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, Clay Jordan, Tammy Leitner
The Alaskan sun was up, as usual, and the nineteenth day started no different than any other. The morning air was of the lukewarm variety, but amongst the Tuktu group, a greater adjective would have been more appropriate. Jubilant, perhaps. And it could all be traced back to one castaway in particular.
It came as no surprise to any of the black-buffed tribe that Helen Glover was the first one awake. Indeed, as Elisabeth walked over towards her teammate, the young newlywed didn’t need to bother with the simple question of -how are you this morning-; indeed, a blind man would have been able to tell, the old cliche aside.
In her own mind, Helen had won this game. Brian’s inclusion in this cast had come as no surprise to her: he won the Thailand edition fair and square, even if she did regret giving him the title. Nonetheless, seeing him on the ride over had been a trying experience. The initial male-female separation had its share of problems, and the Red Rover had complicated it even further, but Helen was infinitely grateful that she and Brian had been on separate teams.
Otherwise it would have been ugly.
Brian Heidik commanded a powerful array of charm, wit, and ruthlessness. Months had passed since Helen returned from her first Survivor experience, and the rare occasions she had met up with her former Chuay Ghan mate had been few and far between, which was exactly the way she had planned it. Seeing him from a distance over at Amarok had given her the time she needed to get used to his presence, his game, and to prepare her strategy. If she had left before him, she couldn’t fathom being able to deal with that a second time. But he was not an easy opponent, for there was just something -to- him; even though everybody knew how he worked by now, he still almost made it to the halfway point, and he still escaped the embarrassment of a unanimous boot.
Helen kept quiet about that second vote against her to her fellow Tuktu mates, but to the camera, she let her wall of silence drop.
"Sure, I’ll be honest," she sighed, leaning against a tree in a rather uncomfortable confessional. "I hated it. I knew Paschal was doing it, I know exactly what it was for, but still." Pausing, she ran a slim tongue over her lower lip, glancing down at the grass before staring back into the camera lens. "Pisses me off, a little. Sure it does. Brian? Doesn’t deserve to be spared. Let him get all the votes. He deserved them. What’s to feel sorry for?"
But it was just politics, and she knew that went with the game. Sometimes people had their own agendas, their own subconscious rules and regulations. It drove her nuts sometimes, but lord knows she wasn't innocent of trying to win a personal crusade. So she let it drop, for now anyway. Helen had won, Brian had lost, and nothing could change that. Brian was currently sitting in the Loser's Lounge, watching TV and probably trying to make small talk with Rudy. The thought made her chuckle.
"Besides, there's stuff that has to get done," she said. "It's a new day. It's always a new day in this game. There's no time to congratulate yourself, there's always more things that have to get done."
She went back to the food preparation, and lifted her stirring knife to her pale lips. Tasting the oatmeal concoction, she closed her eyes, testing it for just the right flavor. Talking to herself, she agreed that it wasn’t her strongest breakfast, but was good enough. Besides, this morning, everything tasted just a little sweeter.
The morning began a little later over at the Amarok beach, with the men of the tribe deciding to make the day an easy one. Gina had been the first to awaken, Tammy soon joining her by the campfire. The two females of the tribe worked on boiling the tribe’s water supply, as the three men lounged in their shelter, enjoying the rare chance to relax. And, as per Silas’ idea, plot.
"So if we don’t do something, we’re screwed once we merge," the athletic bartender whispered, glancing back between Tom and Clay. It was always intimidating talking to the two of them, they very rarely gave you any response. Tom, in particular, just liked to sit and stare at you. Silas continued. "If we do get together like normal, then we’re looking at a five-five, and we do the rock, right?"
"Ain’t nobody doin’ that rock," Clay mumbled, scratching his chest as he lay against the ‘wall.’ "Gina’s goin' right back to her little girlfriends. She won't give you a second thought once we get over with them women." Silas just nodded, the floppy-haired youth deep in thought.
"Well, if Brian’s gone...," he began.
"Saince." Tom was correcting him. "Saince Brian's gone." Tom chuckled at the thought, knowing how much it must have pissed Brian off last night. He grinned, thinking of the helpless fate of the once indestructible car salesman. "The only way we see him again is on'a side of'a milk carton."
"-Since- Brian’s gone," Silas shrugged, glancing over at the goat farmer, "We need to regroup here. Build a strong team. With Tammy, we’ve got four." Holding up that many digits in demonstration, he held up a fist with his other hand. "So, four Amarok. But then once we merge, there’s Greg. We can get him, and that’s five, and then..."
"Aw, hell," Tom announced, angrily, "Thait man’s whipped! Greg ain't gonna have nothin' to do with you." Tom made an angry motion with his hand, dismissing Silas, "He's got a whole harem of women over there, doin' everything but wipin' his ass for him. He'll laugh in your face if you so much as say hi to him!"
"Well, -think-, man!" Silas threw his head up in frustration, looking at the roof of the shelter. His deep voice had grown in intensity and, despite his original efforts, in volume. "We can still walk all over this thing, we just have to get together, that’s all! We just need four to get the end, and five to get past the first vote. We just need to pull somebody in, that's all!" He paused, trying to think of some closure to this argument. "Maybe Brian got some others on his side. We just finish what he started."
Clay and Tom exchanged a glance. They didn't particularly respect Silas much, and -really- didn't respect the fact that he was nearly yelling at them. The young man was coming dangerously close to overstepping his boundaries.
"Who says we’re merging now, anyway?" Clay peered at his teammate through his thick lenses. "We didn’t in Thailand. I say we don’t do anything too drastic yet. If we lose, Gina’s still goin’. Gina or the other one. No difference to me. Hell, kick 'em both to the curb for all I care."
Tom grunted, nodding silently but not saying a word.
The awkward silence in the tent was fortunately broken, as Gina announced that it was time for breakfast. Silas climbed out of the lean-to, squinting his eyes against the morning sun. He was followed by the large figure of Tom, and the diminutive Clay, who was wearing his tan floppy hat. Silas told the ladies both "Good morning," and they all enjoyed a quiet breakfast.
With Brian's exit, the Amarok foursome had definitely been weakened. But they were still one of the strongest bonds left in the game. Tom, Silas, Clay and Tammy all fully expected to win this game. Tammy was an outsider in gender only, as she had been on the same page as these guys since day one. And really, the only obstacle in any of their minds was the question of chance. People could be defeated, sometimes chance could not.
In a game like Survivor, it was their strongest opponent yet.
Kelly Wiglesworth was, as usual, off on her own.
The Alaskan site they were filming on was truly a gorgeous area, and she was the type to appreciate it. Her career had been built on the outdoors - first as a river guide, then as a small-scale adventure television host. For her age, she had seen a great deal of the world, but this area was a new experience to her. And while she had played the game of Survivor before, she told the camera, this felt new to her too.
"This is a different game than the first. Completely. But," she relented, her eyes darting off into the distance. "I mean, it’s still Survivor. You can’t escape it. It gets into your skin after a while."
Indeed, escaping was important to her, and lately, she had become more and more restless. She picked at her swimsuit - brown, this time, in contrast to her original pink tankini - and stared back at the direction she had come from. Currently, she was sitting up on a hill, all by herself, collecting her thoughts.
"I was fine when this started out. Really, I was. It was my intention to hang off by myself, just observe things from afar. I mean, sure it got them talking, but it was just my way of dealing with being back." She paused. "I really like most of the people this time around. -Most-," she murmured, rolling her eyes in memory. "But still. We’re getting around to that nasty part of the game. The merge, or twist, or whatever it is we’re doing this time. And you really find out who everybody is at that point." She paused to toss a rock at a nearby tree. "And it's not going to be pretty."
Her tongue ring always provided a quality distraction, and she chewed on it as she brought her sunglasses over her eyes, reclining in the sun. "I get really restless at times like these. Because you don't know what's coming, and who it's going to hit the worst. But I can't worry about that, I just have to do my own thing." She closed her eyes, just letting nature take her over. After all she had been through, she felt she deserved a break once in a while.
While Kelly had wandered off by herself over at Tuktu, Tammy was in a similar position over at her Amarok ‘home.’ But whereas Wigs had gone off with the intent of being by herself, Tammy wanted no such thing. She was on a mission, and he came in a rather handsome form.
The day had been an uneventful one so far. No word from Jeff, no tree mail, no hints, nothing. Since it was getting kind of late in the day, most of them were assuming it would happen tomorrow. But, despite their plans, all were on edge for a surprise. They had all played this game before. You adapt or you die. Tammy was lucky that nothing had happened yet today, because she was still looking for a chance to talk with Silas. Unfortunately, he had been a very popular person this afternoon. Tom and Clay had been with him much of the time, and if not, then Silas had been with the whole group. She hadn't gotten a chance to speak with him alone, and she desperately needed to.
Gina and Tammy had spoken soon after Brian left Amarok. Their talk served two purposes. One, they needed to decide how they would stick together and fight the men of Amarok. And two, what to do if they merged. But both options included one key component. They needed Silas with them in either case.
"Silas, you, and I are taking this tribe over," Tammy had promised. "I'm frankly just tired of Clay. He needs to go." Gina had nodded. She knew all along that Brian would eventually be taken by Helen, she was just lucky she had brought it up before it happened. The idea had been planted in Tammy's head, and there was no -way- Tammy wouldn't try to run with this. You couldn't repress her for long, sooner or later she would be back in power and she would be pissed. And woe be the person who was her enemy at that point.
"Now if we merge," said Gina, "I've already told you I'm not voting against Tuktu. It's not going to happen."
"Fine," said Tammy, "Fair enough. Just take me with you then. Let me back in with Tuktu, and I'll help you pick off these assholes one by one."
"-Starting- with Silas." Tammy grinned. "I mean, I like the guy, but this is still a game. Clay Jordan couldn't win a challenge to save his life. I can put up with him a little while if it means we take the biggest athlete out of the picture."
So in either case, Silas needed to be brought along. If he was on their side, he wouldn't be a threat to pull something with Amarok. And Tammy -definitely- needed him on her side, for many reasons, some she was telling to Gina, some she was not.
So now she was on her quest. She needed to get to Silas before Tom and Clay got in too good with him. It was a race against time, although she was fairly sure she could talk Silas into a long-term deal. They had a similar way of looking at the game, it was a pretty natural fit. She wasn't too worried.
Silas was standing in a clearing, shirtless as usual. He was off collecting wood all by himself, his powerful muscles and floppy hair being hard to miss.
"Damn, he's fun to look at," she chuckled to the camera, before making her approach.
"Tammy!" Silas grinned in his usual manner, pearly teeth almost bordering on glistening. "How goes it?"
"Not bad." Returning the smile, Tammy offered to help with the wood, and threw a particularly large branch over to his pile. She was always proud to show off physique. "How about you? Who do you think they kicked off over there?"
"I dunno. Maybe Helen and Brian got together, and hooked up." Both exchanged the best poker faces they could muster, finally breaking into a fit of laughter. "Well, come on, it -could- happen."
After a brief exchange of similar banter, Tammy decided to cut to the chase. "Silas, Brian’s gone. Let’s be straight up here." She caught his eye, knowing the way to get the young man to pay attention. This was how he liked to operate. "Brian’s gone, and if we don’t change things, so is Amarok."
Silas nodded, wiping his brow with one of his sweat-laden arms. "We’ll be screwed, probably. So, man, what are you saying here? You want to make it five-strong?"
"Not with who you’re thinking of." There was no sense in building a fake alliance right now - that wasn’t how Tammy intended on playing this game. She needed a definite pawn, and initial honesty was the only way to catch this one. "You really want five-hundred pounds of dead weight with you if we merge? Tom and Clay are marked. Gina won't go with us against Tuktu."
"No problem," he said, "I can get Greg."
"Greg?" She scoffed at him. "I don't mean to burst your bubble here, dude, but Greg's more of a girl than most of them. You might as well get Wiglesworth."
He put his hands on his hips and stared at her.
"What do you suggest, then," he asked, a bit insulted.
"I'm going with Gina," she said, "Wherever she goes. Whether we twist, merge, stay together, anything. I'm following her lead."
"Does she know?" he asked.
"It doesn't matter," she said, "I'm looking after my own butt here. And if you're smart, you'll do the same." She tossed a log into the pile. "As of this minute, the three of us run this tribe. Tell Clay and Tom to go to hell, you're coming with us."
"But we're screwed if we merge," he said. "Why would I do that?"
"Because," she finished, "We're screwed in a merge anyway." She ticked off on her fingers. "Gina won't vote against Tuktu. Greg won't vote against Tuktu. Paschal won't vote against Tuktu. Amarok is dead if we merge."
He looked up at the sky, staring in both anger and frustration. He didn't like to admit failure. In his mind, any situation had an escape. And he didn't consider joining Tuktu to be much of an escape.
"I'll think about it," he finally said.
At least on the surface, the Tuktu beach was generally the more organized one. While it was true that the 'Tuktu Girls Forever' motif had been dropped, in lieu of the switch-ups, the heart of the tribe was still a feminine one. Their kitchen was more tidy, eating area more organized, and general layout more effective. The bathroom area was particularly feminine, although Greg had, of course, created his own latrine for the men of Tuktu. The lid was permanently up, as per his demands.
Despite their cheery front, however, all was not well behind the scenes. The tribe dressed in black had made it through several breakdowns, Jerri's flag-burning expedition being the most memorable. However, even without the actress' rampage, the tribe's politics were still far from perfected. While all of the members involved were friendly with one another - quite so, in comparison to many prior versions of this game - the looming merge made the tribe's wavering alliance more apparent. Yes, they seemed to stick together now, but not all of the members involved were so sure that it would remain that way for long. Whether it would be a twist, a merge, or some other variant, not everyone was convinced that Tuktu would be together to the end.
"I mean, well, of course, I want a Tuktu to win this thing!" Elisabeth laughed, sitting up in a low tree branch. "I'm one of the few who has been here all along. This is my home. And one of us deserves to take home that money." When asked if that was just the females, Elisabeth quickly shook her head, "And no, I don't just mean the females. That goes for Greg and Pappy too."
Elisabeth was looking forward to the next step in the game. Unless the merge was somehow delayed, she would have some new teammates soon, maybe even today. Elisabeth was a people person, and loved hanging out with new players.
"I mean, they're -all- nice people. I can't think of anyone over there who I really can't stand. Even Tammy doesn't seem so bad now that she's gone." She smiled, reminiscing. "Sure, we had some fun nights with Tammy too, she wasn't a snake all the time. For three days, we were as tight as bunch as you will find. Those first few days here in Alaska were some of the best of my life."
One person who was definitely looking forward to a merge was Helen. And the reasoning for that was simple. With Brian gone, her mission was done. Mostly done, anyway. 95% of her goal here in Alaska had been to beat Brian Heidik.
"Check," she said, ticking off the things she had accomplished thus far.
But there still remained that pesky last five percent. And the person's face who stuck with her now wore a pair of glasses.
"A short, stocky, racist little man," she added. She was talking, of course, about Clay Jordan.
Clay Jordan had been one of the three people behind her unexpected demise in Thailand. Sure, Brian's knife had hurt the most, but there was certainly a good deal of sting that came from being beaten by a man whom she didn't respect.
"And now," she added, "It's time to finish the housecleaning." She grinned, as she swept dirt with a handmade broom. "Time to finish taking out the trash."
Helen's new personality was troubling to some, exciting to others. Paschal, for one, still was bothered by the approach Helen was taking with her revenge. And Elisabeth shared none of the animosity that Helen felt for the opponent. No, the one who had taken the most immediate notice was Greg Buis.
"Helen is finally waking up," he said, while fishing in the umiak. "I mean, she's like a volcano. There's only so long she can lay dormant before her emotions take over. And then..." He made a small explosion gesture with both hands. "But unfortunately for her, people are starting to look at her a bit strangely." He shrugged. It wasn't really his problem. But if he wanted to, he could sure take advantage of it.
"If one were so inclined," he added, cryptically, "It would be easy to use her fury for your own gain."
He smiled, casting his fishing pole out towards the water.
"If one were so inclined, of course."
"Light yer fires, boys and girls! It's here!"
Tom was excited, running back to camp, almost like a child. He held in his right hand a piece of tree mail, in the shape of a circle. Waving it to and fro, he came back and put his hands on his knees, winded. He caught his breath, and finally rose up to read it out loud.
It's time for a new game
Put your hand in the jar.
And draw where you'll live
Will it be near or far?
Ten of you remain
One will soon be quite rich.
Put fate in your hands, but
Is this a merge or a switch?
"Tom, no offense," joked Silas, "But we can't understand a word you just said. Mind if we read it ourselves?"
The five Amaroks read the note, mulling over the possibilities. Gina turned the circle around in her hands, noting that it looked like a pizza tray,
"See, look," she pointed out. "Reds and greens. It's supposed to look like a slice of pizza."
Tom reached over, took the wooden disc, and bit a small chunk out of it.
"Pepperoni," he grinned. He chewed, loudly and comically, as the rest of them stared, awestruck.
"You big slob," joked Clay, "You'd eat y'damn hat if you didn't need it."
"Merge," asked Tom, chewing around a large mouthful of wood, "Or twist. Anyone feelin' lucky?"
Tammy remained silent, realizing that she would be okay in either scenario. Assuming Silas was in, that was. If Silas went back to Clay's side, she was royally screwed.
"Let's do it," she said, quietly, nodding assent.
"Yeah," grinned Silas, "Strength in numbers, baby." He was extremely eager to move on to the next part of the game. He put his hand in the middle of their circle. "Let's kick this game wide open." Tammy reached to put her hand on his, and was followed by Tom's large hand. Gina smirked somewhat, but laid her hand in with the rest, and Clay did the same.
"We're a team, damnit," said Silas, in his best football coach mode, "And we need to work together on this. Tom, aint no one on Tuktu who is stronger than you. And Tammy," he added, looking at her, "You're going to lead us in all the challenges. This is our game." He finished his pep talk with a rousing, "This is our day, ladies and gentlemen. This is Amarok's day."
Tuktu were the first to arrive in the small grove, followed shortly by Amarok on the other side. Mount McKinley loomed in the background, as always, although the top was covered by a thick layer of clouds today. Kelly looked up at its hidden peak, hoping for the best. But the peak was not the only thing that was vague and unformed today. The challenge, if indeed it -was- a challenge, was even more of a mystery.
A large black table sat in the middle of the clearing. Jeff Probst stood behind it, his arms crossed. He welcomed them, and placed a large wooden urn on top of the table. He motioned for the players to remove their buffs, and he collected them all.
"Welcome guys. Here we are, day twenty. You've made it further than six of your toughest competitors, and you're over halfway through the thirty-nine days." He paused as several of the survivors applauded themselves, Clay giving a little whoop and Silas high-fiving Gina. Motioning for them to quiet down, Jeff smiled, that infuriating grin the castaways had grown to know all too well. "And this is where things get interesting."
"Aw, Jeff, it's interesting enough!" Gina laughed, the strain of nervousness evident in her voice. "We're perfectly fine with it just the way it is." Several people laughed, nervously.
The host didn't react, and simply stood firm. "Now, I'm sure you've all gotten the hang of Red Rover. It's gone on for several challenges now - about as far as it can go. Did it work out for you? Are you better off than you were on day one? For some of you," he looked at Gina, "I would guess no. And for others," he looked at Greg, "I'm guessing it has been a lot of fun. You've all had to adjust, and all had to adapt. Those who are gone are the ones who haven't fared so well, who weren't able to adapt." He smiled. "That's why it's called Survivor."
Jeff motioned to the urn on the table. "As you surely know, Alaska is, for many, associated with snow and ice. While you've been here long enough to learn that that's not always the case, there is always a need to break the ice with new people, with complete strangers. The Inuits had a word for this: Qopuk. It meant, simply, the breaking of the ice. And now, it's your turn. Tom, you're first. Step up and take a ball from inside the urn. Take one, but don't look at it."
Tom Buchanan looked at Jeff, suspiciously. He then walked over, placed his hand in the urn, and fished around until he found one to his liking. He stood off to one side, and watched as the rest of them followed his lead.
Silas was next, then Elisabeth. Tammy followed. Soon, they all had a small plastic ball in their hand.
"Can you promise me," joked Paschal, "That none of these is a purple rock?" The other nine all cracked up, a nice moment to break the tension. "Cause I'll kill you, Jeff, if you do this to me again."
Jeff had them line up, side by side.
"Okay, starting with Big Tom," he finished, "You will reveal your new tribe color, one by one. Open your hand, and I'll toss you a new buff." He smiled, always loving this type of moment. "Tom, when you're ready."
Tom closed his eyes, sighed, and opened his hand. A small red ball gleamed in his palm.
"Red," announced Jeff. He reached into his back pocket, pulled out a new red buff, and tossed it to Tom. The big man caught it in midair, chuckled, and placed it on his head.
Silas was next. He said a small prayer under his breath and opened his palm. A small red ball greeted him.
"C'mon Jeff," he joked, "I've been red before. Can I pick again?"
Elisabeth was third. She drew a deep breath, opened her hand, and her heart dropped at the sight of a third red ball.
"Three reds in a row," said Jeff, "What are the odds?" He tossed a red buff to the girl from New England, and watched as she scowled and held it in her fist.
Tammy was fourth, and her eyebrows raised in surprise as a fourth red ball appeared. She accepted her red buff, reaching to high-five Elisabeth and Silas.
"Someone's having problems shuffling," joked Helen.
Clay looked nervous as it neared his turn. Four red buffs meant just one thing. He was likely destined to be away from his alliance. He opened his fist slowly, and a small red ball peeked out. He gave a quick smile.
"Five in a row," announced Jeff, "Impressive!"
Elisabeth closed her eyes and shook her head. Alone, against four cutthroats. This was not going to be a fun day.
Gina was the sixth, and opened her fist, expecting to see some new color. But there were audible gasps as she revealed another red ball.
Helen, who was next, smirked and rolled her eyes. She knew what was going on.
"Jeff," she said, "I'm going to see another red here, aren't I?"
Jeff tried to keep a straight face, but it was growing harder and harder. He smirked once, finally giving away the joke.
"The rest of you," he announced, "Just go ahead and open up. I think you've figured it out by now."
They all opened their hands, and all revealed a small red ball. They all had the same color.
"You guys have now merged," announced Jeff, to whoops and hollers of celebration, "Congratulations. Sorry to make you go through all that, but this is, after all, Survivor." He watched as they all went to hug each other, Silas embracing Helen, Paschal shaking hands with Tom, and Tammy grinning and sharing a joke with Kelly.
"It's now your job," he announced, "To find a new campsite. Take this map," he handed one to Silas, "And head in an easterly direction, towards the mountain. Denali park regulations state that you cannot remain in the same campsite for more than three weeks, so Tuktu and Amarok are now gone. Use this time to find a good site, a safe site, making sure to stay somewhere within the circle on the map. And, for heaven's sake," he said, looking at Clay, "Make sure not to lose your anti-bear boxes this time. You are hiking into grizzly central, so you will need to be careful."
The ten members of the new tribe hiked in a single-file line. Gina and Elisabeth walked in the front, overjoyed to be back on the same team again. Paschal followed close behind, loving the camaraderie and sense of good spirit that was already emanating from the group. In fact, very little strategy was being formed right now. Most of them were just happy to be here, to see new people, and to get a fresh start. They walked for about two hours before they found a suitable site. Hidden under five large fir trees, the site was dark, isolated, and secure. It looked perfect.
"We're home," cried Greg, running to kiss the dirt and grass of their new site, "Home never looked so good!" He made a big show of it, and most stood around and watched him, smiling. Greg always brought life and energy to the camp.
Within thirty minutes, Paschal, Tom and Helen were at work on a new campsite. Most of the materials, wood and string had been left here for them, so it was just a matter of getting some manual labor done. And with this group, there was no shortage of able workers. Paschal had the design, Tom and Helen did most of the building, and the two of them had a pretty secure roof up before it got too late. Tom celebrated by picking her up in a big bear hug, and swinging her around in a circle.
But despite the celebrations, there was still strategy to discuss.
"We're with Tuktu now," said Tammy, under her breath. She and Silas were off alone, gathering some water from a creek. She looked around, making sure no one was watching. "And if you so much as make a peep, they will vote your ass off."
Silas nodded, hating the fact that he would be an easy first target. Being young and athletic had huge disadvantages sometimes. He had already decided to stay low for now, go with Tammy, and just see where it would take him.
"But how does that make my situation any better," he asked. "Why would they vote for anyone else over me?" It was a very legitimate question, Silas knew the way the game was played. The strong went first. And when it came to pure strength, no one else was even close.
"Watch Helen," Tammy replied. "You aren't the one she is after. She has it in for Clay. It didn't end with Brian." He nodded. Gina had hinted at this during her time at Amarok, without even realizing she was giving stuff away.
"So just do your work," she finished, "Smile a lot, and keep your mouth shut. If you want to live past this first vote, you need to just do what they say."
Silas scowled. It wasn't in his nature to wait.
"This is our only chance," she reassured him. "One vote, that's all you have to wait."
"Yeah, yeah," he said, dismissing this conversation. "I got it. I know the damn game."
He grasped two heavy water jugs, placed one under each arm, and tossed his hair back, out of his eyes. Plastering on his biggest, most friendly smile, he started walking back to camp. Halfway there, he saw Kelly, who was struggling with a large basket of berries.
"Hey Kelly, how ya doin'" he said, walking over to help her out, "Need a hand?"
Silas was young, he was cocky, and he was impatient. But he could always schmooze. He was going to be a very good politician someday.
The tribe's new name was Qinaliut.
"It's an Aleutian word," explained Kelly. "It means... uh... actually, it doesn't mean anything at all." She laughed. "We just kinda made it up." She grinned, sheepishly.
"It basically means 'snow people'," Greg explained in a confessional, "If you use your imagination, anyway. Paschal suggested using snow, and Gina wanted to give us a family name. My contribution was to throw a Q on the front, because, of course, it would then be worth more in Scrabble." He grinned, proud of his idea. "It's all about the triple word score."
In reality, the new tribe should have been split down the middle: Five Tuktus and five Amaroks. But the problem was that there were only four true Amaroks. Greg had become a Tuktu the moment he switched camps. Paschal had never really been an Amarok. And Gina never even considered going against her friends. Tammy saw this early on, and was now right back in with her old team, taking Silas with her. The massive exodus had been good for group solidarity, but it left two men on the outside. Clay and Tom had no home right now.
"Are we still tight," asked Clay. He was speaking with Silas, trying to make sure they would still be able to get a tie vote at the first Tribal Council. Clay was aiming for a 5-5 tie, figuring his best shot right now was a tiebreaker. They all knew that Gina was going back to Tuktu, so they needed that elusive fifth vote. Silas said he could get Greg. Tammy said she could get Kelly. Tom was going to go lay his best act on all of them, hoping to gain some sympathy. And Clay felt that he could get Paschal, or even Helen.
"Maybe Helen," he joked. "Hell, I don't know. Maybe Tuktu pissed her off as much as we did in Chuay-Gahn."
But somewhere in that mix, the Amaroks hoped to get that fifth vote. And if they were lucky, maybe even a sixth.
"Clay's delusional," said Silas, in an interview. "He can't see past the tip of his nose. -None- of the Tuktus are going to budge. That's a given, man. The only way for him to be safe tomorrow is to win immunity. Because I know I'm voting for him."
Silas grinned, confident in his status for the next three days. Of course, he was unaware of discussions among the rest of the tribe, ones that revolved around the idea of voting -him- out instead.
"It has to be Silas," whispered Elisabeth, to a group of Tuktus. "It's common sense. Take out the athlete."
Gina nodded, after a moment of hesitation. She saw the logic in the plan, but had kind of grown a soft spot for the kid. Clay was the one she always felt a little tension with, Silas was more like a puppy.
But then a new voice spoke up, one who had promised to help them break the tie. Tammy Leitner smiled, her shades hiding her eyes. She was back with her old team, and ready to help them knock the guys right out of the game.
"Clay is much more dangerous," she said, "Silas won't be able to win seven immunities in a row. He's not that smart. And -trust- me, I know the guy. He'll even help us vote out Clay if I told him to."
Helen stood silent, hands on her hips. She needed to offer nothing to this discussion, because everyone knew her position. Clay must go. There was no debate about it in her head. He needed to go right after Brian, he needed to pay for his past scheming.
Kelly didn't really care which one went.
"I mean, what's the difference," she added. "One goes, then the other. Who cares what the order is?"
But as the sun started to set... well as close as it got, anyway... the new Qinaliut tribe tried its best to fit together as one. Tom had them all in stitches around the stove, as they sat and told stories. Helen sang some songs, Greg led them in some icebreakers, and it was all good.
For one night, anyway, they were a nice big happy family.
Elisabeth sat, alone, as she chopped some wood with a hatchet.
The tribes had been allowed to keep one throwing axe each, from the last challenge. They had each put their axes to good use, but now that they had merged there was just one for all of them to share: The Qinaliut axe.
"How you doin', kiddo," asked Paschal, as he walked over to rub her shoulders. "Congratulations on making the merge."
She looked up at him and beamed. Paschal had always been one of her favorites. Neleh was absolutely not exaggerating when she had gone on and on about what a nice man he was, and Elisabeth was fortunate to have found this out for herself, too.
"Hi Pappy," she said, "Hey, sit down."
She moved aside on the log, letting him join her. He had a bowl of Helen's world famous oatmeal in his hands, the steam rising off it in the chilly morning air.
"Cold morning, huh," he asked. He had on his fleece jacket, with a wool hat pulled over his head. They had quickly found out that their new campsite was at a bit higher elevation than the old one. And with elevation, came a drop in temperature. Elisabeth nodded, as she was bundled up in her own large jacket. It was like a parka, with a hood covering her head. Only a small hole in the front allowed her face to peek out, and with her glasses covering her eyes, you could barely make out her face at all.
"It's lucky your coat is pink," joked Paschal, "Or I wouldn't have known who you were, sitting over here."
The two of them talked about the new tribe for a while. So far, everyone was doing an admirable job of fitting in. Tom, they both agreed, was the new superstar of camp. He kept them entertained for hours last night, both with his stories and his antics.
"I think it's safe to say there was some alcohol involved," joked Elisabeth. The new tribe had been provided with some crackers, cheese and wine last night, and Tom had certainly made good use of it. The big man was now passed out back at camp, sprawled over half the shelter. He had had a long night, it was time to rest now.
"So," said Paschal, changing the subject, "Looks like Clay's on the chopping block tonight."
Elisabeth nodded, as she went back to chopping at a log. She didn't want to make it look like they were talking strategy. With Gina back, things were looking very good for Tuktu. They basically had Amarok outnumbered six to four, and it was really only a matter of a name now. Which one would it be tonight? Clay, Silas, Tammy or Tom?
"Personally, I would have chosen Silas," he continued. "Silas is much more of a threat than Clay will ever be."
Elisabeth shrugged. She didn't really see the harm in either choice. They would both go eventually, no use in fighting over the details if you didn't have to.
"Helen hates Clay," she said, "You know how it goes. No one wants to get her in a snit. I told her I'd vote with her, that I'd try to get Gina and you on board too. Plus Tammy said she would vote for Clay tonight. Apparently she can't stand him any more than Helen can."
Paschal though this over.
"Can Tammy be trusted?" he asked, finally. "I mean, you know her out here better than I do. She's changed quite a bit from when I knew her on Rotu."
"No way can she be trusted." said Elisabeth, putting down the axe. "Not a chance. But there -is- one thing you have to realize about Tammy. She's not the nicest person in the world, but she won't let a guy beat her in anything. She knows she's in trouble, I mean, who wouldn't know? But she's gonna make sure Clay, Tom and Silas go out first."
Paschal nodded, understanding. Tammy was generally pretty blatant in her motives, that much was clear.
"Ok," he said, standing up, "Clay it is. And if he wins immunity?"
"Silas," answered Elisabeth. "Although I don't think Helen would be really happy about it."
"Is she ever happy about anything?"
It's time to go for a hunt
Be it on land, sea or air
Make sure you outseek them all
By looking here or there.
Find the items, if you can
The forest is just a big maze
But if you lose, please pack your bags
For you may not see three more days.
"I thought this one was supposed to be endurance," Helen asked. She was holding the treemail, walking back to camp with Greg. The two of them had volunteered to check the mail, as a great chance to talk strategy. There were ulterior motives here as well, as the two of them were up to something.
"Clay is first," she said, "And then..."
"Then it's up to you," he finished. The two of them had discussed this for some time now. A Tuktu was going to win this game, that was pretty clear. But Helen knew that if things went as everyone expected them to go, Helen wasn't going to be that person.
"Because I'm the first one to go when we get down to six," she explained. Greg confirmed this, he had heard them all talk, he knew that the big three in the group were Elisabeth, Gina and Kelly. The three of them would likely never vote against each other. Add Paschal to the mix, and you had a pretty tight foursome.
"And I'm not invited to that party," she finished. "I've never been invited."
For most people, Greg would have found some way around this conversation. But not with Helen. He liked the way she looked at the world, with more than a bit of cynicism and irony. Simply put, they thought alike. Greg was no outsider in Tuktu, he was firmly in with all of them. But being firmly in with four Tuktus meant something different to him, something different than it would to most people.
"Well it's easy, really," he said, in one of his more telling confessionals. "I have four people who I am good friends with, and I would like to have all four of them on the jury. Because," he explained, "Those are the four votes I need to win."
Greg's demeanor had begun to change recently. The easy-going, goofy Greg had begun to be replaced, more and more, by the cold, strategist Greg. It had happened mainly in confessionals, and no one but the camera crew had really seen it. Helen had seen it, to an extent, but she considered him mostly a sympathetic ear at this point. But Greg's hints and comments early on in the game were starting to be seen in a different light. Greg Buis was not just a charm and a flirt. He was most definitely here to win this game.
And no one suspected a thing.
"Welcome, guys," said Jeff, as the ten Qinaliuts stood before him. "And welcome to your first individual immunity challenge." He held up a beaded necklace, with a large sun amulet in the front. "This is the immunity talisman. This is the only thing that will protect you at Tribal Council. You want this guy around your neck as often as possible."
He went on to explain the rules of this challenge. They would each have a box, with nine segmented sections. They were to run out and search the immediate area. gathering items from a list. The first person to find all nine would win immunity.
"It's a scavenger hunt," he finished, "The best hunter is safe at tonight's vote."
Each player was handed their box, and they lined up. Silas was tensed and ready. Helen was already looking around, doing some scouting. Kelly was reading the list one final time.
"Survivors ready," announced Jeff, "Go!"
The ten players all took off across the field, heading for the forest. Helen was the first to grab a green pinecone, finding item number one. She placed it in her box and headed for the trees, looking for a patch of blueberries.
After a few minutes, Elisabeth and Tammy were leading the pack, with five items each. Elisabeth had been the first to find a holly plant, and placed two berries into her box. Tammy saw this and followed her, and now the two of them were ahead of the group, working together.
"Damnit," shouted Clay, as he had found just one item. "Where the hell do I get a clover, Jeff?" Jeff just waved at him, smiling. But Clay was way behind right now, in last place. He was starting to get worried, too, although he wasn't in any way panicking. He may have suspected he was in danger tonight, but thought that Silas would be the one that Tuktu would target first. He wasn't aware that this was probably a must-win challenge.
"Thirty minutes down," announced Jeff, "Thirty to go. If no one has all nine items after an hour, the one with the most wins."
"Horseflies," said Gina, reading off her list, "Two horseflies." She looked around, suddenly noticing that the omnipresent swarm of flies and mosquitoes was missing. Usually they were around at all times, the little annoying mosquitoes and the big, stupid flies. Normally the flies were easy to kill, they would land on your arm and never leave. You could swat them and collect the dead ones, and they even had contests as to who could collect the most. "Where are the flies," she asked Kelly. Kelly just shrugged, as she peeled some spruce bark into her box.
Getting an idea, Gina sprinted out of the forest, down a hill, and towards a nearby pond. There, swarming around a pile of mud, were hundreds of flies. It was only a moment before they found her too and within seconds, she had two dead flies in her box.
"I got eight," she announced, running back towards the others. She needed just one more for the win. Tammy looked up, as did Elisabeth. They both had seven. Greg had six, in fourth place.
"Animal droppings," read Gina, from her list, "Any type." She looked over at Jeff, who was laughing at her. "Jeff!"
Elisabeth and Tammy both found a pile of deer droppings, and Elisabeth wrinkled her nose as she scooped some up with a leaf. But now it was all tied up, three people with eight.
"Gina, Tammy and Elisabeth," announced Jeff. "All need one to go!"
Tammy and Elisabeth searched valiantly for a clover, hunting through a grassy area. But they were out of luck, as Gina had found what could be best described as a wolf toilet. She scooped up the foul droppings with a stick and cried out in victory.
"I got nine! I got nine, Jeff!"
She ran over and dropped her box on the ground. He checked all nine slots, reading off his list. He winced a bit at the wolf droppings, but confirmed that she was done.
"Gina," he announced, "Immunity!"
She let out a shriek and gave him a hug, as Jeff placed the talisman around her neck. The rest of the tribe came over to congratulate her, with Tammy being the first to shake her hand and tell her "Nice job!"
Clay and Silas stood off to the side, just watching. Both of them exchanged a glance, nodding slightly. It was clear that one of them had a good chance of leaving tonight. Clay thought it would be Silas. Silas thought it would be Clay.
"Just one vote," Clay said. "That's all we need for the tie."
"We got it, bro," promised Silas. "They won't know what hit them. Won't see it coming."
The ten members of Qinaliut walked to their first Tribal Council, directly from the challenge. Kelly and Gina walked in front, Gina proudly wearing her talisman, as they confirmed their choice of Clay tonight. Tuktu was all going to be on the same page, they had agreed to all vote as one until they got down to six. That meant they had four freebie votes, four Tribal Councils to rest easy.
"Paschal will vote with us," said Tammy. She was speaking to Clay, keeping her voice down so no one else could hear. "He doesn't like Helen, he doesn't like the way she got rid of Brian. She threw the last challenge." Clay knew enough about Helen to realize this part was true. Helen would have done anything to get rid of Brian. But he wasn't sure about the 'vote with Amarok' part of the plan. Every conversation he had with the judge about strategy had gone nowhere. "I don't believe you," he finally said.
She looked over at him, her shades hiding her eyes, as usual.
"Look, it's not really a choice," she said. "I -have- to stay with Amarok. If I go over there, the best I get is seventh place. You and I are together, like it or not. And if you go first, we -all- go right after. We need to stay together on this. Besides," she couldn't resist adding, "They're going for Silas tonight anyway."
Clay's mind whirred into action. He weighed the odds of believing Tammy with the odds of believing Greg. Greg said he would vote with Silas tonight, and help put Amarok back together. Or should he believe Tom, who said the girls didn't seem to like Helen much and could be swayed? Or should he believe Helen, who said they all pissed her off and she had no allegiance to anyone? Or should he believe Silas, who said they all needed to stay together? And what about Clay's own instincts, which said he was in grave danger?
"Aw, hell," he muttered, as he trudged through the forest. "Too damn complicated."
Brian's face greeted them at Tribal Council. His movie star visage stared out at them with an intense look of smugness, nearly completing the totem pole on the left. There was only one spot left above it, and someone tonight would be filling it.
"That spot is the tallest Clay will ever be in his life," whispered Kelly. Gina and Elisabeth snickered. Even Paschal held his hand over his mouth, trying to hide a smile.
They entered the building and Jeff greeted them as they sat down, welcoming them all.
"Welcome, Qinaliut," he said. Then he quickly segued into how things were going for the tribe as a whole.
"Great," said Silas, "It's been an honor to be here, Jeff." He wanted to lay on the charm as thick as he could. "Tuktu was a great tribe, and we've all had a blast getting to know them."
"Helen is an excellent cook," added Tom, "I mean, I'm actually gonna gain weight before I g'home this time."
Helen smiled, lowering her face, chuckling.
Jeff asked how they would be voting tonight, asking if it would be along tribal lines, or if Red Rover had blurred those lines.
"I think it really threw off everything," said Elisabeth, "I mean, it's actually been hard to reconcile who is on what team, and who is with whom." She smiled. "It's a lot more difficult than you would expect."
Gina nodded, understanding completely.
"Okay," said Jeff, "You guys all know the drill. You cannot vote for Gina tonight, but everyone else is fair game. The person voted out tonight will be out for good. But starting tomorrow, everyone else left will be here until the end, in some form or another. The person ejected tonight is the last pre-jury boot. Keep that in mind." He paused, letting it sink in. "And with that, it's time to vote. Tom, you're up."
Tom Buchanan stood and walked up to the podium. Clad in his trademark overalls, with a thick gray shirt underneath, he uncapped the pen and cast a vote for Helen Glover.
"Helen," he said, "Mah favorite short-order cook. Please don't take this vote personally, but we have t'stick to the battin' order. Wish you well."
Kelly Wiglesworth was next, and she cast her vote for Clay Jordan, as planned.
"I think you're a smart guy, but you're still the enemy."
Elisabeth followed, casting a similar vote for Clay.
The rest of the Tuktus followed, all five casting their votes for Clay. Paschal and Greg were on board, of course. They never had any plans to switch. Helen added the fifth vote, which made sense since it had been her idea. She had no sympathy for Clay Jordan, none at all.
"Good things come to those who earn it," she said as she wrote out her vote. "Failure comes to those who deserve it. Keep that in mind."
Clay cast a second vote for Helen, but it wasn't going to make a difference. His time was up, as Gina put the final nail in the coffin, voting along with her Tuktu friends.
"Clay," she said, "It's just your time."
Silas and Tammy both added votes for Clay, as per Tammy's plan. But they were irrelevant, as it was going to be 8-2. Their two votes were just for show.
All ten players went to sit down on their benches, as Jeff retrieved the votes. Silas grinned, assuming he would at least make the jury. And if all went right, he would be going a lot further than that. He stared at the back of Clay's head, knowing that Clay thought he was safe tonight. -Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out,- Silas thought to himself, chuckling.
Jeff returned, reminding them that the person voted out tonight must leave immediately. And with that, he read off the votes.
"Clay," he said, opening Greg's vote.
Clay nodded, realizing it wouldn't be Silas going tonight. It would be himself or Helen. Tuktu had targeted Clay. He just had to hope that one or two of them had been swayed. Hopefully one of them had gone against their old team, as most of them had promised him they would.
"Clay," said Jeff, reading Gina's vote.
Clay just stared at the votes, not reacting.
"Clay," said Jeff, reading Helen's vote. Helen had signed her name at the bottom, making him chuckle. She saw this and patted him on the knee, smiling.
Jeff read off two more Clay votes, before coming to the sixth, and fatal, one.
"And the first person voted out of the Qinaliut tribe..."
Clay nodded and reached for his torch. Jeff said they would leave the rest of the votes a mystery, and Clay said his goodbyes to his old team. He got a hug from Paschal, a handshake from Silas, and a hug from Big Tom.
"You take care of y'self, Fatty," Clay said, making Tom laugh. Tom greeted him with a big slap on the back.
"Keep that lodge warm for me," he drawled, "I'm comin' right after ya."
Helen watched with a small smile as Clay had his flame extinguished. He walked out of the lodge, into the forest, as was gone. Helen had won, again.
"Congratulations, guys," said Jeff, "On all making it to the final stage of this game. You will all be here until the end, seven of you in the jury, two in the final vote. You've all come a long way." And with that, he bid them all a good night.
The Qinaliuts walked single-file out of the lodge, walking through the bright Alaskan night back to camp. It was mostly silent, except for Tammy and Silas, straggling in the back. Silas had something to say to her, something that he had been waiting for. They were just two words, but if it worked, they would have a major impact on this game.
Tammy nodded and smiled.
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