All-Star Survivor: Alaska
Tuktu Tribe (black): Gina Crews, Elisabeth Filarski, Helen Glover, Kelly Goldsmith, Tammy Leitner, Jerri Manthey, Kelly Wiglesworth
Amarok Tribe (blue): Rudy Boesch, Tom Buchanan, Greg Buis, Paschal English, Silas Gaither, Brian Heidik, Clay Jordan, Jeff Varner
That was the mood at Camp Tuktu this morning. Silence, and a very strong sense of emptiness. Gina Crews sat on a log, eating what seemed already to be just one in an endless number of oatmeal breakfasts. She ate, and listened. Nothing. No one was saying a word. Elisabeth sat across from her, with Jerri and Helen off to one side. It was quiet, the only sound in the air the birds chirping, and an eagle screeching somewhere off in the distance. No one was saying a word, there was no laughter this morning.
The playful and fun nature of Tuktu had been shattered last night, in a very unexpected vote that had potentially deep ramifications. The "ganging up" on Neleh had caught Gina off guard, as she had naively thought that the strategy hadn't really begun yet. Tuktu had been like a family, like a group of eight best friends. The eight of them had been so close, so tight, and all talked so fondly of one another, that none of them had seen it coming. Well, okay, -four- of them had seen it coming, but that was another matter altogether. There was no way four girls would have voted for Neleh based on merit, there was no way it was a coincidence. Some bad things were afoot already, and they would all be fools to think otherwise. The four troublemakers would have to be found, eventually. But now wasn't the time.
Gina stood up, reflecting on the bright "Tuktu Girls" banner that still flew across their shelter. Neleh had worked so hard on that. She had been such a sweet girl. It just wasn't fair that she had been disposed of in such a callous manner.
"But what can you do", asked Gina in a confessional, "I mean, we're all here to win, obviously. You can't have but one Survivor." She stared off into the distance, looking at nothing, still a little dazed by recent events. "But it's human nature, you know? Some of the losses are just a little harder to take than the rest."
Amarok was well-rested after a night of celebration over their immunity win. Brian had broken out the guitar, and they had a great time joking and laughing around. As usual, Jeff Varner was the centerpiece of the discussion, going on and on in his usual cutthroat style. Because even though he was the furthest thing from a chauvinist among the Amaroks here, Jeff could talk a murderously good game when he wanted to.
"Those chicks are toast, man. There ain't a chance in hell they can beat us in a physical challenge. Or hell, a mental challenge, unless it's who can start crying the fastest." Silas found this line particularly entertaining. Jeff continued, "So what we'll be looking at is an all-male merge tribe, which is pretty much what we have anyway. It's just -stupid-, man, what was Burnett thinking?" He grinned, showing his particular zeal for bloodlust. "We're gonna rip 'em apart and spit 'em out. And there aint nothin' they can do to stop it. I don't care if they -are- girls, they're still gonna go down."
This morning, most of the men slept in, with the Survivor equivalent of a hangover. Rudy was up at the crack of dawn, as usual, and he took care of the breakfast. He seemed to actually like to prepare food for other people, which would have surprised the heck out of most who knew him back home. It would have shocked his wife to see such a preference for food preparation, but of course Rudy had a different opinion, as always.
"I do the cookin'," he said, "So none of the rest of 'em can screw it up."
As Rudy was cooking, Tom and Clay had gone off on a water run. Luckily the nearest mountain stream wasn't far off, but it was still a pain to have to collect the water, transport it, and boil it just so they could have something to drink.
"Well, you boil the water for a numma of reasons," drawled Tom, "And the main being for what they call 'Beaver Fever.' Y'see, ya got all these caribou and elk and bars, up thar in them hills. And what they like to do, is use these here streams as the toilet. So when the water gets down to us, you best be boilin' it." He dropped the water bucket, so he could demonstrate what would happen. "If you jus' drink the water straight, you get this funny feelin' in your tummy. Just like a li'l gurgle." He demonstrated this, by squirming slightly and grimacing, a pained look on his face. "Then you feel yer insides just kind of squish up, like they's gettin' smaller. And then," he let out a soft moan, "It all comes out, pretty much in th' same form it went in." He smiled. "Another name for it is the 'Hershey Squirts.' If you don't boil this water, you best be squirting in ya undies all night, and we don't want no squirters when we're all huddled tagetha."
Clay and Tom had hit it off almost immediately upon arriving in Alaska. The two Southerners were known for being brash, impulsive, funny, and would say almost anything that came to mind. To follow them around was a hoot, and most of the cameramen would volunteer for Tom duty each day. In fact, it was turning into the biggest sport amongst the crew, to see who could catch the most outrageous moment from the pair on film. Today, the duo was in rare form.
"I like to call him Stubby," explained Tom, "Because the li'l guy is four damn feet tall. He's like one of them li'l lawn gnomes, like a li'l hobbit, although he's one of the craziest sumbitches you ever saw."
"What are you talkin' about, Fatty," called Clay, from a patch of blueberries nearby, where he was gathering some food. "Y'all better not be slanderin' me. Just get us some damn water so we can boil it and won't be crappin' in our pants all night!"
The two of them had a great time playing it up to the cameras, but deep down both were playing a very intricate game. Both Tom and Clay realized the value of their redneck personas. They were both very sharp men, with experience in getting others to underestimate them. Hell, they had both almost won a million dollars because of it. But they also had something else in common. They could see -exactly- what the other was up to at all times, and the reason for that was simple. They were both playing the same strategy!
Tom and Clay liked each other, entertained each other, and had a great deal of respect for one another. Plus, of course, they saw right through each other. Clay didn't trust Tom for a second, and the feeling was mutual. Yet in spite of the lack of trust, or maybe because of it, they made a fun pair.
As the morning turned to afternoon, the Tuktu camp was alive with discussion. The silence had been broken. The females had recovered from last night's vote, and were now ready to talk about it. And figure out what happened. And plan for the next one.
Helen defended her vote, claiming that "I like Neleh, she was one of my favorites. But likeability isn't even an issue, not this early in the game. And when it comes down to her or myself, am I gonna look after my own survival? Uh... YEAH." She continued, her face as animated and expressive as ever, "There was an underlying factor to my choice as well, and that was, simply, making enemies. Would I rather have Elisabeth angry at me, or Tammy?" She rolled her eyes, sarcastically. "I think you can figure that one out. So it was all just self-preservation. Neleh was sweet but that's just the way it had to go. Do I regret voting for her?" She gave the camera one of her patented stares. "Not. A. Chance."
Tammy Leitner was always ready for a confessional, and was admittedly unapologetic about last night's events.
"Neleh was our weakest member," she began. "Plain and simple. She was weak, she was soft, and she was going to get in the way. I don't care what people say about her being our center, we have a -strong- team here and I'm -not- gonna let us lose. I want to beat those guys and beat them badly, and we need strength, not pom pom girls." The cameraman took a moment to ask if she enjoyed paying Neleh back for what happened in the Marquesas and Tammy let loose a small smile. "Well, I can't say it wasn't a factor." She grinned, a little wider. Yes, if nothing else was true, there was one thing you could say about Tammy. She never forgot a grudge.
On the opposite side of the coin, Elisabeth was understandably a little perturbed by the shift in the mood of camp.
"I was very surprised by the vote last night." She watched, as a small eagle soared overhead. "We all thought it was a done deal that Jerri would go. No one mentioned Neleh's name at any time, and it worries me that I was left out of the loop." As the most visible ally of Neleh, Elisabeth had good reason for concern. "I'm a little worried about Jerri, here I had been telling everyone how bad she was and now it turns out she probably has some allies." She furrowed her brow in concern. "I'll probably have to find some way to protect myself, because if they vote out Neleh, I'm sure I'm not far behind. I just hope it's not too late. I don't want to go home yet."
Greg Buis had retrieved the tree mail on one of his forays into the forest. At first, people wondered what he was up to, but when Greg had begun to return with handfuls of mushrooms, berries, and even a trout one time, they had begun to respect his nomadic instincts. He was strange, although funny, a bit of a loner, and a little awkward around the rest of them, but he did a great job finding stuff to sustain them out here. The guy knew what he was doing in the forest.
As Greg revealed the wooden carving of the whale to the rest of the tribe, he read off the inscription carved into its wood:
"The biggest creatures in the sea, make up an Inuit feast
Come and sit at the table, if you dare, and try to tame the great beast
You've all played Survivor, all eaten the treats. This is just more of the same
But for a very special prize, you'll want to win this. To win at the numbers game."
"Great beast, it's probably whale," said Rudy, "It's what they eat out here. Out on the coast, anyway."
"Eatin' whale," grinned Silas, "Bring it on."
"So is this for immunity," asked Clay, "For reward? What?"
"Sounds like a reward," said Rudy, pointing out the words 'special prize.' "Just gotta get it down. Won't be so bad, it's just like eatin' fish."
"Well, a fish the size of a Ferrari, anyway," Greg pointed out, helpfully.
As the two tribes walked to the challenge, both were involved with discussion. The males were discussing mainly who the females had voted out, with the prevailing opinion being that it was probably Jerri or Kelly Goldsmith.
"She's too small," said Tom, "I don't think li'l Kelly would last very long in this type'a forest."
Most of the men were confident that they would prevail again, with Jeff being the lead proponent of that belief. He led the way, a white "Amarok" headband tied around his forehead. They all wore the headbands, it was an inside joke. Having seen the Tuktu women with their matching ribbons in their hair, Greg had taken it upon himself to make sure the men weren't left out. He had ripped up one of his t-shirts into eight strips and fashioned headbands out of them. He even used blackberries to dye a large 'A' for Amarok on the front of each of them. The men were wearing them as a sign of unity, as well as a subtle way of sticking it to the girls. Greg was not about to let the women one-up them.
The females, on the other hand, were discussing strategy. Kelly Goldsmith had pulled Tammy aside on the walk, and the two of them talked in hushed tones. Elisabeth had talked with Helen, trying to feel out a possible alliance, or just to see what the heck had happened last night. Gina and Tammy talked about voting strategy. Jerri walked pretty much to herself, keeping an eye on who was talking with whom. Yes, this was a very different tribe than just twenty-four hours prior. Paranoia had come to the Tuktu Girls.
The two tribes arrived at a clearing, where Jeff Probst stood, flanked by two cloth-covered tables, the usual sly grin on his face. Most of Amarok greeted Jeff, but Paschal scanned his eyes across the other team instead, and was the first to notice the absence of a certain long-haired blonde girl.
"Pixie," he said, stunned, "They got rid'a Pixie." His heart sank for his friend, he instinctively knew how bad that had hurt Neleh last night. He shook his head, sadly.
"Interesting," noted Jeff Varner. "Very interesting."
"Hey guys," greeted their jovial host, "And welcome to your first reward challenge. I hope you guys are holding up, because today we have a pair or treats in store for you. The number one treat is the challenge, and the number two treat is the reward." He smiled. "Today you'll all get to partake in a little bit of Inuit culture. For many of the early residents, living off the land was the only way to survive, as food was very scarce. That way of life continues for many, even today. And one of the foods that was plentiful to Alaska's early inhabitants was the whale. Villages would catch a whale, and consume it all, from tip to tail. Not a piece was wasted, and often one whale could sustain an entire village for months, cooked, frozen or otherwise. In fact, the term Eskimo literally means 'To eat it raw.'"
As he had done so many times before, Greg Buis interrupted Jeff's speech. "Excuse me? What does Eskimo mean again?"
Jeff did not catch on right away that Greg was mocking him, "Eskimo means 'to eat it raw'."
"Eat me raw?" asked Greg, innocently. He smiled, silently daring Jeff to break character.
Jeff stopped in mid-reply, taking a moment to glare at the player he always hated. His patience was always being tested around Greg.
"Buis, knock it off."
Jeff wasn't amused, but wasn't surprised. Greg loved to throw him off balance. Elisabeth and a few of the females silently snickered, enjoying watching the host squirm. Greg, of course, noticed their amusement. That was the goal.
Probst continued, "Traditional Inuit people do in fact eat many of their foods raw, including this -- muktuk." He pulled a platter from beneath a table, on it were several large globs of what looked like pinkish gelatin. "Muktuk is completely raw whale skin and blubber. Early Alaskan natives valued it for its fatty oils and proteins, which would help keep them warm during the winters." Several people made disgusted faces, including Kelly Goldsmith and Tom.
"Looks like a jellyfish turd," joked Tom, scrunching up his face.
"For your challenge today," Jeff continued, "Each of you will eat a nice juicy slice of muktuk. You must swallow all of it, down the hatch. We'll go down the row, one by one. The tribe with the most members who are able to complete the challenge wins reward." He paused. "Do you wanna know what you're playing for?"
Several people nodded, but Jeff just teased them.
"It is a very good, very valuable reward. But one that you will find out -after- the challenge. Amarok, you've got one extra member. You'll have to sit someone out." He smiled. "And here in Alaska, we have a new rule. The opposing tribe will decide who you sit out. Tuktu, who do you choose to sit out for the guys?"
Tuktu conferred, with Kelly Goldsmith pointing to several people and whispering to Tammy. Helen suggested Rudy, but the girls came up with a different name instead. Greg Buis was chosen to sit this one out.
Jeff spoke again, "Ok, Greg you're out. Now, I think we're ready to go. One person from each tribe, please step up to the table."
Tom began for Amarok and Tammy for Tuktu. They each raised their pinkish-white piece of blubber and toasted one another. Down the hatch they went, no problem. Tom made a face, but it really hadn't been so bad.
"Tastes like coconut," Tammy reassured her team. "Not so bad."
Kelly Wiglesworth and Silas were next, and both downed their piece. Kelly had to close her eyes a bit as the fat slid down her throat, but she wasn't about to lose this one for her team. Silas chewed and chewed and finished without incident.
Helen and Varner finished their piece, and then an important matchup stepped to the table. Rudy for the guys, Kelly Goldsmith for the girls. No one expected Rudy to have a problem, but Kelly looked awfully tiny all of a sudden. People were well aware of her loss with the cow's blood back in Africa, and the men moved a little closer, like wolves. Jeff Varner stood near her with a sadistic gleam in his eye.
"It's like gristle," he teased her, "Like a big wad of hair and gristle. You sure you want to do this?"
"I think I tasted some snot in there too," said Silas, smacking his lips in distaste.
"Hey, back off guys," warned the host. "Let her eat."
Kelly shot them what was supposed to be an angry glance but instead looked worried. Her blonde hair tied back, she picked up her piece in dainty fingers and she started to chew on it.
"Raw fish," teased Silas, "Raw smelly fish."
She closed her eyes and chewed and chewed. She began to gag once but was finally able to block it out and finish the muktuk. It slid down her throat and she thrust her fists in the air, cheering. Helen walked over and clapped her on the back, as did Elisabeth. Kelly walked back to her team and Tammy gave her a hard high-five, glaring at the guys.
Paschal and Jerri were next, and as with Kelly, the men were merciless in their taunting of Jerri. Varner was almost in her face, bring up every visceral image he could think of. Jerri appeared to swallow her piece whole, but the gag reflex kicked in without notice and up it all came, muktuk and all, as she leaned over and vomited onto the ground. The taunting only got worse, as Jeff started making gagging and retching noises at her, as Paschal finished without problem. The men cheered and high-fived the judge, as they were now up by one.
"Hey, you haven't won yet," promised the host.
A teary-eyed Jerri moved to the back of the Tuktu line, and watched as Clay and Gina both finished, Clay commenting that it was like a "big ol' jumbo shrimp." And then the final two stepped to the table. Elisabeth against Brian.
"Okay," said the host, "If Brian finishes his piece, Amarok wins the reward. If Brian does -not- finish, and Elisabeth does, we have a tie. Survivors ready..." He raised his hand. "Go."
Brian picked up his piece and started chewing, slowly, deliberately. He was in no hurry. Tuktu yelled at Brian, Kelly Goldsmith in particular trying to get him to gag, but it wasn't going to work. He was too calm under pressure. He finished his piece with ease, opening his mouth wide for the host to see, as Elisabeth was still struggling to get her piece down. It didn't help that Varner was practically in her ear, making retching noises.
"Amarok! Wins reward!" announced the host. Elisabeth kept chewing, wanting to get it down for personal pride, and Varner continued in his merciless assault on her, coming within a few feet. Probst took a moment to pull him away from her, trying to keep some semblance of sportsmanship. "Varner, it's over, lay off." Tammy and Jerri glared at Varner as he went back to join his celebrating team, a big smile on his face.
"Amarok," said the host, "You win reward, nice job." The men gathered in a circle, high-fiving, while Tom gave Brian a big bear hug. But the celebration didn't last long, they were all eager to see what they had won.
"Now for your reward," Probst was grinning. "We'll be doing something a little different this time around. Every three days, we will have the same reward, and it is what I like to call 'Red Rover.' I'm sure you played the game when you were kids. Two teams, across from one another. One team gets to call a player from the other side to come over and join them, usually the strongest."
Brian smiled, he knew where Jeff was going with this.
"For every reward challenge up until the merge," Jeff continued, "The winning tribe will get to 'steal' a member of the losing tribe. That person will then become a permanent member of the new tribe. When I say permanent, I mean that person can not be taken back at any time by their original tribe." He paused.
"Amarok, it's time to play Red Rover. Choose your new member from Tuktu."
The men quickly conferred, as the members of Tuktu looked around, some in a panic. This was going to change some strategies -dramatically-.
Paschal was lobbying to take Elisabeth. Brian suggested Jerri, saying that without her, they would have no one easy to vote off next time. Silas suggested Kelly Wiglesworth, as she was their best athlete. But Jeff Varner was adamant in his choice. He lobbied hard for Tammy.
"Look at her eyes, guys, she's their leader. She runs the show, you take her off that team and it's like dropping a nuclear bomb on that camp. We -gotta- take her." He then repeated his oft-heard mantra. "Rip their friggin' hearts out."
"Yeah," nodded Clay, agreeing, "I vote Tammy."
With Varner's insistence, the men decided upon Tammy Leitner. When Probst asked for their choice, Jeff smiled and pointed directly at the Tuktu leader. She pulled off her black Tuktu buff, turned to her now-former teammates, and gave them a shrug. "Good luck," she said quietly, as Gina gave her a sad little wave. Behind her dark glasses, it was impossible to see what Tammy was feeling, but inwardly she was ecstatic. She had wanted to be on the other team since day one. Amarok was the better tribe. -She was going to the stronger team.-
Jeff Probst pulled out a blue Tuktu buff and handed it to the newest member of Amarok. She wrapped it around her neck and turned to give her old teammates a hug. She put on a show of saying goodbye but couldn't have cared less about her old team. They were now the enemy. She didn't even give Kelly Goldsmith a second glance.
Jeff congratulated Amarok and sent both teams off, "Tuktu, you'll head back to camp down one more. Tammy you'll journey to the Amarok camp with your new tribe. See you guys in a couple of days. Good luck with your new teams."
Kelly Wiglesworth was the first member of Tuktu to wake on the morning of day five. She arose and came out to start the stove. The camp itself seemed a lot smaller this morning. With Neleh they had lost their smile, now with Tammy they had lost their fire. The trek back to camp had been particularly painful after the reward challenge, as they now seemed like a boat without a rudder. The team had already begun to lean on Helen for leadership, but it was pretty clear that she wasn't interested. She seemed a bit uncomfortable in that role, although she wouldn't come right out and say it.
Two straight losses had already started to take a toll on Kelly. A fierce competitor, the girl known as "Wigs" hated losing. But the once brash and tempestuous girl was a bit older and a bit wiser than when she last played this game. She no longer spoke her mind as freely, and her inner thoughts were very carefully guarded against the outside world. She put on a happy face when asked, but Elisabeth's early assessment had been correct. Kelly had been deeply affected by her last experience here. It changed the whole way she looked at life, and friends, and relationships. She no longer opened herself up to people as easily. But the nature of the game dictated that she would probably have to, and soon. They were running out of players. It was only a matter of time before she had to get some protection for herself. Maybe even, and this was the dreaded word, join an -alliance- again.
First and foremost on most of Tuktu's minds was -what now?- The reward twist had been something they hadn't prepared for, hadn't expected. It was going to mess with any alliance building they could come up with. Helen was the first to give her thoughts about the whole matter.
"I'll admit this little, uh, 'Red Rover' situation was damaging to us." She was whittling a walking stick as she spoke. "I mean, you don't lose a competitor like Tammy and hope to keep the same intensity. But what can you do, I mean, really? Just gotta suck it up and win the next few challenges. Get some of their players over here."
Gina was a bit less talky, just commenting that "This stinks."
Elisabeth really was the only one who hadn't been that broken up over losing Tammy. She was off on her own, walking through the forest, as she gave her thoughts on the matter.
"Losing Tammy? Not that bad a thing in the long run," she measured her words carefully, carefully trying not to be catty. Elisabeth Filarski had an image to maintain, after all. "Tammy was, well let's just say...," Elisabeth's voice got progressively softer and softer, until it was just above a whisper. "Tammy is sometimes kind of a," she whispered the rest, spelling it out, "Kind of a b-i-t-c-h." She grinned slightly, as that was possibly the nastiest thing she had ever said about someone. But she didn't regret it, not at all. No, losing Tammy had made her life much easier all of a sudden.
Kelly Goldsmith's plan to build a solid voting block had all been destroyed. She thought she had it all figured out. Tammy. Helen. Jerri. The four strongest competitors, with her as the mastermind. They had it made. Once Neleh was gone, they couldn't be stopped. They had the majority.
"Ya know," she began, "This whole switching up thing really sucks. It just -sucks.- Now we're right back where we were before, except we're weaker and everyone is pissed off. I mean, you wouldn't even recognize this team as the same one from two days ago." She swatted at a bug on her leg. "And I'm not even gonna -start- on the mosquitoes out here. They don't tell you that sort of thing in orientation, yeah the ground melts and you have mud and then every bug alive... -known to man-... decides to come up here for the summer. Yeah, thanks, Alaska, real nice. Love ya."
But the one feeling the worst this morning was Jerri Manthey. Jerri had been in a lot of perilous situations before, but this one topped them all.
"Let's see, I have three people trying to vote me out at the first Council, then I single-handedly lose the challenge for us, and then my alliance partner goes to the other team." She was disgusted with herself. "And it's not even like I was queasy or squeamish about eating that whale blubber stuff, it just hit my throat wrong. I've never had a problem eating anything before." But the thing that had really burned her up was the pity and sympathy others had been showing her since then. Elisabeth, in particular, had gone out of her way to console Jerri, and it had just really rubbed her the wrong way.
"It's not like I'm five years old. I mean, I'm a big girl and I screwed up, I can deal with it. I really don't need everyone to walk on eggshells around me. We're a -team-, and we have to come together right now. We just have to kick their asses at the immunity challenge, and it's what we're going to do." She let loose one of her trademark grins. "Chicks rule, baby."
The Amarok shelter was crowded, to say the least.
Tammy had been queen for a day last night. The men, led by Jeff and Big Tom, had lifted Tammy up onto their shoulders and carried her into their campsite in a show of mock appreciation.
"You majesty," Jeff regally bowed, "We are your humble servants. If there is anything we can..."
Jeff's cockiness was cut off by Tammy, "Shove it, Varner," she joked.
A chorus of 'ooooooooohs' was let out by the men. Tammy grinned at him. He grinned right back. It was destined to be a close pairing from the first minute in camp.
After it was determined she could pretty much take care of herself, Brian, Clay and Jeff took the time to show her around her new home.
"I'm surprised at how well kept it is," she admitted. "We would joke over in Tuktu about how you guys would have clothes and food strewn all over, but it's not that bad."
"Hell, all we'd talk about was how y'all'd be havin' pillow fights in ya undies," Clay cracked. Tammy just looked over and snickered. Clay Jordan was a piece of work, all right. But her favorite part of the Amarok camp was the latrine, with the toilet seat permanently up. -Greg,- she thought, -Gotta be Greg.-
Now, the morning after, the shelter seemed especially crowded. It fit eight, very uncomfortably, but nine was out of the question. Rudy had slept outside, by the stove, and Greg had slept God knows where. Clay and Tom had jostled to see who got to sleep next to Tammy, and it made for an uncomfortable night for all. Even the typically pleasant Paschal was a bit grumpy this morning, due to a lack of sleep.
"Camping is just not my favorite thing, that's for sure." He rubbed his eyes, sleepily. He was not the only one who was having problems sleeping through daylight. It was messing with all of their heads.
Tammy had attracted a lot of attention for her gender, but it was about to kick up a notch. She seemed to be very popular, from a strategic point of view. Everyone seemed to want to talk to her. The scheming had finally started at Amarok, and Tammy Leitner was in the center of most of it.
Brian Heidik had been the first to bring up strategy with her. He recognized a strong ally when he saw one, and gave her his best sales pitch while the two had a moment alone by the stove. He oozed every bit of sincerity that he could, bringing up his past success in this game, and had her sufficiently charmed, in his opinion. He badly wanted Tammy on board, because he knew that she could be a very dangerous enemy. Of course, in Brian's alliance, there was only one real member, and that was Brian. But he needed a few others around him for a while, people of like mind, people who wanted to win.
Jeff Varner came at Tammy next, and was soon followed by Tom Buchanan, Clay Jordan and Silas Gaither. They -all- had it figured out, they said. They were -all- in this for the long haul, and would -all- take her to the final two. It got kind of old after a while, especially hearing Silas give the exact same spiel that Brian had given just two hours before.
"You and me," he promised, looking her directly in the eyes, "All the way. We're young, we're strong, we can beat all of them if we just stick together." She promised to think about it and just slowly shook her head as he left.
"I thought I'd have to scheme a little to fit in with the guys," she said. "But they all come to me, I don't have to do jack." But all five of the schemers hoped to get Tammy on their side. They all were very wary of one another, Brian, Jeff, Clay, Tom and Silas. All of them, hoping for a leg up on the rest.
The game had finally begun at Amarok. Amarok, translated literally, meant "wolf," and the wolves were all beginning to awaken from their slumber.
As nighttime came, the girls camp was now much more jovial than it had been that morning. They all had started to bond again out of necessity, all having to work together to overcome this huge hole that had been dug for them. The new leader of the group seemed to be Gina Crews, as her natural charm and intelligence had finally been allowed to emerge. Out from the shadow of Tammy, Gina took charge as the natural leader of the Tuktu girls.
Tuktu sat in a circle, as the weird Alaska day-night descended upon them. An owl hooted from a nearby tree as they talked amongst themselves, trying to get to know each other better. Helen shared some of her favorite recipes, and they all oohed and aahed over the sounds of chocolate. Jerri and Elisabeth were practically drooling.
The only ones who really didn't contribute this evening were the Kellys. Kelly Wiglesworth was still resisting the idea of opening up to anyone, although she would sit and laugh with the rest. And Kelly Goldsmith sat, just watching them. Staring from face to face. Gina. Then Helen. Then Elisabeth. Then Jerri. Sitting and planning her next move. The Tammy Strategy had backfired on her, and she was now as vulnerable as ever. But there would be more moves to make.
There would always be more moves to make.
"It's like going to a brothel," explained Greg, talking about the new 'Red Rover' reward, "And you get to pick and choose your date for the evening. You look them over, size them up, and choose if you want the blonde, the brunette, or the redhead. You fork over your cash, receive your services, and it's as simple as that."
The rest of Amarok cracked up over this particular observation, Tammy getting the biggest kick out of it. Greg was always good at looking at something from a unique perspective.
"Well I just feel bad for the rest of y'all," joked Clay, "Cause if the ladies get to pick one of us, aint none of you as sexy as this Southern boy." He struck a mock pose.
"Yeah, shore," said Tom, "If they lookin' for someone to use as a step stool."
Spirits were good in Amarok this morning. Brian and Silas had retrieved today's tree mail and they were all preparing for the immunity challenge. The only one who was a bit of a grump was Rudy, and that was pretty much par for the course. Rudy let you know if he didn't like something.
"It's a pain in the ass," he said in a confessional, "One girl shows up and everybody's gotta be the funny one. Shows you where their heads are."
Rudy was a big talker, but deep down he was feeling a bit lost. His big strategy on Pulau Tiga had been to let the alliances come to him. He fully expected to repeat that strategy this time around, but there was one catch.
-No one had come to him yet.-
Here it was, day six, and no one had thought enough of the man to include him in their plans. Rudy, of course, was not going to go around looking for alliances, he was too proud for that, too content with himself. That just wasn't his style. But it had started to worry him. Number one, that he didn't have any allies right now, and number two, that there was probably scheming going on that he wasn't aware of. He wasn't the type to panic, but Rudy was definitely aware that wheels were probably in motion. He would just have to keep his eyes open and his ears open. Something would surely come to him in time.
"How ya doin', m'man." It was Silas, walking up and clapping him on the back in his normal condescending manner. Silas had no use for someone like Rudy on his team, and really didn't try very hard to hide it. But the feeling was entirely mutual, as Rudy couldn't stand the big-mouthed kid with the even bigger ego. The two teammates stood next to each other, awkwardly, as Silas started to rummage through his pack. The thought crossed Rudy's mind that he should at least ask Silas who he thought was going at the first Amarok vote, but Rudy couldn't bear to make small talk with someone he didn't like. It just wasn't in his nature, and he sure as hell wasn't going to change now.
"I saw a bear," he remarked, his best attempt at conversation, "Off in them hills. Looked like a grizzly. We gotta make sure our food is in the bear containers, or one of them is likely to come into camp." Rudy had noticed some of the berries left out last night, it was a legitimate concern around here.
Silas nodded, completely dismissing the old man. He was just here to grab his raincoat anyway. Like most of the rest of the team, Silas didn't really pay attention to Rudy. Rudy Boesch wasn't a part of the big picture. Brian, Jeff, Tom, Clay, Tammy, those were the ones on Silas' mind right now. Rudy just prepared the food.
"The massive web has quickly been spun
Your tribe will pass through it one by one
If the others get there quicker than you
You'll be heading home from Denali too soon."
Gina finished reading the tree mail, which was attached to a black rubber spider doll.
"Sounds like we're climbing on something," said Elisabeth.
"Look," said Kelly Goldsmith, "We're all smaller than them, if it's dexterity it isn't even going to be close."
"You think Tom will be able to get his big butt across a rope?" joked Jerri. "Or Rudy?"
"Okay, this is our time, but we need this one, ladies." Gina was gathering them around. "We lose this one and all may be lost for the Tuktu Girls. We need to stick this one to them."
"Simple as that," added Helen, putting her hand in the circle first. "Gotta win."
One by one, they added their hands to the circle. Kelly Wiglesworth, the moody athlete. Elisabeth Filarski, the eternal optimist. Jerri Manthey, the underdog. Kelly Goldsmith, the mastermind. And Gina Crews, the leader. Elisabeth took the initiative to this time lead them in their standard cheer.
"1... 2... 3... GO TUKTU!"
They were ready.
It had started to rain slightly as the two teams arrived at the challenge. Tuktu and Amarok stared at a pair of large rope-constructed webs, each constructed at ground level between a pair of black spruce trees. Tammy nodded at the members of her old team, her eyes covered, as always, by her black wraparound shades. Jeff Probst was there, waiting to explain the rules.
"Welcome to your second immunity challenge. First off, Amarok, I'm gonna need that immunity idol back." He retrieved the idol from Tom, who handed it back reluctantly. "You guys are in for a treat today. This challenge is known as 'Crossing the Web,' and will test you both mentally and physically. There are seven large openings in each web, spaces between the ropes. Two high ones, three middle ones, and two low ones. You will have to pass all six of your members from one side of the web to another, passing through the spaces."
The tribes looked at the webs. -Shouldn't be so tough-, thought Helen. -What's the catch?-
As if reading her mind, Jeff continued.
"The catch is that no one can touch the actual ropes at any time. And you can't use any of the openings more than once. If you re-use any space, or anyone touches a rope, your entire team must start over. First one to get all six members from one side to the other, wins immunity."
As per the new rules, Tuktu got to select which three members of Amarok would sit out, and they chose three of the young ones. Gina pointed to Brian, then Silas, then Jeff. Jerri grinned. -The chicks against the old guys.-
The six Survivors from each team lined up on one side of their web. It stretched from about two feet off the ground, up to about six feet. Tom lined up to go first for Amarok, as Kelly Wiglesworth lined up for Tuktu. Both teams were tensed, ready to start.
"This is for immunity," Jeff said. "Survivors ready," He raised his arm, "Go!"
Tom stepped up and through one of the lower openings, his back just brushing against the ropes as he pulled through.
"Tom, you touched the ropes, gotta go back, buddy."
On his second try, he managed to get through the space, just as Tuktu was working on their second member. Kelly W. had made it easily through, and now Helen was also passing through a lower space.
"Goooo Tuktu," cheered Elisabeth, "Go girls! Woooooo!"
The women were lifting Gina in the air, trying to pass her through one of the higher spaces, and this allowed the men to catch up, as Clay squirted through one of the low holes. Both teams had used up both of their lower spaces.
The women were slowly passing Gina from one side to the other, handing her off to the waiting hands of Kelly W. and Helen. She made it through flawlessly, and the men succeeding in doing the same with Greg.
"Let's go, Amarok," yelled Silas, "Yeah, baby!"
There were just three remaining now on either side. Jerri, Elisabeth and Kelly G. had to pass through for Tuktu, and Paschal, Rudy and Tammy for Amarok.
Jerri and Kelly G. hoisted up Elisabeth and managed to pass her through to Helen on the other side, just as Amarok was trying to pass Tammy through.
"Tammy, you touched the ropes. Amarok, you have to start over!"
Tammy looked over, and her left foot had hooked the rope. She cursed under her breath and Tuktu let out a cheer as Amarok scrambled to get back to the starting side.
"Tuktu!!" yelled Elisabeth.
Jerri managed to pass lightweight Kelly G. across to the other side just as Amarok got their first two members through the lower holes. Now, it all came down to Jerri.
"Tuktu, you have just one member left," announced Probst. "If Jerri gets through, you win immunity."
Jeff Varner and Silas began to taunt from the sidelines, yelling at the women to screw up. But Jerri took her time, leaning her torso through one of the middle holes. Gina and Helen grabbed her and lifted her off her feet. Jerri tried to remain perfectly straight as Kelly W. and Elisabeth helped carry her across. Her body passed through the space with ease, every one of her dance classes as a child helping to paying off.
Tuktu had won.
"Tuktu," announced the host, "wins immunity!"
Tuktu celebrated so jubilantly that they dropped Jerri in their excitement, as she landed flat on her back. But it was forgotten as they jumped and cheered together. Elisabeth hugged Kelly G., and Kelly W. repeatedly raised her fist into the air. This was a new mood amongst the Tuktu Girls. This was the first time they had won together.
Jeff approached the dejected Amarok tribe, placing his hand on Clay's shoulder. They all looked stunned, particularly Silas and Jeff. "You have a date with me tonight at Tribal Council, guys. Bring some rain gear, it's probably gonna be a wet one."
Jeff Varner had a plan.
There were only a few hours left before they had to leave for Tribal Council, and Amarok was in a mad scramble to get itself in order for the vote. It wasn't as simple as just letting nature take its course, and let the vote go how it would go. There were just too many people here with too much at stake, with too many self-interests to look after. This was simply -not- going to be left to chance.
Jeff had been hammering at Tammy repeatedly since she got here, trying to get her onto his side. He recognized a fellow cutthroat when he saw one, and he would settle for nothing less in his proposed partnership. And most importantly, he didn't want Brian to get her. Tammy seemed to be receptive, and agreed to a tentative alliance for now, which was good. What was bad was that Jeff had also seen Brian hanging around her, and that simply could not be.
Jeff and Brian had been warily circling each other for a few days now. They both knew of the reputations of one another, and both considered the other to be their greatest threat. Brian was an obvious threat, everyone had just seen him win a million dollars, and knew how he played the game. But Jeff was no less a schemer, and to this day held onto the belief that, if not for Mike's accident in the fire, Jeff Varner would have been the original Brian Heidik. So it was safe to say the two men were well aware of one another. In fact, Brian had mulled over the possibility of pulling Jeff onto his side, perhaps with Paschal and Clay and Tom. But Jeff frightened him, made him extremely nervous. And besides, a possible Brian-Jeff pairing was too far in the future. Right now everyone was just scrambling for allies. Long term alliances would have to wait.
Tom Buchanan had been speaking of tonight's vote with Paschal, and Paschal was legitimately concerned about being the first one out.
"Hey, I'm one of the old guys," he said, "These guys probably wouldn't think twice about getting rid of me. I don't care what your position is, in any tribe, if you're not young you are always in danger."
Tom agreed to try to protect the judge tonight, although he didn't think it would matter. He hadn't heard Paschal's name come up yet.
"But it aint a bad thing to get in good with people," Tom grinned, "You never know when you could use a fav'r sometime."
Silas Gaither had talked to Greg, and found the mountain man a little strange, but agreeable to vote the same way tonight. They were thinking along the same lines anyway. It wasn't an alliance by any means, but no harm in finding people who may think like you. Besides, Silas enjoyed making contacts. You could never have enough contacts.
Greg, for his part, called Silas a "harmless little parasite" behind his back.
As they packed up for their long hike to Tribal Council, only one person had really been left out of the planning. Rudy Boesch had really yet to begin this game. He had discussed the first vote with Paschal, but it was more in a superficial manner. As in, do we get rid of weakness, or annoyance? Rudy fully intended to vote for Clay tonight. He said as much, but Paschal said he really hadn't thought about a name yet, and wouldn't until he had to write one down.
"I dunno who's going," admitted Rudy, "I been tryin' to get something together but no one is really talkin' yet. It's all pretty hush-hush, people off in bushes or on hikes together." He buttoned on his yellow raincoat and continued. "If I had to guess, I'd say probably the little guy, or the judge. Maybe even the girl." He paused. "Or me. Could very well be me."
Amarok arrived at Tribal Council in a light drizzle. The clouds were low in the sky, laying low over the green valley and blocking out the view of the spectacular mountains. They approached the wooden building and Paschal was the first to see the two totem poles. One on the left, one on the right. The face of Neleh had been carved into the bottom of the left one. He knelt and touched it, silently sending a prayer to his good friend.
He also said a small prayer for himself, in that he wouldn't soon be the picture above it.
As the nine-person tribe sat on their benches, Jeff explained where they were, what the purpose of the Spirit Lodge was, and the concept of their faces on the totem poles as a lineage of the game. He then asked them about the dynamic in camp. Clay admitted that it was a bit strange, having a bunch of smelly guys living together, but they all seemed to get along fairly well. Silas said it had been a blast so far, it was like living in a frat. He couldn't have been more happy.
Jeff changed tactics, and asked how people would vote tonight. Would it be based on strategy? On who they liked? On who was contributing? People gave varying answers, most very vague and non-committal. It was clear people were holding back, so Jeff asked if anyone felt vulnerable.
"I've only been here two days," admitted Tammy, "So of course I'm still a bit of an outsider. Being the only female, sure you're gonna have to struggle a little. But I feel I contribute here as much as anyone."
"I tell you what, Jeff," said Tom, defending her, "Tammy may be the only girl here, but I'm'a take her in a pissin' match against any of these men. She's tough." Tammy lowered her head and chuckled.
Paschal also admitted to feeling a bit vulnerable, saying that he was skinny and older than most.
"I can't say I'd blame 'em if they voted for me, but I think they'd be making a mistake." He crossed his arms, defensively. "This is a team, and I feel I am a part of it."
Rudy wasn't going to say a word. He would never admit vulnerability in front of these guys. He wasn't going to grovel, and silently scorned Paschal for doing so. Groveling was a sign of the weak. -If they vote me out, they vote me out. Screw 'em.-
"And with that," said Probst, "It's time to vote. Silas, you're up first."
Silas Gaither strode up to the podium, flashing his wide grin as he cast a vote for Rudy.
"No hard feelings, Rudy, but you're slowing us down, old man."
Greg Buis followed, casting a similar vote, although his tone was a bit more mocking.
"Arrrrrr, Rudy," he mimicked the Navy Seal's gruff voice, "This votes fer you, arrrrr." Greg grinned, mockingly. He never could stand the old man, from way back on Pulau Tiga, this hadn't been a hard choice at all.
One by one the Rudy votes followed, as most of Amarok didn't really want to stray from the Amarok power core. Not yet, anyway. So they followed the plan, like sheep. Some of the voting comments were nicer than others.
"Rudy, I think you're a great worker," said Tammy, "But you're over your head here."
"Rudy, Rudy, Rudy," smiled Varner, "You're fun to talk to, but this is just the way we're voting tonight. Take care, buddy."
"My vote is for Rudy," said Paschal, holding up his card, "I didn't want to do this, but you are really the only outsider here, and I can't see myself voting for anyone else."
"Rudy," sniped Clay, "You take the stick out yer ass and maybe we could've had some fun around camp." He had been one of the people spearheading the movement against Rudy tonight, and it showed.
The one dissenter in the group was Brian Heidik. He cast a lone vote for Jeff Varner, lowering his voice for his comments.
"Jeff, you probably aren't going tonight, but I just wanted to throw you off your game a little. Let's see how you handle this." Ever the careful one, Brian had changed his handwriting, hoping to disguise his identity. It was a gamble, but he didn't think it could hurt. Jeff was a little too secure in his position right now.
The nine members of Amarok returned to their seats, and the host went to tally the votes. It wasn't going to be close, and everyone knew it. Everyone, except maybe one ex-Navy Seal. No one said a word as Probst returned, holding the ballot box.
"I just want to remind you that the person voted out tonight must leave immediately. And with that," he opened the box, "I'll read the votes." He pulled out the first one.
Jeff Varner's jaw set and he stared straight ahead, not daring to show any surprise.
That was Rudy's vote, a meaningless vote against the one he couldn't stand the most. And then the cavalcade of Rudy votes started.
Rudy showed no emotion as each one was read, but by the fourth one, he was already reaching for his torch. He had heard enough.
"And the first person voted out of the Amarok tribe." Jeff pulled out the vote.
"Rudy. No need to read the rest of them, we'll leave those a mystery. Rudy, I need you to bring your torch up here."
Rudy already had his torch in hand, as he walked up to have it extinguished. Never feeling so old in his life, he wouldn't even look back at his tribe. The ones who had abandoned him. The ones who hadn't thought him worth even a simple strategy talk.
"Rudy," said Jeff, "The tribe has spoken." He lowered his torch snuffer, silencing Rudy's Alaskan experience forever. Greg let loose a small "Arrrr" as one final indignity, and Probst shot him an angry look.
Rudy turned and walked into the forest, without so much as a goodbye. He was too proud to grovel, and he sure as hell was too proud to wish them good luck. In fact he had only one thought in mind, as he walked off into the night:
Fuck them. Rudy was going to get a beer and watch some TV.
The eight members of Amarok stood up and packed up for their trip back to camp. Silas and Tammy led the way, with the rest filing in behind them. Tonight's had been an easy vote. The -safe- vote. Once Clay had mentioned Rudy's name, the rest just filtered in behind, not wanting to play their hands yet. Rudy had been martyred so they all could survive. But it was sure to get harder in the future. Sooner or later, things would have to splinter apart. There were too many egos here not to. It was just a matter of when, and in what manner.
But it was bound to be soon.
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