All-Star Survivor: Alaska
Tuktu Tribe (black): Greg Buis, Paschal English, Elisabeth Filarski, Helen Glover, Kelly Wiglesworth
Amarok Tribe (blue): Tom Buchanan, Gina Crews, Silas Gaither, Brian Heidik, Clay Jordan, Tammy Leitner
Helen Glover was up before anyone else at Tuktu, even Paschal. She walked out of the shelter, rubbed her eyes at the sight of the ever-present sun, and put on a coat. She then began the process of boiling some of the tribe’s already clean drinking water.
"The more you boil it, the cleaner it tastes," she explained to a groggy cameraman. After the water had been sufficiently cleansed, she put it back in the jug, and planned to start the oatmeal.
"What do you think," she asked the camera crew, "Do I add blackberries today?" She looked up, but no one was going to reply - they just stared back at her, mutely. She silently chuckled at her faux pas. Helen often caught herself speaking to the camera crew, as if they were somehow part of the tribe. That was just her nature. Helen Glover was a talker.
"Blackberries it is," she added. "Excellent choice. Everyone gets a fun surprise this morning. Oatmeal de Helen."
Helen's good mood was not a surprise, she had been like that for a few days. It was easy, because she was happy with her place in Tuktu right now. She loved her tribe, each and every one of them. This was unusual in the fact that it was very easy to get under Helen Glover's skin. Back in the days of Chuay Gahn, she had managed to fit in just fine, and even make some tentative friendships, but there were still things about everybody that had irritated her. Clay was too lazy, Jan was too sensitive, John was too assertive, things like that. Helen sometimes had a hard time really liking people.
But not on Tuktu.
"It’s been so pleasant," she explained, "Because we all genuinely like each other. This is just a nice group of people. Well, after last night anyway." Helen was referring, of course, to the Jerri situation, as things were still shaken up a bit around camp. After being falsely accused of going against the team, Kelly had gone out of her way to talk to each and every one of them, explaining that she was -not- in an alliance with Jerri and never had been. She had been absolutely livid, and it had taken them a long time to get her to just forget it.
"I should have punched her in the face," the river guide spat, before Paschal managed to calm her down. He gave her a hug, telling her to forget it, until Kelly's frustration gave way to angry tears. But Kelly had finally gone down for the night, and was still asleep in the shelter right now. Hopefully she would be able to get past this, both for her own good and for the team. Jerri's last ditch effort to save herself had been a cheap shot, a sneaky attempt to bust the team apart, and hopefully it had failed.
"And now," Helen smiled, "We have a much more quiet camp. Back to good ol' peace and harmony."
She continued her work with the water and the pots, always taking on the backbone of the physical labor for the tribe. But she didn't mind. After all, if Helen didn't do it, it might not get done. Plus she enjoyed waking up early to make their days a little better, because she knew the rest of them would do the same for her. They were, after all, a team.
"Paschal," she said, "Is the personification of southern hospitality... a real gentleman. Elisabeth is a little spitfire, although she's a bit, you know," she made a seesawing motion with her hand, "A bit 'eh' on her common sense sometimes. Kelly is alright, assuming she can get past last night, but my favorite is Greg." Greg Buis, the one who she first thought was an immature young bullshit artist, had come to charm her, in time. He hadn't even really tried, he had been forced to be himself around Helen, and she had finally learned to appreciate his eccentricities.
"He's a bit hard to take at times, but he never quite crosses the line into annoying. Which if you know me, is like..." She made an exaggerated expression with her face, driving the point home.
About an hour later, Paschal echoed Helen's sentiments, agreeing that they were a great team, and that everyone fit together perfectly.
"There’s a real harmony about this tribe," he said, over a hot bowl of blackberry oatmeal, "We’ve all come together just like a family, to be honest. Although," he glanced over at Elisabeth and Kelly, who were picking up shreds of the old Tuktu banner, "I worry about this Red Rover thing. Greg and I are safe, we'll be here until the end. But if we lose, it's gonna kill this tribe. Losing Gina was bad enough, we really can't afford to lose any more of the girls right now. Whether one of them is stolen, or one of us is voted out, Tuktu really can't take much more turmoil right now."
As far as Brian knew, Tammy was in.
"Tammy will be with us when we vote Gina off." He was stripping some bark off a log as he talked, making reinforcement for the shelter. "She has to be, and she knows it. She joined us once when we tossed Jeff, and she'll do it again. She's really nothing more than a sheep, and knows it's in everyone's best interest if we're all together, because then we have five." Brian smiled and held up his fingers. "Five and we stay alive."
Tammy, herself, was still in a state of turmoil. In all her experience with this game, she had not faced a decision quite like this before. Gina was adamant that Brian would be pulled over to Tuktu in time, she had no doubt that Helen would get her way sooner or later. So Tammy was faced with a choice, a big one. Should she go with Gina and start planning ahead, assuming that Brian would be gone at some point? Was it safe to assume anything in this game? Or should she march right over to Brian and tell him of Gina's plan, maybe buying some time for herself.
"I mean, I don't like Brian," said Tammy, in a confessional, "But even a fool would realize he's the one calling the shots around here. And there are cracks in his foursome, I know there are. I know Brian doesn't particularly trust Clay," she said, "And if I show that I can save him, maybe Brian will take me in over the little man." She was still mulling this over, chewing her lip as she stared at the sky. "It sucks, man. This game messes with your head."
Silas, for his part, hadn't said a word. He had made a pact with Tammy to stay silent for now, and let her think it over. He badly wanted to go to Brian, tell him exactly what Gina was planning, and watch as Brian tore the girl apart. Or maybe Silas could do that himself. But he waited. Patience wasn't his strong suit, but Silas could keep a lid on this info for now.
"Because if it happens," he said with a grin, "And I do mean -if-. If it happens, then I need to make sure I don't have any enemies. Because this tribe will be wide open, brother, and I fully expect to end up at the top."
So for now, the Amarok Four still ruled the roost. Brian pulled the strings, although he tried his best to make Clay and Tom think that -they- were the ones calling the shots. Silas was along for the ride, and everyone and their mother knew that Gina was the next victim.
Tammy was the only one with an undefined role right now, and it was her intention to define that role soon. She couldn't really stand Brian's arrogance, but also didn't want to get on his bad side.
"You just have to suck up your pride to succeed around here," she griped. "I'd personally love to kick him to the curb, and knock that cocky grin right off his face, but you pick the battles you think you can win." Frustrated, she went for a walk alone, wanting one last chance to think this over.
Clay was tired of waiting. He didn't want to rely on Tammy to make a decision.
"I'm sick of this," he complained, "Tell her to say yes or no, or we vote her ass out."
Tom was reasoning with Clay, telling him to wait, just be patient. But Clay was tired of her stalling. He was ready to go the other way with this, and bring in Gina instead.
"If y'all are so antsy," said Clay, "To bring in a fifth, hell, bring the other one in. I'm sick of all the waitin'. Number one, we don't need a fifth, and number two, we're the ones calling the shots around here. Not her!"
Clay had been wary of Tammy for some time now. The fire in her eyes, the way she laid low since being here, all of that made him incredibly nervous. Tom didn't really care one way or another. Either it would be Gina, or it would be Tammy.
"But we def'nitely need a fifth person," he said, "Especially if we merge in three days."
In Tom's mind, Gina would never go for it. So that left Tammy, by default.
"Gina is a nice enough girl," he said, "But far too meek to ever help us out. Tammy plays to win. I'm'a said it before, I'll say it again, Tammy is one you want on your side."
"But what if we -don't- merge in three days," argued Clay. He had been through the fake-merge game before. He wasn't about to assume anything. "Y'all are damn fools if you base this decision around assumin' we're gonna merge. You can't play that way!"
Tom just brushed him off, with a loud "Ehhhh." He walked away, intending to go for a swim. He was tired of listening to Clay rant. It seems like that was all the guy did lately.
Depite all the recent infighting, however, the Amarok alliance was still a powerful one. Tuktu may have been a more unified tribe, but Amarok still held the game's power players. They were the ones who would fight tooth and nail to win this game. Brian was one of the best players the game had ever seen and, amazingly, seemed to be controlling this game just as easily as he had controlled Thailand. Clay and Tom were two of the sharpest competitors left in Alaska, despite their unconventional personas. And Silas, even though he wasn’t the manipulator he aspired to be, held a desire to win and the good fortune of being at Brian's right hand, not to mention he was by far the best athlete of the bunch. They were a killer foursome right now, and they were all together. This was a very bad thing for those outside their ranks, like Gina Crews.
"Yeah sure," she said, in an interview, "I was spared at the last challenge. I mean, it was nice and all, but it won't make a difference if I go next. I'm in no less danger now than I was two days ago." She paused to hug the immunity idol tightly, and smiled. "This guy here is my new best friend, I just hope he sticks around. He and I hope to see lots of each other in the future."
It was her sixteenth day in Alaska, and Gina was still a bit lost. In her mind, she was the one player in the game who had no real allies, and to be honest, didn’t even have a tribe. She had tried her best to make friends with Tammy and Silas, and big Tom had made her laugh like never before in her life, but she still felt isolated, like a visitor they just couldn’t wait to evict. The idea of a deal with Tammy had been tossed around, but nothing had ever made itself concrete. By this point, Gina had no idea where Tammy stood on the idea, or if there even -was- an idea. Tammy was very hard to read. Silas had seemed interested to a point, but he was as big a liar as anyone, she had already written him off as hopeless. She felt alone, and backed up into a corner by a pack of snarling alpha-male wanna-bes.
"It’s still pretty grim," she explained, "I wear this blue Amarok buff but there’s really not much of a point - they’ve made it clear that I’m not one of them. They just pulled me over here to hurt Tuktu and vote me off."
A merge or a miracle. At this point, Gina felt that only one of those two would keep her in this game. But then again, she had seen stranger things, such as the image of Tom Buchanan, who was currently walking buck naked towards a nearby stream.
"Oh my lord," she feigned covering her eyes, smiling, "I think Tommy's going swimming again."
"If you’d like to pull someone new to your team
You must keep your feet nailed down to the beam
A lot’s on the line, be sure to stand tall
One more must depart if your team takes a fall."
"It sounds like something with balance," Elisabeth offered. Kelly just shrugged. Whatever it was, they were going to win it. No questions asked.
"Amarok has beaten us the last two times," Kelly told the tribe as they prepared to leave, "We are -not- going to let them win and steal somebody else."
There was a cheer following this remark. Tuktu was ready to start winning again, and a pissed off Kelly Wiglesworth was ready to lead them today. She was just sick and tired of the extraneous crap in this game. The politics, the gossip, the friendships. And most of all, Jerri. It was all just crap. Kelly had come to a conclusion that morning: It was time to get back to the original purpose of this game.
"Kicking ass," she said, with just a small smile on her face, "And taking names."
For one thing, Tuktu pretty much -had- to win this challenge. They were down six to five. If they lost one more member, they would be assured of going into a merge outgunned. -Assuming- there was a merge at ten, that is. No one seemed to know for sure what was going to happen.
The five Tuktus placed their hands in a circle and did their old cheer.
"1... 2... 3... GO TUKTU!"
Even Greg seemed to get into the spirit. No matter if he had respect for his teammates or not, he still didn't want to go into a merge down in numbers. He wanted to win today as much as anyone.
One person who had been looking forward to this challenge was Helen. She looked forward to -all- the reward challenges, and the reason was simple. They were going to snag Brian, sooner or later. Amarok was running out of members, and in time, Brian would have to be here eventually. She had been licking her chops for that moment for some time now. It was only a matter of time, there was no -way- the gods of fate would deny her a chance to ruin his day at some point in Alaska. She had been lobbying for them to steal Brian again and again, but had always been outvoted. But with their numbers dwindling, and tribe unity at an all-time high, things were looking good for Helen.
"Quite simple," she explained to Greg, "My vote counts more than it used to." Greg smiled and nodded, agreeing to help her if she needed an extra vote. He understood her single-minded need for payback, because she talked about it a lot.
"And then when he gets here," she promised, "He's in my world now." She grinned, happily. Things were looking up, it should be a very exciting challenge.
"Unless," Greg pointed out, "Amarok wins, and Brian steals -you- instead."
Helen shot him one of her motherly looks of disapproval.
"Don't even joke about that," she warned him. But she knew the possibility existed. She knew that she was a huge obstacle to Brian's winning this game. And she knew that he knew it too. If she went over there, she was just as dead as he was on Tuktu.
"We just gotta win," she said, lacing up her boots. "Just gotta win."
As usual, Big Tom Buchanan led the Amarok tribe into the reward challenge. Standing in front, like a big statue, he almost dared the Tuktus to come over and steal someone. He was a funny man, a big jovial bear of a guy, but in challenges you didn't want to mess with him. In fact, there was a definite determination among all the Amarok members, especially Tammy, to continue their winning streak against Tuktu. They were all the type that didn't like to lose.
"We really need t’win this challenge," Tom had said, in a confessional, "And not because we really need t’take one of theirs, but because we don’t want them takin’ one of ours. At this point in the game, we’re playin’ defense."
Jeff stood at the edge of Horseshoe Lake with his arms crossed and a sly smirk on his face. Behind him, in the lake, were two balance beams standing atop the water. A flash of confidence ran through Kelly, and she knew they were going to win this one. She had won something similar back in Pulau Tiga. She wasn't going to let Tuktu lose today.
"Welcome to today’s reward challenge," said Jeff, "Today, we’ll be holding a simple contest of will, determination, balance, and resolve. Each tribe will take their place on a beam out over the lake and stand as long as they can. The first tribe with nobody left on the beam loses. It’s that simple."
Kelly grinned, as sure a grin of confidence as you can have. She glared at the Amaroks, and with her own pair of sunglasses on today, she even looked like a mini-Tammy Leitner.
Jeff clapped his hands and rubbed his palms. "Let’s get started. Tuktu, you guys are down one. Who’s gonna sit out for Amarok?"
The Tuktus had already talked this one out and had chosen Tammy.
"Women are usually better with balance," Paschal had said, "Gina or Tammy, your call."
"Tammy," Kelly and Elisabeth had said at the same time. No one wanted Gina to have to sit out, she was still one of them.
Tammy Leitner sat down off to the side, watching, chin resting on her palms.
The two tribes removed their boots, waded out and took their places. Two balance beams, side by side, not touching. The five members of each tribe set their positions, held their arms out for balance, and the face-off had begun. It was just a matter to see who wanted it most. Some, like Clay and Elisabeth, were fidgeting almost from the get-go. The beams were only three inches wide or so and awfully stiff, so standing upon them for an extended period of time barefoot was a definite trial.
An hour passed. No one had moved, although Greg was entertaining them all with some musical selections from the musical "My Fair Lady." Most remained silent, however, particularly Brian and Helen, who looked over at each other from time to time. Paschal was the only one who had come close to falling, wobbling dangerously about 20 minutes into the contest.
With the passing of the first hour, Jeff came out, holding a box that smelled delicious. Several players groaned, knowing their resolve was about to be put to the test. Jeff rowed out in a small boat, stopping near both teams.
"I come bearing gifts," he announced, an evil grin spread across his face. "Pizza, anyone?" Jeff lifted the box’s lid, revealing a steaming 9-inch pepperoni pizza. "This is hot, steaming, and fresh out of the oven. First one in the water gets all six slices."
By the time he had closed his mouth, Jeff watched Gina hop down from her perch with a gentle splash, and casually began to swim in.
"Gina’s getting pizza," Jeff announced, "Didn’t even hesitate."
Jeff met her back at shore, and watched as she ravenously devoured as much as she could. She knew she was hungry, but didn't realize she had been -that- hungry.
"Oatmeal must not be agreeing with you," joked Jeff. He always tried to make small talk with Gina, she was one of his favorites.
"Who am I to argue with pizza," she joked. "Besides, it’s no big secret. Amarok wants me gone, and I want Amarok to lose today. No harm in me jumping off for food." Jeff nodded, he knew all about the Amarok dynamic, everyone on the production crew did. It was clearly in Gina's best interest for them to lose today. "Hey Tammy," he called, "Want some pizza?"
Tammy came over to join them, finishing off the leftovers. She and Gina talked strategy again, and Tammy decided to flat out tell her the bad news. She had made up her decision.
"I'm staying with Brian," she said. "I'm guaranteed to make the merge that way. Sorry."
Gina shrugged. Oh well, it had been a nice try.
Tammy had gone right down to the wire with this decision, mulling it over in her head. If she had gone with Gina, she was fully prepared to help Tuktu out today. With some simple hand signals, she could have tipped them off to take Brian. But in the end, she felt it was best to stick with the safe plan. If she was with Brian, she was guaranteed to make the merge. And then...
"All hell breaks loose," she had grinned.
So Tammy was out. Gina's plan was done. She would have to rely on Silas if she wanted to make it past the next Council vote, and that wasn't a very reassuring prospect.
The challenge passed at a leisurely pace. The second hour completed, and Elisabeth was seriously fidgeting, her sore ankle giving her some problems. She shifted weight from one foot to the other, over and over, and finally the stress was just too great. With an apology to her team, she became the first Tuktu in the water. A few moments later, she was swimming towards Gina, eager to have a chance to talk with her friend again. Clay saw this and immediately dropped into the water. He didn't want Elisabeth and Gina to say a word to each other about strategy, it was simply too dangerous. Brian saw this and nodded, approvingly. Clay knew the nuances of this game as well as anyone. Clay sat on the beach next to Elisabeth, Tammy and Gina, the four of them looking unhappy. But they weren't talking, that was the key.
Thirty minutes later, Greg lost his balance and began to sway back and forth. He cried out in anger and eventually toppled into the dark water. The others cheered him when he resurfaced, impressed with his acrobatic tumble. It was down to three against three.
At the three-hour mark, Jeff brought out a bucket of ice with six beers inside.
"Anybody want one of these?" he offered. "If not," he continued, indicating Clay, Greg, Elisabeth, Tammy and Gina on the shore, "I think I’ll just share them with these five."
A few heads turned, but as the survivors glanced each other over, they all knew no one would take the bait. Not even Tom, who was surprisingly still in the contest. He made a big show of crying and turning down the free beer, but stayed in place.
"Fine," said Jeff, "That’s a beer apiece for those of us on the shore."
"Hell yes!" Clay exclaimed, grinning like a kid.
Twenty minutes later, Tom decided to change his footing, not wanting to face the sun. In doing so, his foot slipped, and the big man collapsed into the lake, knocking Brian down with him. Both of them fell violently into the water, Brian cracking his shin in the process. It looked ugly.
"Hey, be careful," shouted Jeff from shore, alarmed. Elisabeth clapped a hand over her mouth, but everyone looked to be okay. Brian held his shin as he emerged onto shore, wincing in pain. He was upset, but not as upset as Tom, who had missed out on free beer by twenty minutes.
"Ohhhhh," moaned Tom, in worse pain than Brian, "It hurts mah heart, Jeff. You sure you don't got no more? Ohhhhhhh." He pulled off his hat to fan his face, as if about to faint. They all laughed, except Brian. He was amused, but was far more interested in watching Silas right now. He watched his young protege intently, it was all down to the kid from Tennessee. Silas against three of the Tuktus. This was huge.
Silas stood with his arms folded across his shirtless chest, looking for all the world like he could stay out there forever. He smiled over at Paschal, Helen and Kelly, who were all looking confident for Tuktu.
"Hey Silas," joked Kelly, "Why dontcha take a dive for us. You know you can't beat us."
"She's a smart girl," joked Paschal, "I think she's got a point. Three of us, one of you."
Silas only grinned. He pointed up at the sky.
"I can take the sun a lot longer than you guys. Especially you, Paschal. Why don't you swim over, get some of that food?"
Another fifty minutes passed. Paschal finally lost his balance a little after the four-hour mark, slipping off into the water. Silas gave him a polite round of applause, but he was still there. Just him against the ladies now.
"Nice job, Pappy," cheered Elisabeth from shore.
A half-hour later, Silas was starting to get tired. His feet ached, and his knees were turning to jelly. But he knew that Kelly and Helen were also having a hard time, as Helen had now bent over somewhat, her hands on her thighs. trying desperately to stay up. And then it happened.
Silas' left knee gave out, and he crumpled down to the side, falling into the water. Frustrated, he slapped his hand against the beam, but it was all over. Tuktu had won.
"Tuktu," yelled Jeff, "Wins reward!"
Helen and Kelly erupted in cheers, hugging each other deliriously as they fell into the water. The rest of Tuktu ran out to the lake, hugging each other in a mad, frantic huddle. Clay didn't want to watch, he turned his back and went to put his boots on.
"Reward is yours," said Jeff, "Who's the lucky guy from Amarok?"
The five of them went into a huddle in the water. Helen led the discussion, once again asking for Brian's immediate execution.
"Brian, you guys," she said, "C'mon, throw me a bone this time."
"I'd vote for Tom," said Paschal, ever the practical one. "I like the guy."
"Tom," agreed Elisabeth, "Big Tom is a hoot."
"I'm gonna go with Helen on this one," put in Greg, honoring his promise to Helen, "Take Brian. Get him outta here."
Kelly looked over at the group of guys. Silas stood in front, fully expecting to be taken yet again. -Poor sap,- she thought. -Doesn't realize we don't want him.- She glanced over at Brian, then Tom. Brian, or Tom.
Brian, or Tom.
"Look," said Helen, trying to sway her decision, "I -know- how Brian works. I spent five weeks with him, there's no way he -isn't- calling the shots. He decides who goes and who stays. You take him, you cripple that team."
Kelly looked at Helen with suspicion.
"I don't want him here," she said. "He's a dick."
"That he is," grinned Helen.
"You just want to vote him out," accused Kelly.
"This is just your own personal vendetta."
"Okay," said Kelly, tossing her hands up in the air, "I vote Brian. Make Helen shut up about it."
"Oh, don't even tease me," said Helen, nearing tears. "Please say you aren't kidding."
Paschal shook his head, not liking this at all. It was mean-spirited and unfair. But he was outvoted, and Tuktu worked as a democracy. The vote was three to two, and Elisabeth even changed her vote to Brian, hoping to make it more unanimous. So it was decided, four to one.
Brian watched Tuktu deliberate, a look of intense focus on his face. He didn't figure that Helen would have enough sway to get him, and guessed it would probably be Silas instead. Being pulled to Tuktu was the only outcome he had decided could possibly stand in his way right now, and he hoped upon hope that his name wasn't the one that would be called. He didn't want the game snatched from his hands, so close to victory.
"I think it’s about time Brian joined our ranks," called Helen, a big grin on her face. Brian's heart sank, only one thought ringing in his mind.
"Brian, I’ll need your buff," Jeff said. "You are now a member of Tuktu."
Brian donned his new black buff, walking to high five his new team. Helen, of course, made an extremely grand gesture of welcoming him, giving him a big hug, and even kissing him on the cheek. But the moment no one was looking, she had just one thing to whisper to him.
"Hey Brian, old pal," she said with a smile, "Welcome to Hell."
Brian spent most of his first night at Tuktu staring up at the ceiling of the shelter. For the first time in his Survivor history, Brian was starting to sweat it out. The game had just become difficult, an all-new sensation for the used car salesman. In Thailand, Brian had practically coasted through the game from beginning to end, achieving the distinction of sole survivor at the game’s finish. Now, for his first time ever, Brian felt threatened. He felt cornered.
Thoughts of how he would possibly manage to survive in this tribe flooded his mind, and kept him from sleep. All he could think about were the odds stacked against him. He was the newcomer to an already tight tribe. He was probably the best athlete here, with no allies. And, of course, he had Helen, who was apparently out for blood.
It was not going to be easy.
It wouldn't take a miracle, however, it was just going to take some time and some patience. -The merge,- he thought, -I have to make the merge.- He was well aware of how much danger he was in, but the glimmer of a merge shone in front of him, like an oasis. If he could just delay his execution for a few days, he could rejoin his old alliance. And then they would be able to get right back on schedule. But for now, he was going to have to make the ultimate sale. He had sold himself to Chuay Gahn for one million dollars back in Thailand - now the question was whether or not Brian could sell himself to Tuktu for a few extra days in the game.
"The problem," he admitted later, while fishing in the Tuktu umiak, "Is that they are so close, and I'm joining them so late. It will be difficult to sway -anyone's- vote at this point. They are all woven too tightly into the tribal fabric. So I can either try to sway someone, or I can just wait and try to win immunity for us." But Brian knew exactly what he was going to do. Brian liked to leave nothing to chance, he was going to make something happen. Brian Heidik didn't like to rely on immunity.
As the rest of Tuktu went about their morning ritual of chores and duties, Brian did his best to fit in with camp harmony. He talked openly with Paschal about the situation at Amarok, discussed his college football stint with an interested Kelly, and even managed to make small talk with Helen. By noon, Brian had come to the surprising realization that Tuktu, despite its tight harmony, had its cracks.
"Watch Greg," he pointed out to a cameraman, "He doesn't care for most of them. Just watch."
He watched as the young mountain man walked from one end of the camp to the other, not saying hi to Elisabeth or Kelly, just walking.
"I knew Greg somewhat at Amarok," said Brian, "He was a loner back then, kind of sad, but he's a lot different over here. He's gotten a little cocky, I think, because he's had it pretty easy." He smiled. "They all talk about him like he's the greatest guy in the world, but you can see he has very little respect for any of them, deep down."
He paused, and pointed out Kelly, who was cleaning out the oatmeal pot.
"Kelly is just your typical pissed-off rebel. She hates the world. But if you were to watch, I bet she feels she doesn't quite fit in with the rest, like she doesn't belong."
Brian smiled, loving the sly interplay of the Tuktu members. Within only a few hours, he thought he had them all figured out.
"It's like playing chess," he finished, "You just have to be able to read the board, think about your moves before making them. You can't just jump right out and play, you have to take some time."
As Brian tried to worm his way into the tribe, Elisabeth had gone to discuss the next vote with Paschal. The plan all along had been to vote out whomever they took from Amarok, whether it had been Brian, Tom, Clay or Silas. And now that Brian was here, the choice should have been a slam dunk. But, of course, it wasn't.
"I think it's petty," whispered Paschal, "And mean-spirited. I don't like the way Helen is acting at all, and frankly, I'm kind of disappointed in her." He had been very bothered by Helen's thirst for revenge, and the way she was trying to draw out Brian's misery. Paschal was no more a Brian fan than anyone, but he liked to think of himself as fair, and just. And the way Tuktu planned to vote Brian out was really kind of offensive to him.
"Well who else would you suggest we vote for," asked Elisabeth. "I mean, obviously if we spare Brian, we have to vote for someone else. And I know I don't want to be the one who voted out Kelly, or Helen, or Greg."
"I honestly don't know," he replied. "But I just know that I think this is unfair and not like the way things are normally done around here."
"It would solve everything if we could just switch Gina back for Brian," Elisabeth said. She gave a little laugh. "You think Jeff will let us do a swap?"
Paschal shrugged. He didn't know what he would do right now if they were forced to vote. But he knew he didn't like this situation one bit, and was not about to hold his tongue.
"I'm not gonna go along with a lynch mob just because they say to. If we have to vote Brian out, it had better be for a reason."
"So, Tammy, what's on your mind?"
It was Gina. She smiled down at Tammy, who was whittling a stick. Tammy looked up, not surprised. Now that Brian was gone, Gina was sure to come calling again, and here she was.
"Nothing." Tammy half-smiled, trying to keep her emotions in check for the moment.
Gina was all smiles today. With yesterday’s removal of Brian Heidik, things were suddenly looking much brighter.
"It's like Amarok is a chicken," she had said at the time, "And Tuktu chopped their head right off. Oh, I couldn't be any happier."
With Brian gone, a flurry of activity had taken place last night. For one, Clay came immediately to Tom, wanting to make sure they were still on the same page. Tammy and Silas had a long discussion together behind some trees, deciding what to do now. Big Tom had talked with everyone, first Clay, then Silas, then Tammy, and then Gina.
"He actually talked to me like I was a person," Gina had smiled, "And not a little girl like he normally does."
Yes, things were suddenly wide open in camp Amarok. Five people with no leader meant just one thing: A three-person alliance could take this team over.
In more ways than one, Brian’s departure had left a void within Amarok. Obviously, the alliance situation had been left in shambles. Silas, Clay, and Tom were still technically in power, but entirely disorganized without Brian’s control. Tom and Clay rarely even spoke with the young athlete - Brian had always done that. In fact, Clay Jordan couldn’t even remember the last time he and Silas had spoken or what they had spoken about. Brian’s exit had also dramatically increased the workload around Amarok. Simply put, Brian had single-handedly done a huge chunk of Amarok’s work. People often complained about his cunning ruthlessness, but they had to admit that Brian was the tribe’s chief worker - gathering food, tending shelter, and boiling water more than anyone else. Even Gina had to give him that.
"I guess I'm stuck doing it all now," she griped.
To Silas, Brian's removal left him with mixed emotions. For one, as usual, he was insulted that Tuktu failed to steal him. That was three times now, and he was more stunned with each rejection. But beyond that, he had lost his closest ally. Brian was almost like a big brother to him in some ways, and although they viewed each other with suspicion, or in Brian's case, with contempt, it hurt to lose the person you were closest to. And, of course, the latest news meant that Silas would probably never have a chance to outwit his mentor.
"I was looking forward to being the one who brought him down someday," grinned Silas. "Although who knows, maybe I'll still get a chance."
Yes, for all of Silas' enjoyment of Brian's company, he was still a schemer at heart. It was the old athlete's credo: If you wanted to be the best, you had to -beat- the best. The very last part in Silas' grand scheme was the part where he personally voted Brian out. He had visualized it in his head, the moment when the torch was passed from teacher to student. And now, gone.
"Sucks, man," he griped, "But, of course, there is one good thing to come from all this." He leaned back, placing his arms behind his head, smiling and relaxing.
"This is my tribe now. And it's about damn time."
With the upcoming immunity challenge, there was a strange feeling coming over both camps. Neither side really had much to gain by winning today.
"If Tuktu wins today," said Clay, "And we go to Council, hell, we just vote off Gina. It's what we were going to do anyway. Aint nothing changed, 'cept it means Brian sticks around, maybe to the merge. So if you look at it, aint really any reason why we should win today. We win, and they vote out Brian. They win, we vote out Gina. And I'm sure they're lookin' at it the -exact- same way."
Sure enough, this strategy was being discussed in Tuktu, although it was to a lesser extent. Helen had brought it up with Greg just that morning.
"Look," she said, "I know there's not much of a chance anyone will be up for losing today, but think of it this way. Brian is one of them, and we don't want him to be around at the merge. We lose, and he's gone. But if they lose, we lose Gina."
"It's quite a quandry," joked Greg.
Helen scrunched up her face. She was not one for losing challenges, and she knew Kelly or Paschal would never go for it. But it was certainly in their best interest. She rapped her fingers on the wall of the shelter, nervously.
"Brian needs to go, and he needs to go soon," she said, "Because we don't want him getting back with his little buddies."
"He's our hostage," Greg joked, in his pirate voice, "And we won't be givin' 'im back."
Helen nodded. Yep, that was pretty much it.
As Helen and Greg were finishing up, Clay was bringing up the idea of losing with Silas. Clay had spoken with most of Amarok, with varying degrees of success, and wanted to use this as a good chance to finally get to know the young man from Tennessee.
"Sorry, man," said Silas, "But I aint losin' on purpose."
Silas often thought back on his days in Africa, mostly about how the twist had screwed his chances of winning, but other times about how his own team had thrown a challenge, simply to get rid of him. It was a Survivor first, and Silas had been the guinea pig. After that debacle, he had vowed right there and then to always make sure his team won, if he could help it. With immunity, you were always safe.
"Look," said Clay, "I'm not tellin' ya to lose. I'm just saying that if we -do- lose, it won't be a terrible thing. We take out Gina, same as before."
Silas fixed the diminutive man with a suspicious eye. He didn't trust Clay Jordan one tiny bit. Silas knew that he was the best athlete here, and knew they were nearing a critical junction in the game. The strong were bound to go soon, taken out by the weak. It would mean nothing to people like Clay to vote out the best athlete when they no longer needed him. Silas knew they probably feared his athletic prowess. They were just jealous of him, and his strength. He would be in danger until the end of the game, and he knew it. And he suspected Clay would be the one behind it when it happened.
"Whatever, man," said Silas. He didn't want to talk about it anymore, and started to walk away. "Numbers, we need numbers."
"Not if one of our numbers is a traitor," Clay called after him. But Silas didn't want to talk anymore, he had simply left. Clay dismissed Silas with a curse and a wave of the hand and walked away, frustrated. That hadn't gone particularly well.
But in either case, the idea had been thrown around by both teams. There was a chance that tonight's challenge would turn into a farce. If Clay or Helen had their way, it may turn into a contest of who was better at losing.
"The first time through you made mistakes
A second chance is all it takes
Learn from how you did before
Or else you might be shown the door."
The two tribes arrived at the same clearing where they had competed in the blind footrace more than a week earlier. Jeff greeted them and began the proceedings as usual - taking back the immunity idol and announcing it as, "back up for grabs."
"Today," Jeff explained, "We’re going to have a little review. You’ve almost reached the game’s halfway mark, and by now, you’ve competed in a wide variety of challenges. Well, we thought it would be fitting to revisit some of those challenges, and see if you’ve learned anything from your past mistakes."
The players looked around, noting obstacles used in prior events. Silas and Brian were particularly interested in their surroundings, both of them wanted badly to win today.
"We’ll be performing a race with four stages," added Jeff. "You each will run only one leg of the race. You will all take turns, and everyone will participate. This is a -team- effort."
He pointed to a tree.
"The first stage is a treasure hunt. You’ll climb a tree and retrieve a hand shovel. Once there, you climb down, and will dig up a small chest buried at the tree’s base. Once you’ve found the chest, open it, and you will find a hatchet." He held up a small axe. "Run the hatchet over to your teammate at the second stage, where there is a target." He pointed over to a pair of targets. "That person must throw the axe and hit the target."
Jeff led them over to a nearby patch of forest.
"Two teammates will run the third leg, where they will be tied together, one of them blindfolded. The two of you will race through this forest, all the way to a table in the middle. At that table rests a bowl, where the final person will know what to do when they open it." He smiled. "First team to finish all their tasks wins immunity."
The two teams looked over the course. Six members for Tuktu, five for Amarok. This would likely be the last challenge before the merge. This was an important one.
"And Tuktu," added Jeff. "Since you have six, you will sit out one member. Amarok, who is sitting this one out?"
Tom pointed to Greg, who retreated to go sit on a log.
Jeff watched as the first two players lined up to climb their trees. Kelly for Tuktu, Tammy for Amarok. The two intense young women nodded their heads, acknowledging they were ready. All discussions of losing were forgotten for the moment, because each badly wanted to beat the other one. As Clay was finding out, it was hard to discuss strategy when you had so many competitive hotheads around.
"Survivors ready," Jeff announced, "GO!"
Both women flew across the clearing, heading directly for their trees. Tammy was the first to reach it, and scrambled up the branches, grunting with the effort. Kelly was right behind her, although she had some trouble with the climb. But Tammy reached the top first, grabbing the shovel and sliding right back down. Pumping her fist, she thrust the shovel into the dirt, digging furiously. Kelly slid down to join her moments later, and the two began a heated dig into the dirt and mud. Tammy uncovered her treasure chest first, prying open the lid to get the axe. Her arms and hands covered with mud, she stood up and started to sprint towards Tom at station #2.
At the second station, Tammy handed her axe off to Tom, who smacked her on the butt, yelling "Nice job!" Tom turned around and sized up the wooden target. His first throw was on target and hard enough, but it bounced off the wood, not sticking.
"Damnit," he said, walking out to retrieve the axe. At this point, Kelly had arrived with Tuktu's axe, handing it off to Elisabeth. Elisabeth turned and threw the axe, missing her target completely.
Both Tom and Elisabeth came back with their second throws, and Tom's axe crunched into the wood with a sturdy thud. Grinning, he started to run towards station three, where Silas and Clay waited.
At station three, Brian waited with Paschal for Tuktu, watching the proceedings with anxiety. Elisabeth missed her first three tosses, and it was making him antsy. He hated to rely on others. But finally, with the fourth, Elisabeth hit home, and cheered her own throw. He pumped his fist for her, muttering under his breath, "C'mon.... c'mon... hurry." He watched as Silas and Clay started on their run through the woods for Amarok, tied together, with Clay wearing the blindfold. Tuktu was still behind, and they would have to catch Amarok in the run. Brian looked at his partner, Paschal. He winced. -We should have saved Paschal for the last part-, he thought. -He's too slow.-
Silas and Clay were making their way through the woods, Clay doing his best to try to slow them down. Blindfolded, he made sure to drag his feet, hitting every tree and branch along the way. Frustrated, Silas considered just picking up the little guy and carrying him, but held off, deciding to drag him along like a rag doll instead.
"Let's go," shouted Silas angrily, using his superior strength to move Clay along. But it was going to be a challenge, because he saw Brian and Paschal entering the woods behind them. Paschal had on the blindfold, and Brian had a look of determination in his eyes.
"Move it," screamed Silas, yanking Clay off his feet with a violent tug. Clay was trying his best, but fighting Silas was like fighting a horse. He was too strong.
"We're comin' for you, Silas," teased Brian, "Watch your back." He and Paschal were working together very well, Brian telling Paschal where to go, and which direction to turn. Soon they were just steps behind Amarok, as the two teams reached the edge of the forest. Silas untied his tether and shoved Clay aside in a haste, running forward to reach Gina at the final station.
She turned and saw the table. Closing her eyes, she reached for the bowl atop it, and opened it. Inside lay a large pinkish-red piece of cold muktuk. And wrapped around it like a coil was a prickly, very sharp piece of Devil's Club.
"Gina," announced Jeff, "You must eat the muktuk to win."
"It's got thorns around it," she complained.
"You'll have to remove the plant from outside it. Unwrap it, remove the muktuk from inside, and eat it all."
Groaning, Gina reached for the spiky plant, trying not to impale her fingers. She noticed out of the corner of her eye that Helen was just opening her bowl, also groaning when she saw the task at hand.
Gina very carefully tried to work the spiky stalk from around the whale blubber. Using two fingers, she very carefully pried it away, peeling it slowly off, like the skin coming off a banana. Two of the spines dug painfully into her thumb, but she was able to close her eyes and block out the pain. And then, she tossed it aside, staring at about a quarter pound of raw oozing blubber.
She looked over at Helen, who was very, very carefully picking at the spines. She was being very tentative about it, although Brian implored her to hurry from behind.
Gina picked up the pink blob and started to nibble on the ends, like eating a raw chicken breast. She almost gagged but managed to chew and swallow about half of it. Helen still didn't have her piece unwrapped, and Brian was now angrily calling at her to "Hurry!"
Helen smiled slyly, enjoying the sounds of Brian getting more and more frantic behind her. It felt good to hear him sweat it out, a nice change of pace. And it wasn't going to make a difference, she had no intention of ever eating this thing. She just had to make it look good for the cameras. She yelped in pain as she feigned having her finger impaled, looking back at him to shrug helpelessly. He could do nothing but watch, as he slowly implored her under his breath.
"C'mon H," he said, softly so no one else could hear, "Don't do this to me. Just eat it. Just do it." He was getting a little angry now. "Show some class."
She only smiled, and again yelped in pain, making a big show of having trouble with the thorns.
In a few minutes, Gina finally sucked down the last bit of muktuk. It slid down her throat, and she thrust her hands in victory. The rest of her team cheered for her, except for maybe Clay, who was only clapping half-heartedly.
"Amarok," announed Jeff, "Immunity!"
Silas went over to embrace Gina in a big bear hug, picking her completely off her feet.
"Yeah, baby," he shouted, "Yeah!"
He grabbed the immunity idol from Jeff, holding it proudly above his head. He was joined by Tammy and Tom, both of whom beamed with happiness.
"I'm sorry guys," said Jeff, speaking to the defeated Tuktus, "But you know what's coming now. Tribal Council tomorrow."
Brian stared off into the distance, at nothing in particular, his hands on his hips. For possibly the first time ever, he feared for his own demise. His only chance now was to exploit the dynamics of the Tuktus. There just had to be a big enough crack somewhere, -had- to. Helen and the rest already had counted him out, but Brian thought differently. He wasn’t going anywhere.
This game wasn’t over until he said it was.
Kelly Wiglesworth sat in a tree, sewing a new banner for the tribe. Since Jerri had destroyed the old one, Kelly felt she owed it to the team to make something new. After all, she -did- bring a sewing kit as her luxury item.
"I mean," she joked, "It would be kind of stupid for me to be making doilies and pillows when everyone loved the banner so much."
A secondary reason for the new banner was for the friendship the rest of the Tuktus had shown Kelly since the last Tribal Council. Every one of them, down to even Greg, had taken her aside to say that they never believed Jerri for a second. They all knew Kelly was just trying to be nice, and never held a single thing against her.
"Jerri was the rat," said Greg, in one of his rare moments of sincerity, "Not you. Keep your chin up."
Kelly was a hard person to get close to. She kept to herself, didn't really trust other people, and liked to keep an angry front against the world out of self-preservation. But even she was moved by the kindness everyone had shown her. It was what she had really needed. They picked her up when she was down.
"I owe this to them," she said softly, holding up her half-finished banner. "They didn't have to do that."
Of course, the title on the new banner was still undecided. The old one had said, simply, "Tuktu Girls." But with Greg, Paschal and Brian here now, that wouldn't do.
"Well," she joked, "I don't think we really need to include Brian on this." She lowered her voice, "He won't be here long enough."
Greg had suggested a few alternate banner titles, such as "Tuktu Girls and Greg," "Tuktu - We don't Suktu," and his personal favorite, "Turn to NBC, watch Friends instead." He would have loved to see Burnett's reaction to that banner, plastered to the side of their shelter every day. But for now, they were going with "Tuktu."
The mood in Tuktu had slowly been growing more strategic in the past few days. It was all well and good to just keep the harmonious ones around, but eventually they would have to get down to two, and then one. There was no way around that, and so strategic conversations had begun to creep up. Kelly and Elisabeth. Paschal and Greg. Helen and Kelly. Helen and Greg. Elisabeth and Paschal. They had all mentioned working together to the end, and who needed to stay and who needed to go. Nothing was really in motion yet, but it was a definite sign of the time that they were all at least thinking about it. They had all sent out feelers to the rest. And, of course, none of them were including Brian in their future plans.
Brian Heidik sat alone in the woods, meditating. It was a technique he had seen Jeff Varner practice, and had found it quite useful during the more stressful points of the game. Just relax, meditate, and practice some positive affirmations. Do that, and you would be ready to conquer any obstacle.
Brian had first approached Kelly about some sort of scheme at tonight's vote. He had found her to be closed to any plan, to say the least. She wasn't about to go against her own team. She had ended the conversation by telling him exactly where he could go and exactly what he could do to himself.
"Ah," he grinned in a confessional, "I think it would have been easier to get Kelly's vote a few days ago."
Kelly may have been open to something at the last council, but Tuktu had rallied around her, helping her get over Jerri's attack. They had all gone out of their way to get her back in this game, and there wasn't a chance in hell she was going to betray them right now. When you won Kelly's loyalty, you usually had it for life.
Helen was out, of course. She had so much as told him that he was dead meat. She was going to sign her name at the bottom of the vote, make sure he knew where it came from. He tried to tell her that it would be a great sneak attack, team with Brian, get a third along, they would never see it coming. He explained that she was clearly the outsider here, that she had no long-term potential right now to win this game.
"Let's work it like we did in Thailand," he said. "They won't expect it."
"How about you," she replied, pointing off into the distance, "Work your butt out of my kitchen and go talk to someone else. I've got to make dinner."
So Brian had been foiled twice, adding a third later when Elisabeth said she would never go against her friends. But there were still two options here, two former Amaroks. Greg and Paschal.
He was going to have to go for the hard sell now.
As Brian was fighting for his life, very few people in Amarok were ready to shed a tear for their departed member.
"It's like one of his movies," joked Clay. "Brian Heidik is about to be gang-banged by a bunch of women."
They all expected that Brian would be gone tonight. He had already been written out of everyone's long-term plan. And with the big gun removed, their best option now was to get ready for the merge. Clay kept sayings not to assume anything would happen, but still...
"You got to cover your butt," he said. "Have to plan for anything, just in case."
If they merged at ten, the two teams would go in at five against five. Well, technically it would be five against five, but no one had any illusions that Gina was really one of them. They all expected her to vote with the Tuktus.
"Because she's not that smart," said Clay. "She votes with her heart, and not with her head. If she had half a mind, she'd see that if she gets in good with two of us here at Amarok, she has a good shot at winning this game. But she won't."
Clay had been trying to talk to Gina for the past twenty-four hours. He wanted to know where she stood, in terms of strategy, and allegiances. Gina tried to keep her friendships back at Tuktu hidden, but he already heard her slip once when she mentioned a bond with Elisabeth. Clay didn't miss little details like that.
"Now, technically," said Clay, "Tom, Silas and myself are still tight. But it won't mean squat if we don't have Gina and Tammy. Unless, by some chance, Brian survives the vote. We need five, it don't matter who the five are."
Clay was far from the only person planning to pull a group together. Silas had already had long discussions with Tammy. Now that their two original alliances were pretty much gone, the two of them actually had a reason to be together. She loved to make fun of him, but deep down she recognized his strength and single-minded determination to get that money. They weren't so different after all.
Gina was still a wild card, but she had been approached by everyone. She told herself that of course, she was voting back with Tuktu after the merge. But the strategic side of her made her keep her options open, just in case.
"I mean, this is further than I got before," she joked, "I don't know what the heck I'm doing at this point."
The five remaining Amaroks were all planning, and all scrambling for a leg up, but deep down they were all happy to have made it this far. They had all made it to the next step, or so they hoped. Making the merge was a big deal, especially in this type of contest. They just all hoped the merge came at ten, or the game was going to get even more complicated than it already was.
"I told him," said Paschal, "That I won't be voting for him tonight."
The judge from Georgia was speaking with Greg, explaining why he wasn't voting for Brian.
"It's not the type of thing I want to be a part of," he continued, with his arms crossed across his chest. "It's nothing more than an angry lynch mob. Brian did his best in that challenge, he practically carried me through those woods. Yet there are certain people here who went out of their way to see that we lost. And I just find that incredibly distasteful."
Greg found the comment a bit surprising. He had thought all along that it was going to be a unanimous vote. Simple strategy dictated it, plus the mood in Tuktu was one of blood. Brian was not well-liked. Even Elisabeth, who went out of her way to be friendly to everyone, said that she didn't really want him here. Sure, Brian was perfectly charming and affable with her, and a great worker, but there were other factors here.
"Because I own a televison," she said, "And I watched the Thailand season. Why on Earth would anyone let him fool them a second time?"
Brian's success and public image was definitely working against him now. As the only former winner, and one perceived as a bit of a snake in real life, he was finding out the same thing that Jerri found out: In Tuktu, you were often judged by your past actions.
The only one right now who seemed to be on his side was Paschal. Although Paschal would say that he wasn't on Brian's side, -per se-. He was just against the idea of the way Brian was marked for execution. He didn't think it should be a unanimous vote, and especially didn't like the way that would look.
"I mean," he said in a confessional, "I have to go home at the end of all this. I have to live up to a certain code of conduct in my life. Mob rule is not something you can defend when you have the type of job I do. Game or no game, there's bigger factors than winning sometimes. I'm not gonna vote a man out without giving him a chance."
Paschal would come out and say that he didn't particularly like the guy, but it was just something he was going to do. He didn't want to make anyone else do the same, and hoped it wouldn't make a difference in the outcome. He hadn't even told Brian who he was going to vote for, not wanting the man to be able to piggyback off the vote and maybe hatch something.
Greg thought all of this over. Paschal's sudden moral stance was troublesome to him, although not without precedent. It was kind of why he had been hanging out more with Helen and Kelly lately, as they were far more cutthroat than the judge. Paschal was a friend, and a nice man, but a poor strategic ally in the long run. He had too much moral baggage, too much to lose by looking bad on TV. Attaching yourself to him in any long-term plan was a huge risk. It was the dilemna that had plagued Greg for much of the past week. Paschal would simply have to go, sooner or later, although he wanted no part of being behind it.
"Brian came to me too, of course," admitted Greg, "He wants to take out Helen tonight." This much was true. Brian's only chance right now was to win the favor of the two men of Tuktu. Playing on their paranoia of the female majority was the best option he had. "He thinks you and I are gone if we let the three girls run the camp." Greg didn't believe this was true for a second, he didn't think the females would ever vote against him. They all loved him.
"Well," said Paschal, "To tell you the truth, the only one I had thought of voting for instead was Helen. There really are no other options. Helen is really the only one here behind this win-at-all-costs mentality." He trusted Greg with this information, knew it wouldn't be shared. "It would have been Kelly but I can't do that to her after the last vote."
"So Brian's voting for Helen, and you are too," said Greg. "If he manages to get a third, we'll have ourselves have a tie."
Paschal smiled and slowly shook his head.
"He won't get a third. They all hate him."
"Hey," he smiled, "You never know."
Paschal and Greg packed up, ready for the big vote. Paschal said he was going to tell Helen about his choice, so she wouldn't be blindsided by it. If nothing else, he wanted to explain why, to explain that he had nothing against her, he just had other considerations to think about.
"You just better hope," said Greg, "That she doesn't hold it against you. She tends to take things personally."
Jerri's face stared out at Tuktu, a hard, intense stare. It looked very much like the one on her face when she had left. Elisabeth shuddered when she saw it. Even if it -was- just a wooden carving, it looked judgemental, even angry. The faces on the totem pole had started to look progressively more pained, more wounded. She wasn't sure if that was intentional or not, but starting with Neleh's sunny smile at the bottom, and up to Jerri's stern stare, there was definitely a progression. It was as if the totem artist was trying to make a point.
-This game was getting meaner.-
The six members of Tuktu entered the Spirit Lodge and sat down, women in front, men in the back. Jeff Probst waited for them to begin, welcoming them back. He didn't give Greg a chance to disrupt him this time, breaking character on his own. Before the cameras rolled, he wished them luck tonight, apologizing for Jerri's behavior at the last one. He hadn't expected that to go quite so poorly.
"I think it's safe to say," joked Paschal, "That she doesn't lose well."
With the apology out of the way, Jeff went into his questions, probing into the dynamic at camp Tuktu. Kelly went into a long explanation of her feelings after Jerri's attack, and how devastated she had been. She went on to thank all of Tuktus for rallying around her, pointing out Paschal and Helen in particular.
Brian sat in the back, arms crossed, sulking. He hated the fact that Jerri had pulled this tribe together, and that one event may have single-handedly ruined his chances. And to make matters worse, that solidarity had been the exact -opposite- of Jerri's intentions! He thought he had a chance with Kelly when he got here, but had underestimated the side-effects of Jerri's tactics.
Jeff asked Elisabeth if she felt Tuktu had any advantages over Amarok, to which Elisabeth adamantly answered that Tuktu’s greatest advantage was their unity. Brian gave a light smirk, hoping her words would later echo with unfortunate irony.
Jeff then asked Helen if she thought Tuktu had any disadvantages, and after a moment of thought, Helen answered sternly.
"No. We are a more unified team emotionally, we’re stronger mentally, and we’ve proven we can compete physically. It’s as simple as that."
Jeff nodded and turned his attention to Brian.
"Brian, how will you vote tonight? What's your decision based on?"
"Necessity," he said, "And just my own personal feelings. I need to vote for someone, so all I can really do is follow my heart." It was always his intention to be needlessly cryptic when answering Jeff's inane questions. Brian hated to even hint at his strategic mindset.
Jeff stood up, announcing it was time to vote.
"Brian, you're up first."
Brian stood up and strolled to the podium. He pulled the cap off the black pen and wrote Helen's name down.
"H," he said, a smile on his face, "My dear old friend. It's going to be me or you tonight, and I know you think you have me. But watch your back, my dear. Watch your back."
Elisabeth followed, writing down Brian's name.
"Because you're not a Tuktu," she said simply, folding the vote shut with two hands.
Paschal was third, and cast his vote for Helen, as he had promised.
"Helen, you're a wonderful person," he said, "And a heck of a worker. I really don't think this vote will hurt you, but I wanted to make a point that I would -not- go along with this crusade of yours. Anyway, you know this vote is coming, so it shouldn't catch you by surprise. Please don't hold it against me."
Helen was fourth, walking up and casting a vote for Brian, without a moment of hesitation. She held it up, with the word "Brian" written in large letters, underlined twice. She also added an equally large "Love, Helen xoxo" underneath it. She smiled. This was her moment.
"Brian," she said, smiling and shaking her head, "Couldn't happen to a nicer guy."
Greg was fifth to walk up, and he approached the podium with hesitation. He didn't pause when he wrote, though, scrawling five letters on the card.
Kelly was last, voting for Brian.
"Because I just don't like you," she said with a grin.
All six members of the tribe were now seated, watching as Jeff went to tally the votes. Brian looked nervously at those around him. Kelly sat at the end, smiling slightly as she folded her hands. Helen sat in the middle, just staring, not smiling or frowning. Elisabeth sat in front of him, her left knee and leg jittering anxiously. Brian frowned. -If Paschal or Greg don't go with me tonight, one of those three is going to win this game. Of course they have to see that. They have to!- He looked at Greg, who was unreadable, as always. His golden hair spiked and out of control, Greg looked every bit the wild mountain man. But Brian knew that a strategic mind hid there, even if the women probably didn't see it. Greg wouldn't let anyone cakewalk to a win. At least, Brian hoped not.
Jeff returned with the votes. Brian closed his eyes and looked down. He was just hoping for a tie.
"Once I read the names," Jeff said, "The person voted out must leave Tribal Council immediately."
He pulled out the first vote.
"Brian," he said, holding up Kelly's vote.
He pulled out the second vote. It was Elisabeth's.
Brian sat, his eyes now fixed on the votes. Then a new name came up.
"Helen," said Jeff, revealing Brian's vote.
Helen nodded, she expected one vote. Paschal had told her.
"Helen," said Jeff, pulling out her second vote. Brian's eyes lit up. That one wasn't his. He darted a quick glance at Helen, who was beginning to look nervous. Brian thought that was Paschal's writing, but hoped it was Greg's. Greg was the swing tonight. Greg was the one he needed.
"That's two votes Brian, two votes Helen," said Jeff.
Jeff pulled out the fifth vote.
"Brian," he said.
Helen breathed a sign of relief. She knew whose vote was coming next.
"And the last vote," said Jeff, pulling it out.
Brian stared at the ballot, Helen's mocking nail in the coffin. She had even signed her name, adding hearts and kisses. He chuckled at her, leaning forward to pat her once on the shoulder, and then reached to grab his torch. "Good show," he whispered into her ear, before walking up to have his fire snuffed.
"Brian," said Jeff, once the flame was dead, "The tribe has spoken. It's time for you to go."
Helen gave him a grin and a small wave, and the only millionaire in the game disappeared into the forest. Helen gave a sigh, it was a nice moment, -her- moment, but she still respected the guy too much to have pure hate in her heart. But still, it was done, and he was gone. She smiled. Helen always won in the end.
"Congratulations," said Jeff, "On making it down to ten. I know you guys are expecting a merge tomorrow, but we'll just see about that." He smiled. "It should be a very interesting few days, to say the least."
Jeff bid them farewell, and the five remaining Tuktus exited the building, single-file. Greg Buis. Paschal English. Kelly Wiglesworth. Elisabeth Filarski. Helen Glover. All of them were wondering about Jeff's cryptic comments. Just -what- was in store for them? They all hoped for the best, but mostly feared the worst.
After all, that was just the Survivor way.
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