PREVIOUSLY ON… SURVIVOR!
After successfully forcing Shelby and Gavin’s hand, the former Saap Tribe was elated to be in a power position. But having the reins pulled from her hands didn’t make Jordyne happy at all. She knew she had to plot to turn the tables, and started by buttering up Marco.
A reward challenge created tension when the castaways were forced to answer difficult questions about each other, causing the bad blood between Gavin and Jamie to boil over. Marco won his third straight challenge, and used the opportunity to punish Gavin for his bad attitude towards his best friend. Marco exiled Gavin, and chose to share his reward with Shelby in an attempt to sway her favor on the jury. He also once again picked Jamie to accompany him, which raised alarm bells for Mathieu and Irene.
Alone at camp without Jamie and Marco, Jordyne struck. She, Mathieu, and Irene made a final three deal, mutually agreeing that Jamie and Marco’s brotherly bond was too dangerous to allow to continue.
Meanwhile, Marco, Jamie and Shelby had the opportunity to gift toys, supplies, and a computer to a local village school. Shelby reflected on her own personal growth, while Jamie regained some perspective. He decided he needed to be less hard on Gavin, and try and improve their relationship. After meditating on Exile Island, Gavin renewed his own resolve, and vowed to patch things up with Jamie if it could help him advance in the game.
Marco came close to winning a fourth straight challenge and wearing immunity for a second Tribal Council in a row, but Mathieu outmaneuvered him to win his the necklace for a second time.
With Tribal Council looming, Mathieu and Irene had to make a decision to either stick with their alliance and vote out Shelby, or to honor their new commitment to Jordyne and split up Jamie and Marco. At the end of the night, they decided to flip together, and sent Marco to the jury.
Six remain. Who will be voted out tonight?
Sun streams over the Karnataka jungles. The Satya Yuga camp comes into focus. Most of the tribe is still in the shelter. Jordyne and Gavin snuggle together under a blanket. A fly lands on Jamie’s toe, his foot sticking out over the shelter’s edge. The only one awake is Irene, who sits at the fire, looking troubled.
Irene is joined at the fire by Mathieu, who greets her with a cursory nod.
“Are you feeling better about last night?” he asks, stretching his arms high over his head.
“I don’t know,” she admits.
“You don’t know if you feel well or not?” Mathieu asks.
“It’s like… hard to explain. I dunno. Do you think we made the right choice?”
Mathieu thinks as he sips from his water bottle. “There is no way of knowing which of our choices are right or wrong,” Mathieu says. “Perhaps when the game is all said and done, we will know. None of our decisions can be right or wrong until they produce a result. So we can only wait and see. I understand the instinct to second guess yourself, but Irene, Tribal Council is over. If you spend today pondering your actions, and come to decide you have acted in error… what can be done to reverse your choice? Your vote has been cast, Irene. This is the reality we must live with now.”
“Yeah. I guess you’re right,” Irene mutters. “No point in getting worked up over something I can’t change.”
“How do you make it seem so easy, Mathieu?” Irene asks.
“Make what seem easy?”
“You know… doing all of this. It’s like you’ve never been stressed out a day in your life.”
“If you could be a tourist in my mind for just one day, I think you would find your expectations are far from the truth,” he says. “It is very easy to look at those around you and imagine they have it all together, that they have all the answers in the world. I think the internal truths of many would be a surprise to most, if we could only see them.”
“That’s true. Like, logically I know that not everyone has it easy, or has it all figured out…” Irene says. “It just feels like other people are better at hiding it when they aren’t sure. I feel like it all just spills out of me.”
“I have had plentiful opportunity to practice,” Mathieu says. “As a doctor, patients come to you for your expertise, your guidance. If you do not show them confidence in yourself, they will not have confidence in you. If a patient is not confident that I am there to support them and care for them, then I have failed at my job. But it is not everyone’s job to be a doctor.”
“Yeah,” Irene concedes. “If it were, nobody would need to go to the doctor. They’d all just care for themselves.”
“True,” Mathieu laughs. “But beyond that, Irene, the world would be dull. Art, poetry, music, literature… we have these exceptional creations to enjoy because the people who created them let their truth fly freely. They expressed what was inside, and that expression is what impacts others. To hear someone else share a truth you have felt in your own life, it brings us together, and makes us all feel less alone.”
Sun streams through the trees over Shelby as she stands atop Mathieu’s shoulders in the jungle, cleaving a jackfruit from a tree with the machete. In the distance, music can be heard.
At the campfire, Irene strums a melancholy tune on her guitar as Jordyne stirs the rice. Jamie lies in the shelter, watching and listening as Irene plays.
“That’s a bit morose, Irene,” Jamie says. “Know anything a little more upbeat?”
Irene pauses playing and thinks. “Uh, I can play ‘Time to Have a Life’ by Greem Day.”
“Don’t you mean ‘Time of Your Life’ by Green Day?” Jordyne asks.
“Not without royalties, I don’t,” Irene says. She begins strumming a different song.
“Anything specific need’n to be done?” Jamie asks Jordyne.
“Uh, not that I can think of,” Jordyne responds, pausing in between tasting the rice. “No need to get up and active now, though. Rice is almost ready.”
“I’ll let Gavin know then,” Jamie says, getting up from the shelter. “He’s in the boat, right?”
“Yeah, getting the traps,” Jordyne confirms.
“Alright then,” Jamie confirms, putting his cap and shoes on before heading into the jungle.
“I thought he was going to lie around moping all day long,” Jordyne says to Irene once Jamie has left.
“I’m glad he isn’t,” Irene says. “It’s just making me feel terrible.”
“Don’t let him get in your head, chica,” Jordyne says. “That’s giving him exactly what he wants. He’s just trying to make you feel guilty because he’ll do anything to save himself. He knows he’s next. I mean come on–he’s trying to find Gavin right now? He’s desperate if he’s willing to even try that.”
“…Is he next, though?” Irene asks.
“Doesn’t have to be him, that’s true,” Jordyne agrees, tasting the rice. “Still not cooked enough.”
“I mean… if we voted out Marco because pairs are dangerous… we can’t just ignore Gavin and Shelby. Two people together becomes more and more powerful the fewer of us there are.”
“Yeah,” Jordyne agrees.
“Like, can you imagine what would happen if we get to Final Four with both of them?” Jordyne says.
“Oh my god, never,” Irene says with a laugh.
“I mean, not that Jamie and Mathieu is better,” Jordyne says.
“Yeah, no way,” Irene agrees. “I think honestly, once we get Shelby out, Gavin becomes a lot less to worry about.”
“I think ideally,” Jordyne says, looking over either shoulder before continuing, “That we should probably be keeping Gavin as deep as possible. Like final three.” Irene nods.
“I think honestly, as long as we stick together, that’s what’s going to be most important,” Irene says. “We have a better chance against each other than with anyone else, it’s mutually beneficial.”
“I agree, most definitely,” Jordyne says. “Besides, we’ve got a few days now until the next Tribal Council. Who knows what could happen?”
Gavin pulls the boat into the shoreline to find Jamie waiting there for him.
“Need a hand?” Jamie asks, grabbing the rope to tether off the boat.
“Uh, sure, thanks,” Gavin says, clearly somewhat confused.
“I was actually hoping we could talk, you and I,” Jamie says.
“Yeah, but like… about what?” Gavin asks.
“I mean… look. I think we got off on the wrong foot and we’ve been walkin’ in opposite directions of each other ever since, and I just want to put it out there that for whatever it’s worth, I’m sorry for anything and everything I’ve done to belittle you.”
“Oh. Wow uh… thanks. I wasn’t really expecting this, sorry if I’m a little unsure of what to say right now.”
“’I accept your apology’ would be a nice place to start. That is, if you do accept it.”
“Yeah. I… I guess I do accept your apology. And like, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry too. For like, calling you Gaymie and stuff. That’s so stupid, I’m honestly embarrassed with myself.”
“We all embarrass ourselves, believe me,” Jamie says. “You’re just lucky you didn’t know me when I was your age, I was a monster.”
“Yeah?” Gavin asks as he hands a bucket to Jamie. “How so?”
“I had a lot of anger, you know? I was feeling all kinds of ways and a lot of them didn’t make sense to me, and I didn’t know how to handle those feelings, so I just kind of did a lot to bury ‘em. A lot of drinkin’, skirt chasin’, troublemaking. That type of stuff. Molotov cocktails on old barns, ripping up folks farmland on ATVs, getting to fisticuffs over petty little things, just not having a care in the world. I did what I felt like. ‘Cept I wasn’t really doing what I felt like at all, not really.”
“What would you have rather been doing?” Gavin asks.
“Men,” Jamie responds with a laugh. “I knew I was gay, for sure. But down where I come from, a lot of folks don’t think that’s okay. So I didn’t think it was okay either. And this part of me felt like if I just did as much manly stuff as I could think of I could bury it and make it go away. But wouldn’t you know it that getting drunk and mud wrestlin’ with other fellas wasn’t the way to go about that?”
“Yeah, I get it,” Gavin says. “I mean, not the being gay part. No offense.”
“None taken,” Jamie says. “Not everyone’s gay. Just like not everyone’s straight. People are gonna be different for each other, that’s okay. It’s good, even. It would be a boring world if folks all were the same. Cliche, but it’s true.”
“Yeah,” Gavin says. “I guess so. But like, anyway, I get what you were saying about like… feeling like you have parts of you that you don’t know what to do with. Like you just have to pick one thing to be.”
“That’s something I don’t think they tell kids enough,” Jamie says. “You ain’t gotta just pick one thing to be. Look, in a week or so this whole game is gonna be done. We’re gonna go back to our real lives, our jobs and our families and our friends, and those people aren’t gonna have seen any of what we’ve been through out here. And I know doing this whole adventure has left me a changed person, so I’m gonna come back different and nobody will know why. They ain’t gonna know or understand Jungle Jamie. But they don’t have to understand it. I just want them to acknowledge it, respect it. I think that’s all most people really want, to feel acknowledged and respected. And again, that’s why I really wanted to talk to you. Because I don’t want you feeling like you haven’t been acknowledged or respected ‘round these parts. After all this, you’re one of only fifteen other people who knows what this has been like, you know?”
“Yeah. I never thought of it that way,” Gavin admits.
“We all went through Survivor together, you know?” Jamie continues. “Like it or not, we’ve all got that in common.”
“I definitely feel like I don’t know my direction in life,” Gavin admits to Jamie. “Like after Survivor is over and I go back to school, what the hell am I supposed to do? I have to declare a major and pick what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life, like… how am I supposed to know that?”
“They make it seem like what you pick is gonna be the last choice you ever make, but that ain’t the case,” Jamie says.
“I know,” Gavin sighs. “That’s what my parents say. And what Shelby says. But it all just feels so final, you know? Like I love video games, but just because I like playing them doesn’t mean I’d like making them, you know? So what if I decide to study programming or whatever and then get through school and find a job and end up hating it?”
“Well,” Jamie says, “I think it’s a lot like what you’d do if you were playing a game for a million dollars and found yourself on the bottom of the tribe. You find some way to make it, because you know the prize at the end is worth it. Even if it’s some way you hadn’t thought of before. I think people are a lot more adaptable then they’re willing to give themselves credit for. I mean… a month ago, did you think you’d be fishing out of a river in India trying not to starve?”
“Point taken,” Gavin says.
“Come on in guys!”
The castaways walk into the challenge arena, where Jeff awaits, a devilish grin on his face per usual. The tribe takes their position on the mat, anxious to find out what they have in store.
“Amazing isn’t it, how small this group has gotten?” Jeff asks. “You guys started this game as a group of sixteen strangers thirty-one days ago. Now there are only six of you. And I’m guessing, Mathieu, that you guys are far from strangers to each other now.”
Mathieu laughs slightly in response. “You are absolutely correct, Jeff. We are more like a dysfunctional family at this point.”
“A perfect way to put it,” Jeff says, “because all families fight sometimes, and once again today, you guys will be fighting against each other for reward. Here’s how it works: On my go, you’ll race out across an obstacle course. First, you’ll dig under a log, then make your way across a balance beam and then up a tower. At the top of the tower, you’ll memorize a symbolic code. You’ll then head back across the obstacles to your station, where you’ll use those symbols to decipher a series of numbers. Enter those numbers into your lock, if your right, you’ll be able to pull out your handle and raise your flag. First person to raise their flag wins reward. Wanna know what you’re playing for?”
The castaways nod and murmur in agreement.
“Well, I’d be happy to show you,” Jeff says, pulling the cloth off the table. Underneath the tablecloth is a platter of meat and veggies, and a bucket of ice with bottles of champagne, as well as a griddle.
“The winner of today’s challenge is going to be heading back to camp with a nice little barbecue to share. You’ll have steak, chicken, ribs, veggies, and of course, some nice cold bubbly to wash it all down. And as for who you’ll be sharing this with….could we get Reid out here, please?”
“Who’s Reid?” asks a perplexed Jordyne to nobody in particular.
“It can’t be…” Irene begins.
Suddenly, from the trees behind Jeff, a slender, middle aged man emerges. Irene’s hands fly over her mouth as she screams in excitement while she jumps up and down almost uncontrollably.
“DADDY!” Irene cries, running over to her father. He smiles warmly as he opens his arms, swaddling his daughter in a warm, loving hug. Irene sobs uncontrollably into his shoulder. He kisses her tenderly on top of the head.
“I think it goes without introductions that this is Irene’s dad, Reid.” The show of emotion and the realization as to what is happening is clearly starting to hit the other castaways. Jamie’s eyes are tearing, while Shelby blots hers with her buff.
“Reid, how’s your daughter look?” Jeff asks as the father and daughter finally unlock their embrace.
“She’s looking good,” Reid says. “She left us a tiny kid so she’s not much tinier after a little starvation. I’m just glad to see nobody’s broken her in half out here.”
“It almost happened in a few challenges,” Irene tells him, wiping her nose. “I can’t believe you’re out here,” she says, still processing the events.
Jeff continues his interview amidst the heavy emotion. “Are you surprised to see Irene’s made it this far?” Jeff asks.
“I think she’s surprised she’s here, I’m not,” Reid says. “She never believes in herself as much as I’d hope she would and,” he pauses, clearly feeling emotional. “She’s incredible. I’m so proud to have her as my kid. I’ve always known she can do anything.”
Jeff smiles and nods. “Well, we’re very glad she’s made it this far. Irene, if you wouldn’t mind stepping back over with the others, Reid, if you’d just step to my left,” Jeff asks. “Mathieu, here’s your sister, Margaux.”
Next to emerge is a much younger woman, in her mid-twenties. Her bright smile contrasts against her dark skin. She is quickly overwhelmed by emotion as Mathieu runs up to her and swaddles her in a huge hug, lifting her off the ground.
“Ndeko na ngai, ozali malamu?” Mathieu asks.
“Sango malamu,” Margaux affirms as he puts her down.
“What’s it like to see your sister out here, Mathieu?” Jeff asks.
“Unexpected,” Mathieu says. “But very welcome. I like them, I do,” he says, pointing to his tribemates, “but I love her. And I know I can trust her. Unlike these ruffians,” he laughs.
“Margaux, are you and your brother close?” Jeff asks.
“The closest,” Margaux says. “Our family is very close in general, so not being able to talk to him, to see how he is? That’s a very new experience, and I don’t like it.”
“Jeff, when we came to America, our family only had each other, everything and everyone we knew was left behind in Congo,” Mathieu elaborates. “When I was young, I thought she was the most annoying sister in the world!” he laughs. “But things changed, and it brought us closer. She is truly my rock. She grounds me,” he says, wiping a tear from his eye.
“Better not let Vanessa hear you talking that way!” Jordyne jokes.
“Who is Vanessa?” asks Margaux.
“I’ll tell you later,” Mathieu says. He leaves her with a kiss on the cheek as he returns to the mat.
“Alright, Jordyne,” Jeff says, moving on. “We’ve got someone for you, too.” A tall, beautiful woman in bright, flashy clothing emerges from around the tree.
“AAAHHHHHH!!!!!!” she screams in excitement.
“AAAHHHHHH!!!!!!” Jordyne screams back. The two run towards each other and meet in a large hug. Jamie laughs at the sight.
“This must be the infamous Bella!” says Gavin.
“Bitch, I’ve missed the hell out of you!” Jordyne says, her voice cracking as she becomes emotional.
“Don’t you cry, bitch,” says Bella in return, crying as well.
“So Jordyne, can you tell us a little more about how you know Bella?”
Jordyne nods, now fully starting to cry. “Bella’s my best friend, Jeff, my best friend in the whole f*cking world, I’m sorry, pardon my language,” she laughs. “I don’t have any siblings, I don’t talk to my parents at all. Never. But Bella’s been there for me through everything, Jeff, I mean everything.” Jamie can only nod in response as Jordyne speaks. “She’s the toughest bitch I know.”
“We’re ride or die,” Bella confirms.
“The family I was born with is pretty screwed up,” Jordyne says. “My parents should have never been together. They thought if they had a kid it would fix their relationship, and that if they had a relationship it would fix the two of them being screwed up, toxic people. All that toxic crap just ended up coming out on me. So I had to choose my own family, and I couldn’t have chosen anyone better than Bella.”
Bella and Jordyne take their respective shots as Jeff turns his attention back to the still waiting castaways. “Let’s get some romance going on here,” Jeff says. “Let’s bring out Adrian.”
No sooner than Jeff has finished speaking, Shelby runs at top speed from the mat, leaping into the arms of her husband as he emerges from the forest. He grips her tightly as they kiss, tears streaming down Shelby’s face. Watching them can only make the already tearful Jamie cry harder.
“Damn Shelby, you never told us he was such a silver fox!” Jordyne heckles lovingly.
“Get your own man!” Shelby shouts back, causing everyone to laugh.
“I’ve missed you so much,” Adrian whispers to her.
“I’ve missed you,” she whispers back.
“I shaved my goatee for you,” he whispers.
“Good,” she responds, kissing him again.
“Adrian, tell us a little about your wife,” Jeff asks.
“Shelby is the most incredible human being I’ve ever known. I’m lucky that my children share her DNA, because I know that’s going to lead them to do incredible things and live incredible lives,” Adrian gushes. “To get to spend my life with someone who has so much strength, so much passion…” Gavin nods along in agreement. “She’s like my own personal miracle.”
“He’s too kind,” Shelby says, blushing. “He just knows how to flatter me.”
“He knows what will happen if he doesn’t flatter you,” Gavin corrects. Shelby and Adrian both laugh.
“This guy knows what he’s talking about, Shelbs,” Adrian says. “Has he seen you angry before?”
“Don’t push it, mister,” Shelby says, her eyes narrowing.
“Shelby, what does it mean to you having Adrian out here?” Jeff asks.
“Well Jeff, I can be somewhat of a control freak, at times,” Shelby says, prompting some giggles from her tribe. “I’m not delusional about that. I know some people may think that someone with my personality would prey on weakness, but what draws me to Adrian is his strength. It takes a confident man to let a woman lead him, and the trust Adrian shows me every day is both humbling and exhilarating. To let me have this adventure, at my age, to go and do something like this, something so, so… so fantastical, so outside of our norm, to comfortably let me walk away from our children to pursue my own yearning for adventure… he doesn’t just give me his trust, but he’s taught me how to put my trust in others.”
“You’re the best, tiger lily,” he says, kissing her one last time as she returns to the mat.
“Alright Gavin, here’s your mom, Elise,” Jeff says next. Gavin’s eyes light up as a middle aged woman comes into view.
“Oh, my baby!” she says, sobbing almost immediately as Gavin comes jogging over.
“Hey mom,” he says to her between sobs. They hug tightly as Elise cries into her son’s chest. Shelby’s hand moves, almost as if by reaction alone, over her heart, a smile crossing her face. Before long, Gavin is bawling heavily.
“I’ve missed you so much mommy,” he cries. “I love you and I love dad and I miss you guys and, and and…..”
“Oh honey, we’ve missed you so much. Not a day has gone by where I haven’t thought of you,” she tells him.
Once the initial rush of emotion has passed, Jeff addresses the pair. “Elise, your son is the youngest person in this whole game, and he’s one of only six people still in it. Are you surprised? How does it feel to see him here?”
“Oh it’s shocking,” Elise says. “Not that he’s still in the game, but look at him! Oh my goodness, you’re so skinny!” she says, slightly horrified.
“I’m doing good mom, I promise,” Gavin says. “Everyone’s skinny now.”
“I always knew you could it,” she says, kissing her son on the cheek.
“Gavin, what’s it like having your mom out here?” Jeff asks.
“The coolest,” Gavin says. “I know a lot of kids my age are really down on their parents and I think they should all do something like this, because like… it just really makes you realize what matters in your life, what’s important. I mean, I’m so thankful I’ve had Shelby here to look out for me, but like… nothing compares to the real deal. You know, you only get one mom, and mine is the best.”
“You’re the best, sweetie,” Elise says. She gives her son a final kiss on the cheek before they head their separate ways. Jamie stands waiting at the end of the mat, chewing his fingernails so hard that he seems as though he might start eating his fingers.
“Bring out Roger!” Jordyne demands.
“We can’t leave you out, Jamie,” Jeff says with a smile. “Ready for some love?”
“Mhmm!” Jamie whimpers.
“Come on out here, Roger.”
Jamie’s boyfriend comes jogging around the corner, and Jamie sinks to his knees, tears pouring down his face and into his beard. As Roger reaches him, Jamie wraps his huge arms around the smaller man with incredible force as they kiss tenderly.
“Wooooo!” cheer Jordyne and Bella in sync.
“I love you,” Jamie cries. “I love you so much, Roger.”
“I love you too, babe,” Roger tells him. “Look at you. My wild man.” They kiss again. Jamie lifts Roger into the air as he stands. He puts him down after another kiss.
“Jamie, you’re just a ball of emotion right now, aren’t you?” prods Jeff.
“It’s like Jordyne was saying,” Jamie says, wiping his face, “about choosing your family. A lot of gay people out there, that’s their experience. The family who they’re born with rejects ‘em. So you have to find the people who will love you for who you are, no matter what, and there is nothing I don’t love about this man, from the top of his head to the bottoms of his toes. I even love it when he makes me angry, Jeff! I love it when he snores, when he kicks me in his sleep.” Roger laughs, looking guilty. Shelby nods, clearly understanding. “That’s…. that’s why I fight so hard, Jeff. I don’t ever want to lose what we have,” he says, gripping Roger’s hand. Roger holds up their linked hands and gingerly kisses Jamie’s fingers. Jordyne can’t help but swoon.
“There is a lot of genuine affection here, you can really tell,” Jeff says, cracking a smile. With one last peck on the lips, Roger and Jamie say their goodbyes, as they head to their separate places.
“The winner of today’s challenge is going to bring their loved one with you guys back to camp, where they will spend the night and get to see firsthand just what you have been experiencing over the last thirty days. For all the food we could provide you, I know that there is nothing like a little love from someone who you care about to light that fire inside you for these final nine days. Worth playing for?”
“Yeah!” cheer the castaways, loudly and enthusiastically.
“Alright. Loved ones, you can have a seat on the bench, castaways, we’ll draw for spots, then go ahead and get started.”
“SURVIVORS READY? GO!”
The castaways are off, with everyone reaching the log at roughly the same time, hands flying into the sand as they work to dig their holes.
“Everyone is going hard at it! Mathieu is making quick progress on his hole, Jamie getting right down in there! Remember, you have to get it deep enough to fit through or you will be in trouble!” Jeff helpfully reminds.
Gavin stops digging, looks at the hole he’s made so far, and starts trying to pull the upper half of his body through.
“Gavin, the first one giving it a go! Is it enough room?” Gavin’s hips snag at the sides of his hole. He writhes somewhat uselessly, trying to force himself through.
“Gavin is stuck! Now Mathieu’s giving it a try!” Mathieu also tries pulling himself through. His legs pump up and down, further trying to kick the sand away.
“That’s how you do it, Mathieu!” cheers Margaux from the sidelines. He makes it through the log first, and quickly starts passing over the balance beam.
“Mathieu first through, Gavin is still struggling to catch him!”
“Aaaarrghhh!” Gavin roars, pushing himself free.
“Gavin now through the first obstacle!”
“Jesus Christ,” Jamie says, “I ain’t never gonna fit under here!”
“Keep at it baby!” Roger encourages. Irene starts squeezing herself under the log. Mathieu is starting to make is way up the multi-level tower while Gavin finishes on the balance beam.
“Irene making her way under that log quickly! Being small has it’s advantages!”
“You’re telling me,” grumps Jamie.
“Mathieu, now at the top of tower. You’ve got to start memorizing those symbols and numbers!”
Mathieu stares intently at the answer key while Gavin starts making his way further and further up the tower.
“You’re doing so well!” his mom cheers.
“That’s a lot of symbols up there,” Jeff points out. “You want to try and remember as many as you can in one go, or else you might have to head back!”
“I’m giving it a shot!” Jordyne announces as she starts working her way under the log. Irene is making her way steadily across the uneven balance beam as Gavin joins Mathieu. He begins pointing to each symbol, muttering to himself as he tries to commit them to memory. After a few more moments, Mathieu begins to head back down.
“Mathieu starting to head back! It’s a lot of symbols to memorize in one go. Jamie and Shelby, still not even past the first obstacle!”
“Here goes nothing,” pants Jamie as he observes the huge hole he’s dug that he starts to pull under.
“Jamie finally digs a big enough hole to fit through!” Jeff says. Jamie emerges fully from his log as Mathieu starts sliding back under his. Gavin runs down from the tower, finished memorizing symbols, leaving Irene alone at the top of the tower continuing to memorize.
“Mathieu now back! Starting to try and solve his code. Did he memorize the right symbols and did he remember them correctly, that’s what will determine his success or failure!”
Gavin pulls back under his log and begins working on his code. Irene, Jordyne and Jamie now stand memorizing their symbols. An exhausted Shelby finally makes it under the log.
“Don’t give up, tiger lily!” encourages Adrian.
“Here goes nothing!” Jordyne says, turning to head back down the tower. “Jordyne heading back now! Irene’s been up there a long time. Either she’s trying to commit a lot to memory at once, or thirty two days of Survivor is really taking it’s toll!”
Mathieu thinks he has solved his code, and begins clicking the wheels of his combination lock into place.
“Mathieu thinks he may have it…”
He tugs on the release, but it sticks.
“But he’s wrong!”
Mathieu runs back out immediately, giving Gavin more time to work.
“Now Gavin’s giving it a shot,” Jeff notes. Gavin pulls his handle, which also doesn’t budge.
“Oh come on!” Gavin yells as he runs back out on to the course, trying to catch Mathieu, who is already on the balance beam. At this point, Jordyne makes it back to her station, where she takes a look at the code.
“Oh, yeah right,” she groans.
As Mathieu comes back up the tower, Irene has begun following Jamie right back down. While the two bigger guys end up blocking each other, Irene slips through. Shelby stands at the top of the tower, working on memorizing the code.
“Get out of my way Jamie!” Mathieu yells.
“Oh, come on buddy!” Jamie snips back. The two of them squeeze past each other, and Mathieu frantically begins to go over the symbols again, Gavin reaching the tower just as Jamie comes to the balance beam on his way back.
“Irene was out there a long time… if she’s committed everything to memory, she could win this right here,” Jeff says as Irene arrives back at her station, starting to work on her code. Atop the tower, Gavin pants as he tries to maintain his focus. Mathieu’s lips move slightly as he tries to keep the symbols in his memory.
“Irene looks like she thinks she has it,” Jeff says, noting as Irene begins turning her first lock wheel. She clicks each wheel gently into place, stopping to double check before adjusting another number one more time. She takes a breath and pulls the handle.
It doesn’t move.
“Oh no!” Irene sighs. After a moment of appearing defeated, she begrudgingly heads back out on the course.
“Irene has something wrong, she has to go back! Recheck that code and see where you went wrong!”
Gavin, seeing Irene coming back, decides he’s had more than enough time, and heads back down. Mathieu stays for a little longer, leaving right as Gavin is hopping off the end of the balance beam.
“Gavin back to his station now, did he get everything he needed?”
Gavin adjusts two of his wheels and pulls. The handle once again doesn’t budge. He looks at the code on his station yet again.
“What? That can’t be right!” he yells.
“Mathieu now back at his station, also looking to fix something wrong!”
Gavin turns another wheel and pulls again. Nothing happens. Mathieu begins adjusting his lock, going methodically, number by number.
Gavin switches a number and pulls. Nothing happens.
“Gavin just spinning his wheels at this point!”
Mathieu clicks his last number into place and once again tries his handle. His flag goes rocketing into the sky as the handle slides out.
“MATHIEU! WINS REWARD!”
“YES! YES!!!!” Margaux cheers, jumping up from her seat, elated. She runs over to her triumphant brother, who picks her up in a giant hug as they celebrate.
Jamie spits angrily into the dirt. Gavin throws his buff on the ground, clearly disappointed. The castaways eventually return to their place on the mat.
“Now Mathieu,” Jeff says, “this reward has a little bit of a twist.”
“Of course it does,” Mathieu groans, his head flopping forward in disappointment.
“You have won this challenge, and thusly, you have won the right to bring your sister Margaux back to camp with you for the evening, as well as the right to send someone to Exile Island. You can keep your reward as it is, if you choose to do so. However, I am going to give you another option. Rather than sending one of your fellow tribemates to Exile Island, you can choose to send yourself. If you make that choice, then your last moments with your sister will be right here, right now. But, if you make that sacrifice, and send yourself to Exile? All five of your tribemates will be allowed to bring their loved ones back to camp with them.”
Jordyne’s mouth drops open in shock. Gavin covers his mouth in surprise. Jamie squeezes his eyes shut and turns around, barely able to look. Shelby immediately starts to weep gently. Mathieu can only exhale. He turns to Margaux, eyes pleading for guidance.
“I will be okay,” Margaux assures him. “No matter what decision you make. Do what you think is right.”
Mathieu looks over at his tribemates.
“This is your win, Mat,” Irene says. “We won’t hold it against you, please don’t think we will.”
“Exactly,” Jamie agrees. “We all want to see our families, brother. Make whatever choice you want.”
Mathieu nods, licking his lips in thought.
“Then I have made my decision,” he says. “Which is to do unto others as you would want done unto you. Today, I sacrifice,” he says. “I will go to Exile Island.”
“Final answer?” Jeff checks. With one final look of affirmation from his sister, Mathieu nods.
“Final answer,” he confirms. “Share the wealth.”
“Alright,” Jeff says, “That means Margaux, for you, this is it. Say goodbye to your brother and head out. Mathieu, this is for you when you’re done,” Jeff says, handing Mathieu the map. The doctor hugs his sister tightly, clearly trying to fight back tears.
“Mother will be so proud of you,” Margaux assures him. “I am proud of you.”
The siblings part ways, with Margaux vanishing into the forest from which she came. Mathieu turns and waves to his tribemates as he heads out.
“Thank you so much Mathieu!” calls Shelby.
“You’re a rock star!” Jordyne encourages.
“Alright then,” Jeff says. “For the rest of you? Grab your loved ones, head out, and enjoy.”
The Satya Yuga Tribe returns to camp, minus Mathieu, but plus a few new members.
“So this is home sweet home,” Gavin says to his mother, who is looking around in awe.
“This can’t really be where you’ve been living?” She says, stunned.
“For a whole month!” Gavin tells her proudly. “Oh hey, Mom, come with me for a second, okay? There’s someone I really want you to meet.” He takes her by the hand to lead her towards a very important woman.
“So Mom, this is Jordyne. Jordyne, my mom!” Gavin introduces.
“Aaaaiiiiiieeeeee!!!” Jordyne squeals with excitement, immediately throwing her arms open for a hug. “So this must be Elise! Honey, I’m so excited to meet you. He talks about with so much love,” she says as she embraces Elise.
“Oh! Oh goodness! I wasn’t expecting such a hardy welcome!” Elise says, a little taken aback. “But it is nice to know he talks about me. You’d think he’s embarrassed by his parents sometimes,” she says with a smile.
“Mooom!” Gavin protests.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jordyne,” Elise continues, ignoring Gavin.
“Gavin?” Shelby asks, as she and Adrian approach from behind. “Do you have a moment?”
“Yeah, absolutely!” Gavin says, turning around. “Oh man! Oh, you’re Adrian! Yo, I’ve heard every story about you, man. I’m a big fan.”
“Well, glad to see I come highly reviewed,” says Shelby’s husband with a smile, as he shakes Gavin’s hand heartily.
“Yeah, Shelbs talks about you sometimes. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think she had a crush on you!”
“If I can tell you a secret,” Adrian says, “Shelby’s real crush is actually Justin Bieber.”
“ADRIAN!” Shelby chastises harshly. Gavin’s eyes go wide.
“I didn’t think you even knew who Justin Bieber was!” he exclaims to Shelby.
“Y’all,” Jamie says, interrupting the chatter. “I know we’re all mighty pleased to be seein’ each other, but before we start peeling off and getting into conversations, can we please eat? I’m just as excited as any of y’all, but I’m also starving!”
“Uh, yeah, agreed,” Jordyne chimes in. “Like, I don’t think you guys get just how hard it’s been. We really need to eat.”
“Well, as the guests today, I think it’s only fair that we make our services available,” offers Reid, Irene’s dad. “We’ve got a lot more energy than you guys do, and I’d be more than happy to put that energy to use. It would be my pleasure to prepare the meal, you guys should all relax. Seriously.”
“That’s a lovely idea,” Elise agrees. “I’d be more than happy to help as well.”
“Thanks so much, Dad,” Irene says, giving her dad another warm hug.
While Reid grills the steaks over the fire, Jamie lies in the shelter, Roger lying next to him.
“You know what? I still can’t believe your real,” Jamie says. “This fever dream is too good. I don’t want to wake up.”
“You don’t have to wake up, baby,” Roger purrs. They peck each other on the lips, with their pecks soon transitioning into longer, more lingering smooches. As the passion intensifies, Roger begins to slowly inch on top of Jamie, adjusting himself as to straddle his waist.
From their seats on the log near the fire, Jordyne and Bella watch, champagne glasses in hand, mouths slightly agape in identical expressions.
“God bless America,” whispers Bella.
“Ay and men,” Jordyne agrees. The two sip their drinks in time.
“I hope someone is recording this,” Jordyne says.
“Uh, there are cameras everywhere,” Bella points out.
“Oh, yeah. I guess you forget about them,” Jordyne says. “Hey, camera guy,” she says, turning to the camera and waving.
“Oh my goodness, mister, you better stop right now,” Jamie growls. “You best keep in mind, your man is too tall and too malnourished to lose any blood flow right now, I’ll pass out!”
“Is that a challenge?” purrs Roger.
“Bella, this is the best day of this game so far. I get to have you here and I finally get to watch Jamie and Marco do it.”
“Marco? I thought his name was Roger?”
“Yeah, it is. Marco was like Jamie’s work husband. But he was like straight, or whatever? You know what I mean. This is as close as I’m going to get. Let me live my dream!”
“Oh my god,” Irene balks as she approaches the two women from behind, now seeing the spectacle in the shelter as well. “Oh… oh my god.”
The two men pull their lips away from each other, Roger visibly grossed out. He flicks his tongue and blows. “Phbht! Ugh. Beard hair in my mouth,” he laughs.
Irene looks pale. She turns immediately and walks away.
“First steaks are ready!” calls Reid from the fire. Roger crawls off of Jamie and out of the shelter.
“Let’s get some food in your belly, mister,” Roger says, patting Jamie’s stomach. “Can’t have you starvin’ to death on me.”
“Aww,” gush Jordyne and Bella simultaneously. As Roger walks past Irene, she can’t help but blush awkwardly.
Together at the edge of camp, Shelby sits with Elise as they enjoy their meal, watching over the group from a slight distance.
“I know he’s a grown man, but I want to thank you so much for watching out for him,” Elise says.
“He’s a man,” Shelby says. “But he’s far from grown. But that’s by no fault of his. You can’t be his age and truly be grown.”
“That’s true,” Elise admits. “And besides, no matter how much facial hair he can grow, he’ll still always be the precious little baby you first brought home.”
“Mhm,” Shelby agrees, sipping her champagne. “I just want you to be as assured as possible that Gavin has people who are looking out for him, who care about him. This environment can be… hostile. I know I’d be sick with worry for my own children. I’m sick with worry for them anyway, even with the knowledge that they’re safe at home with Adrian.”
“It’s torture,” Elise admits. “Your mind goes to the worst places.” She takes a sip of her drink. “My heart wants to believe in my son and everything he can accomplish. My head just worries.”
“You sound like you belong out here with the rest of us,” Shelby says with a smile. “At the start, you know in your mind it’s a game, we’re all playing and we all have the same exact goal. But nobody here is a chess piece. The more human we become to one another, the more difficult the process becomes.”
“You’re holding up amazingly,” Elise says. “I could never do this.”
“Oh. Well… thank you,” Shelby says.
At the campfire, Gavin eats while talking with Jordyne and Bella. His gaze wanders over to where his real mother and his jungle mother are conversing.
“It’s like a parent-teacher conference,” he says between bites of steak. “I hope Shelby doesn’t tell her what I said about Jamie the other day,” he admits nervously.
“When you called him ‘Gaymie?’” Jordyne asks. Gavin winces as the words come out of her mouth.
“It wasn’t my most shining moment, okay? I know that,” Gavin says. “I mean, I told him I was sorry. I just… I don’t want her to be embarrassed by me.”
“Let me just assure you, honey,” Bella says. “If the worst thing you ever do is call someone a mean nickname, you’re gonna be fine. People kill and get away with it every day. You just be the best you and learn from it.”
“You’ll be fine, Gavin,” Jordyne assures, putting a hand on his knee. “You always are.”
From across the camp, Elise eyes Jordyne as she touches her son.
“Tell me a little more about Jordyne,” Elise ‘asks.’
“Jordyne…” Shelby begins, carefully thinking on how to collect her words. “Jordyne, in many facets, is far more than she appears to be. Of this, Gavin is acutely aware. And as a result, he’s developed a rather… profound fondness for her. She’s bewitching, I’ll give her that.”
“I can see it in his face,” Elise says. “That’s not a look you see from Gavin, not very often. Please, Shelby, be as truthful as you can be. I understand this is a strange circumstance, but… do you think she’ll hurt him?”
Shelby quietly sips her champagne, her wheels already turning. “I think she already has hurt him,” she admits cautiously. “I don’t think Gavin has realized it yet.”
Elise nods, processing what she’s being told. “Protect him, please, Shelby.”
“I’ll do my best, as I’ve been doing, but…” Shelby pauses. “I don’t know if Gavin explained to you, but I give parenting advice. Professionally. And I so strongly empathize with that impulse to keep your child safe from all harm. But that’s not how people are designed to learn. You can tell a toddler over and over not to touch the stovetop, lest they get burnt. It will never be as effective as when they learn their lesson firsthand. And I think for Gavin, unfortunately, Jordyne is his burning stove. This is a lesson he’ll need to learn on his own.”
As the sun sets, Jamie and Roger emerge from the woods into the field, walking hand in hand. The plains stretch out before them, the reservoir visible along the horizon. In the distance, an elephant herd makes their final movements of the day. In the sky, the setting sun blazes, scattering its breathtaking pinks and golds across the hazy purple sky.
“This is kind of where we come to do a lot of strategy, a lot of important, private talks, stuff like that,” Jamie explains.
“It’s absolutely incredible. You’re a lucky guy, Jamison. Getting to wake up to this every morning.”
Jamie chuckles. “I’m lucky getting to wake up to you every morning,” he says.
“So it’s not going too hot then, huh?” Roger says, sounding somewhat defeated as the two talk about the game.
“I mean… not really, not right now,” Jamie says with a laugh. “Things had been going better. Really well, actually. But there’s no way I’m not on the chopping block, not after they took out Marco. Every one of ‘em wrote his name down. I know they’re looking at me to go next.”
“How do you know they aren’t just looking at you because you’re so handsome?” Roger asks sweetly.
“Oh come on,” Jamie says, laughing softly.
“Well I don’t know how they couldn’t always be staring at you,” Roger compliments. Jamie blushes. “You’re not totally out of options, though, right?” Roger continues, hopeful.
“There have been some pretty wild twists and turns so far, so I mean… I ain’t countin’ nothing out, not yet,” Jamie confirms. “But I need that immunity necklace. That’s my best shot right there, having that ‘round my neck, as much as I can get it.”
The two men arrive at the farther end of the field, where the view over the reservoir is even more grand. As the sun falls faster towards earth, it seems even huger, it’s fading light reflecting in the yawning lake below. A flurry of waterbirds suddenly erupt from the marshes and soar into the sky in clouds of pink and white, their calls filling the air in a cacophony. For a moment, both Jamie and Roger are silent as they watch the flock vanish into the distance of the darkening distance.
“Well…” Roger says, after the pause. “I don’t know that I can do anything to get you that necklace. But… uh… how about a ring?”
Roger drops to one knee, his hand fishing through his pocket for a small, dark colored box. Jamie’s eyes go wide as his hands instinctively go up to the sides of his head in shock.
“Jamison, you complete me. I don’t ever, ever want to lose what we have. So please. Marry me. Be my husband.” Roger pops the box open, revealing a simple ring. “I know how you feel about the gold trade and the wedding industrial complex and all that, so we don’t gotta do none of that, I got an artist I know to make this but if you don’t like it we can get another one, I promise–”
Jamie silence Roger with a kiss.
“Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes,” Jamie says.
“I love you, Jamison,” Roger says.
“I love you more,” Jamie tells him back. As they nestle together, Roger leans his head on Jamie’s shoulder, the two of them watching as the final drops of sunlight are swallowed by the dark of night.
The moon glows over Exile Island as an owl hoots. The shelter is empty. Aside a small fire, Mathieu sits, staring grumpily into the distance.
Mathieu reads over an unfurled scroll of paper. It is a clue to the hidden immunity idol, the same one that Irene read prior.
After reading over the scroll one last time, Mathieu tosses it into the fire.
As the morning sun causes the heat to rise, Gavin, Shelby, and their respective loved ones float aimlessly in the shallows of the reservoir.
“This is really quite something,” Adrian comments.
“We don’t usually get to come down here this early in the day,” Shelby says to him. “There’s usually too much work to be done. The extra forces have been a blessing.”
“So Jamie is next?” Adrian asks.
“Provided he doesn’t save himself by winning immunity, yes,” Shelby says.
“Oh, yeah. I forgot about that part,” Adrian says. “This game is complicated, isn’t it?”
“More than you know,” Gavin says.
“After Jamie,” Shelby says, “it has to be Mathieu.”
“And then Irene,” Gavin finishes.
“So Jordyne is with you, right?” Adrian asks.
“Yes,” says Gavin.
“I hope so,” Shelby says at the exact same time.
“This is what we always fight about, Adrian!” Gavin moans. “Try and get her to listen to me!”
“Oh, that’s funny,” Adrian says. “Gavin, surely you’ve realized by now, Shelby doesn’t listen to anyone.”
“That’s… not true,” Shelby says, somewhat unsure. “I have a preference to lead rather than be led, yes, but I can listen to others.”
“As in your are physically capable of hearing other people’s voices? I agree,” Adrian says. “Glad to see we’re on the same page.”
“The point is,” Gavin says, “is Jordyne is the easiest one to beat in challenges, so it makes sense to keep her around.”
“Sweetie,” Elise chimes in, “are… are you sure, though, that Jordyne likes that plan as much as you do?”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t she?” Gavin asks.
“I just want you to be sure,” Elise says. “If she’s not good in the challenges, she probably knows she should be buddying up to the people who are, especially if she’s as smart as you say she is.”
“Which is why we are going to take this process step-by-step,” Shelby says. “This is an outline, but it is subject to change. This game has proven itself to require a certain flexibility, and that is why, Gavin, we are being flexible.”
“Yeah, I get it,” Gavin groans. “Things can always go different, whatever.
“Sorry, but to just get back to what’s next,” Adrian says, “So if Jamie does win Immunity, then… it’s Matthew?”
“Mathieu,” Shelby corrects. “Congolese, so…”
“French, right, gotcha,” Adrian says. “So is that your back up plan?”
“He must go at some point, and frankly, the sooner, the better,” Shelby says.
“Yeah, but like… tiger lily, come on,” Adrian says, sounding concerned. “You can’t do that. The guy just did you all a huge favor. You know I worship the ground you walk on like the puny mortal I am, my queen, but you’re no star athlete. He won that challenge, not you. Are you really going to do that?”
“Adrian… the circumstances of this game require a sidelining of conventional ethics that I don’t think you’ve fully grasped,” Shelby says with a sigh. “That makes him precisely all the more threatening.”
In the woods, Irene and her father collect firewood together.
“I’m just so happy you’re here, Dad,” Irene says.
“I know, Irene. You’ve told me that about a thousand times since I got here,” Reid says.
“Sorry,” she laughs. “I just can’t get over how perfect the timing is. I’ve been thinking a lot about everyone back home lately… I just really need advice. Someone I can untangle my thoughts with.”
“Well then tell me what’s on your mind, kiddo,” Reid asks. “Whatever you need, I’m here for you.”
“So on one hand, Jamie is an easy vote to get the numbers for. It’ll be everyone against him and he goes out,” Irene explains. “But that means Shelby and Gavin have to be split up directly after, while Jordyne, Mathieu and I have the numbers over them. But then, I don’t know about what to do because I don’t know if having Mathieu at the final three is good for me and Jordyne, because there’s no way either of us are beating him in an immunity challenge. But if we vote Mathieu out and let Gavin stay, he’s definitely keeping Jordyne over me. So like…”
“Yeah, it’s a lot to consider,” Reid says. “I’m glad it’s not too easy for you.”
“Did you really think this sounded easy in the first place?” Irene asks.
“No, no. Not at all. What I mean is that I’m glad your being challenged. Being challenged is good for you. It’s good for everyone.”
“That’s all good but like… what do you think I should do?”
Reid pauses his wood collecting, momentarily lost in thought.
“Well, I guess my question would be… whenever you’ve talked about Shelby and Gavin as a pair, there is this assumption that when the time comes for them to be split up, that it will be achieved by voting out Shelby. Why not vote out Gavin, if he’s the one loyal to Jordyne? Shelby doesn’t seem nearly as in love with her.”
“I… I guess I never thought about that,” Irene admits. “I can’t imagine that Jordyne would be comfortable with that choice. If Shelby’s gone, Gavin is a vote in her pocket. As long as she gives him attention, she’s happy. There’s no way she’s turning on him at this point.”
“Now Irene, is that something you know? Or something you are assuming?” Reid presses.
“It’s an assumption,” Irene admits. “It’s definitely an angle I haven’t thought of before. So do you think I should bring it up with Jordyne?”
“I don’t think you have anything to lose, kiddo. I’ve seen you stop yourself when you don’t have anything to lose a few too many times for my personal liking. Put yourself out there a little more.”
“I know, Dad. I know.”
“It’s not a condemnation,” he continues. “It’s me asking you to believe in yourself a little more, missy. We all tell you it all the time, and I know coming from your old man it doesn’t mean a whole lot, but you’re a wonderful kid, Irene. You’re so smart, and it kills your mother and I to see you so afraid of that. Own who you are. You’re still here! You don’t need to be a bodybuilding doctor or a seductress to do it. You’re just as much of a competitor as any of them. You’ve gotten just as far as they have, which makes you just as capable. So don’t give up on yourself just yet, okay?”
“Okay,” Irene says with a smile.
“I guess this is it,” Adrian says to Shelby as he hugs her one last time, the castaways preparing to head off for their next challenge.
“Tell Lila and Jonas that they are always in my thoughts, and that I love them,” Shelby asks.
“I will. But they already know, tiger lily.” Adrian kisses his wife gently on the forehead.
Elsewhere in the camp, Jamie and Roger say their goodbyes as well.
“This wasn’t enough time,” Jamie says.
“Hey, be glad we got any time at all,” Roger says in response. “You better thank that Matt dude when he gets back.”
“Oh believe me, I think everyone’s going to be bowing at his feet for this one,” Jamie says with a laugh. He kisses Roger one final time.
“I love you.”
As Gavin hugs his own mother goodbye, his wandering gaze catches the two men in their embrace.
The castaway wave one final goodbye to their loved ones as they head off through the woods to the next challenge. As they leave, Jordyne turns to Gavin while they walk.
“I wish they could stay,” she says.
“Yeah, me too,” Gavin agrees. “But we still have each other, right?”
“Right,” Jordyne says with a warm smile. She ruffles Gavin’s hair affectionately. As she wanders ahead of him, Gavin can only watch, enraptured.
“Come on in guys!”
The castaways make their way into the mat, the groups small size all the more apparent.
“We’ll now bring in Mathieu, returning from Exile Island,” Jeff announces. Mathieu emerges from the brush, his tribemates elated to see him.
“I hope you all had a wonderful time,” Mathieu says as Jordyne and Shelby greet him with hugs.
“You guys ready to get to today’s immunity challenge?” Jeff asks. “First things first, Mathieu, I’m going to need immunity back.”
Mathieu nods and walks over to Jeff, turning his broadly muscled back towards him so he can unclasp the necklace. Jeff attaches the spoked ring to the idol.
“Immunity once again back up for grabs,” Jeff says. “For today’s challenge, you will race out to collect a series of puzzle pieces, which you will use to complete a very large staircase from bottom to top. First person to complete their staircase and make it to the top wins immunity. They cannot be voted out tonight and will have a one-in-five shot at winning this game. For our losers, someone else will be headed to the jury. Everyone got it?”
The castaway nods. Shelby already looks exhausted just looking at the staircase.
“Alright, we’ll draw for spots, go ahead and get started.”
The castways stand at their positions, ready to begin.
“SURVIVORS READY? GO!”
The players are off on Jeff’s command, all running up to their first group of puzzle pieces, tied to a post by multiple ropes.
“First you’ll have to get those knots untied, then you have to get those pieces to your station so you can start getting them on–and they have to go in order!”
“Oh my gosh!” Irene gasps, starting to drag back her first section of pieces. “These are so heavy!”
The castaways all make it back to their stations roughly at the same time, Jamie and Mathieu with a slight lead over the others. With his huge arms, Jamie a piece, checking it over the first step. He tosses it to the side, not matching. Mathieu clicks a piece into place.
“Mathieu has his first piece!” Jeff calls. “So does Jordyne! Jamie places a piece!”
The castaways all work hard, continuing to work check piece after piece.
“It’s not as easy at it looks!” Jeff calls. “You can only take one piece at a time!”
The sun beats down on the castaways as they work, with Mathieu finally placing his final piece from the first set.
“Mathieu, once again taking an early lead, off to get his second set of pieces! Jamie is right behind him though,” Jeff notes as Jamie places his last piece.
“Gavin in this! Shelby placing pieces. Nobody has fallen out of this yet,” Jeff continues to observe. Jamie and Mathieu arrive at the staircase with their second set of pieces and being working on the second tier, both jogging up the steps as fast as they can. Mathieu carries his plank over his head; Jamie tucked under his arm. Sweat coats their bodies from head to toe. Irene stops for a moment to breathe.
“Gavin now finished his first set!” Jeff says. “Jordyne finishing hers, Shelby making good progress, Irene falling behind!”
“This is hard!” Irene says, getting in her next plank.
Jamie and Mathieu both continue to lead as they work on the second section. Jamie curses under his breath as he has another miss. He chucks his plank down the staircase and starts running after it. Mathieu places his next piece, and heads back down for another. The physical toll is starting to weigh on them.
“Mathieu leads by a single step, but he’s starting to slow down. That night on Exile Island takes it’s toll!” Jamie places another piece, heading back down for his final piece of the next section, tying with Mathieu. Jordyne pauses on the stairs, struggling to catch her breath.
“Oh my god, this is exhausting!” Gavin yells, angry upon realizing he’s taken the wrong piece.
“You have to keep that temper cool under pressure, Gavin!” Jeff yells. “Dig deep! Mathieu and Jamie now working on the third set of stairs!” Jamie unties his boards first and hits the base of the staircase moments before Mathieu. They both pick a piece and start moving up the staircase, their paces slowing. Jordyne tries to sort through her pieces but instead knocks them over, one falling on her and causing her to tumble backwards.
“Jordyne falling out of this, Gavin needs to catch up! It is between Jamie and Mathieu fighting for immunity!”
Mathieu tries a piece on his staircase and is irritated to realize it doesn’t fit. He sighs as he turns around, jogging much more slowly back down to get his next piece. As Jamie heads back up, he is now crawling more so than walking.
“Thirty-three days are taking their toll hard!” Jeff notes. Jamie clicks another board into place.
“Jamie has a lead, but Mathieu is on his tail!” Jeff says. “He can still catch up. Every time you are wrong, you have to go all the way back down, come all the way back up with a new piece and try again!”
“Oh my lord,” Jamie sighs, sweat all but pouring down his beard onto the puzzle board below. “Come on, be right,” he mutters, slamming a piece into place.
“Another piece for Jamie! Mathieu is going to have to pick it up!” Mathieu checks his next piece against his next slot, once again failing to find a match. Jamie, exhausted, places his next piece.
“Jamie has only one more piece to go!” Jeff calls, nearly jumping out of his skin. Exhausted, Jamie grabs the final piece and begins dragging it up the steps. Mathieu places his next plank, but knows it’s too late. Jamie places the final board, and stands as tall as he can as he makes his way up the final stretch of the staircase, hands at his side, his breathing heavy. He pulls the cord to release his flag.
“JAMIE! WINS IMMUNITY!”
“HELL YEAH MOTHERF*CKER!!!!!” Jamie yells in triumph. He pulls his cap off and tosses it into the air in celebration before sitting and collapsing on his back, arms outstretched. Mathieu stands winded on the staircase. Irene, Jordyne and Shelby applaud from towards the bottom.
“Jamie, that was quite the fight you put up,” Jeff says after the castaways resume their position on the mat. “Come on over and try this on.”
Tired but happy, Jamie heads over to Jeff, taking a knee so that Jeff can actually reach his neck to attach the jewelry.
“With this, Jamie, you are going to the final five, guaranteed to make it to Day 36 in a Thirty-nine day game.” He turns to face the other castaways. “Jordyne, Irene, Gavin, Shelby, Mathieu–for one of you, Day 33 is as far as it goes. You have the afternoon to figure out who that person will be. Grab your stuff and head back to camp.”
The final six return to camp following the challenge, Jamie taking the rear, the immunity necklace dangling around his neck.
“That was quite the performance, Jamison,” Jordyne concedes. “That’s some well-earned bling you’ve got there.”
“Thanks,” Jamie says. “Feels really good. There’s still time for you, maybe you’ll get to see what it’s like,” he says cheekily.
In the woods, Irene, Jordyne, and Mathieu all walk together.
“Honestly, I don’t think this is that big of a problem,” Irene says. “The more I’ve been thinking about it, the less I like the idea of Gavin and Shelby both being around this late in the game.”
“Unquestionably,” Mathieu says. “If not tonight, it would happen regardless in three days.”
“There’s no way Jamie won’t be on board,” Irene chimes in. “I mean… right? Like he knows just as well as any of us do that nothing good happens for him if he lets them stay together any longer.”
“What’s his other option?” Jordyne says. “Vote with them and do what, tie the vote?”
“I cannot imagine Jamie and Gavin would be inclined to work alongside each other in the first place,” Mathieu says. “They are like oil and water.”
Irene nods. “I think we need to take advantage of that,” she says. “I think it’s gonna be easier to get him on board if we go after Gavin.”
“Gavin?” Jordyne asks. “Really?”
“I think it’s the better move than going after Shelby first,” Irene admits.
“As do I,” Mathieu cosigns.
“I mean,” Jordyne says, “if Jamie’s down for it too–”
“He will be,” Mathieu interjects.
“I’m not going to spook you guys if I’m blunt in saying that I really don’t want to do this, am I?”
“Hey, I don’t want to write down anyone’s name,” Irene says. “I hate voting people out. It sucks.”
Mathieu approaches Jamie, who is lying in the shelter, resting. The camp is otherwise empty.
“Care to talk about tonight?” Mathieu asks as he takes a seat on the shelter’s edge.
“Sure. Sounds good to me. What’re y’all thinkin’?”
“No final, certain decisions have been reached yet,” Mathieu says, “Irene and I are in agreement we would like to see Gavin leave.”
“Well,” Jamie says with a smile, “that makes three of us. I wouldn’t mind seeing his torch snuffed.”
“I had a strong suspicion that would be your reaction,” Mathieu laughs. “Jordyne is, understandably, hesitant. She still wants the target to be Shelby. I believe if she were to know for certain that Gavin is getting three votes…”
“She won’t risk a tie, she ain’t stupid,” Jamie agrees. “Sounds more than good to me, buddy.” He extends his hand to Mathieu, and the two shake on it.
As the sun begins setting, Jamie washes down by the water, massaging beard balm into his formidable facial hair.
“Hey stranger,” Jordyne says as she joins him. “Have a second?”
“Always do for you, darlin’,” Jamie says with a smile.
“The arguments against Mathieu are really, really valid,” Jordyne says. “I don’t think anyone wants to be stuck trying to fight him for the title at the very end of this whole game. To make it thirty-nine days and lose basically by default? That would suck.”
“It would suck,” Jamie agrees. “But is that your head or your heart talking?”
“What do you mean exactly?”
“I mean,” Jamie says, “Are you coming up with reasons against Mathieu because you believe them? Or because you don’t wanna vote Gavin out?”
“I mean, I don’t want to vote Mathieu out either, I like him,” Jordyne says. “But everyone does, that’s the whole problem! But Gavin and Shelby… that’s a problem too.”
“Too many problems and not enough votes to solve them all,” Jamie laments. “We have to go one step at a time. I know where I’m coming down, personally.”
“You do?” Jordyne asks.
“Yeah. I don’t know that you’re gonna like it, though.”
Satya Yuga takes their seats across from Jeff and the fire.
“We’ll now bring in the members of our jury,” announces Jeff. “Vanessa, Marina, and Marco, voted out at the last Tribal Council.”
Marco smiles hugely when he sees that Jamie is wearing the immunity necklace. He flashes a big double thumbs-up.
“So I’d like to start with you, Jamie,” Jeff says. “It hasn’t been much of a secret that you and Marco were close to each other. Right as he comes in, he’s giving you the thumbs up. Given that he just left the game, I’m sure you had to have some concern you could have been following after.”
“Absolutely sir,” Jamie says. “I mean, Jeff. I just got engaged!” From the jury, Vanessa’s jaw drops. Marco looks both perplexed and elated. “But this immunity necklace is making me almost as happy. And getting proposed to has a way about it of making you pretty happy,” he laughs. “So I’m definitely feeling very, very glad I have this puppy tonight.”
“Congratulations again on the engagement,” Jeff says. “Have you found that impacting your position in the game, in any way?”
“I don’t know if I’d say it’s impacted my position, but it’s impacted my attitude,” Jamie says. “I really feel like just getting to see Roger gave me that boost of energy to win the challenge today. I couldn’t have asked for a better reward.”
“Now Jamie, with all due respect, getting to see your loved ones wasn’t exactly your reward,” Jeff clarifies. “It was Mathieu’s reward that he gave up to the rest of you. Mathieu, can you tell me a little more about making that decision?”
“Absolutely,” Mathieu begins. “To have my little sister standing right there when I made the choice, I think that had an impact. It made me think of not only her, but my other sisters, of my mother, of my late father. It implored me to think what my family would hope to see from me. The conclusion I came to is that they would want to see me being true to myself and to the values they have instilled within me. I genuinely felt a need to do the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. I could have selfishly kept an experience for myself, or given five other people not only that experience, but the strength that comes with unconditional love.”
“Shelby,” Jeff points out. “I can’t help but notice your face as Mathieu talks. Doesn’t look like you’re buying what he’s selling.”
“It’s not that I doubt any sincerity,” Shelby says, “I believe Mathieu is telling the truth that he wants to honor and respect the values his family instilled in him. I can empathize very strongly with that. Mathieu and I are both immigrants to the United States, albeit I came to America as a baby, whereas he came later in life. Bu the commonality there is that we both had families who really wanted to ensure that they kept the culture and the values of where they came from alive through their children. So I believe that in part, Mathieu has been genuine. But, at the same time, Jeff, the fact that we’re in a game is never far from any of our minds, especially not after going so deep! There are six more days, nobody wants to have come this far for nothing. There is a benefit in sacrificing to those around you. Mathieu raised his stock a lot by giving all of us something we all very much wanted, and I don’t think that was unintentional on his part. Unfortunately, Survivor doesn’t follow the rules of our daily existences. Good people are harder to beat.”
“Wow,” Jeff says. “Shelby, you just really laid it all out there. Mathieu, any truth to what Shelby’s saying?”
“Well, I… I that is not the case, no. It is actually somewhat of an insult to hear that my actions, which were nothing but charitable on my behalf, are being used to paint me as if I am disingenuous, as if I have some sort of grand scheme.”
“I don’t buy for a second that everyone doesn’t have a grand scheme at this point,” Jordyne cuts in. “And I don’t see why it can’t be a little of both. I think Mathieu gave up reward because it’s the right thing to do, and the fact that stood to potentially help him in the game, that just made the choice even easier,” Jordyne says. “I mean, I think honestly, that’s what most of us would have done. Look, whoever won, if they kept the reward to themselves and were the only ones to see their loved one? I know we’d all be saying ‘oh, it’s okay, I understand, you won fair and square’ to their face… and then behind their back we’d all be bitching about how pissed off we were! And that puts you in a crappy position too. I don’t think sacrificing reward makes Mathieu special, I think he did what most people would probably do.”
“Gavin, agree with that? Most people would have made the same choice as Mathieu?” Jeff asks.
“Uh, I probably wouldn’t have,” Gavin laughs. “Maybe that says something bad about me, I dunno. But like… come on, we all wanted to see our families, it’s not like there’s anybody here who doesn’t miss home. And like Jamie was saying, I think getting to spend some time with your family from home, it kind of cleared everybody’s head, and kind of put things in perspective. Like, we’re not out here for each other. The people at home are the people cheering us on. The people out here are trying to rip each other’s throats out! Why would I want to make all my competition stronger and give them that boost when I could keep it for myself?”
“That’s certainly a different perspective,” Jeff says, “and also a bold admission.”
“There’s no point in acting like we aren’t all self-interested here,” Gavin says. “And frankly, if you’re still here and you aren’t self-interested, I think you’re playing the wrong game. It’s just like Shelby was saying, we’ve all come so far, there’s only going to be five people left after tonight, that’s nuts! It seems like yesterday there were still fifteen! All of us can see the end right over the horizon, and we all want to get there. I really don’t care if Mathieu did it to be nice or did it for strategy, he’s a big obstacle in between me and my goal.”
“Mathieu, after hearing both Shelby and Gavin say you’re a threat and that you need to go, does that make you feel nervous for the vote?”
“I was nervous for the vote before we even got to Tribal Council,” Mathieu says. “I am not ignorant, I know my name has been in the conversations around camp today. Fortunately, Gavin and Shelby are only two people, and that alone is not enough to vote someone from the game. So that gives me some assurance.”
“Irene,” Jeff says, redirecting his attention. “When Mathieu says he’s not as worried as he might be because Shelby and Gavin are only two votes, would you say it’s fair to assume that what follows is that the other four players, you included, will be voting together instead?”
“Uh, yeesh,” Irene says, looking somewhat nervous. “I mean, I hope it doesn’t come totally out of left field that like, I’m considering voting for Gavin or Shelby tonight. I mean we didn’t really talk that much with each other about votes or strategy earlier today, and that kind of makes it obvious that we’re probably not going to be voting along the same lines tonight.”
“That’s fair,” Shelby agrees. “But it is undeniably also driven by an assumption that we don’t need to talk to each other. That we both have a better option available. Unfortunately, the better option for each of us is the same option. We’re fighting over a scarce resource here, and that resource is allies.”
“Jeff, it’s cause I won immunity today,” Jamie pipes in. “They had a nice little plan to stick together, five votes easy peasy, send me out the game. And now that’s not an option no more, so I just got a little boost to my own stock from that. I went from going home to going right to the middle of the action, and I gotta decide what I’m doing. What’s best for Jamie?”
“That’s a great question,” says Jeff. “What is best for Jamie?”
“Well, I can’t guarantee this again, y’know?” Jamie says, gesturing to the necklace. “Next challenge could be ‘sew a petticoat’ for all I know and I would probably come in dead last. So I have to look at the needs of the people around me and think, ‘is there someone here who needs me and doesn’t realize it yet?’ If these folks are smart, they should be seeing a lot of other folks who are much bigger priorities to get rid of then lil’ old me. People here can make use of me, if they want.”
“Jamie, I think you might be the first and only person to ever describe you as ‘little,’” Jeff laughs. “So tonight, if you really are the swing vote, how do you ultimately make that decision?”
“Very carefully,” Jamie deadpans.
“Jordyne, how about you? What are you basing your vote on tonight?” Jeff asks.
Jordyne purses her lips, thinking through her answer. “I’m gonna have to copy Gavin and say self-interest. I definitely have built some wonderful relationships here. I have a really special, unique relationship with each of these other players. Mathieu is a honest, caring, smart guy, he’s impossible not to get along with. Jamie and I have really bonded over a lot of things we’ve had in common. We’ve both kind of been kicked while we’re down by people who shouldn’t have been kicking us, and we can relate to each other. Shelby and I have had our ups and downs, we’ve definitely butted heads… but I think we’ve also built a very genuine mutual respect. Irene and I have really started to click over these last few rounds of the game, we’ve been finding our sisterhood, you know? And then Gavin… is Gavin. He’s stuck his neck out for me more than anyone else here, and that’s…” she pauses, looking uncomfortable. “When you don’t have that happen a lot, it’s touching. It can’t be a question of ‘who don’t I trust, who don’t I think I can work with?’ because I have a level of trust with everyone, I’ve worked with everyone. There’s not an easy choice tonight. And uh… that sucks. But I knew what I was getting myself into. And I’ve known from the start that I’m here because I could use a million dollars in my bank account. I could use that desperately, Jeff. So what’s gonna get me that green? That’s the question right here.”
“Well,” Jeff says, “I think we’ll find out that answer shortly. Before we get to the vote, Jamie, you have immunity tonight. Keeping it?”
“Alright, you cannot vote for Jamie, everyone else is fair game. Irene, you’re up first.”
Gavin returns to his seat, and Jeff addresses the group. “I’ll go tally the votes.”
Gavin puts a reassuring hand on Shelby’s shoulder. Jordyne twirls her hair. The jury watches, eager to see the results, as Jeff returns with the urn. Sweat pours down Mathieu’s face.
“Once the votes are read, the decision is final. The person voted out will be asked to leave the Tribal Council area immediately. I’ll read the votes. First vote…”
“Gavin. That’s two votes Gavin, one Mathieu.”
“Mathieu. Tied again, two votes Mathieu, two votes Gavin.
“Gavin. That’s three votes Gavin, two votes Mathieu, one vote left.”
“Mathieu. That means we have a tie.”
Marina’s eyebrow raises from the jury. Jordyne shoots Jamie a, very, very dirty look. Jamie doesn’t pay her any attention, just smiling, reveling in the chaos.
“In the event of a tie, here’s how it works,” Jeff says. “We’re going to vote again. Mathieu, Gavin? Neither of you will vote. Irene, Jordyne, Jamie, Shelby? You may only vote for either Mathieu or for Gavin, nobody else. If, after the re-vote, we are still tied? I will give you two minutes, as a group, to come to a unanimous consensus as to if Mathieu or Gavin will be voted out. If, by the end of two minutes, you are not at a unanimous consensus, then Mathieu and Gavin will both become safe. Jamie, you have immunity, you will remain safe. The other three of you–Irene, Shelby, Jordyne–you will be at risk. You will each draw a rock from a bag at random. Two of the rocks will be the same color, one will be a different color. The castaway who draws the rock of a different color will be automatically eliminated from this game. Is everyone absolutely clear on how we will proceed?”
Everyone nods in the affirmative.
“Alright then. Irene, come get the urn, take it back to the voting station and cast your vote.”
Irene does as she is told, taking the urn from Jeff as she heads back into the temple.
“Do not worry,” Shelby whispers to Gavin. “I promised your mother I’d protect you.” Gavin nods, but still appears deeply concerned.
Irene, Jordyne, Jamie and Shelby all re-vote. Once again, Jeff leaves to compile the votes.
“What do you think will happen?” Marco whispers to Marina and Vanessa. Jeff returns with the urn.
“Once the votes are read, the decision is final. The person voted out will be asked to leave the Tribal Council area immediately. I’ll read the votes.”
“Mathieu, that’s two votes.”
“The eleventh person voted out of Survivor: India, and the fourth member of our jury, Mathieu. Mathieu, that’s enough. I need you to bring me your torch.”
Mathieu closes his eyes in frustration. Irene looks sheepish, while Gavin exhales heavily. Jamie claps Mathieu on the shoulder. “Good game, friend.”
“Yeah,” Mathieu says, still looking somewhat surprised. “Good game.”
He stands to gather his torch as Jordyne turns to face him. “I’m so sorry, Mat. I had to.”
“You did not have to do anything,” Mathieu says to her. “You chose.”
He walks his torch over to Jeff.
“Mathieu, the tribe has spoken.” Jeff lowers the snuffer, and Mathieu’s flame extinguishes in a plume of smoke. “It’s time for you to go.”
Mathieu turns and gives a final wave to the group, though it is clear he is still disappointed. With thoughtful steps, Captain Congo exits the game.
“A tie vote,” Jeff says, addressing the remaining castaways. “That’s a first. But after watching you guys play for thirty three days, nothing is a surprise anymore. You guys can grab your stuff and head back to camp. Have a good night.”
Five remain. Who will be the next to go?