It is early morning in a small town that seems almost as if it is lost in time. Horse drawn carts make their way down dirt roads past wooden cabins. Riding in the back of one such cart is a middle-aged man in a blue shirt. This is Jeff Probst.
“I’m riding through the dirt roads of Shushenskoye, a small town in the heart of the world’s largest country–Russia. While this is now a modern town like many other in Russia, villagers here in Shushenskoye work hard to preserve the memory and traditions of their ancestors in this incredible living museum. It’s a cultural heritage worth protecting, an homage to the people who have survived off this beautiful but often inhospitible land. At the turn of the 20th century, Shushenskoye was not a place anyone wanted to visit willingly–it was a place of exile, a place where enemies of the Tsar would be sent as punishment for their misdeeds. The most famous of Shushenskoye’s prisoners? None other than Vladimir Lenin himself. This is the home of Lenin’s exile. This… is Siberia.”
The camera zooms out far into the sky, shooting in high-speed away from the city. Lush conifers dot the landscape more and more heavily, towering like skyscrapers until the town is lost to the endless sea of greenery. Trees stretch as far as the eye can see until they finally begin to thin and break, the edge of the forest giving way to rolling, green carpets of grass, yawning out in every direction. Yellow and violet wildflowers burst through the landscape like tiny jewels. Rivers cut across the plains. In the distance, huge mountains tower, their snow-capped peaks watching the world beneath.
“At the crossroads between Russia, the silk road, and the north pole, Siberia is one of the least densely populated places on the planet, despite taking up almost half of the entire Asian continent,” Jeff continues. “Siberia is not only home to the exiled, but home to nomadic herders, animist shaman, and many Old Believers, the most devout of all the Eastern Orthodox. As well as it’s people, Siberia is home to bears, wolves, and even the world’s largest cat, the Siberian Tiger. While right now, the summer air is warm, it won’t last for long. Siberia is perhaps most famous for it’s brutal winters, and winter is fast approaching.”
Suddenly, there is a loud noise. Jeff’s attention turns towards the sky, as does the gaze of many of the villagers. An airplane soars overhead.
“Aboard that airplane,” Jeff continues, “are sixteen Americans, plucked from across the country for their representations of different experiences and walks of life. They are varied in age,” Jeff says, as the scene cuts to the interior of the plane. The focus is on a young, white woman with braids in her hair, seated next to an elderly black woman in a floral dress. “They are of all races,” Jeff continues, as the view pans to a middle-aged woman of Indian descent, “socioeconomic backgrounds,” as the focus switches to handsome, pale blonde man, “and sexual orientations,” Jeff concludes, as the view cuts to a white woman with curly, blonde hair. “They come from the Northeast,” Jeff says as the focus changes to a very attractive, dark-skinned woman with short hair; “the South,” as the view moves to a young, freckled white man with a cowboy hat; “even as far as Hawaii,” Jeff finishes, as the shot pans to a young East-Asian woman with her hair piled in a bun atop her head. “All they have in common is that they have all agreed to be abandoned here in Siberia, much like the prisoners of the past. But for these ordinary people, the punishment comes with a million dollar prize–if they can last long enough to claim it. These ordinary people are about to become castaways is the greatest game ever played: Survivor. The game hasn’t yet started, so for now, all they can do is observe one another, and try to guess what may lie ahead,” Jeff says.
One observing set of eyes are found on a white man in his 40’s. He has neatly manicured facial hair and watches like a hawk, startling green eyes darting back and forth across the cabin.
Everett’s gaze fixes on a young, attractive black man. His eyes are closed in concentration, his tattooed hands bound in prayer.
“Though they haven’t yet spoken,” continues Jeff, “first impressions are already forming.”
A middle-aged white woman smooths out the skirt of her suit. Her red hair sits in a bouffant. She looks over at some of the other players, including a olive-complexioned young man with a heavily styled mustache, facial piercings, dyed hair, and copious tattoos.
Her gaze turns to a younger white woman, who is fluffing her long blonde hair. She checks her makeup in a compact mirror.
A black man with glasses tugs on the collar of his sweater, trying to cool himself down. He takes his glasses off to wipe his brow.
The camera pans to “Grandpa,” as Teddy called him, an older white man in a green sweater. He has a stout frame and is balding, with a large, grey beard.
“For 39 Days,” Jeff continues, “these castaways will be stranded out here in the Siberian wilderness. They’ll be split into two tribes, forced to work together and build a new society, while battling the elements–and each other. They must learn to adapt, or they’ll be voted from the tribe. In the end, only one will remain to claim the million dollar prize.”
Jeff stands waiting in the vast meadow as the plane carrying the castaways lands. With the doors open, the contestants begin to file out, making their way over to the mat where Jeff stands opposite, watching the group with the all-knowing smile of a trickster god surveying the mortals under his control.
With the castaways all in position, the plane takes off once again. As the huge machine vanishes into the skyline, Jeff begins to address the group.
“Welcome,” he says, “To Survivor: Siberia.” The group applauds in recognition. There are hoots and hollers from some of the contestants, like Huang and Adele.
“Siberia,” Jeff begins, “is a region of the world unlike any other. Right now, I know it feels like you could be off on a camping trip, but for those of you who eventually survive to the end, you’ll be lucky enough to experience the brutal winters that Siberia is famous for. You guys think you’re up to the task?”
“HELL YEAH!” roars Huang, pumping his fist. There is more applause and affirmation from the other castaways as well.
“I’m glad to see you guys have a lot of spirit right now. We’ll see if that lasts,” Jeff says slyly. “Now, it’s the part I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for–you’re going to meet your tribemates.”
“If,” Jeff continues, “I hand you a blue buff, that means you will join the Yenisei Tribe, you’ll come stand to my right on blue mat. If you are handed a white buff, you are on the Koryok Tribe, you will stand to my left on the white mat. If everyone’s good, we’ll go ahead and get started.”
There are nods and murmurs of “understood” and “yes” from the group.
“Alright, here we go,” Jeff says, pulling a blue buff from the basket in his arms. “Our first member of the Yenisei Tribe… is Olivia.”
“Oh!” gasps a white woman with curly blonde hair. She steps forward to Jeff and takes her buff, heading to the Yenisei mat, while Jeff prepares a white buff.
“The first member of the Koryok Tribe,” he continues, “is… Maurice.”
“Well, alright then,” says a tall, bronzed, young white man in a cowboy hat and boots. He is muscular and clearly young, smiling broadly as he steps forward to Jeff to accept his buff and his spot on Koryok. A fit, young Asian woman in the group smiles broadly as he steps onto the mat.
“The next member of Yenisei,” Jeff announces, “is… Vince.”
“Just for you, Jeffrey, call me Uncle Vinnie,” Vince says with a hearty laugh as he approaches the mat, taking his buff from the host. He greets Olivia with a big bear hug, clearly somewhat taking her off guard.
“The next member of Koryok,” continues Jeff, “is going to be… Naomi.”
“Pardon me,” says a breathtaking, slender, dark-skinned black woman, asking the castaways in front of her to allow her passage. She walks with cool confidence, the unzipped legs of her stylish green jumpsuit flaring in the cool summer breeze. She takes her buff and grins as she introduces herself to Maurice, flashing her blindingly white teeth.
“Joining Yenisei.… is Adele,” Jeff says. An energetic, young white woman runs up to take her buff and join her tribe. She’s dressed in loud pinks, her hair in braids with shocking yellow tips.
“And joining Koryok… is Teddy,” Jeff continues. Teddy breathes a sigh of relief as he approaches Jeff for his buff.
“You seem relieved there, Teddy,” notes Jeff. “You know you’re already on the show, right? You’re getting on a tribe no matter what.”
Teddy laughs in response to the host. “Yeah, I know,” he says sheepishly. “It’s just nerve-wracking to be over there waiting. I’m just like, chomping at the bit a little. Let’s get this started!” he exclaims.
“Now’s as good a time as any,” Jeff says as he hands Teddy the white buff. The hosts attention return to the group as Teddy takes his place. “Next on Yenisei… is Huang.”
“Alright, I guess I’ll take it!” Huang laughs enthusiastically as he heads up, taking his buff. Adele greet him with a warm hug. His face lights up as they touch.
“For Koryok, let’s have…. Sheena,” says Jeff. Sheena pumps her fist as she hears Jeff call her name, and practically flies to him to get her buff. She greets Maurice with a hearty high five.
“We’ve got half the group to go… for Yenisei, our next member is… Mandy,” says Jeff. He readies a white buff as Mandy goes to greet her team. “Our next member of Koryok… is Everett.”
“Well well, I guess that’s me,” Everett says with a confident smirk. His gait is strong and confident as he approaches the host. He shakes Jeff’s hand firmly before taking his buff, which he tucks into the breast pocket of his jacket as he approaches his tribe.
“Hello, darling,” Everett practically purrs as he greets Naomi with a warm hug. Sheena clenches her jaw as she watches.
“The next member of Yenisei is… Gunnar.” A young, fair white man with coiffed blonde hair and a cardigan wrapped around his neck nods as he heads forward, taking his buff and his spot on the blue tribe. “The next member of Koryok… is Tallulah,” Jeff reveals.
“Oh goodie!” cheers the eldest of the contestants. She is an older black woman, her grey curls bouncing as she claps with excitement. “Thank you, Jeffrey,” she says as she accepts her buff.
“The last woman joining Yenisei,” Jeff says, “is… Charlotte. Which means, Hannah, you’ll be the last woman joining Koryok,” Jeff continues.
“Why does it mean that?” Hannah asks, seeming genuinely perplexed. Nick’s eyes bug out a little when she asks Jeff her question.
“There’s no room on blue for both of us, sweetie,” Charlotte explains, touching her arm gently. Hannah nods, but is still clearly confused.
“Whatever,” she says with a shrug, as the two women approach Jeff for their buffs. As Charlotte heads to the blue mat, Hannah accidentally follows her.
“Over here!” calls Maurice to Hannah.
“Blondie, you’re going to the wrong mat!” shouts Vince, following it up with another big laugh. Hannah blushes and scuttles over to Yenisei, where Maurice greets her with a hug.
“Aieee!” she says with a laugh. “So embarrassing!”
“And then there were two,” Jeff says, turning his attention to the remaining young men. “Nick, you’ll be joining Koryok, which means Zeke, you are the eight and final member of Yenisei.”
Nick sucks his lips inward and looks down, while Zeke smiles broadly and nods, clearly pleased. The guys take their buffs and join their tribes, each team now complete.
“Now that we have our tribes,” Jeff continues, “it’s time for you guys to head off and find your new homes. Behind each mat, you’ll notice a large, wooden crate. This crate has all the supplies you’ll be offered, but beware, there is more in each box than you’ll likely be able to carry, so you’ll need to choose what you’re taking wisely. When your tribe is ready, take the map and compass on the lid of your crate and head out to your new homes. Whenever you’re ready, you can begin. Survivor: Siberia is officially on.”
Like ants in a row, the Yenisei Tribe treks over the sloping meadow hillsides, Vince leading the pack with compass and map in hand.
“You sure you’ve got us on track?” Mandy double checks.
“The man said he knew what he was doing,” Zeke says. “I know you’ve got this, Uncle Vinnie.”
“You’re damn right I do, kid!” Vince laughs. “Uncle Vinnie. I like that. Uh, come on guys, we’re gonna keep heading this way. Shouldn’t be too much further.”
Olivia walks carrying a cooking pot by the handle, tools put inside for transport. Taking up the back, Huang and Adele work together to carry the lid of the crate, which they’ve used to stack equipment and food on top of.
“Y’all, we are doing it!” Zeke encourages. “Look at us go, look at all of us, maximizing our potential! Charlotte, you need a hand baby girl?”
“I’ve got it, sugar,” Charlotte says with a worn but earnest smile.
“That’s right, you do!” cheers Zeke.
“There’s the flag!” Vince shouts to the group as he comes up over the edge of the next hill. The Yenisei Tribe cheers loudly as they come up over the precipice to join him. As they arrive at the flag and finally get to drop their stuff, the castaways are quick to celebrate with hugs and high fives.
“Y’all, if you don’t mind, I’d like to ask something,” Zeke says, addressing the group. “We’ve just made it past our first test as a team, I think that’s worth us all patting ourselves on the back. And for whoever is interested, I don’t judge if you’d rather not, but I would be honored to say a short prayer, give thanks to Lord for giving us the tools we needed to do what had to get done today, na’mean?”
“I’d love that,” agrees Charlotte.
“Gotta put the big man upstairs first,” Vince agrees.
With nobody seeming to be opposed, the new tribemates take each others hands and bow their heads as Zeke begins the prayer.
“Loving Heavenly Father,” Zeke begins, “we thank you for your blessing on this most wonderful of days. We thank you, lord, for your guidance in the first steps of this journey, and pray that you will continue to show us how to conduct our work with a spirit of joy and enthusiasm. Help us to work together and encourage each other to excellence. We ask that we would challenge each other to reach higher and farther to be the best we can be…”
“…We ask this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”
“Amen,” the tribe echoes as Zeke finishes out the prayer. Mandy bites her lip nervously, the only one not to have said it.
Adele and Olivia work together, using their hands to dig out a fire pit. Nearby, Zeke stands as Vince measures a log with a measuring tape.
“Alright, I guess we’ll cut her right here, wap!” Vince says, making a chopping motion with his arm. Zeke nods and raises an axe, bracing the log with his foot as he brings the tool down.
“Careful with that!” Vince says. “When I was abouts your age, I knew this guy who tried cutting a tree down just like this. He chopped his own damn head off bein’ stupid!” Vince laugh-shouts. “And now he’s DEAD!”
“Okay, so here’s what’s gonna be what,” Vince says, instructing his tribemates. “We’re gonna use this big tree here, this is our central support system, and we’re gonna get planks, put them in a ring around the tree, get a nice raised platform going, get us up off the ground. We already got branches up here to start attaching a roof. It’s gonna be beautiful. They’re gonna want to sell it for a fat check when we move out of here, I’ll tell ya what!” he bark-laughs. Huang nods, while Gunnar keeps a poker face.
Huang holds a wooden plank in place while Gunnar hammers it in, Vince watching observantly.
“This looks incredible!” gasps Charlotte as she comes into the camp, canteens in hand, observing the shelter.
“Thanks dollface,” Vince says with a smile as Charlotte hands him his water.
“My pleasure,” Charlotte says, handing another canteen to Zeke. “And Reverend, one for you.”
“Hey now,” Zeke says. “Y’all ain’t gotta call me ‘Reverend,’ it ain’t that deep,” he laughs. “Y’all seen any chapel out here? I ain’t think so. If we ain’t in the Lords house, I ain’t ‘Father’ no one, I’m just a guy, y’all. I ain’t better than no one else.”
“It’s a sign of respect,” Charlotte says. “I admire that you do the Lord’s work, Zeke.”
“I ain’t doin’ any more or any less of the Lord’s work than anyone else, though, that’s the thing,” Zeke responds. “The Lord blessed us all with different talents and abilities, you know what I’m saying? If he wanted us all to be the same, we would be. Think of it kinda like this. Pastor can also mean a shepherd, like with sheep.”
“Oh yes, I think I knew that,” Charlotte says.
“The sheep need the shepherd, but the shepard needs his sheep just as much. What would the shepherd do without sheep to herd? And in return, the sheep provide wool, milk, meat–all things the shepard cannot create on his own. They each bring something different, something unique to the table.”
“God gives us all own our gifts to bring as well,” Zeke continues to say to Charlotte. “So here in this game, I want you to bring Charlotte to this tribe. Embrace the gifts God has given you and share them with us, your team. If we can all do that, we’ll be unstoppable.”
Charlotte nods, smiling. “I think I can do that, Zeke,” she says.
“I know you can do it,” Zeke tells her.
“Oh! Thank you,” Charlotte says, pulling Zeke in for a hug. “You’re just the sweetest young man, aren’t you?”
Gunnar takes a drink from his own canteen as he watches the interaction.
Meanwhile, back at the drop site, the Koryok Tribe is indecisively picking through their goods, trying to determine what they should and shouldn’t bring. Jeff stands in the distance, clearly looking bored out of his mind as the sounds of bickering rattle in the air.
“I just think that anything perishable, we should just be leaving that behind, honestly,” says Nick, somewhat defensively.
“Okay! Well that’s great, you’re allowed to think whatever you want!” Sheena says, exasperated. “But I would rather not wind up starving, I think we take what we can, whatever it is!”
“Guys, can we please just make *any* choice?” Teddy gripes.
“I think perhaps we’ve spent more time than is necessary on this task,” Everett interrupts. “If I may suggest a solution–we should solve this problem by delegating one person to the task. If all are amenable, I propose we elect a delegate to select what we bring and what we leave behind. Their choices are final, no argument.”
There is a pause as Sheena considers the idea.
“I think that sounds like a great idea,” Naomi says.
“Whatever gets us to a solution, honestly,” Nick says begrudgingly.
“A delegate? Like the lingerie?” Hannah asks.
“Young man,” Everett says, turning to Maurice. “Apologies, I’ve not yet committed names to memory… you are…?”
“Maurice,” Maurice answers.
“Yes, yes of course, yes you are,” Everett agrees. “Maurice. Of course. Maurice, appearances would suggest that you have some area of expertise in matters of wilderness survival, is this an accurate assumption?”
“If your askin’ if I know how to camp, I do,” Maurice says with a sheepish grin.
“Then I nominate Maurice,” Everett concludes.
“Yes, perfect. I’m down,” agrees Naomi.
With no objections, Maurice begins to sort through the items, humming to himself as he organizes everything into piles. Silently, he begins to pick things up and hand them to various castaways.
Finally, with their tools and supplies packed and ready, the Koryok Tribe is off. Jeff watches as they vanish into the Horizon, clearly not optimistic.
As Koryok marches, Maurice leads the tribe, Tallulah keeping pace with him as she holds the map and compass. Sheena and Nick work together to carry two poles between their shoulders, pots and bags hung in between. Sheena pauses briefly to adjust the bar over her shoulder. She looks back at Everett and Naomi, bringing up the rear of the group, and makes a face.
With his eyes shifting back and forth to make sure that they are far enough behind, Everett whispers with Naomi.
“I think it would be deeply foolish to not start solidifying alliances as soon as possible. I’m sure a woman such as yourself would agree,” Everett says.
“A woman such as myself, eh?” Naomi says, raising an eyebrow. “Pray tell, Everett. We’ve just met. How would you know the first thing about what kind of woman I am?”
“I meant no insult,” Everett says, “and I apologize if I came off as such. I simply mean to note that you carry yourself with great purpose. You are clearly quite confident and competent–two qualities I highly value in those I associate with.”
“You want to associate with me, huh?” Naomi asks.
“I want to align with you,” Everett corrects.
“Well I’m glad someone does,” Naomi says jokingly. She flashes a warm smile at Everett.
After having continued to walk for a while, Tallulah finally spots the flag in the distance.
“We’re coming up on it, everyone!” She calls to the rest of the tribe.
“Woo-hoo!” cheers Hannah.
With a pep in their step, the Koryok castaways finally make it home.
Now that they’ve actually arrived at their campsite, Koryok has been able to start getting some work done. Maurice holds a log steady as Teddy hammers into it, connecting it to a starting base of a shelter.
“That’s it buddy, you’ve got it,” Maurice encourages.
“I mean, I’ve used a hammer and nail before,” Teddy laughs. “Not all of us city mice are completely like, uh… inept, you know? We still have chores to do in the suburbs, my man.”
“Oh, my goodness! I didn’t… I hope I didn’t offend you, man!” begs Maurice, blushing. “I didn’t mean nothing by it, I was just saying you did a good job, I promise!”
“It’s fine, don’t worry about it,” Teddy reassures.
While Teddy and Maurice secure another log, Everett watches while sipping from his canteen.
Everett and Nick walk through the forest together, Everett with a hatchet, Nick with a log slung over his shoulder.
“I think we would strongly compliment each other,” Everett says. “I could tell from the moment I saw you, you and I would have a valuable rapport. You are clearly a creative thinker, which I think compliments my own skill set splendidly.”
“Yeah, cool. Thanks man,” Nick says. “For sure, I think the quicker we get something, you know, just kind of locked down, the better for both of us.”
They shake hands.
Everett is now shaking hands with Hannah.
“Your zeal is palpable, young lady,” Everett compliments.
“Really? I got my teeth whitened before I came out here,” Hannah frets. Everett tries to stifle his face from giving away his frustration.
“What I meant is that… you’re lit, fam?”
“Oh my gawd! You too, boo. This is going to be so much fun!”
“Oh, it will be fun indeed,” Everett says. “As long as you remember–everything I tell you is kept between us, understood?”
“Yeah! No, sure, absolutely! Samesies, right?”
“I’m sure you’ll find based on your age and gender alone that your name will begin to emerge on the tongues of the tribe, Miss Tallulah Mae,” Everett warns.
“No need for Miss. Tallulah is just fine,” she tells him. “And of course that’s been on my mind. I know that I’m an easy target, which is why right now I’m just keeping my head down and working.”
“It’s an admirable mentality. I’m sure that’s gotten you far in your life,” Everett compliments.
“Well a little hard work never killed anyone, that’s for damn sure,” laughs Tallulah.
“All I meant to say,” Everett continues, carefully, “is that you’ll need people who are ready and willing to have your back. That is going to be a rare resource in this game, of that I am positive, and I can promise you, Tallulah–for you, I will be that resource. As long, of course, as you can promise the same in return.”
“Well,” Tallulah says, sinking the hatchet into the base of a sapling, “why not?”
“Well Sheena,” laughs Everett as Sheena strikes a branch, “why not?”
“I can’t think of a good reason,” Sheena says, clearly focusing more on the task at hand then Everett’s words.
“So then it’s you and me, together until the end?” Everett asks.
“Until the end?” Sheena says, standing up and wiping her hands on her pants. “Dude, it’s been a day. No offense but like… we don’t know each other like that yet.”
“There’s no better time than now to prepare for the future, Sheena,” Everett tells her. “I just… I would hate to see a situation where you lost out because you hadn’t made the appropriate plans to advance yourself. You’re clearly a determined, driven young lady. I can’t see you settling for second best.”
“Well, I don’t like to settle, you’re right about that,” Sheena says, crossing her arms.
“With me, you won’t be settling. I promise you, you will find no ally more loyal than I,” Everett says.
“I’ll hold you to that, man,” Sheena says with a shrug. She offers Everett her hand, and they shake.
“This one is really cool,” says Sheena to Nick, pointing to a tattoo of an octopus on his upper arm. The two of them are off on their own in the woods.
“Thanks,” Nick tells her as he puts his sweater back on. “My favorite is this one, though,” he continues, pulling the neck of his t-shirt down to better show off the tattoo on his chest. Two skulls are wreathed in flames. The skulls are kissing, the silhouette of the two heads together creating the shape of a heart.
“Woah!” Sheena gasps. “I didn’t realize they were skulls, I thought it was just a heart! How long did it take?”
“Eh,” Nick says, shrugging. “I got it done in one session, but I was sitting for maybe like, four hours?”
“That’s wild,” Sheena says. “I want a tattoo so bad but my parents would kill me,” she laughs.
“Do it anyway,” Nick tells her. “I did. My mom hates my tattoos, but like… whatever. It’s my body.”
“Yeah, but like, I don’t know,” Sheena says. “I’m still living with them, so it just feels like it would be really disrespectful.”
“Didn’t stop me,” Nick laughs. “Once I had my first one, it wasn’t going to go away… so at this point she’s just learned to deal with them. She doesn’t love everything I do, but she loves me.”
“Sounds like you guys have a really good relationship,” Sheena says.
“So what do you think about the others?” Sheena probes.
“I mean, it’s early to say,” Nick says, “but it feels like a good group… Mostly,” he adds pointedly.
“Someone specific giving you bad vibes?” Sheena asks.
“Uh, well. Hannah’s a little… much,” Nick laughs.
“I’ve never met someone who talks as much as she does,” Sheena groans.
At the campground, Hannah is standing, talking at Maurice and Teddy, who are both working on the shelter while Hannah chatters.
“Anyway, but then, like, I was like, ‘no, if I could only pick one smoothie flavor forever, it would be strawberry kiwi,’ and so I clicked submit and the quiz said ‘you’re 27’ and I was like ‘oh my god, how did they know?’ The psychics they have at Buzzfeed are amazing. Way better than my phone psychic.”
“I feel like I know more about her than I know about myself and it’s only been a day,” Sheena continues, the scene returning to her and Nick in the woods. “But I’m just hoping I can trust you right now–I’m not too fond of Everett right now either.”
“Oh, that dude? Mr. Establishment? Not to be trusted,” Nick agrees. “Corporate fat cats like him are the reason I avoid going into Manhattan as much as possible.”
The sun rises over the distant mountains, bringing daylight to Siberia on the second day. Around the base of a tree is a circular platform. A partial roof has begun to be patched over the top as a roof. Inside the shelter, the castaways of the Yenisei tribe sit and lie, none looking particularly comfortable.
“Did anyone actually sleep?” asks Mandy as the group begins to start standing, stretching, and getting themselves up for the day.
“Maybe for like, two minutes,” grumbles Zeke.
“I’m sure it will get easier as we get more used to it,” says Olivia.
“I slept great, what, are you guys kidding me?” says Vince. “I was out like a damn rock last night after that first day, out like a light!”
“Looks like you’re not the only one who slept well,” Charlotte says to him quietly as she gestures slightly towards the shelter, where Adele and Huang are still comfortably dozing, cuddled up to each other.
Huang and Adele walk together in the woods, Adele with the axe over her shoulder. Huang carries a couple of logs in both arms
“Think we got enough?” Adele asks.
“Beats me,” Huang answers. “I hope so. Hey, if we need more wood, it’s not like we have to look hard to find it.”
“I just hope we can get fire, period,” Adele says.
At the campsite, Gunnar and Mandy hold two sides of a log, while Adele and Huang lay a second log over the top of the first, crossing it into a notch made in the bottom log. Underneath the two logs, Vince holds a ball of tinder as Adele and Huang push and pull their log back and forth.
“That’s it,” Vince says. “Steady strokes, we gotta keep it moving, don’t let up!” Adele grits her teeth as she pushes down, Huang beginning to develop beads of sweat on his forehead. Behind the others, Charlotte and Zeke hold hands, watching and praying.
“There we go, there we go!” Vince shouts. “THERE WE GO BABY!” He yells, jubilant, as smoke begins to come up from the notch where the logs are rubbing against each other.
“That’s it, that’s it guys!” encourages Mandy.
“Vince, now!” yells Gunnar. Vince pulls away the tinder, which now has a glowing ember sparkling at the center. With deep, slow breaths, Vince exhales into the ball of twine, causing thick white smoke to billow. The coal shines brighter and brighter within the clouds of smoke until suddenly, flame appears.
“YES!” Cheers Charlotte from the side. “Thank you Jesus!” Vince puts the flaming tinder into the center of the fire pit, quickly beginning to put sticks on to stoke the growing blaze. Huang and Adele hug in excitement, both clearly winded but elated. The energy among everyone in the camp is visibly high as Vince continues to build the fire.
A pot of boiling water sits atop the newly born campfire. Charlotte scoops cupfuls of buckwheat from a glass container into the water, while Vince sits at the fire, watching hungrily in anticipation. At the far end of the campsite, Huang and Adele sit leaning against a tree, talking.
“Can I tell you a secret?” Adele asks Huang.
“If you want,” Huang tells her, smiling. “I promise to keep it, no matter what it is.”
“Cool,” Adele says, smiling at Huang back. “Okay, so I am a dancer, I wasn’t lying about that,” she says, her voice dropping to a whisper as she scans to make sure the rest of the tribe isn’t close. “and not to, like, brag, but I’m not an amateur. So you know Sergeant Satellite?”
“Who doesn’t?” Huang asks. “You only hear his songs, like, everywhere.”
“Yeah,” Adele says. “So I’m actually a dancer for–”
“–Sergeant Satellite?” Huang finishes, stunned. “Dude, that’s crazy! You must have been to some wild shows!”
“I have been,” Adele says. “And not just shows, like… I’m one of the featured dancers in his troupe. There’s four of us, we’re the Satellite Starlets. We’re in all his videos.”
“Oh my god! You are! I remember you in the video for ‘Cold Ocean’!” Huang says. “Adele, that’s so impressive!”
“Thanks,” she says, blushing.
“I think my favorite movie I ever drove on,” Huang says, “is ‘The Swift and the Savage 5.’ I got to do five, six, and seven, but I think because five was my first… that makes it the most special to me. That was the one that for me was really like, the one I could show my parents and have them see that this was serious. Like this is a real Hollywood movie and I’m a part of bringing it to life. And I think once they saw just how I can drive… well, Dad thought it was cool,” he laughs. “Mom, I don’t know.”
“Food is ready!” calls Charlotte from back at the fire. As Adele and Huang get up to join the rest of the tribe to eat, Gunnar watches, his wheels clearly turning.
The sound of an axe can be heard clanging in the distance. Against a tree, Maurice is striking the tool again and again, a sweat building up on his forehead. He pauses for a moment, taking his hat off to wipe his face down with his buff.
The echoing of the axe against the trees rings all the way back to camp, where Tallulah is using a knife to open a can of fruit. The rest of the tribe sits around the camp, waiting like hungry children.
“Can someone please go get Maurice?” Tallulah requests. “I don’t want him going without eating.”
“I could use a chance to stretch my legs,” Naomi says, slipping on her shoes as she gets out of the shelter.
“As could I,” Everett says, getting up to join her. The two head off towards the trees, with Nick’s gaze fixating on Naomi as she vanishes into the woods with Everett.
“We’re going to need more than just the two of us,” Naomi says to Everett as they walk in the forest.
“Undoubtedly,” Everett agrees, “but I’ve been laying groundwork in anticipation of that need. I’ve talked to a number of our tribemates to ensure we’re at the center of the action,” he explains. “So we have free choice to decide who we pull in closer and who we will target. So tell me, Naomi… who sticks out to you?”
Naomi pauses, taking a moment to think. “I like Nick,” she eventually says. “I think we’re building a good relationship, and I’d be able to influence him.”
“I had good feelings about Nick as well,” Everett agrees.
“Perhaps more importantly,” Everett continues, “I want to talk about potential targets. I have one in mind, but it may be… unorthodox. Hence, I’d appreciate your council.”
“Go on,” Naomi says.
“Maurice,” Everett says, “needs to be eliminated immediately. I refuse to let him stick around long enough to become a problem.”
“Maurice, wow,” Naomi says, a little surprised. “That would be… big.”
“You’re a mad genius,” Naomi says, smiling at Everett.
“I am, aren’t I?” Everett laughs.
Back at the campsite, the tribe sits around in a circle, passing the can of fruit around as each person takes a piece.
“And so I was like, eeeew! Untag me in that, I look like a cave troll! Like, I have double chins in that picture,” Hannah says. “It’s so rude. Like, if this was your finsta it would be one thing, but your rinsta? Like, rude.”
“Frinsta?” Nick asks, perplexed.
“Finsta,” corrects Hannah. “And rinsta. Like, your fake insta and your real insta. I can’t have that kind of stuff on my real insta, you know?”
“I don’t think I do,” Nick says. “What’s an insta?”
“As in ‘Instagram,’” Naomi explains.
“No, like… what’s Instagram?” asks Nick. There is a long silence. Teddy raises his eyebrows in surprise.
“You know… Instagram?” Sheena says. “The website for sharing pictures?”
“Never heard of it,” Nick says with a shrug.
“Are you serious?” Hannah asks, genuinely shocked.
“Serious as a heart attack,” Nick says, taking his turn to spoon a piece of fruit into his mouth. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“It’s just… it’s a really popular platform,” Sheena says. “Even if you’re not on it, I’m just surprised you haven’t heard of it.”
“I don’t really pay much attention to like, social media and all of that,” Nick says. “I actually don’t even have a computer. Or a smartphone.”
“You don’t have a smartphone?” Hannah gasps. “But how do you check Snapchat?”
“Snapchat?” Nick asks, further confused.
“Well you know what Nick? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it,” Tallulah says with a smile. “I don’t have any social media either, and I’ve made it through my life just fine.”
“Yeah, but that’s different,” Hannah says, “because you’re like, no offense, but you’re old, Tallulah.”
“What an astute observation,” mutters Everett under his breath.
“Well,” Tallulah says with a smile between bites of fruit, “you’re not wrong about that Hannah. You’re not wrong.”
River waters cut across the taiga, with two crates floating in the water. At the shoreline waits Jeff Probst, as the two tribes enter the challenge arena. Maurice carries the flag for Koryok, fox fur tassles dangling from the corners. For Yenisei, the flag is carried by Huang, feathers dangling from the blue banner’s edges. Each man places his flag behind the respective tribe mats, where the castaways take their places.
“Welcome,” Jeff greet the castaways. “I’d love to check in with you guys. Zeke, how is everything going at Camp Yenisei?”
“It’s going so good, Jeff, it’s so good,” Zeke says, smiling. “God is good and life is good. We’re gelling as a team, we’re feeling hype for the challenge.”
“We got fire!” Vince says, beaming proudly.
“Bullsh*t,” says Teddy, shaking his head.
“We do!” Vince insists. “We’ve boiled our water, cooked our food. Jeff, if I didn’t know any better I’d say my ol’ lady was out here, that’s how good our food is!”
“I don’t think you know that well then,” says Sheena, taunting.
“Sheena,” Jeff asks, “does that mean Koryok doesn’t have fire?”
“Jeff, come on. How could we have fire?” Sheena asks. “We don’t have flint, and last I checked we’re not magic.”
“Well,” Jeff says, “it sounds like you could use this.” He reaches into his pocket and produces a square shaped stone. “The tribe that wins this first challenge will leave here with flint, but that’s not all,” he says. “Want to hear more?” The castaways nod, and some speak out to affirm.
“For today’s challenge,” Jeff continues, “You will participate in a four part relay race. Here’s how it works. When I say go, two members from each tribe will run into the forest, where you will find two oars tied to a wooden structure. Untie the oars and run back, where you will pass the oars off to the next two members of the tribe. They will get in a boat and paddle out into the river, cross to the other side, collect a treasure chest and get it back to the mat. The next two will then unlock that chest, containing sandbags. They will throw the sandbags at targets. When all of the targets are hit, they will drop puzzle pieces. The last two members of the tribe will then collect those puzzle pieces and assemble a puzzle. The first tribe to complete their puzzle wins the flint. And in addition, you’ll also win this.” Jeff turns his attention towards a platform to his right, which is covered in a patterned Russian cloth. He removes the cover with a flourish.
“This,” Jeff says, “is the Immunity Idol. If your Tribe possesses this totem, then your Tribe is safe. You will not attend Tribal Council, and all eight of you will make it three more days in the game. The losing Tribe won’t be so lucky. Not only will they not recieve flint, but they will be forced to attend Tribal Council, where one of you will become the first person voted out of Survivor: Siberia. Worth playing for?”
The players nod and affirm.
“All right,” Jeff says with his characteristic troublemaker’s grin. “I’ll give you guys a moment to strategize, then we’ll go ahead and get started.”
The castaways gather into their huddles, and each tribe begins to assign their roles.
“All right, we’re ready to get started,” Jeff announces. “Running for Yenisei, we have Adele and Olivia. For Koryok, we have Naomi and Hannah. We’re playing for reward and immunity.”
“SURVIVORS READY? GO!”
The four selected women run off, heading deep into the forest to collect the oars. Adele shoots out in front, followed by Naomi and Hannah. Olivia brings up the rear. She’s not struggling, but is last in the group nevertheless.
“Adele out in front of the pack!” Jeff announces as the women blaze past. “Remember, you can’t start untying the knots until both members of the tribe are on the mat!”
As the castaways run, the forest grows thicker. A large log crosses the path, which Adele leaps over and clears with ease. She is far off before Naomi arrives, followed shortly by Hannah. Olivia continues to bring up the rear, unable to leap over the log. She has to stop so she can climb over.
Deeper in the forest, a large, wooden structure awaits, with four oars tied to it–two in white, two in blue. One of each are higher up the structure, requiring someone to climb and reach them. Adele comes into the area, but she’s forced to wait at the mat until Oliva arrives, allowing Naomi, then Hannah time to catch up. Naomi begins to climb up the ladder, heading up to the top oar.
Back at the main area, the rest of the castaways wait, unsure of what is happening deep in the forest.
As Naomi works on the first set of knots, Olivia arrives at her mat, and Adele is off, scrambling up the ladder with the grace and speed of a spider monkey. With nimble fingers, Adele begins working the knots. She whips through them quickly, nearly finishing untying her oar as Naomi finishes hers, carrying the oar down the ladder. Naomi dismounts and sprints off, Adele gaining on her rapidly. Naomi hits the mat, Hannah runs forward to begin working on the knots for the lower oar, followed by Olivia for Yenisei as Adele hits the mat.
“These are tough!” whines Hannah, using her teeth to tug at the knots.
“Keep going,” Naomi encourages. “You’ve had harder challenges in your life!”
“I don’t think I have, actually,” Hannah sighs. She keeps working, but Oliva has soon past her. With both oars in hand, the women of Yenisei turn around and start running back.
Back at the main challenge area, the rest of the players await with baited breath. As Adele emerges from the forest, the others on Yenisei begin to cheer wildly.
“C’mon Addy, there we go!!!” cheers Huang. “That’s my girl, kicking ass!”
“Adele is back first for Yenisei, Olivia not far behind!” Jeff narrates.
Addy hits the mat, Olivia following behind, clearly struggling to catch up with the professional dancer. Addy hands her oar off to Huang, and Olivia soon joins them, handing her oar off to Zeke. The Yenisei guys sprint off towards the water, Huang’s legs kicking high with huge steps as he runs.
“What’s taking them?” worries Teddy to Maurice.
“Give ‘em time,” Maurice says, trying to stay positive.
“Hannah and Naomi taking forever on those knots!” Jeff says. “Zeke and Huang are getting a huge head start!”
“Left! Right! Left! Right!” Huang shouts to Zeke, commanding him on which side of the boat to row on. Zeke strains his face as he paddles, the river’s current fighting against the boat. The small outrigger moves closer and closer to the opposite shore. From the forest, Naomi and Hannah finally emerge.
“Naomi and Hannah now back for Koryok!” Jeff observes. “It’s now on Teddy and Maurice to catch things up!”
“Push!” Maurice commands as he and Teddy push their boat off into the river waters. The canoe now in the water, the guys begin to paddle.
“That’s it boys!” cheers Tallulah. “Great teamwork!”
“Don’t give up!” Sheena encourages.
Maurice and Teddy push themselves as hard as they can as they can to catch Yenisei, but it’s not long after they push off that Zeke and Huang get their canoe to the opposing shore.
“Zeke and Huang now at the other side of the river!” Jeff calls. “Now they’ve got to get that heavy chest into the boat.”
“One, two, three!” Huang counts as the men lift the blue-colored wooden chest by it’s handles. Zeke exhales sharply when he realizes the weight of the box.
“Oh wow,” he remarks, “Come on, let’s do this! You feel the spirit, Huang?”
“I’m feeling it brother, I’m feeling it!” Huang tells him.
As they forge back with the heavy chest, Maurice and Teddy finally dock their boats. Upon disembarking, they begin to sprint to catch up. Teddy trips in the sand and falls flat on his face along the way.
“Teddy takes a hard fall!” Jeff calls, not letting the embarassing slip-up go unnoticed. Maurice helps Teddy up, lifting him with ease.
“Huang and Zeke now back to their boat with that chest!” Jeff notes as Yenisei sloughs the box into their vessel. “Now they just need to get it back!” Jeff continues. Gunnar and Mandy watch from the third station, Gunnar chewing his nails nervously.
“Good work guys!” Mandy cheers from across the river.
“Keep going buddy, you’re doing just great,” Maurice encourages as he and Teddy reach their chest. Maurice lifts his side with ease, but Teddy is clearly thrown by the weight. He uses both arms, waddling uncomfortably behind Maurice, trying his best not to drop it.
“Teddy and Maurice now with their chest, but the weight of that chest is dragging them down! This box is heavy under normal circumstanaces, so on three days of no food, this can feel downright impossible!”
“Oh Jesus f*cking Christ,” whispers a worried Sheena, looking away from the action.
Huang and Zeke have now gotten their boat to shore, and after Huang secures it to the dock, he helps Zeke to lift their chest from the boat. The two men stand almost waist deep in the cold river water.
“It’s so cold!” Zeke says, clearly trying to keep his focus.
“Come on man, we’ve got this!” Huang says. With a huge heave, they pull the chest onto land, and carry it, beleagured, up to their mat. They drop it, allowing Gunnar and Mandy to take over. Zeke collapses on his back, exhausted. Huang stands next to him breathing heavily, hands on his knees.
“Zeke and Huang are good!” Jeff confirms. “Now it’s on Gunnar and Mandy. You’re going to be throwing the sandbags in that chest at the spinning targets. They’re like screws–unscrew them, and the puzzle pieces are yours!”
Mandy unlocks the chest and throws the lid open. Dozens of blue sandbags are inside. In front of them is a cage-like structure, suspended high off the ground. Hanging from the bottom are three screws, each with a huge wingnut like top, large blue and indigo targets positioned on either wing. From behind the line, Gunnar winds up and tosses his first sandbag, barely missing.
“It’s all good, take your time,” Charlotte encourages. “We have a lead still.”
Gunnar takes a few more tosses, finally getting the hang of it when he hits his first target. The screw whirls, growing looser.
“Gunnar with a hit!” Jeff notes, “Maurice and Teddy need to pick it up so Koryok can stay in this!” In the river, Teddy and Maurice struggle across, nearing closer to the dock.
“Don’t give up!” Tallulah calls from the puzzle station. “You’re doing so well out there!” Everett says nothing, simply surveying with his arms crossed, almost as if he isn’t even paying attention to the challenge.
As Maurice and Teddy dock, Gunnar switches out with Mandy, who manages to finish what Gunnar started, knocking out the first screw. She then turns her attention to the second target. With thoughtful aim, she his the target dead center. The screw wheels a few times around.
“A nice shot from Mandy!” Jeff said. “She and Gunnar are just increasing that lead for Yenisei. Teddy struggling for Koryok. That cold water doesn’t help a tired castaway!”
“Don’t give up Teddy!” cheers Tallulah. “Your girls will be so proud of you!”
“Yeah, think of the girls!” Maurice encourages.
“I’m thinking I’m gonna have a heart attack,” Teddy mutters under his breath. With all his might, he grips the handle of the chest, Maurice finally getting the front edge onto the mat.
“You’re good!” Jeff confirms, and an exhausted Teddy drops the chest and heads to sit down.
“Maurice and Teddy finally back with their sandbags! Can Sheena and Nick catch Koryok up?”
“Let’s do this,” Sheena says as Nick takes the key and puts it in the lock. He jiggles it back and forth, but can’t get it to go.
“It’s not working,” he grumbles.
“What do you mean ‘it’s not working?’,” Sheena asks, horrified.
“I mean I can’t get it open, Sheena, what the f*ck else would I mean?”
“Don’t talk to me that way Nick, that’s so f*cking rude of you!”
“Stop it!” chastises Tallulah.
“Nick, focus, please!” Naomi calls.
“You try!” a defeated Nick says, throwing his hands up in the air as Sheena steps in.
“Nick and Sheena now stuck, they can’t even get their lock open!” Jeff observes. Gunnar whirls his arm and whips a sandbag. It sails through the air and knocks out the second screw.
“Gunnar and Mandy with only one screw left!” Jeff calls. “Yenisei has been in the lead this whole challenge, Koryok is going to have to hustle if they want to make it up!”
“Got it!” Sheena exclaims, practically tearing the lock off as she throws the lid open. She grabs an armful of white sandbags and runs to the throwing line, where she begins to start firing. Her first few shots vary between near misses and far misses.
“Don’t panic, Sheena,” Maurice encourages. “Slow down and focus.”
“I AM FOCUSED!” Sheena snaps.
“Sheena struggling to make a connection!” Jeff says. Gunnar’s wrist snaps forward as another sandbag sails through the air, cracking against the target with a satisfying thud.
“Gunnar with another great shot for Yenisei!”
“LET’S GO GUNNAR! LET’S GO GUNNAR!” Adele cheers and claps.
“That’s it baby, just a few more!” Vince calls.
Sheena finally hits one of the targets, getting some decent movement. She seems to have taken Maurice’s advice, slowing down and taking more steady shots. With a little focus, she soon starts nailing shot after shot.
“Sheena is focused!” Jeff observes. “She’s got a lot of movement on that first target for Koryok!”
Sheena hits with another sandbag and the screw drops.
“Do you want me to switch in?” Nick asks.
“I’ve got this,” Sheena says, continuing to fire. She gets into a rhythm again, hitting a few good shots in a row on the second screw.
“Sheena is making good work on that target for Koryok,” Jeff says, “but Gunnar almost has it for Yenisei!” Jeff announces.
“Gunnar does have it for Yenisei,” Gunnar says softly, pitching the last sandbag needed. The third screw pops out and the structure pops open like an oyster shell, dropping a pile of square shaped pieces into the dirt below.
“Yenisei now onto the final stage of this challenge!” Jeff points out. “It’s up to Charlotte and Vince to complete this puzzle! You will use all the pieces!”
The eldest members of Yenisei work quickly to move the pieces over from under the holding structure and over to the puzzle mat. Each piece is fairly large, rougly the size of a briefcase, making it difficult to carry more than a few at a time.
Sheena, meanwhile, has lost her rhythm, now starting to miss her shots.
“Sheena, let me throw!” Nick yells.
“I’ve got it Nick, oh my god!” Sheena yells back.
“Sheena, step out!” Naomi yells.
“Fine,” Sheena says, stepping back, clearly unhappy. Nick takes over, missing his first few practice shots.
“Nick now up for Koryok, hoping desperately that he can make up some time!”
Nick hits the target Sheena was struggling with, causing it to release. As he begins to start aiming for the third and final screw, Charlotte and Vince have gathered all the peices and are beginning to work on the puzzle.
“It’s going to stack up on here,” Vince notes, taking a piece and placing it on the bottom of the platform. “Like a tower, we’re building a tower.”
“Vince places a piece for Yenisei. This puzzle is now moving, Nick has to pick it up!” Jeff calls.
“You can do it Nick!” Tallulah cheers.
Nick throws and misses. He curses and kicks a sandbag away from his feet.
“Don’t kick them away, we need those,” Sheena reprimands, running to grab it. Nick sighs, frustrated.
“No giving up, do you hear me young man?” Tallulah says. Nick makes eye contact with her. “What would your mother think of you giving up like this?”
“I’m not giving up,” Nick growls, eyes narrowed. Tallulah has clearly hit on something, and Nick now seems more determined that ever. With a grunt, he tosses with all his might. The sandbag connects and the huge force causes the screw to unwind quite a bit.
“Nick with a HUGE hit!” Jeff says, clearly very excited by the big surge forward.
“This goes here,” Charlotte says, “I’m sure of it.” She places another piece, completing the first third of their puzzle.
“Charlotte with another piece for Yenisei. There is still time, Koryok! You can still catch up, you are not out of this!” Jeff encourages.
Nick throws his final sandbag and pops the last screw, sending Koryok’s pieces raining down.
“YAAAAAAAAAAS! YAAAAAS QUEEN, SLAAAAY!” Hannah cheers, jumping and clapping.
Tallulah and Everett are off to collect them, Everett almost entirely emotionless despite the stakes.
“Nick gets it done for Koryok! Now it’s Tallulah and Everett up against Charlotte and Vince, it’s on for Immunity here in Siberia!”
“Everett, if you know what is good for you, you will sit back and you will do as you are told, do you understand?” Tallulah whispers sharply.
“By all means, go ahead,” Everett says, smiling. Tallulah picks up the first piece and examines it quickly, tossing it aside and moving to the next one. She decides she likes it and places it on the base. It fits.
“Tallulah with the first piece now for Koryok!” Jeff observes. Vince places a piece, but it doesn’t work. He flips it over and rotates it ninety degrees, and fits it in place. They are now roughly two-thirds finished.
“Vince places another piece for Yenisei,” Jeff says. “They are getting very close. Tallulah places another piece,” he continues, his attention shifting to the other mat.
“I think this one–” Everett suggests.
“No,” Tallulah says, holding a hand up. “What did I tell you?” She picks up a different piece and places it, then takes the piece Everett has and places that one on top. She is about a third of the way up.
“Tallulah is placing a lot of pieces very quickly!” Jeff exclaims. “She is making huge strides, but can she catch Charlotte and Vince?”
“Holy sh*t,” whispers Sheena in awe, watching Tallulah work.
“Are you seeing this over there?” whispers Huang to Adele, a look of disbelief on his face.
“Who is she?” Hannah whispers to herself.
“Tallulah places another piece!” Jeff says, his energy levels clearly rising with excitement as Tallulah steadily closes the back.
“I don’t mean to worry you,” Gunnar calls, “but she’s gaining on you guys quick, so…”
“I’ve got it, Gunnar!” Vince yells. “Shut your damn trap, I’m working here!” Vince places another piece, as does Tallulah.
“Charlotte and Vince down to only a few pieces left, Tallulah with another piece!” Jeff calls. “Tallulah is ripping through this puzzle!”
“Oh my god,” Naomi whispers, stunned.
“I think we’re going to win, dawg!” Teddy says, giddy, bouncing up and down. “I think we’re gonna win!” Maurice watches on, silent and nervous. Tallulah places another piece. She stops, observes, flips the next piece, and places it.
“Tallulah now with only a few pieces left!”
“Char, I’ve got it!” Vince shouts, grabbing the piece out of her hand. He flips it, places it, frantically grabs the next piece, and rotates it into position.
Tallulah takes a piece and rotates it in to place. So does Charlotte.
But Charlotte’s piece is the top.
“YENISEI! WINS IMMUNITY!”
The final piece atop the tower is a beautiful golden dome, giving the puzzle the appearance of the iconic spires of the Russian basilica cathedrals. Huang grabs Adele in a huge hug in celebration. Charlotte and Vince hug each other, as Gunnar and Mandy rush over to congratulate them as well, followed by the rest of the tribe.
“Yeah, Uncle Vinnie!” Zeke laughs, throwing an arm around Vince as he kisses the top of the older man’s bald head.
“YEN-NI-SEI! YEN-NI-SEI!” cheers Adele. The others soon join in, chanting the tribe name while Sheena watches, fire in her eyes. Nick can’t even look. Maurice pulls his cowboy hat down to obscure his eyes. Tallulah sighs and completes the puzzle. Everett looks pleased.
As the celebrating winds down both tribes return to their mats.
“Well, I have to say, that was quite a first challenge,” Jeff says. “Tallulah, that was an admirable effort, one of the best I’ve ever seen. But unfortunately today, for you, Yenisei got it done first. Congratulations, Yenisei. Immunity is yours. Who wants it?”
Vince steps forward, a pleased smile on his face. His cheeks are flush still from the adrenaline.
“Give her here, you son of a bitch!” Vince laughs, taking the idol from Jeff.
“Yenisei, with Immunity in your possession, you are all safe for three more days in this game, and you’re all one step closer to the million dollar prize. You also win this,” Jeff says, producing the flint from his pocket. He tosses it to the tribe, and Olivia catches it. “Fire, in the form of flint. Should make things a little easier tonight. Great work today, you can head back to camp.”
Yenisei heads out, with Zeke waiting in line to carry the flag back.
“Good luck tonight, y’all,” he says, turning to Koryok before they leave. “May God be with you.”
“Thank you,” Maurice says, smiling. “That’s so kind of you.”
“It’s what’s right,” Zeke says as he heads off. Nick rolls his eyes.
“Koryok,” Jeff says, turning his attention to the dejected losing tribe, “you on the other hand will be seeing me again this evening at Tribal Council. We’ll sit down, have a little chat, and then one of you will become the first person voted out of this game. It’s not a distinction anyone wants, but unfortunately for one of you, tonight it’s a distinction one of you will recieve. I’ve got nothing else for you. Grab your stuff, head back to camp.”
With sad expressions and frustration, the Koryoks gather their things and leave. Maurice slings the flag over his shoulder, bearing it as his cross as they make their way back to their new home.
Across the treetops, songbirds whistle in time with each other, calling out to those around them. The lilting songs of the birds contrast the heavy mood as the Koryok Tribe makes their way back into their campsite, bearing the heavy weight of the loss.
“Hey y’all, can everyone get together for just a second?” Maurice asks the tribe.
“Yeah, absolutely,” agrees Sheena. The rest of the tribe gathers in a circle around Maurice, his face already somewhat flush.
“Uh, well… Look, I ain’t too good at speeches,” Maurice begins, “but I just feel like I gotta say something, you know? And uh, we tried our hardest today. I’m proud of that, and I think y’all should be proud of yourselves too. And uh, you know… well, someone’s gotta win, and someone’s gotta lose, and today for whatever reason, it was our time to lose. That don’t mean it’s gonna happen again next time, so… let’s not dwell on the fact that we’re losing someone tonight, please? Let’s just get this over with and focus on moving forward.”
“Agreed,” Tallulah says, putting a reassuring hand on Maurice’s forearm. Sheena nods and smiles in agreement.
“There’s still a long time to go, no need to get discouraged,” agrees Nick.
As the members of the tribe begin to scatter off in various directions, Teddy, Maurice, and Everett find themselves standing off on the edge of camp on their own.
“So what’s everyone thinking?” Teddy whispers, his eyes darting back and forth to make sure they are out of earshot of the others.
“Beats me,” shrugs Maurice. “I don’t want to write no one’s name down.”
“I mean, she’s a lovely woman, so I hate to say it…” Teddy begins, “but… I mean, we gotta be realistic here, Tallulah is a sixty-three year old grandmother. She’s not going to be able to keep up.”
Everett nods, his hand on his chin. “It is truly a shame, is it not?” he says, his eyes watching Tallulah off on the other end of camp. “A woman who has worked so tirelessly through her life to provide for others… alas, this game isn’t kind.”
In the woods, Everett, Sheena, Nick and Naomi stand in a circle, discussing the vote.
“I don’t want to vote out Tallulah,” Sheena says. “Just because she’s the oldest one? That’s totally unfair. She didn’t perform any worse than anyone else did today.”
“Hell, she killed that puzzle,” Nick says. “If we could have gotten to it sooner, she could have won the whole thing for us.”
“I think we’re all on the same page then,” Naomi says, “in that none of us think it should be Tallulah, right?”
“Right,” Sheena says. “There are smarter people to go after,” she continues.
“You’re absoultely correct, Sheena, there are,” Everett says. “And I think there is no better time at the present than to make a forward-thinking decision.”
“And that decision would be….?” Sheena asks, making a hand motion as if to say “go on.”
“We take out our biggest threat before they can gain any momentum. I feel tonight is the optimal time to vote out Maurice,” Everett says, crossing his arms.
“Maurice?” Nick echoes, clearly stunned.
“Pfft. Okay, really?” Sheena laughs. “Maurice? What for, so we can really get our asses handed to us?”
“He’ll become all the more dangerous with every round we allow him to survive,” Everett says. “His kryptonite is his confidence. He’s shy, an outsider to the rest of us. If he gains time to build relationships, I fear he could become an unstoppable force,” Everett concludes.
“I just… we have thirty-six days to worry about that?” Nick says.
“I can promise you right now Everett, I’m not writing Maurice’s name down, not tonight,” Sheena says.
“Well if not Maurice and not Tallulah, then who?” Naomi asks.
“Hannah!” Nick says, exasperated. “She’s just… she’s worthless.”
“Super, super annoying,” Sheena chimes in.
“She’s not going to help us in challenges and she’s terrible to be around at camp,” Nick says. “She has literally no value to anyone in this game.”
“Honestly, I’m more than fine with Hannah,” Naomi says.
“Then we’re all good on Hannah?” Sheena asks.
“We’re all good on Hannah,” Nick confirms, putting his hand in. Sheena and Naomi join as well. Namoi glares slightly at Everett, who with a sigh, puts his hand in as well.
Together, Everett stands with Hannah near a thicket of trees and shrubs, off in the far reaches of the meadow. Towards the forest’s edge sits the campsite.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, darling, but your name is on people’s lips tonight,” Everett says solemnly. Hannah frowns in disappointment.
“Oh my god, really? Why me?” she whines. Everett shrugs sympathetically.
“My darling lamb, I can only speculate,” he says.
“I didn’t know you were a doctor?” Hannah asks. Everett’s demeanor breaks, as he looks confused.
“Why… what does that have to do with anything?”
“Like, why would you be speculating if you weren’t a doctor?”
“I… I….” Everett stammers, clearly confused. He pauses and breathes deeply. “That’s an irrelevant matter. What is important, Hannah, is that you are in trouble tonight. I can save you, but you must do as I say, understood? I cannot promise you safety unless you do as I tell you.”
“Yeah, sure, whatever,” Hannah says, clearly panicked. “What do I need to do?”
“Maurice,” Everett says. “Tonight, vote for Maurice.”
“Maurice,” Hannah repeats. “Got it.”
In the forest, Everett and Tallulah stand talking.
“If you don’t do exactly as I say, I cannot promise your safety. I’m sure you can understand,” says Everett.
“I’m not entirely sure I do understand,” Tallulah says, clearly unamused. “Why Maurice?”
“He’s leading the charge against you, Tallulah,” Everett says. “It’s exactly as I’ve been warning you, you are an easy target, my dear.”
“Well just because he thrown my name out, so what? That means we all have to vote him out now? I don’t see how that’s smart, Everett.”
“You don’t have the option to think about it,” Everett says. “This is your life in the game, Tallulah. Trust me, this is how I can protect you.”
“Tallulah, please. Trust in me. You trust me, don’t you?” Everett asks, his brilliant green eyes boring into Tallulah’s with an almost violent intensity.
“I trust you,” Tallulah grants. “I ain’t got no reason not to.”
“That’s right, you certainly don’t.”
Clear, cold blue water trickles gently over river stones along the shoreline. The river itself stretches out across the vibrant taiga. Along the water’s edge, Tallulah and Maurice stand, filling jugs of water.
“He’s coming after you, Maurice,” Tallulah says. “He was like Lex Luthor. It was crazy, I’m telling you Maurice, just crazy.”
“No, no, I believe you, I do,” Maurice says. “It’s just… wow. Kind of a nightmare come true. I don’t want to be the first to go.”
“No one does,” Tallulah says. “But it’s gotta be someone, and I don’t think you deserve to be that someone.”
“You mean that?” Maurice asks.
“I wouldn’t be telling you if I didn’t,” Tallulah says.
Sheena stands with her arms crossed, leaning against a towering pine in the edges of the forest. She’s listening intensely to Tallulah and Maurice as they fill her in. Nick stands with them as well, fiddling with his mustache as he thinks.
“I know we haven’t had very long to get to know each other,” Maurice says, “but out of everyone, I feel like you guys are the ones I can trust. So that’s why I’m coming to you.”
“That rat bastard,” Sheena sneers. “Oh my god, what a lunatic. That guy has been skeeving me out from the get go, I never fucking trusted him.”
“I promise you, man,” Nick says, “you’re not going anywhere tonight. We got your back. We stick to the plan, vote for Hannah. As long as we all vote together, as a foursome, it doesn’t matter what Everett does.”
“Hannah?” Sheena says, almost a little too loudly. “Oh no, hell no. We’re going for the throat, I want that fucker dead. Head on a platter,” she seethes.
“That fucker being Everett?” Nick asks.
“Yes. One, two, three, four,” Sheena says, pointing to each of them. “And that demon is out of our hair for good. He’s nothing but trouble. Nothing good comes from keeping him.”
“Don’t you think he’s going to be better in challenges than Hannah though?” Nick asks. “I don’t like the guy, don’t get me wrong. He’s a scumbag, but we have to think about all the angles.”
“He’s really not much better than Hannah,” Sheena says. “I know you have a hate-boner for her, Nick, but now is not the time.”
The sun begins to fall closer to the horizon, the sky beginning to grow dim. At the campsite, the castaways prepare for Tribal Council. Sheena glares at Everett from the shelter as she packs her bag. Across the camp, Everett stands with Naomi at his side, surveying the others.
As the moon takes its place in the night sky, the Koryok Tribe files out of camp, off to the opera house for the evening’s performance.
A howling, cold wind tears across the midnight grasslands. Far south from the forests, the taiga gives way to sprawling steppes. Rising from the endless sea of green is a beautiful baroque church, worn to ruin by years under the harsh Siberian weather. The castaways of the Koryok Tribe come into the interior. Teddy gazes up in awe at a the far end of the building, where the moonlight bursts through a dazzling stained glass. Candles burn on stands all around the church. In the center is a bonfire, surrounded by eight primitive stools. Jeff awaits them, an all-knowing Mona Lisa smile on his face.
“Behind each of you,” Jeff says, “is a torch. Grab a torch and approach the flame. Dip it in and get fire.”
The castaways do as they are told. Teddy, Maurice, and Tallulah are the first to the flame.
“This is part of the ritual of Tribal Council, because in this game, fire represents your life. When your fire is gone, so are you.”
Nick, last to light his torch, places it and takes his seat with the others. Jeff takes his seat as well, clearly excited to chew into the fresh meat.
“Welcome to Tribal Council,” Jeff begins. “This is the place where you will come to answer to your actions in this game. Tonight, one of you will answer to those actions by being the first castaway voted out. That’s a position I’m sure nobody wants to find themselves in. Maurice–how do you make sure that the person who goes home isn’t you?”
“Uh, well,” Maurice says, looking a little put on the spot. “I suppose how I’ve been going about it is by just doing my best,” he says earnestly. “I have a lot of skills that are very, uh… applicable, out in uh, this kind of environment? I just, I dunno. I think my tribe sees that I’ve got something to offer, and, uh, you know. That’s gonna keep me here. I hope.” He smiles sweetly.
“Everett, would you agree with Maurice in that he has strengths to offer the tribe in terms of his survival skills?” Jeff asks.
“Oh, most certainly,” Everett says. “He’s a splendid young man, simply splendid. He has emerged, I would say, as quite an effective leader.”
“Would anyone else agree that Maurice is a leader?” Jeff asks. Most of the other castaways nod in agreement.
“Now Maurice, on one hand, you could say that confirms your theory–being a leader means you have a valuable position on the tribe, the tribe is more likely to keep you then. But, you could also say that being the leader puts you in the position to potentially become a target.”
“Absolutely, you could say that,” Maurice agrees. “You know we lost this first challenge, and if I’m the leader… the captain goes down with the ship, right? Maybe they think, ‘well, if he’s leading, he’s not doing a very good job,’ and that could get me in trouble.”
“Let’s be realistic, though, Jeff,” Teddy cuts in. “Maurice isn’t getting voted out tonight. He’s the last person who should be worried. We lost once, nobody wants it to happen again, and the guy is a powerhouse.”
“Worried it could be you, Teddy?” Jeff asks.
“Absolutely,” he replies. “Of course I’m worried. I’d be crazy not to be worried. Everyone should be worried.”
“Even Maurice?” Jeff asks
“Even Maurice,” laughs Teddy. “Wait, no! That’s, not–” he laughs again, somewhat nervous. “Jeff, I’m just a nervous mess. I’m always nervous, Jeff, I spend all my time, I mean one hundred percent of my focus, Jeff, is on my children. So yeah, I’m a worry wart. This is a game for a million dollars, I don’t think this is the worst place to be a worry wart.”
“Naomi,” Jeff says, turning his attention to another castaway, “Teddy thinks everyone should be worried. Do you think that’s the case, or perhaps should some people be more worried than others?”
“I absolutely think some people should be more worried than others,” Naomi says. “We can all smile, tell each other ‘oh, it could be anyone,’ but it’s just to be polite. Some people have much greater reason to be worried than others.”
“Care to name names?” Jeff asks.
Naomi purses her lips in thought, “Well, we lost the challenge today. We don’t want losing to become a trend, so I think that challenge strength is really paramount right now. We’ve got to consider who has the most to contribute in the competitions, or else we’re going to be seeing you a lot, and I personally don’t want to be back here until the merge if I can help it. So I would say that the people on the tribe who maybe are some of the less athletic ones, that’s who I think should be worried.”
“Tallulah Mae,” Jeff addresses, “it could be argued that as an older woman, you’d meet that criteria of being one of the ‘less athletic ones.’ Do you feel like you might be in danger tonight, or do you feel like you have some comfort with your position?”
“I’d be stupid to not be worried, Jeff. If I weren’t me, and I was looking at all these people here, trying to pick a team to win challenges, I wouldn’t pick me either. We’ve only known each other for three days, we don’t have a lot to go on, so, I understand, people are going to look at very shallow factors because that’s all they have to go on. So hey, why not just get rid of the old lady? So I’m very concerned for my safety. But as for comfort… the comfort I can take, Jeff, is in that challenge strength is only one kind of strength. You need more than just winning challenges to win the game. You need loyal, trustworthy people to work with. Loyalty is a strength as well, and if I promise my loyalty to someone, Jeff, I’m going to keep my word.”
“I’m with Tallulah Mae, Jeff,” Sheena interjects. “I’m with her one hundred percent. Loyalty in this game? That’s everything. And like, I’m soooo competitive, you don’t even understand. I’ve gone up against men twice my size in judo matches and come out on top, and I’m so proud of that, so losing the challenge today made me want to rip my hair out! But the challenge is just one battle, this game is a war, it’s long term. You can’t just think about who will help you win tomorrow, you have to think about who is going to help you win down the road when it comes to the vote. So I’m definitely thinking about trust and loyalty. This vote is the first one, right? So it kind of is going to establish the pace of the game, and like… what we think is important as a tribe. So I’m speaking up, I want a tribe that’s going to be loyal to each other. That’s what I’m basing my vote on tonight.”
Jeff nods, processing Sheena’s response. “Nick,” Jeff says, his attentions shifting. “We’re coming up with a few different ways that strength can be defined. What are you looking at, in terms of deciding who is strong for your game?”
“Well Jeff,” Nick begins, “I think that there isn’t just one right answer, and that’s what makes this decision hard. Because it’s not just about what I think ‘strength’ means, I have to take into account what other people think. Because well, yeah, technically we can all vote for whoever we want for, ideally you want to come to a consensus with other people. It’s good to be someone who other people trust, and if you’re just pushing your own agenda, people aren’t going to want to work with you. So I think for my decision tonight, what I think doesn’t really matter that much, it’s kind of about what the group thinks.”
“Everett, going off of that,” Jeff says, “do you think tonight’s vote will be a unanimous decision? Did the tribe try to come together and come to a consensus, or do you think people are more focused on their own agendas?”
“There was certainly some back and forth,” Everett says, which prompts Teddy to turn his attention, looking worried. “And that is to be expected,” continues Everett, “when you have eight unique perspectives in the mix. But I think after consideration, the tribe is on the same page tonight. I believe the person who is leaving tonight is well aware of who they are.”
“I wasn’t aware there was some back and forth,” Teddy says, clearly rattled. “I thought we were all on the same page, but I didn’t realize there was, you know, any issues getting to what that page is going to be.”
“I think Everett is off base,” Sheena says. “I don’t think it’s going to be a unanimous vote tonight, and I don’t think the person going home is going to see it coming.”
“Well that isn’t very reassuring,” Teddy gulps.
“Everyone wants to sit and play pretend like we’re a happy family, Jeff,” Sheena says, “but I think this group, part of the reason we lost today, is because we aren’t on the same page, and we have to get there. So I think tonight’s is kind of necessary. It’s going to decide what kind of group we’ll be going forward.”
“Well I can agree with you there,” Everett says. “Right now, the first pages of this story are yet to be written. Tonight, Jeff, we will be putting pen to paper. What we write at the start of this story will impact how it ends.”
Jeff nods. “Well, unless anyone else has something they’d like to add, I think this is a perfect time, for you, as Everett said, to start writing your stories. When I call your name, you’re going to head down the hallway to my left,” Jeff says, gesturing towards the voting booth. “You’ll write the name of the person you are voting out of the tribe. Present your ballot to the camera, say your peace, fold your vote and put it in the urn. Once your vote is in, that’s it–the person with the most votes against them will become the first person out of this game. Understood?”
The castaways nod and murmur in agreement.
“Alright. Let’s get to it. Teddy, you’re up first.”
Teddy adjusts his glasses as he stands, nervously heading into the booth, ready to cast the first ballot of the game.
Naomi casts her vote.
Maurice casts his vote.
Hannah casts her vote.
Tallulah Mae casts her vote.
Sheena casts her vote, and returns to take her seat.
“I’ll go tally the votes,” Jeff announces, departing down to the voting booth as Sheena returns. Hannah exhales heavily. Everett impatiently taps his fingers together. Maurice stares at the ground. His attention snaps back upwards once Jeff returns.
“Once the votes are read, the decision is final. The person voted out will be asked to leave the Tribal Council area immediately,” says Jeff. “I’ll read the votes.”
“Tallulah. Second vote…”
Teddy’s eyes go wide as Maurice’s name comes up.
“Maurice. That’s two votes Maurice, one vote Tallulah.”
Naomi turns to Everett, looking somewhat alarmed. Everett inhales sharply, his nostrils curving upwards, his eyes flashing ever so briefly with fear.
“The next vote….”
“That’s for Everett. That’s two votes Everett, two votes Maurice, one vote Tallulah.”
“Maurice. That’s three for Maurice, two for Everett, one for Tallulah.”
“What is going on?” Teddy laughs nervously, incredulous. Sheena smirks to herself.
“Everett. We’re tied at three votes a piece for Everett and Maurice, one vote for Tallulah, one vote left. The first person voted out of Survivor: Siberia…”
“Oh, thank you Jesus,” sighs Maurice in relief. Everett says nothing, simply closing his eyes in disappointment. Naomi’s mouth drops, but she quickly rights her expression, looking away from the others. Tallulah puts a reassuring hand on Maurice’s shoulder. Sheena and Nick bump fists.
“Everett,” Jeff says, “I need you to bring me your torch.”
Everett nods curtly, standing and taking his torch in a brusque silence.
“Hey Everett!” Sheena says. The older man turns to meet her gaze.
“Gotcha!” she says with a wink. She points her finger like a gun and mimes firing it at him. Unamused, Everett says nothing, simply turning back to Jeff.
“Everett, the Tribe has spoken,” Jeff says. He brings the snuffer down on Everett’s torch, extinguishing the first flame of the game. As the snuffer lifts, smoke furls into the darkness. “It’s time for you to go.”
“Of course,” Everett says with little inflection. Naomi goes to wave, but Everett doesn’t turn to face the tribe. Wordlessly, he walks towards the back exit of Tribal Council, out of the glowing church into the darkness of the steppes, heading out into the night.
“Well,” Jeff says, turning his attention to the rest of the Koryok Tribe, “Everett said this vote would write the start of this story. I don’t think he thought it would be the end of his story. For the rest of you, it’s just getting started. And if this is the first chapter, I can’t wait to see how it ends. You guys can grab your stuff and head back to camp.”
The castaways stand and grab their torches. Tallulah and Sheena enjoy a tight hug before taking their stuff and heading out. Back across the plain, seven glowing flames travel back towards their camp.
Fifteen remain. Who will be the next to go?
NEXT TIME ON… SURVIVOR!
On Koryok, the tribe deals with the fall out of Everett’s actions leading up to his elimination, and in the wake of Tribal Council, an alliance comes together.
On Yenisei, some castaways bond spiritually while others bond on a more physical level. And amidst these bonds, one castaway finds themselves left as an outsider.
And after a challenge, one castaway becomes the first player exiled, where they learn not one, but two huge secrets.