PREVIOUSLY ON… SURVIVOR!
Yenisei returned after a very surprising Tribal Council, where Gunnar found himself under fire for his double dealings, with Huang in particular being outraged at Gunnar’s betrayal. While Gunnar knew he was in trouble, he hoped the tribe would refocus their sights on Olivia, who had been an outsider for the entire game. Realizing her life in the game was in grave danger, Olivia meanwhile managed to figure out the clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol, and was able to claim the artifact for herself when she determined it was the bell around the neck of one of the tribe’s goats.
Meanwhile, the Koryok Tribe reveled in the glow of yet another victory, enjoying their time with leisure activities like playing board games and drawing. Despite the calm atmosphere, the game was still being played. Naomi tried to convince Nick to leave his alliance, but Nick, reticent to work with Hannah, rebuffed her. Feeling as though she was out of options with Nick, Naomi began to plan to use the information she received from Nick against him to turn his closest ally, Sheena, against him.
At the reward challenge, Koryok once again claimed victory. To keep information locked down, they once again exiled Olivia, who pondered if she should take advantage of a secret twist to switch from Yenisei to Koryok.
At Yenisei, Vince was hard at work building, while Gunnar tried to earn goodwill with the tribe by volunteering to kill a chicken for the tribe. Slaughtering the animal ended up shaking him emotionally, and when Charlotte came to comfort him, Gunnar saw an opportunity to create a potentially game saving new relationship.
At the immunity challenge, Olivia returned from Exile Island to reveal she had, indeed switched tribes, and she wasted no time in making it clear she had no love for her former Yenisei Tribe. Her decision turned out to have wise short term consequences when Koryok claimed victory yet again, sending Yenisei back to Tribal Council.
As the tribe prepared to go from five to four, Gunnar tried to convince Charlotte to keep him and eliminate the weakest physical competitor, Vince, instead. Charlotte and Zeke considered Gunnar’s plan, but ultimately stuck with their alliance, sending Gunnar home.
Twelve remain. Who will be the next to go?
The moon glows brightly in the clear night sky. Bugs chirp in the grass. An owl can be heard hooting. But the most wild of all animal calls comes from the Koryok camp, where the tribe is gathered around the fire.
“I WANNA CUT THROUGH THE CLOUDS, BREAK THE CEILIIIIIIIING, I WANNA DANCE ON THE ROOF, YOU AND ME A-LONE,” belts Hannah, standing on a log. “I WANNA CUT TO THE FEELING, OH YEAHHHHH, I WANNA CUT TO THE FEELING!”
“I WANNA PLAY WHERE YOU PLAY WITH THE AAAANGEEEELSSS,” Hannah continues to sing, “I WANNA WAKE UP WITH YOU IN TANGLES OH!”
All around the campfire, the members of Koryok hold teacups that are not filled with just tea. Teddy uncorks the vodka bottle and tops Olivia off.
“Thanks Teddy,” Olivia says.
“You’re welcome,” Teddy smiles in return. “And you ain’t gotta say grace before you drink!”
“I know, right?” she laughs, taking a sip. “I can’t imagine us having this much fun over there even if we won a whole bottle of vodka. Vince would have probably drank the whole thing.”
“That’s a damn shame,” Teddy says, shaking his head. “Don’t they know sharing is caring?”
Hannah bows dramatically having finished her song, leading to cheers and applause from the rest of the tribe.
“Bravo, Hannah!” Tallulah laughs.
“Thank you, thank you very much,” Hannah says, blowing kisses and waving. “I’ll be here all season!”
“Well it’s your turn now, Han,” Naomi says, sipping her drink.
“Oh! Oh snap, it is!” Hannah gasps. “Well, okay then,” she says, putting a finger to her mouth as she thinks, looking around the fire at her tribemates. “Nick,” she decides. “Truth or dare?”
Nick is seated across from Hannah next to Sheena, his arm around his friend’s shoulder.
“I pick dare,” Nick says with cocky grin. “Do your worst.”
“Okay,” Hannah says. She smiles devilishly as she thinks of her dare. “Nick…. I dare you to kiss whoever you think is the hottest person on this tribe,” she says. “On the lips!” she clarifies.
“Mkay,” Nick says, handing Sheena his drink. He stands up, eyeing his tribemates. He locks eyes with Naomi and begins to walk over to her. Naomi puts her drink down, preparing herself. Nick kneels down beside her, and then turns his attention to her direct left. He confidently reaches forward, planting a passionate kiss right on Maurice’s lips.
“OH MY GOD!” Sheena cackles. Hannah is jumping and screaming, Teddy is laughing so hard he looks like he might cry. Maurice’s face turns bright pink. Naomi looks very annoyed.
“I, I, I…” Maurice stutters, looking totally thrown.
“If it was good, say thank you,” Nick whispers in his ear.
Naomi looks peeved as Nick heads back to his seat, the tribe still mostly in hysterics over Nick’s bold move.
“TM, truth or dare?” Nick asks.
“Truth,” Tallulah says. “I’m not getting up.”
“Mkay,” Nick says, humming as he thinks. “Where is the craziest place you’ve ever gotten busy?”
“Nick!” Maurice chides, “that’s so rude! Ms. Tallulah Mae, you don’t have to answer that question if you don’t want to,” he begs.
“Oh hush,” Tallulah says. “I’m old, Maurice, not dead. Old people have sex, sorry to tell you.”
“That’s not how I meant it!” Maurice blushes.
“Well, Nick… that depends,” Tallulah says. “Before or after my husband?”
The group bursts into laughter at the responses. Naomi continues to watch Nick.
“A Ferris wheel,” Tallulah answers. Uproarious laughter follows, echoing into the night.
The sun barely peeks through a cool, rolling fog in the early hours of the morning. Down at the river, Maurice floats in the fishing boat, a line dangling stilly. Up at the camp, most of the tribe is still fast asleep in the shelter.
Meanwhile, Nick and Olivia are heading up to the cliffside.
“So I really appreciate you waking up this early,” Olivia says as she takes a seat on a rock.
“Look, it’s the least I can do,” Nick says. “I appreciate that you’re in, uh, a pretty crazy situation right now.”
“Thanks,” Olivia says. “It’s pretty nerve wracking, because, like… I’m a scientist, right? I’m used to not making determinations without as much data as possible, and this is really not a situation where I’m able to do that, you know?”
“Well, I think you came to the right guy then,” Nick says. “Because I’ll be honest, I think you’re pretty cool.”
“Oh my god, that’s so good to hear,” Olivia sighs, clearly relieved. “I just… I don’t want this to be a situation where I’m immediately voted out just for being new, you know?”
“Just between you and me, I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Nick says. “I think you’re a way bigger asset to this tribe than Hannah, by like… a million percent.”
“Really?” Olivia asks.
“She was supposed to be the first one out of this game,” he explains. “but then Everett had to go and start playing it all aggressive right out the gate. He wanted to come after my boy Maurice, so… we couldn’t let that happen.”
Olivia nods. “Alright, well… I really hope that’s the case,” she says. “Because, uh… so here’s the deal, I have the idol.”
“I knew it!” Nick says, standing up in excitement, hands on his head as he walks back and forth, bursting with energy. “Olivia, that’s f*cking so awesome!” Nick overs her a big high five, which she takes.
“Okay, so here’s the thing about it,” Olivia says, “one, this stays between us.”
“Absolutely,” confirms Nick..
“Cool, cool… just wanted to make sure that was understood, you know?”
“Yeah, I get it,” Nick nods.
“Okay, so… second thing–I found the idol at the Yenisei camp, not on Exile Island.”
“You’re sh*tting me,” Nick says. “So it’s not out there on Exile Island?”
“No,” Olivia says, shaking her head. “But I think that it must mean there’s also an idol hidden at this camp.”
“Oh my god! Duh doy!” Nick says, smacking his forehead with his palm. “Sh*t, do you think Maurice has it then?”
“You don’t know?” Olivia asks. “I thought he was your boy.”
“I mean, I thought so too,” Nick says, sighing.
“I want to be able to like, really prove to you that I’m worth keeping around,” Olivia continues. “So, what I was thinking was that if you can help me get the wheels in motion so that I’m not the target going forward, I think I have an idea of where the idol is here. I think it would be awesome if I could help you find it.”
“Wow,” Nick says. “Well, that’s a deal I’m more than happy to take.” He reaches out his hand to Olivia, and they shake.
Later in the morning, Sheena walks along the path to tree mail, when Naomi comes jogging up behind her.
“Sheena, hey,” Naomi says, catching up to the martial artist.
“Oh, hey Nay,” Sheena greets. “What’s up?”
“Sorry to chase you down like this, but I didn’t want anyone to see us together,” Naomi says, checking to make sure nobody is behind her. “I’ve been really, really wanting to talk to you. It’s about the game. There’s… something I think you need to know.”
“So I’m sure you’ve seen that Nick and I have been spending a fair bit of time together lately,” Naomi begins.
“Yeah,” Sheena says, “of course I noticed. I have eyes and ears.”
“Hah hah,” Naomi bites, “very funny. Well, you should have done something about it, because your pal Nick has been playing a loose-lipped game.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Sheena asks.
“Nick told me in no uncertain terms that there is an alliance he is a part of. It’s an alliance with you, and him, and Maurice and Tallulah.”
Sheena’s face falls.
“Well thanks for letting me know,” Sheena mutters, putting her hands in her sweater pockets.
“I know it’s probably a lot to take in, Naomi says, reaching into the tree mail box as they arrive. “So if you don’t have an answer yet, I understand. But I think that with the possibility of Olivia having the idol, it might be smart to vote elsewhere if we end up losing immunity. And if you’d like that elsewhere to be Nick, I’m down.”
“Yeah,” Sheena says. “I’ll have to think about it, but that’s obviously a possibility, let’s be real.”
“Well, let’s see what’s in this,” Sheena says, opening the tree mail. She and Naomi both take a look at it, and look quite surprised.
“Well this is different,” Naomi says, stunned.
Up at camp, most of the tribe is sitting around the fire, eating their buckwheat porridge as Sheena and Naomi come back into camp.
“So we got a challenge,” Sheena says, waving her tree mail. “And get this, it starts now.”
“So the other thing we have to keep in mind,” Naomi says after Sheena finishes reading the tree mail, “is that we have to sit four people out. Whoever sits out can’t help at all.”
“I think more importantly,” Sheena says, “is the fact that we can’t sit the same people out back-to-back. So whoever sits out for this are automatically the ones playing for Immunity. So we really need to think smart about this.”
“I think it should be me, Naomi, Tallulah, Olivia,” Nick says, pointing to each person as he names them. Sheena shakes her head.
“I don’t think that’s a great idea. We don’t know what the immunity challenge is going to be,” Sheena says. “I don’t want to be without your strength if we end up needing it, Nick.”
“My strength is in being creative!” Nick protests.
“I meant your physical strength, Nick,” Sheena says. “Because I also think we should keep Tallulah for immunity, in case there’s a puzzle.”
“TM isn’t the only one here who can solve a puzzle, though,” Nick says. “Teddy can do it!”
“Nick, I want to take that as a compliment,” Teddy says, “but that’s just bogus. Tallulah is obviously the best here when it comes to puzzles.”
“I agree with Sheena,” Maurice says. “Rewards are nice but Immunity is what really matters. Team Immunity should be you, me, Sheena, Tallulah. Besides, Naomi makes big displays like this as her job, Nick, if anyone’s well suited to it it’s her.”
“Thank you, Maurice,” Naomi says, looking touched.
“I think,” Tallulah says, standing up and straightening her dress, “that if Nick feels so passionately about doing this challenge, then I support him doing it. This is a game, after all, and games are supposed to be what, everyone?”
There’s a silence around the campfire.
“Fun,” Hannah answers, smiling brightly as she recalls Tallulah’s prior words. “Games are supposed to be fun.”
“If that’s the case,” Sheena says, “then I think Olivia should compete in the Immunity challenge with us instead of Nick.”
“Me?” Olivia asks, pointing to herself.
“I think you’re an all-rounder,” Sheena says. “Like me,” she laughs.
“The winning tribe will have their reward delivered to camp on Day 14,” Charlotte reads.
Vince could not look more pleased with the news Charlotte has brought.
“I’mma just say right now,” Zeke says, “I think we all in agreement this is Uncle Vinnie’s to take the lead on, yeah?” He claps Vince on the shoulder affectionately.
“Yeah, no sh*t,” says Huang.
“I’ve already got some ideas brewing, kids, and let me tell you, we ain’t got the time to waste. Boys, go down to the water and start getting those bricks up there. Charlotte, we’ve gotta start clearing grass out in the uh, the meadow over there.”
“What’s going to be important is that they can’t confuse it for something that’s supposed to be out here,” Vince says. “If it looks like oh, just some villagers or whatever, a plane won’t take notice. So we’re gonna need things that will get their attention and then things that make it clear we’s in trouble.”
“There’s going to be fire shooting out the top?” Charlotte repeats, shocked.
“That’s the plan, baby!” Vince says.
“Vincent, this sounds… ambitious,” Charlotte responds, clearly a little concerned.
“Of course it’s ambitious!” Vince says. “What do we have to lose with a little ambition, huh?”
“The challenge,” Charlotte deadpans.
“I think you’re underselling us, Char,” Vince says. “I can do this, I know it.”
“I’m gonna build some prototypes and figure out the best way to go about this,” Vince says, “So I’ve got a job for you in the meantime, Charlotte. You know how they make crop circles?”
“What? No, why would I know that, Vince?” Charlotte asks.
Vince sighs. “You take a piece of wooden board, you flatten the grass at the base, keep going until you’ve made an imprint in the grass. I’m thinking we go into the long grass back in the meadow and start writing out our words. I’d really appreciate if you could do that for me while I try out some designs.”
Charlotte nods in understanding. “Whatever you need,” she says.
“Take my measuring tape,” Vince says. “They need to be big letters. At least three feet across and more than twice that tall, okay?” He tosses Charlotte the measuring tape.
“I’m on it,” Charlotte says.
The sun beats down as Charlotte works on pressing her letters into the grass. Huang and Zeke, meanwhile, stack the adobe bricks in circular layers, building a tower. Over by the campfire, Vince sits with tools and materials, building. From mud clay, he has fashioned a circular structure with a hole in the top and another hole coming from a tube-like extension out of the side. A stick goes into the hole on the top, sticking up straight. The extension opens up next to the fire.
“Here goes nothing,” Vince says, holding the stick between his two flat palms. He begins to twirl the stick back and forth. Air blows out of the tube into the fire, causing the flame to swell with added oxygen.
“Okay gang, here’s the deal,” Vince sighs as he walks into the meadow. “The good news is the blower works. The bad news, it’s too small. I don’t know if I could build a big enough one that could be ready to work by the time the rescue chopper comes. So we gotta figure out something else to put on top of the leaning tower of Yenisei here.”
“You’re kidding,” Huang sighs. “Have we been building this for nothing?”
“No, not for nothing,” Zeke says. “We just have to find a different way. What about starting a fire on top of the tower?”
“That could work, but I wanted to find a way to make it flash,” Vince says. “If I could flash the fire with the blower, I could do an SOS signal in morse code, that was the idea. If we had a mirror, or something like that. But I don’t think that’s something I can just make out of sticks and mud out here.”
“How about rocks?” Zeke asks, jokingly.
“The only rocks I see are the ones in your head,” Vince sasses.
“Um, I might have something,” Charlotte says, as she heads back towards the shelter. She rummages in her bag and retrieves a velveteen box, which she then brings back to the guys waiting in the meadow. She pops the case open, revealing a dazzling tiara, studded with dozens upon dozens of glittering gemstones.
“This was my crown from Miss Tennessee USA,” Charlotte explains. “It’s the biggest title I ever won. Could you do something with this, Vince?”
“I think so,” Vince says, taking the tiara and examining it. “This much glitter, you get this up high enough, there’s no way a plane would miss it. But… Charlotte, I might not be able to keep it all in one piece. I can’t make any promises.”
Charlotte exhales heavily. “Go for it.”
“You’re sure?” Vince asks. Charlotte pauses, then nods.
“Alright,” Vince says. “Back to the lab, then. If you’ve got the letters pressed in, Char, start filling them in with logs, would you?”
“Sure, absolutely,” Charlotte says, appearing somewhat distracted as Vince heads back over to the kitchen table.
“You’re sure about this, Charlotte?” Zeke asks again.
“I’ve said I was and I meant it,” Charlotte snaps. Zeke nods, unfazed.
“Just remember,” Zeke continues, “it’s a physical representation of a memory, but it’s not the memory. You don’t need that crown to prove anything to anyone. The crown isn’t what makes you a winner. Being a winner makes you a winner.”
“I’m going to get back to work,” Charlotte says, looking a little distraught. She heads back over to where she was working on the letters, but stops and heads back to Zeke, giving him a hug. “I’m sorry,” she says, “for being so emotional right now.”
“Don’t apologize for being upset!” Huang says sympathetically. “You’re giving up something important to you, of course that makes you feel upset.”
“Take all the time you need,” Zeke says. “We’re making good time, so if you need a moment, take a moment. The world won’t end.”
“I’m good,” Charlotte says, smiling. “I think it will be better if I distract myself from thinking about it.”
Down at the camp, Sheena, Maurice, Tallulah and Olivia lie in the shelter. Maurice sleeps with his cowboy hat covering his face. Olivia gets up and excuses herself. Sheena looks around to ensure they are alone.
“So Naomi came to me earlier,” Sheena begins.
“What for?” mumbles Maurice from under his hat.
“She said she had something she needed to tell me. About Nick,” Sheena continues.
“Oh dear,” sighs Tallulah.
“So Naomi wanted to get Nick into an alliance,” Sheena begins, “and she just straight up asked him about working together–”
“–and he said yes?” Maurice asks.
“No,” Sheena continues, “shaking her head. “Better. He said no, he can’t be in an alliance with Naomi, because he’s already in an alliance with the three of us.”
Maurice takes his hat off his face and looks Sheena in the eyes. “You’re joking, right?” he asks.
“I wish,” Sheena says, peeved.
“Does he not understand the point of a secret alliance?” Maurice asks, confused.
“Who knows what the word ‘secret’ means in Nick’s world,” Sheena sighs. “He probably thinks secrets are a corporate invention of ‘the man.’”
“Well, I think it’s time, in that case, that I come clean too,” Maurice says. “Because there is a little info I’ve been keeping from y’all.”
“Oh my god, do you have the f*cking idol?” Sheena asks, eyes wide.
“I wish!” laughs Maurice, “but no, I don’t. I do know something about where it might be, though.”
“Well yeah, you get a clue on Exile Island,” Sheena says. “Everyone knows that.”
“You get the clue out there,” Maurice says, “but the idol, you get that here. At camp.”
“What?” Tallulah asks, sitting up, looking surprised.
“What do you mean you get it here?” Sheena asks.
“That’s what the clue said! The idol ain’t on Exile Island period, it’s hidden somewhere here, at camp,” Maurice says. “I didn’t tell y’all because I wanted to try and find it myself first. I hope you understand.”
“I can’t speak for Sheena,” Tallulah says, putting a comforting hand on Sheena’s arm, “but I understand, Maurice. You not telling anyone what you know, that’s different from Nick going and telling whoever whatever.”
“Yeah,” Sheena says, clearly becoming less tense. “I mean, I wish you would have told us sooner, but… I can’t honestly say that I wouldn’t have maybe done the same thing,” she says. “F*ck. Do you think that means Olivia could have both of them?”
“It’s possible,” frowns Maurice. “That thought has been running through my head since she got here. If I can’t find it for myself, I’d 100% rather one of you find it than her. So that’s why I had to say something.”
“She could be off looking for it right now,” Sheena sighs.
“Well the challenge is distracting half the tribe,” says Tallulah, “so we might as well look now too. We can decide what to do about Nick later. Besides, we haven’t even heard his side of the story.”
“What other side could there possibly be?” Sheena asks.
“You only know what Naomi told you,” Tallulah says. “Would you put it past her to bend the truth? I wouldn’t.”
“Neither would I,” Maurice says.
“While it may be true that Nick told her certain information, we don’t know the context or the reasons for it, and we don’t know what elements of that discussion that Naomi may have purposely left out,” Tallulah says. “So don’t give in to what she wants too quickly.”
“Alright, I totally agree,” Sheena says. “I think in that case, we should be looking for the idol, like… yesterday. What do you know about where it is, Maurice?”
“Not much, and that’s the honest truth. Let me get you the clue,” Maurice says, sitting up in order to rummage through his bag. “Here you go,” he says, finding the piece of paper. He hands it to Sheena, who reads over it.
“So… it doesn’t necessarily sound like it must be in a similar place at each camp,” Sheena says, handing the paper to Tallulah. “So maybe Olivia doesn’t know where it is.”
“There’s only one way to find out,” Tallulah says, “and that’s to get to looking.”
“Well, let’s go then,” Sheena says, standing up.
Up along the cliffside, Nick, Naomi, Teddy and Hannah work on the SOS signal. Using large sticks, they dig up chunks of the grass and dirt, creating lines in the ground.
Hannah takes a look at Nick’s sketch, which he’s done on the back of the tree mail, and gets back to digging, adjusting her course so that she curves at the bottom of the line she’s working on.
“Hannah, what are you doing?” Nick asks.
“I’m starting the tail,” she says. “Just like in the drawing.”
“Yeah, but we need the tail to be longer, before you start making the end of the feathers,” Nick says. “This has to be visible from the sky, we’re making it too small.”
“Do you really think that we’re gonna finish this by the end of today?” Teddy asks, wiping his forehead. “This is a lot of work, man.”
“We don’t really have a choice, now that we started,” Nick says.
“We could always make it into something else, besides a bird” Hannah suggests.
“Like what?” Nick asks, looking annoyed. “Lady Gaga?”
“I’m surprised you know who she is,” Teddy mutters.
“No! Maybe doing a picture isn’t good,” Hannah says. “We could write something instead.”
“No, that’s too obvious,” Nick says, shaking his head. “I bet that’s what the other tribe is doing. Probably just writing ‘SOS’ in the ground. We can be more original than that.”
“The challenge isn’t to be original, though,” Hannah says, “it’s to make the best signal.”
“Of course you’d say that,” Nick says, rolling his eyes.
“Why? Why is it of course that I would say it?” Hannah asks, looking a little hurt.
“Because, Hannah, you don’t have an original bone in your body. You don’t know what opinions to have until Kim Kardashian snap tweets them. Of course you don’t understand the importance of being an original when nothing about you is original at all.”
“Yo, what the f*ck, man?” Teddy says, throwing his shovel down. “That’s so over the line Nick, for no damn reason.”
“Was I talking to you?” Nick asks, clearly annoyed.
“Oh shut the f*ck up,” Teddy swears. “You think you’re so amazing because you’re different, Nick? You ain’t an original either, I seen thousands of white boys who look just like you, with your stretched ears and dyed hair and the tattoos. You are the biggest try-hard there is!” he says, clapping with each word.
“Teddy–” Naomi tries to interject, but he cuts her off.
“Don’t ‘Teddy’ me, woman, you ain’t my wife,” he snaps. “Someone has to stand up to this pig, quit defending him!”
“A pig, huh?” Nick says, crossing his arms. “Well glad to know how you really f*cking feel, Teddy.”
“Glad to share it!” Teddy says. “You make it perfectly clear how you feel about everything! You make it perfectly clear you think Hannah is totally without any redeeming qualities, that all of us on the tribe are stupid and sheep because of the music we like or the shows we watch, you’re an ass, Nick! You’re a bully, you’re an ass, and I’m done with you.” He throws his hands up and starts walking away. “Come on, Han. You ain’t gotta stand here and get verbally abused by this punk ass.”
“I’m going to get my mirror,” Hannah says on the verge of tears. “Maybe we can use it for the challenge.”
“Oh f*ck the challenge,” Nick yells. “And f*ck you, Teddy!”
“F*ck you harder!” Teddy yells, not looking back. He just throws up his middle finger.
Back down at camp, Tallulah is on her hands and knees, digging around underneath the shelter. Nobody else is there as Teddy comes storming into camp. Tallulah scrambles to her feet as he makes his entrance, Hannah not far behind.
“Y’all need something?” Tallulah asks, trying to look innocuous. Fortunately for her, emotions are high, and neither Teddy nor Hannah seem to notice anything suspicious.
“Yeah,” Teddy says, clearly upset. “I need a needle and thread so I can sew Nick’s big mouth shut.”
“Oh Lord,” sighs Tallulah.
“I’ve kept quiet about him long enough,” Teddy continues, “but he’s such an ass! Why do you think Hannah’s so upset? I”ll give you a hint–it has green hair.”
“Oh no,” Tallualh says, approaching Hannah for a hug. “Oh dear, Hannah. Don’t let him get to you.”
“I just don’t understand why he’s so mean,” Hannah cries.
“You know why Nick acts the way he does?” says Tallulah, taking Hannah’s face in her hands. “Because he’s insecure. He likes to make others feel small so he can feel big. If you weren’t here, he’d just find someone else to pick on.” Hannah sniffs, sucking tears back into her nose.
“I know,” she says, wiping her face. “It’s just hard not to take it personal.”
“If you don’t want to go back up there,” Tallulah says, “I don’t think anyone would mind.”
“No,” Hannah sighs. “I’ll go back. That’s what being a team player is all about, right? I’m just gonna get my makeup. I think maybe we can use the mirror to help us in the challenge.”
“Well I can’t go back up there, not right now,” Teddy says, shaking his head. “I’ll just pop off again.”
A helicopter zooms over the endless sea of green that is the Siberian Taiga. From the open side, Jeff surveys the surroundings.
“I’m here in this helicopter with my friends Sergei and Karina,” Jeff says, gesturing to a man and woman behind him, dressed in official looking military gear. “They are both agents working with EMERCOM, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations. They are both highly trained in search and rescue. Today, they will be the judges, observing the distress signals constructed by each tribe. Whoever has the better signal, according to these judges, will win reward. You guys ready to check out the first camp?” Jeff asks.
“Yes, let us being go,” says Sergei.
“First,” Jeff announces, “We’ll be passing over Koryok.”
The helicopter turns in the sky, heading towards the first campsite. Down at the shelter, Teddy takes note of the helicopter passing, and shrugs.
Up at the cliffside, Nick and Naomi are still digging furiously. Hannah digs far from them, looking despondent. Teddy is nowhere to be found.
“It’s coming,” Naomi says, pointing to the helicopter in the distance. “Hey! Down here!” she calls, waving her arms in big arcs over her head.
“Down heeeeeeeeeeere!” Nick screams, waving as well.
“Heeeeeeey!” calls Hannah. She opens her makeup palette, waving her mirror.
“So,” Jeff asks the judges as they approach the cliffside, “what do you guys think?”
“I… I do not see,” Karina says, frowning.
“It is not clear,” Sergei agrees.
Sure enough, what they are passing over is two people waving their arms madly around a half complete line drawing in the dirt. Unfinished, it looks like vague squiggles in a bird-esque shape.
“I think this is not complete,” Sergei says. “I think it is good to pick this location, high up, clear ground is good, but I do not see that they are in the trouble.”
“Yes, yes,” Karina agrees. “I do not know what the shape it is supposed to being.”
“I like that they use mirror,” Sergei says.
“So overall, not particularly impressed,” Jeff summarizes.
“We see what other team has done,” Karina tells him. “Maybe this is best we get,” she laughs.
At Yenisei, the helicopter appears in the distance.
“It’s coming,” Huang notes to the tribe.
“Positions everyone!” Vince says, clapping as if to get everyone’s attention. “Let’s put on a show!”
Huang nods, and runs out into the meadow. He carries a long branch. Charlotte’s violet blazer hangs on one end, with Huang’s red jacket hung on the other. Along the outer perimeter of the ‘O’ in ‘SOS,’ Huang runs, twirling the makeshift flag.
Meanwhile, Vince sits at the base of the tower. The blower that he built for the fire sits at the base in front of him. Up at the top of the structure is Charlotte’s crown.
“Here we go, baby!” Vince says. He begins to twirl the stick, and up on top of the tower, sure enough, the crown begins to rotate.
As the helicopter approaches the Yenisei camp, the meadow clearling is immediately visible.
“I see in the distance some, a, uh… the flashing,” Sergei says, pointing. Sure enough, in the meadow is a of something glittering, reflecting all of the sun’s aggressive glory in sporadic flashes. As they get closer, the rest of the image becomes clear. The letters ‘SOS’ appear, large and clear in the grass. In the center of the O is a tower of adobe bricks, at least 10 feet high. Vince sits at the bottom, spinning his mechanism furiously. Huang leaps around him, the fabric of the jackets whipping as he swings his flag. Zeke and Charlotte run about, waving frantically. Atop the tower, the Miss Tennessee USA crown sparkles with incredibly vibrancy, as if it’s dancing for the audience above.
“This structure is extremely impressive,” says Karina. Sergei nods in agreement.
“I like that they use, the, uh, this object to make the flashing lights. This building is very, uh, visible,” he continues. “Tall is important, it makes easier for seeing.”
“Words are clear,” Karina continues. “SOS, it is a signal understood all across the world. I know right this moment, oh, I am looking at people who are in need of assistance.”
“The colors is, uh…” Sergei says, searching for the words. “How you say, Karina, uh… ‘razlicie?’”
“The contrast,” Karina says.
“Yes, yes,” Sergei continues. “The colors they use are very different from the colors of the grasses, and it makes you want to see.”
“This is the one,” Karina says with a definitive nod.”
“There is not contest,” Sergei says. “The other, it was no good.”
“This is much, much better,” Karina agrees.
“Well, that means our judges are in agreement,” Jeff says, turning to the camera.
“YENISEI WINS REWARD!”
As the helicopter vanishes into the distance, Charlotte and Zeke stop running and jumping for attention, both breathing somewhat heavily. Zeke puts an arm around Charlotte’s shoulder, and they both smile, watching as Charlotte’s tiara pirouettes atop the great tower, like a beacon of hope.
“Isn’t it amazing?” Zeke asks.
“Look what we’ve built,” Charlotte smiles.
It’s early in the morning, as the calls of warblers and starlings begins to punctuate the scenic mountain valley Yenisei calls home. In the shelter, an exhausted Vince sleeps with Huang next to him, Huang gently spooning the elder man. Next to the fire, Zeke, bleary eyed, feeds a log into the blaze. He squints as the fire surges, embers and smoke blasting into the air as the log takes it’s place. When he refocuses, he notices something in the distance.
“Is that Jeff?” Charlotte asks, returning to the campsite with more firewood.
“I think so,” Zeke says. “Hey Jeff!” he yells, waving.
“Good morning, Zeke,” Jeff greets, waving as he comes into the camp area. “Charlotte,” he greets as well.
“Get up, get up!” Charlotte says, rushing to the shelter to shake Huang and Vince away.
“Wha? Huzzit? Who’s happening?” gasps Vince as he jolts awake.
“Jeff is here!” Charlotte whispers harshly. Vince and Huang both scramble to their feet and join Zeke, Jeff, and the guests at the fire.
“Alright, the gang’s all here,” Jeff smiles. “Yenisei, I have good news today–you are the winners of the SOS Signal Challenge.”
“YES!” Cheers Vince, pumping his fist as Huang sweeps him off his feet.
“Woo hoo!” Huang cheers. Charlotte and Zeke share a gigantic hug.
“It’s been a long time coming, and you guys really, really earned it,” Jeff says. “And that means you win reward. And your reward today is Lyuba,” he continues, holding a hand out to introduce the person to his left.
“Lyuba has lived out here in the wilderness of Siberia for her entire life, and she has lived on her own out here for almost 30 years,” Jeff explains. “If there is anyone who can teach you guys a thing or two about making the most of this enviornment, it’s her. In fact, Lyuba didn’t even know of the existence of the modern world until her homestead was discovered by a passing helicopter, much like yours was to win this challenge. Now Lyuba doesn’t speak English, so my friend Piotr here will be on hand to translate between you guys.”
“Privet,” he greets, “hello.”
“Lyuba and Piotr will be with you until you leave for the Immunity Challenge tomorrow, so make the most of your time,” Jeff says. “I’ll leave you guys to get started on learning from this incredible woman in just a moment, but there is still one more order of business–someone from Koryok is going to Exile Island. Who would you like to send?”
“Olivia?” Huang offers.
“Olivia,” confirms Vince. “I don’t think any of us are none too happy with her right now.”
Jeff nods. “Sounds good. I’ve got nothing else for you guys, and since I’m here at your camp for once, I’ll head out.”
The castaways wave to Jeff as he heads back into the forest.
“Lyuba has brought with her some gifts for you all,” Piotr says. Lyuba smiles, showing her crooked teeth, and produces a sack of goods. She heads over to the kitchen table and uses it to place the items from her bag.
“Beets, onions, carrots,” Charlotte says, going through the vegetables on the table. “Oh goodness, I could just cry! May I hug you?” she asks Lyuba. Piotr translates, and Lyuba nods. Charlotte gives the old woman a warm, welcoming hug.
Lyuba points to Huang and begins talking to him, Piotr listening intently as he begins to translate.
“She says you are the strong one, yes? She wants your help,” Piotr explains.
Huang finishes securing a device to a tree in camp. The crude machine is made of metal, a cylindrical cage with a crank attached to the side. Hooks help it dig into the bark of the tree, while Huang tightens a chain around the tree to hold it in place. Lyuba nods, satisfied with the job he has done. She searches the ground with her eyes until she spots what she’s looking for, a pinecone. She picks it up and places it in the top of the device, and then, with both hands, begins to turn the crank. The pinecone is crushed within the device, and through the cage like bars, the debris falls out, revealing a wealth of pine nuts within.
“Pine nuts!” Vince marvels. “I can’t believe it, how did I not think of that?”
Lyuba begins to explain more to the castaways, with Piotr translating.
“She says to make a sifter, four sides of wood, with screen on the bottom,” he translates. “If you break the nuts into the sifter, you can separate the pinecone out with ease.”
“I can do that!” Vince says. “Whatever you need, I’ve got it. In fact, consider it already done.” He goes to head off, but Charlotte stops him.
“Vince, there’s no need to go do it right now!” she laughs. “Stay with us, I’m sure she has more to show us.”
“Sorry,” Vince blushes. “I got a little excited.”
Vince gazes adoringly at the old hermit as she leads the tribe along the shores of the river. Spotting something of interest, she waves her hand in an “over here” motion, wading into the shallows to a patch of long-stalked pink flowers that are jutting from the water.
“This plant is the flowering rush,” Piotr translates. Lyuba reaches under the water and begins to gently uproot one of the plants, pulling it out with a satisfying pop. She turns over the plant to expose tiny, bulb like rhizomes at the bottom, glisening white with roots erupting outwards. “Peel the root stalk and boil it, and it is good to eat,” explains Piotr, translating for Lyuba. “But you must cook it, or it will taste very bad,” he emphasizes on her behalf.
“Cook it, absolutely,” Vince says, nodding emphatically. “We wouldn’t dream of not cooking it, Miss Lyuba!” He insists.
Further up in the forest, Lyuba digs up an immature fern, surrounded by leaves of larger, fully grown plants.
“I had no idea ferns were edible,” Charlotte marvels.
“Of course ferns are edible, why wouldn’t they be edible?” Vince asks.
“If you knew they were edible this whole time, why haven’t we been eating them?” Charlotte asks.
“Well it’s your kitchen!” Vince says defensively. “You don’t come between a lady and her kitchen, CeCe taught me that.” Charlotte gives Vince a good-natured eye roll.
There is silence as the tribe sits around the fire, eating their fish. Teddy glares at Nick, who is obviously avoiding making eye contact. He’s sitting alone on a stump. Sheena instead has sat in between Maurice and Tallulah.
“Hey, there’s tree mail,” Hannah says with a sigh as she comes into the camp. “It’s… uh, well…”
“What does it say?” asks Naomi from the shelter.
“Koryok Tribe,” Hannah begins, “Yenisei has won the reward challenge. They have won the right to Exile a member of your tribe, who will take this map and leave immediately for Exile Island,” she continues, holding up a map. “Yenisei has chosen to Exile Olivia.”
“Jesus Christ,” mutters Olivia, putting her face in her hands. Teddy offers a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. “I’m so sick of that place,” Olivia says.
“Believe me,” Sheena tells her, “none of us want you to have to go there again. I’d take your spot if I could.”
“There’s someone else I’d rather have out of camp for the day,” Teddy says, looking pointedly at Nick. “I think the person who is responsible for losing the challenge should be the one punished for losing it. Personally,” he adds.
“You can say names, Ted,” Nick says, looking peeved.
“Well, I guess I’ll see everyone later,” Olivia says, grabbing her bag.
“Bye Olivia!” Hannah calls as the other woman heads off into the distance, ready to suffer her Exile.
“Well that wasn’t a surprise,” Sheena says, taking a big bite of fish.
“That they sent Olivia?” asks Maurice.
“That, and that we lost,” Sheena continues.
“Well, maybe we wouldn’t have lost if someone hadn’t stormed off and refused to keep working,” Nick says, glaring at Teddy.
“Oh sure, blame me,” Teddy says, putting his hands up. “Nothing is ever Big D*ck Nick’s fault.”
“You’re the one who walked off, that’s all I’m saying,” Nick says.
“Nick, you need to consider learning when to shut your f*cking mouth,” Sheena interjects. Nick looks shocked.
“Excuse me, Sheena?” he asks.
“You f*cking heard me, Nick!” Sheena says. “Don’t get mad at Teddy for reacting to your behavior, don’t blame him because you have literally zero chill.”
“How is this my fault?” Nick asks, looking stunned.
“You want to know how it’s your fault, Nick?” Sheena asks, standing up. “I’ll tell you. You are the one who insisted on getting to design the thing and not take anyone else’s input, you’re the one who lashed out at Hannah for daring to have an idea; and you’re the one who refused to apologize to anyone after you hurt their feelings.”
Nick goes to say something, but Sheena cuts him off.
“You don’t get to respond, Nick. You don’t get that,” Sheena barks. “What the f*ck happened to you, seriously? The guy who I’ve said is like a brother to me? That’s not who you’ve been the last few days. Step up, Nikolaos. Quit f*cking around and step up!”
“I…” Nick stammers, “I… look, Sheena, you weren’t even there, okay? If I’m like a brother to you, how come you’re believing Teddy and Hannah over me?”
“Because,” Teddy cuts in, “being a brother don’t make you a good person. I have a brother and he’s an asshole. Just like you.”
“Shut the f*ck up, Teddy,” Nick spits.
“You shut the f*ck up,” Sheena fires back. “You’re acting absolutely f*cking ridiculous, Nick. I’m going to give you one f*cking warning–watch. Your. F*cking. MOUTH.” Sheena says, very aggressively. “Now if you don’t mind, I’m going down to the water to drown myself because I’d rather do that than sit here and listen to you flap your lips in the wind.” She storms off.
“Sheena, wait!” Nick calls, running after her. Tallulah and Maurice turn to each other.
“What are we going to do?” Maurice whispers.
Tallulah sighs. “I wish I knew,” she whispers back, putting a hand on Maurice’s shoulder. “I wish I knew.”
Down at the water, Sheena angrily tosses a rock into the river. It bounces once before sinking.
“F*ck!” Sheena yells, before sitting down, wrapping her arms around her knees.
“Sheena?” calls Nick in the distance.
“F*cking kill me,” groans Sheena.
“Sheena, look,” Nick says, “please, please, just let me talk to you.”
“Oh, that’s more than fine with me, Nick,” Sheena says, her voice elevating. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you.”
“Good, because I’ve been wanting to talk to you!” cries Nick. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you since yesterday but we haven’t had a f*cking chance!”
“Okay,” Sheena says, pinching the corners of her eyes against her nose. “I’m all ears.”
“So… look, first of all, I’m so sorry for how I acted yesterday. Because… ugh, because Teddy’s right, okay? I was being an ass to Hannah, I know I was. And like, she’s super annoying, but that’s not an excuse for how I treated her.”
“You should be apologizing to Hannah for that, not me,” Sheena says. “And to Teddy, since he told you it was f*cked up of you and you bit his head off for it.”
“You’re right, you’re totally right,” Nick says. “I’m just… I’m not great at apologizing, Sheena. It’s not a good thing, either. I know it’s not. It’s just… sometimes, I feel like I’ve done enough apologizing for who I am, you know? And it’s easy for it to all blend together. Like as a kid, feeling like I had to apologize for like, being too sensitive, or not masculine enough, for not wanting for me what my parents wanted for me…”
Sheena bites her lips, looking pensive.
“Anyway,” Nick continues, “that’s not the only thing. I have game stuff, Sheena, and it’s big. This could be the key to us in the top two, I’m serious.”
Sheena’s attention has clearly been caught. She looks Nick in the eyes now, an intensity starting to brim through in her gaze. “What’s up?” she asks.
“So… Olivia came to me the other day,” Nick begins, “and she wants to work with us, and that she has the idol.”
“I knew she had it,” Sheena says.
“Not only does she have it,” Nick says, “but she didn’t even find it on Exile, because it’s not out there. There are actually two of them and they’re at the camps!”
“What? No way!” gasps Sheena.
“She swears to me she didn’t find it here, but she thinks she knows where it is,” Nick says. “And then she promised me the craziest thing: she said if I made sure that she got through the next Tribal Council without playing her idol, she would tell me where the other idol is.”
“Oh my god, Nick. Holy crap, what?” Sheena says, taking a step backwards. “Oh my f*cking god, that’s… she’s not serious, she can’t be serious!”
“There’s only one way to find out, but I think she is, Sheena,” Nick says. “If she tells me where the idol is, and it’s not there, I know she’s lying to me, and then we can just like, vote her out anyway, or whatever. But if she’s being honest–and I think she is, I really think she is–”
“–Then you’d have the idol,” Sheena finishes.
“We’d have the idol,” Nick corrects. “Because we are a team, Sheena.”
“Plus, think about this,” Nick continues. “Olivia flipped on Yenisei, she can’t go back to them, how could she? They’d never trust her, not in a million years! They just sent her to Exile Island! If she breaks her promise to find me an idol, then all she’s done is prove to everyone she can’t be trusted, and then nobody will want to work with her. I think she’s telling the truth. I think she’ll do it.”
Sheena crosses her arms and paces, thinking.
“We’d have to split the votes anyway if we went after her,” Sheena says, thinking aloud. “There’s no way I’d vote for her unanimously if she even potentially had that idol. So even if we vote her out, it’s entirely possible someone else goes home anyway.”
“And then,” Nick says, grabbing the chance to elaborate, “she’d just find the second idol and and still be protected, and we’d have no shot at it.”
“All we’d have to do is vote out someone other than her,” Sheena concludes.
“Yes!” Nick says. “We could finally get rid of Hannah.”
Sheena shakes her head. “Not Hannah.”
“What?” Nick says.
“You’re not in a position to bargain,” Sheena says. “Naomi goes.”
“Naomi?” Nick echoes, stunned.
“Hannah might bug you, Nick, but she’s going to be totally loyal to us, okay? She just wants the audience to like her, she’d never betray anyone. It would make her look bad.”
“That’s exactly why she should go!” Nick says. “I think it’s so… it’s just wrong! She’s only here to be on TV, Sheena, the people who want to play are the people we should be keeping. It’s not right!”
“Nick,” Sheena says, her eyes narrowing, “I don’t know if you’re forgetful or just stupid, but you aren’t exactly in a position right now to be making objections.”
“Could you just tell me why Naomi?” Nick asks.
“Because I don’t like what she does to you!” Sheena says. “I don’t trust Olivia either, but I can’t get her out right now, can I? So if I have to make a different move, it’s not going to be a move against someone I can trust. Do you know why Naomi spends so much time talking about poisonous reptiles? Because she is one!”
“You just don’t want me to get my way,” Nick accuses. “Sheena, that’s so petty!”
“I’m not being petty, don’t speak for me,” Sheena growls back. “This is what’s best for both of us! You not getting your way is just a silver lining.”
“Wow, really?” Nick asks. “Are you that power hungry, or do you just have a problem with me?”
“Yes, I have a problem with you!” Sheena says. “I know you’ve been telling stuff to Naomi, okay? She came and told me everything, Nick, she knows everything!”
“What are you talking about?” Nick asks, stunned.
“You told her about our alliance,” Sheena says. “About our whole alliance. She told me you told her!”
“Okay, so here’s the thing,” Nick says, looking desperate to explain himself. “Naomi kept badgering me about getting into an alliance with her, but you didn’t want to work with her? What was I supposed to do, just lie to her?”
“YES!” Sheena yells, staring at Nick as though he’s just sprouted a third eye. “Yes, you should have just lied to her and gotten her off your back. Or, you know, you could have come to me! You could have let me know that’s what was going on, and then we, as an alliance, could have come up with a plan to handle it!”
“Well, alright!” Nick says, “so we do that going forward!”
“There might not be a going forward,” Sheena says, unable to look at Nick when she says so.
“Woah, woah!” Nick says. “Sheena, please, don’t get crazy over this, I didn’t mean–”
“–I’m not crazy!” Sheena yells, cutting him off.
Nick sighs, and looks down. “Maybe we should finish this discussion later,” he says.
“Maybe you should go jump a dick fence and get snagged on it,” Sheena snarls as she walks off.
“Oh my god, don’t do that! Sheena!” Nick calls. “Sheen, please! Come back!” She doesn’t respond. “F*ck,” Nick mutters.
At the water, Tallulah stands near the shallows, washing dishes as Nick approaches, obviously having been crying.
“Hey TM,” he says with a weak smile, “can we talk?”
Tallulah shakes a pot gently, swirling water in it to remove debris. “You know I always have time to talk to you, Nick,” she says.
“Good,” Nick says, “thanks. Because… Oh man, I f*cked up, TM. I f*cked up bad.”
“I heard Sheena yelling at you,” Tallulah says.
“Oh god, were we that loud?” Nick asks, looking embarrassed.
“Well sound does travel,” Tallulah says, dumping the dirty dishwater, “but you’re an artist, not a musician, so I’m willing to give you a pass,” she smiles. “But I’m not letting you sit there while I’m busting my behind, so you better get over here and start washing some dishes.”
“Oh, yeah. Of course,” Nick says, taking his shoes off as he heads to join Tallulah. He grabs a pot and begins scrubbing.
“I guess Naomi told you guys everything, huh?” Nick says.
“Well, she told Sheena, and Sheena told us,” Tallulah says.
“I’m so sorry, TM,” Nick says. “I thought… I guess I thought I could trust her, which sounds so stupid now that I say it out loud. Because I know you all thought you could trust me too.”
“You’re right, I did think I could trust you,” Tallulah says as she scrubs inside of the pot with her buff. There is a moment of silence between the two, with only the sound of swishing water to fill the air.
“You know when I was born?” Tallulah asks.
“1998,” Nick says with a cocky smile. “You’re only 20 years old.”
“Don’t try and butter me up, boy,” Tallulah says. “I was born on May 17th, 1955. Exactly a year before my birthday, the Supreme Court ruled on Brown vs the Board of Education, and declared that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional.”
“Wow,” says Nick. “I guess for a lot of people my age, it’s easy to forget how not long ago that was.”
“Georgia, where I was born? A lot of schools there were more than happy to drag their feet when it came to de-segregating,” Tallulah continues. “The state legislature passed law after law that were designed to fight the Supreme Court ruling, on the basis that the ruling wasn’t clear. In fact, Georgia made it flat-out illegal to desegregate. They made it that if you were a public school, and you desegregated, the state would shut the school down.”
“I had no idea,” Nick says, looking stunned. “I guess I thought it all just… changed after Brown vs Board.”
“It’s never that simple, as just one decision, is it?” Tallulah says. “My parents decided that they weren’t going to just let their children live like that, in a place where they were going to be treated as second class citizens. So we sold almost everything we had to come up North. It was hard on Mama, especially. Her whole family, everyone she grew up with, they were all back in Georgia. And living in the city, it cost a lot more than living out in the countryside. That meant more hours of work for my parents. Finding the time and the money to go back and visit became very rare. And I think Mama felt very lonely. ”
“I’m so sorry, Tallulah,” Nick says. “I had no idea.”
“Well how would you have an idea without me telling you?” Tallulah asks. “And there’s a reason, young man, that I wanted to tell you all of this, and that’s because in 1961, things finally started to change in the state of Georgia, and that wouldn’t have happened if everyone just sat and accepted the status quo. To bring about change, this world needs people who will speak their minds, even if there is a great cost. I love, Nick, that you are so expressive. I love that you don’t let anyone tell you ‘that’s just how it is.’ The world needs people like you, who aren’t afraid to speak out.”
“Thanks, TM,” Nick says with a smile, clearly feeling a little better. “That’s a really meaningful compliment. Coming from you, especially.”
“I had Hugo in 1976,” Tallulah continues.
“Your oldest, right?” Nick asks.
“Mhm,” Tallulah confirms. “And here’s the thing about that, is that becoming a parent, it changes you. Because now it’s not about you, you, you anymore. I had to work to start bringing money home, to put food on the table for that baby boy. To put a roof over his head, clothes on his back, and one day, to put a college diploma in his hand. Do you think I wanted to be a cleaning lady when I was your age?”
“Probably not,” laughs Nick.
“I’ve had a lot of clients since I started cleaning,” continues Tallulah. “Some have been kind, loving people. Others have been spoiled, entitled, and cruel. What they all had in common is that the money they’d pay me was all the same shade of green. I understand, Nick, why you don’t like authority. Not a lot of people do. But sometimes, learning to accept authority and do as your told can be a matter of survival.”
Nick nods, taking a deep breath. “Yeah,” he says. “I know.”
“And what’s this game called?” Tallulah asks.
“Survivor,” Nick sighs.
“TM?” Nick asks.
“Yes?” she replies.
“Thanks,” Nick says earnestly. “Thank you so much. I really needed a reality check,” he says.
“It’s my pleasure, dear,” Tallulah says, squeezing his shoulder.
Night has fallen over the Yenisei camp, but the fire is blazing bright. A big, boiling pot sits on top. Lyuba motions with her hand for something to use to lift the lid, as Charlotte hands Lyuba buff. The elderly hermit lifs the lid and dips in a laddle, stirring the borscht inside. She lifts it for a taste and smiles.
With bowls of soup prepared, the castaways sit with their guests.
“Before we eat,” Piotr explains, “Lyuba prefers to pray.”
“As do we,” Charlotte says with a smile.
Lyuba begins her prayer, speaking rapidly in Russian. She makes very specific movements with her hands as she prays. The others all have their heads bowed. As Lyuba finishes, she crosses her chest. The other castaways follow suit, and then begin eating.
“This is delicious, oh man!” Huang says, taking a sip.
“Oh my goodness,” Charlotte echoes, “it’s so flavorful! Lyuba, thank you so much for bringing the ingredients to make this,” Charlotte says. The translator delivers the message, and Lyuba smiles and nods in thanks.
“So, if it’s okay, Lyuba, I’d like to ask you something,” Huang says. Pitor translate and Lyuba nods, prompting Huang to continue.
“I’m very curious,” Huang begins, “about why you live out here in Siberia. You were born here, right? Why did your parents come to this place?”
Piotr translates the question to Lyuba, and she begins to respond, very passionately. Piotr begins to deliver the response to the tribe.
“Lyuba’s parents were Old Believers,” Piotr says. “In Petrograd, where they were born–it is now St. Petersburg–it was not safe for them to practice their religion in the old way.”
This clearly has piqued Zeke’s interset.
“Lyuba’s parents fled to Siberia to avoid persecution from Stalin,” continues Piotr, “to practice their faith the true way.”
“What’s the Old Believers?” Zeke asks.
“They’re the ultra orthodox,” explains Piotr, “in the seventeenth century, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church sought to bring about reforms within the church. To practice in the old way became forbidden. Patriarch Nikon, he desired for the Russian way of worship to match with the Greek way of worship. But many Russians refused to give up the old ways. These who follow the old ways, they are the Old Believers. Truthfully, much of it is the same. Some of the differences are extremely minor.”
Zeke nods in understanding. “And are those Lyuba’s words?”
“No, I don’t want to trouble her to answer I question I can answer on my own,” Piotr explains.
“I’d like to hear her take,” Zeke asks.
“Of course,” says Piotr. “My apologies.” He turns to Lyuba and begins speaking in Russian. As Lyuba responds, Piotr translates to Zeke.
“My father’s ancestors were true Christian believers,” Piotr begins, sharing Lyuba’s words. “Our faith has been passed on from generation to generation, the true faith, given to us by Christ himself, who descended into Hell to free the righteous and raise them to Heaven. But the Patriarch Nikon, he descended into Hell to confer with Satan. He came to introduce new laws, to change the Church in Satan’s name. He made changes to Church dogma, to holy books… he abolished the two finger cross, handed down from Christ himself.” Lyuba holds up her hand, ring and pinky finger folded down, thumb over the top. Her pointer and middle finger are up, with a slight bend. “He says it is to be three fingers,” she says, adjustng to hold up her thumb as well. “A blasphemy in the name of Christ, who died on the cross to free the world.”
Zeke nods, looking pensive.
“So what do you do out here for fun, Lyuba?” asks Charlotte. “Do you like music?”
“I sing only in prayer,” Lyuba answers, somewhat angry. “Modern music is wicked temptation of Satan. It is made to invite dancing, which creates infamy that poisons the world.”
“Oh,” Charlotte responds.
“So not a fan of TV then, huh?” Zeke asks.
“TV is wicked,” Lyuba responds.
“Does she know she’s on a TV show?” Huang whispers to Charlotte.
“Uh, well, if y’all don’t mind me asking,” Zeke says, “why you here? Why you agree to be on this TV show, if the TV is wicked?”
“Rev, don’t make her uncomfortable,” Vince says. “You ain’t gotta explain if you don’t want to,” Vince tells the elderly woman. Piotr translates everything, and Lyuba begins to answer.
“Our homestead was built by my father for our family, for six people. They have all been dead for over thirty years now,” she answers. “My health is not what it used to be, as age takes it’s toll. The people who make the television programs, they have offered me assistance. In exchange, I trade my story, my experiences. It is all I have to give.”
“Well, I’m very glad to hear,” Charlotte responds, “that you’re receiving assistance you need.”
Lyuba responds, and Piotr says nothing.
“What did she say?” Charlotte asks.
“You don’t want to know,” Piotr responds.
“Come on in guys!” Jeff calls to the castaways. Koryok once again enter first, this time coming into an arena where eight balance beams await, four in each tribe’s color. All four for each tribe point towards the same point in the center, where a disc with four ropes attached awaits. As they take their place, the blue of Yenisei’s flag comes into the background.
“Koryok, getting your first look at the new Yenisei Tribe,” Jeff announces. “Gunnar voted out at the last Tribal Council.”
“Olivia was right,” Maurice whispers to Sheena. Despite being small, Yenisei is clearly feeling confident as they take their positions.
“We’ll now welcome back Olivia from Exile Island as well,” Jeff says, as Olivia comes into the arena.
“Hey guys,” she says with a wave to her tribe, taking a spot on the mat.
“Alright, you guys ready to get to today’s Immunity Challenge?” Jeff asks.
“Yeah!” cheer the castaways.
“First things first,” Jeff says, “Koryok, I need the idol back.”
Naomi comes and hands it over to Jeff, who places the idol back on it’s stand.
“Immunity, once again, back up for grabs,” Jeff says. “For today’s challenge, you will each pull on a rope, suspending a disc. You’ll then work together to stack blocks on that disc. The blocks have letters on them, and you must place them so that they spell out ‘Immunity.’ If your stack drops, or if you drop off of your balance beam, you have to start the whole thing over. The first tribe to stack their blocks correctly wins Immunity, and is safe for three more days. For the losers, Tribal Council, where someone will become the fifth person voted out of this game. Koryok, you have four extra members, and you’ll need to sit four people out. However, keep in mind you can’t sit the same people out in back to back challenges. That means whichever four of you didn’t do the reward challenge are doing this one. Who’s sitting out?”
“It’s me, Nay, Hannah, and Nick,” Teddy says.
“Alright, you four can take a seat on the bench. As for everyone else, I’ll give you a moment to strategize, then we’ll go ahead and get started.”
The castaways get into position. Charlotte looks steady and focused. Maurice gives his fingers a hearty crack and then grabs the rope.
“SURVIVORS READY? GO!”
On the farthest left balance beam for the tribes are Zeke and Sheena, respectively. They both grab the bottom letter, Y, and begin going forward.
“Zeke placing the first letter for Yenisei, Sheena’s got it for Koryok,” Jeff calls. “The first one is the easy one, though.”
With the letter now in place, Zeke begins slowly moving back, gently pulling along the rope.
“A little lower Zeke,” Charlotte says. Zeke adjusts as he returns to his space, letting Vince now take his turn.
“You’ve got this Uncle Vinnie,” Huang says as Vince clutches the T block, his hands moving with great focus along the rope, his footsteps careful to keep balance. His movements are slow and purposeful. For Koryok, Olivia is able to go a little more quickly.
“Olivia places a block,” Jeff notes, “Koryok is now in the lead. But there is time in this challenge for a lead to be lost.”
“Sheena, I need you pulling harder,” Tallulah asks. Sheena adjusts while Maurice begins moving forward for the I block.
On Yenisei, Vince places for Yenisei, and putting Huang out on his balance beam. Tall and steady, Huang takes long strides moving fairly quickly.
“Less less less less!” Vince says, “Huang, I need you doing less! Rev, pull up when he starts letting go, okay?”
Huang and Zeke both comply, and the tilting platform regains it’s straightness. Maurice places the I, with Huang quickly behind.
“This is a close challenge so far, but figuring out how to hold this platform is a learning process.”
As if on cue, Tallulah, moving to place the N block, makes a shocked grimace as Koryok’s platform tilts.
“You’re too tight, Tallulah Mae,” Maurice says, but it’s too late. The tower collapses.
“Koryok loses their stack! Now Yenisei’s in the lead,” Jeff notes.
“Whatever, keep it going,” Sheena says, going to place the first block again.
Meanwhile, Charlotte has placed a fourth block, N, and is now making her way back to the platform.
“Charlotte you need to just not put no pressure on that rope, okay?” Vince instructs. “Boys, get that up, pull tighter, one, two, three, lift!”
All three of the Yenisei men tighten their grips while Charlotte loosens her. With her rope all but dangling in her hand, she moves quickly back to her spot.
“Now Char pulls, Rev drops,” Vince commands. The changes in pressure cause the platform to tilt, but Vince tightens his grip and stabilizes it.
“Vince with a great save,” Jeff says.
For Koryok, Maurice is once again moving in to place the third block.
“Stop pulling, Sheena,” Maurice says.
“It’s not me,” Sheena says, “Liv, pull less!”
“Please don’t call me Liv,” corrects Olivia, trying to adjust her grip.
“That’s really not important right now!” Tallulah chides.
Zeke is making slow, steady steps towards the center disc.
“Nothing on the rope, Rev,” Vince says. “Like you ain’t even touching it.”
Zeke looks absolutely locked into the tower. He reaches over nimbly, his meticulously decorated arm shaking slightly with nerve as he places block 5, U.
“That’s five for Yenisei,” Jeff says, “Koryok trying to catch up at four.”
“Good job, Tallulah,” Sheena says as Tallulah places her block. As Tallulah begins coming back though, she begins to lose her footing. She slips off the balance beam, tugging the rope with her, once again knocking over the tower.
“Tallulah falls off, which means once again Koryok is starting over!” Jeff calls. “Yenisei hasn’t had to restart once.”
“We better not have to,” mutters Vince. Now walking towards the center with the M block, he is barely holding his rope, and Zeke instead has taken his place in suspending the disc.
“Look how they’re doing it, okay?” Maurice says, pointing to Yenisei. “Whoever is placing the block needs to go slack, everyone else keep it stable.”
“Got it,” Sheena says, loosening her grip on her rope as she goes to restart the tower.
“Koryok going to try copying Yenisei’s strategy,” Jeff observes, “but they’ll need Yenisei to drop if they want to catch up.”
“Good job Huang!” cheers Vince as Huang delicately places the 7th block, M.
“ Yenisei with only one block left!” calls Jeff. Huang takes slow steps backwards, trying to avoid putting any pull on his rope.
“They’re not close,” Vince says, “So don’t worry about them, take your f*cking time, okay?”
“Take my f*cking time, got it,” whispers Huang to himself, moving backwards almost meditatively. He reaches the end of his balance beam, and slowly and gently begins to pull his rope taut once again. Gently, the other three begin to release.
“Slow, slow, slow,” Vince whispers as the platform sinks lower, the seven block tower swaying slightly. “Slower than a turtle. Slower than the legal system. Barely moving people, barely moving!”
“Come on, fall!” calls Nick from the bench to Yenisei. Once again, Koryok has gotten to Tallulah, who is slowly inching her way back into position. She makes it to her barrel, sending Sheena forward for her next block.
“You can’t pull it so tight, Sheena!” Olivia warns.
“I’m not touching it!” hisses Sheena. Despite her claims, the tower is clearly tilting. Once again, they lose all their blocks.
“F*cking hell,” spits Sheena.
“Charlotte is now making very slow movement towards that tower,” Jeff notes. “This is the last block. Yenisei hasn’t dropped yet, can Charlotte do it?”
Charlotte keeps pace with her slow, steady movements as Koryok frantically tries to catch back up. At the center, Charlotte exhales, moving her hand ever so slowly to place the ‘I’ at the top.
“Charlotte can win it right here for Yenisei,” Jeff says. Charlotte holds her breath tight and lets the block slip out from between her fingers, softly finding it’s home at the top of the stack.
“Stay steady, stay calm, stay focused,” Vince says. “Whatever you do, don’t let it drop!”
“It’s not going to,” Charlotte says, touching her barrel.
“YENISEI! WINS IMMUNITY!”
After such careful work, the tower of letters is dropped immediately when Yenisei learns they’ve won. Charlotte and Zeke practically leap into each other’s arms, with Vince and Huang coming on the outside around them.
“YES! YES! JESUS CHRIST IS GOOD!” Zeke wails. “THANK YOU, JESUS! THANK YOU!”
Tears of joy are streaming down Charlotte’s face. Huang picks her up in a huge hug and spins her around.
On the Koryok bench, Nick snorts and spits out a huge loogie in protest.
“I’m kind of happy for them,” Maurice whispers to Tallulah, watching as the Yeniseis frolic and celebrate.
“Me too,” Tallulah whispers in response.
With the challenge concluded, the tribes gather on their mats once again. Jeff stands with the idol, and smiles like a proud parent at the Yenisei Tribe.
“After a lot of struggles, Yenisei, it looks like you’ve got your groove back. You guys made this challenge look downright easy, you earned this today. Come and get it,” Jeff says. Vince steps forward, head held high, accepting the idol with an smile of pure gratitude on his face.
“Oh man, am I happy to see you again,” Vince says to the idol as he heads back to the mat.
“For the first time in a while, Yenisei, you get to enjoy a night off,” Jeff says. “Grab your stuff and head back to camp.”
Huang takes the flag as Zeke leads out the tribe. Koryok is left standing on their mat. Tallulah looks remorseful. Nick looks gutted. Naomi looks satisfied. Sheena looks furious.
“Koryok,” Jeff says, turning his attention to the remaining team. “For you, all I have is a ticket to Tribal Council tonight. Front row seats,” he smiles dickishly. “One of you is going to become the fifth person voted out of Survivor: Siberia. You have the rest of today to decide who that person is. Grab your stuff and head back to camp.”
“Well, there’s nothing we can do about losing now,” sighs Sheena as she puts her bag down in the shelter. The others in the tribe place their own belongings.
“It was nice not having to go to Tribal Council while it lasted,” Olivia says to Sheena with a weak smile.
“Yeah, sorry we couldn’t keep you out of there a little longer,” Teddy says.
“It’s the game,” shrugs Olivia.
As Olivia puts her things down, she observes the tribe, and once she feels as though she’s not under scrutiny, she catches Nick. The two of them make eye contact, and head off into the forest.
With Olivia and Nick gone, Sheena makes a hand motion, gathering the rest of he tribe.
“I just wanted to wait for Nick and Olivia to be out of here,” she says to the group, “because I have a feeling we’re all kind of on the same page about them.”
“As in… we vote one of them out tonight?” Teddy asks.
“That’s the page I’m on,” Naomi says.
“I hate to say it, but I agree,” Maurice sighs.
“Good, good,” Sheena says. “But I do want to talk about what we’re all doing specifically. I mean, we have to be realistic about this, guys–Olivia has been to Exile Island three times now. I think it’s really unlikely she doesn’t have the idol.”
“And if I were in her position,” chimes in Maurice, “this is when I’d play it.”
“So we split the votes,” Naomi offers.
“I want two on Nick and the rest on Olivia,” Sheena says. “That way if she plays it, it doesn’t matter who she votes for. We can still get Nick.”
“I’ll be more than happy to write his name down, after the way he’s been acting,” Teddy offers.
“We can keep it along gender lines,” Maurice suggests. “Me and Ted, we’ll vote for Nick. Y’all ladies vote for Olivia.”
“I’m great with that,” Sheena says.
“Olivia it is,” Tallulah agrees.
“And we have a nice, easy time until then,” Naomi says with a smile.
Nick and Olivia confer together among the trees in the forest.
“So here’s the thing, I’m worried it could be me tonight,” Nick says.
“Why? Because of the reward challenge?” Olivia asks.
“Yeah, and some other things,” he says, clearly stressed. “It’s just a lot of little things that have been stacking up, and now Sheena is really pissed at me,” Nick says. “So, uh… good news is that I don’t think you’re gonna need the idol tonight. Bad news is that I think I’m going home.”
“Sh*t,” says Olivia. “I mean, are you like… is this a hunch, or did you hear something?”
“Well I haven’t heard anything specific,” Nick says, “but like… I’m sure that Teddy is voting for me. Hannah probably. It just feels like a mounting case.” He pauses, looking a little embarrassed. “I… look, I know we made a deal that if Iget you through Tribal, you’ll help me find the idol. But I don’t think I’m going to make it through Tribal. The clue you got at Exile… do you know where it is?”
“Uh… I have a guess,” Olivia says, “but the clue wasn’t totally clear. And I don’t know that there’s time to get to it before Tribal Council.”
“Well I have to try, right?” Nick asks. “Come on, Olivia, please, I’m begging you.”
“I think it’s going to be really risky, Nick,” Olivia says, looking tense. “And I mean… look, it would be really nice to think that everything you’re telling me is true right now, but like… please, try and understand this from my position. If I help you find the idol now, and then don’t play mine…”
“You could get voted out instead of me,” Nick finishes.
“It’s nothing against you,” Olivia promises, “if my own butt wasn’t on the line, it would be different.”
Now elsewhere in the woods, Olivia and Naomi talk together.
“So,” Naomi says, “I… I understand if you’re hesitant right now, I know we haven’t really had too many big game discussions with each other yet.”
“I’m the new girl,” Olivia says with a nervous giggle. “I just don’t want it to be me tonight, so I’m just really glad to talk to whoever might want to work with me, honestly.”
Naomi smiles, flashing her stunning white teeth. “Perfect,” she purrs. “I thought I’d clue you in on the plan, which is for the tribe to split votes between you and Nick, with Nick as a backup. Quite frankly, your possession of the idol makes people nervous, and that means you’re the top priority.”
“Well, crap,” Olivia says. “I mean, I’m not surprised… I was just kind of hoping otherwise.”
“Well, that’s why I came to you,” Naomi says. “So we can make it otherwise. The plan is to have the women vote for you, and the men vote for Nick. So while I am intended to be a voter against you tonight… I would rather see Nick gone. And with you and I joining Maurice and Teddy–”
“That’s only four, though,” Olivia interjects.
“Not as long as Nick doesn’t vote for you,” Naomi grins.
Meanwhile, up at the cliffside, Nick stands with Sheena, Maurice, and Tallulah.
“I know I’ve been the worst,” Nick says. “I can’t even begin to tell you all how sorry I am. I’ve been playing with my feelings, not with my head, and that hasn’t been fair to you guys–the people who are counting on me. And that’s not just because you’re counting on me, it’s also because… f*ck,” Nick swears, as he starts to tear up. “You guys matter to me, okay? I have a lot of relationships in my life that are like, pretty shallow, honestly. I’ve gotten close to you guys, and… I can’t believe how f*cking dumb and careless I’ve been. I’ve told all of you, I’m in this for the long haul, and I mean it.”
Maurice nods, looking somewhat stern. “I accept your apology, Nick,” he grants. He holds a hand out to shake Nick’s hand. Nick takes it and pulls Maurice in for a hug.
“I’m so sorry, shit,” Nick cries. Sheena looks sick.
“So,” Sheena says, swallowin a lump in her throat, “Nick… if you…” she pauses, thinking more. “Who are you going to vote tonight?”
“Whoever you want,” Nick says, almost beggingly. “I’m serious, Sheena, I’m so serious. You guys, I’ve been thinking about it so, so much and like… we’re a team. So whatever decision you guys make, I’m good with. I’ll vote whoever. Olivia? Say the word. Naomi? Absolutely. It was stupid of me to trust her at all. I have no problems sending her home. Hannah, Teddy, whoever. I’ll do whatever you want.”
Sheena nods, taking in the information. Tallulah rubs Nick’s back supportively.
“Thank you, Nick, for coming and apologizing,” she says. “It means a lot, to all of us. Right, Sheena?”
Sheena remains expressionless as she begins to speak. “Yeah, it does,” she admits. “Naomi… Naomi sounds good,” she tells Nick, nodding as she decides.
“Then Naomi’s my vote,” Nick smiles. He turns and begins to walk back to camp, but none of the others follow.
“Oh, do we have something else to discuss?” Nick asks.
“Um, so… we,” Sheena says, pointing to herself, Tallulah, and Maurice, “have more to talk about. You should go back to camp and uh… think about what you’re going to draw for Naomi tonight.”
“Gotcha,” Nick says, almost croaking. He hurriedly makes his way down. Maurice takes off his hat and sighs.
“If he’s voting Naomi, that’s fine,” Maurice says. “Don’t affect nothing at all, I say we still stick with the plan, two on Nick.”
“Maurice, I have to disagree,” Tallulah says. “He’s just too much like my Isaac, I can tell how Nick is going to be, exactly how he’s going to be. His remorse is genuine, and I think all we need to do is scare him a little to remind him who is keeping the roof over his head.”
“Sheena?” asks Maurice.
“I… I’m totally stuck,” Sheena admits. “I feel so completely torn right now.”
“Well,” Maurice begins, “I’m not in no business of us all shooting off in different directions. If you both feel strongly that Nick should stay, then I trust in that.”
“So it’s up to you, Sheena,” Tallulah says, “Because I feel the same way. If neither of you feel comfortable with Nick in the game, then I trust that.”
“Super,” say Sheena sarcastically.
“You’re sure?” Tallulah asks Sheena, looking concerned.
“If you want to think about it, I understand,” Maurice says.
“No, I’m positive,” Sheena says. “We have our plan of attack.”
Down at the camp, the tribe is getting their supplies together. Teddy packs Raja the stuffed tiger into his bag. Hannah sits by the fire, perfecting her makeup. Off in a corner, Olivia approaches Sheena.
“Hey, can we talk really quick?” Olivia whispers to Sheena.
“Yeah,” Sheena tells her. “Let’s uh, just peel off for a second.”
The two women now stand in the woods, not far from camp.
“I’m just wondering…” Olivia says, “if I hypothetically had an immunity idol, is there any way I make it back to camp tonight without having to use it?”
“Well,” Sheena says, taken somewhat aback. “That’s forward.”
“I’m not exactly swimming in options,” says Olivia.
“Fair point,” Sheena offers.
“What I’m going to need from you,” Sheena says, “is a gesture of trust. If I give you a name, you have to trust me enough to have that be more than enough. No questions asked, no explanations guaranteed.”
Olivia nods, thinking it through. “If that’s what you need to trust me, I’ll do it,” Olivia says, offering her hand. Sheena takes it, and they shake.
“Put a mark on the vote, so I can tell it’s yours,” Sheena says. “Like… a smiley face.”
“Okay,” agrees Olivia. “What name am I writing down.”
“I want you to vote for…” Sheena whispers.
With darkness falling, the tribe begins to make their way out of camp.
Koryok makes their way into the Tribal Council halls, the mood much more tense than their prior visit. With torches placed in their spots, the castaways take their seats. Jeff watches like a tiger, eyeing the herd to decide where he’ll pounce.
“Koryok,” Jeff greets with a smile as everyone is settled. “It’s been a while. Let’s get into it. Obviously you guys have been doing pretty well in the challenges, because you’ve also been winning quite a few rewards. And then, all of a sudden, back to back losses, and you’re sitting right back where you were on Day 3. Maurice, where did things go wrong? What’s changed for this tribe?”
“Well,” Maurice says, straightening a little, “I think, honestly, we’ve gotten a little bit complacent as a team. We got used to winning and it became the assumption that we’d keep on winning. Yenisei only has four people now, two of them are on the older side, when it comes to the players who are in this game, so they’re kind of, you know, lacking in that strength factor when it comes to us. But the challenges this round weren’t about strength. They were about creativity and teamwork, and on teamwork, I think especially that’s an issue right now.”
“I just wanna pipe up,” Teddy interjects, “and say that I think Maurice is being very gracious right now, and that’s whatever, that’s his decision, but there’s a specific person who can be pointed to as where it all started, you know, the patient zero who has been spreading their bad attitude through the tribe, and that’s Nick.”
“Guilty as charged,” Nick sighs.
“So you’re not denying this, Nick,” Jeff says.
“I mean, I wouldn’t say that it’s all my fault, that’s a little extreme,” Nick begins, “I wasn’t in the immunity challenge today, so like, that can’t be on my shoulders, you know? And I mean, I could have some, you know, notes for critique to pass back to Teddy if he’s interested–”
“I’m not,” Teddy interjects.
“Okay, but that’s like, not really the point,” Nick says, taking a deep breath to collect himself. “I acted like a big, obnoxious asshole during the reward challenge. I was controlling, and I was mean. And it wasn’t cool.”
“But Nick, specifically, what happened?”
“I got a vision in my head of how I wanted to do this challenge. This was, you know, a creative challenge, and I’m the artist on the tribe. This is what I do, create things. Like, we had the challenge with the mud wrestling–Sheena’s a martial artist, and she was amazing to watch. When it comes to solving puzzles, TM is a beast. So this just felt like it was my time to shine, and I made that my hill to die on. I felt like I knew best what to do, and I wasn’t going to take any input. So when someone gave it, I blew up at them. I blew up at, uh, at Hannah. I just let the pressure get to me. And it’s pressure I was putting on myself.”
Sheena doesn’t seem able to look at Nick while he speaks.
“Hannah, how did that make you feel?” Jeff asks.
“Really bad, Jeff,” Hannah chuckles, “like, duh. Nobody likes getting yelled at for no reason. And like, it really did hurt my feelings. Because,” she begins to cry, “I get really insecure about my intelligence sometimes, because I know like, that I’m not that good with words, I forget stuff a lot, and like, people will judge me, based on how I look. Like, yeah, my hair has been colored, but I’m still a natural blonde, and you get jokes at your expanse all the time already, and… I don’t know, it just really hurt my feelings,” she says, mascara running down her face. “Ugh, my makeup,” she laughs. “I wanted to look nice for Tribal Council,” she laughs. “I didn’t think I’d be crying.”
Tallulah leans over next to Hannah and hugs her tightly. She gives her a loving kiss on the forehead.
“You are not a stupid girl, Hannah,” Tallulah tells her, smiling. “We all have our own kind of smart, and that’s okay.”
“So Nick,” Jeff continues, “would it be safe to say that as a result of all this, you’re a target for the vote tonight?”
“Oh my god, absolutely,” Nick laughs. “Everyone made it pretty clear to me I’m in the doghouse. I’d be stunned if my name doesn’t end up on at least one parchment at the end of tonight.”
“How do you get yourself out of that situation?” Jeff follows up.
“Well,” Nick says, “I mean, there’s only so much I can do, at this point. An apology only goes so far, I can say sorry a thousand times, but it’s up to each of my tribemates if they want to forgive me or not. I can only hope that they do, you know? I hope that these people have seen enough from me to realize that isn’t who I am, and that it’s not going to happen again if I’m given a second chance.”
“Alright,” Teddy says, “but the problem is, I think that’s who you have been, Nick, the whole time. Maybe not so overtly rude like you were the other day, but from where I’m sitting, it kind of seems like, oh, Nick is a dude who thinks his sh*t don’t stink, and he always has some kind of sassy comment about whatever anyone else thinks or does. Hannah likes pop music, she likes TV, she likes movies, there’s nothing wrong with any of that. Jeff, I’m a parent, and that is so important to me, that my little girls never think that what they like isn’t okay for them to like. Nick just makes it seem like he’s just so much smarter and better than everyone else because he doesn’t engage with stuff that he thinks is too mainstream, and like, it doesn’t make you look cool, dude. It makes you look like a poser.”
“Ouch,” Nick grimaces.
“I mean, Nick knows that I like him,” Sheena offers, “we spend a lot of our time together, and we’re close. But that being said, I think Teddy is kind of right, Nick. It feels like you’re trying to prove something to everyone sometimes, and it’s annoying.”
Nick looks emotional. “Um… yeah, that’s fair, I’d say,” Nick says, “because… f*ck,” he laughs, starting to cry. “Uh, I think it’s fair to say I’m trying to prove something, but, uh, it’s really mostly me trying to prove something to myself. … Like, the deal is, in my normal life? If I don’t want to do something, I don’t do it. I grew up feeling like I had absolutely no say in my own life. My world had a lot of really strict rules, and it just became so important to me, the older I got, that I never put myself in a position to do something just to meet the expectations someone else put on me. And I make sacrifices in order to live that way. I sacrifice having a steady income, so there’s a lot of thing I can’t afford, you know? I don’t have a computer, I don’t have a cell phone. I have to live in a really basic way, without a lot of luxuries. But like, that’s my choice, so it’s not me complaining about it, but it’s hard to keep up with stuff like current music and what’s on TV without that technological access. And uh… I’ve been kind of embarrassed by how little I know, and, uh… it makes me wonder, you know? Am I too far down the rabbit hole? Have I gotten so, uh, like, enmeshed in this idea of myself as this person who doesn’t let anyone tell them what to do that I’ve forgotten how to compromise? Am I… selfish? Am I a bad person?”
“You are absolutely not a bad person, Nick,” Tallulah says, almost angrily. “No one here wants you to think that about yourself, I promise. You are an imperfect person, as we all are, and you will continue to grow and learn. How much you grow and learn? That is where you need to decide you’re going to step up and do the work.”
“Oh, I’ll do the work,” Nick laughs. “These last few days have just sucked, Jeff, they’ve been awful. Feeling this way feels awful. I want to be a better person.”
“Teddy,” Jeff asks, “you’ve certainly been critical of Nick tonight. How does hearing this from Nick now make you feel? Is someone saying ‘I’ll be better’ enough to keep them in the game?”
“Uh, well, look, Jeff, if I were in Nick’s shoes, I’d be saying the same thing,” Teddy says. “’I’ll be better, please, give me another chance,’ the works. And talk is cheap, right? Until we see Nick actually be better, and not just say he’ll be better, it could be just fluff. The follow through is important, and there isn’t time for follow through right now. Uh, I think that if anything is going to maybe keep Nick safe tonight, it’s that there are other people who you could make a case should go instead.”
“Care to name names?” Jeff asks.
Teddy fondles with his wedding ring, thinking. “Eh, why not, it’s not like this is something that nobody knows,” Teddy sighs. “Olivia could be going home tonight. And that’s, you know, bummer for her, because it really wouldn’t be for any other reason than she’s the odd one out.”
“Olivia, agree with Teddy?” Jeff asks. “Think you could be in trouble?”
“Jeff, I think if someone was in my position, and didn’t think they were in trouble, you’d have to get a psychiatrist in here to make sure they aren’t dissociating from reality,” she chuckles. “I mean, at the start of the game I was on Yenisei, nothing changes that. The other seven people here have been together for fifteen days, I’ve been with them for three. And I missed a lot of time being on Exile Island, on top of it. They could easily just decide, ‘you know what? Olivia’s an easy vote, why not just get rid of her?’ Everything goes back to how it was before I was here. It’s like a reset button.”
“Well it’s not exactly that simple,” Sheena says. “See, the complicating matter, Jeff, is that Olivia has spent a lot of time at Exile Island, and everyone knows that Exile Island is where the idol lives. She’s had three trips to look and three clues to help her. Obviously, she’s going to say she doesn’t have it, even if she does, but we basically all have to play under the assumption she has it, it would just be stupid not to.”
“Olivia,” Jeff asks, “do you have the idol?”
“No,” Olivia says with a grin. “Of course not.”
“See!?” laughs Sheena.
“Naomi,” Jeff says, addressing another castaway, “If everyone is operating under the assumption that Olivia has an idol, what does that mean for the rest of the tribe?”
“It gets complicated,” Naomi says. “Because if you’re in Olivia’s position, of course you think ‘this is the time to play the idol,’ you’re coming in the new person, so you’re an obvious target, it’s just the smart thing to play it. But then, from the perspective of the rest of us, that makes you think, ‘oh, well if she’s going to play the idol tonight, I shouldn’t vote for her,’ and no one votes for her. But if she thinks that we think she’s playing the idol, and therefore no one is voting for her, she will decide ‘Okay, I don’t need to play the idol.’”
“And this can go on like that forever,” Jeff says. “So absolutely, I understand how complicated it is. How do you decide what the best play is in that situation?
Naomi thinks for a moment before answering. “Well Jeff, our tribe is like any other ecosystem in the animal kingdom. Humans, after all, are animals. And in an ecosystem, there is often an apex predator, a top of the food chain. Having an idol can kind of be like being the apex predator. In Siberia, it’s the wolf. So if you’re a reindeer, be careful. But if you’re a mosquito, the wolf is probably going to leave you alone. In fact, you can use the wolf to your own benefit. So that is to say I think the most successful way to get around the idol is to work with it, not against it. ”
“I think Naomi’s kind of over-complicating this,” Sheena says. “Because there’s an easy way around an idol if you have enough people, and we do, which is that some people vote for the person with the idol, and the others vote for someone else as a backup. So hearing you say that it’s easier to work with the idol than against it? That’s kind surprising to me,” Sheena says.
“Well I didn’t say that’s what I was doing,” Naomi says. “I said that I think it’s a successful way to play when someone else has an idol. There are other decisions and choices you could make.”
“Okay,” Sheena says, clearly not buying Naomi’s explanation.
“Tallulah,” Jeff asks, “We’ve basically been presented with two philosophies on how to handle the idol. Either try to outmaneuver it, or try to work it to your favor. How do you know which is the right one to follow?”
“Well, Jeff,” Tallulah begins, “I don’t design exhibits at the zoo like Naomi does, so I don’t have her level of expertise, but I’ve read a book or ten in my day about the animal kingdom. And what Naomi didn’t mention about the reindeer is that they aren’t totally helpless against the wolf, because there is safety in numbers. If you stick with the herd, you have other reindeer looking out for you. And against enough reindeer together, the wolf doesn’t stand a chance.”
Jeff nods, clearly very pleased with Tallulah’s response. “What a great way to put it,” he says. “And I think that’s a great lead in for us to find out who is on the bottom of the food chain in this tribe. It’s time to vote. Sheena, you’re up.”
Sheena nods and stands, heading down into the voting booth, and casts her vote.
Olivia casts her vote.
Maurice casts his vote.
Nick casts his vote.
Naomi casts her vote.
Hannah casts her vote.
Tallulah casts her vote, and takes her seat, the final castaway to write her ballot.
“I’ll go tally the votes,” announces Jeff. As he heads to collect the urn, Nick drums his fingers on his knee nervously. Hannah chews on the ends of her hair. Sheena looks at the ground, almost expressionless. Jeff returns and places the urn, ready to reveal the outcome.
“If anyone has a hidden immunity idol, and you would like to play it, now would be the time to do so,” Jeff says. Olivia shares a look with Nick. She remains silent.
“Alright then. Once the votes are read,” Jeff continues, “the decision is final. The person voted out will be asked to leave the Tribal Council area immediately. I’ll read the votes. The first vote…”
“Nick, that’s two votes Nick, one vote Olivia.”
“Excuse me?” Teddy asks, his head recoiling in shock.
“We’re now at one vote a piece for Olivia, Naomi, and Teddy, two votes for Nick, three votes left. The next vote…”
“Naomi. That’s two votes Naomi.”
“Naomi. That’s three votes Naomi, two votes Nick, one vote Olivia, one vote Teddy, one vote left.”
“The fifth person voted out of Survivor: Siberia… Naomi. Naomi, I need you to bring me your torch.”
Naomi shrugs and smiles, once again showing off her dazzling white teeth. “What can you do?” she laughs.
“I’m sorry, Nay,” Nick says, offering her a hug. She takes it and gives him a kiss on the cheek. She then collects her torch and brings it over to Jeff, standing proud and statueseque before him.
“Naomi, the tribe has spoken.” Jeff snuffs her torch.
“Good luck, everyone,” Naomi says, turning and waving to her tribe.
“Same to you,” Maurice smiles. With a walk that only a model could have, Naomi saunters out of Tribal Council, vanishing into the night like a panther in the shadows, seeking the next kill. Teddy continues to sit looking absolutely dumbstruck.
“I don’t think,” Jeff says, “that Naomi saw that coming, and I don’t think she was the only one. For some of you, I’m sure that’s a very, very good thing. For others, I fear it could be very, very bad. I’ve got nothing else for you. You guys can grab your stuff and head back to camp. Goodnight.”
“Wow,” Teddy whispers, shaking his head in disbelief as he stands. Nick grabs Sheena in a huge, warm, earnest hug. “
“Thank you for giving me another chance,” he cries.
“How could I not?” Sheena whispers back, sniffling. They too, collect their torches, and take up the rear, following the rest of Koryok back home.
Eleven remain. Who will be the next to go?
NEXT TIME ON… SURVIVOR!
Yenisei seeks to capitalize on their momentum and keep their tiny team alive, but are challenged by the arrival of the first summer storm. Meanwhile, the surprising outcome of Tribal Council causes one member of Koryok to question their position in the tribe and seek to shake up the game. And with the merge just around the corner, the race to find the Koryok Idol is on.