All-Star Survivor: Alaska
Tuktu Tribe (black): Greg Buis, Gina Crews, Paschal English, Elisabeth Filarski, Helen Glover, Jerri Manthey, Kelly Wiglesworth
Amarok Tribe (blue): Tom Buchanan, Silas Gaither, Brian Heidik, Clay Jordan, Tammy Leitner
Jerri Manthey was bored, so she went to go check out the eagles.
Every afternoon, around lunchtime, a family of eagles had flown over camp Tuktu, just checking the strange people out. It had become a daily ritual, so this morning Jerri offered to go see where they were coming from. She figured she had nothing else to do today, as the mood around her had become a deep freeze lately. No one really wanted to talk to her.
"The problem with this camp," she would gripe, "Is that everyone thinks they are so morally superior. Elisabeth and Gina are the two worst, they are two of the biggest hypocrites I have ever seen. Elisabeth with her cute little girl act, and Gina with her 'Let's all be nice' and girl power, and all that crap. I mean, they're so obvious." She sighed. "And bringing over Paschal has just made it so much worse, now all they talk about is 'family' this, and 'family' that. Yeah, we're just a big family, aren't we? As if Paschal has been with us since day one." She drummed her fingers on her bongo drum, growing increasingly frustrated. "I mean, it's all just -crap-, and I can't believe Helen and Kelly don't see through it."
So Jerri had asked for volunteers to go on her eagle hike, and was surprised when Kelly Wiglesworth offered to go with her. Kelly was big on getting to know everybody, and had recently been going out of her way to befriend Jerri, wanting to be able to say she had at least made an effort. She had also been a little dismayed at the way people treated Jerri around here, as if the rest of Tuktu was on a higher plane than the feisty actress.
"I mean, she's Tuktu," said Kelly, "We all are. Better get used to it."
So Jerri and Kelly went for their hike, traversing up the slope of one of the many hills in the area. It was a long walk, but they got quite a thrill from being able to see so much from up here. Besides seeing scores of eagles and other assorted birds, they were able to see much of the valley, including the Tuktu camp. It looked so small and insignificant from so far up, but this was the perfect place to observe the camp dynamics.
"Watch," said Jerri, pointing down at Greg, "He's going to talk with Paschal." Sure enough, they watched as the two tiny Tuktu men began to converse, Paschal eventually chuckling and
clapping Greg on the back.
"That's one of the tightest pairs in the game," said Jerri. Kelly just nodded. It was all too obvious that Greg and Paschal were close friends. "And there's the other three," said Jerri, noting that Helen, Gina and Elisabeth were over by a stream, washing some clothes in the cold water.
"Ten bucks they're talking about you," said Kelly. Jerri just smirked.
"They don't -have- to talk about me anymore," she cracked, "They decided to boot my ass on day one. That's already been decided, what they're probably doing is talking about -you-, Kelly. Because you go right after I do."
Kelly smiled to herself, -typical Jerri-. Jerri was never subtle in her attempts to pull Kelly on board; she had been trying for a few days now.
"Well, if they kick me out, they kick me out," said the river rafting guide, ignoring Jerri's implied offer. "The goal is just not to let them. I'm not planning on going anywhere."
"That's good, cause neither am I," grinned Jerri. "They can all just kiss my ass."
As Jerri and Kelly watched from above, Greg and Paschal were discussing strategy. It wasn't like Greg to do so, but it was nearing the point in the game where long-term plans would have to be made. Hiking in the forest and playing nature camp were all well and good, but at a certain point in Survivor you were either a player, or you were a pawn. Greg had been duped before in his first attempt at this game, going from player to pawn in the blink of an eye. This time, he intended to make no such mistake.
The one catch in Greg's plan was an obstacle he hadn't counted on, and that was his friendship with the judge. Greg liked to think of himself as a rogue; a bit of a scoundrel. He had no allies, no real loyalties. To be quite honest about it, he felt he was above this game. With a smile and a joke, he would slide past everyone until it was too late to stop him. He knew he was fully capable of playing this game with a cold detachment, treating those around him as objects and pawns, using them to his own advantage. He knew he could play this game like a Richard Hatch, or a Brian Heidik. But he hadn't expected to make a friend.
On Pulau Tiga, Greg really had only one friend, and that was Gretchen. She saw through his act right away, and he respected her for it. Others, like Colleen and Joel, had been fun to play with, but were ultimately disposable. If he had to pick someone who was like Gretchen out here, it would be Helen. The two of them had been growing fond of each other recently, her original mistrust of him growing into grudging respect. And he loved the fact that she would call him on his act. But they were not friends, they were simply teammates. Paschal was a friend. And making friends with the judge was not something that Greg had expected at all. For one, Greg often had no patience for older people. From B.B. Andersen to Rudy Boesch, and many people in between, Greg was almost infuriating with his lack of respect for his elders. It pissed Mark Burnett off to no end, ever since day one on Pulau Tiga. But Paschal English was not like the rest. For one, he wasn't judgmental in the slightest, an irony that Greg found particularly amusing. Paschal never talked down to anybody. For another, he was just plain nice. No one ever said a bad word about Paschal English, including - and this was most important - Greg Buis.
For the most part, Greg enjoyed all of their company, particularly Helen's wonderful deadpan wit and Elisabeth's incredibly sweet disposition. However, as much as he was able to enjoy their company, Greg was able to acknowledge Tuktu's long-term disposability. Elisabeth, he admitted, was a bit shallow and naive, and he didn't consider Gina to be much of a strategist at all. Helen was really the only formidable foe here, in his mind. So no matter how pleasant or entertaining he found them to be, Greg knew that eventually they would have to go, and that was just fine. A game is a game. But try as he might, Greg couldn't force himself to feel that way about Paschal.
"It's a game," he was fond of saying, "A big game. Social interaction is the disguise, but the raw brutality of it all is that you turn against one another in the end. No one can get through it without stabbing someone in the back at some point, and if you ever forget that, it can mess you up." He liked to talk big, but the truth was that most of Greg's theories were just that, talk. He had yet to put any of his plans into action, and many on the camera crew considered him to be all theory, no practice. There was a running bet if Greg would -ever- morph into the cold-heated manipulator he claimed to be. But one thing was growing pretty clear, and that was that Greg honestly liked Paschal, and it was causing him some inner turmoil.
Paschal, for his part, thought the world of Greg. The two of them could talk about anything, from obscure law theory to classic literature. But then again Paschal thought the world of just about all the Tuktus. He knew Gina from their time together in the Marquesas, Elisabeth was just a sunny little ray of sunshine, and Helen was a unique combination of angry school marm and sarcastic wit. Jerri he could take or leave, but for the most part, he absolutely loved his experience over here so far.
"It's just much different than Amarok," he said. "I mean, in Amarok they were playing this game from day one. Even guys you thought weren't scheming, like Tom, were probably only laying low because there wasn't any more room to do so. I mean, they had schemers on top of schemers." He paused to reflect on his old team. "In fact, I'd be real curious as to who they voted out last night."
Clay Jordan lay back on the grass, looking at the sky. Technically, he was fishing, as there was a pole stuck in the ground, and it dangled a hook in the water. But in reality, he was just laying here, thinking about his long term plans. He chewed on the inside of his lip, a blade of grass sticking out from his teeth, and spoke as he thought.
"With last night's vote," he started, "We really have a pretty solid four-man bloc right now. Big Tom, me, Brian and Silas. Tammy is pretty much on the outside, and that's really the way I'd like to keep it. We were a little worried about her getting to Silas, but it looked like the kid was okay, he stayed strong." He turned to check his pole. It was still standing in the dirt, so it was fine. "But it all don't mean a good goddamn if we go into the merge undermanned. Right now we're down seven to five, so any voting bloc in the world aint gonna make a damn bit of difference unless we win some challenges."
As Clay reflected, Silas spoke with Brian, talking with his new mentor, going over the plan for the next few days.
"Look," said Silas, "We don't even know when the merge will be, or -if- it will be. No one's said anything about when it will happen."
"Which is my point exactly," said Brian, in a hushed tone. "We just need to keep our foursome strong for now. Pulling Jerri over here is a bad idea. She could team up with Tammy, and then we could be in trouble. We would be better off pulling over someone who can't do squat against us, like Elisabeth. Not to mention it would probably cripple their morale."
Silas nodded, accepting this. -Good,- thought Brian, because that meant Silas didn't see his real plan. Brian Heidik had a lot of things going for him. He was smart, he was good looking, he was likeable, and he was shrewd. But most of all, he was cocky. Brian was so cocky, in fact, that he was planning on pulling Helen over to Amarok. He knew that she was his greatest danger in the game. Her wounds were fresh, her anger was very real, and he wanted her gone, gone, gone. Now that Jeff had been eliminated, Helen was perhaps the only thing between him and victory.
"Vote Helen off, take Clay to final two," he had explained in a confessional. "Just like before. Brian wins."
Brian fully expected to win this game again. You see, cocky was almost too subtle a word to describe Brian Heidik. It wasn't enough to win once. He had to win twice. They won't be expecting the -exact- same strategy again, he thought. -They won't see it until it's too late.-
"Dude," said Silas, shaking his head, "I can't believe we're -losing-. I mean, we were kicking their asses. What happened, man?"
"It's all karma," said Brian, watching as Tammy stood near a tree, talking to Tom. Brian tried not to miss a thing, he wanted to know where all people were at all times. "We got cocky, and paid for it. It won't happen again."
Silas grinned, loving the sense of security his new alliance was affording him. He had been afloat for much of the start of the game, just drifting along without protection, waiting to get picked off. He had been lucky that he was so athletic, damn lucky. But at a certain point, luck went away, and those who had plans took the game to the next level. Silas had a plan, and was ready to move on to the next step. He was ready to get that million dollar check.
"Oh," added Brian, "And watch out for Tammy. She's going to be coming after you, hard. She's cornered, and you are her only chance at survival right now." Brian had to make sure Silas was around as long as necessary. He didn't want Tammy to muck up his plans.
"I'm all over that, bro," said Silas, watching Tammy off in the distance, "Tammy's nothing. She's toast."
Brian smiled. -Well said, my young protege. Well said.-
Grab a good hold of the zip
Take a leap and let 'er rip
Be the first to raise the flag
Or another member they will snag
"Take a leap?" asked Helen. She closed her eyes and shook her head, her hands on her hips.
"Kick ass," said Kelly, still holding the tree mail, "Extreme sports, baby!"
Tuktu was preparing for the reward challenge, packing up and lacing on their boots. Words were exchanged as to whom they would steal if they won today. Silas was still a popular option. They had passed on selecting him twice now, but he was STILL their best athlete. Brian would be an okay choice too, but most of them couldn't really stand him. It was safe to say that Brian was not popular among a tribe of mostly younger females. The only one who had an ulterior motive for having him here was Helen.
"Can we vote Brian off?" joked Helen. "Oh please oh please oh please?" She held her hands up and prayed, like a child asking for snow.
Both Gina and Paschal spoke in favor of Big Tom, saying they could use some brute strength on the team, not to mention he was a laugh riot. Elisabeth suggested Silas, wanting to take the athlete. And not surprisingly, no one mentioned Clay. No one wanted Clay.
"I think it's time," said Jerri, "For Silas. He's lonely over there, send him over to the fun team." Inwardly, she licked her chops. Oh, what she could do with Silas Gaither around.
Tuktu worked as a democracy, so a quick vote was taken, and the consensus for now was to steal Silas. Jerri was going to get her way on this one. In less than three hours, the young boxer from Tennessee would be a member of Tuktu.
Jerri smiled. It was going to be a good day.
Jeff Probst stood atop a hillside, pointing to the valley below. It was a very similar view to the one Kelly and Jerri had that morning. He was pointing out two rope lines that ran from the top of the hill, down to a tree in the middle of the valley.
"You will use these ziplines," he explained, "To get down to that tree. One by one, you will grab a pair of these trolley handles," he held up a removable pair of handles, "Attach them to the rope, and ride down the line to the valley. It's a pretty long ride, you're looking at about a three hundred foot trip, although it isn't that steep. But you -are- high up, so if you're afraid of heights, just don't look down." He smiled, knowing full well some people here didn't like heights. "Once you are on the ground, you will come to a tree. There are ten ropes tied to a branch. Untie one of the rope knots, and a flag will come down. Blue for Amarok, black for Tuktu. Hold up your flag, and the next person can go down the zipline. First team to get all five members to the tree, and all five flags untied, wins the reward."
Since Tuktu had a seven-five advantage, they had to sit out two people. Amarok chose Kelly and Jerri to sit out. They were probably the biggest daredevils, it wasn't a hard choice. Kelly sat down, disgusted. This challenge would have been awesome, she didn't want to sit it out.
"Hey Jeff," said Greg, piping up like usual, "Why don't you do it first, show us how it's done."
Several people clapped, as Jeff just smiled, his face turning red slightly.
"No, that's alright, Buis, this is your challenge. I'm supposed to stay up here."
"No, c'mon," egged Greg, "We'll all cheer for you. Let's go. Je-eff! Je-eff! Je-eff!" He started chanting, trying to get a reaction from the host. Several other players started chanting too, including Silas and Elisabeth.
"Greg, okay that's enough," said Jeff, "Let's start the challenge."
"People at home," Greg turned to the cameras, "Don't you want to see Jeff Probst go down a zipline? I know I do!"
Greg wouldn't let up, so Jeff had to finally give in to Greg's bizarre compulsion. He finally broke character. He told the cameramen to stop rolling tape and went over to talk to Greg, alone. He was soon joined by Mark Burnett, and the two of them gave Greg a lecture about treating this game seriously and showing some respect. Probst was fuming but the message seemed to get through. Greg promised to be quiet, making a traditional "turn the lock and throw away the key" motion with his fingers against his lips.
Paschal shook his head, snickering, while most of the players enjoyed Greg's antics. Gina held a hand to her mouth, trying to hide her giggles. But after a few moments of giggles, and a hard glare from the host, Greg finally was done. He grabbed his zip handle and nodded to his team. Jeff silently wished that Greg would have a very painful landing.
"Survivors, ready," said Jeff. He raised his hand, looking at the first two players, Brian for Amarok and Greg for Tuktu. They were both poised and ready, "Go!"
The two men placed their handlebars over the thin cord, took a running start and leaped. Both soared down the line, with a hissing "zzzzzzzzz" sound. Brian held his knees up to his chest, as Greg kept his legs perfectly straight. He had also pulled his pants down ever so slightly, so as to give the camera a nice view of his ass from behind. Jeff rolled his eyes. Greg yelled "Geronimoooooooo" as he fell, and Probst waited for the two of them to reach the bottom. Brian finally reached ground first, untied one of the blue ropes, and held a blue flag in the air.
"Amarok," announced the host, "Next person!"
Silas grabbed a pair of handlebars, let out a loud whoop and went flying down the line. He was pumped up for this one, and yelled loudly all the way down. Gina was second for Tuktu and followed him, although a bit more cautiously. She was a little wary of heights.
Silas easily beat her to the bottom, undid a blue knot, and thrust his blue flag in the air.
"It's awesome," he yelled up to his team, "You'll love it!"
Tammy was third for Amarok, and grabbed her handlebars. She said a quick prayer, took two steps back, and then did a running leap. She started zipping down the line, just as Gina was reaching the bottom for Tuktu.
"Tuktu," yelled Jeff, "Next person!"
Paschal was the third to go for Tuktu, and he started down the zipline without much speed. He hadn't pushed off with much of a jump, and he started moaning as he went over the edge.
"You got it, Pappy," yelled Gina from the bottom, "Just hold on!"
Tammy was the third person to finish for Amarok, as they had opened a lead now. Big Tom was fourth, and he looked at the zipline with apprehension.
"Uh, Jeff, have y'all tested this thing out? Ah'm too young to die."
"Don't worry," smiled Jeff, "All safe and tested. Just hang on and don't let go."
Tom clung to the handlebars in an embrace, latched on with all his strength, and jumped.
"Ahhhhhh, sheeeeeeeeeee-ittttttttt," he yelled, as he started to gain momentum. The rest of the players laughed at Tom, kicking and flailing so far above the ground, but he managed to reach the bottom safely and quickly, just behind Paschal. The two older men crashed to the ground, uninjured but awkward. Paschal untied his black flag, and Tom untied his blue one. They both held them up.
"Amarok," yelled Jeff, "Last member. Clay, you're up." Clay walked to the edge, looked down, and grabbed his handlebars. Helen had already taken off for Tuktu, and he watched her recede down the line, her legs pulled to her chest. Clay latched his handles to the zip, wished Jeff goodbye, and jumped.
Amarok cheered as their diminutive last member came racing down towards them. He yelled at them as he approached at rapid speed.
"Y'all best get out of the way. Hell, I'm gonna plow right into ya!"
But they moved aside as Clay finished, just seconds behind Helen. They all erupted in cheers, Tammy and Brian embracing in a hug. Amarok had won.
Elisabeth had yet to go for Tuktu, so she followed down the line, just for show. Jerri and Kelly got a chance as well, and even Jeff finally came down, looking a bit nervous. He joined the victorious Amarok tribe at the base of the tree.
"Amarok, nicely done. As per the rules, you get to steal someone from Tuktu. Please make your selection."
The harsh reality of the Red Rover rule suddenly washed over Gina Crews. -Oh my God,- she thought, -This is it-. This was the end of their new little family. Tuktu had not lost a reward since Tammy, they had really been unaffected by the prospect of losing someone. Every reward challenge since Tammy had been a question of, "Who do we take from Amarok?" But suddenly, all that had changed. The fun and games of the zipline challenge had masked the brutal truth of this reward. There was a very real chance that one of her friends was switching sides. And she could see it in the way that Silas was grinning at her.
"It's you or me," she whispered to Elisabeth. Elisabeth shook her head, slightly, not wanting it to be true, trying to will them to steal Jerri, or Kelly, or even Helen. -Pick Jerri-, she thought, -Please pick Jerri.-
For the perhaps the first time ever, Jerri and Elisabeth were in complete agreement on this issue.
"Pick me," the actress said quietly, under her breath, "C'mon, just do it. Get me outta here."
The Amarok tribe was in a small circle. Brian and Tom seemed to be leading the debate, with Clay piping in. Tammy, of course, would have loved to have Jerri, but she wasn't about to say that. She was in full "good-girl" mode for now, no need to rock the boat.
Brian eyed over Clay's shoulder, catching a glimpse of his choices. His eye scanned the group. Jerri Manthey, no chance. -Too much of a loose cannon.- Brian's control freak nature would have nothing to do with Jerri around. Same with Kelly. -She's too hard to control-. Time and again, his eye came back to Helen. The one that he wanted. But... no one else wanted her here. Clay was dead-set against having her around. She made him nervous. Helen was always stressed out, always jumpy. She made people like Clay anxious.
"Hell, no," he added, when asked about Helen. "Keep her away from me!"
"We need to take one of their leaders," Tom said, "Knock 'em for a loop." Brian nodded, quickly dismissing three of the Tuktus. They would -all- be difficult to control, so it wasn't going to make a difference. Might as well take someone who would hurt Tuktu, emotionally. As Gina had feared, his eye centered on the pairing of Gina and Elisabeth.
"Tammy," he asked, "Who do they rally around?"
She thought about it for a moment. She had been on Tuktu for three days, she had an initial glimpse into their dynamics. Elisabeth and Gina had been a pretty tight bond back on day one, along with Neleh. They were cut from the same mold, and either one would be a good choice. Tammy grinned, this was going to be a great moment. How she would love to see their reaction, watch as the air was sucked out of the Tuktu Girls. She looked from one to the other, and then centered her gaze on the taller Floridian. Gina was the leader, you could see it at the challenges.
"Gina," she said, a small smile on her lips, "Elisabeth is just a mascot. Take Gina." Tammy's eyes were dark under her shades, but it was obvious to all that she loved making this choice.
Clay grinned. "Hoo boy," he joked, "I love the tan ones."
Silas went over to deliver the news.
It was one of the worst moments of Gina Crews' life.
Elisabeth Filarski was beginning to consider the possibility that the Survivor gods held a grudge against her.
"I mean, this game was just starting to get fun," she complained in an interview, "but now that Gina is gone, it stinks again. Just plain stinks."
Elisabeth was in a pretty secure position for now, strategy-wise. But friendship-wise, the loss of Gina had been a huge blow. Gina had been the unofficial Tuktu leader for some time now, after the initial loss of Tammy. She had been well respected, capable, and liked by all. And most of all, when Gina smiled or laughed, you just wanted to laugh along with her. She was just charismatic like that. But more than losing one of their strongest players, Elisabeth had also lost her best friend.
True, her alliance within Tuktu still held the numbers, so she probably wasn't going anywhere for a while, but she was worried about the fate of Gina. The idea of Amarok voting Gina out was a persistent sentiment in Elisabeth’s mind, and since yesterday’s reward challenge, she had done nothing but worry about it. Gina was about to become a sacrifice.
"Gina has been such a good friend for the last two weeks," she explained. "She’s the type of girl you’d want as an older sister or a roommate or something, and now those..." She searched for the right word, scowling a little, "Those -punks- over at Amarok are probably ready to vote her out. They probably pulled her over just for that reason." Elisabeth hated to admit it, but she was beginning to feel the tug of loyalty versus strategy. She was here to win, there was no doubt about it, but she was also crossing her fingers for Gina. She was even silently hoping that Tuktu lost tonight’s immunity challenge, because otherwise Gina would be torn to shreds by the Amarok wolves. She was dead meat if Amarok went to Tribal Council.
"We're all competitors, no one is here to lose anything on purpose," she said, thinking especially of Paschal and Kelly, "But still," she bit her lip, "If we lost, I don't think most of us would be that upset. There are certain members or Tuktu who wouldn't be missed."
Brian scratched at his newly-sprouted beard, as Tom and Silas sat discussing their plans for the day with him. Brian had been amazed with how smoothly his alliance had played out - he had expected to come out on top of this tribe, but he never expected that it would be -this- easy. Paschal had been removed, Jeff had been voted out, and Tammy had been largely obsolete. Without so much as a speed bump in the road, Brian Heidik had risen to power once again. He glanced over at two of his most trusted allies, Silas Gaither and Tom Buchanan. The two of them seemed loyal enough, Silas eager to please and Tom too simple to care. They were just both along for the ride, Brian's ride. Clay was the one he worried about, although his friendship with the Southerner went back a long way. But Clay was the one people liked to refer to as "the little weasel." He was constantly looking for a new scheme, some new angle to play. And worst of all, he was the one who knew Brian best, and who had the most to gain from Brian's downfall. Clay definitely would have to be watched.
"But for now," Brian would admit, "I think we're all pretty solid. None of us really trust one another 100%, but it's the best you're gonna get at this point. We all know it's business, and are in it together." He smiled. "For now, anyway."
They had been content to stick with the four, but Tom Buchanan had been lobbying lately for a fifth. He was concerned that they needed Tammy's vote, needed to get her on board.
"Our only problem," Tom confessed in an interview, "Is that there’s only four ov’us, and we'll need that fifth vote come a'merge. Now, Gina is out of the question, she's one of -them-. But we're a'gonna have some problems if we don't get Tammy on our side." His cheerful hillbilly persona dropped for the confessional, Tom continued, "A four-person alliance is short sighted and just plain dumb. It kin work for a while, but brother, you gonna have problems once you get down to ten."
A five-person alliance meant Tammy would have to be brought into the fold.
Silas disagreed with Tom's point, arguing that it was too much, too soon. But Brian agreed to talk with her, feel her out. He felt it couldn't hurt. After all, he had tried to bring her in before, and been shot down. Maybe now, she would see his way. It was just like asking a girl out for a date in high school. No one ever turned him down twice.
"Look," he pointed out to Silas, "Tom's right. We will need five people, at some point anyway. I don't know if Tammy's the one, but we can’t trust Greg or Paschal to rejoin us at the merge. Greg's been there too long, and Paschal won't do something unless he feels it is right. I doubt any of the females will join us either."
"Except Jerri," noted Silas, "Tammy has said that she is the outsider over there. Jerri might help us out."
Brian bit his lip, saying nothing. He still wanted -nothing- to do with loose cannon Jerri, although he was trying his best to hide that fact.
"We need Tammy," said Tom, hands on his hips, "She don't have any other choice right now. Either she is with us, or she is gone. Damn simple choice. Gina ain't never gonna go against Tuktu, she ain't one of us. So it's all up to Tammy." He sounded a bit menacing now. "You just gotta threaten her."
Brian nodded, carefully planning it out in his head. Gina had tried her best to smile and fit in since being here, but her heart was obviously back in the other camp. Tammy, on the other hand, had seemed more than happy to desert her black-buffed days in favor of the manipulative, hush-hush atmosphere of Amarok. She had blended right in with the guys and, although she had picked the wrong partner, she hadn't burned any bridges in the process. Now the only question was whether or not she’d make a deal. With Jeff gone, she had to be feeling the heat - Brian hoped it was enough to convince her that joining the Amarok alliance would be a good idea.
Besides, there was always the possibility that Tammy and Gina could pull some backdoor play, and that was no good. They would have to be separated.
"The four of us," said Brian in a confessional, "Have managed to come together and establish some sense of trust. And now, we've just gotta add one more. It will take some finesse, though, just like getting into a canoe - you have to be very careful, or else everything will tip over."
With Tuktu's loss of Gina, it was apparent that they would once again have to re-examine the question of leadership. It was a question that had come up numerous times in the past two weeks, and they were sick of dealing with it.
"What's most frustrating," said Helen, "Is that they are obviously targeting our leaders. That seems to be their strategy since day one, and no one here wants to step up to the plate now. In Japan, they say that the tallest blade of grass is the first to be cut by the lawnmower, I think it's safe to say that the analogy applies to camp Tuktu as well." She was hefting a large pot of water back from a creek, always hard at work, struggling to talk as she walked. "Elisabeth just told me that I'm the leader now, but I've never wanted any part of that. We're -all- workers here, we don't need a central figure. Heck, let Elisabeth run the camp, she pretty much does anyway. But if we had to pick someone, I'd say Paschal. Leave me out of it."
Paschal English had greatly enjoyed his time here at Camp Tuktu. It was a group with great camaraderie, and everyone seemed genuinely happy for the rest. He hadn't missed Amarok for a second, thinking back to the Brian-Jeff-Silas cold war that had begun within the first day or two. Too much scheming, he had thought, no thank you! But here at Tuktu, everyone tried their best to work as a group, although there were squabbles and conflicts, as to be expected.
"Elisabeth is a sweetheart," he admitted, "But she just plain doesn't like Jerri. She feels that Jerri tried to backstab everyone, along with Kelly Goldsmith, and now won't admit it. And Jerri, for her part, can't stand Elisabeth or Gina, although I guess half of that problem is gone now. Kelly Wiglesworth has her moments where she won't talk to anyone, and I've always got the sense that Helen doesn't care for any of them at all. So I mean, sure, a lot of it is just for show, but I do think they do their best to all get along." He paused. "They've been through a lot."
Lately, the tribe seemed to be leaning on him for some sort of leadership. Greg had always considered Paschal the leader, and Helen had mentioned the same thing to him just that morning. Kelly had made a good point in favor of Pappy as well.
"It's not that hard a choice," she pointed out, "Pappy can't be swapped back to the other team, so he's here for the long run. He'll be our leader eventually, whether he likes it or not. It's only a matter of time, because sooner or later, all of us are going to Amarok."
So despite some token protests from Paschal, he was slowly growing into the new Tuktu leader. It wasn't his idea of good strategy, but he had to admit, they all treated him as the leader anyway.
"Hey, I don't like it," he said, chuckling, "But who am I to turn down the wishes of four beautiful women? You don't live to my age without learning to say yes to females when they ask for something."
As Tuktu was slowly starting to recover, Gina Crews was still as lost as ever. Her blue Amarok buff tied around her wrist, she was hoisting a bag of food up into a tree, using a rope pulley to secure it high above the ground.
"I mean, really," she said, "How could they lose their anti-bear box? It's like they weren't even -trying- to survive out here." She finished securing the knot, testing to make sure it held. "It was probably Clay who left the food out. Lord knows I've seen him leave all sorts of stuff sitting out already, like he just expects someone else to pick it up. I don't know how Tammy has put up with these slobs for so long."
The Tammy-Gina relationship had been a dicey one since the beginning. Back on day one at Tuktu, it was clear to most that Gina -should- have been the leader, but Tammy -was- the leader. Tammy had taken control of the tribe, and they had actually been a pretty fierce little band of warriors for a while. Gina and Tammy had never really exchanged a cross word, but it was clear that they didn't have a whole lot in common. And now, here they were, thrown together to face an almost impossible challenge: Taking down Brian and his good ol' boys.
"Brian is the one to watch," said Tammy, finally welcoming another female to the group. "He's where it all starts." Gina wasn't sure whether to trust Tammy or not, but felt she didn't have a choice. It was true that the men had all been more than pleasant to her, but she was more than a little creeped out by the attention that Tom and Clay had shown her. They had been all over her, much like Tammy's experience either. Tom had offered, repeatedly, to help bathe her, and Clay just liked to sit back and stare at her.
"It's creepy," she admitted to Tammy, "They're all a bunch of peeping toms."
Tammy nodded, smiling. The guys were fun, but they weren't subtle. You could tell -exactly- what they thought of the females in their camp. She had placed an arm around Gina's shoulders.
"Get used to it, darling. For the life of you, make sure to cover up, and don't ever bend over in front of Clay. But," she added, "I'm sure you've noticed the one of them who isn't like the rest."
Gina nodded. Silas, of course. Silas was the one who didn't fit the mold at all. The rest of them were older, wiser and, to be straight about it, a bit cutthroat. Tammy had mentioned that they all seemed to hate women, too. But you could see in Silas's eyes that he wasn't like the rest. He had visions of glory in his eyes, you could practically see his face light up at the prospect of winning this game, and the acclaim it would bring him. He wasn't here to stomp the opposition, he was here only for the fame it would bring him if he won. Gina was sure he held no loyalty to the rest of them, they weren't his type of people anyway.
"I may be naive," she had told Tammy, "But I think we can get Silas. What's he doing with a bunch of old perverts anyway? How can he say no to a pair of pretty young girls?"
Tammy nodded, eyes giving away nothing. Sure, we probably -could- get Silas, she thought. But that doesn't neccessarily mean we -want- to. Tammy had yet to decide on which side she fell. Brian and the guys, or Gina. It was a tough call. She would love to take Brian down, but that didn't mean she wanted to take a risky chance in doing so.
"We'll work on him," promised Tammy, "Just keep your eyes and ears open. We're in a bad spot, but it's not hopeless. There are always options."
With the immunity challenge nearing, both camps were preparing for battle. With both teams now at six, it was going to be a crucial matchup. Despite the mixup of teams, and shifting friendships, it was still imperative to always be on the bigger tribe.
"People forget," noted Greg, "That we're going to merge eventually. It doesn't matter who your team is, you still are a team. In the end, it's every man for himself, and all the Tuktu versus Amarok crap is just that, crap. You're gonna want to be on the majority, no matter who that majority is."
Jerri packed her bag, fully expecting this to be her last immunity challenge.
"Hell," she sighed, "I've expected -all- of them to be my last challenge. This one is no different."
Jerri's defeatist attitude was kind of a drag to be around, but she had good reason to gripe. She had actually thought she would be pulled over to Amarok yesterday and, for a change, had gotten her hopes up. But now, here she was, still shut out of everything. All efforts to blend in with the rest of Tuktu had been futile. Helen had grown increasingly more distant, trying to put some distance between herself and the Tuktu problem child. Greg was insane and could not be trusted for a minute. Paschal was fair and would explain his motives, but he had flat out told her he thought Jerri would be next. Elisabeth was as big an ice queen as always, clamming up completely if Jerri was around. The rest went on and on about how cheerful she was, and what a sweetie, but Jerri could see the real Elisabeth deep down. Elisabeth was no better than the rest.
"Elisabeth is the biggest bitch of them all," she said, "She just does it with a smile."
No, the only one that had made any effort to get to know Jerri had been Kelly. Kelly was always a bit of a loner from the rest of the group, and was the only one to have the guts to be seen alone with Jerri. Plain and simple, Kelly didn't give a crap about what the others thought and wanted to talk to everyone. But the problem was that this had caused discussions among the rest of Tuktu. Like it or not, it was the nature of the game, if you were seen off alone with somebody, it was viewed with suspicion. Helen had been the first to note Jerri and Kelly off on their walks, or up on the hill, watching the rest of the tribe. And Jerri, for her part, made no secret of the fact that Kelly hung out with her. Jerri would always wave from up on the hill, when others looked up at them. Jerri loved making people notice. Whether it was out of malice, or out of desperation, or just plain spite, Jerri was trying to give off the impression that she and Kelly were closer than they were. It was her only shot to survive, she had tried the others but they were all a dead end. If Jerri were to last much longer, she would have to bring down Kelly to do it.
As Jerri silently planned a character assassination, the scheming at Amarok had not abated. Tom had pulled Clay aside, wanting to make sure that "Ol' Stubby" was okay with Tammy being on board. Clay had been open and direct about his mistrust of the crime reporter, but he held his tongue this time. There would be time later to make things right.
"It's Brian's call," he said, "If he wants to do it, bring 'er along." Clay still intended on bringing Brian down, but this new wrinkle would have to make him wait. And he hated waiting.
Brian had already made his pitch to Tammy, offering her the safety and security of a solid alliance. A little protection for the next vote, he said, and he couldn't resist throwing in a final two pact. That always amused him.
"You and I can outlast them all," he said, "Clay and Tom are not that smart. They don't belong there at the end. I don't think anyone wants to see a racist hillbilly up there in the final two." He joked with her, laughed, and they shared stories. He was very good at being someone's new best friend. Tammy laughed at the appropriate places and nodded at the right times. She didn't believe his pact any more than he did, but she wanted to make the merge. She definitely wanted to make the merge.
"To the end," she said, as they tapped fists. "Don't screw me on this, Brian," she added with a smile. The threat was implied, she didn't need to elaborate. She would make a very bad enemy on the jury. He seemed to understand, as he smiled.
As Tammy was being brought into the big four, Gina was trying her best to flirt with Silas. She had never met the young man before, and found him to be very likeable and charming, if a bit cocky. He was all too aware of his position at Brian's right hand, as he didn't have to hide it. She silently cursed herself for having to grovel to him at his level, but it was past time to be proud. Gina had her own butt to look out for.
"Silas," she started, "You and I both know that you will be the first one gone once they get down to four. Clay and Tom won't let you get any further than that." Silas had only grinned and nodded, of course he had thought of that.
"But I'll head that off before we get to four," promised Silas. "You don't think I'll let it get that far, do you?"
She simply rolled her eyes, not letting him see. Silas was one of the cockiest people she had ever met. He thought he had it all figured out, some master scheme that had yet to materialize. He wasn't responding to her point, so she had to basically spell it out for him.
"Silas, this vote is gonna be your last chance to stop Brian. If you join Tammy and myself, the three of us can force a tie. Then we just have to hope for the tiebreaker, and maybe get lucky." She couldn't resist giving him the big eyes, and the pity line. "This is my last chance, if we go to Council tonight, I'm probably gone. You see here that I have nothing to lose, I'm a dead duck otherwise." She silently hated herself for going this route, it was so demeaning.
Silas had placed an arm around her, protectively, brotherly. He gave her his best politician smile.
"Hey, I got it all under control, Tammy and I are friends. Don't worry about it, I'll let you know if something comes up."
Gina nodded, thanking him. After Silas had left, she shrugged to a cameraman.
"Don't ask me, I can't read him any better than you can. Just cross your fingers for me, okay?"
Tom Buchanan had a good feeling in his belly as Amarok approached today's immunity challenge. Behind Jeff stood two bullseyes, and in his hand rested a decorative hand-axe, similar to a Native American hatchet.
-We’re gonna be throwin’ axes,- Tom thought to himself, -That means we’re gonna win-.
"Girls can't throw," he joked to Clay.
"Welcome to today’s immunity challenge," Jeff began, adding his usual line of, "First things first... I’m gonna need the idol back, Tuktu." Greg pawned it over and Jeff, placing the idol back on the pedestal, announced that immunity was back up for grabs.
"Early Alaskan natives had three primary methods of hunting," said Jeff, "And those were the bow, the spear, and the hatchet. From early childhood, the hunters in the village would master the construction, usage, and skill involved with these weapons. And today," he held up one of the ornately colored hatchets, "You'll be tossing the hatchet."
"Today’s challenge," he continued, "Is a very simple one. One by one, a member of Amarok and a member of Tuktu will face off, alternating throws at their respective bullseyes. This will continue until one hits their target and the other doesn’t, at which point, the winning tribe will be awarded a point and the next pair will step up." He pointed at the wooden targets. "Your axes have to dig into the target to count. If they bounce off or fall off, they don’t count. First tribe to win five points wins immunity."
It was going to be six on six, so most of them would probably throw more than once. They chose their firing orders accordingly, and lined up behind their throwing platforms. Tuktu chose Paschal to go first, while Amarok, of course, chose Big Tom, the expert marksman. The two politely shook hands, and both immediately began fidgeting with their axes.
Jeff walked between them, raising his right arm in the air.
"Survivors ready," he shouted, "Go!"
Tom threw his first axe with deadly precision, scoring a nearly perfect bullseye with a loud SMACK. But Paschal, despite the pressure, answered back with a hit of his own. Tuktu cheered, as Tom placed his hands on his hips, in disbelief.
"Tom and Paschal, throw again," said the host.
Tom threw his second axe, nailing the target once more, the satisfying slice sound ringing like music in his ears. He pumped his fist, staring at the judge. Paschal then wound up carefully, like a baseball pitcher, determined to earn this point for Tuktu. He threw with all his might, the axe flying straight towards the bullseye. But with a clattering plunk, the axe bounced off the target, falling harmlessly in the grass.
"Amarok draws first blood!" Jeff proclaimed, as Paschal congratulated Tom and headed back to the end of Tuktu’s line.
Tammy and Elisabeth were next, a rematch from the last Devil's Club challenge. Tammy most certainly had not forgotten that little humiliation, and was ready to avenge her pride today. She mostly wanted to just knock that silly grin off of Elisabeth's face. They both threw, and both missed entirely. But with the second throw, Tammy nailed the bullseye dead-on, as Elisabeth missed again. Tammy broke out in a happy smile, maybe her first in two weeks. Amarok was up 2-0.
Brian stepped up next for Amarok, squaring off against his old companion, Helen, another rematch from the Devil's Club. The two gave little more than an acknowledgement of a nod before taking their stance and preparing to throw. Helen threw first, and barely hit the target, catching the upper edge. She squealed with delight, clapping her hands together.
"A bit high," Jeff commented, "But it counts. Brian, it’s your throw."
Brian sized up the shot, wound up, and flung the axe towards the target. His throw was slightly to the left, and the axe ended up clipping the left side of his target, clattering off to the side. Tuktu cheered.
"Tuktu right back in it!" Jeff exclaimed.
Silas was next against Greg, and both managed to score a bullseye, before Silas’ second axe finally ricocheted off of the target. Greg launched his axe, and with nearly perfect execution, sunk the axe deep into the target’s center. The tribes were tied at two points apiece.
Jerri Manthey and Gina Crews stepped up to the podium. Both of them were visibly nervous, as both were quite correct in their observations that they would probably go tonight if their team lost. The pressure showed, as both of them missed badly with their first shot, despite Jerri showing off a pretty good arm. They both tossed four axes, none of them hitting the mark. Gina's kept falling short, while Jerri had a hard time keeping her axes from sailing to the left or right.
"Keep trying," encouraged Jeff, "Getting closer."
Finally, Jerri managed to hit the target with her fifth axe, as it sunk weakly into the right side of the target. They all waited a moment for it to fall, but it stayed in place. Jerri jumped in the air excitedly, as Tuktu was up 3-2.
Elisabeth silently said a prayer for her friend Gina, as the nature guide walked back to the Amarok line, her head down. Elisabeth suddenly didn't want to win this challenge at all. If it meant keeping Jerri around over Gina, she didn't want to win this one little bit.
Clay and Kelly were next, and despite giving an impressive throw, Clay’s axe flew right by the target, barely missing. Kelly’s was a dead-on hit, putting Tuktu just one shot away from a victory. She got high-fives from the rest of the Tuktus, a big smile on her face. It felt good to win something again. And Tuktu was up 4-2.
"Tuktu is one hit away from victory," said Jeff, "Four to two."
It was back to the top, with Tom and Paschal. This time Paschal threw first, failing
to hit the target. With relative ease, Tom scored another bullseye, bringing Amarok back into it at 4-3.
"Way to go, Tommy," cheered Clay.
"Still anyone’s game!" Jeff reminded them.
Tammy and Elisabeth stepped up to the plate. Elisabeth's mind raced with the choices here. Her eyes went from Tammy, to Gina, to Jerri, to the target. -I didn't want it to come down to me!- She deferred and let Tammy go first, and was relieved when Tammy sunk the first axe deep into the wood. Tammy pumped her first in the air, intensely. She badly wanted to beat Elisabeth two in a row, and she wasn't hiding it.
Elisabeth lined up her axe, the former softball player ready to show off her skills. She'd done this before, it was just like aiming for the catcher's mitt, only you had spin the axe a little more. She took a breath, said a quick prayer and fired.
The axe sunk in the target, a hit. Elisabeth smiled to herself, at least she could say she didn't let Tammy walk all over her. Tuktu cheered for Elisabeth.
Tammy stared at the target in anger, always furious during the challenges. She grabbed a second axe and without a moment's hesitation, flung it as hard as she could at the target.
Another hit. She glared at the target, fire in her eyes. She wasn't about to be shown up by this little girl again.
Elisabeth waited for the Amarok cheers to die down, and grabbed her second axe. She lined it up carefully, breathing in and out to relax, and then threw. Now, she may never know if it was intentional or not, but something in her arm changed angles at the last second and the axe fell short. It stuck in the grass. She stared at the fallen axe, as Amarok cheered behind her, high-fiving Tammy. -I guess that one was for you, Gina,- she thought. She shrugged, silently apologizing to her Tuktu teammates.
"We have a tie game," announced the host, "Next shot wins immunity!"
Helen and Brian stepped up to the firing platform. Brian looked cool and confident, Helen looked nervous. Her high strung nature was getting the best of her right now, and her hand was almost shaking. She liked to put on a big front, but didn't like this kind of pressure.
Brian stepped up first and flung his axe towards the target. With a satisfying crack, it hit near the wood center, sticking in place. It was a hit. Helen just smirked and gripped the handle of her axe. The air was quiet, no cheering or taunting on either side. Helen could hear only the sounds of a faint breeze. She swung the axe down a couple of times, lining it up with the center of the target. Taking a deep breath, she wound up, threw, and watched it spin towards the target.
There was an instant of silence as the axe sailed through the air, but to Helen it seemed like a minute. Finally, the axe landed, the back of the handle smacking against the target, causing the axe to pitch off into the dirt. She groaned loudly.
"Amarok! Immunity is yours!"
Silas and Tammy erupted into cheers, pulling the rest of them into a big group hug. No one was more excited than Gina Crews, who grabbed the immunity idol greedily from Jeff. She wasn't about to let this thing go for a while. She thrust it in the air, as the victors celebrated.
"Tuktu," said the host, laying his hand on a dejected Helen's shoulder, "I'm sorry, but you've got another date with me tomorrow night. I'll see you then." Helen held her head down, devastated that her throw had been the decisive one.
Tuktu packed up to start their trek back home. Elisabeth was sad to have lost, but in the big picture, wasn't all that broken up. She looked at Jerri, who was walking alone, ahead of the rest. Her head was down, she just walked slowly. -She knows she is going-. Elisabeth then looked back at Amarok, and caught Gina's eye. They exchanged a quick look, and Gina responded with a misty-eyed smile.
For the time being, she was safe... now if Gina could only stay alive until the merge.
"Tonight's vote isn't going to be that difficult," explained Paschal.
For more than two weeks now, the Tuktu tribe had had to deal with Jerri Manthey. She hadn't been bad at first, in fact Helen said that Jerri was the best worker here, but in time her attitude and negativity had begun to grate on people. She had managed to keep her mouth shut for the most part, but it was just a simple fact that Jerri liked to complain.
"Y'know," said Helen, "I didn't mind it at first, but when she starts griping about the consistency of the oatmeal, it gets to a point where I can't stand it anymore. I mean, I'm making this stuff for you to eat, Sleeping Beauty, just shut your trap and shovel it down." Helen had been one of Jerri's friends earlier in the game, feeling bad for the way she had been ostracized. But in time, Helen recognized a strategic deathtrap when she saw one. She had begun to distance herself from any possible friendship, hating the ethics of it all, but understanding the politics. Jerri had been marked for execution very early one. To be friends with her was to slit one's own throat.
"It's a cruel game," said the Naval instructor, "And not always fair. But you have to look after yourself."
Elisabeth Filarski wanted Jerri out of here badly. She didn't dislike many people in her life, but her problems with Jerri Manthey went back a long way. She had given her the benefit of the doubt when they first got to Alaska, but Jerri's scheming with Tammy, assault on Neleh, and the subsequent warnings of Kelly Goldsmith had cemented the case against her.
"Jerri is not a nice person," said Elisabeth, "And she deserves everything that's coming to her. She can blame editing all she wants, but the fact is that no one wants her here anymore. Her time has come."
At Amarok, Gina was relaxing with her new team, finally relishing some well-deserved security. With the prospects of Tribal Council out of the way, the Amaroks had actually chilled out for a while, just relaxing in their nature home for a day.
"It's nice not to have to think of the game all the time," said Brian, holding a homemade spear in the forest, "Because it allows you to relax, re-energize, and rest up." He was trying to hunt this morning, going after some nice warm meat for dinner. Hunting was one of his favorite activities at home, something he longed to do with his son some day. It was a great stress-killer, although there had been little reason to hunt out here so far.
"We've been getting by pretty much on berries, mushrooms and oatmeal," he said. "Besides, most of the stuff you could kill out here would be too heavy to bring back to camp anyway." He looked around behind him, at a noise, "Plus, you don't really want to run into a grizzly bear while you're carrying a big pile of fresh meat. But hey, it's fun." He spotted a rabbit bounding off in the woods, and took off after it. It was nice not to have to be Brian Heidik for a day. His alliance was in place, nothing he did today could change anything. Some days, it was fun just to relax and explore the woods.
With Brian away, Gina was just hanging out with Tammy and Silas, the three youngest members of Amarok laying on the grass, talking about life. They discussed the game superficially, just talking about the camping experience, the players on the other team and their past experiences with the game. Gina again reiterated her dream of opening a bed and breakfast out here somewhere, in the wilderness. Silas was going on about how they almost died in Africa, and how they drank elephant crap every day in their water. Tammy was opening up about her journalistic ambitions in life. Since the Marquesas, she had been a little better at talking about herself, although it still didn't seem quite natural.
Finally, Gina decided to change the subject. She came right out with the strategic question she had been wanting to ask all day.
"Guys, is there any way Brian can be stopped?"
Silas and Tammy exchanged a glance. They knew Gina would be up to something, there was no way she was going to go out sitting down.
"Sure," said Tammy with a grin, "Just vote him out."
"Well, duh," said Gina.
"Don't worry," promised Silas, "Brian ain't winning this game."
"Oh, here we go," said Tammy, mocking him, "Silas and his master plan. Silas is the big bad knight who will stop Brian. Why don't you tell us again about your great plan, Sherlock?"
Gina giggled, as it was always funny to watch Tammy stick it to Silas. She was very, very good at it.
"Well, since neither of you will be around," he said, with a malicious grin, "It don't matter. Just keep it in mind, vote for me when you're in the jury."
"Oooo-kay," said Tammy, leaning over to pat him on the head like a child, "We'll do that, pumpkin."
Gina smiled at the playful banter between the two, and then came out with her option.
"How do we get Brian removed from the equation?"
Silas looked at her, quiet now.
"You'd need a third vote," he said, seriously, "And I've told you before, ain't gonna happen. Clay ain't switching. Tom ain't switching. And I'm not. Even if you pull someone over from Tuktu, that's still only four to three. Trust me, Brian IS going eventually, but not until we don't need him anymore."
Tammy was listening though, intently. She wanted to see where Gina was headed with this, and sat up, her ears perked.
"We can't vote him out," said Gina, "But what if Tuktu steals him?"
Silence greeted this, all three of them going over the scenario in their head.
"Well," started Tammy, "That's a big 'if'. I mean, a lot would have to go right for that to happen. Not to mention none of them can stand him over there."
"They took Paschal last time," said Silas, "They aren't taking athletes."
"You're right," sighed Gina. "They vote on stuff, but Elisabeth really wants to take people that will bring harmony to camp."
"... And that aint Brian," joked Tammy, noting quickly in her head that Gina had named Elisabeth as the decision-maker.
Gina chewed her lip, trying to think of a way around this.
"Helen," she said, finally. "Do you guys realize how badly Helen wants to take Brian over to Tuktu?"
Tammy laughed, out loud.
"I'd actually feel bad for the guy if she got ahold of him." She grinned. "I'd love to see him have to sweat it out for a while."
"Helen's obsessed with it," nodded Gina. "It's only really a matter of time, guys. She'll get her way sooner or later. They're running out of choices. And when Brian goes, Tammy and I would need a third person to take this tribe over."
"Hey," said Tammy, "Don't involve me in this. I'm not committing to anything!"
"Well, okay, hypothetically," said Gina. "If it were to happen, we'd need a third."
"And that'd be you, buddy" said Tammy, poking Silas in the chest. "Look at that, you'd be the swing vote."
Silas remained silent, digesting all this. He wasn't about to make any decisions today, he just wanted to lay down and relax.
"I'll think about it," he promised, "But for now, I'm going to sleep. Want to enjoy my day off."
He lay on his back and shut his eyes. Gina excused herself, intending to go and prepare the camp dinner. She walked off, a big smile on her face. She had placed the idea in Silas' head, just as she planned. Now it was just a matter of crossing her fingers and waiting.
After Gina was out of sight, Silas spoke up, eyes still closed.
"She's gonna be trouble," he said. "We should have lost the immunity challenge, voted her out."
"Damn right," said Tammy, under her breath. She didn't know what to think, the game was becoming too complicated. Half of her wanted to go in with Gina on this, make a play to take out the boys' club. The other half of her wanted to go to Brian right now, spill her guts. He would appreciate it, and it could possibly buy her some loyalty points. She tapped her feet, nervously, weighing her options.
It was like going to Las Vegas. Did she want to take a gamble, or play it safe?
Jerri Manthey sat on a log, her feet dangling into a section of lake. She sat, watched a group of birds land on the water, and just reflected. Her time here had been fun, the game part of it anyway. She loved to compete, loved to win, and loved to play. But the camp part of the experience hadn't been much fun at all.
"It's crap," she complained, "I never had a chance."
Jerri decided to go back to camp, one last walk through the wilderness, one last chance to look at Polychrome Pass, a last chance to see the eagles fly over their camp. She trekked through about two miles, through the swampy area just south of the lake, through the waist high taiga just north of their camp, and got her boots stuck, yet again, in the mud just outlying the forest section. She had done this walk before, many times, but there was one difference this time. This was the first time the walk made her sad, because it would be her last.
As she neared the camp, she passed Paschal, who was untangling some of their fishing line. He called her over and wished her well, saying he enjoyed his time getting to know her, and that he didn't feel it was fair how she had been shut out. She was genuinely touched, and thanked him for his honesty.
"I appreciate it," she said. "Best of luck tonight."
"You take care," he added, with a laugh, "Don't get yourself into too much trouble."
Back at camp, Helen pulled her aside and apologized, saying she would be voting for Jerri tonight. The two of them had some issues, but had usually been honest with each other. Helen promised Jerri she would tell her when her time was up, and now was the moment. Jerri thanked her.
Everyone had kind of been on eggshells around the actress today, knowing that a cornered Jerri was a dangerous Jerri. Every hunter knows that an animal who is injured or trapped can become unpredictable, so they had all gone out of their way to try and avoid her. But so far, Jerri had been fine. There hadn't been a problem.
"I just hope she doesn't make it hard on us," said Elisabeth, "I mean, voting someone out is a hard enough process as it is. You don't need any more drama than is necessary. Even if she -is- Jerri, it's still a traumatic event."
As the time neared to go to Tribal Council, Jerri needed to do one last thing. She needed to go have it out with Elisabeth. The perky young shoe designer had been the focal point for Jerri's anger for a long time how, whether it was justified or not. But Jerri wanted to go at least explain her side, so the two of them could make peace. Jerri was a big believer in closure, and didn't want to let bad feelings linger between the two. So she stood and waited near the shelter, waited for her former enemy to appear. All it would take was a minute, and it would be helpful in the end.
Elisabeth walked back from the forest, carrying some wood. Whistling a tune, she was blissfully in her own world when she looked up and saw Jerri waiting for her. Jerri, all alone. Elisabeth's eyes quickly scanned the rest of the camp. Greg and Paschal were nowhere to be seen. Kelly and Helen were far off, picking some berries. Jerri was alone. Alone, and looking for Elisabeth. Wanting -no- part of a last minute blowout, Elisabeth made a split-second decision to suddenly find something else to do. She made a quick U-turn and headed back to the forest. Jerri was always a drama queen, she loved the spotlight, and Elisabeth knew she would want to go out with a big prime time moment. But Elisabeth wasn't interested in getting a tongue lashing on national TV.
"Spare me the drama," she complained to a cameraman with a smile, silently laughing at the situation.
Jerri watched, incensed, as Elisabeth had blatantly decided to ignore her. You could love Jerri, you could hate her, but one thing she wouldn't let you do was ignore her. She seethed, hating the moment, hating that she had been robbed of her chance at closure. It wasn't going to be a blow-up, she was just here to make nice. This was supposed to be the final moment, the chance that people saw the real Jerri. Why did people always have to misunderstand her intentions?
"Damnit," she muttered, under her breath. Now it was over, her time here was officially done. Nothing would be resolved, and now she had two weeks worth of repressed anger bottled inside, hours and hours of frustration. She balled her fists up, looking around for some way to take out her anger. Her eye looked around before falling on a certain object, an inanimate piece of cloth that had been the symbol of her isolation since day one: Neleh's "Tuktu Girls" banner. That symbol of friendship and good times had mocked her since she got here. And now, looking at it one last time, just a single thought flared through Jerri's mind.
Go to hell, Tuktu.
In one violent motion, Jerri tore it off its moorings, ripping it to the ground. It was just a moment of spontaneous frustration, not planned at all. It was just one moment, one action, but she knew it symbolized the end. Jerri was done. Not wanting to prolong this charade, she decided to just get it over with. She grabbed her torch, jammed her hat on her head, put on a coat, and threw her backpack across her shoulder. She then started walking to Tribal Council, talking to nobody. It didn't matter that they weren't supposed to leave for an hour, she was going by herself.
Let's just get this over with.
Tribal Council was quiet. Not a sound could be heard, other than the sounds of the birds and wind outside. The dark Spirit Lodge mockup sat in the forest, seemingly out of place in nature. The losing tribe wasn't here yet, the host wasn't here yet, no one was here. At least, no one was -supposed- to be here.
Jerri Manthey sat inside, all alone. Streaks of dried tears were visible on her cheeks, but her sadness was all cried out. The only thought in her mind now was closure.
She slowly peeled a strip of cloth off the "Tuktu Girls" banner. Sitting all alone, with nothing but the fire to look at, she slowly dropped the strip into the fire. She watched the edges of it turn brown and curl, and watched as it was slowly consumed, just like all the strips before it. The banner was nearly destroyed.
The shadows of the fire licked off her face, as she simply stared into it. She slowly peeled off the last bit of Tuktu Girls banner, letting it drop into the fire. She had done nothing else for the past thirty minutes, slowly ripping and burning, but now she was done. She knew how it was going to look on TV, but she didn't really care. To her, it was just cathartic. It was a way at getting back at them all, for all the frustration, for all the jealousy, for all the pressure she had been under. Jerri couldn't very well do anything to the players, but found that this had helped. Her rage was gone now, this was just something that had to be done.
She was at peace now.
The gong rang, outside the entrance to Tribal Council. Then it rang again. Then a third time. The rest of Tuktu had arrived.
The five other members of her tribe walked in, as a group. Greg, Paschal, Kelly, Helen and Elisabeth had been concerned when Jerri went missing, fearing for her safety, but a cameraman had tipped them off that she had left already. Shrugging, Paschal had led them on the long hike, and now here they were.
The six members of Tuktu took their places, all sitting in awkward silence, as Jeff arrived and started in on their questions. Paschal admitted that he was probably their leader now, although he didn't feel he deserved it. Kelly was crushed that that she had to sit out the zipline challenge, that was one she thought she would excel in. Elisabeth and Jerri sat far away from each other, both quieter than usual, and the host noticed this. It was his job to notice.
"Is there any friction in this tribe, Elisabeth?"
She let loose a small sad smile, not looking at anyone in particular.
"Well, I think there's tension in any group," she said, very non-committal. "I mean, you have six people living together 24 hours a day, of course you are going to have friction."
"Jerri," asked the host, "How about from your end? Do you feel vulnerable tonight?"
"Of course, Jeff. I've been in danger since day one. Certain people here marked me for death the moment we stepped off that bus, and tonight is where they get their wish."
"So," he followed up, "You feel there's nothing you can do to save yourself?"
"I did all I could," she started, "I thought I did pretty well, but it was never going to happen. Any alliance in the world couldn't have saved me."
Jerri waited for the followup question, knew it would come. And it did.
"So, -are- there alliances here in Tuktu?"
Jerri paused for a moment. This was really the only chance she had. Questions of ethics, and friendship, and survival all ran through her head. She knew this would be crossing the line, but you know, -screw it-. The line had been crossed long ago, this was just fighting for her life now.
"There were always two alliances here," she said, explaining. "Elisabeth's alliance, and Tammy's." Elisabeth nodded her head, that was the truth. "But with Tammy gone, the rest of us had to scramble to save ourselves. First went Kelly Goldsmith, and now just two of us remain, Kelly and myself."
This was a blatant lie, and Kelly immediately called Jerri on it.
"That's bullshit," she shouted. "Jerri's lying!"
"Look, Kelly," said Jerri, fixing her with a glare, "You and I have been in since day one. The only difference is that I'll admit it, and you pretend you are against such a thing." She turned to the rest of Tuktu. "Look, I'm only asking you to get rid of Kelly before me. Let me stick around. I know you don't want me here, but at least I'm honest. She's been with me since the start, and now is trying to pull herself away. At least with me you know what you will get, I don't hang off on my own all day, whining about how I won't align with anyone." Jerri finished, knowing all to well that this was a cheap shot. The one she -really- wanted to take down tonight was Elisabeth, but no one would have believed that scenario. Helen had drawn away from her, so Kelly was the only one who might apply. It had to be Kelly. It was harsh, but then again, this was a harsh game. And when was this game ever fair, anyway?
"That's bullshit," Kelly angrily denied again. "Jerri's just making this up to save herself." She fixed Jerri with an angry glare, completely stunned and hurt by this last-ditch tactic, "Jerri, I've been your friend, probably your only one here."
"Hey," finished Jerri, "I'm just asking you to be honest with people. We're all honest here, aren't we? I mean, maybe Sue was right, maybe you are nothing but a rat."
"Well maybe Elisabeth was right about you," Kelly shot back, "And you -are- nothing but a bitch!"
"Look," said Jerri, "I'm not going to sit here and be insulted. You know what you've done, why don't you just own up to it? Calling me names isn't going to help."
Kelly refused to say another word. She set her jaw and just stared at the fire, refusing to say anything else. She was livid.
The rest of Tuktu sat silent, digesting this. It was an awkward moment, and the cameras caught it all. Most of the Tuktus did not believe Jerri's accusation, but no one was going to speak up. No one wanted to get in the middle right now. Even Greg sat silent, his head down. This was ugly.
Jeff Probst smiled, loving and scorning the drama all at the same time. Only one thing could possibly follow this awkward silence.
"Tuktu," he announced, "It's time to vote. Kelly, you're up first."
Kelly fixed Jerri with one last glare and walked briskly up to the podium. She scrawled five large letters on the paper, which weren't the five she was planning on writing tonight.
"Jerri," she said, angrily holding up the paper. "What you just did was unforgivable. I was your friend, I stuck up for you, I tried to make your life easier." She was furious, slamming her vote into the ballot box. "Go to hell."
Greg followed with a similar vote, adding that "My ears hurt when you talk."
Jerri voted, casting one for Kelly, hoping there would be others like it.
"Kelly, I apologize for the tactics, but this is just a game. One person must fall for the others to rise. I hope we can still be friends later on." She placed the ballot in the box, adding "But we both know this vote really should be for Elisabeth."
Helen and Paschal placed their votes, and then the final one to stride to the podium was Elisabeth. She walked up and wrote Jerri's name down, without a moment of hesitation.
"Jerri," she said, simply, "Go home."
The six members of Tuktu sat in silence as Jeff went to go retrieve the ballots. This was one of the most dramatic councils he had ever seen, and he was thrilled. He flashed Mark Burnett a quick thumbs-up as they sorted the ballots. Then he returned, his normal stoneface greeting the players.
"The person voted out will be asked to leave immediately," he said. "And with that, the first vote." He pulled it out.
The vote had a pretty crude caricature of her face on it. More than likely the work of Greg.
The second vote was scrawled in large, angry letters. And it wasn't the only one that looked that way.
The host looked at Jerri. She only shrugged and looked back.
"Jerri, that's three votes."
He pulled out the fourth, and final, vote.
"And the fifth person voted out of the game." He revealed it. "Jerri."
She smiled, nodded, and grabbed her torch. She reached to give Helen a hug but the Navy instructor just shook her head, her arms crossed and a stern look on her face. Jerri pulled away, and shrugged again. -Oh well.- She brought up her torch and Jeff snuffed it out.
"Jerri, the tribe has spoken."
Jerri turned to give her tribe one last wave, and exited into the forest. She left behind five very angry Tuktus, and they hadn't even seen the burned banner yet. But at least she was at peace now, Jerri had exorcised her demons. For the first time in a long while, Jerri Manthey was happy. And even better, she had gone out on her terms, not theirs.
Jeff addressed the remaining five as they recovered, ready for their long walk back.
"Certainly one of the more dramatic evenings I have ever seen. But you take the good with the bad in this game. Here's hoping that you find some harmony in your future. Best of luck, I'll see you tomorrow."
Elisabeth nodded, grabbing her torch. Good riddance, she thought. Paschal had his arm around Kelly, who was crying. He was trying his best to comfort the shaken river guide. But they all packed up and walked back to camp. Five players who were all pretty close to each other. Jerri was gone, and with her went the last easy choice. Tonight's vote had been unanimous, but future ones promised not to be.
They just hoped that future councils would go a little more smoothly.
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