win.
"It's going to be you," he whispered, to which she quickly shook her head.
"No way," she said. "Don't joke about that. I'll be lucky to get two."
Jeff Probst returned with the ballot box and sat down.
"So," he said, a small smile on his lips. "Did you guys have fun?"
"This has been a blast, Jeff," said the judge. "I can't begin to tell you..."
"This is off the record," interrupted Jeff. "You can say anything you want." He pointed to the main camera, sitting behind the firepit. "The cameras are off. We're done here."
Paschal looked startled, but Jeff just laughed.
"Didn't you know?" he asked, "We're revealing the vote live!"
Paschal and Helen looked at each other and groaned. It had been thirty-nine days. Thirty-nine grueling, long, torturous days. They seemed to never end, but that wait had been just the beginning. Now, the true test was about to begin.
How long would they have to wait -now?-
[LOS ANGELES - FOUR MONTHS LATER]
The soundstage was packed, and the audience was primed and ready to go.
Four months had passed since the Survivor: Alaska crew had wrapped up in Denali. The film had been shipped down, processed, and, most importantly, edited. The show was in the can, and the 2000 people or so here in the studio had just watched most of it. They had cheered their favorites, oohed and aahed at the scenery, thrilled at Paschal's final immunity win, and booed the one they hated, Greg. They all hated Greg.
Now the show was about ready to come back from commercial. Mark Burnett had some last minute words for the crowd, telling them that the shot would switch from tape to live in the middle of a scene, and they had to remain absolutely still. The audience wasn't allowed to cheer as the seven jury members filed out onto the stage, which had been recreated to simulate the Alaskan Spirit Lodge. Silas sat down, then Tammy, then Gina. The front row was here. Elisabeth, Greg, Tom and Kelly sat in the back. Some of them had gained a little weight in the prior four months, but they were all dressed in their same clothes. Elisabeth waved to the audience, and some in the back cheered her, before being shushed by a studio page.
The big screen TVs throughout the studio were now playing the final Tribal Council. Helen was currently being grilled on screen by Gina, and the audience couldn't help but applaud at certain key exchanges. Some liked Gina, some liked Helen, and now they were being forced to choose, to declare their loyalties. But the moment was coming very, very close.
Finally, Paschal and Helen were ushered out onto stage, to sit in their usual spots. Helen wore shorts and her blue Navy tank top, Paschal wore jeans and a blue T-Shirt. He was sporting his haggard white beard, that he had been forced to re-grow for the live show. The crowd started applauding the two of them, both the pro-Helen and pro-Paschal forces teaming up for a large ovation. Both finalists turned and waved to the crowd, Helen blowing them all big kisses. Jeff was also on stage now, getting his last bit of makeup. But finally, the live switchover was just about here. Everyone was in place now.
"Places!" called a voice. "5... 4... 3... 2... 1"
The camera shot switched smoothly from tape to live, as millions of TV viewers saw Jeff go over to retrieve the ballot box. He didn't miss a beat as he brought it back to his podium, and turned to look at the two finalists. No one watching could detect the switchover.
"I just want to remind you what you're playing for," he said. "First off, this flag." He held up the red 'Qinaliut' banner. "The winner gets to take it home, per your agreement. And secondly," he smiled. "The totem poles outside the Spirit Lodge, with the faces carved into them. The two of them go to the winner." Helen's mouth dropped open. What a cool souvenir that would be! "And finally, the title of Ultimate Survivor, and a check for one million dollars." Helen and Paschal smiled, and she reached to hold the judge's hand. This was going to be nerve-wracking. Helen, in particular, was surprised she hadn't already passed out. Paschal appeared to be a bit more stable, although his hand was shaking slightly in hers.
They had both waited a long time.
"Let's read the votes," said Jeff, as he opened the ballot box. He opened the first one, looked at it, and turned it around.
"Helen," it read. That was Greg's vote. She smiled and clutched Paschal's hand even harder.
Jeff opened the second vote. It was Silas's.
"Helen," it read. She beamed, closing her eyes tightly. This was so tense, it was almost painful.
The third vote was Tammy's. She had gone with her friend, a deal to the end. Tammy kept her promises.
"Helen," it read. Helen audibly gasped. She hadn't expected to get three votes. Now it only there was one more...
"That's three votes for Helen," said Jeff. "Remember, you need four to win."
The atmosphere in the studio was electric now, the audience sensing a huge upset. Could Paschal possibly be beaten? That would be unbelievable. But, alas, the upset was not to come with the next vote.
"Paschal," it read. That was Elisabeth's vote, and Helen patted the smiling judge on the knee.
Jeff opened the fifth vote. It was Tom's.
"Judge." it read. Paschal laughed, he was never sure if Tom actually knew his full name. "Judge" was all he ever called him.
Jeff opened the sixth vote. He paused for an extra second, looking at it. Helen felt her heart leap into her throat. Jeff finally turned it around.
"Pappy," it read. Paschal's knee started bouncing now, in excitement. Now -he- was only one vote from victory. Did they have to draw it out so slowly???
"Final vote," smiled Jeff. Helen and Paschal were clutching hands tightly now, both wishing the other one luck, but -really- wishing to see their own name on that piece of paper. It was too cruel to come this close and lose, it really was.
Jeff opened the ballot. He looked at it. He smiled.
"And the winner of All-Star Survivor: Alaska..."
He turned the ballot around.
Click here for the winner of All-Star Survivor: Alaska