All-Star Survivor: Alaska
Qinaliut Tribe: Tom Buchanan, Greg Buis, Gina Crews, Paschal English, Elisabeth Filarski, Silas Gaither, Helen Glover, Tammy Leitner, Kelly Wiglesworth
It was snowing again.
"Mah feet are cold," Tom bellowed, rousing everyone out of their slumber. All nine members of the tribe were laying in a huddle, inside the shelter, crammed together for morning warmth. The problem was that Tom was a little too large for the cramped area, and his feet stuck out from underneath the tarp, exposed to all the world.
"Gina," he requested, "Could you go rub m'feet? They're turnin' numb."
"No thanks, Tom," she murmured, still half-asleep. "Maybe ask Paschal, I think he'd be more'n happy."
"Awww," Tom pouted playfully. He was always requesting that the younger females of the tribe rub him in some location or the other, it was just his little way of loosening up the mood in the shelter. After all, this was not a pleasant place to sleep, it was too small for nine people.
"How 'bout you, Lizzie," he turned his attention to the shivering girl next to him. Her eyes peeked out from her pink parka, as she cuddled up behind him and Silas for warmth.
"I can't move, Tom," she joked, "I think I'm frozen."
"Tom, why don't you ask me," quipped Greg, hurt, "I thought you said you loved me best."
But as the tribe finally woke up, they all sat and stared at the soft white snow fluttering down from the skies. The birds and crickets that were normally heard in the mornings were deathly quiet today, as there was nothing but silence outside. Snow tended to be quiet.
"Okay," said Paschal, "Who volunteers for oatmeal duty today?"
No one moved. Even Helen sat quietly in the corner, rubbing her eyes sleepily. She was normally the morning cook, but she wasn't about to volunteer for snow duty.
"Don't tell me you're gonna make the old man do it," joked Paschal.
"Pappy," said Silas, laying a hand on the judge's shoulder, "We'd be -more- than happy if you wanted to do it." He put his head back down, intending on going back to sleep. "Just call us when it's ready."
Paschal sighed and sat up, buttoning his fleece jacket around his shoulders. He braced himself with one hand against the wall of the shelter and stood up, walking out towards the stove. Tom decided to get up and join him, since he couldn't really lay down comfortably in here anyway, and the two older men of Qinaliut were now officially on breakfast duty.
After the food was heated, stirred and distributed, the tribe did its best to stay warm. This was officially the coldest day yet, and some extra steps would have to be taken. Kelly decided to do a stretching routine, standing and flexing alongside the shelter. It was her normal morning ritual, but today she was joined by Elisabeth and Tammy, the three women trying their best to fight off the chill.
"I think the witch hunt ended last night," said Paschal, under his breath, to Tom. The two men were still sitting by the stove, as Tom scrubbed out the pot, making sure the oatmeal didn't stick. There was nothing worse to clean than dried oatmeal.
"Yep," mumbled Tom, acknowledging Helen's vendetta against Brian and Clay, a vendetta that he hadn't known about until the vote last night.
"Helen had it in for those two since the first day here," continued the judge. "I mean, no matter what we said or did, she always wanted to make sure that they would go first. It was like a life mission."
Paschal had been talking with Tom more and more over the past two days. It was nice to have someone of his age around, someone with whom he could relate. Of course, the two men came from vastly different backgrounds, but they had a lot more in common than you would expect. They were both Southern, family men who placed great value in trust and in honor. And besides, Tuktu was a great group and all, but Paschal was quite a bit older than most of them. It was nice to have someone around that he could relate to.
"Helen has a bit of a temper, near's I can figure," added Tom.
"She's a great person," continued the judge, "But if she has a grudge with someone, she won't let it go." He looked over at Helen, watching as she was talking to Gina. "But she's had her moment of glory, hopefully we can all get back to normal now."
Tom nodded, not exploring the subject further. He had things he wanted to ask, issues he wanted to explore. But he kept his mouth shut for the time being. Right now his only goal was to make friends with the judge, get in good with someone on the other side. And he wasn't going to do that by asking nosy questions. He was just here to listen.
Tammy and Helen were walking through the forest, to check for tree mail. Tammy had volunteered, and asked Helen to come with her. They had some things they needed to discuss. The big plan was ready to go.
"Nice job with Brian," Tammy said, smiling. She had wanted to be the one to end his reign herself, but was perfectly happy that someone else had done it first. That was the same way most of the females had viewed the used car salesman. "I wish I could have seen the look on his face."
Helen chuckled, as she planted her walking stick in the mud, stopping to wipe her brow.
"Yeah," she said, "Well, you know. Had to be done."
"I'm serious," said Tammy, planting her own walking stick in the mud. "You did us all a favor. Brian's an ass."
Helen smiled and reached back to make a ponytail, tying it with her red buff.
"So," so said as she tied, "Was it that bad over in Amarok?"
Tammy rolled her eyes, laughing out loud.
"Clay stared at my ass at -least- three hours per day. You do the math."
Helen chuckled, and then stopped. An awkward silence was all that remained. It was clear that there was something else that needed to be discussed. It was only a matter of who would bring it up first.
"Look," said Tammy, jumping at the chance, "You need our vote and we need yours. We both know it, let's not jerk each other around here. You're not going to win this game if you stay in Tuktu."
Helen stared right at her, only smirking slightly. She didn't say a word, so Tammy continued.
"Now what about you and me?" She looked over Helen's shoulder, making sure no one was approaching from back in camp. "We were in together back with the first vote. We were solid then, and nothing has really changed. I mean, we're still the two hardest workers in camp, we still clean up -all- their messes, and frankly, I think both of us deserve to win a lot more than someone like Elisabeth, or Kelly."
Helen nodded her head slightly at that point and shrugged, it was something she had told herself many times.
"The only real difference," continued Tammy, "Is that I left for Amarok, and left you stuck cleaning up after their slumber party. But I'm back now. "
"Back with your own little army," said Helen, without smiling. "You have your own team now, as do I."
"Silas?" Tammy looked incredulous. "Silas doesn't have a clue what he is doing, he just sticks with me because he has nowhere else to go. Besides," and this was the big finish, "They aren't your team. You're the first one gone when they get to that point."
Helen remained stone-faced, but winced a little inside. She already knew this fact to be true, she had said so to Greg just yesterday. But to hear it from someone else somehow made it even more true.
"So what are you getting at?" Helen still hadn't smiled, she tried to keep her game face on for her own sake.
"You and me," said Tammy. "The two of us take this game right to the end. We don't tell anyone, no one sees us together, and no one will suspect a thing."
"What about Silas," asked Helen, suspiciously.
Helen leaned up against a tree, thinking this over. Or at least, -appearing- to think it over.
"I'm not committing to anything," she said, finally. "But I'll think about it."
"Well don't think too long," joked Tammy, "Because I'm probably gone at the next vote."
As Helen was being wooed by Tammy, three of her Tuktu teammates were sitting in a circle, talking about the game. Kelly, Elisabeth and Gina had watched people retreat off into the forest, first Silas and Greg, then Paschal and Tom, and most recently, Tammy and Helen. And now, with everyone removed from the equation, they were here to solidify their plan to the end.
"You guys," said Elisabeth, "I don't know what Tammy is up to, but I don't trust her."
Kelly nodded, as she dug a small hole in the dirt with a stick.
"It's because she knows she has no options," said Gina. "She knows that Amarok is cooked, so she just wants to be the last one left."
"She just doesn't want to say that Silas and Tom beat her," added Kelly, still digging her hole, "I mean, would you want Silas to get further then you?"
The three of them discussed the pecking order from here on out. Who would go first, who would go next. They had already agreed, along with the rest of Tuktu, that they would have to get down to six first, before splitting apart.
"Just so long as someone from Tuktu wins," said Gina, "I really don't care."
"You know," added Elisabeth, with a whisper, "The three of us will probably be the final three." She smiled. "That would be awesome if it was one of us."
They continued the discussion for a few minutes, the three youngest Tuktu girls, all wearing red buffs in the same style, around their torso. But it was interrupted when Tammy and Helen came out of the forest, Tammy waving a piece of treemail.
"Qinaliut, it's time for a reward challenge!"
The nine remaining players stood in front of Jeff Probst, as he explained the rules of their first true reward challenge.
"Okay, you guys," he said. "This will be a good one. You guys have had to deal with Red Rover for all this time, and I know it's been kind of a drag to have no rewards. So today," he smiled, "We have a real reward. An Alaskan feast, for one of you."
Tom ran over and picked Jeff up in a big bear hug, surprising the host.
"I love you, man," joked Tom, "Yo're the best, Jeff."
After freeing himself, the unflappable host explained the rules. This was going to be a version of the game tug-of-war. He pointed to a patch of ice, that had been specially frozen for this event. A large red line was painted down the middle, like a hockey rink.
"Two of you will pair off on that ice. And you'll be holding this." He held up a large piece of rope, with a loop at either end. It was shaped like an hourglass, and looked like a large dog toy. "You will pair off and try to pull your opponent across that red line, or make them lose their balance. If you succeed, you move to the next round, and so on, and so on. Last one standing wins the reward."
He then mentioned the two twists in the rules.
"First off, there are nine of you, so not everyone will be able to compete. We will draw numbered cards from a bag. The person who draws the red card will sit out of this challenge. And the second twist, of course, is how you will be holding the rope." He paused, for dramatic effect. "This is based on an Inuit children's game. You will be holding the rope in your teeth."
Elisabeth's mouth dropped open in surprise. She looked at Greg, who smiled and winked at her.
"Okay," said Jeff, "Let's draw numbers for the matchups."
All nine players reached into a bag to draw their assignments. Some were happy, some were disappointed, but none moreso than Helen, who had been chosen to sit out.
"C'mon Jeff," she joked, a pouty look on her face, "I wanted some of that food."
But Helen sat off to the side, watching as the players took their places. The first matchup seemed to be unfair, with Tom squaring off against Gina. Both took ahold of the rope in their teeth, Gina grimacing at the taste.
"Survivors ready," yelled Jeff, "Go!"
Tom grunted and started walking backwards, dragging poor Gina right across the ice. The rest of the players laughed at Gina's legs flailing to stay upright, but she was soon pulled right over the red line, skating across it like a water skiier.
"Tom," yelled Jeff, "Nicely done."
The big man walked over and gave Gina a big hug, and the two of them laughed together.
"At least I didn't fall down," she laughed to the rest of the tribe.
The second heat featured Greg against Silas. The two men grabbed their ropes and stared across at each other. Silas had a determined smirk on his face. They both placed the rope in their teeth and waited for Jeff to say go.
"Survivors ready," announced Jeff, "Go!"
Silas strained backwards, trying to pull Greg across the line. Greg expected this, however, and let his rope go slack, trying to make Silas lose balance. Silas stumbled and slipped, but stayed upright, his strong legs helping him out. Smiling, he started pulling again and Greg tried to fight it, but Silas was too powerful. Greg lost his balance, slipped, and fell forwards. Silas had won.
"Nice," said Jeff. "Silas is gonna be tough to beat."
"Just my day," said Silas, humbly, "It was just my day, Jeff."
Paschal and Tammy faced off in the third heat, and seemed to match each other in strength. They pulled to nearly a draw, until Tammy started to slide forwards towards the line. She fought it, but her feet went out from under her and she landed on her butt, grimacing. She sat there and laughed, as Paschal came over to help her up.
"Last heat," announced Jeff, "The ladies' round is up."
Elisabeth and Kelly took their places for the final round.
"You're going down, Filarski," Kelly called out, laughing.
The two of them placed the rope in their teeth and started pulling. Kelly appeared to be a bit stronger, but Elisabeth shook her head from side to side, trying to make Kelly lose her balance. But finally, Kelly jerked her rope backwards and knocked Elisabeth onto her hands and knees, falling with a yelp.
"Final four," announced Jeff, "Time for the big boys. Tom and Silas."
The two largest men in the game took their positions, as the tribe watched in anticipation. Silas nodded to Tom, who tipped his hat back. They took the rope in their teeth and waited for the start. And then, the game was on.
Silas pulled with all his might, trying to knock the big man over. He was stronger, but Tom was heavier, and didn't seem to budge. Tom groaned with the effort of the rope against his jaws, and pulled against Silas with all his strength. Seeing an opening, Silas let his rope go slack, trying to make Tom fall backwards, but Tom was too sly. It had been a decoy. Tom yanked the rope hard and Silas was caught off guard and pulled forward, slipping and falling to one knee. He shook his head in defeat but came up with a smile, congratulating Tom. The big man raised his fist in the air, bellowing in victory.
Paschal and Kelly faced off in their semi-final, and Paschal won in very short time, as Kelly was too overeager. She slipped and landed on her butt with her first pull. The judge shrugged and accepted his victory.
"Tom and Paschal," announced Jeff, "For a feast."
"Ah can taste it already," said Tom, "Jus' keep it warm for me, Jeff!"
The two man faced off and Jeff had them begin. Paschal made no effort to outpull Tom, he simply let his side go slack. But Tom just smiled, a twinkle in his eye. He wasn't going down so easy. He yanked backwards, laughing, as Paschal slid forwards. There was nothing to stop him, and the judge slid right over the red line.
"Tom," announced Jeff, "Wins reward!"
Tom dropped his rope and ran off into a meadow, bellowing in victory. He ripped off his shirt and tried his best to do a cartwheel, coming somewhat close. The rest of Qinaliut laughed at his antics, and he came back, panting, to hear what he had won.
"You will be eating salmon," said Jeff, "Cooked in the traditional style, flayed across a metal pole and slow-cooked over a fire. And, buddy, it's all the salmon you can eat. Not to mention bread, beans, corn, butter, and for dessert," He smiled. "Fresh blueberry cobbler."
Tom ran over to give Jeff another hug, picking him up and kissing him on each cheek.
"And one more thing," said Jeff, trying to escape Tom yet again, "You can pick one person to go with you."
The eight other members of the tribe stood nearby, watching with amusement. It was always fun to watch someone else have to make this choice.
"I'll take the judge," said Tom, without hesitation, "He made it to th'finals, he deserves it." Tom had ulterior motives, of course, but a second place finisher was always a respected choice. "C'mon over here, Judgey."
Paschal walked over and thanked Tom, and the rest of the tribe was dismissed back to camp. Jeff pointed to a helicopter waiting in a nearby field, and the two men walked over and climbed aboard. Tom had a big grin on his face, pointing out the window at the scenery and wildlife, as they were flown to an Indian village nearby, where they were treated to the best meal they had eaten in three weeks. They had a wonderful time, shared some laughs, talked strategy, and discussed the state of the game. But most of all, they ate and ate and ate. Tom consumed at -least- six whole fish. By the time they got back to camp, with two smuggled pieces of cobbler, they just wanted to go to bed.
Silas Gaither was ready to kick this game into high gear. He had been waiting, and waiting, at Tammy's request. But now that the time was right, it was time to stop stalling, and start the last minute drive to the end zone.
"Hear that sound?" he grinned in a confessional, "That's the two minute warning. We have reached game time, ladies and gentlemen."
Tammy and Silas had waited for this moment for some time. The turning point. The one in which they could pull apart Tuktu, and exploit its weakness. And the weakness, of course, was Helen Glover.
"I talked with her," said Tammy, "And basically laid it all out. But it really wasn't necessary. She -knows- it will be suicidal to stick with Tuktu to the end. And the funny thing was, she was going to come approach -us- about it as well. I just beat her to the punch."
Silas chuckled, his red Qinaliut buff tied across his forehead. He was off with Tammy near the lake, as the two of them pretended to be fishing.
"So," he asked, "Is she in?"
Tammy sighed, shaking her head.
"I don't know. She won't commit to anything. She's being very wishy-washy about the whole thing."
Silas nodded, looking to be in deep concentration.
"But she's up for it?"
"Yeah," smiled Tammy, "I just had to praise the way she got rid of Brian. Couldn't have been easier."
Silas laughed out loud.
"So our fifth vote will have to be Greg," he noted, after a pause. "-If- Helen is in."
"Or Kelly," Tammy added. "Helen said Kelly isn't as tight with the rest of them. She's more of a loner."
"Well, so that's it," said Silas. "I just have to talk with Tom, make sure the plan is a go. Then I'll talk with Greg. You're in charge of Kelly."
Tammy nodded. The game was now officially on.
Paschal English was sitting with a few of the Tuktus, recapping last night's events.
"So Tom gets this plateful of salmon, and I swear that fish must have weighed twenty pounds. And the minute the plate is set on the table, Tom starts shoveling it into his throat." The judge was chuckling as he spoke, trying not to bust up before he got to the good part. "And all this time our Indian host is there, you know, standin' next to our table. It turns out that he was supposed to give some big long speech about the history of the fish, and how it was caught, and the authentic way it was prepared. You know, the guy had probably been preparing this speech for weeks now, getting it just right. But he never gets a chance, because Tom's got the fish halfway in his belly before the man can say a word."
Elisabeth had already started giggling, and Kelly was trying hard not to break out in laughter as well. Gina just stood with hands on hips, looking at the ground and shaking her head, smiling.
"So Tom looks up, and sees this Indian guy lookin' kind of annoyed, so he opens his mouth to apologize. But instead of saying anything, a big belch comes out. The guy looks offended and stunned, and all Tom can say is..." Paschal had lost it now, he couldn't finish the story. He was laughing too hard. It was safe to say that last night's feast had been a night to remember. Sure, the food was great, but the company had been even better. You didn't soon forget a night out with Tom Buchanan.
Paschal enjoyed telling the story, but was holding certain details back from his tribemates. Namely, that the two men had discussed strategy for quite a while. It had been Tom's whole purpose for selecting Paschal, and Paschal had been stunned by the level of thought Tom had put into this game.
"Tom is an interesting person," noted Paschal in a confessional, "You take a look at him and think he's just a big dumb goat farmer, but I'll tell you what. He's got a lot going on upstairs. He knows what a bad situation he is in, as well as all the Amaroks. He was trying to push hard last night to get us to take him into Tuktu. He thinks there are holes, and said there's only two people I can trust right now in this bunch: Gina and Elisabeth."
"And I wanted to be th'third," added Tom, finishing the story in his own confessional. "I told him, y'know how I am. What y'see if what y'get. And mah word is good, if ol' Tom says he's gonna do something, by God he's gonna do it. So I told him, if y'smell somethin' a little funny in yo're bunch, if Tuktu seems a li'l quiet'r than usual, just come mah way." The big man stopped and smiled, his trademark hat pushed back on his head. "I don't think he believes me, but the offer is there. When the cats start fightin' and the fur gets thrown around, he knows he can count on Big Tom."
Besides Tom and Paschal's strategic discussion, albeit a superficial one, a lot was happening behind the scenes in camp today. Gina, Elisabeth and Kelly were debating who to vote out first, Tammy or Silas. Paschal repeatedly offered his suggestion of Tammy, but said he would go along with whomever they chose. They were a team. Greg was right there for all the discussions, nodding and commenting when needed. He was surprisingly quiet today, though, most of his normal mirth was missing. Helen made her token appearances with the group from time to time, and said she was in, of course.
"I'd pick Silas," she offered, "He worries me." She stopped to think it over. "It's something in his eyes."
Helen had paid special attention to Silas since the merge. It was simple, really. Not only was he the biggest competition, physically, but he was also aligned with Tammy. If she were to hook up with Tammy, Silas would be along too. It was a package deal. And of course, there was something else about the young actor...
Her internal bullshit detector went crazy whenever he started speaking.
"Geez," she complained once to Gina, "My head hurts just listening to him talk."
Gina nodded, sympathetically. She had been in Amarok, she knew the feeling.
"Sometimes he's Silas," Gina observed, "Sometimes he's Chip. I don't even think -he- knows who the real Silas is. I've never met a guy so full of wild ideas and crazy plans."
But it was more than that. It took two days for Helen to finally realize why Silas made her so nervous.
"My God," she said in a confessional, stunned by the realization, "He's just like Brian. Same stupid smile, same handshake, same way of talking down to you. It's like looking at Brian's little brother."
So of course, that was going to complicate matters somewhat.
With Tuktu gathering their forces, and Amarok gearing up for a counterattack, there were only a few more conversations that needed to come about. The first was Silas and Tom. The young actor pulled Tom aside around lunchtime, explaining the plan.
"It needs to happen tomorrow," Silas intoned, in a whisper, "Or it's not going to happen at all."
"I'm in," said Tom, without hesitation. "Look, I don't care who you pick to go, you got my vote." Tom wasn't here to put up a fight, he was here to just nod his head and say yes, as usual.
"But we need to get one more person," whispered Silas. He was talking a little slower than usual, his usual way of speaking with Tom. He probably didn't even realize he was doing it. "So if you get a chance to talk to Paschal, or Greg, or Kelly, see what you can do."
"We'll see what happens," grinned Tom.
With Tom on board, Silas went to Greg. The two of them had a strange relationship, but there was no denying that they had some sort of connection. They had spoken from time to time back in Amarok, simply because they were the youngest. Despite their wildly different backgrounds, or the fact that Greg considerd Silas to be one step above their morning oatmeal, every so often they found themselves on the same page.
"Helen is in," promised Silas, "And I think we can get Kelly. You want in, partner, this is your chance."
The two of them were walking, presumably to pick berries. Greg said nothing in reply, just kept walking.
"You have to know that those chicks aren't going to let you win," Silas continued. "Look at their banner, man, I'm serious. This is still guys against girls, and you're gonna be nothing more than their bitch by the time they get down to five."
Greg chuckled at this, enjoying Silas's attempts. Of course, Greg had a plan in mind. But nothing Silas, or Tammy, or Helen, or Paschal said was going to help change his mind. Greg played for Greg. When the time came, he would be ready.
"A five-four vote," said Greg, finally, "And Amarok is back in the game." He paused, dramatically. "That would sure make for good TV, wouldn't it?"
"Damn right, brother," smiled Silas.
"I love TV," said Greg, "Don't you?"
Silas let loose one of his biggest smiles yet.
"Almost as much as I like million dollar checks."
Greg laughed out loud, one of his few legitimate laughs. Silas amused him.
"This game is getting too predictable anyway," said Greg, finally. "Who wants to watch boring TV? I'm in, let's stir this game up."
Silas's heart lept. That was the answer he needed to hear. He hadn't thought he was going to get it, but there it was. Greg was ready to start playing.
"Who's the name," asked Greg. "Who gets the ax?"
"Wait for the immunity challenge," said Silas, "See who wins. But it has to be one of the chicks. Elisabeth, Gina or Kelly, one of them has to go tomorrow."
The nine members of Qinaliut were walking to the immunity challenge. Gina and Kelly had retrieved the treemail, which featured a rope and a piece of bone, and now they were on their long hike. Very little strategy was discussed, but it was clear that something big was in the air. Helen and Tammy exchanged glances several times. Silas tried to make eye contact with Kelly. Paschal and Tom walked close to each other. Greg and Helen were flashing what looked to be hand signals at one another. Gina caught most of this, as she had grown more and more vigilant of paying attention to others on these walks. But after about an hour, the tribe reached a clearing, where Jeff stood waiting. Behind him stood what looked to be a clothesline.
"Welcome guys," he greeted them. He retrieved the immunity talisman from Gina and explained the rules of today's challenge. "We have a fun little activity for you today." He held up a rope-like weapon, which sort of looked like a slingshot. "This is a bola. Made from sinew and bones, it was used by aboriginal people primarily as a hunting weapon." He whirled it around his head, in a slow arc. "Hunters would use it to entangle the legs of their prey, making them unable to run away. Then the hunters would pounce in for the kill." He pointed out to the clothesline, from which twenty-seven pieces of wood were now being suspended. "Those pieces of wood are your targets. You each have three, painted in the same color, hanging at varying heights. First person to wrap a bola around all three wins immunity. But be careful not to hit anyone -else's- target, okay?"
He smiled, always milking the exposition for as much drama as he could.
"Now let me warn you that this one may take some time. Bolas are not easy to aim."
The nine players lined up at their assigned shooting stations. They each had a collection of ten bolas, and all stared out at their colored targets. Jeff stood behind them, and raised his hand.
"Survivors ready," he paused, "Go!"
All nine players whirled their bolas in an arc and fired. None of them were even close, only Silas' first toss coming anywhere near the target. Helen's went sideways and nearly hit Greg in the head.
"Hey," joked Greg, "Watch it!"
"Be careful," laughed Jeff.
But the second toss was much different, as Tammy and Elisabeth both wrapped a bola around a target. Tammy's snapped around a piece of blue wood, Elisabeth's hit a green one.
"One for Elisabeth, one for Tammy," announced Jeff.
Elisabeth hit a second target with her next throw, the only one to do so.
"Elisabeth has two," said Jeff, impressed, "Nice shooting, deadeye! You can win with your next shot."
The fourth round came. Elisabeth grabbed a bola and held it above her head, swinging it in a slow arc. Pursing her lips in concentration, she snapped her wrist forward at just the right moment. The bola flew too high and missed. But three people had hit this round. Greg, Silas and Kelly had all connected with their first hits.
"Fifth round," announced Jeff, "Elisabeth needs just one more hit to win."
Silas and Tammy stood next to each other, and exchance a glance before their fifth throw. They were both aware that either one of them would be a likely Tuktu target tonight. They wished each other good luck and tossed.
"Tammy," announced Jeff, "The only hit that round."
Tammy smiled. She was one hit away from safety.
"Nice shot, pitbull," Silas joked. It was his new nickname for her.
Round six came and went, and no one hit. Elisabeth snapped her fingers in frustration, she thought the first two were easy, now the pressure was getting to her.
"Okay," said Jeff, "Here's where we stand. Elisabeth and Tammy have two hits. Silas, Greg and Kelly all have one. If Elisabeth or Tammy hit, they win."
"Do I have to keep trying this?" joked Helen. She hadn't come close to any target yet. "I'm more likely to hit myself than one of those things."
Jeff started the seventh round. Nine arms went up, nine bolas were spun, and only Tom scored a hit.
"About time," said Jeff, "The big man is on the board."
Elisabeth and Tammy looked across the ranks at each other. Elisabeth shrugged, Tammy grinned. This was going to be another showdown, their third. It was getting to be a weekly ritual.
The eighth round started. Tammy raised her bola and fired. It hit the target but failed to wrap around. It clattered to the ground harmlessly, as she "ooohed" in disbelief. Elisabeth's shot missed wide to the left. Both leaders had missed, but it was now a three-way tie, because Tom Buchanan was the only one to score a hit.
"Oh, man," joked Elisabeth, in exasperation.
"We have a tie," announced the host. "Big Tom, Tammy, and Elisabeth. All just one shot from victory."
Tom raised his ninth bola. Throwing events had always been easy for him, it just took a while for him to get the range down for a new weapon. But now he had it. He focused, concentrated, and spun the weapon above his head in a slow circle. With a violent toss, he whipped it forward and it hit the white piece of wood directly, wrapping around. Bullseye.
"Tom with hit number three," announced Jeff. "Tammy and Elisabeth, you have one last chance to tie."
Elisabeth raised her weapon, spun it, and fired. It missed badly, nearly hitting Kelly's target instead.
"Crap," she said, with a smile.
Tammy was last. She took a deep breath, trying to block out the pressure. She raised the bola, spun it in a tight circle, and flung it. But luck was not on her side today, and the weapon missed to the right, barely grazing the target.
"Tom," announced Jeff, "Wins immunity!"
Tom pumped his fist once in victory, smiling as he accepted the congratulations of the rest of the tribe. It was easy to be everyone's best friend when you had immunity.
"Second win in a row," said Jeff, placing the talisman over Tom's large head, "Nicely done, big guy."
Tammy stood off to the side, hands on her hips, watching. She had a chance to control fate and had let it slip through her fingers. And now, with Tom immune, that left her and Silas that much more vulnerable tomorrow. All she could do now was shake her head and hope for the best.
"Damnit," she muttered under her breath.
Gina Crews was in charge of breakfast on the morning of Tribal Council. She decided to give Helen a break, and got up before the rest of them. She boiled a pot of water, added some of the tribe's oatmeal, sealed the leftovers back into the anti-bear container, and cooked until it was ready. As a nice touch, she added a handful of blueberries and what Greg said was a "type of maple syrup."
"He got it from a tree," she joked with a cameraman, "That's all he would say. He said just add it to the food and don't ask questions." She shrugged, smiling. "That's Greg for you."
Gina had been well aware that Tammy and Silas were up to something. She was more observant than Elisabeth or Kelly, and tried hard to keep an eye on all the tribe's activities.
"I like Tammy, I really do," she said to Helen, who had joined her, "But I wouldn't trust her as far as I could spit."
"I don't know," deadpanned Helen, "I heard you can spit a watermelon seed pretty darn far."
"Oh you know what I mean," smiled Gina. "If something happens to prevent one of us from winning, I guarantee you it will come from Tammy's direction."
Helen nodded, noting that Silas was no Boy Scout either. Every time the discussion of voting out Tammy came up, Helen was quick to point out Silas as a target too. She still hadn't decided what she was going to do at tonight's vote, but she preferred to have Tammy around, just in case. If Silas went tonight, she wasn't going to shed any tears.
"I haven't given anybody my word," she admitted in a confessional, "I gave Tammy a very firm... maybe... and I told Greg I thought we should bolt to Amarok. But I didn't say when." She sighed, looking up at the sky. This had been a very hard decision for her. Helen had gone into this game a bit gunshy, a bit slow on the trigger. "It's eating me up, to tell you the truth. I mean, sure I can go any number of ways with the next vote, but there are repercussions, and fallout, and jury votes, and anger, and all sorts of things to consider." She stared at the ground, remaining silent for a good three minutes. "It's just frustrating," she finally said, "I mean I know I -should- pull some sort of backdoor play, but I don't know if I -can.- I mean, I can say anything I want to people today, but the truth is that I probably won't know until I walk up to that podium, pick up that pen, and write down a name." She sighed again, rolling her eyes in frustration. Helen Glover was -not- a patient person, and it was clear that this pressure was starting to weigh on her.
"You have to wake up and smell the coffee, girlfriend!"
Tammy had cornered Kelly, alone in the shelter. Kelly definitely didn't want to have this conversation, but it was here, and she couldn't avoid it any longer.
"I know, I know," admitted Kelly, a bit defiant. "I've heard it all before. Gina and Elisabeth are going to be the final two and I won't be able to stop them. It's old news, Tammy, I don't want to hear it anymore."
"Look," said Tammy, "I know how you work. I know you like loyalty, but you simply are not going to break those two apart."
"I'm a competitor," said Kelly, getting angry, "And I'm here to win, damnit. I'm not going to let anyone cakewalk to a victory, you have to believe that."
"But when," asked Tammy, "When do you break from them?"
"Not now." Kelly wasn't going to budge on this issue.
Frustrated, Tammy had to leave. Kelly wasn't going anywhere right now and to argue it further wouldn't help a thing. A Tammy-Kelly argument simply could not happen, because it would be ugly.
But Kelly wasn't -completely- against the idea. As she said, she was a competitor, and was here to win. This issue had come up in a discussion with Helen as well, with essentially the same results. But there were bigger issues here than simply stabbing her friends in the back, and playing to win at all costs. As Elisabeth had noted very early on, Kelly still felt the aftereffects of her Pulau Tiga experience. She loved Tuktu, loved them all, and they all had a great time. But at heart, they were all very moralistic people. Elisabeth, Gina, Helen and particularly Paschal all had a very solid sense of what was right and wrong. If they saw injustice or poor sportsmanship, they would not hesitate to comment on it. To stab any of them in the back would open the floodgates for all four. Whether Kelly realized it or not, there was a reason she wouldn't consider switching teams. They were her friends, sure, but there was something she feared even worse.
She didn't want to face another Sue speech in the final two.
With the hours dwindling until they had to leave, Qinaliut spent the rest of the time solidifying their plans. Greg spoke with Tom, feeling out the man's strategy for the endgame. Kelly and Elisabeth decided upon the best target from Amarok, and the rest of them agreed to go along. Helen and Greg were right there with them, it was going to be a solid six, if everything went as planned. Of course, that's not what Silas and Tammy had in mind.
"We have Greg," said Silas, counting off on his fingers, "We have Tom. And we have me and you."
"Helen says she will come too," added Tammy, "But if, and -only- if, Greg is on board. She won't come without him."
"Greg says he is in," said Silas. "Get her to talk with him. He already gave me his word."
"She said she did," sighed Tammy, "And she's -still- waffling over her decision."
"Damnit," said Silas, exasperated, "How much more does she need? Do I have to get it in damn writing?"
Tammy could sense that he was getting frustrated, and she implored him to be patient.
"Just wait," she said, "We still have a few hours."
"I'm goin' over there," said Silas, "Goin' right to Gina and telling her that Helen is playing both sides. You watch and see." He was starting to get pissed off with Helen's dilly-dallying. This was Plan B. If Helen didn't come over, all he had to do was get Tuktu angry with her instead. If nothing else, he could go back to his specialty: playing two sides against each other.
"I mean, look at 'em," he added, "They find out that one of their own is trying to set up a backdoor, they won't forgive her. You think someone like Paschal or Gina will let that drop?"
Tammy sighed, putting her hands on her hips. She didn't really like Silas' backup plan, but if she couldn't get a firm answer out of Helen, that might be their only option.
"Give me an hour," she finally said.
Elisabeth was the first to spot the bear.
A medium-sized grizzly bear had wandered out of the forest, hoping to find some food. Elisabeth was speaking with Gina and Paschal when she let out a little cry, pointing over Gina's shoulder. They all turned and saw the bear, standing on its hind legs, sniffing the air. He appeared to have spotted the three humans, and was smelling to see what they were. Luckily, he was a good distance away, probably about 200 yards.
"Paschal," she asked nervously, "Can we outrun that thing?"
"Well, you two probably can," he joked, "But I don't know about me."
"Oh, come on now, Pappy," said Gina, punching him playfully in the shoulder. "Don't talk like that."
"Seriously, though," added the judge, "There's no way. If you run, it will catch you. If you climb a tree, it will catch you. If he comes after us, the only thing you can really do is lay down and cover up."
"That's it?" asked Elisabeth, worried.
Gina looked at the cameraman, asking if he could do anything to help. He simply shook his head and shrugged. They were on their own out here.
"Hey cool, guys, a bear!" It was Silas, walking towards them. He was pointing out their new visitor, but had obviously come to discuss something else.
"Oh, hey Silas," said Elisabeth, immediately clamming up. She didn't trust him one bit. None of them did.
"There's something I have to tell you," he said, lowering his voice to look around. "I think you guys need to be aware of Helen."
Paschal and Gina exchanged a look. This was something they had already discussed, just moments ago.
"She's trying to pull a backdoor strategy tonight," continued Silas. He had intended on giving Tammy an hour, but had only been able to wait for sixteen minutes. It was too late to wait, Silas knew in his heart that Helen wasn't coming along. Drastic plans had to be taken, right now. "Helen approached Tammy, said she wants to vote against Tuktu. She's jumpin' ship, guys."
"Now why should we believe you?" asked Paschal, a little angry, "I mean, sure it's a possibility, but Helen has been with us for a long time. She's never shown any indication of going against Tuktu, and frankly I'd be shocked if that ever happened."
"Besides," pointed out Elisabeth, "It would still be five to four, it wouldn't make a difference."
"There's others," said Silas, after a short pause. "But they won't come unless Helen makes the first move. You guys -have- to believe me on this. I'm trying to help you out, man!"
"Silas," said Gina, raising her hand to stop him, "Just spare us, would you? No one here is going to believe your B.S. stories anymore. Miss Helen's not going anywhere tonight. We all know who -is- going, so don't try to drag Helen into this." She stopped, thinking of Jerri's attack on Kelly just a few days ago, "We've already dealt with something like this before."
"Fine," he said, a little frustrated, "But it's your funeral, guys. You're gonna look back and say 'Silas was right.' Don't say I didn't warn you." He turned to walk away, muttering to himself in anger. They hadn't bought it for a second, it was like talking to a brick wall.
"I probably handled that poorly," said Gina, aplogizing, "Sorry, guys."
"I wouldn't sweat it," smiled Elisabeth, "No one believes a word he says anyway."
But the catch was that Silas -wasn't- lying. For perhaps the first time in twenty-four days, Silas had been telling the truth. It was inadvertant, of course, but he had been accurate in his information. At this very moment, Tammy got the answer she was looking for. Helen finally said yes.
"Greg told me he is in," admitted Helen. "That's all I needed to hear." She paused a moment, thinking about it one final time. Finally, she let loose a big sigh and shook Tammy's hand.
"I'm in. Let's go vote."
The hike to Tribal Council had been a little longer than usual. Qinaliut had to go out of their way to hike around the bear, who was currenly sleeping just outside their camp. It added a little detour, but it was still the same old boring hike. The sun sat just atop the horizon as they arrived at the wooden building.
"I just hope our camp is still there when we get back," joked Tom. He had been through one destroyed campsite, he didn't want it to happen again. But at least he knew he would be going back to camp tonight, because of immunity. From all the discussion and promises and deals made in the past two days, he had an idea that everyone else was at least somewhat vulnerable tonight.
They passed the two totem poles at the door, the one on the left completely populated, and the one on the right awaiting its first face. The first jury member would be on that pole come tomorrow. They entered the lodge and sat down, awaiting their questions.
"What's it been like, Tom," asked the host, "How has the new tribe been?"
"Well, I'tell you," drawled the big man, "Kanaloot has been like a dream come true."
"It's pronounced Kin-ALL-ee-oot, big guy," corrected Paschal. The rest of the tribe started laughing. Jeff asked what was so funny.
"Tom can't pronouce the name," said Gina, smiling, "He hasn't said it right once yet."
"Hey, it ain't mah fault," joked Tom, defensively, "I ain't seen many Alaskan words in mah life. I suggested we just call it Moto Maji again."
"So, Tom," finished Jeff, "You've enjoyed the new group?"
"Immensely, Jeff," he answered, "I'll always think back fondly on m'time here in... in...," he tried to sound it out, but instead, just gave up, "In Cantaloupe."
"So, let me ask you," said Jeff, ignoring the latest round of laughter, "Is this a big new happy family? Are there tribal lines here? And what tribes are those? The ones you started out with, or the ones you merged with?" He looked at Kelly. "Kelly, what about you?"
"I don't know, Jeff," she said, evasively, "There's lines everywhere. There's lines -within- lines, I'd imagine."
Helen sat in the back, staring at the ground. She hadn't said a word yet, only stared at her feet. First the right, then the left. Then back to the right. She had given her word to Tammy. She had given her word to Tuktu. But truth be told, she still hadn't given her word to -herself.- She had no idea what name was going to come out of her pen, and it was eating her up. She hated this type of pressure.
"Helen," asked Jeff, sensing her conspicuous silence, "What goes through your mind tonight, on a vote like this? Loyalty? Strategy? Friendship?"
"Uh, I'd say a little of all of the above." She laughed, nervously. "I mean, you vote based upon what is best for you, you can really only rely on yourself."
Tammy squinted her eyes and winced a little. It was hard to read that answer. Paschal and Gina exchanged a look, thinking the same thing. -Was it true, was Helen crossing to the dark side? Was Silas telling the truth?-
Jeff let the answer hang in the air for a moment, and then announced it was time to vote.
"Kelly, you're up first."
Kelly Wiglesworth walked up to the podium and cast her ballot. She was followed by Elisabeth Filarski, Tom Buchanan, Paschal English, and Tammy Leitner.
Helen Glover was the sixth person to walk up. She picked up the pen and stared at the tan-colored piece of paper. She envisioned writing two names down, could see both of them, written in black ink. She rapped her pen nervously against the table and then finally made up her mind.
"Please be right," she muttered to herself, writing. She held up her ballot, said her piece, and sat back down. Greg Buis, Silas Gaither and Gina Crews followed by casting their own ballots. Now all nine were in the ballot box. The die had been cast. Helen immediately regretted her decision, second-guessing it, and then third-guessing it. She placed her hand over her face and stared at the fire, slowly shaking her head.
"I'll go get the votes," announced Jeff. The wait seemed endless, as Helen agonized over her choice. Tammy held Silas' hand, hoping for the best. Gina conferred with Elisabeth, all of a sudden worried. Greg sat in the back, slowly smiling to himself. He enjoyed watching everyone start to squirm. He was right, this -was- great drama.
Jeff returned with the ballots. He announced that the person voted out would still be part of the game, and would return as the first jury member at the next council. And with that, he pulled out the first vote.
"Elisabeth," he read. It was in big, bold letters, surely the work of Silas.
"Elisabeth," he read, pulling out the second vote. That was Tom's. Tom had made no strategic progress with Tuktu, and decided that voting with Amarok had been his best shot.
"Silas," read the host, pulling out Kelly's vote. Tammy immediately exhaled in relief. She wasn't the one they had targeted after all.
"Silas," read the fourth vote, Paschal's vote.
"Silas," read Gina's vote. Silas simply nodded, his jaw set in determination.
"Elisabeth," read Tammy's vote. Elisabeth smiled softly and nodded. This was going to be tight.
"That's three votes Elisabeth, three votes Silas."
Jeff pulled out the seventh vote. It was Helen's.
"Silas," it read. Even though Helen had promised Tammy, her mind just wouldn't let her change sides this soon. She simply had too much to lose. As always, Helen had opted on the side of caution. She was still agonizing over this choice though, as she thought hers would have been the deciding vote. It wasn't.
"And the first member of our jury," announced Jeff, pulling out Greg's vote.
Helen kept her eyes closed and shook her head softly. Gina reached over and patted her knee, whispering "Just two more to go." Helen smiled but still the doubt remained. Had she made the right decision?
Silas got a hug from Tammy and a handshake from Paschal, as he brought his torch up to be extinguished. He stood tall, as Jeff snuffed out his torch and ended his game for good.
"Good luck, guys," the actor said, giving them one terse wave. Tammy smiled at him but could do nothing more than shrug. Her time was next and she knew it. Silas walked out of the lodge and disappeared, the best athlete in the game, gone.
"It looks like tribal lines have indeed won out," added Jeff. "For now, anyway. Good luck with your hike back, guys, I'll see you all tomorrow."
The eight remaining players in the game filed out of the building, one by one. Helen had been relieved that her vote hadn't been the deciding one, but with tonight's vote a few new questions would now need to be answered. What would Tammy say, now that Helen had broken her promise? Had she just guaranteed herself sixth place? And, most importantly, why had Greg lied to them all? Why had he lied to her? And what on God's green earth was that boy up to?
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