All-Star Survivor: Alaska
Qinaliut Tribe: Tom Buchanan, Greg Buis, Gina Crews, Paschal English, Elisabeth Filarski, Helen Glover, Tammy Leitner, Kelly Wiglesworth
It was a sunny morning, a much needed change from the chill of the past few days. The fog around the tip of Mount McKinley had lifted, the birds chirped happily in the trees, and the flowers and tundra blew gently in the breeze. It was just a nice day to be outdoors.
"I cannot -believe- this weather," said Paschal, looking skywards. "When Jeff told us it was unpredictable out here, he wasn't kidding." He looked over at the scantily-clad forms of Elisabeth and Tammy, who were trying their best to hike up a steep hill. "Two days ago, it was arctic winter, and today," he chuckled, "The girls get to break out their swimsuits. What a world, I tell you."
Sure enough, the day was warm- warm enough for bikinis. But the weather wasn't the only thing that was hot today. Helen Glover was furious. Last night she had gone through hell, shuttling between paranoia, self-doubt, thoughts of betrayal, and, ultimately, the decision to err in the side of caution. But it had all been for naught, because she had been lied to. Greg had told her the two of them would vote with Tammy, which turned out to be completely untrue. Greg had done nothing of the sort. And now, she currently had the young man cornered, letting him have a piece of her mind.
"You set me up," she exclaimed, angrily. Her thoughts about a Tuktu takeover were long gone, she wasn't debating her lack of a move anymore. In time, Helen had simply stopped beating herself up over it, and had come to the realization that she had been played for a fool. And now, she was angry- angry at herself for not following through with her word, for not making a move against Tuktu, but mostly at Greg for setting her up. And no, anger was too simple a word for it. Helen was livid.
"Look," she said, facing him with hands on hips, "What you did probably just ruined any chance I had to win this game! Because -you- told me that you were voting with Amarok, and so -I- told Tammy that I was along too. So now it looks like I tried to set them up, and now Tammy's probably going to rip me a new one, whether it's in the game or in the jury."
Greg retreated back, trying to keep some distance between himself and the angry Naval instructor. They had all seen how Helen got when she was upset, and he wasn't about to get into a screaming match with her. He was a very non-confrontational person, it wasn't his style to have a blowout.
"All I did," he explained, "Is set Silas up, just tell him what he wanted to hear. He wanted the two of us aboard, so I said yes. What harm was it?" Greg was trying to make it sound like a strategic move but, as usual, the real reason was hidden somewhere else, deep in Greg's own mind. And sure, boredom had played a part in it. This game often bored him, especially when it was going in a very predictable direction. Nearly everyone could see what was going to happen from here until the end, and what fun was that? And when Greg got bored, Greg decided to play games, psychological ones. He loved to mess with people. And now that Jerri was gone, Greg really had no one to play with. Sure, Elisabeth was fun to toy with, but he considered her to be rather shallow and boring. No, Silas and his cocky strategist facade had been much more fun to manipulate. The look on the young actor's face last night had been priceless. But, of course, Greg wasn't going to admit that. He would rather not show his devious side yet, he was still good old responsible Greg for all they knew.
"Look," he continued, "If Silas and Tammy thought we were against the idea, they would have gone to someone else. And if they were going to try something dangerous, I figured we might as well have known what was up. The devil you know is always better than the one you don't, right?"
She stood, eyes flush with rage, and didn't say a word. She didn't entirely believe him, but then again she never entirely believed -anybody-. That was just a Helen trait. And as much as she liked and respected Greg, she rarely bought -any- of his stories at face value. Perhaps that's why she liked him so much.
"I never had any intention of voting with Amarok," said Greg. "And neither did you."
"I did," she admitted softly. "I was all set to go through with it. I even gave my word to Tammy. I was -this- close to signing my own death warrant last night. If I had written down Elisabeth's name, I'd be a dead woman today."
"You don't need me to tell you this, but you're a dead woman already. It didn't make a difference."
Helen sighed. He just wasn't getting the point.
"The thing is," she said, "It looks like I set her up now, and that is -not- where I want to be right now." She noticed out of the corner of her eye that Gina was off in the distance, watching the two of them talk. Gina had been paying a lot of attention to Helen lately, like a nosy next-door neighbor. "I told Tammy I was in," she finished, instinctively lowering her voice, "That -we- were in."
"And yet," smiled Greg, "You didn't vote with her. You bailed on them just like I did. Don't blame -me- for your guilt.
Helen glared at him but had to smirk somewhat. The little twerp had a point, but she still wasn't going to let him off the hook so fast. This was a serious issue. To change her mind was one thing, but to think that her friend had set her up was something much worse.
"Look," she said, giving up the topic for now, "Gina's watching us. Let's just drop this for now." She pretended to be picking berries, watching Gina out of the corner of her eye.
"I think they know," said Greg, under his breath, as he admired a fake blackberry, "Gina knows, anyway. She's keeping her eye on you."
"I've noticed," she said, her anger with Greg sliding seamlessly into dread. Her old paranoia was starting to creep up again, did Gina know she had been speaking of a deal with Tammy? Did the rest of them know? Did they know what she and Greg had been discussing? Did Tammy squeal? Were they going to come after Helen now? Helen shuddered at the weight of it all. First guilt, then anger, and now paranoia.
But the day was just young. Things were about to get much worse.
As the morning progressed, a few of the members of Tuktu started to compare their notes. And, as Helen had feared, the chief topic of conversation today was Helen Glover.
"I've seen her," said Elisabeth, "Walking with Tammy. Talking with Tom. Planning things with Greg. I really think she's trying something."
Paschal crossed his arms, thinking this over. He finally shook his head.
"Helen can be trusted," he said, "She's told me many times that she has no intention of letting Tammy or Tom win this game. She feels it would be wrong for anyone outside Tuktu to walk home with that money. And believe me when I say this, I have looked into her eyes. She is a woman of principle."
"I love Helen," said Gina. "She's a sweetie. But she is a bit sneaky for my tastes."
Kelly sat off to one side, silently. She hated this part of the game, more than anything else. The gossip, the endless paranoia, the backbiting. There was no way to just sit and enjoy the game for what it was. Even players in a seemingly safe state, like Tuktu, would invent some perceived threat against which to band together. And it appeared that the new villain was Helen, much to Kelly's chagrin.
"Helen isn't going anywhere," she piped up, as she sewed a patch of needlepoint, "Paschal's right. She's been with us since the start and she'll die for us if someone asked her to. I think you guys should lay off."
Kelly had been growing increasingly annoyed by the suspicions of her teammates, particularly Gina and Elisabeth. The two of them had seemed to zero in on poor Helen a few days ago, and now every one of the older woman's moves was met with suspicion. Kelly liked Helen, she liked her a lot, they actually had a very similar personality. But to sit around here, with nothing else to do, you would think that Helen had already made some sort of a secret deal with Tammy. It was just too much.
"I mean, we've got this game won," said Kelly in a confessional. "It's six to two now. It's all but in the bag that Tammy is next, and then Tom. And after that...," her voice trailed off, as she didn't like to think of that point in the game, "After that whatever happens will happen."
As the day progressed, Helen made an extra effort to go make nice with Tammy. She dreaded this step, but it was something she was just going to have to do. Sometimes you just had to suck up your pride and bury the hatchet. Lingering grudges were a very bad thing in this game.
"Ask Neleh," she pointed out. "Or Elisabeth, for that matter."
Yes, Tammy was never short on grudges. Her original one with Neleh had been the sole reason the young Mormon girl had been targeted on day three. She still held a grudge against Paschal, although it wasn't as all-encompassing as Neleh, but the latest player in Tammy's hit list had been Elisabeth. The reasons for this one were a little unclear, although Helen noticed that Elisabeth was sometimes a lightning rod of resentment to the more hardcore players. They just plain didn't like the fact that she always had a smile on her face. But Helen suspected the real reason was something a little more personal.
"Elisabeth beat her in a head-to-head challenges. Tammy never forgets stuff like that."
Tammy was the one who had led the campaign to get Elisabeth voted out last night. It had failed, but the crime reporter had been -this- close to taking over the game. If Helen and Greg had only played along, Elisabeth would have been in for the shock of her life. But of course, in the long run, nothing had changed. Well, okay, maybe one thing. Helen was about to be added to Tammy's death list, and wanted to make sure that didn't happen. It was a very bad place to be.
"Hey there," she said, approaching the camp woodpile. Tammy was here, holding the tribe axe, hacking away at a piece of dead branch. Helen smiled as Tammy glanced up, and the look on the younger woman's face was unmistakeable.
"Look," said Helen, "We need to talk."
"Yeah, I'd say so," said Tammy, holding the hatchet, her eyes covered by the ever-present sunglasses. "Seems like a lot of stuff happened last night." She paused. "Or -didn't- happen, to be more precise."
"Look, I'm sorry." Helen wasn't going to grovel, she wasn't going to stoop to that level. But she was here to at least plead her case. "I told you I would vote against Tuktu, and I meant it. But once I got up to that podium, my brain just wouldn't let me do it. I'm sorry, that's all I can say."
"Go to hell." Tammy turned back to the wood and started chopping away, a little harder than before.
"Look, we talked about this before," Helen was trying to talk over the chopping sound now, but wasn't doing very well, "I got burned in Thailand when they thought I was scheming too soon. I couldn't let that happen again, this kind of stuff is very hard for me. I didn't do it just to screw you!"
"Look," said Tammy, stopping her work, "I'm pissed off right now and I'm holding an axe. I really don't think this is the best time to talk to me." She went back to the pile, embedding the hatchet in a thick piece of wood. She then turned and walked off, without saying another word. She actually wasn't -that- mad, but she had an image to maintain. Helen wasn't going to be forgiven right away, Tammy was going to make her sweat this one out for a while.
"Well, that could have gone better," muttered Helen to a cameraman. Now that she was alone, she dropped her guard and put her hands to her face, shaking her head. The mindgames involved in Survivor were just too much sometimes. This game was too brutal. Yet unaware to Helen, it was about to get a bit more brutal. Two pairs of eyes watched her, hidden behind a thick grove of Devil's Club. Helen was not alone, as two of her teammates had seen the whole exchange.
"See," said Greg, "What did I say? Helen and Tammy."
"I knew it," whispered Elisabeth, "They've been planning something all along!"
"It's been going on for a while. She's tried to pull me in, but I keep saying no."
Elisabeth scowled up her face, angry. Their greatest fear had been realized, and Gina had been right all along. Helen was trying to break them all apart.
Helen was a traitor.
Elisabeth left quickly, explaining that she had to go back to camp. She tiptoed through the bushes silently, so as not to startle Helen. Only Greg remained, still peeking through the leaves. He watched as Helen started to pick up some wood, to carry back to camp. A sly grin crossed his face, savage, almost feral. It had reached that point in the game, the one he had been planning for.
Tuktu needed to come apart.
He had been biding his time, playing with some minds, but it was a different game now. He alone always kept it in mind that they were making a TV show, no more, no less. He had decided that the show needed a villain, particularly when things were getting boring. And now, it was time.
Greg Buis was ready to cross over to the dark side.
Through ice, snow or slush
Grab a whip and say mush.
So let's go for a run
Up where there's no sun.
Want to sleep alone?
Just toss your team a bone.
But if your sled runs too slow
Into the forest you will go.
"This one sounds nasty," she said. She had come out here to check mail with Tom, who was always a popular walking companion.
"Out into the for'st?" asked Tom, "What d'you think that means, we're maybe sleepin' in a tree?"
"I don't think I want to find out."
But they were back at camp soon, and the tribe spent a good hour talking about the challenge, and what they would be expected to do. Elisabeth was a little leery of going out to the snow, but Greg was building them up, trying to get everyone psyched up.
"Let's go, guys," he implored, "Snow angels! Who wants to make snow angels?"
Within a few minutes, they were all packing to leave, when an unexpected event occurred. A helicopter sound was heard from off in the distance, gradually growing louder. They all stopped and watched, all eight Qinaliuts, as the quiet air was disturbed, and the small black dot in the sky grew bigger and bigger. The chopper finally landed in a clearing, just outside their camp. The side door popped open and out emerged Jeff Probst. He was wearing a warm winter fur parka as he greeted them.
"Hey guys," he asked, "You ready for the reward challenge?"
They all said yes, some exchanging glances at this strange break in protocol. Jeff reminded them to make sure they had something warm on today, and they all loaded up into the copter. It was large enough for all eight players inside, although Tom had to squish up against poor Tammy in the back corner.
"Tom," she kidded him, "Could you possibly -be- any bigger?"
But the helicopter soon lifted up and into the air, with everyone crammed inside. It rose in the sky and flew towards one of the outlying mountains, as the players pointed and commented on the wilderness below them. After about twenty minutes, they landed on a flat snowy area, the base of one of the mountains. Jeff opened the door and hopped out, his boots crunching in the snow.
"We're competing here?" asked Paschal, looking around at the bleak whiteness.
"Nah," said Jeff, climbing back into the copter. "Let's go a little higher." He signaled the pilot with a thumbs up motion, and they all rose up again into the air. They went up and up until they reached another plateau, on the slope of a mountain. The ground was relatively flat and covered with nothing but calm whiteness. The chopper landed and Jeff hopped out again.
"Okay guys," he announced, "We're here."
The eight players crawled out from the cramped, and now sweaty, confines. All of them were dressed in their heaviest coats, pants, gloves and boots. Some, like Elisabeth, wore fur lined parkas. She stood in front of the group, only her eyes peeking out of her heavy pink coat. It was very cold, but they would hopefully be protected from the elements.
"Welcome," smiled Jeff, "To your most unique challenge yet."
"C'mon, Jeff," teased Greg, "Why stop here, let's go to the big one." He pointed to McKinley, which was two mountains over. "This is just the bunny slope."
"Sorry Greg," said the host, "Too dangerous over there. You guys wouldn't make it back alive from the big mountain. This area will be good enough."
Jeff went on to explain the rules, his breath coming out in steam from the cold mountain air.
"This challenge is called Iditarod, which I'm sure you all know as the great Alaskan sled dog race. Well, today you will be running your own version." He pointed to a fenced-in area, about 200 feet away, which no one had noticed yet. "Over there we have thirty-two dogs, some huskies, some malamutes. Your goal is to harness four and attach them to a sled." He pointed to eight sleds, lined up at a nearby start line. "Hook four dogs up to your sled, and then you can start the race. The first team to maneuver your sled, and your dogs, to the finish line," he pointed to a red flag off in the distance, "Wins reward."
Tom laughed out loud, nudging Paschal with his elbow. This was going to be a blast.
"Let me add," said Jeff, "That sled dogs are notoriously playful and frisky, so you may have some difficulty getting them hooked up. Keep that in mind."
"What are we playing for," asked Helen.
"Glad you asked," smiled the host. "The winner will be the only one who gets to sleep back at camp for the next two nights."
The eight players stared at him, blankly.
"The other seven of you will be sleeping in the woods, uncovered, until Tribal Council. You'll get a sleeping bag, a pillow, and that's it. Meanwhile, the winner will get their own personal hot meals back at camp, all alone." He paused. "Think of this not as a reward, but as a punishment challenge. The winner will be the only one who doesn't have to face the woods."
There was silence, broken only by Kelly's observation.
"Hey," grinned Jeff, "This is Survivor. It's just part of the game."
It took the crew about thirty minutes to set up all the cameras and make sure the dogs were ready. The players made sure to keep moving, to stay warm, until it was ready to begin. Finally, it was go time, time to start a challenge that no one really wanted to win, but -definitely- no one wanted to lose. Sleeping in the woods would not be fun.
"Survivors ready," Jeff said, raising his right arm. He watched them all, poised to run towards the dog pen, "Go!"
At the moment Jeff said go, a crewmember released the latch on the dog pen, and the canines poured out onto the snow, running in every direction.
"You didn't say they would be loose!" complained Paschal, as he unsuccessfully tried to grab a husky. Jeff just stood off to one side, watching and laughing.
After a few minutes, no one was having much luck. Elisabeth was on her hands and knees, trying to talk a large malamute into coming to her sled. Tom was trying to pick one up, but the dog was too squirmy. Gina was the first to succeed, finally herding a dog towards her sled, where she chained it up and patted it on the back. Only three more to go.
"Gina has one dog," announed Jeff. "The rest of you, get moving!"
Helen stood off to one side, frustrated but laughing. Her dog of choice was just staring at her, daring her to make it move. It hopped around playfully, and she tried to give it a stern command, but it just walked away.
Greg finally hooked a dog to his sled, and was soon followed by Kelly and Paschal. They all had three more to go. But Gina was leading the bunch, having just hooked up her second.
"Two for Gina," announced Jeff. "Halfway there!"
Tom finally succeeded in scooping a husky up in his arms. He carried it back to his sled, but was denied, as it bolted away the minute it hit the ground.
"Damned hellbeast," yelled Tom after it.
Gina soon had her third dog harnessed, as she was proving to be a very good handler. Greg had his second hooked up, and Helen and Elisabeth finally got their first.
"One more for Gina," said Jeff, "One to go!"
Tammy was having no luck whatsoever, in fact the dogs seemed to be a little afraid of her. Elisabeth was not forceful enough, the dogs just walked all over her. And Tom was utterly hopeless in trying to catch up to any of them, they basically ran circles around the frustrated man. Only Greg and Gina seemed to be doing well. Greg was on a knee now, talking to a dog, petting it. It soon followed him back to the sled, and he had three.
"One more for Gina, one more for Greg!"
Helen finally got her second, a dog that submitted easily to her forceful commands. Paschal got his second as well, chaining it to his sled. But moments later, Gina had her fourth. She shooed it towards her sled, hooked it up, and was ready to race.
"Gina is off," announced Jeff.
She stepped onto the sled, grabbed the reigns, and away they went. But despite her gentle touch with handling, the dogs weren't listening to her when they were in a group. The team ran in a sideways direction, away from the flag, dragging her sled with them.
"No," she laughed, "Other way!"
As Gina's team was running in the wrong direction, Helen bullied a third dog to her sled.
"Come!" she yelled, pointing at the sled, "Here!"
A bunch of players came back with dogs all at once, with Greg and Paschal being the most noteworthy. It was Paschal's third, and Greg's fourth.
"Mush," yelled Greg, dramatically, "Mush I say!" His team took off at a slow trot, the dogs mostly interested in each other. "Hey guys," implored Greg, "You can do that later, get going!"
Helen finally got her fourth, dragging it by its collar to the sled. She hooked it up and stepped onto the platform. "Let's go," she implored them. But they only stood still. They weren't going anywhere.
Paschal finally got his fourth, and now four teams were off on the snow, trying to reach the flag. Kelly was still racing around after a particularly feisty dog, while Tom had basically given up. Winded, he sat down and enjoyed the spectacle.
Gina had finally gotten her sled turned around, as she pointed it towards the finish line. The dogs weren't behaving, but at least they were moving, which was more than Greg could say. She passed Greg, who was still trying to get his dogs to stop sniffing each other. Waving, she wished him well and flew past, gliding across the snow. Also moving were Helen and Paschal, who were moving towards the finish line. They both passed Greg, and it was going to be a three person race to the end.
"Runnnn," yelled Helen, staring at Gina's back. Gina was in the lead, her tall form hunched over the reins. Helen was second, with Paschal right behind her, in third place. The three teams neared the finish line, closer and closer, until Gina's luck ran out. Her sled hit a rock and turned to the side, spilling her and the dogs onto the ground. Helen and Paschal passed her, with Helen's sled crossing the finish line first, a comfortable margin of victory. She jumped off the sled in celebration and went to give her dogs a hug. They all kissed and nuzzled each other while the rest of the players came to congratulate her. An embarrassed Gina was first, unhurt but disappointed.
"Stupid rocks," she joked, petting Helen's dogs.
"Nicely done," said Jeff, at the winner's circle, "Helen, you will be going back to Qinaliut tonight. The rest of you," he turned to the downturned faces of the other seven, "Will be doing a bit of camping."
Tammy Leitner rolled over in her sleep and ended up on a rock. Yelping, she twisted violently inside her sleeping bag, and crashed into Kelly, waking her as well.
"Sorry," said Tammy, "I ended up on something sharp."
It had been a miserable night for the seven campers of Qinaliut. Upon returning to camp, Jeff had tossed them seven sleeping bags and told them to come back in the morning. Helen apologized to them all, said she couldn't do anything about it, but no one held it against her. It wasn't her fault, those were the rules.
The seven of them had come out here to the forest, looking for a place to sleep. It had been too late and they were too tired to make a shelter, so they just crashed for the night in a big clump. They each had their own sleeping bag and pillow, but mainly slept in a big ball, all crammed together. Elisabeth huddled between Tom and Greg, trying her best to stay warm. Luckily, it hadn't been too cold, but they had been unfortunate enough to be roused from sleep several times by the howl of a wolf.
"I wish that thing would shut up," croaked a sleepy Kelly, the fifth or sixth time she had been awakened. "Anyone have a gun?"
But now it was morning, and Tammy and Kelly sat up, rubbing their eyes. Paschal was already up, they could see him carrying his sleeping bag back to camp. Sleepily, Kelly stood to follow him. The food was back at camp, and that was better than laying out here on rocks and twigs. She wasn't really awake, or well rested, but eating something was bound to help.
Helen woke up feeling wonderful and refreshed. Last night had been her best one out here. Sure, she felt guilty about the others, but there wasn't enough time in the day to feel bad all the time. You had to enjoy the fun when it came your way. And last night was definitely one of her Alaskan highlights.
Upon returning to the shelter, she had smelled the unmistakable scent of charcoal briquets. Racing around to the eating area, she saw a small gas grill, which was heated and ready to go. A pound of hamburger meat sat on one side, ready to cook up, along with all the burger trimmings.
Screaming, Helen ran over to Jeff and hugged him. She couldn't stop jumping up and down in excitement, particularly when he volunteered to cook them up himself. The two of them were going to have a cookout.
Jeff ended up cooking her several hamburgers, which she downed with ease. All the greasy food at once hurt her stomach somewhat, but she didn't care.
"I mean, c'mon," she said to the camera, cheerfully, "It's a burger. Just shut up and crap it out later. Suck it up."
As they ate, Jeff and Helen struck up a conversation about the direction of the game. He was genuinely curious as to why she had made some of the moves she had chosen. Helen was always a bit of an enigma, never seeming to be completely strategic or completely emotional, or even completely rational. She was like very few other players he had seen, and he had seen them all, through their good and bad moments.
"I couldn't go through with it," she explained, around a mouthful of food, "I mean, I wanted to vote with Tammy but my mind wouldn't let me. I picked up that pen and I was like, you know, frozen."
Jeff nodded, smiling.
"But it didn't matter anyway." She chewed another large bite of hamburger. "Because Greg had lied to everyone. He was just messing with the two of them, and me too, I guess."
"Greg?" asked the host.
"Yeah," she finished. "It's just something he likes to do. It's like the game is too boring to him. He has to invent drama just to keep things interesting."
"Wow," said Jeff, admiringly. "That's quite a strategy." But he wasn't that surprised, that was something Greg had been doing his whole life. Life was a game to him, Survivor was just a game that happened to be on TV. Jeff had seen Greg's recent confessionals, he knew exactly what Greg was up to. And as much as he wanted to hint this to Helen, he kept this knowledge to himself. As much as he couldn't stand Greg Buis, Jeff knew he wasn't allowed to affect the outcome of the game in any manner. They had learned their lessons back with Stacey Stillman, the host and producers simply had to keep their mouths shut.
But it was tempting. Oh yes, it was tempting.
"Greg is just Greg," laughed Helen. "I mean, what can you do? You have to love the guy."
"So," asked Jeff, "Who are you voting for tomorrow?"
"Tammy," she said. "I played my hand at the last vote. There's no reason to draw it out now. If I make a break, it'll have to wait until we get down to six." She shrugged. "Just a waiting game now. Hey, you got any more burgers over there?"
The cookout had ended soon after, and Helen went back to the shelter to find a brand new fur-lined sleeping bag and large silk pillow. She was going to sleep in luxury from here on out. She zipped herself up in the bag, stretched out in the now empty shelter, and drifted off peacefully to sleep.
But now, it was morning. Helen sat by the stove, water boiling already, as a bedraggled Paschal was the first to walk back. He nodded his head to her and sat down, staring at the boiling water. He didn't say a word, he was too sleepy. It was going to be a long day.
And he didn't know the half of it.
As the day progressed, the sleepy and sore tribe began to get back into game mode. They were none too thrilled with the new sleeping arrangements, but things could be worse. At least it was a nice day again.
"What kind of reward is it," asked Kelly, "Where you take things away from the losers instead?"
Elisabeth shrugged. The two of them, along with Greg, had gone out to wash their clothes in a stream. It had been Greg's idea, because they needed to all discuss some things. Tuktu needed to talk about Helen.
"Greg and I saw her," said Elisabeth, "Talking with Tammy. She admitted that they had planned to vote together."
Kelly looked to Greg for confirmation, and the young man nodded his head, sadly.
"It's true, I saw it. Tammy won't talk to her now."
Kelly sighed, her shoulders slumping. She had hoped all along that it was just paranoia, but a double confirmation was a little hard to ignore. The evidence was starting to grow against Helen. Kelly hadn't really believed Greg's initial suspicions, because she didn't want it to be true. But Elisabeth wouldn't make up something like this. Greg had been right. Gina had been right. And, God help her, Silas had been right. Helen was trying to pull something with Tammy.
"Has anyone told Paschal," asked Kelly.
"No," said Elisabeth, sadly, "I didn't want to. I was afraid it would break his heart." She lowered her head, not wanting to start crying. "She -told- me that she was with Tuktu until the end. Why would she lie to us like that?"
"Hey," said Greg, placing an arm around her shoulders, trying to comfort her, "We all have our motives. Who knows -why- people do what they do."
Kelly shook her head, not liking this at all.
"This is bullshit," she said, "That's messed up, man. I mean, there's ways of playing this game honorably, you know." Kelly had always been angry that they had let Tammy back in with Tuktu at the merge. She didn't like the chick and never had. Tammy was just bad news. But for one of their own to plot -with- Tammy, against their tight fivesome, that was just plain wrong.
"Look," said Greg, trying to diffuse the situation, "I'll tell Paschal. He won't believe it, of course, but I have to let him see it out in the open. You guys make sure Gina knows, and keep your head in the game. Don't start thinking emotionally." He nodded towards Elisabeth, knowing her all too well.
"Thanks, Greg," said Elisabeth, grateful. She watched him walk away, off to deliver the bad news. She hadn't wanted to be the one to tell Pappy, this was going to be something he wouldn't want to hear. But she vowed to stay in the game, and not start thinking ill of Helen. It wasn't her fault, this was just a game, right? -Thank goodness for Greg Buis,- she thought, -He always keeps things in perspective.-
The talk with Paschal went exactly as planned. Paschal denied it, Greg mentioned specific instances, and eventually Pappy had no choice but to believe his friend. Greg didn't lie, the judge knew that much about him.
"This is not the kind of thing I expected from someone like Helen," said Paschal.
"She feels this is her only chance to win," explained Greg, "I mean, you can't hold it against her for that."
"Sure I can," said the judge, slightly angry, "I mean, we -all- want to win. But she has told me, repeatedly, that she is with us to the end. Until we get down to six."
"Frankly," said Greg, "I would have expected this more from Kelly, not Helen. Kelly's always been the loner."
"That's just what I was saying to Gina," adeed the judge. "Kelly, maybe, but not Helen. She is a woman of honor. Helen was the one who I thought was rock solid. In my mind, I've always thought she deserves to win this game as much as anyone. There's no one who does more work around here than she does."
Greg nodded, agreeing. There was really nothing left to be said at this point. Greg apologized for having to share the news, but said he had to get some fish caught for tonight's dinner. Paschal thanked him and the two parted company.
As Greg left, he knew all too well what was about to happen. Paschal was going to talk to Helen, and get to the bottom of this. It was time for Greg to get lost, out of sight somewhere. And sure enough, the judge set off to do just that. He searched through the camp, around the shelter, into the forest, and finally out by the stream. But it was no use, he couldn't find Helen anywhere. He couldn't find -anyone- anywhere. Where were they all? But eventually he picked up the sounds of some angry yelling, off in the distance. He strained his ears, but couldn't tell who the voices were. Tammy, perhaps? Gina? He went towards the voices, and finally rounded a bend. There, in a clearing, was Helen. And apparently Paschal was not the first one to come and find her.
Gina Crews had beaten him to it.
"Look, I did what I did," said Helen, defensively, "But I never voted against you guys. I never planned to!"
"I don't care what happened," said Gina, "The point is that you tried to get us voted off. You and Tammy are working together, we heard the whole thing, out by the woodpile!"
Helen's heart sank, her old paranoia immediately rushing back, full force. Had they been -spying- on her?
"I'm not gonna have this argument with you," said Helen, holding up her hands. "Look, I can't do this. What's done is done."
"Hey ladies," said Paschal, walking closer, tentatively, "Everything okay?"
"Hey Pappy," said Gina, still quite angry. "Nothing's wrong. We're just... discussing... things."
"Girl stuff," said Helen, brusquely.
"Well that's good to hear," he said, placing his arms around both of their shoulders. "I don't want two of my favorite girls to be fighting." He smiled, trying to disarm the situation. "Life's too short to have arguments, that's what I say."
"No, it's cool," said Gina, "We're done." She glared at Helen as she said this, her body language saying that this was indeed far from over.
Helen stared back, matching her glare for glare.
Paschal attempted some humor, trying to keep this civil.
"Oh, come on now," said Paschal, trying to keep things civil, "Why don't we just give some hugs here, Tuktu isn't about fighting, now, is it? What, are you two suddenly in Amarok?" He shot a glance at Helen as he said this, his eyes meeting hers. The statement had definitely been a message, a sign that he knew.
"You might want to ask Miss Helen about that," snarked Gina.
And with that, Helen lost it.
"Just forget it," she said, ducking out from under Paschal's arm, "That's it. You guys can have your little chat, I don't care. Just leave me out of your little spitting matches, would you?" She threw her hands out to her sides, closing her eyes and clenching her fists in anger and frustration. "Look, I'll see you later, I... I'll see you for dinner." She turned and walked away, trying to give off an aura of anger. But she had an entirely different feeling on the inside. She was terrified.
They found out? How?
Thoughts of paranoia, and worry, and panic, flashed through her. Helen had never been good at keeping her emotions in check, and the jumpy swim instructor's mind raced with a thousand thoughts. What do I do now? How do I get out of this? Are they going to vote me off? Who do I go to?
But, of course, there was only one person who could save her now.
Tammy Leitner was lying on a rock, sunbathing under the beautiful summer sky. She had heard most of the argument, but wisely just stayed to herself, away from everything. No need to get involved in a catfight, that was her general rule. No, if Tammy fought, it wasn't a catty shouting match, she fought to win.
Tammy kept her eyes closed, just listening, as Gina and Paschal continued to talk. She couldn't make out the words, but could tell that Gina was very upset. She had no idea where Helen was but, if she knew Helen at all, it was clear where she was going to be -very- soon. Helen would come here. In fact, she was probably looking for Tammy right now.
And she was going to be -very- interested in that final two pact now.
It was game time again.
As Tuktu started to crumble down, Greg sat in the umiak, reclining next to his wooden fishing pole. It was all peaceful out here, nice and quiet. Nothing to bother him, no one to talk to, just the mountains and the water and the trees.
He was aware that the gossip had probably spread like a brushfire back in camp. Helen was probably panicked, jumpy, and looking for him. She would need someone to talk to, because more than anything, she feared Tuktu ganging up on her.
The elusive nature boy had been laying out his strategy in confessionals, piece by piece, but never at the same time. -Keep 'em guessing- had always been his plan of attack, both for the players as well as the viewers. He liked to tease. But now, he was pulling no punches. There was no turning back at this point.
"Helen and I are going to the final two," he said, as he concentrated on his fishing, "But I don't think she realizes that yet. She thinks we are making a break when we get down to six." He stopped to pull in the line, hoping to find a fish. But the fish had wriggled off the hook, and the hook was empty. He continued. "The goal has always been to make sure that four Tuktus make that jury. Because if they don't, then someone like Elisabeth or Gina is going to win, and who wants to see that?"
Greg smiled, his famous impish, playful smile.
"The greatest game in the world is the game of chicken. It's perfect, really. Two cars drive at each other, at top speed, until one of them chickens out and turns away. It's meant to test toughness, bravery, and who can be the most reckless." He cast his line out again. "What can be more exciting than a game of chicken, when the stakes are for a million dollars? Who will have the mental toughness to win that kind of contest? And I think people watching this would agree with me, if you don't have confidence in yourself, you have no business trying to win this game."
Greg hadn't come right out and said it, but his plan was clear. He was going to force a tie at the next Tribal Council. The pairing of Gina-Elisabeth-Paschal needed to be dismantled, and there was no more time to do it. This was the last chance. Greg expected that the tie was the way to do it, because the four of them would not stand together through that type of game. He knew them all, knew them like the back of his hand. They were weak, and emotional, and had had it too easy thus far. He was gambling that they would fall apart when faced with a tiebreaker. He assumed it would be the purple rock, although Jeff had not said it straight out. But the random tiebreaker was what he was after, because he knew that was his ace in the hole.
Because Paschal was scared to death of another purple rock.
Paschal English, his old friend, was the one person to have been stung by a purple rock tiebreaker before. He had made it very clear, in close conversation with Greg, this he would not allow that to happen again. It had been very humiliating last time, very unfair. He would not go out on random chance, it just could not happen twice. He had told this to a friend, in confidence, and had no idea it would ever come back to haunt him. But Greg filed it away the moment he heard it, and the plan had been in motion since then:
Build Tuktu's confidence up, make friends, and win four potential jury votes.
Wait until they get complacent, then force a tie.
Make Paschal choose between purple rock, or going against his team.
Watch as Tuktu fell apart, and all ended up on the jury.
And, of course, the plan didn't end just there. He needed to have an accomplice, someone who would take the blame for all this. It wouldn't do to have them all pissed off at him, he needed a smokescreen, someone else for them to focus their anger upon. It's why he had set his victim up at the last vote, and why he had started all the Helen gossip back at camp. He knew how females worked, and how gossip spread, and how full Tuktu were of themselves.
"In a perfect world, Helen and I will be the final two. The two of us, sitting in front of a very angry jury, with four vengeful Tuktus staring right at her." He happily played it out in his head. It was nearly flawless, so long as the tie went down as planned tomorrow night. Then Greg could have a pretty easy shot at victory. And that was what it was all about, really. He wasn't an evil person, nor was he particularly cutthroat. He didn't even want the money, he would probably give it away to charity if he won. Greg just wanted to show the world that he could play this game as well as anybody. Richard Hatch had received all the accolades back on Pulau Tiga, but Greg was much smarter in real life, everyone knew that. It hadn't even been a contest. Richard was lucky and social, more of a leader, but Greg had a similar strength, one that few people had noticed yet.
Greg excelled at strategy games.
The tribe arrived at Horseshoe Lake, ready for the big immunity challenge. Jeff Probst greeted them, taking the immunity talisman back from Tom. The tribe was much more subdued today, as the lack of sleep, the Helen-Gina blowout, and the general level of paranoia had combined to send most of them into a quiet, alert state of awareness. Even Tom was rather quiet today, having been approached by both Paschal and Tammy about the next vote. A thinking man, he was aware that he was suddenly in a very pivotal position in this game, and had no need to goof off and clown around today.
"You guys will be having some fun today," promised Jeff, pointing to eight canoes chained to the shore. "We'll be playing a game favored by children around the world, called canoe tipping." Tammy smiled and crossed her arms. A physical challenge, this was what she had been waiting for.
"All eight of you," continued the host, "Will each have one paddle." He held up a paddle, with rubber tips at both ends, "Use this both to steer yourself, as well as knock the other players' canoes over. If your canoe is tipped over, you are out of the game. Swim to shore and get out of the way. Last one standing," he paused, "Wins immunity."
As the players put on their mandatory life vests, Jeff warned them not to go too far with the aggression.
"This is a -game-, not a gladiator sport. Keep it clean out there, I don't want anyone to get hurt." He looked right at Tammy as he said this, and she gave a mock look of innocence. But it didn't matter, she was psyched about this one. This was her type of event, right at the time that she needed immunity most. She knew that if she lost today, she was probably gone. So it would be up to her.
She was going to make this her big moment.
The eight players climbed into their canoes and unchained them from shore. Jeff gave them three minutes to row out to the lake, and take positions. Once everyone was sufficiently balanced, the eight of them in a loose circle formation, he raised his right arm.
"This is for immunity! Survivors ready," he dropped his arm "Go!"
The eight players slowly lowered their oars to the water, starting to close the circle inwards. Tom had a big grin on his face and he steered his canoe slowly towards Paschal, intending to dump the judge in the water.
"Better watch out," he said, "Ol' Tommy's comin' after ya."
"Watch ya'self," laughed Paschal, holding out his oar to defend, "I'm armed too."
Tom and Paschal poked their oars at each other, like fencers. Tom nudged the side of the judge's canoe, but Paschal managed to steer a bit to the side, trying to stay away from Tom's reach. At that same moment, Tammy nearly took Elisabeth's head off.
"Jesus," said Kelly, as she watched Tammy swipe violently at Elisabeth's canoe. Elisabeth tried to hold her oar up in defense, but Tammy's oar smashed against the side of the boat, making a small dent. Elisabeth just held her oar above her head, in a total defensive position. She was terrified.
"Hey, watch it," yelled Jeff, "No rough stuff!"
Kelly Wiglesworth was an excellent rower, because she did this stuff for a living. She used her strong arms to row over to Elisabeth, trying to protect her. The young newlywed was being assaulted by Tammy's attack, and Kelly rammed her canoe into the side of Tammy's boat. Tammy was caught off guard and knocked sideways, but managed to stay upright. She turned her gaze upon Kelly and the two had a staredown. Tammy took a swipe at Kelly's canoe but Kelly was able to keep her balance. Kelly tried to ram her boat into Tammy again, but Tammy was ready for it, and cracked her oar down into the side of Kelly's hull. The tip of Kelly's canoe pitched forward slightly and then, despite all her efforts to stay upright, it started to roll to the left. She fought it, but she was used to rafting boats, not umiaks, and the flimsy canoe finally rolled onto its side, knocking her into the water. Kelly was eliminated.
"Kelly is out," announced Jeff from shore. "Knocked over by Tammy."
Elisabeth tried to paddle away, but Tammy was on her like a hawk. She cracked another shot against Elisabeth's bow, smashing it with so much force that it cracked the oar. Elisabeth's boat shook, but she stayed upright. The victory was only temporary, however, as Tammy poked her oar into Elisabeth's ribs, pushing girl and canoe over and into the water in one motion.
"Elisabeth is out," announced the host, "Eliminated by Tammy."
As Tammy's assault was finishing, Tom had finally succeeded in cornering Paschal, and the judge was helpless as Tom overpowered him, rolling Pappy's canoe over.
"Paschal is out, thanks to Big Tom!"
With three down, the remaining five circled around towards one another. Helen and Gina had mainly stayed out of the melee, hovering back near the shore. They now slowly came at one another, both with grins on their face. There was currently no love lost between the two, and both were determined to eliminate the other. Gina poked her oar at Helen, and Helen did the same. But it didn't matter in the end, as Tammy came out of nowhere, cracking her oar against the side of Helen's canoe. Helen didn't see it coming and pitched to the left, rolling under the water.
"Helen is out!"
Helen splashed to the surface, sputtering with surprise, as Tammy overpowered Gina as well, attacking with a violent fury. Gina could do nothing but try to defend herself, and was eventually knocked into the water.
"Gina is out, that's four for Tammy," announced Jeff.
With just three remaining, Greg, Tom and Tammy faced one another. Greg had been able to stay away from all of them thus far, as his rowing skills were on par with just about anyone. Tammy came after him now, but he was able to stay out of her reach, as she grunted with frustration. Tom tried to reach both of them, but he was a poor paddler, and could never quite get a good shot at either of them. But Greg had finally stopped running, and was now battling Tammy, the two of them trying to push each other's boat over. Tom saw his chance and paddled in close, his boat bumping up against Tammy's. He wasn't about to hit a girl, so he simply reached his bare hands into her boat, grabbed a wood beam, and twisted it sideways. Her canoe turned to the right and she went with it, helpless. Tammy was out of the game.
"Tammy is out!"
The words were no sooner out of Jeff's mouth when Greg jammed his oar down into the back of Tom's canoe, knocking him off balance. The big man wobbled, held his arms out for equilibrium, and then gravity slowly got the best of him. He rolled slowly over to the right, grunting as he tried to fight it, and the canoe finally turned upside down. It was over.
Greg had won.
"Greg," shouted Jeff, "Wins immunity!"
Greg held his oar in the air, shouting "Whooooo!" But it didn't last long, as Tom and Tammy, treading water, teamed up to dump the winner sideways, out of his boat. Tom made sure to dunk him as well, just for good measure.
"Dunk mah boat, will ya?"
But the contest was over. The remaining players swam to shore, where all eight were reunited, and Jeff placed the immunity talisman around Greg's neck.
"Nicely done, Buis," he said, "Well earned."
Greg displayed his necklace for all to see, smiling happily. The rest of the players clapped for him, happily, as it was nice that he finally won something. Only one player displayed any semblance of unhappiness, however, and that was Tammy Leitner. She had tried her best, and put up a hell of a fight, but it had been too little, too late. Tammy's fate was now in the hands of others.
She was now officially a sitting duck.
It was the second night of mandatory forest camping, and the seven grumpy castaways were no happier than yesterday.
"This stinks," said Gina, trying her best to put on a happy face. But it was going to be hard. Last night had been a little chilly out here, the cold wind nipping at their exposed faces. All of the females ended up crammed against Big Tom's sleeping bag, trying to absorb at least some of his warmth. He hadn't minded, of course.
"Y'know," he smiled, sitting up, his red Qinaliut buff hanging sleepily over his eyes, "That was one of the most pleasur'ble nights I think I ever had. I can't 'member the last time I felt quite s'cozy out here."
Tammy chuckled, while groaning, and rubbed her eyes, sleepily. It was going to be a long day.
"Luckily this was our last night out here," said Paschal, as they packed up and headed back to Camp Helen, "But I have to say I hope it doesn't happen again. I miss the old shelter."
"Y'know," said Gina, "I never thought I'd say it, but I do too. But at least we can say there weren't any wolves last night."
As seven Qinaliuts shuffled their way back to camp, Helen was up, preparing breakfast. She knew that to be sleeping in when they came back would be political suicide. They didn't want to see her all curled up in her new warm sleeping bag. They didn't want to hear about the dinner of king crab legs and butter she had shared with Jeff last night. And they most -definitely- didn't want to hear about her new final two, to-the-death, pact, that she had made with Tammy yesterday.
"And I'm going to be damn sure to get Greg along this time," she added, stirring the oatmeal, "I'll just sit him down in a corner and start slapping that boy until he gives me his word this time. Teach him to jerk me around anymore." She smiled, her sly Helen grin, and finally broke out in a laugh. What did she have to lose, anyway? Now that Gina had confronted her, and Paschal had so much as told her he knew, it was all out in the open. Her hand had been forced. Helen was now a member of Tammy's side, whether she liked it or not.
"And I thought I was being cautious," she added, "Playing it safe. I didn't write in the -sand-, I didn't piss anybody -off-, I never stirred the -pot-..." She shook her head, disgusted with her lack of guts. "And then all it took was someone sitting in the bushes and watching me." She scrunched up her face into one of her trademark bitter smiles. "Pathetic."
But as she finished up her diatribe, she saw Gina and Tom walking around a bend, waving at her. She lifted her hand and waved back, smiling.
"Hey guys, breakfast is on! Come and get it!"
After breakfast, Greg went for a water run with Tom. It was a very important moment, there was a message that had to be delivered.
"So," said Greg, as he hoisted a water jug onto his shoulder, "What's the deal with you and Tammy? Are you two together, or what?"
"Y'know," started Tom, lapsing right back into his thick Appalachian drawl, "Tammy and I're a pretty tight pair, but we've never really been t'geth'r. We've been voting th'same as a matter of convenience, is all." Tom was absolutely doing his best to make sure he was the last Amarok standing, he had been trying to distance himself from Tammy for the last two days. Hanging around with Paschal at every possible moment had been nice, but it just wasn't going anywhere. Paschal said he was with the Tuktus until the end. As much as he appreciated Tom's honesty and character, there wasn't much he could do.
Greg balanced the heavy water jug on his shoulder, making sure it was steady, before speaking.
"Well, I'll let you in on a little secret. Tammy's only got one chance in this game. And if she's got one chance, -you- have one chance."
"That seems t'be the problem," smiled Tom, effortlessly hoisting a jug onto his own shoulder.
"Tammy and Helen are voting together tonight," added Greg, choosing his words carefully. "They expect you to be along too."
"Well, what else choice d'I have?" asked Tom, "We're just pretty much lambs to th'slaughter at this point. I mean, I could vote along with Tuktu, vote for Tammy, but either way I'll -still- be sittin' mah butt back in the lodge come six days from now."
"Look," said Greg, speaking down to Tom somewhat. For all his cunning and wisdom, Tom's act was the one thing he hadn't seen through yet. He still considered Tom to be an ignorant, redneck hillbilly, and Greg was never subtle in his disdain for people he thought to be beneath him. "There's one way you can have a chance to win this thing."
Tom smiled somewhat, his wisdom cleverly hidden behind his heavy beard and sleepy eyes.
"I'm listenin'," he finally said.
Gina Crews had no idea she was in danger tonight. She was off with Elisabeth, the two of them going over the pecking order for the rest of the game.
"It's going to be Tammy, I think," she said, whispering softly. "I don't think Paschal or Greg will vote for Helen tonight."
"Pappy said he won't get rid of Helen this early," answered Elisabeth, "Even if she -is- a traitor. He told her Tuktu to the end and he says he won't break that word."
"Fine," said Gina, scowling somewhat. Moreso than anyone else, Gina though Helen needed to go. "I'd take a she-devil like Tammy anyday over a liar, though."
"I understand," said Elisabeth, empathizing, "I agree with you."
But the two of them were confident that this would be another step in the inevitable Amarok genocide. After all, the last vote had been six to three, and the numbers were still definitely in their favor.
"Tammy," said Gina, "Then Tom, then Helen."
"And then Kelly," said Elisabeth. The river guide had been in and out of the fringe of the Tuktu power core since day one, coming in when convenient, and fluttering out when things got too cuttroat. As always, Kelly wanted to look good to all people, although she was craftier about it than most.
"I hate to do it," whispered Gina, "But Greg deserves to be here more than Kelly does. She doesn't do anything, she's too sneaky."
The order for the endgame had long been determined. Helen had clearly been the most outside of the bunch, she was marked for sixth place a long time ago. Nothing had really changed there, her scheming with Tammy had done no more than nail the door shut on her ever getting past sixth. And Kelly, despite her best efforts, was slated for fifth. They all loved her, and felt bad for the way she had been treated, but, as Greg himself had pointed out, "She's only here when she needs us."
So it had been decided. The final four would be Greg, Paschal, Gina and Elisabeth. Gina acknowledged that leaving the tight pair of Greg and Paschal in the end could be strategic suicide, but she felt they both had earned it.
"I'd be happy saying that I lost to either of them," she said, meaning it, "They are both great guys."
"And besides," joked Elisabeth, "They're probably saying you and I are too close too!"
With Tribal Council approaching, the troops were preparing for the big showdown. Helen had cornered Greg, requesting... no, -demanding-... that he vote with her this time, for real.
"I can't say I will, or I won't," he said, "Besides, you wouldn't believe me anyway!"
"Look, Buis," she said, pointing an accusatory finger at him, "You screwed me before, and I don't want you to do it again. Do you know how much you pissed me off last time? Do you realize that?"
"Hey," he replied, defensively, "You know I'm not interested in that kind of game. The winner should be the one who survives on merit, on social politics." He chuckled inwardly, loving messing with her head this way. "Alliances are no fun, who wants to play that kind of game? It's so shallow!"
"Look," she said, going into full trainer mode, "Right now. Give me a yes or a no."
He smiled at her, saying nothing.
She growled slightly under her breath, trying her best to stare a hole right through him.
"Greg, you know I don't like to swear," she said, after a moment of silence, "But get off your effing high horse and play the G.D. game."
"But if I vote with you, the best we'll have is a tie," he said, feigning ignorance, "What good is that?"
She glared at him.
"I don't want to look like the bad guy," he protested, "I'm not here for that."
"Greg," she smiled softly, playing down to his level, "I'm going to lift this hand, and if I don't have an answer by the time it comes down, I will start beating you. Sound fair?" She smiled, without much humor, only slightly kidding.
"Fine," he said, acting put off, "I'll just do whatever you want. I don't care."
"Good choice," she said, "Well said. A tie it is."
He shrugged, acting like he didn't care. But it had all been an act, of course. His plan had been to vote with Amarok all along. This was the time to put one of them in the jury. Nice guy or not, he had to do it. But the best part was that Helen now thought the whole plan had all been her idea. Now, all Greg had to rely on was the purple rock, and Paschal. It all should come down to Paschal, and then this game would be a whole heck of a lot more interesting.
"You know," he said, as they started on their walk back to camp, jokingly, "If you wanted to, you can still spank me. I won't tell."
The sun was lowering in the sky, as much as it tended to, and eight members of Qinaliut packed up their bags for Tribal Council. Tammy was sullen, standing off by herself, shoving every last piece of clothing into her bag. This part of the game was not fun. She had been through it before in the Marquesas, and was here again now. After a while, you found yourself staring into the barrel of the gun, and there was nowhere else to run.
"Helen has basically been forced into voting with me," she said, to the camera, "But that's only two. She said she would try to get Greg along, but I haven't had a chance to talk with her." She looked over at Kelly. "I worked hard on Kelly, basically giving her the whole 'You're-screwed-if-you-stay-with-them' speech. But it didn't seem to work." She shrugged. "Kelly is more stubborn than I am."
Tom Buchanan was the first to be ready, and stood by the entrance to camp, torch in hand. He watched the dynamics of the rest of the team, cleverly taking notes. Paschal and Greg walked together, discussing something under their breaths. Gina and Elisabeth were working together to pack Elisabeth's raincoat into her pack. Helen stood off to one side, looking impatiently at Tammy, as if trying to mouth a message to her. And Kelly sat alone, near enough Gina and Elisabeth, but not quite a part of their little group. -My God,- Tom thought, -Everything you need to know about this team is right here, in this snapshot. All you have to do is pay attention.-
He darted a quick glance at Greg, who was laughing with Paschal, like father and son. Tom grinned. If Greg's prediction was right, if he possibly could have been right, the Qinaliuts were about to be in for the shock of their lives.
"Fasten your seatbelts," he smiled to the camera, "This is gonna be a bumpy ride."
Gina Crews led the way as Qinaliut entered the Tribal Council set. She was the first to sit down, and the rest of the team filed in behind her. Elisabeth sat next to her, then Kelly, then Tammy. The back row was Greg, then Paschal, then Helen, then Tom.
The final eight.
Jeff welcomed them, and introduced their first jury member. Silas Gaither walked in, trim and well dressed, and sat down in the jury bench, no expression visible on his face. Tammy didn't even look at him.
"Welcome guys," said Jeff, "I hope you've all been sleeping well."
Several members grumbled, with Paschal reaching over to elbow Helen. She laughed.
"Hey Jeff, it's not my fault I won. I mean, I feel awful that they all have to sleep out in the woods. I'd trade places with them in a second."
"Really," smiled Jeff.
"Okay, maybe a minute," she deadpanned. "But I would seriously consider it for a good sixty seconds."
"It hasn't been that bad," joked Greg, "I mean, there's sustenance everywhere, and you can make a nice mattress simply from all the slug carcasses. You just have to know where to look."
"Okay, enough with the joking," smiled Jeff, "Have you guys been jealous of her living quarters?"
"Of course not," answered Elisabeth, "I mean, she earned it. She is a heck of a competitor, and she earned that victory." She smiled. "I can't say I think it's -fair,- but then again what -is-?"
"So, Greg," said Jeff, changing subjects, "You're the man tonight. The one with immunity. Do you think you need it right now?"
"As an accessory, sure," joked Greg, "I mean it goes great with everything, and this sort of look plays well in Paris."
Jeff shot him a look, a well-honored Tribal Council ritual. -Enough.-
"No," Greg finally said, "I think I was probably safe tonight."
"Oh, and why do you say that?"
"Because I'm charming," Greg answered, innocently. He was only half-kidding.
"Well, you guys have done well," said Jeff, "Through snow, cold, the forest, and watching Tom trying to catch a sled dog." They all laughed, with Helen reaching over to give Tom a hug, "But after tonight, we will have a second member of the jury, and I know you all don't want to be there." He paused. "Gina, you're up, time to vote."
Gina Crews walked up to the podium, picked up the pen, and wrote down five letters.
"Tammy," she said, "You're a tough competitor, but it's your turn. You've been a good friend, take care."
Elisabeth followed, casting a similar vote.
"Too strong. Hard to beat."
Kelly Wiglesworth was third, and echoed the sentiments. Tammy's expulsion had been decided long ago.
"This is the order, nothing personal."
Tammy Leitner was fourth, and walked up to the podium. A scowl on her face, she pulled out the pen and wrote a name.
"The plan tonight was to vote for Gina, but Helen signaled me on the way over here that you are the new target. And I have to say," she turned the vote over, revealing Elisabeth's name, "I wouldn't mind seeing you go tonight." She smiled, finally dropping her sullen mood. The sneer she had been wearing throughout the day had just been an act, to lure them into complacency. Now, it was go time.
Paschal watched Tammy coming back from the podium, a broad grin on her face. Suddenly he was worried, very worried. He knew enough about Tammy to know that she didn't smile much. She just wasn't a happy-go-lucky person. She only grinned like that for a reason, and he knew something was up.
Greg Buis cast the fifth vote. As per the plan, he voted for Elisabeth as well.
"This is purely strategic, and it is in my own self-interest. If we don't separate you and Gina, none of us can possibly win. Don't take this the wrong way, it's just a game."
He was being very diplomatic, of course. On a team full of disposable players, he considered Elisabeth to be the most disposable of them all. To his strategic mind, she was a nothing. Get her outta here.
Paschal cast a vote for Tammy, and Helen followed with a vote for Elisabeth. It was four to three.
Tom Buchanan was the eighth member to walk up to the podium. Lumbering sightly from Iditarod soreness, he picked up the pen and wrote down a name. He held up the ballot, spoke his mind, and placed it in the box.
With all eight votes cast, Jeff went to retrieve the ballot box. The players sat silently, some looking around, some just concentrating. Silas watched them intently, still trying to play the game from the jury box. Paschal was looking around, from Tammy to Helen. From Helen to Tom. Was something about to go down? But now, Jeff was back, an unreadable look on his face. He told them that the person voted out must leave immediately. And with that, he pulled out the first ballot.
"Elisabeth," he read. She softly nodded, staring intently at the vote.
"Elisabeth," he read. "That's two."
"Lizzie," he read, reading Greg's vote. Greg smiled softly. "Lizzie" was the name Kelly usually called her, it had been his own personal nice touch.
Paschal looked down at Elisabeth, watching her smiling softly, her hands clutched together in anxiety. He knew she hadn't expected to get three votes, they all thought Helen and Tammy would be it tonight.
"Elzibith," read the fourth vote. That was Tom's, as he had mangled the spelling. "That's four," said Jeff. Gina shot a quick glance at her friend, worried for her safety all of a sudden.
"Tammy," read Jeff, pulling out the fifth vote, the one Gina had cast.
"Tammy," read Kelly's vote. Kelly's -real- vote.
"Tammy," read the seventh vote. "That's four votes Elisabeth, three votes Tammy," said Jeff.
Finally, Jeff pulled out the eighth vote. The deciding one.
There was a moment of silence as the Qinaliuts digested this. A tie. They had a tie. Gina placed her hand over her face in anguish, slowly shaking her head. Elisabeth just stared at the ballot box, blankly. She was in shock. Tammy's knee bounced, nervously.
"We have our first tie," said Jeff. He smiled, enjoying the moment, "So I think you guys want to know what the tiebreaker will be, huh?"
"Don't tell me it's the purple rock again," joked Paschal, breaking the nervous tension.
"Of course not," said Jeff, "We wouldn't do that again. Not to you, Paschal."
Greg's heart suddenly lurched. He had planned all along around the fact that the tiebreaker would be purple rock. That had been the key to his plan. Paschal would switch due to fear of random selection. They used it in the All-Stars before, why not now?
"But it is the same principle," smiled Jeff, pulling out a wooden box. "Random selection."
Paschal shook his head, smiling and chuckling.
"You will break this tie right now, or you will have to reach into this box." Jeff held it up, shaped like a large shoebox, with seven holes cut into the top. "This is called a warrior box. Native warriors would have to reach into this box before they went into their first battle, to prove their manhood. Inside was said to be something that would cause great pain. If they could hold their hand inside, and block out the pain, they would be said to be worthy, and would be ready to become men." He smiled. "We won't go that far, but it is the same idea. Inside one of these holes is a sharp piece of tack. One by one you will reach into a hole, palm down, and place it all the way in. The person whose hand is poked by the tack will be the one eliminated. Let me assure you that it will be total random selection. Everyone here, except Greg, will be vulnerable if you do not break this tie."
Greg smiled, slowly fingering the immunity talisman. Of course that had helped, knowing he would not be vulnerable in any scenario. His plan had been solid, but winning immunity had just been the icing on the cake. A forced tie could not harm him in the slightest. He shot a quick glance at Paschal, who sat next to him. He knew that this choice was already tearing the man apart. In many of their heart to hearts, Paschal had said how ashamed he was to have gone out that way, and how he would never do it again. Greg didn't forget stuff like that, stuff that could be used against someone. Paschal had no idea those words would be used against him so soon.
"Tammy," said Jeff, "You can plead your case now, and try to convince the others to change their vote."
Tammy smirked and looked around.
"Well," she started, "I'm sure I have a pretty good idea of who voted for me, so I'm not sure what good this will do. But I do want to say this. If you guys don't split Tuktu apart, tonight, then there won't be a chance for -any- of us to win this game, other than those two sitting right there." She raised a finger and pointed at Elisabeth and Gina. "Those two have been sitting unopposed since we merged. Paschal, Kelly, Greg, Helen, all of you know this. You've all discussed it with me." This was a lie, but it was convincing. Gina suddenly looked around, surprised at Tammy's accusation. "So this is your one chance. Switch your vote, get rid of Elisabeth. Then, everyone will be back in this game." She looked directly at Paschal, the one Greg had said would be weakest. "Paschal, I know you didn't come here for third place. Why not give yourself a chance, help us out here. Help -yourself- out. No one will think any less of you." She looked at Jeff. "That's all I got to say, Jeff."
Gina suddenly shot a quick glance at Helen. The naval instructor was sitting with arms crossed, looking stern. Gina felt a sudden rush of anger that Helen's scheming had gotten them to this tiebreaker. Everything had been going along so smoothly, why had Helen had to make it so complicated and nasty so soon? Gina just sat and stared, continuing to seethe.
"Well, guys," smiled Elisabeth, "I know how Tammy feels, and to her I would say that it probably does feel a bit hopeless. But I haven't done anything wrong. Just because a group of us decided to stick together to the end, doesn't mean we are playing unfair, or anything of the sort. It's just the way the game is played. And there were six of us," her voice kind of caught on the word "six," as it suddenly hit her that they weren't six anymore. They could never be six again. "There were six of us, not two. That's Tammy's opinion that Gina and I will be the final two. But nobody told -me- that! No one has handed me any sort of immunity necklace, or million dollar check. I mean, sure, okay, two of you feel like your time in Tuktu has been a waste, and I respect that. But don't take it out on me just because you think I've had it easy. We've all been in this together, guys, and it has been a great time." She smiled, looking directly at Helen, whose head had dropped. Elisabeth hoped it was out of shame. "We've all gone through this together, and it would be a shame if it had to end right here, tonight. Let's at least stay together to the end, like we planned. That's all I can ask. Thank you." She looked at Jeff and nodded.
"Okay, guys," said Jeff, "Elisabeth and Tammy can not vote, as their votes cancel each other out. The rest of you will vote again, and can cast a ballot for either Tammy, or Elisabeth. If we have a second tie, that means you are placing yourselves in the hands of fate. So I leave the choice up to you for now. Let's re-vote."
Gina Crews walked up to the podium, red buff tied around her wrist, an angry look on her face. She wrote out a second ballot for Tammy, without hesitation.
"Helen, I don't appreciate the game you pulled here tonight. One way or another, you are not going to get this money. You better hope Tammy wins tonight, or you are next, sister. I will guarantee it."
One after another, the six voters walked up to the podium and voted. Greg sat in the back row, rocking back and forth in his seat, nervously. He had wagered everything on the notion that one of the Tuktus would cave in. It was a dangerous game of chicken, and he had gambled it all. He watched as Kelly walked to the podium, and hesitated. A tight smile on his face, he watched her debate her choice, not saying a word, only thinking. Finally, she held up a ballot, said something to the camera, and shrugged. He turned his eyes to Helen and gave a quick thumbs-up, it appeared that Kelly had at least considered it. Greg went up and cast his vote for Elisabeth.
"Who wants to play chicken?" He stared into the camera, a slightly mischievous smirk on his face. "Do you guys think you have it in you?" Greg was loving this, mindgames were his speciality, and this was the ultimate. "Better turn the steering wheel now, we're about to collide. Tick tock, tick tock."
Paschal was next, and Greg wished him good luck as they passed.
The judge walked up to the podium and sighed. This was not the kind of night he had expected, tonight's vote was supposed to have been a slam dunk, an easy tap-in putt. Tammy should be back at the lodge already. He shook his head, sadly.
"This is not a fun way to play the game. I hope you guys know that. You've put the old man in a difficult spot." He talked as he wrote out his ballot, but he hadn't had to think long. It was an easier choice than he had expected. Tuktu was his family, they were all like his children. He held the ballot up. "Tammy," he said, "I must be outta my mind to go through this again, but I'm not going to go against my team under any circumstance. And if I get that purple rock again, or whatever that thing is, then let's just say maybe I wasn't meant for this game." With one final angry stare at the camera, he cast his ballot. Greg didn't know this yet, but his prediction had been wrong.
Helen was next, and she walked up to the podium in her normal fast stride. She didn't pause at all in casting her vote for Elisabeth.
"I owe you guys this one for not trusting me. Tuktu, you messed up, and now look where we are. Elisabeth, this is for you." She was just as upset as Paschal, and wasted no time in placing it into the box.
Tom was the sixth, and final vote. He slowly walked up to the podium, as the seven Qinaliuts watched him, none more intently than Tammy Leitner and Greg Buis. Tom could single handedly hand Tuktu a victory right here, or he could stick with the plan and have faith that someone from Tuktu would switch. He hesitated for a second, wrote something down, and then spoke to the camera. His body language gave nothing away as he walked back.
Jeff watched as the final vote was cast, and walked up to retrieve the box. Gina was giving Elisabeth a hug, reassuring her that she would be safe. Helen was whispering something to Tammy, who nodded and looked ahead. But all of them looked a little nervous, even Greg. Even if he -was- safe tonight, a wrongly switched vote here could definitely torpedo his master plan.
"I'll read the votes," said Jeff, slowly.
He reached in and pulled out the first vote.
"Elisabeth," it read. That was Helen's. No surprise there.
"Tammy," read the second one. That was Paschal's.
"Lizzie," read Greg's vote, again mimicking Kelly's way of speaking.
Jeff pulled out the fourth vote.
"Tammy," read Gina's ballot.
Tammy hung her head, saying something to herself under her breath. Elisabeth looked at the ballots, holding Gina's hand, her eyes already misty with future tears.
"That's two votes Tammy, two votes Elisabeth. Two more to go."
He reached in and pulled out Tom's vote.
"Elzibith," read the fifth one. Tom just sat in the back, looking straight ahead.
"And the final vote," said Jeff, reaching into the box, unfolding Kelly's piece of paper.
Gina let out an audible gasp, as Elisabeth's hand suddenly clutched hers with force. None of the Tuktus had expected this tonight, but now Elisabeth was out of the game. Their heart and soul had just been ripped away from them. Kelly sat sadly, her head down, not watching the fallout. She had been the one to switch her vote, at the last minute, for her own reasons. But now it was done. She couldn't watch this, however, as Elisabeth brought her torch up to be extinguished. Paschal sat in the back, stunned. Gina looked devastated.
"Elisabeth," said Jeff, a bit in disbelief as well, "The tribe has spoken." Her flame was then silenced for good.
Elisabeth turned and waved to her team, one last time. She was not the only one in tears, as Paschal appeared to be fighting them back as well. Even Tom appeared to have the sniffles, although he was trying his best to hide it. Kelly sat in the front row, a small, sheepish smile on her face, as she waved to her friend.
"Good luck, guys," said Elisabeth, "Stay warm." And with that, she was gone.
Jeff waited a moment and then turned to face the remaining seven Qinaliuts.
"I think it's safe to say that tonight's vote came as a shock to some of you." Gina nodded, eyes wide, still stunned. "But let me remind you that this game is unpredictable. You get too confident in your position, and it can ruin you. Just keep that in mind, as we enter the home stretch." He paused. "Anything can happen in this game, anything at all."
He bid them good night and the remaining seven players filed out of the Spirit Lodge, on the way back to what would be a much meaner, much less friendly camp. Greg patted Paschal on the back as they walked out, trying to reassure his friend that it would be okay. Paschal had taken tonight's vote incredibly hard. Greg talked to him, explaining his theory on what happened, and did his best to help out the older man. But in his mind Greg was, of course, a bit less sentimental about the results.
One Tuktu in the jury, he thought, pleased with himself, Three to go.
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