PREVIOUSLY ON… SURVIVOR!
For 18 days, two tribes—Yenisei and Koryok—battled it out in the Siberian Wilderness. Day 19, the game took a dramatic change when two tribes merged into one, which they named Romanov. While the castaways were eager to meet some fresh faces, the circumstances of the game were evident to them all: The six Koryoks, led by Sheena, were going to stick together and pick off the four Yeniseis, led by Zeke.
The two tribes joined together at a merge feast, where Yenisei took the opportunity to try and suss out the dynamics of Koryok in hopes of a crack they could exploit to save themselves. Huang, the youngest and fittest member of the tribe, tried to work his looks and charm with Sheena, as they bonded over common interests, much to the chagrin of Sheena’s closest ally, Nick. However, it quickly became clear to Yenisei that the person on the outs was Olivia—a complicated matter, given that Olivia had mutinied from the Yenisei Tribe to Koryok earlier in the game.
While Vince put his engineering skills to work once again to redesign the shelter, Sheena put her strategic skills to work as she organized a sneak attack against the looming threat of Olivia and her hidden immunity idol. In order to keep Olivia in the dark, she made a fake final three deal with the forensic analyst; and instructed her close ally, Tallulah, do the same.
At the first individual challenge, a showdown between Huang and Sheena ended with the stunt driver claiming both immunity and reward. The prize was an advantage, allowing Huang to exile another player through Tribal Council, effectively cancelling their vote. Huang pounced on the opportunity to weaken Koryok’s numbers by exiling Maurice.
With Maurice exiled, the numbers now stood at five to four, creating a window for a single player to flip the game. Olivia was courted hard by both sides, and found herself weathering an awkward apology with her former nemesis, Charlotte; as well as a heartfelt plea from Zeke.
At Tribal Council, Olivia was in the hot seat as the swing vote, in the position to axe the leader of either tribe. Ultimately, she chose to stick with Koryok by voting Zeke out of the tribe; devastating Charlotte and leaving most of the tribe in tears.
Nine remain. Who will be voted out tonight?
Wolves can be heard howling as the Romanov Tribe returns to their camp in the wake of their first Tribal Council. Torches are placed one by one against a tree. As Charlotte places her, the stack collapses. Her face already slick with tears, she starts to cry again in frustration.
“I should really make a rack or something to hold these things in,” Vince says quietly.
Charlotte sits on the ground under Zeke’s chapel, curled with her knees against her chest as she continues to cry. Vince and Huang sit together on the pew. Huang rests his head in his hands, despondent.
“Let it out, Charlotte,” Huang says, clearly not fully in a state of emotional stability himself. “Cry as much as you need to,” he says, eyes watering. “I’m going to miss him so much.”
“Look at ‘em over there,” Vince sneers, turning to gaze at the Koryoks, huddled chatting by the fire. “Livin’ on our turf, just laughing it up… makes me sick.”
“Don’t pay them any mind, Uncle Vinnie,” Huang says as he wipes his nose. “They’re not worth it.”
“It just makes me so mad,” Vince grumbles.
Over by the campfire, the former Koryok Tribe sits together, warming themselves.
“Well, cheers gang,” Sheena says. “Mission accomplished.”
Tallulah can’t help but turn and look off in the distance at the Yeniseis.
“It’s a bittersweet victory, isn’t it?” she says to the rest of her group.
“It was definitely the hardest vote so far,” Sheena says. “Just because Zeke really is so sweet.”
“I didn’t want to make anyone cry,” Hannah says, looking bummed.
“We didn’t make anyone cry,” Sheena says. “It sucks that Charlotte’s so upset but it’s a game. Give her a little time and space to lick her wounds, she’ll get over it. She’s an adult, she’ll figure it out.”
“Besides,” Olivia says, “I’m sure Zeke is okay. He’s so positive, I can’t imagine he has any ill will against us.”
“Why does it matter if he did or not?” Nick chimes in. “He’s not on the jury, so…”
“I’m not talking about the game, I just mean like, in a human sense. Just seeing your name on that paper is hard, imagine what it feels like to actually be voted out. I just hope he’s dealing with it okay, that’s all,” says Olivia. “We had a really good talk earlier today and I just… he’s a good person, and I feel bad that his experience was cut short. He’s someone who deserves to have good things come his way.”
“Jesus, he really got you drinking his kool aid, huh?” Nick laughs. “It’s a game, nobody ‘deserves’ to stick around for being nice.”
Sheena can’t help but snort.
“Did I say something funny?” Nick asks her.
“No,” Sheena says. “I was thinking about something else.”
“I just don’t get why everyone is so pouty,” Nick says. “We won, we got out a Yenisei, and it wasn’t just any of them, we got out their leader. We should be celebrating, not moping.”
“It’s called having some decorum,” Tallulah says. “Where is your heart right now, Nick? Because I don’t recognize this mean spirited man in front of me.”
“I don’t think I’m being mean spirited,” Nick says, annoyed. “I’m being honest. We’re winning, they’re losing, that’s what I want, and I know that’s what you all want too, so—”
“It’s just that you don’t have to take active pleasure in them feeling bad about it,” Sheena says. “Don’t be an ass.”
“Oh shut up, Sheena,” Nick says, “you’re the queen of f*cking trash talk, where is this conscience coming from all of a sudden?”
“Since when do I not have a conscience?” Sheena says, miffed. “Like, so what? I like a little competitive trash talk during a challenge, but that’s completely different from telling someone at Tribal that they’re making an embarrassment of themselves.”
Cool winds whip across the Romanov campsite, causing the blanket that Sheena and Huang are holding outstretched to billow wildly.
“Oh, come the f*ck on!” Sheena grumbles as they untangle the hammock. With it once again fully outstretched, they begin to wrap it around the circular lattice structure that now surrounds the platform of the shelter. Hammer in hand, Vince begins to nail the cloth into the structure, creating a wall for the hut.
As Vince, Huang and Sheena work on the shelter, Charlotte stands at the campfire, stirring the buckwheat as it boils over the flame. She sprinkles a pinch of cinnamon into the pot, followed by a splash of goat’s milk. She stirs and gives the porridge a taste.
Charlotte puts the lid on the pot as Huang approaches, grabbing his canteen from the stump next to Charlotte. He takes a seat as he gulps down some water.
“I’ve been thinking,” Charlotte says, “about what we could possibly do to get ourselves out of this situation.”
“Yeah?” Huang asks, wiping his mouth as he finishes his drink.
“If you win this next challenge, and you can share the reward,” Charlotte says, “who would you pick? Out of them, I mean?”
“Hmm,” Huang says, thinking. “Probably one of the girls. Sheena or Hannah, I mean. Not Olivia, that’s for sure,” Huang says. “That’s a lost cause as far as I’m concerned. If anything she’d going to Exile again.”
“No, you can’t do that,” Charlotte says.
“What? Why not?” Huang asks.
“Not because I think we can win her over,” Charlotte says, “but I think it should be one of us. We don’t really know anything about it, do we?”
“I guess not,” Huang says, screwing the cap back on his canteen.
“I know the going theory has been that Olivia has the idol,” Charlotte continues, “but it’s not a sure thing.”
“So, I see what you’re saying Charlotte, and I think it’s a valid point,” Huang says, “but okay, let’s say I win the challenge and you go to Exile, that leaves Uncle Vinnie here alone with all of them. And I love the man, just to be clear, but he has no filter, you know that. And right now, we need to be winning people over, not pissing them off.”
Over at the shelter, Sheena is continuing to help Vince by holding the cloth in place.
“You need to MOVE that HAND, sweetheart,” Vince barks. Sheena visibly seethes as she slides her hand over so Vince can hammer in another nail.
“Oh goodness,” Charlotte sighs.
“So do we exile Vincent?” Charlotte asks.
“He’ll do it for us,” Huang says.
“He absolutely would,” Charlotte agrees. “And he’s so clever—if there is still something out there, a clue of some sort, I’m sure he can figure it out.”
“Come on in guys!”
The castaways make their way into the challenge arena, where Jeff awaits as usual, surveying the group with a watchful eye.
“We’ll now bring in Maurice, back from Exile Island,” Jeff announces.
“Hey y’all,” Maurice waves, smiling as he comes in over the horizon.
“Maurice, getting your first look at the Romanov Tribe,” Jeff says. “Zeke voted out at the last Tribal Council.”
“Damn,” Maurice says, hugging Sheena and Tallulah as he rejoins the group.
“Alright,” Jeff continues. “You guys ready to get to today’s challenge?”
“Alright, here’s how it works,” Jeff begins. “On my go, you’ll race out to an individual digging plot, where you’ll use a paddle to dig in the dirt for a rope ring. You will then use your paddle to toss that ring into a basked, which you’ll be wearing on your back. When you have your ring in the basket, you’ll race it back to the start, then head out and collect your next ring. When you have all three rings, you will then throw them onto a target. First person to hook all three of their rings on their target wins reward. Wanna know what you’re playing for?” Jeff asks.
“I hope it’s something good!” Vince says.
“I think you’ll enjoy it,” Jeff says, removing the cover from the table next to him. On the table is a soft, cushy bathrobe.
“Siberia is a place known for it’s many active volcanic zones,” Jeff explains, “and where there are volcanoes, there are hot springs. The winner of today’s challenge will head to a local spa resort where you will get a nice, long soak in a natural hot spring, where you’ll have the perfect chance to scrub away the dirt and the stress of what has been a very difficult game. While you’re at the spa, you’ll also enjoy a nice meal, some drinks, and of course, a very relaxing massage.”
“Oh my god!” Hannah squeals, her hands flying up to her face in excitement.
“In addtion, the winner of the challenge will get to send one person to Exile Island, where they’ll remain until the next challenge. Worth playing for?” Jeff asks.
Everyone cheers in agreement.
“Alright, we’ll draw for spots and then go ahead and get started,” Jeff says.
The castaways stand in a row at the starting line, each of them with a basket strapped to their hips over their butts. In hand, each carries a long, shovel-like paddle.
“For reward,” Jeff announces, ready to call the challenge.
“SURVIVORS READY? GO!”
With Jeff’s word, the castaways are off, with Huang, Sheena, and Maurice the first to arrive at their plots. Soon everyone is there, paddles digging frantically, dirt flying everywhere.
“Finding the rings is only the first part of this challenge,” Jeff reminds. “It’s not enough to just dig them up, you then need to get it into that basket!”
Maurice is the first to unearth a ring. He slides his paddle through the hoop and stands in preparation. He tosses the ring up in the air behind him, but it hits the edge of his basket and falls back out.
“Dang!” Maurice mutters as he goes to try again.
“Huang finds a ring,” Jeff calls, “Sheena finds a ring! Tallulah’s got her first ring, now it’s just a matter of getting it into the basket!”
Tallulah tosses her ring weakly, and it barely manages to sail over her head. It goes far to the right, missing her basket entirely. Sheena takes a breath and steadies her stance, flipping her ring up. It lands in her basket perfectly.
“Yes!” Sheena cheers for herself, turning to run back to her starting spot in order to place her ring.
“Sheena the first to get her ring back, but Huang is right behind her!” Jeff announces. Sure enough, Huang has also caught a ring, and is rushing back as well, right on Sheena’s tail.
“Olivia gets her first ring!” Jeff announces as the scientist manages to catch a ring in her basket. Excited, Olivia heads to drop hers off. Nick manages to toss a ring into his basket, as Maurice finally gets his first ring in as well. Sheena and Huang both hit the plot again, beginning to dig for their second rings. Tallulah continues to struggle.
“There we go!” Vince cheers, finding his first ring. He steadies himself as best he can, wheels turning in his head as he tries to calculate the best way to throw it. With a deft throw, he manages to catch his first ring.
“Vince now in it!” Jeff calls.
“There we go,” Huang says, unearthing his next ring. Almost reflexively, barely pausing to adjust, he pitches the paddle up and back, the ring landing deftly in his bag. As Huang makes his way back to the start, Charlotte and Hannah have both found their first rings as well, working, along with Tallulah, to actually get it over their head and into their basket.
“Woo!” Huang yelps as he skids to a stop in front of his stand, placing his second ring.
“Huang with his second ring back, putting him in the lead!” Jeff calls.
“Not for long,” Sheena says, unearthing another ring. She once again takes a strong stance and, after a deep breath, she flips the ring beautifully into her basket.
“Sheena right on Huang’s tail!” Jeff calls.
“There we go!” Olivia cheers for herself as she gets her second ring.
“Aha!” Charlotte says, excited as she lands her first ring.
“Olivia hangs up her second ring,” Jeff announces, as Oliva hooks her ring on the stand. “It’s Huang, Sheena, Olivia, and Maurice each with two!”
“And Vinnie, don’t forget Vinnie!” Vince says, smiling as his second ring sails into his basket.
“Vince with another ring!” Jeff calls. “Tallulah still struggling with her first!”
“Just wait until it’s a puzzle, I’ll kick all y’all asses,” Tallulah mutters.
“All right!” Sheena cheers for herself, finding her third ring. She flips it up and into her basket, and then drops her paddle as she races full speed back to the start.
“What the hell?” Nick rages, digging wildly. “Where the f*ck are these things?”
“Sheena, the first to get all three rings!” Jeff calls. “She can move on now to throwing!”
Sheena collects her rings from their stand and runs over towards the throwing line, swinging her arm gently back and forth, getting a feel for the weight of the object. She tosses her first ring, and it falls just short.
“Damn,” she swears, as she goes to toss her next ring.
“Here we go!” Nick says, finding his second ring. He flips it up and misses his basket. “Balls!” he roars.
“Yes!” Maurice says, sinking his third ring into his basket. He runs up to join Sheena. As he hits the target line, Huang manages to flip his third ring up into his basket as well.
“Huang now with three!” announces Jeff. “Maurice now getting ready to start throwing!”
Maurice exhales and tosses his first ring. It bounces off the backboard.
Sheena then throws another ring. This time, it connects, landing on the bottom hook.
“Sheena hooks one!” Jeff yells.
“Here we go,” Huang says, grabbing all three of his rings from his stand. He hits the throwing line as Sheena tosses her last ring, once again missing. She runs out to collect her rings. Maurice throws again, missing.
“Oh, come on now!” Maurice says, throwing his hands up as he begrudgingly heads out to collect.
“Here we GO!” Huang shouts, tossing his first ring. It whirls in the air and deftly lands on the top right hook.
“Huang with one!” Jeff calls.
Huang focuses and tosses his second ring, with it landing on the top left hook.
“Make that Huang with two!” Jeff calls.
“Oh hell no!” Sheena says, getting back to the throwing line. She almost haphazardly tosses her ring, barely aiming. It bounces off the backboard and hooks.
“YES!” she yells.
“Sheena with two!” Jeff says. “It’s Sheena and Huang fighting it out at the finish!”
Huang has taken a long moment trying to choose how he’ll throw. With a gentle toss, his last ring flies, catching on the bottom hook.
“YES YES YES YES YES!!!!!” Huang roars, pumping his fists in the air.
“HUANG! WINS REWARD!”
“WOO-HOOOOO!!!!” Huang cheers, clapping for himself. Charlotte jogs over and gives him a big hug in celebration. Sheena throws her last ring on the ground in annoyance.
With the challenge concluded, the players return to the mat, facing Jeff once again.
“Congratulations on two in a row, Huang,” Jeff says as the castaways stand back at the mat in the aftermath of the challenge. “Come on down.”
Huang smiles as he joins Jeff across from the rest of the tribe. The host puts a hand on the stunt driver’s shoulder.
“You’ve got a nice, relaxing day ahead of you at the hot springs. It would be a shame for you to have this wonderful experience and nobody to share it with. Why don’t you go ahead and choose two of your tribemates to join you?”
“Two, okay,” Huang says, crossing his arms as he thinks. “Well, first of all I’m gonna take someone who gave me a real run for my money, and that’s Sheena.”
“Cool, thanks,” Sheena says, smiling as she heads over to join Huang, thanking him with a heartfelt hug. Nick clicks his tongue, clearly not impressed.
“Alright, one more person,” Jeff says.
“Uh, alright, well, I would love to take everyone, obviously,” Huang says, “but I feel like there’s one person in this group who really lives for luxury, and it would be a shame for them to miss out, so Hannah Bannana, it’s gotta be you.”
“AHHHH!!!! YAAAASSSSSSS!!!” Hannah shrieks, bouncing up and down in glee. She runs over and leaps into Huang’s arms. “Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!” she gushes.
“Well, that settles it,” Jeff says. “Huang, Sheena, Hannah, the three of you have a great day ahead of you, but before you head out, Huang, there’s one more order of business.”
Huang nods in understanding.
“You also will need to pick one of your remaining tribemates to go to Exile Island,” Jeff reminds. “Who’s it gonna be?”
“Well, this person and I have already talked about this,” Huang says, “and they know it’s purely strategic and nothing personal, I know they’re tough enough to handle it out there, so Uncle Vinnie, go do us proud.”
“You know it, chief,” Vince says, nodding. He heads up to Jeff, who has produced a map in hand.
“Vince, this is for you, it will direct you to Exile Island,” Jeff says, handing him the parchment. “You will rejoin your tribemates at the next immunity challenge.”
“As long as I get to come back sometime,” Vince smiles. “Have the time of your lives, kids,” he says, clapping Huang on the shoulder.
“Thanks Vinnie,” Huang smiles.
“Take care everyone!” Vince calls, waving as he heads off.
“Good luck Vincent!” Charlotte calls back.
“Alright,” Jeff says, “Huang, Sheena, Hannah, you guys hang here, your ride will be here shortly to take you to the hot springs. As for the rest of you guys, I’ve got nothing for you. Grab your stuff and head back to camp.”
“Have a great time, everyone,” Tallulah says, waving to the reward winners as the group heads out.
Huang, Sheena, and Hannah approach a picturesque wooden facility in the heights of the mountains. At the higher altitude, the summer has already fully given way to the cold, and a soft coating of snow bathes the surroundings in wintery white, making the woodland cottage all the more picturesque.
Huang enters the spa resort with a huge grin on his face, walking with Sheena on one arm and Hannah on the other.
“How cute is this?” Hannah squeals. “Oh my goood!”
“Huang, thank you so much!” Sheena says, giving Huang a giant hug. “I can’t believe I’m inside of like, a real building right now!” she laughs. “How weird does this feel?”
Sheena and Hannah, clad in big, fluffy bathrobes, head out onto a wooden deck, overlooking the mountainside scenery with a breathtaking view. In the center of the deck is a large, shallow pool, steam rising from the surface.
“Look at this view,” Sheena says with a whistle.
“Right?” Hannah says. “How beautiful is this, oh my god!”
“Oh my god!” Hannah says, pointing. “Is that our camp?”
“What?” Sheena asks, “Hannah, that’s a town!”
“Oh,” Hannah says, frowning. “I guess it looked kind of alike.”
Sheena makes pleading eye contact with the camera.
Sitting now in the hot spring, Sheena unfurls the bun on top of her head and slips under the water, bubbles coming up in front of her face. She pops back up and sighs with relaxation, sliding back to rest against the side.
“This is unbelieeevable,” Hannah purrs.
“Let’s never go back,” Sheena says.
“Please,” Hannah agrees.
“Hey girls,” Huang says, walking out his own bathrobe. He grins cockily as he undoes the sash around his waist and shrugs the robe off. Hannah’s jaw drops, her hand popping up over her mouth when she catches herself. Sheena’s eyes flash briefly.
Perhaps not so casually, Huang lifts his arms above his head, stretching out, his pelvis dipping forward ever so slightly. Hannah bites down on her nails with an almost violent amount of force.
“Did they not have anything in your size?” Sheena chuckles.
“What?” Huang asks, flashing a knowing grin.
“It’s just I wouldn’t have pegged you as a speedo guy,” Sheena says, her whole body under the water except her head.
“I work hard on my body,” Huang says with a shrug. “I don’t see any reason to hide it,” he smiles, striking a pose, flexing his arms over his head and pointing. Sheena rolls her eyes while Hannah turns beet red.
“Oh no, of course not,” Sheena says. “I mean, do what you want,” she says, trying her best to look disinterested.
Out in the village, a donkey brays loudly.
Hannah lies face down on a massage table inside of the spa facility, where a masseuse runs her hands down Hannah’s back, oil glistening on her naked skin.
While Hannah is enjoying her massage, Sheena and Huang sit out in a lounge, both clad in bathrobes, glasses of wine in hand.
“So you two girls seem like you’re pretty close,” Huang says, taking a large gulp of his wine.
“I mean, we’re all pretty close, as a tribe,” Sheena says. “It’s like with your tribe, you get it. You’re with these people for long enough and like or not, you just kind of grow on each other. Hannah’s like the kid sister of the group.”
“She’s the kid sister?” Huang asks. “Isn’t she older than you?”
“She’s gonna be 29 in a few days,” Sheena says. “She hasn’t stopped reminding me. “But she’s got the younger sister vibe, it’s just her personality, yeah?”
“Totally,” Huang says. “And Nick? You guys are pretty close, right?” Huang asks. “You into him?”
Sheena laughs. “Oh f*ck off, no,” she assures. “He’s like my brother, ew. No sort of romance there. Besides, he’s in a relationship.”
“That’s what guys always say,” Huang teases.
“Shut up,” Sheena laughs, playfully pushing Huang’s shoulder. “You’re so annoying!”
“You know you like it,” Huang smiles. “But like, seriously. I know you have a game plan of some sort.”
“Yeah, but that’s none of your business,” Sheena says, followed by a sip of her own drink.
“Fair point,” Huang says, “but it doesn’t need to be my business, necessarily. I just want you to know that whatever they are, if you’re looking for options, you know, just to be on the safe side, I think the two of us could do a lot of damage together.”
“I think I know someone sucking up when I see it,” Sheena mocks.
“Ow,” Huang says, grabbing his chest, pretending to be pained. “That wounds me. I wouldn’t say I’m sucking up, though… I’d say I’m presenting you with an opportunity.”
“And what opportunity is that?” Sheena says. “To ditch my entire tribe and vote with you?”
“I mean, it would be nice,” Huang chuckles. “But seriously, I don’t expect anything like that. Think of it as an opportunity to have another option in at your disposal. I’d be down to do whatever you think is best, honestly.”
“What do you think is best?” Sheena asks. “Let’s say I don’t go after you guys. Who would you want to see gone?”
“I mean, there’s a way that you can get rid of someone who doesn’t belong to either tribe, not really,” Huang says.
“Olivia,” Sheena replies.
“Exactly,” Huang says. “Look, you have the numbers over us. But you know you can’t trust her. She’s not going to let you get to the end.”
“Did she say something to you?” Sheena asks.
“No,” Huang tells her. “But like, you’re not a stupid girl, Sheena. She’s a f*cking wildcard.”
“Plus… okay, let me put it this way,” Huang continues. “I know I’m kind of on a sinking ship, and I’m just looking to find a lifeboat, you know? Like, it would mean a lot to me, and you know, to Charlotte and Vinnie too if we could make it further than her.”
“I’m assuming you’d be helping me make that happen?” Sheena asks.
“Honestly, I’m willing to help you out with whatever you decide you want to do,” Huang says, “as long as I’m able to stick it out somehow, I’m definitely open to whatever you have to suggest.”
The remainder of the Romanov Tribe returns to the campsite post-reward. Nick chucks his bag carelessly, clearly annoyed. Tallulah and Maurice share a look as Nick goes sulking towards the shelter, where he collapses on his stomach with an annoyed grunt.
“That was a rough one, huh?” Maurice says, lying down next to him.
“It’s so f*cking annoying!” Nick snaps. “Who the f*ck is Huang, seriously?”
“It’s only been two challenges, man,” Maurice says. “There’s no way he’s can win ‘em all.”
“It’s just an annoying situation, that’s all,” Nick sighs. “Especially because like, okay, what was up with the people he picked?”
“He’s trying to save himself,” Maurice says. “I mean, you kind of have to figure that’s what he’d do.”
“It’s so gutless,” Nick sneers. “Like it’s just a no class move.”
“Yeah,” Maurice says flatly, clearly not really agreeing. “Are you gonna be alright?”
“I just need some time to myself, I think,” Nick says, burying his face into his balled up hoodie.
“That’s fair, man,” Maurice says, standing up. “If you need to talk bud, I’m here.”
“Thanks cowboy,” Nick grumbles.
“He’s being huffy?” Tallulah whispers to Maurice as he sits down at the fire next to her.
“Mhm,” Maurice nods. “I’m surprised. I didn’t think he’d care so much about, you know, getting pampered like that. Seems a little hoity-toity for his liking.”
“It’s not the reward he’s hot under the collar about,” Tallulah says. “It’s who got to go instead.”
“He’s really that mad Hannah got to go, you think?” Maurice asks.
“Hannah’s not his problem. It’s Sheena.”
“I figure he’d be happy for her,” Maurice shrugs.
Tallulah shakes her head. “When Hugo and Ursula were little,” she begins, “and it was just the two of them? I gotten them a tricycle. We only had the one, I ain’t had tricycle money just lying around, they had to share. And Hugo, being the oldest, he hadn’t had to share when it was just him. And she he hated that he had to share now. So even if he wasn’t riding the tricycle, he did not want his sister to go and ride it. Just because he didn’t want to share.”
“But it taught him a lesson,” Tallulah continues. “He could have really hurt his sister, and that little boy had his sweet side, they always do,” she smiles. “He realized how little the tricycle mattered in the big picture, compared to his baby sister.”
Maurice nods, smiling. “I don’t think Sheena would take it well if she heard you was referring to her as the village tricycle,” he jokes.
“Boy,” Tallulah laughs, smacking him playfully, “Get up and get me some firewood. Go.”
“Alright, alright!” Maurice says, feigning protest as he stands up.
As Tallulah and Maurice talk, Charlotte can’t help but listen in from the kitchen table.
“I couldn’t help but overhear that story,” Charlotte says, taking a seat across from Tallulah as Maurice makes his way off into the woods.
“I’m sure you have one like it,” says Tallulah.
“I think every mother does,” Charlotte says. “Kids are wonderful, but they’re crazy.”
“It’s like doing it again out here, isn’t it?” Tallulah chuckles.
“It really is,” Charlotte laughs in agreement.
“It would be nice,” Charlotte says, “if we could make it to the end together, the two of us, wouldn’t it? We could really prove what’s what to all the people out there who wouldn’t expect to see it, huh?”
“We sure would,” Tallulah agrees, smiling warmly. “It would be lovely,” Tallulah says, her tone hardening, “if there was a way to make it happen. And I don’t think that’s out there right now.”
“At least hear me out?” Charlotte asks.
“The floor is yours,” Tallulah says, checking the pot of boiling water.
“Well, the end is a little far off, maybe I got ahead of myself there, ” Charlotte admits, “but I think at the very least I’m worth you keeping around for a little longer.”
“Why is that?” Tallulah asks, half-interested.
“Well for one, I’m a lot less drama than Nick,” Charlotte says. “You have the numbers at this point—do you really want to keep someone with a bad attitude like that any longer than you have to?”
“Of course I want to keep him,” Tallulah says. “I’m remaining loyal to Koryok, Charlotte. That’s the long and short of it. You know just as well as I do you can’t re-choose the kids you have just because they botherin’ you.”
“These aren’t your children,” Charlotte says, “they are your competition. Do you think Sheena is going to take you to the end? She’s going to cut your throat. She’s the one to beat and you know it.”
“I absolutely trust that Sheena would take me to the end of this game,” Tallulah says. “I am certain of that. And furthermore, yes, I do realize they ain’t my children. But that is my tribe, and I am loyal to them. I hope you would understand that.”
“I do understand,” Charlotte sighs, “but I have to try, right?”
“I don’t expect anything otherwise,” Tallulah says.
As Maurice heads off into the woods, Olivia observes him from her seat on the swing.
Maurice works the axe into a sapling, sweat bubbling on his forehead as he swings the tool. With a final swing, the small tree goes down.
“Hey,” Olivia says, approaching as Maurice wipes his face with his buff. “I was hoping you wouldn’t mind talking for a moment?”
“Sure,” Maurice says, putting his buff back around his wrist. “What’s up?”
“Well…” Olivia begins.
“—that you guys want to work with me,” Olivia finishes.
“Oh, she told you that?” Maurice says, processing the information.
“She didn’t tell you yet, did she?” Olivia asks, frowning.
“Uh, well no, she didn’t, but uh, I’m glad she came and did it,” Maurice says, smiling. “We’ve been talking about it, you know? We just… we both feel like it makes sense.”
“Y’know, for me, it’s like… here’s the thing,” Maurice says, trying to find his words. “I was almost voted out of this game the very first Tribal Council, and that scared the bejeesus out of me. I figured I’d be seen as competition at some point, but… shoot, not right off the bat. So my whole thing is like, I want to play with the other threats, because I feel like there’s safety in numbers.”
“And you think I’m a threat?” Olivia asks.
“You tell me how many times you’ve had your name written down,” Maurice says. “I mean, no offense, but you kind of have picked up a reputation for being a wild card.”
Olivia nods, trying to decide how she feels about what Maurice is saying.
“I’m not saying it in a bad way,” Maurice continues. “It takes balls to do what you did, flip from one tribe to the other. You didn’t know what you were walking into and you’re still here now. You’re playing hard, and I respect that. But it is something that people take note of.”
“It’s just frustrating,” Olivia says. “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything that weird or out of the ordinary that anyone else wouldn’t do. Like, I don’t even feel like I flipped on Yenisei. I didn’t promise any of them anything, I was never aligned with Charlotte or Zeke or f*cking Uncle Vinnie, you know? I just got put there on the first day, I never wanted to be there. So I go where I want and like… that’s not a big move, that’s not a betrayal! It was just me not working with people who don’t like me!”
“I understand that,” Maurice says, “but it’s a perception and people have it. Look, if you don’t want to work with me, just say so—”
“—that’s not what I said,” Olivia says.
“It’s just no one is gonna win this game if they ain’t thinking ahead,” Maurice says. “That’s all I’m trying to do, and I think I got a better shot with you than with some other folks and I’m just trying to be forthcoming with you about the reasons why.”
With the sun having fallen, the blaze of the campfire has now become the main light source in camp. While most of the tribe snoozes in the shelter, Maurice sits at fire, bundled in his coat. His eyes narrow as he tries to make out figures in the distance.
“Well hey y’all!” he waves. “Welcome back!”
“Thanks!” Sheena says as she, Huang and Hannah re-enter the camp. From within the shelter, other castaways emerge. Tallulah appears sleepy as she appears, followed by Olivia and Charlotte.
“How was it?” Tallulah asks as she greets Hannah with a welcoming hug.
“Oh my godddddd-duh!” Hannah says. “Uh-mah-zing.”
“Tell us everything,” Tallulah says.
“Yeah, please!” Maurice agrees. “We finally have something new to talk about!”
“Are you sure?” Huang asks. “I don’t want to like, rub anything in anyone’s face…”
“Spare no detail, seriously,” Tallulah says. “What else are we gonna talk about? Besides Huang, you won fair and square. Enjoy it.”
“Well, let’s see,” Hannah says, taking a seat. “We got there and immediately, boom, greeted by these uh, well… greeters, I guess? Drinks in our hands immediately…”
As Huang talks, Sheena can’t help but look over at the shelter, obviously aware that one member of the tribe hasn’t joined them.
“Is Nick in there?” she whispers to Tallulah.
“Mhm,” nods Tallulah. “He’s been cranky today, I’d leave him be.”
Sheena sighs and rolls her eyes.
“It was just so relieving to finally feel clean for once,” Hannah says.
“Smell her hair!” Huang encourages to Maurice, as he leans over and takes a whiff of Hannah’s blonde locks.
“Oh man!,” Maurice chuckles. “Wow. I forgot what soap smells like.”
“I feel like an Herbal Essence commercial,” Hannah says, doing a dramatic hair twirl. “Yes, yes!” she moans with over-exaggeration.
“You know, some of us are trying to sleep!” Nick barks, peeking his head out of the shelter.
“Oh my god!” Hannah squeaks. “I’m sorry!”
“Just keep it down, okay?” Nick grumbles, slinking back into the yurt. Maurice gives a look to Tallulah and Sheena. Sheena rolls her eyes in aggravation.
The early morning sun bounces off the gentle flow of the river, creating a glittering sheen on the water’s surface. Along the shoreline, Charlotte and Nick sit together, watching the sun as it rises.
“Well, basically, what I think,” Charlotte says, “is that your chances, quite frankly, are better with us.”
“Is that what you think?” Nick says sarcastically.
“I’m serious,” Charlotte says. “It doesn’t make sense for you to work with them much longer, you know? Especially not Sheena, when she’s the biggest threat in the whole game.”
“What makes Sheena such a big threat?” Nick asks, clearly annoyed. “Everyone’s always saying that!”
“Well you know her better than anyone here,” Charlotte says. “Do you think, in the core of your heart, that you can beat her?”
Nick crosses his arms very tightly.
“It doesn’t matter,” Nick says. “If the two of us are at the end together… that’s a victory. That’s what you were going to do with Zeke, right?”
“No,” Charlotte says, after a long pause. “It’s not. As much as it would have hurt me to do it, I’d have voted Zeke out.”
Nick’s eyes narrow, and his jaw drops slightly. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” He says.
“I am,” Charlotte tells him, looking ashamed. “I can beat Vincent, I think. Nobody could beat Zeke. That’s part of why I was so… so emotional when he went home.” Her eyes blur with tears briefly, but she blinks them away. “A part of me was glad to see him sent home by y’all ‘cause it meant I didn’t have to be the one to do it myself. And I still feel kind of guilty over it.”
“Wow,” Nick says. “I’m just… I’m thrown a little. I just… didn’t see you as someone who’d be willing to play that kind of game, is all.”
“Based on what?” Charlotte asks. “What Olivia said about me?”
“Well, yeah…” Nick says.
“I find that interesting,” Charlotte says, “because I’ve always thought of you as someone who doesn’t rely on other people’s opinions to decide what they think. You’re someone who likes to make up his own mind on things.”
Nick can’t help but react ever so slightly.
“I know none of y’all are stupid,” Charlotte continues. “I’ve been trying to talk with all of y’all, just to see if there’s any sort of way I can save myself, and I’ve basically heard the same story from everyone—Koryok is going to stay together, six strong, and when it’s just the six, the cards fall where they may. And I’m sorry, but this is a game for a million dollars, Nick. The stakes are too high for me to believe that no one has planned even farther ahead than just six. How sure are you that you have a place saved at the end of this game?”
“I mean, Sheena and I have been working together from the start,” Nick says, “and I trust her.”
“I know you trust her, Nick—but can you win against her?”
“I mean…” Nick says, trailing off, clearly lost in thought.
“What about Maurice? No way, sorry to tell you. That boy is an angel, what jury wouldn’t pick him?”
“I don’t know that he’s an angel,” Nick says.
“And Tallulah? No one could beat her, absolutely no one,” Charlotte says. “Do you think you have a better argument than ‘I’m 63 and I made it 39 days against all of these young, fit competitors?’”
“I’m playing way harder than Tallulah” Nick says. “That counts for something.”
“Does it?” Charlotte asks.
“Okay, so let’s say you’re right,” Nick continues. “Let’s say I’m boned if I stick with my tribe, what do I have to gain with you? You and Vince and Huang won’t keep me, the three of you will stick together. I’m not jumping from the bottom of one alliance to another, what does that do for me?”
“Would I stick with Vince and Huang?” Charlotte says. “Huang has to go at some point. I love him dearly, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to go eventually.”
“You said you thought you could beat Vince, though,” Nick says.
“I think I could beat you too,” Charlotte says.
“Well why would I stick with you then if I can’t win?” Nick asks.
“I think maybe you could beat me, too. We stand a better shot together than either of us do with other people,” Charlotte says. “I’m sure you and Olivia aren’t the only ones who don’t like me.”
“I never said I don’t like you,” Nick says.
“I can tell you don’t,” Charlotte responds. “But you don’t need to like someone to work with them.”
“If you think it over and decide that it’s not in your best interest,” Charlotte says, “ I want you to know I don’t blame you. But I’m on the bottom, Nick. I have to try.”
“I’d be trying too,” Nick says. “I’d be trying too.”
Up at the campfire, Maurice sits with Tallulah, watching the shelter warily as Tallulah puts the tea kettle over the flame.
“So I had a funny thing happen to me the other day,” Maurice whispers, “with Olivia.”
“Oh goodness,” Tallulah says, massaging her temples. “Darling, I’m so sorry, I should have made a point of pulling you aside and telling you sooner.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Maurice says. “I played along, but… what’s the big picture here?”
“Sheena was feeling very uneasy once you got exiled,” Tallulah says. “It was her idea. Pitch another deal to Olivia and keep her loyal.”
“I figured it was something like that,” Maurice sighs. “Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess. Do you really think she’d have flipped, though?”
“It’s hard to say,” Tallulah says. “Some of these folks are easy to pick apart, you know? But not her. I just didn’t think it was worth not doing and having her jump ship. It would have been Sheena taking the fall for it, and I wasn’t okay with that.”
“Yeah,” Maurice says.
At that moment, Sheena emerges from the shelter.
“Hey, morning,” she says, groggily.
“Morning,” Tallulah says as well, greeting her with a hug as she comes over to take her seat. “You sleep well?”
“Like a baby after that massage,” Sheena says.
“I’m glad to hear you got something out of the reward, then,” Tallulah says with a smile.
“Where’s Nicky?” Sheena asks, scratching her head as she comes to further wake.
“Darned if I know,” Tallulah says with a shrug.
“Alright, well, I’m not waiting around for him to get back,” Sheena says. “I want to talk while we have the chance.”
“Go for it,” Maurice says.
“So like, Huang and I talked for a long time yesterday, about a lot of stuff,” Sheena says. “And I think he had some legitimately good points that I hadn’t considered, and I wanted to bring them to you guys and see what you think.”
“I’m assuming those points would involve not voting him out,” Tallulah says flatly.
“I mean I figured that was self-evident,” Sheena responds.
“Sheena,” Maurice sighs.
“What?” Sheena asks, looking taken aback.
“I mean, that’s obviously what he wants, for us to not go after him,” Maurice says. “Please don’t fall for his bull.”
“Okay, first of all, no,” Sheena says, “I’m not falling for anything. A good point is a good point, no matter who it’s coming from, so can you please just hear me out before you jump to conclusions?”
“Sure,” Maurice says, relaxing a little. “I’m just… I feel like we got to be wary with them, you know? They’ll be trying whatever they can try to break us.”
“I know, I know,” Sheena assures, “but this doesn’t involve breaking us at all. Basically, what I’m thinking is…”
“So who would we vote out next, if Huang is going to stay around?” Maurice asks. “You wanna go for Olivia again?”
“We’ll still be up over Yenisei by two people without her,” Sheena says. “And I just hate hate hate that idol. Plus, I really think the Yeniseis are totally over her, and we could use their numbers to take her out without putting ourselves at risk. With their three for Olivia, that frees up some of our votes to go on Vince or Charlotte, just in case Olivia does play the idol.”
“I think we have to consider long and hard if we can trust those three,” Tallulah says, “but I am inclined to believe that you’re right. I don’t see them going out of their way to save her.”
“So would it be Vince or Charlotte as backup?” Maurice asks.
“Well, the way I see it,” Sheena says, “the shelter’s done, what do we need the architect for any more?”
“I’m just tired of getting bossed around and snapped at,” Sheena says, combing through her hair with a forked stick. “I’m actually really glad he’s been at Exile so I don’t have to hear it.”
“I just hope he’s okay out there,” Maurice says. “It was a cold one last night.”
“He’s resourceful, if nothing else,” Tallulah says. “I’m sure he’s fine.”
The winds whip across the empty steppes as Vince sits leaning against the Ovoo, staring into the fire.
Vince sighs as he looks over a piece of parchment.
With a groan, Vince stands up and begins to wander off into the distance.
With a long stick in hand as a walking stick, Vince heads out towards an area of the grasslands where the earth slopes upward. With grim determination and slow paces, he works his way up the hill. At the peak, his eyes widen in wonder as he looks out at the incredible view of the land, the endless sea of grass sliced cleanly by the gently trickling river.
“Holy sh*t,” Vince breathes.
Perhaps the most incredible part of the view is the dzeren—the Mongolian gazelle—that are moving across the steppes. The herd numbers in the thousands, the tawny beats galloping almost in unison as they surge over the plains, a river in their own right.
Vince can only smile as he observes the gazelles traveling, safe in their many numbers.
“I wish I had my family here to see this,” Vince says to no one in particular. “They’d love this. My grandson, Mason, he loves animals. Loves ‘em. We like to take him to the zoo, me and CeCe, and he’ll point to all the animals from his stroller and tell us what they are.” His face reddens as the tears well in his eyes.
“This is a magical place, Siberia. It’s truly magical.”
“I wish Zeke could have come here,” Vince sighs to himself as the herd of gazelle finish vanishing across the horizon. As late day sun burns almost neon orange, Vince makes his way back towards the Ovoo, seeking the minimal shelter offered by the ancient stone structure.
“Come on in guys!”
The players make their way into the challenge arena, Huang surveying the challenge, the immunity necklace worn across his chest. He and the others take their place at the mat.
“We’ll now bring in Vince, returning from Exile Island,” Jeff announces as Vince enters from the surrounding woods.
“That was something else out there, let me tell you!” Vince says with a smile as he rejoins the group. Charlotte gives him a welcoming hug as he takes his place at the mat.
“Alright, you guys ready to get to today’s immunity challenge?” Jeff asks. With the blessings of the players, he continues. “First thing’s first: Huang, I need you to give back the immunity necklace.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Huang says, walking over to Jeff, taking the necklace off as he approaches. “Here you go, Probst,” he says as he hands the necklace off. Jeff places it atop its stand.
“Once again, Immunity is back up for grabs. For today’s challenge, you will throw a grappling hook as you attempt to grab three bags of balls. The first four castaways to finish will move on to the second round, where you will navigate one of those balls through a table maze. If your ball drops through a hole, you’ll start again. The first person to finish their maze will win immunity and be safe at tonight’s vote, guaranteed a one-in-eight shot at a million dollars. Worth playing for?”
“You have no idea!” laughs Huang.
“Alright,” Jeff nods. “We’ll draw for spots and then go ahead and get started.”
The castaways stand in line, rope and hook in hand.
“SURVIVORS READY? GO!”
The game is on. The contestants each begin to take their first tosses, attempting to get a feel for the unsual tool.
“Huang close, but short,” Jeff notes. “Nick barely misses.”
“Ugh, come on,” Nick grumbles, winding his hook back.
Maurice throws his, a look of intense focus in his eyes. It lands just over the rope of his first bag. He begins to pull his rope back in, the bag hooked.
“There we go,” Maurice smiles.
“Maurice with his first bag,” Jeff notes.
“Eee-yaaah!” Hannah grunts, giving her rope a huge, two handed toss. She accidentally lets go and throws away the entire thing.
“Oh my god,” she groans, laughing at her mistake as she runs out to get her grappling hook.
“Huang with his first bag,” Jeff notes as Huang hooks one of the bags. “Sheena gets one. Olivia has her first bag, Nick gets his first bag!” Jeff calls as each player manages to catch their bag, quickly pulling the ropes back in so they can take their next shot.
Maurice swings his with deft expertise, taking a clean shot. The hook sails through the air and lands perfectly, hooking the second bag. Maurice smiles as he pulls it in.
“Maurice in the lead with two!” Jeff observes. “He needs one more to move on.”
“Urgh!” Huang grunts as he throws his hook. It lands deep, but to the side of his bag.
“That’s a good toss for Huang, but can he get it to his bag?” Jeff wonders.
Huang gives his rope a big tug, flipping the hook up and off the ground, moving it behind his target. He pulls carefully and snags the bag.
“There we go baby!” Huang says.
“Huang now with his second bag!” Jeff observes. “Charlotte, Vince, Tallulah with their first. Hannah is the only one not on the board.”
“It’s not like I have a lot of practice with a grabbling hook!” she whines.
“Just a little more,” Sheena whispers to herself, angling her rope. She is able to get her bag.
“Sheena with her second bag!” Jeff says.
With another great throw, Maurice nails his third bag. With huge effort, he drags the bag across the throw line.
“Maurice with three! Maurice moving on!” Jeff notes.
“Alright!” Olivia says, catching her second bag.
“Olivia now with two!” Jeff observes.
“Oh come on!” groans Huang missing a shot. Seeing her chance, Sheena throws her grappling hook.
“Suck on that, Donkey Huang,” she taunts, pulling in her third bag.
“Sheena moving on!” Jeff calls. “We have two more spots!”
Hooks fly and land across the course, some catching and others missing. Tallulah pulls in a second bag, as does Vince. Hannah finally gets her first. With another strong shot, Huang finally gets his final bag.
“Huang moving on!” Jeff says. “We have one more spot left!”
“Woo!” Nick cheers for himself, catching his second bag, his pace now rapidly increasing.
“Nick, Tallulah, Olivia, Vince all at two, we’re looking for one more!” Jeff notes.
With a final winning toss, Olivia claims the last bag.
“Olivia moving on to the final round! That’s it, this round is over!” Jeff calls. “Vince, Hannah, Charlotte, Nick, Tallulah, no shot at immunity.”
“Pft,” Vince grumbles, tossing his hook in the distance.
Maurice, Sheena, Huang and Olivia stand at their mazes, ready to proceed with the second part of the challenge.
“First one to finish their maze wins immunity,” Jeff reminds.
“SURVIVORS READY? GO!”
At the same time, four balls drop into the four mazes, each of the contenders trying their best to quickly pick up the best way to work the table.
“Woah,” chuckles Maurice as he jigs his table, the ball rolling through a hole and down, out of the maze.
“Already Maurice has dropped,” Jeff said. “Huang doing a good job. Sheena right on his tail,” Jeff says. Sure enough, the two of them have both managed to quickly navigate through the first quarter of the maze.
“How on….” Maurice sighs, placing his ball again.
“Sheena around a tricky corner,” Jeff notes, “putting her even with Huang. Huang now slowing down.”
“Slow and steady wins the race,” Huang comments.
“It’s come down to Sheena and Huang in the last two challenges,” Jeff notes. “Huang would love to keep his winning streak going. Sheena would love to take a win for herself.”
“Oh rats!” mutters Olivia, dropping through a hole.
“Olivia has to start over,” Jeff observes. “Maurice now starting to get the hang of it.”
“Hey, there we go,” Maurice laughs softly to himself.
Over on the sit-out bench, most of the castaways are raptly following the challenge, but Vince is whispering into Charlotte’s ear.
As Sheena works on her maze, she comes to a complicated corner. She pauses, thinking through her move, but as she goes to execute it, she realizes she’s miscalcualted. She quickly jerks the maze in the other direction. The ball slides away from the edge of a hole, but rolls backwards through the maze.
“F*ck,” Sheena swears.
“Sheena now going backwards, giving an opening for Huang,” Jeff observes.
“Eh, forget slow and steady,” Huang mutters, seeing an opportunity to make a big move. He pitches the table, making it through a tricky corner, and quickly jerks the table in the opposite direction.
“Huang makes a huge leap forward,” Jeff notes.
Now back to the difficult corner she struggled at earlier, Sheena manages to pass the obstacle this time. Just like Huang, she jerks the table and surges forward.
“And just like that, we’re even again,” Jeff says. “Olivia going very slowly, but not dropping. Maurice trying to get back in this.”
“Here we go baby,” Huang says, nearing the end of the maze.
Sheena says nothing, her focus like a lazer. With firm hands, she bucks the table, once again making a huge surge forward.
“Yes,” she whispers to herself, closing in on the end.
“Huang and Sheena, both closing in on the end of that maze,” Jeff says. “There are still obstacles, it would be a terrible time to drop. You have to move ever so carefully.”
With baited breath, the other castaways watch from the bench. With a satisfying click, one ball rolls into it’s final resting place, solving the maze and ending the challenge.
“SHEENA! WINS IMMUNITY!”
“AWWW YEAH!” Sheena exclaims, jumping up and down in jubilation. “It’s about time, baby!” She says.
“THATTA WAY TO DO IT SHEENA!” Nick cheers from the sit out bench.
She approaches Huang, and the two share a congratulatory handshake and hug. Over on the bench, Charlotte and Vince share a disappointed look.
With another challenge concluded, the contesants once again take their places in front of Jeff, standing in wait for the victory ceremony.
“You’ve been close to that W in a few challenges now,” Jeff says, “I’m sure you’re glad to have it this time, Sheena. Come on over and try this on,” he invites.
Sheena walks over proudly and stands in front of Jeff as he places the necklace across her shoulders.
“Oh this feels nice,” Sheena smiles as she admires the necklace. Jeff pats her on the shoulder.
“This means tonight, Sheena, you are safe. As for the rest of you, that’s not the case. Tonight one of you will become the eighth person voted out—as well as the first member of our jury. You have the rest of the afternoon to figure out who that will be. Grab your stuff and head back to camp. I’ll see you at Tribal Council.”
The Romanovs return to camp, the challenge having wrapped. Sheena brims with confidence as she steps into the campsite with the Immunity Necklace draped over her shoulders.
“Hey Sheena, great job today,” Huang congratulates.
“Yeah, that was pretty awesome, Nick says, giving Sheena a hug.
Huang and Sheena stand together in the forest.
“So I mean, I don’t know if you know this—I’m only telling you because I just found out—but did you know there are two idols?” Huang asks.
Sheena nods. “I did. I’ve been there, so… yeah. Vince told you?”
“Yeah, as soon as we got back,” Huang says. “I just wanted to make sure you knew because I think there’s a really, really big possibility Olivia has both of them.”
“Yes,” Sheena says, nodding. “I have definitely thought about that as well,” she laughs. “I really want to make sure she’s out of here tonight. Can you make sure that all three of you guys are putting her name down?”
“It’s a done deal,” Huang smiles. “I promise you, none of us want her here. I mean, like… dude, she left us high and dry. She’s made it clear she wants nothing to do with me, so I don’t want anything to do with her.”
Later, elsewhere in the woods, Sheena and Nick talk.
“So okay,” Sheena says, “here’s the thing—I know you like her Nick, but I think that like… we have to do Olivia tonight. We just haaaave to.”
“What? Why?” Nick asks, making a face. “Are you really that freaked out by her idol?”
“Yes!” Sheena exclaims, looking stunned. “I am!”
“Okay, well I don’t think that makes sense when Huang is vulnerable,” Nick says. “I mean, he’s exposed right now. We don’t know when we’ll have another shot at him.”
“There’s no waaaay he’s going to like, win all the rest of them,” Sheena says. “I beat him today and I’ll do it again. This is the perfect time to get Olivia without her seeing it coming. Huang is a big, juicy target. she’s totally going to expect that we’re going for him. She’ll have no idea it’s her.”
“Yeah, I’m not comfortable with that,” Nick says, crossing his arms.
“Well I don’t know what to tell you, because we’ve talked about it and it’s what everyone wants,” Sheena says.
“Who’s we, who’s everyone?” Nick asks, clearly offended. “TM and Maurice?”
“I’m sorry we didn’t have the discussion with you there, but you know how hard it is to get four people in one spot at the same time without everyone noticing,” Sheena says. “I promise, you were not purposefully excluded from anything. But it’s a move that all three of us think is for the best.”
“How do you know it’s for the best if I haven’t gotten to make my argument?” Nick says. “I haven’t even had a chance to put my opinion out there!”
“The Yeniseis are going to vote for Olivia,” Sheena continues to explain. “So that puts three votes on her. I’m telling Olivia that the target is Vince, and then we’ll put two more votes on him, just to be safe. That way if she does, for whatever reason, play the idol, Vince goes home.”
“Wait, wait,” Nick says, looking frustrated. “Why is Vince getting the votes? Let’s say I decide I’m okay with this whole plan, first of all—wouldn’t we split the votes between Olivia and Huang? Why Vince?
“Why not Vince?” Sheena says. “Honestly, I’m more worried about him in challenges. If it’s something athletic, I know that I can take Huang in that. But what if something comes up that’s in his wheelhouse? He’s a big reason why Yenisei won so many of those challenges before the merge. Not to mention he’s just… driving me up the wall,” she huffs.
Tallulah sits at the campfire, when Nick approaches, frantic and irritable.
“Can we go talk somewhere?” he asks.
“Of course, of course,” Tallulah says, standing to come and join Nick as the two of them head off.
Once the two of them are into the forest, Nick immediately begins to talk.
“Did you guys all get together and make a plan without me?” he asks, clearly annoyed.
“No,” Tallulah says, “of course not!”
“Well that’s how Sheena’s making it seem, and I have to just be straight up here, I’m not appreciating being strong-armed by my own alliance!” Nick says.
“Nobody is being strong-armed into anything,” Tallulah says, shaking her head. “What did she say to you?
“She said you guys had already talked about it and decided on what was happening,” Nick grumbles.
“We talked,” Tallulah said, “but if Sheena thinks that means we’ve all decided as an alliance then she has misunderstood, I promise. You are not being left out, Nick. Your voice matters. It matters to me.”
“Ugh,” Nick sighs. “Thanks, TM.”
“He’s freaking out, Sheena,” Tallulah says to Sheena, as the two of them stand together off in the meadow.
“Yeah, I f*cking know,” Sheena says. “That’s just freaking me out.”
“I know this isn’t what you were hoping for,” Tallulah says, “but I think it’s better that we vote against Huang tonight, instead of Olivia. He has to go sooner or later. Doing it now is going to be better for the harmony of the alliance.”
“I just think it’s kind of bullsh*t,” Sheena says. “There are four of us, three of us want to do one thing, so why does the one person who doesn’t want that get their way? It’s not fair.”
“Three of us don’t want the same thing, not anymore,” Tallulah says. “Now is not the time to get pushy with what you want, dear.”
“You’re taking his side? Tallulah, come on!” Sheena says, exasperated.
“I am taking our side. As in the side of this alliance,” Tallulah says, making a circular motion with her finger to indicate broad inclusiveness. “The other side is Yenisei, not Nick. We all want the same thing darling, and that is what is going to get the four of us to the top.”
“That’s what I want too,” Sheena insists. “And I know that Olivia and her idol are a bigger threat to that goal than Huang is.”
“I swear, the only reason he has a problem is because it’s my idea,” Sheena grumbles.
“You know that’s not his reason,” Tallulah says. She puts her hands on Sheena’s shoulders and soothingly gives them a rub. “I know we both can see there is good in that boy’s heart, Sheena. And I also know that he is so, so sensitive. This is a game. And games are supposed to be what?”
Sheena sighs. “Fun,” Sheena says. “Games should be fun.”
“You got your turn to win one today,” Tallulah says. “I think Nick could really use a win too.”
“What does Maurice think?” Sheena asks.
“We’d have to ask him,” Tallulah says. “I’m not involving him in anything else without asking his opinion, not anymore.”
Charlotte stands at the kitchen table with Vince, watching as Sheena marches straight through the camp and into the shelter, Tallulah hustling dutifully behind her. From the shelter, Maurice emerges. As the trio heads into the woods, Charlotte addresses Vince.
“I wonder what that’s about,” Charlotte whispers.
“Hmm?” Vince asks, his attention popping up from his wood carving.
“The Koryoks have been all over the place since we got back from Immunity,” she says, still hushed. “It’s strange.”
“You think that they’re changing up the plan?” Vince says.
“I hope not,” Charlotte says, “but I can’t see them telling us even if they do.”
“My concern,” Charlotte continues to whisper, “is as to what happens if Olivia plays an idol. Who is she voting for?”
“One of us,” Vince whispers back, “I bet you anything.”
“I just… they have to have considered that possibility,” Charlotte says. “I can’t imagine they haven’t.”
“If they split the votes,” Charlotte continues, “and Olivia plays the idol, it could be one of us out.”
“That’s true, that’s true…” Vince says, pondering. “What do you think we should do, then? Change our votes?”
“I don’t know,” Charlotte says. “Because if they’re telling the truth, we could just end up shooting ourselves in the feet.”
Over at the shelter, Olivia watches Charlotte and Vince whispering as she packs her things into her bag. As she folds her fleece, she makes sure that the idol is tucked securely inside of it.
Once again off in the woods, Sheena and Tallulah stand at either side of Maurice. Sheena is staring at Maurice so intensely it seems like she could bore a hole in his head.
“Why can’t we just keep a plan steady for once?” Maurice sighs. “We’ve talked through what we’re doing, can’t we just stick to that?”
“If you both feel that strongly about it,” Tallulah says, “then I will absolutely be ready to trust in your judgment and be on board. But I have serious reservations, and I am also hoping I can trust in the both of you to treat those reservations seriously.”
Despite the open skyline of the plains, the moon and stars are mostly obscured by heavy, hanging clouds. As the castaways begin to take their places around the fire, the sound of falling rain can be heard against the roof of the crumbling church.
“Welcome back to Tribal Council,” Jeff says, looking over the seated castaways. “Now tonight’s vote is going to be a little different than the other ones, because tonight we begin the formation of our jury. Whoever is voted out tonight will return to subsequent Tribal Councils to observe, and will eventually have a key role in deciding who among you will be named the Sole Survivor. Before we get into discussing how that impacts the game, I’d like to start by rewinding to the end of last Tribal Council. Because usually, when someone is crying at the end of Tribal Council, the tears belong to the person who’s going home. Last time there were a lot of tears on Zeke’s behalf, and Charlotte, a lot of them were yours. What was it about that vote that made your reaction so emotional?”
“Well Jeff,” Charlotte replies, “Zeke wasn’t just a number in our corner, he was so much more than that. To all of us from Yenisei, Zeke was a very dear friend and a huge source of support, a huge source of compassion… this is a very emotionally taxing game, and to lose someone who was such an instrumental part of providing that emotional strength to all of us, that was a very painful loss.”
“You know Jeffrey,” Vince says, “I always would tell my childrens that there’s a big difference between being nice and being kind. Nice, when I think of nice, it’s like, ‘oh, she’s so nice,’ it’s like, blah, whatever. Nice is just pleasant enough. Kindness is thinking about other people and putting them first, it’s doing things just because of the goodness in your heart. Zeke wasn’t just nice, he was truly kind. One of the kindest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.”
“I’d just like to put it out there,” Sheena interjects, “that I totally agree with Charlotte and Vince. I was only with Zeke for a few days, but even in just that short period of time I feel like all of us who were on Koryok got to see just how wonderful of a human being Zeke is, and I want to make it totally clear that he was not voted out because anyone had some kind of problem with him, I think literally everyone here would have loved to keep him around as long as possible if it was just a matter of who you wanted to be around. But this is a game, it’s not just about who you like, and all those things that make Zeke such a great person also made him a gigantic threat, and that’s why he had to go.”
Jeff nods in understanding. “I think it’s also important to note that decision came down to a single vote, and last time it sounded like that vote was yours, Olivia. What led you to that decision?”
“It is partially because Zeke was a threat, but there are a lot of reasons someone could be a threat, so it wasn’t just that simple,” Olivia says. “It was really about picking which tribe I felt like I had more potential to work with long term, and I feel like I have better relationships with Koryok. I mean, I’ve heard so many times that I ‘betrayed’ Yenisei, and I just don’t feel like that’s a fair assessment of my game. I didn’t have any promises to anyone on Yenisei, it’s not like I ever chose to work with them in the first place, you know? Like, if we were blue or white on day one, that wasn’t a decision any of us had control over, so I don’t feel like I owe anything to Yenisei just because we all got blue buffs on that first day. I’m trying to look at this whole group of people, no matter what tribe they started on, and decide which specific individuals I can trust. That’s who I’m going to work with.”
“Based on how you worded that,” Jeff continues, “what I’m taking away is that means you don’t necessarily trust everyone on the Koryok side, just enough of them to be willing to work with them over Yenisei—is that accurate?”
“Oof,” Olivia says, recoiling somewhat. “I mean, yeah it’s accurate, but it’s not the whole picture. And I don’t think I’m unique in that way, it’s not a secret that this is ultimately an individual game that only one person can win. Everyone’s top priority is themselves, so I don’t think anyone here trusts in anyone else completely. It’s just not a smart way to play this game.”
“I don’t agree with that,” Vince says. “I’ll tell you what, I trust in Charlotte and Huang completely, and Jeff, even though we ain’t got the numbers, what we’ve got is trust, we’ve got the full ability to be honest and open with each other and work through this game as a team.”
Nick can barely contain his eye roll.
“I saw that face, Nick,” Jeff calls. “I’m guessing you’re not buying what Vince is selling?”
“Not for a f*cking second,” Nick says. “You might have a lot of trust with your alliance, but I agree with Olivia, nobody in this game should have complete and total trust with anyone, that’s just being an idiot. I mean, he said it himself just now, they don’t have the numbers. He’s just trying to make an argument that he thinks might sway someone to their side, and it’s not going to work.”
“So based on everything I’ve been hearing, Huang, it sounds like there is still a divide between the former Yenisei and the former Koryok tribes,” Jeff says, “and that the expectation is that everyone will be voting along those lines.”
“Pretty much,” Huang says. “Those of us who were Yenisei have our backs up against a wall, and we know it. The game for us these last six days has really just been trying to find some kind crack in their armor, some way we can shake up the game and get the numbers going back in our favor, because right now it’s looking like we could just get picked off, one by one. And out of the three of us, I’m the youngest, the fittest, and the strongest, so I personally am really feeling the heat tonight, Jeff.”
“Should Huang be worried, Maurice?”
“I get why he is,” Maurice says. “I totally get where he’s coming from, I’m in the same position as him with Koryok, being the youngest and strongest, and I know that people have seen me as a threat for those reasons, ever since the earliest days of this game. When it comes down to this merge, when the challenges are all individual, you do start looking at the people who are really strong challenge performers as potential targets. Nobody wants to have their plans disrupted by someone winning immunity at the wrong time.”
“But at the same time, Jeff,” Sheena intervenes, “challenges don’t always come down to who has the biggest muscles. If it’s a puzzle challenge, that’s something Tallulah could probably win, and she’s the oldest one here. If it’s a challenge where you have to build something or think creatively, that’s totally in Vince’s wheelhouse. I mean, you should see the camp we’re living at Jeff, it’s a work of art. So it’s not as simple as just athletic equals threat. You have to think about all the aspects of this game. There’s more than one way to be a threat in Survivor.”
Jeff nods as he takes in Sheena’s words. “Tallulah,” he says, “if you have to consider the different ways that different players can be threats, that can make deciding who to vote for a very difficult decision. How do you prioritize what types of threats to go after?”
“For me, Jeff, the most important threats to eliminate are the people who threaten unity,” Tallulah says. “It’s exactly like Olivia here said earlier, this game makes it very difficult to trust others fully and wholeheartedly. We spend so much time together, we lean on each other to get through the trials and tribulations of this game, and when you suffer alongside someone, that really does create a bond between you. The relationships we have with each other have been forged in fire, and yet those relationships are constantly being tested against the fact that every three days, someone must be voted out. Paranoia is really starting to ramp up out here, Jeff. And when people are feeling too paranoid, it doesn’t matter how good of a relationship that you think you might have, that’s not going to stop someone from flipping the script. Tonight, the person I’m voting for is someone who I think is creating paranoia within this group.”
“Charlotte,” Jeff says, “we’ve heard a few different criteria for what makes someone a threat. Hearing what Koryok has to say, where does that leave you, as a member of Yenisei? How do you use that information to your benefit?”
“Jeff, it’s not much different from last time,” Charlotte says, “in that we have all been trying as hard as we possibly can to get someone from Koryok to maybe consider working with us. We’ve got three loyal votes that we are more than happy to make use of if we get to stay for a little longer in the game, so the best pitch I can make is that I don’t care how they want to define a threat, I’ll vote for any type of threat if I’m just given a chance. I want to stay in this game and I’m willing to play with whoever is willing to play with whoever from Koryok is willing to play with me in return. Right now all I can pray for is that someone sees an opportunity to make a move for themselves using our numbers.”
“Can you think of an example of a move someone could make for themselves?” Jeff asks.
“Absolutely,” Charlotte says. “There’s a pecking order in that group of six, I can all but guarantee it. This is a long haul game and, just like we’ve been saying all night, it’s an individual game. People are already planning ahead to those last few days of the game. If anyone believes that Koryok is actually going to get to the last six and then just ‘figure it out from there,’ well, that’s delusional. Someone is on the bottom over there and they need a different strategy to get to the end, other than the one they’re using.”
“Okay, but if someone were doing that,” Hannah says, “it’s not like they’d tell anyone that’s what they’re doing. So like, how would you even know?”
“Maybe if you don’t know what’s going on,” Charlotte says, “that’s because you’re the one being left out.”
“Okay, but like, I’m not being left out of anything, so that’s like, ridiculous,” Hannah says.
“You sound pretty sure of that, Hannah,” Jeff points out.
“Well yeah,” Hannah says. “Because the thing is, like, everyone keeps saying oh, you can’t trust people because it’s a game, and like, that doesn’t make sense? Like just because it’s a game doesn’t mean you can’t trust other people in it. Like, how else will you know what to do?”
“Uh, maybe you could think for yourself?” Huang says sarcastically.
“No, like, oh my god, okay,” Hannah says, clearly a little flustered. “Like, you eventually just have to pick someone to trust, because you need to like, have, you know, some kind of plan. So if people are telling you like, hey this is what the plan is, at some point you have to pick one plan and go with it. And like, maybe everyone is lying to you, but you still have to make a decision on what to do. So like, I try not to think too much about if someone is being honest or lying, because if they’re lying it’s not like I could know. And you just go with what you think is right.”
“Jeff, to me,” Vince says, “that’s the sound of someone who doesn’t know what’s what trying to convince themselves that they know what’s what.”
“What?” Hannah asks, confused. Nick can’t help but chuckle.
“You’re full of crap, kid,” Vince says.
“Rude,” Hannah yelps.
“No one is okay being lied to,” Vince says. “That’s rationalization, that’s what that is.”
“I don’t have a rash,” Hannah mutters.
“I totally agree,” Huang pipes up. “It just sounds like Hannah doesn’t really know what she’s talking about, and if I were her, I’d be thinking, damn, I don’t really have that much information, do I? I wonder why that is? Probably because someone doesn’t want me having a lot of information.”
“But like, how would you know what I know and what I don’t?” Hannah asks.
“Jeff,” Tallulah says, putting a hand on Hannah’s. “As we were saying earlier, there is more than one way to be a threat in Survivor, and that’s because everyone here has different strengths and weaknesses. And I think that for Hannah, a weakness is that sometimes she has a hard time gathering her thoughts and quickly putting them into words. It doesn’t mean she’s stupid or that she’s misunderstanding anything, it just means she might not process her information in the same way as some other people, and there is nothing wrong with that.”
“I think what Hannah’s trying to say,” Maurice says, picking up on Tallulah’s statement, “is that even though people can lie in Survivor, and that there are good reasons someone might choose to tell those lies, it doesn’t mean everything is a lie. If someone has a target in mind and they want that person out, eventually they’re going to have to trust someone else with their true intentions if they want to get the votes they need to make their plan happen. It’s all about the votes, you can’t send someone home with only one vote. So either you just vote however and cross your fingers that other people voted the same way; or you take that leap of faith to work with other people and try and make something happen.”
Jeff nods, but before he can speak, Charlotte raises her hand.
“You just said that you can’t send someone home with just one vote,” she says to Maurice, “and well, that’s not entirely true, because you could do that as long as you had a hidden immunity idol.”
“Charlotte brings up a very good point,” Jeff says, “that everything is further complicated by the presence of the hidden immunity idol. Sheena, how does the idol affect the vote?”
“It has a massive effect,” Sheena says, “because of the ‘hidden’ part. We can throw around all the theories and guesses we want, but until someone pulls the thing out in front of you and says ‘I got it!’ you don’t know who has it, you don’t even know if someone has it. So when you’re making your choices, it’s like you have to watch out for land mines, you have to step carefully.”
“But at the same time,” Nick says, “if you’re always looking down because you’re watching for mines, you aren’t paying attention to what’s going on right in front of your face, and you could get shot down anyway.”
“I’ll tell you this much,” Vince says, pointing a finger as he speaks, “I was out there on the Exile, and I ain’t got it. That means someone else already do, so it’s not a question of if, but when. That’s not a land mine, it’s a time bomb, and sooner or later—boom!” he flashes his hands for emphasis. “That sucker is going off, and you better be out of the way if it does.”
“Well,” Jeff says, “I think there’s no better time than the present to see if tonight is the night that the bomb explodes. Let’s get to the vote. Sheena, you have individual immunity tonight, I assume you’re keeping it?”
“That’s a correct assumption, yes,” Sheena says.
“That means you cannot vote for Sheena, everyone else is fair game,” Jeff explains. “Hannah, you’re first.”
“Okie dokie,” she smiles, standing with a twirl. She flips her hair over her shoulder as she heads to the voting urn.
Hannah casts her vote.
Sheena casts her vote.
Maurice casts his vote.
Nick casts his vote.
Huang casts his vote.
Charlotte casts her vote.
Vince casts his vote.
Olivia casts her vote.
Tallulah casts her vote.
With the last vote in the urn, Tallulah takes her seat, and Jeff nods in acknowledgement.
“I’ll go tally the votes,” he announces, turning and heading off.
Olivia looks around, trying to gauge the vibe of the group around her. Huang holds his head in his hands. Hannah touches up her eye makeup, her eyes bulging widely in the low light as she strains to see what she’s doing.
Jeff returns, and places the urn in front of them, grimly looking out at the castaways.
“Once the votes are read, the decision is final,” Jeff says. “The person who is voted out will be asked to leave the Tribal Council area immediately. I’ll read the votes. The first vote…”
“Olivia, that’s two votes Olivia.”
Olivia nods, trying to stay straight-faced, her hand covering her mouth as though she’s deep in thought.
“Huang. That’s one vote Huang, three votes Olivia.”
“Huang. That’s two Huang.”
“Huang. We’re tied, three votes Huang, three votes Olivia.”
“Huang. That’s four votes Huang, Three votes Olivia.”
“The eighth person voted out of Survivor: Siberia, and the first member of our jury: Huang. Huang, I’ll need you to bring me your torch.”
“Oh well,” Huang sighs, standing up, looking defeated and annoyed. Charlotte and Vince stand with him, and he wraps his huge arms around each their shoulders as he pulls them in for a group hug.
“I love you guys, okay?” he says.
“Us too,” Charlotte says. She gives him a kiss on the cheek.
Sheena sighs, as Nick turns to lock eyes with her. She smiles and nods. He smiles back.
With his torch in hand, Huang begins to head towards Jeff, when he stops suddenly.
“Oh!” he says, turning around, having remembered something. He pulls his sunglasses out of his pocket and hands them to Vince.
“Maybe you can use these for something, Vinnie,” he says.
“Yeah, to keep the sun out of my eyes,” Vince deadpans.
With his luxury item passed off, Huang places his torch, towering over Jeff.
“Huang, the tribe has spoken.” Jeff lowers the snuffer, and Huang’s flame vanishes. “It’s time for you to go.”
Huang nods and turns around, one last time.
“Thanks for the adventure, guys!” he waves. The others wave back as Huang walks off into the darkness.
“No bombs going off tonight,” Jeff says to the group, “but be careful, because as was discussed tonight, they’re still out there, ticking down, waiting to explode. You guys can grab your stuff, and head back to camp. Goodnight.”
The castaways gather their belongings and their torches as they file out into the night, the next days of the game awaiting them in the dark of the forest.
Eight remain. Who will be the next to go?
NEXT TIME ON… SURVIVOR!
As their numbers continue to shrink, Vince and Charlotte continue to try and turn the game in their favor. The castaways participate in a Survivor Auction, where one castaway makes a sacrifice, while another makes a controversial purchase. And when one player attempts a game-shaking move, fireworks go off at Tribal Council.