PREVIOUSLY ON… SURVIVOR!
After a wild Tribal Council, Teddy was upset to once again be left out of the plan. He believed that Sheena had formed an alliance to save Nick, her closest ally, who had been in the hot seat at the vote. Hoping to flip the game against Sheena, who he saw as the biggest threat, Teddy approached his fishing buddy Maurice with a plan. However, Teddy was unaware that Maurice had secretly been in a four person alliance with Sheena, Nick, and Tallulah Mae since the earliest parts of the game, and had no intentions of turning on his ally.
Sheena, meanwhile, had bigger problems than just Teddy—she was still struggling to trust Olivia, who flipped on her original tribe; and Nick, her close friend who had previously betrayed her trust. They had made a deal with each other for Olivia to tell Nick the location of an idol hidden at Koryok’s camp, but Olivia had yet to follow through, leaving Sheena deeply unimpressed. Under pressure from Sheena to find the idol, Nick and Olivia managed to discover the idol, a fishing lure, right under Teddy’s nose as he slept in the shelter. However, when Sheena learned he had it, she demanded it from him as a show of trust, and eager to please, Nick handed it over.
At the reward challenge, Vince’s engineering skills and slow, steady approach helped Yenisei win a third straight challenge, allowing them to take care packages from home back to their camp. While Vince was elated to learn his daughter was pregnant, Huang worried about potentially being the odd man out if the tribe was unable to clinch immunity. Huang’s fears began to find legs when, privately, Charlotte and Zeke formalized a final two agreement between them.
Winning reward also allowed Yenisei to send Sheena to Exile Island, where she struggled through the first rain of the game, calling on her grandfather’s memory to stay strong through the storm. Her Koryok tribemates, though dry in their shelter, had to deal instead with the non-stop deluge of chatter from Hannah, who annoyed the tribe with her complaining and lack of awareness.
In a team endurance challenge, Zeke lead his team to victory with prayer, sending Koryok back to Tribal Council. Feeling unable to trust Olivia, Sheena and Hannah voted against her, even though she wasn’t Sheena’s true target. With the votes of her allies, she sent Teddy home as recompence for his scheming against her.
Ten remain. Who will be the next to go?
The soft crackling of Yenisei’s campfire punctuates the still Siberian night. The four members of the blue tribe sit around the campfire, huddling close for warmth.
“They’s gotta be back from Tribal Council by now,” Vince muses, looking up at the moon.
“Who, Koryok?” Huang asks. Vince nods.
“I wonder who got voted out,” Charlotte thinks aloud.
“I’m telling you,” Vince says, “Olivia was only still there because of that idol. I bet you anything she had to use it last time and she’s gone this time.”
“I dunno, man,” Zeke says. “We ain’t know what’s happening over there. There’s all sort of possibilities.”
“I bet you it’s Hannah,” Huang says.
“You think?” Vince asks.
“Like, she’s just across the board their weakest person. I’m honestly surprised she’s still here.”
“I wonder if it was Maurice,” Charlotte says.
“Why would it be Maurice?” Vince asks, brashly.
“He’s a strong athlete, and he’s always so kind and gracious. He’s a big threat. It’s a good time to get him out, before the individual competitions begin.”
“We don’t know that they’re going to begin, though,” Huang says.
“I know we don’t know,” Charlotte admits, “but it’s almost Day 19. That’s halfway to the end. It’s got to be coming soon.”
“Y’all, just keep the faith,” Zeke says, shaking his head. “That’s all I’m asking y’all, please don’t stop praying, believing that there is a way for us to persevere, because there’s always a way if you give God the chance to show you.” Vince nods slowly in agreement.
“They’re not a family like us, I’ll tell you what,” Vince says. “You can just feel it, they’re not.”
“There are gonna be cracks for sure,” Huang says. “There have to be.”
“If… if Olivia wasn’t voted out, do we try and get her back?” Charlotte asks. There is silence as the others all think.
“I don’t see why not,” Huang says. “We have to try with all of them, that includes her.”
“Oh, so did we all just forget what she did?” Vince says, throwing his hands up. “She walked out on this tribe!”
“That doesn’t mean she won’t possibly come back,” Huang says. “Like, I’m just as pissed as everyone else is that she did it, but like, she thought she was getting voted out next, so I can’t say I blame her.”
“I don’t either,” Charlotte says, “and that’s why I’m worried. The shoe is on the other foot now. When we outnumbered her, we were going to vote her out. Now she’s in the majority and we’re the ones who need her. Why would she help us?”
“This is all assuming she’s still in the game,” Vince says, “which I remind you, I strongly do not believe is the case!”
“Besides, it wasn’t a sure thing that she was getting voted out,” Huang says. “I think Gunnar really put himself in the firing line, personally.”
“Well then we needed to let her know that, that’s the thing,” Zeke says. “Because at the end of the day, y’all, I agree with Charlotte on this. She saw the writing on the wall, what was she supposed to do? This ain’t just on her. If we had made this a place where she wanted to stay, she wouldn’t have left.”
“Well maybe Uncle Vinnie’s right,” Huang says, “and she was voted out and we won’t need to worry about it.”
The darkness of night is still cast over the sleeping Koryoks as Day 19 reaches the early morning, the first dawn lights barely peeking across the sky. In the shelter, Maurice lies with his buff covering his face. Hannah is curled up under his right arm, Nick under his left, using his broad chest like a pillow.
Up at the cliffside, Sheena and Olivia sit together on the rocks, Sheena with her hood pulled tight over her head; Olivia with her buff around hers in a similar style.
“If I’m being honest,” Olivia says, “I feel really taken advantage of. Like, you know I don’t have the option to flip on you guys, so it means you can leave me out of votes, or use me as a backup plan. Like, why did I have votes against me? Because I voted for Teddy, just like I had told everyone I was going to. I mean, except Teddy, but… well, you get it, right?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Sheena says, nodding. “I… ugh, there’s like, not a good way to explain this, Olivia, but so… look, Teddy was really working to get something moving against me, and I have to be my own first priority in this. You know what that feeling is like—you wouldn’t be on this tribe otherwise, would you?”
Olivia’s expression tenses. She was clearly not expecting this.
“I think everyone is starting to think about the merge. It’s just… everyone knows it’s coming. Hannah knows it’s coming,” Sheena says.
“Does she?” asks Olivia.
“That’s a good question, actually,” Sheena agrees. “But that’s not my point, it’s that… I wasn’t sure about you, Olivia. I wasn’t sure if you wanted me out badly enough that you’d play the idol on Teddy to get to me.”
Olivia’s jaw drops.
“Why would I do that?” she asks, stunned. “Sheena, oh my god! I would never, are you kidding me? Ever since I got here I’ve been nothing but transparent with my intentions. Koryok is my tribe now. And look, you and Nick… you’re my people here. Or at least that’s what I thought.”
“It just feels kind of like… well, okay,” Olivia says, “since I flipped on my old tribe, I can’t really just go back to them, it’s not like they’re going to be waiting with open arms. It’s not like going back to them is a realistic option for me. I’m with you guys for good. I don’t really have any other choice.”
“So here’s the thing,” Sheena says, swinging her feet back and forth from the edge of the rock. “I’m trying to think long term here. Because do I think I can trust you against Yenisei, yes, absolutely, but I don’t know where you stand when it gets down to just Koryok.”
“I’d like for that to be with you and Nick,” Olivia says. “You’re the people I trust, I just wish you would trust me back.”
“Here’s what I’m thinking,” Sheena says. “As long as everything goes according to plan, we get Yenisei out, all in a row; Zeke, Huang, Vinnie, and Charlotte. Just boom-boom-boom, one by one, just snipe them. And then it’s down to just Koryok. At that point, we can get rid of Hannah, we won’t need her vote anymore.” Olivia nods along as Sheena speaks. “And that leaves us at five, right?”
“Yeah,” Olivia says.
“You, me, Nick, Maurice, Tallulah,” Sheena says, counting out on her fingers. “Here’s the thing. I think Tallulah and Maurice are both going to be really big threats at the end of the game. I mean, nobody has any problems with either of them. Maurice is the hardest worker out here, and he’s so sweet.”
“He really is,” Olivia agrees.
“And everyone loves Tallulah, who is also the oldest person out there, and that gives her a really good angle with the jury. So they’re both threats, and on top of that, I think they’re really close with each other.”
“You don’t think they’d turn on each other?” Olivia asks.
“Nah,” Sheena says, shaking her head.
“I don’t think they would either,” Olivia says, exhaling slowly. “So then would it be you, me and Nick? Is that the idea?”
“Pretty much,” Sheena says. “That gives us numbers over them, and then it’s all down to final immunity.”
“We’ll talk with Nick and see what he thinks about it,” Sheena says, “but I’m sure he’ll be on board. You know we’re his favorite people.”
“I think he’ll be into it, honestly,” Olivia says.
“Do you feel better?” Sheena asks.
“I do,” Olivia says, smiling. “But this means my name had better not be on any ballots at the next Tribal Council.”
“That won’t be a problem,” Sheena says, extending her hand. Olivia takes it, and the women shake.
With the sun now high in the sky, Yenisei arrives at a large clearing, where Jeff awaits. Behind him are a is a large, round huts, wrapped in white, woolen felt. Goats and sheep wander about the area, grazing peacefully.
“Well well, what’s going on here?” wonders Huang aloud as the tribe takes their positions.
“Well, you’ll find that out in a moment, after you get your first look at the new Koryok Tribe,” Jeff announces as Koryok enters. “Teddy voted out at the last Tribal Council.”
Vince’s jaw drops. “No way,” he whispers to the others.
“I told you she was going to stick around,” Charlotte says.
Koryok takes their spot on the mat, and stands to face Jeff, with Olivia placing the flag.
“Alright guys,” Jeff says with a mischievous grin, “drop your buffs. Yenisei and Koryok are no more. You guys have merged.”
“All right!” cheers Maurice. People clap and cheer as buffs are removed. Zeke unravels his blue buff from his wrist. Hannah peels her white buff off from around her head.
“Now I’m sure you’ve noticed the traditional building behind me. The people of Central Asia have historically lived as nomads in these buildings, called yurts. The yurts are collapsible homes that can be disassembled and reassembled as the nomads make their way from place to place, and today, they stop here. Inside this yurt, you will find a celebratory feast awaiting you.”
“Woohoo!” cheers Charlotte. Everyone claps and cheers, clearly excited.
“Now this meal isn’t just an opportunity for you to get to know each other,” Jeff says, “there is some business to attend to as well. You’ll need to decide on a name for your new tribe and pick which camp you’ll go back to when you’re finished. When you get to that camp, you will find materials to make a new tribe flag as well. Understood?”
Everyone nods and murmurs in agreement, clearly just eager to get eating.
“Alright then,” Jeff says with a smile. “Head on in and enjoy. I’ll see you guys later.”
With huge smiles, the castaways head on over to the hut.
The newly merged tribe enters the yurt to find a picnic spread laid out on a beautiful oriental carpet, with reindeer pelts laid around in a circle for seating. Golden censers dangle from the ceiling, exotic smelling incenses wafting in the air. A hole at the top of the tent lets the natural sunlight through into the tent.
“Oh my goodness!” Tallulah mews, excitedly bringing her hands to her face. “Look at all of this food!”
“Hey, buffs!” Maurice notices, looking inside a silk bag in the center of the table. “Red!”
“Cool,” Huang grins, taking a new buff and pulling it around his head.
“Good to finally meet you, officially,” Charlotte says to Maurice as the two of them share an introductory hug. Nick and Vince shake hands in greeting as well, while Zeke and Tallulah share a warm hug.
“I’ve been looking forward to meeting you,” Tallulah says. “We’ve heard a lot about you.”
“I’m sure, I’m sure,” Zeke laughs.
“I’ve heard you give quite the prayer,” Tallulah says. “Would you care to say Grace?”
“I’d be honored,” Zeke smiles as everyone takes a seat. “Dear heavenly Father, my most loving God, we thank you on this day for the Tribal Merge and for the ability to continue on this beautiful, life-changing journey. We thank you for this meal…”
“AAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Hannah shrieks in excitement. “SHEENA! SHEENA DID YOU HEAR WHAT HE JUST SAID?” she yelps, overcome by amazement as she slaps Sheena on the arm.
“Ow, what Hannah?” Sheena says, turning her attention towards Hannah and Huang.
“He was in The Swift and the Savage!” Hannah yelps in joy.
“AAAAAAAHHH!!!!” Sheena shrieks in girlish glee.
“RIGHT!?!?!?!?!?” Hannah shrieks back.
“Well, I wasn’t in THE Swift and the Savage,” Huang says, “I was in 5, 6, and 7. And I wasn’t in them, I drove in them.”
“Even better,” Sheena says. “Everyone knows Savage Six is the best one.”
“I’m sorry,” Nick interjects, “but what is—”
“Oh my god, don’t you dare ask what The Swift and the Savage is Nick!” Sheena groans.
“I was going to say that I think the best one was 2 Swift 2 Savage,” Nick says with a shrug. “It’s not like I’ve never seen any movies.”
“Clearly you haven’t seen enough if you think the second one is the best,” Sheena razzes. Huang chuckles in response, while Nick rolls his eyes.
Huang flexes his bicep, as Hannah gives his arm a squeeze.
“Oooh, that’s nice,” Hannah swoons.
“If you like that, try my right arm,” Huang says, flexing his other bicep.
“Choke me Zaddy,” Hannah whispers almost inaudibly.
“I’ve actually have family in Hung Hom,” Sheena tells Huang between sips of her drink.
“No sh*t, really?” Huang asks.
“Yeah, I have an aunt there,” Sheena says. “Plus I’ve also been a few times for tournaments.”
“That’s crazy!” Huang says. “When were you last there?”
“Uh, end of last year,” Sheena says. “Around Thanksgiving.”
“That’s wild,” Huang says. “That’s the last time I was there! We were in the same city halfway around the world and didn’t even know it.”
“Well we didn’t know each other,” Sheena giggles.
“We do now,” Huang smiles.
“So this is going to be kind of a stupid question,” Hannah asks, “but where is King Kong?”
“Hong Kong?” Huang laughs.
“Oh my goooooddddduuuuuuhhhhh,” Hannah whines. “That’s sooooo embarrassing, aiieeee!”
Nick exhales sharply.
Nick’s attention has turned now to Zeke instead, as the two compare tattoos.
“I don’t have a lot of lettering,” Nick says. “I guess it’s the artist in me, I just like images more. The only words I have are here,” he says, lifting up his shirt to show his left flank, where six lines of Greek are written. “These are the names of my parents, my brother, my sisters, and my girlfriend,” he explains, pointing to each one.
“Can you read Greek?” Zeke asks.
“It’s my first language,” Nick says. “You ever see ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’? That’s basically my family.”
“I haven’t actually seen that,” Zeke says.
“What? No way!” Nick laughs. “Oh man, for once there’s someone who’s seen less than me!” Zeke laughs as well.
“I mean I heard of it, I know the idea,” Zeke said. “So y’all Greek Orthodox?”
“Regrettably,” Nick groans. “I mean, my parents are. I was raised in it, but religion’s not for me. No offense.”
“None taken,” Zeke says.
“Really?” Nick says, raising an eyebrow.
“It’s between you and God,” Zeke says, taking a bite of his food. “I’m a pastor, not a judge.”
“How about your ink, man?” Nick asks. “This one’s pretty cool.” Nick points to a tattoo on Zeke’s upper left arm.
“It’s the tree of life,” Zeke says, rolling up his sleeve to show the full design. “It’s from the Jewish mystic tradition, Kabbalah. These are the Sephiroth,” he says, pointing to the nodes along the geometric design, each marked with Hebrew characters. “They’re the attributes through which God reveals and creates. Da’at, knowledge, is at the center. It’s from there the other branches emanate.”
“So that’s not Christian?” Nick asks.
“Nah,” Zeke says, shaking his head. “It’s all God’s love, baby. That’s my take.”
“Not Christiaaaaan!” howls Hannah in the background. “Gargoyles! Psychics!”
Across the picnic mat, Maurice and Tallulah sit with each other, talking with Charlotte and Vince.
“Pryor Creek? Never heard of it,” Vince says.
“Most people ain’t,” says Maurice. “We ain’t exactly a big and fancy town.”
“Neither is Passaic!” Vince says, “but we’re close enough to New York that most folks have an idea of what it’s like. It’s super close, actually. So if you get on the NJ 21 South, what you do is you take that and the exit is for… I want to say it’s 18B? 17A? 17A sounds right. Then what you do is you take that to the interstate number 280, east, of course, and then…
“…and then bam! New York City!” Vince says.
“I’ll be sure to call you if I ever need directions in the area,” Maurice smiles.
“I’d love to hear a little more about where you’re from, Maurice,” Charlotte asks.
“Not a whole lot to say about it,” Maurice says with a shrug. “It’s good people, good, small town community. It’s a place where you ain’t gonna go far without running into a friendly face, you know? I’m loving playing Survivor, but I do miss it, not gonna lie.”
“It’s hard to not think about home out here,” Charlotte says. “That’s a big reason I feel so blessed to have the tribe I have. People like Vincent here have really helped take the sting out of that homesickness.”
“Mhm,” Tallulah agrees through a mouthful of soup. “Oh, pardon my manners,” she says after swallowing. “But it’s so true, Charlotte. Blessed is exactly the word I’d use for how I feel.”
“So what’s Memphis like?” Maurice asks.
“Lovely, truly,” Charlotte says, “but it’s not home for me like Pryor Creek is for you. We’ve moved around quite a bit for my husband’s work. My parents still live in a town a lot like yours, where everyone knows your name.”
“Is that the kind of place you would like to settle in for good, if that ever happens?” Tallulah asks.
“Maybe,” Charlotte says. “There are ups and downs to a small town, just as like with the big city. But for the time being, we have no plans to leave Memphis. Our kids are both in high school… that’s a rough time to rip them away from their friends and their environments. Maybe we’ll think about it after they’ve moved out.”
At the kitchen table, Nick is hard at work on painting a new flag. He has jars of paint spread out around him as he creates a landscape image on the canvas, showing a river flowing by a mountain. The new tribe name reads along the bottom of the flag—Romanov.
As Nick continues to paint, Hannah giggles over on a swing that Vince has suspended from a tree, kicking her feet in joy.
“Look at you go!” Vince marvels as Maurice deftly clears a sapling with the axe.
“Vinnie, this shelter’s going to be so boss,” Huang says, smiling as the tree goes down.
“I’m just glad we have the manpower to make it!” Vince laughs. “I feel like I got to call in a construction crew with this one,” he barks, clapping a hand on Maurice’s shoulder.
“Whatever you need, just let me know,” Maurice says. “I’m more than happy to help.”
Up at the main campsite, Vince works a machete down the center of a sapling, hammering at the top of the blade with a hammer to split the sapling in half. A pile of similarly split wooden pieces is steadily building up next to him.
Maurice holds two of the saplings together as Vince ties pieces of twine over the intersecting areas. Huang and Sheena work on a similar set next to them, with Sheena tying the knots.
“That’s it, that’s a way to work, girlie, good job!” Vince caws. “You’ve got the knot perfect. You’re a quick study.”
“Thanks,” Sheena smiles. “What can I say, I’m a fast learner!”
“Modest too,” Nick quips from over at the kitchen table.
“Bite me,” Sheena snips, not even looking up.
“Bite me,” Nick grumbles in a mocking falsetto.
“That’s looking mighty fine so far,” Tallulah says to Vince from over by the fire. “Do you need any help?”
“Nah, we’re good, we’re good,” Vince says, waving his hand. “I’ll tell you what, though, all this work is gonna leave me parched, so as long as you’re getting that water boiled, you’re helping.”
With most of the other castaways somehow occupied, Tallulah is the only one seated at the fire, until Zeke approaches and takes a seat next to her.
“So how you liking it here, Ma?” Zeke asks as he sidles into one of the newly acquired chairs.
“Zeke, it’s like we were sitting at the back of the plane and just got upgraded to first class,” Tallulah says. “I thought we had a decent setup at Koryok, but the work you’ve done here is just spectacular.”
“Ey, that’s all Uncle Vinnie, straight up,” Zeke says. “We call him the Rumpelstiltskin because it’s like he spins gold out of straw.”
“I’ll have to thank him personally, then,” Tallulah says.
“I betchu he’d appreciate that a lot, truly,” Zeke says, before he leans in towards Tallulah, feeling certain that nobody else is paying them any attention.
“So I can’t help but have noticed…” Zeke begins, whispering as he leans in, “that y’all on Koryok been losing some melanin these last few days. Is there… you know…”
“It ain’t like that,” Tallulah says, her tone hardening. “I know how it looks. I would have loved to not have it be that way, but this a game. Teddy was too paranoid, Naomi too devious. I been around long enough to see that people are people, regardless of the packaging. I couldn’t have worked with those two. Not that I wouldn’t have liked to, but I couldn’t.”
“Hey,” Zeke sighs, “we all sinners, at the end of the day.”
“Amen, pastor,” Tallulah says, raising a hand. “Amen.”
“Well,” Zeke continues, “regardless of the reasons why, if for any reason you don’t feel comfortable or at peace, I’m always here to talk.”
“As I’d expect from a man of the cloth,” Tallulah says, putting a lid on the pot.
At that moment, Charlotte approaches as well, taking a seat near the fire. She and Zeke make eye contact, and Zeke shrugs ever so slightly.
Olivia sits out in the meadow, reuniting with the goats as she gently pets the beard of a brown goat.
“Hmm?” Olivia asks, looking up, seeing Charlotte approaching.
“Would… can we talk?” Charlotte asks, seeming somewhat unsure.
Olivia sighs audibly.
“Yeah, we might as well get this over with,” she says.
“Well don’t sound too enthusiastic,” Charlotte deadpans.
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be snappy, it’s just… I’ve been nervous as hell for this moment.”
“Well that makes two of us,” Charlotte says.
Charlotte sits with Olivia at the base of the meadow tree as the goats gather around for attention.
“It wasn’t anything personal, not really,” Olivia says. “I knew I was on the bottom, Charlotte. What was I supposed to do, just throw my hands up and let you guys vote me out?”
“No, of course not,” Charlotte says, “but Olivia, you’re assuming so much. This game changes day by day. Huang was furious with Gunnar, and quite frankly I wasn’t happy with him either. And I didn’t want to be the only woman with all these men! I think it’s very likely we would have voted him out no matter what.”
“You had plenty of time to tell me that before the reward challenge, though,” Olivia says.
“Well I’ve never been to Exile Island,” Charlotte says. “I didn’t know you could use it to switch tribes, I had no idea that it was even a possibility you wouldn’t be coming home from that place. And you know, you could have asked. Why was it on me, or Vincent, or Zeke or Huang to come to you? You could have come to any of us, Olivia, and just asked what was next.”
“Well you guys didn’t exactly give off the impression that conversation would have been welcome,” Olivia says.
“It’s a game!” Charlotte exclaims. “Of course it was welcome, I wouldn’t hold it against you for trying to play the game, for trying to have a conversation about where you fit in the tribe! I wouldn’t have held it against you if you ever came to talk to me about anything. I reached out to you time and time again. I tried to make my best effort to get to know you, I know we’re different from each other, but that’s not a bad thing, is it? You never extended that courtesy to me.”
“I’m sorry about that, okay Charlotte, I really am—”
“You know, I resented the implication that I have a problem with gay people,” Charlotte says. “I produce beauty pageants for a living, do you know how many gay men I work with on a daily basis?”
“So you don’t think I’m going to hell?” Olivia asks.
“I think we all sin,” Charlotte says. “And I don’t think it’s my place to judge.”
“Is that a yes or a no?” Olivia bristles.
Charlotte exhales heavily. “I’m learning new things every day, out here. There are some things I felt so certain about when I left home, and… I’ve really been challenged to think a little harder about some of those things. But, it’s hard, Olivia. I’ve spent my whole life believing certain things very, very strongly, and you don’t just… I don’t have an answer to your question. I think that’s something I’m still searching for.”
Olivia says nothing, just nodding as she thinks.
“I understand why you did it,” Charlotte says. “I get why you did what you did, and I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing if I were in your shoes. But I don’t think it was your only choice. And I want you to know it’s not too late, Olivia, for you to come home.”
“Well for what it’s worth,” Olivia says, “I don’t hold it against you, either—that you’re playing the game right now, I mean. Having this conversation.”
Charlotte purses her lips and looks downward, trying to think of a response.
“I mean, what’s the grand plan?” Olivia asks. “We’d still need one more person to vote with us, if I did decide to work with you.”
“Well, I’m hoping that you’d have some idea on who that person would be,” Charlotte says. “You know what sort of relationships they have with each other, you’re the one who’s been with them.”
“I’d have to think about it,” Olivia says. “I guess that’s the best I can do for you, honestly—I can promise you’ll I think it over, but… I have to play for myself now. I’m sure you understand.”
“Of course,” Charlotte says, smiling.
In the woods, Maurice and Sheena are hard at work together, collecting more saplings for the shelter.
“Oh, there’s another one,” Sheena says, pointing off in the distance.
“Nice and limber,” Maurice says, grabbing the small tree and giving it a shake to test its flexibility. As he begins to chop, Tallulah comes wandering into the woods, water jug in hand.
“Hey pretty lady,” Sheena smiles, giving a coy finger wave to her elder ally.
“Hey yourself,” Tallulah says. “I’m ‘getting water,’ so we got to make it quick, but…”
“Of course, of course,” Sheena says. “So what’s everyone thinking?”
“Well,” Maurice says, dusting off his hands, “I’m thinking it’s got to be Huang, right?”
“I’m leaning more towards Zeke,” Tallulah says. “He’s got a way about him, where he really pulls you in.”
“Well personally,” Sheena says, “I’m thinking maybe we take a third option and go a little left field.”
“Well you’ve got my attention,” chuckles Maurice.
“I’ve been thinking it over,” Sheena says, “and I think this next vote is the perfect time to get rid of Olivia.”
There’s a moment of silence, as a smile crosses Tallulah’s face.
“Sheena, you sly little fox!” she laughs.
“Right?” Sheena says. “But it’s the right time, isn’t it? She won’t see it coming.”
“She thinks we need her for the numbers,” Sheena explains to Maurice and Tallulah. “But we can afford to lose her and still be up five to four, as long as we have Hannah on board.”
“Like Hannah would flip,” snorts Maurice.
“I’ll make sure she doesn’t even think about it,” Tallulah says, “just to be safe.”
“Perfect, perfect,” Sheena says.
“Do you think Nick will be on board?” Maurice asks.
“He better be, if he knows what’s good for him,” Sheena chuffs.
“It’s just that he seems like he’s gotten close with her, you know?” Maurice elaborates.
“He was close to Naomi too,” Tallulah says, “but he followed through with that vote.”
“Nick will be on board if he knows what’s good for him,” Sheena says. “I swear, I don’t know what his problem is sometimes.”
“So we’re all good?” Tallulah asks. “Because we don’t need any suspicions raised, not right now.”
“Yeah, we’re good,” Maurice confirms. “Go get your water.”
“Don’t tell me what to do,” Tallulah jokes as she picks up the jug and heads back down towards the river.
“This is going to be epic,” Maurice says to Sheena.
“Yeah it will,” Sheena says, picking up the felled sapling.
Vince and Zeke walk together towards Tree Mail, where ten wrapped packages await, each with a name on them.
“Well would you look at this!” Vince exclaims. “Gifts!”
“Whatchu think’s in them?” Zeke asks. Vince shrugs as he picks up his package.
“Feels like clothes,” Vince says as he unwraps the twine and cloth, revealing a jacket and hat. Zeke, meanwhile opens the mail basket, reading the note within.
“We come bearing gifts!” Vince bellows as he and Zeke come back into camp, struggling to carry the other packages between them. They are both now dressed in coats and hats, much to the shock of the other players.
“Oh Em Gee!” Hannah squeals. “Do we get new clothes?”
“We sure do, sweet cheeks!” Vince says, handing her the package with her name on it.
“Damn, look at you, Zeke,” Nick says, approaching the fire to collect his new clothes. “Rev’s got style.”
“It ain’t my fault the good Lord made me so flossy,” Zeke chuckles.
“That must be the closest thing to bragging you’ve ever done, huh?” Huang jokes as he puts on his new winter coat.
“What’s flossy?” Nick mutters, confused.
“We got a challenge too,” Vince says, pulling another scroll out of his coat pocket as all the clothing packages have been handed out. He begins to read the poem aloud.
“Who wants to win a valuable prize?
If the answer is you, raise your hand up high.
All it takes for safety
Is to be the last one dry.”
“I hope we don’t have to get in that river,” groans Nick. “I’m trying this new thing where I don’t freeze my balls off?”
“You don’t really think it’s going to be swimming, do you?” gulps Hannah.
“I guess we’ll find out soon enough, huh?” shrugs Maurice.
“Come on in, guys!”
Jeff stands waiting as, for the first time, the merged Romanov Tribe enters together. The ten castaways take their position on a single mat opposite Jeff.
“Alright, first things first,” Jeff says, “I’ll need back the immunity idol.”
Zeke nods and approaches Jeff with the Shaman’s Drum which has protected the castaways thus far. Jeff takes the idol and places it on its stand, next to another stand that is covered in a sheet.
“You guys can say goodbye to the Tribal Immunity Idol, because at this point in the game, it has no more power. From now on, what you covet is this,” Jeff says, removing the cover.
“This is the Individual Immunity Necklace. These charms come from the traditional garments of a Shaman here in Siberia, and they are worn for protection. They’ll grant the same protection for one of you if you manage to win today’s challenge and wear this to Tribal Council tonight. You guys ready to get to today’s challenge?”
Everyone claps and cheers in anticipation.
“This one is pretty simple,” Jeff says. “Each of you will stand on a platform with your hand raised over your head, tethered by a chain to a bucket of water. If your hand drops, the bucket drops, and in addition to being soaking wet, you’ll also be out of the challenge. The last castaway standing with a full bucket of water wins. And today’s prize is one you’ll really want. First of all, you’ll win the Immunity Necklace, which will make you safe at Tribal Council, unable to receive votes. You’ll be granted an automatic spot in the next round and a one-in-nine shot at winning the title of Sole Survivor and the million dollar prize. But in addition to that, today, you are also playing for reward. And that reward is an advantage in the game.”
Some of the castaways share confused and surprised looks, clearly not expecting this turn of events. Huang smiles broadly. Sheena cracks her fingers in anticipation.
“As for the specifics,” Jeff says, “we’ll get to those after the challenge. For now, let’s draw for spots and we’ll go ahead and get started.”
The castaways head out to their positions, each chained with their right arm raised high above their head.
“SURVIVORS READY? GO!”
“And just like that, this challenge is on,” Jeff says.
“This ain’t so bad,” Maurice says.
“It ain’t bad yet,” Vince corrects, “but I’ll tell you what, come even five minutes from now, this is gonna suck a big one!”
“Vincent, ew!” Charlotte groans.
Tallulah grabs her raised hand with her other arm, helping to stabilize herself.
“The burn is starting to set in, isn’t it? You’re feeling that tingle in your arm by now,” Jeff taunts.
Suddenly, the first bucket begins to sway forward. Hannah shrieks at a thousand decibels as water rains down on her, her makeup running down her face.
“Just like that, Hannah is the first one out of this challenge,” Jeff announces as Hannah unshackles herself. “You can take a seat on the bench,” Jeff tells her as she takes a seat, looking dour.
Sheena has her eyes closed as she breathes in and out deeply. Nick waggles his fingers on his cuffed hand. Annoyed by a flying insect, Maurice scratches at his left ankle with his right foot.
“Oh, come on!” Vince yells as his bucket tips, drenching him.
“Vince is out of this challenge,” Jeff alerts the others as Vince unclips, grumbling and swearing under his breath.
“How long do you think you’ve been up here, Charlotte?” Jeff asks.
“Fifteen minutes?” Charlotte asks, unsure and hopeful.
“Try three,” Jeff tells her.
“Ugh,” groans Nick.
ELAPSED TIME- 15 MINUTES
“Now we’re at fifteen minutes, Charlotte,” Jeff announces.
“Oh, is that all it’s been?” Huang says.
“This is nothing for you Huang, you got this!” Vince encourages.
“Just put the necklace on me already,” Huang says. “I could be here all day.”
There is a wobble next to Huang as Tallulah’s barrel flips, covering the eldest contestant in water.
“Well I made it fifteen minutes,” she sighs as she unclips.
“Tallulah out of the challenge, we’re down to seven,” Jeff says.
“Oh man, this is not fun,” chuckles Olivia.
ELAPSED TIME- 45 MINUTES
“Ooooh this is burning!” cries Nick up on the platform.
“You’re telling me, brother,” Zeke agrees.
“Burning up, burning up! For you Bay-beh,” Hannah sings from the sideline.
“Sheena,” Jeff asks, “how you feeling up there?”
Sheena, whose eyes are still closed, doesn’t respond for a moment.
“Sheena?” Jeff asks.
“I’m in the zone, boss!” Sheena says.
“Ahhh!” Hannah yelps in surprise.
“What?” Nick gasps. He stumbles momentarily, and it’s enough. The water comes pouring down on the artist, plastering his green bangs to his forehead. With annoyance, he takes his glasses off and attempts to dry them with his also wet shirt.
“Nick is out,” Jeff says, “and we’re down to six.”
“What did you just scream about, Hannah?” Nick yells.
“Sheena made a reference to the seminal viral masterpeice ‘My New Haircut!’” Hannah says. “And it gave me a full body flashback, I’m shook!”
“I remember that video!” Huang laughs.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Nick says, wringing out his buff.
“We’re now at the 45-minute mark,” Jeff announces. “Nick just short.”
“Oh, well that’s just f*cking amazing, thanks Jeff,” Nick mumbles as he takes a seat next to Tallulah.
ELAPSED TIME- 1 HOUR, 23 MINUTES
“MUSCLE MILK! HGH! PROTEEEEIN!” Hannah growls in a faux-New Jersey accent. “And then he goes, ‘I’m gonna get wasted tonight! I’m gonna drink Heinekin and Jagerbombs all night. Jagerbombs? I shower in that sh*t.’ And then he keeps pointing at the camera going ‘JAGERBOMBS! JAGERBOMBS! JAGERBOMBS!” she starts cracking up, nearly unable to contain her laughter. Vince, Nick, and Tallulah all look at her, simultaneously enraptured and totally perplexed.
“And this is a YouTube?” Vince asks.
“A YouTube video,” Tallulah corrects. “And I thought I was old and out of touch.”
“It’s not an age thing,” Nick says. “I’ve never seen it.”
“You’ve never seen ANYTHING!” Sheena yells from her spot in the challenge.
“Oh no!” Olivia yelps as her water bucket turns over. The contents cascade over her.
“Olivia is out,” Jeff says, “and we’re now down to five.”
At the end of the line up, Maurice attempts to stretch his arm. The movement is too much, and the bucket tips.
“What? Oh, come on!” Maurice cries as he too is doused.
“Let’s make that four,” Jeff corrects. “Maurice now out of this challenge. We’re down to Zeke, Charlotte, Huang and Sheena.”
“We got this, y’all,” Zeke encourages. “Stay strong.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Rev,” Charlotte says.
“You’re kickin’ ass out there, Char!” Vince cheers.
“Oh,” Hannah says, her face suddenly lighting up. “It’s ‘chief,’ not ‘boss.’ I guess Sheena didn’t quote it.”
ELAPSED TIME- 2 HOURS
“Congratulations,” Jeff announces, “we’re at the two hour mark. The four of you are still standing. Zeke, how does it feel?”
“You know Jeff?” Zeke says. “Jesus was on the cross for six hours, and he was dying, so that’s what I’m trying to think about. This ain’t so bad.”
“So your comparison is ‘it’s not quite dying?’” Sheena asks.
“What happened to your zone, Sheen?” Nick heckles.
“I will gladly lose this challenge so I can come over there and beat you, Nick!” Sheena snipes back.
“Please do that!” Charlotte whispers.
Sheena breathes in and out, slowly. Huang adjusts his left arm, holding it across his chest instead of over his head.
There is movement as Charlotte’s bucket wheels and tips, drenching her in water.
“At just over two hours, Charlotte is out,” Jeff says.
“Good job Charlotte,” Tallulah congratulates as Charlotte makes her way over to the sit out bench.
“You did so amazing,” Vince tells her.
ELAPSED TIME- 3 HOURS
“We have just passed three hours,” Jeff announces. “It doesn’t look like Zeke, Huang or Sheena is budging an inch.”
“It’s crazy how long they’ve gone,” Olivia says.
Zeke grimaces as he stretches. Huang tries his best to lean down, stretching out his body. Sheena’s breathing is steady, but labored.
“I don’t know how much longer I can—“ before he can finish his sentence, Zeke’s bucket tips.
“And just like that, we’re down to two!” Jeff calls as Zeke unclips, heading over where Charlotte greets him with a hug. “It’s down to Sheena versus Huang. One former Koryok, one former Yenisei.”
“They ain’t seen this kind of China vs Japan showdown since the forties!” Huang jokes.
The sun moves overhead as the castaways watch from the bench. Huang and Sheena are both clearly struggling with the difficulty.
“You have now been out here,” Jeff announces after what seems like a lifetime, “for almost five hours.”
Over on the sit out bench, the castaways are looking fairly bored. Hannah has curled up to nap, now completely dried off.
“This better end soon,” grumbles Nick.
ELAPSED TIME- 5 HOURS, 38 MINUTES
The lull is finally broken. Out of almost nowhere, one castaway finally drops, the water crashing down with them. Jeff smiles, the challenge having ended, as he calls the result.
“HUANG! WINS IMMUNITY AND REWARD!”
With elation, Huang pulls his bucked down, drenching himself in elated celebration. The castaways clap and cheer over from the sit out bench. Drained, Huang approaches Sheena, and the two share an embrace of mutual respect.
“You put up one hell of a fight,” Huang says.
“Oh, I’ll get you next time,” Sheena laughs.
With the challenge over, the castaways return to the mat.
“Huang,” Jeff says, as the castaways stand back at the mat, “come on over.”
The castaways applaud as Huang makes his way over to Jeff. He smiles broadly as he takes his spot next to Jeff.
“You performed admirably in your first individual challenge,” Jeff says, “and that means tonight, immunity is yours.” Jeff takes the Immunity Necklace and places it over Huang’s head, allowing the plate to rest across his chest, the silver charms gleaming in the sunlight. “This means tonight, at your first Tribal Council as a new tribe, Huang, you are safe. As for one of the rest of you one of you will become the seventh person voted out of Survivor: Siberia. But before that happens, we have another piece of business to attend to.”
Faces drop and contort in confusion throughout the tribe. Huang can only look bemused as Jeff puts an assuring hand on his shoulder.
“As you know, today’s challenge wasn’t just for immunity, but for reward in the form of an advantage. Ready to know what that advantage is?”
“Hell yeah!” Huang says. “I’m hoping it’s one I can eat,” he jokes.
“Sorry to disappoint you,” Jeff smiles, “because it’s not edible, but I think you’ll like it anyway. Today, your advantage, Huang, is that have won the right to send one player of your choice to Exile Island until the next challenge. And because the next challenge will not occur until after Tribal Council, that means whoever you send, Huang, will not attend Tribal Council tonight.”
Sheena’s jaw drops, and she quickly covers her mouth. Vince smiles broadly at this news.
“That means,” Jeff continues, “the person who you choose to send cannot be voted against this evening, but they also will not get a chance to cast a vote of their own. So this is a decision that could have a colossal impact on the vote.”
“Yeah, you’re telling me,” Huang says, putting his hands on his hips as he thinks.
Huang sighs as he looks over person to person.
“I need a decision,” Jeff says.
“Yeah, yeah,” Huang says, nodding. “I’ve got it.”
“Alright,” Jeff asks. “Who’s it gonna be?”
“So this person has been a huge help around camp and I feel bad about this, but I have a strategy and that’s all I’m gonna say—It’s gotta be Maurice.”
Maurice nods politely in acknowledgement, and steps forward towards Jeff.
“Alright then, Maurice, you’re off to Exile Island,” Jeff says, “which means you will not be attending Tribal Council this evening. What’s your take? What’s going through your head right now?”
“I mean, shucks,” Maurice chuckles, shrugging as he struggles to get his words. “I’m safe, which is great, of course, but… I want to be there to support my tribe, too. So it’s bittersweet.”
Jeff nods in understanding. “Well, we’ll see if your absence has an impact tonight. Here’s the map,” Jeff says, holding out the map to him, which Maurice takes. “You’ll rejoin your tribe at the next challenge. You can head on out.”
“Take it easy, y’all,” Maurice says, waving.
“Alright then,” Jeff says, his attention turning to the other castaways. “As for the rest of you, Tribal Council is tonight, and one of you is going to become the first person voted out of the Romanov Tribe. You have the rest of the afternoon to figure out who that person will be. You guys can grab your stuff and head back to camp.”
The players begin to make their way out. As Huang rejoins the group, Charlotte gives him another excited hug. From the distance, Sheena watches, clearly irritated.
Maurice walks up to the Ovoo on Exile Island, looking glum. He opens the clue box with a sigh, reading the clue over. When he gets to the end of the paper, he tosses it away, clearly annoyed.
Maurice sits at the Ovoo’s base, striking the flint until a lively flame sparks.
With his fire built, he lies down, trying to get comfortable.
The Romanov Tribe, sans Maurice, makes their way back into their camp following the first individual challenge. The necklace bounces on Huang’s neck as he walks.
“Congratulations, Huang,” Tallulah says warmly as the castaways place their belongings back in the shelter. “You were great today.”
“You sure as hell were, kid,” Vince says, giving Huang a friendly punch to the shoulder. “I’m proud of you.”
As the Yenisei’s congratulate Huang, Sheena sits at the kitchen table, looking somewhat sour as Nick takes a seat next to her.
“Yikes,” Nick says, making a face. “Who sh*t in your cornflakes, buddy?”
“What?” Sheena asks, snapping to attention. “What are you talking about, I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine,” Nick says. “It’s pretty obvious. But I mean, it’s okay!” Nick clarifies. “I’m not particularly happy with how this whole scenario turned out either.”
“It’s like, whatever, he won, I don’t care about that,” Sheena whispers. “It’s like, there’s four of them so as long as we get one of them, so who cares that he has immunity, that’s not the problem. It’s the whole exile thing.”
“Yeah, but we’ve still got five to four, we’ll be fine,” Nick says, hugging Sheena around her neck. “Don’t wind yourself up right now.”
“You’re right,” Sheena sighs. “It’s just a scary situation, that’s all.”
“Have you heard something I haven’t?” Nick asks, looking concerned.
“Well, no, I don’t think so,” Sheena says. “It’s just, well…”
“Remember,” Nick whispers to Sheena, “you’re safe. You can, you know… play it if you need to.”
“I’d like to not do that, but I might not have a choice,” Sheena whispers back.
“I’m sure that you’re fine,” Nick continues. “We wouldn’t have it in the first place if Olivia didn’t trust us.”
“That’s true,” Sheena says, her gears clearly turning.
Sheena and Tallulah stand together among the trees, Tallulah looking shocked and somewhat confused.
“You need me to do what?” Tallulah says, looking somewhat shocked and confused.
“I need you to make a final 3 with Olivia, like, right now. I’m not joking, Tallulah, this is do or die.”
“I’m sorry if my age is catching me in this moment, but I don’t understand,” Tallulah says.
“We can’t risk having her flip, we absolutely cannot have that. She needs to feel like she’s secure with us.”
“She already thinks she has a final three with me and Nick,” Sheena says, “so if she thinks she has one with you and Maurice too, she’d be an idiot not to stick with us. She’d have two potential paths to the end with us, I guarantee you she doesn’t have any with team vacation bible camp.”
“That’s asking a lot of me,” Tallulah says, putting her hands on her hips as she thinks.
“Plus, think of it this way,” Sheena adds. “All four of us will be stabbing her in the back eventually, so she can’t hold it against one of us without holding it against all of us. So it doesn’t matter if she’s on the jury this way.”
“Alright, consider it done,” Tallulah says, hugging Sheena. “Because I know you would do the same for me.”
“Who wouldn’t?” Sheena says hugging Tallulah back. “Ohhh, I love you so much, TM. What would I do without you?”
“You’d be doing just fine, sugar bear. You’re one of the toughest people I’ve ever met,” Tallulah says, giving Sheena a kiss on the cheek before she ends their embrace. “But don’t go thinking that means you can vote me out,” she jokes.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Sheena says with a smile.
Tallulah now walks with Olivia in the forest.
“I am so sorry to grab you last minute like this,” Tallulah begins, “but well… oh, f*ck it, I’m just going to spit it out and be honest with you. Maurice and I have been talking with each other and we’re both in agreement that we would love to go to the end of the game with you.”
“Oh wow, really?” Olivia says, surprised.
“I know it’s kind of sudden, and this is my fault, darling, I have just been so darn nervous to approach having this conversation! I mean, you’ve seen it happen just like I have—everyone who has tried to shake things up has gotten themselves in caught and voted out over it,” Tallulah says. “And you know, being the ‘old lady’ of the gang, I can’t afford any extra negative press. And well, right now I’m just hoping that you can have a little empathy for what it’s like to be in that position.”
“No, that’s actually a very fair point,” Olivia says, “I see what you mean.”
“And I didn’t want to have this conversation without Maurice here, but that option is off the table,” Tallulah continues. “I don’t expect an answer from you right now, I know this has been sudden, and I know you’re someone who likes a chance to think things over, so please, I don’t want you feeling pressure. But I wanted to give you all the information you might need to make a decision tonight.”
“I really appreciate that,” Olivia says. “But, I mean… you have nothing to worry about, regarding me. Koryok is my tribe and I’m sticking with you guys.”
“That makes me so happy to hear,” Tallulah says. “And on that note… you know who’s name to write down tonight, right?”
“We’re doing Zeke, right?” Olivia asks.
“It’s a damn shame,” Tallulah says, shaking her head, “he’s such a sweet young man.”
“He’s got a heart of gold,” Olivia agrees. “But that’s why he has to go. He’s the biggest threat here.”
Up at the campfire, Charlotte watches as Tallulah and Olivia come walking back into camp.
“Everyone keeps pulling her off to talk to her,” Charlotte whispers to Zeke.
“Well, yeah,” Zeke says, shrugging. “It’s before Tribal Council, that’s how it always be.”
“I know,” Charlotte says, disgruntled, “it’s just making me nervous.”
“Would you feel better if I talked to her?”
“You’ve got a way with people, Zeke,” Charlotte says. “If anyone can get through to her it’s you.”
Off in the forest, Zeke and Olivia walk together.
“I’m just going out on a limb here,” Olivia says, “and assuming you know what the plan is for all of you guys on Yenisei, right?”
“Well the plan right now is kind of that we’re still figuring out the plan,” Zeke laughs. “Because look, Imma just be real with you right now, it’s not some kind of secret that we all in the gutters right now on Yenisei. We tryna find that someone, who, you know… someone who wants to flip and make a move.” Zeke shrugs simply. “Olivia, I’m so hoping you’ll work with us. I… I’m so sorry. I feel so much pain for you and with you for the way that you’ve been made to feel. I feel ashamed of myself,” he says, his voice cracking somewhat as he starts to tear up. “I never want nobody to feel like they ain’t matter, and I hate that, I hate that about this game so much!”
“Oh my god, I… I… no, it’s not like that, Zeke,” Olivia says, stammering, clearly not expecting the sudden welling of emotions.
“You don’t need to pretend that you wasn’t hurt,” Zeke says, taking her hand. “I know you don’t get religion, Olivia, I know you don’t get the world I come from. But in my world, God made everyone perfect, Olivia, everyone. Just the way they are. I love that God gave you the gift of your mind, the gift of science. I am so inspired by the work you do as a toxicologist and how you use that work to help your community. I have so much admiration for you, for all of you as the person you are, and that includes the fact that you are a gay person. And I am so, so, so deeply sorry that I didn’t do more to make it abundantly clear that you, as a person, matter so much more than just being a piece in a game.”
Olivia looks absolutely stunned. Her lip quivers, and it’s clear she’s about to cry.
“I felt so alone,” she whispers as Zeke instinctively pulls her in for a hug.
“I know, baby, I know,” Zeke whispers, holding her tight.
“I’m kind of an introvert,” Olivia admits, “so a lot of the time, I kind of hang back when I meet a new group of people, that’s just how I usually tend to be. And on Yenisei it felt like everyone else had so much in common, it was just all the more intimidating. I really didn’t mean to isolate myself so much, it was like auto-pilot, almost. I just kind of felt like, okay, well this is my problem to overcome.”
“It is so easy to convince ourselves that asking for help is weak,” Zeke says. “I completely understand where you’re coming from. Most of the time I’m the same as you, I like to hang back, I’ve got that introvert side to me. But when I chose to follow the path I did as a pastor, it’s like, you can’t share what you believe if you don’t speak up. So I had to figure out how I could put myself out there and be comfortable doing it, na’mean? And it’s like, I do believe with God I can do anything, but that don’t make it easy. So don’t beat yourself up. You ain’t superhuman, no one is.”
“Look, Imma be real witchu. Obviously me and the others, we in a tough spot, we all know it,” Zeke continues. “And we all know it’s just a game, there’s so many bigger things in life than this, so you do what you need to do, that’s on you. But I would love it if you came back to us. I want you and I to get that opportunity to give each other a second chance. I’m not out here to play the liar’s game, I can’t do it. So just know that when I tell you that with me, you will be a priority, know that it’s the truth.”
Olivia exhales heavily. “Thanks, Zeke. This has really meant a lot, honestly.”
Olivia now stands with Charlotte, once again out in the meadow.
“I feel like I owe you a follow up,” Olivia says, “because I promised you I’d think things over, at the very least, and like… I’m still thinking things over. I’m sorry, I know that’s not a great answer to hear, but it’s the truth.”
“’No’ would be a much worse answer,” Charlotte says, “I can work with a ‘maybe.’”
“So uh… if I were to vote with you and with the other Yeniseis tonight,” Olivia asks, “what name would I be writing down?”
“Well, I think there’s someone here who is a massive threat to all of us,” Charlotte says. “Someone who is a threat on every level, physical, mental, strategy… there’s someone in this game who is going to dominate everyone if we don’t send her home at the earliest opportunity.”
“Does that someone’s name start with an ‘S’?” Olivia asks.
“I agree with you,” Olivia continues. “Huge threat.”
“Well, she’s getting four votes tonight, I can promise you,” Charlotte says. “Five would send her home.”
“Okay,” Olivia says. “That’s… that’s good to know. I’m gonna have to think it over a little more, but… that’s good to know.”
“Well thanks for following up, at the very least,” Charlotte says.
“I mean, I figured… I really screwed you guys once, so at the very least I owe you some honesty now,” Olivia says.
“It’s appreciated,” Charlotte smiles.
With torches in hand, the castaways begin to make the journey to Tribal Council. Huang brings up the rear, the charms of the immunity necklace jingling with each step towards the most important vote yet.
A huge, full moon glows in the sky, palely lighting the taiga as the Romanov Tribe approaches their first Tribal Council together. The stained glass of the abandoned church seems almost alive with moonlight as the castaways take their seats amongst the candles and iconography.
“Welcome to your first Tribal Council as one tribe,” Jeff begins. “Hannah, let’s start with you. How has the merge gone so far? Have you guys come together relatively smoothly, or has there been tension?”
“Jeff, oh my god, it’s so nice. Yenisei has such a good camp with this beautiful shelter and the goats, it’s actually like, a little magical. It’s more like a secret forest getaway than like, just a camp. And they’ve been really just like, kind and graceful about sharing and making all of us feel welcome, which is really nice, because like, they worked really hard on their camp and now they have to share it, which like, that can be a pain in the butt, you know? So it’s just gone really nice.”
Jeff nods in understanding. “So does that mean all of you are now truly one tribe, or is there still a division in this group between Koryok and Yenisei?”
“Uh, I mean,” Hannah giggles nervously, “Uh…. Yeah, there is,” she admits. Most of the other castaways nod in agreement. “It’s just what makes sense, Jeff. Like, when we were two different teams, it’s not like I had my phone so I could go and like, Facebook stalk them, right? If you can’t do that, the only way you can get to know a person is to actually spend time with them, and our first tribes, they’ve just spent more time together, so it’s just kind of how it’s gonna turn out.”
“Well plus, they got the numbers that way, you can’t leave that out,” Vince interjects.
“You wanna go a little further with that, Vince?” Jeff asks.
“Sure,” says the older man. “Look, I’ll tell you what, I’m an engineer Jeff, so I know my basic math, and six is more than four. They’re gonna stick together because it’s the smart move to make in the game, because that lets them control the outcome here.”
“Sheena, would you agree with that?” Jeff asks.
“Uh, yeah, I would,” Sheena says. “It’s like Hannah was saying, you know, Yenisei has been nothing but welcoming to us, so it’s not anything personal, it’s strategy. It’s just like being in a fight, you have to take advantage of the openings you get, and being up in numbers is just the kind of opportunity we’d be foolish not to use.”
“Given that,” Jeff continues, “I’m assuming that the four Yeniseis all have to be feeling pretty worried tonight. Well, except for you, Huang,” he amends.
“Hey, I was feeling it before the challenge, though,” Huang says. “We’re not dumb, Jeff, we came into the merge knowing we had an uphill battle on our hands. To get control of the numbers, we need at least two people to flip, and that’s a tall order. As good as it feels to be safe tonight, I’m still uneasy, because my tribemates aren’t.”
“Charlotte,” Jeff asks, “to go off of what Huang said, how do you go about flipping the numbers in your situation? Who do you approach from Koryok, and what’s your angle?”
“I wish I had an answer to that question!” Charlotte exclaims. “They are a loyal bunch, they definitely seem to be pretty bonded to each other, and I don’t blame them because I feel the same way about my tribe. But the hope for us is that there are some cracks in that unified front. Maybe there are some people who have bad blood with each other, maybe there’s someone the others don’t trust as much, we have no idea because we haven’t been playing with them for those first days of the game. So we have a very limited time to assess the situation and then try and convince someone that they’re better off with us, who are basically strangers to them.”
“I can’t help but notice,” Jeff says, “that there has been a lot of talk about the two tribes not knowing each other, but there is one person here who has been on both tribes, and who has met everyone prior to the merge—that’s Olivia.”
“Thanks for the reminder,” Olivia laughs.
“How does that impact your game?” Jeff asks. “Are you Yenisei, because that’s where you started? Or are you Koryok, because that’s where you ended up? Or is it a little more complicated than that?”
“It is a weird situation,” Olivia says, “because I did leave Yenisei of my own volition. I didn’t have to switch tribes, I chose to. And the only reason now that Koryok has the numbers over Yenisei in the first place is because I did that. And if I were in their shoes, and someone did that to me, I’d be pretty upset with them. So I felt like I was coming into a potentially hostile situation with this merge where like, all my old tribemates would just want nothing to do with me. But this game really does change day by day, nothing is immutable.”
“Isn’t Immutable one of the ‘X-Men’?” whispers Hannah to Sheena. Sheena shrugs and makes a face, looking both bewildered and annoyed.
“The fact is, Yenisei is in a position where they need anyone they can get, so yeah, I actually have been approached by some of my old tribe members about potentially working together again, which is definitely a little weird,” Olivia continues. “I thought I was going to be a target, but instead I think I’ve turned into the swing vote?”
“Sheena,” Jeff asks, “is that true? Is Olivia the swing vote tonight?”
“Pretty much,” Sheena says, plainly. “Because a wrench got thrown into things, with Maurice getting exiled. Now there’s only a difference of one person between the two tribes. All it takes to flip the game is one person. And I think that kind of puts all the eyes on Olivia just because she’s flipped the game once before already.”
“Well there’s also the fact that Olivia did come late to that tribe,” Charlotte interjects. “As much as they’re all saying that it’s Six Koryoks, Olivia’s not really a Koryok, not from the start. So if someone were to be on the outside of that group, I think it’s fair to guess it’s the most recent person to join. The others have just had longer together to build that camaraderie.”
“Okay, but that’s not the case,” Nick says, “because then why did we keep Olivia safe through two Tribal Councils where we could have just voted her off?” He shrugs, almost as if he’s daring someone to challenge him.
“But you aren’t necessarily making those votes for Olivia’s sake,” Charlotte responds. “She isn’t necessarily sitting here tonight because y’all decided you wanted to keep her, maybe it was just a better move for y’all to get rid of someone else, but not voting someone out doesn’t mean you’re automatically in an alliance with them.”
“You don’t really know what you’re talking about,” Nick says, “so honestly, I just want to let you know that like, you’re embarrassing yourself right now.”
“There’s no need for that, young man,” Charlotte says, disgusted. “Can’t you be polite? What would your mother think of your manners?”
“Blah blah blah,” Nick mutters. “See, this is the reason Olivia left them in the first place. We’re all adults out here, nobody came all the way to Russia just to get nagged by their mom. The reason that we chose to keep Olivia is because A; she’s f*cking awesome, and B; because I f*cking trust her.” Each swear word makes Charlotte look more and more over the younger artist.
“Wow, Nick, that’s a very impassioned defense you just gave,” Jeff observes. “How does that feel to hear, Olivia?” he asks.
“Good, it feels good obviously,” Olivia says. “Trust is so important in this game, so of course you want to hear from someone that they trust you. But everyone today has basically told me they trust me.”
“Seriously?” Jeff asks.
“Seriously,” says Olivia.
“I am pretty sure every single person in this camp came to talk to Olivia today,” Zeke says. “She was Miss Belle of the Ball today.”
“Yeah, basically,” Olivia agrees.
“She’s the person everyone here needs on their side tonight, that’s the long and short of it. So for me, my argument for Olivia is an honest one, about taking accountability for my role in the situation regarding Olivia leaving the tribe. Because well, yes, it was her choice to leave, the rest of us contributed to the circumstances that led Olivia to feel like leaving was her best decision. She needs to trust that we have all learned how to work together a little better because of our past mistakes.”
“And I do trust that, which is what makes this so hard. Because I know that Zeke is someone who genuinely thrives on challenging himself to be the best version of himself that he can be, so when takes accountability for himself, you know that’s something he means seriously. I believe he absolutely would do everything he could to make me an equal part of an alliance, but I also trust that there are relationships I’ve made here on Koryok that will make me an equal part of an alliance. I don’t think this is a matter of one decision being ‘bad’ and the other being ‘good,’ I think I have some real options on both sides that could work out for me. It’s more about… what’s the best option for me?”
“Wow,” Jeff says. “So you really are the deciding vote tonight.”
“It’s crazy, right?” Olivia says. “I mean, you’ve seen for yourself, Jeff, my name gets written down every time I come here. Usually at Tribal Council, I feel like I could possibly be voted out, and now tonight the vote’s on my shoulders. It’s a total reversal of fortune, but it’s not a fun position to be in. Because I have to let someone down no matter what I do.”
“Does that mean your vote is still live?” Jeff asks. “Is there still a chance, right now, that someone could plead their case and change your mind?”
Olivia rests her chin on her hand as she thinks for a moment. “No,” she finally says. “It was hard to make a choice, but I know the choice I’m making.”
“Then I think now would be a perfect time to get down to the vote,” Jeff says. “Huang, you have Individual Immunity tonight. As per the rules of Survivor, it is transferable, so you can give it to someone else if you so choose.”
“Yeah right,” Huang laughs. “No way am I taking this thing off.”
Jeff nods. “Alright, that means you cannot vote for Huang tonight. Everyone else is fair game. Charlotte, you’re up first.”
“Here goes nothing,” Charlotte says as she stands and heads back towards the voting area.
Charlotte casts her vote.
Vince casts his vote.
Huang casts his vote.
Nick casts his vote.
Tallulah casts her vote.
Hannah casts her vote.
Olivia casts her vote.
With Olivia’s vote in place, she returns to the main area, and takes her seat between Vince and Hannah.
“I’ll go tally the votes,” Jeff announces as he heads off to collect the urn. Sheena looks antsy as she fidgets in her seat. Hannah chews absentmindedly at the ends of her hair. Zeke rubs Charlotte’s back reassuringly.
Jeff returns with the urn and places it on the podium across from the castaways, his expression grim. “If anyone has a hidden immunity idol, and they would like to play it—now would be the time to do so,” he announces.
Sheena stares ahead towards the bonfire, unflinching. Olivia sits looking anxious.
“Alright,” Jeff continues. “Once the votes are read, the decision is final. The person voted out will be asked to leave the Tribal Council area immediately. I’ll read the votes.” He reaches in to produce the first ballot. “The first vote…”
“Sheena, that’s four votes for Sheena.”
“My name isn’t that hard to spell,” Sheena mutters.
“Zeke, that’s two votes Zeke.”
“Zeke. We’re tied; four votes Sheena, four votes Zeke, one vote left.”
Zeke takes Charlotte by the hand as Sheena takes Nick’s. The pause seems to be eternal.
“The seventh person voted out of Survivor: Siberia…”
“No!” Charlotte gasps, her hand flying to her mouth.
“Holy crap,” Sheena whispers, the tension dropping from her shoulders. Olivia sits in the center, her eyes closed.
“Zeke, I need you to bring me your torch,” Jeff says.
“I understand,” Zeke replies, faintly smiling.
“No, Zeke, please, you can’t go!” Charlotte whimpers as she begins to cry. “Please.”
“I don’t have a choice,” Zeke says. As he stands, Vince, Huang and Charlotte stand with him. Zeke goes first to hug Huang.
“Brother, you are so strong,” Zeke tells him. “But remember, the biggest muscle you have is your heart.”
“Of course,” Huang replies. “I’m really gonna miss you, man.” His voice strains as he chokes with emotion.
“Uncle Vinnie,” Zeke continues, turning to embrace his eldest tribemate, “You have taught me so, so much out here. Thank you for being yourself. I hope one day I can be half the father you are.”
“Thank you for being you, Rev,” Vince says, his eyes misty. Huang is obviously crying as well. Over at the other end of the bench, the emotion has clearly touched Tallulah as well. She dabs her eyes with her buff. Hannah puts a reassuring hand on hers.
Lastly, Zeke turns to hug Charlotte, who clings to him desperately.
“I can’t do this without you, Zeke, I can’t,” Charlotte sobs, now in full blown hysterics as she cries into his shoulder.
“You can, you can,” Zeke whispers, as he starts to become emotional himself. Hannah is now crying as well. Olivia looks like she wants to disappear. Even Sheena is struggling not to start crying. Nick rolls his eyes.
“You don’t need me to do this, Charlotte. You never did. It’s in you, God gave it to you.”
“Please, please, you can’t go, Zeke, I need you. Please,” Charlotte cries.
“Zeke? I need your torch,” Jeff reminds him once again.
Zeke kisses Charlotte tenderly on top of the head. “Keep the faith,” he whispers to her. “In God and in yourself.” Their embrace ends, and Charlotte nearly collapses into her seat, unable to hold herself back from her pained sobbing. Zeke collects his torch, and brings it over to Jeff.
“Zeke, the tribe has spoken.” Jeff lowers the snuffer, and Zeke’s torch extinguishes. Smoke swirls where flame once stood.
“Love each other, y’all,” Zeke says, turning back to face the group one last time. “Love each other. Hugs, not drugs,” he says, earning a small chuckle from a few people. He waves to the tribe a final time, and heads out towards the night.
“Well,” Jeff says, turning to address the remaining castaways, “it’s clear to me that vote was quite emotional, but that’s Survivor for you. No decision is easy, and before this game ends, I guarantee there will only be harder choices to make. This game is far from over, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. You guys can grab your stuff and head back to camp. Goodnight.”
The castaways head out, torches in hand, back towards their home in the wild. The last in line, Charlotte takes one final moment to turn and look back, giving a pleading gaze to the visage of Jesus Christ in the stained glass window. With that, she joins the rest of the group, following the torchlight through the darkness.
Nine remain. Who will be the next to go?
NEXT TIME ON… SURVIVOR!
With their leader gone, the remaining Yenisei members struggle to regroup and move forward in the game against the Koryok alliance. Fortunately for them, old habits die hard when conflict brews in the Koryok ranks. A luxuriant reward gives a group of castaways a chance to let their hair down. And the origins behind one castaway’s nickname are revealed.